Driving, Dopiness and Diapers – The Greatest Life Series Part 4


There is an old Jewish saying that goes something like this, “Man makes his plans and God laughs”.  Many times our lives feel like this.  We create our short and long term plans.  What will we do in five years?  What about ten years?  How many children will we have?  Where do we want to live?  What will we do when we retire?  Will we be able to retire?  We dream, plan and purpose ourselves toward whatever goals we have for ourselves and our families.

When I was younger, I watched a television show called “The A-Team”.  It was a program of wrongly accused, on-the-run military convicts who fought for the side of good, while trying to discover why they were framed for their crimes.  The leader, Hannibal Smith, made the plans for his team in each episode.  In almost every episode, when his plans worked, he lit a cigar, smiled and said, “I love it when a plan comes together.”  Decidedly, when our plans work out to our benefit, we light our figurate cigar, smile, pat ourselves on the back and say, “I love it when my plan works out.”  But what about those who make plans and it doesn’t work out for them?

This past year has been one gigantic roller coaster ride, filled with ups and downs.  Some have been fun, while others not so much.  I have experienced the gamut from exhilarating joy to unspeakable sorrow.  If ever there was a year to make me think and reflect on life, this was that year.

Over the past year, I had been making plans for various things.  I desired to start planning to vacation with my wife for a couple of days in Bermuda for our 20th wedding anniversary next year.  I also had begun making plans on what will happen when I retire.  How would we live?  Where would we live?  How would this affect our boys?  The plans I was making were simple, to live our lives quietly doing the things we want to do while living a relaxed life.  Sounds good, right?  Well, God decided to laugh at my plans.

This year was a time of bewilderment, excitement and fear.  Bewilderment because my wife was expecting our 3rd child.  Excitement because my wife was expecting our 3rd child.  Fear because my wife was expecting our 3rd child.  Why would God allow this?  What about my plans for retirement?  How about my plans for our 20th anniversary?  How would this fit together?  It seemed all of my plans had just been whisked away, erased from the “book of my future”.

You see, my family is what some would call “older”.  My eldest, is sixteen and is a junior in high school.  He has been asking me when he will be taking his driving permit test.  He is eager to get out there and discover what the world is like.  (Very much like me when I was his age.)  To him, it doesn’t matter if we have the budget for another car, he just wants to drive so that he will “be free” from being in the house all the time.

My 2nd child is eleven getting ready to enter junior high school.  He is discovering the joys of being involved in his school.  At the same time, he also does things that boggle the human mind.  His mind is being pulled in many directions so he has a tendency to “forget” his chores or homework.  Things we tell him will be forgotten almost instantaneously.  What is ironic about this is that his friends are the exact same way.  It’s like aliens came down, sucked out all the gray matter between their ears and placed an auto erase function for when a parent speaks.  I call this the “dopey” stage of life.

With all of this going on, God decided it was time for another child to enter our world.  We had found out last year that my wife was expecting our 3rd child.  I had noticed that my wife had a bizarre craving, lemons.  She had always loved making lemon water, but this time was different.  One evening, she had cut a lemon in half and started to enjoy the juices directly from the fruit.  This automatically triggered a question because she had this same behavior when she was pregnant with our eldest son.  A few nights later, at 4:oo A.M., my wife took a pregnancy test and found out she was pregnant.

This wasn’t in our plans.  We had our two boys and life was going well for us.  Now what was going to happen?  (Isn’t that a funny question?  We are raising 2 boys and yet, I asked myself this very question.  It’s not like I don’t know how to change a diaper…)  Not only were we dealing with the challenges of being a parent of a teenager and the dopiness of a pre-teen, but now, we were going to lose sleep and have to deal with this all over again.  On March 13, 2014, our third son was born.  Let the diaper changing begin…..again!

With all of this happening at once, my mindset wasn’t quite right.  I had looked at my present and based on a future that had not occurred yet.  My past was set, my present known and my future a complete mystery.  This placed in me a very uncomfortable feeling.  For those that know me personally, they know that I like control.  I love the rush of planning and executing those plans.  The exhilaration of seeing my plans coming to fruition cannot be completely explained in words.  I am a control freak.  I despise the unknown, especially the unknown future.

My mind had become not only confused but anxiety ridden.  “I’m a lot older than when the other two were born.  How are we going to survive this?  How are we going to be able to afford the diapers and formula?”  These questions riddled my mind and boggled my senses.  I had allowed my fears and anxiety to overtake the realization that we had done this twice before.  This was familiar ground.  Why was I so confused and anxious?  The answer was simple.  I allowed the sin called “pride” into my life.

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (NASB)

1 John 2:16 says, “For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.” (NIV)

Little did I realize that pride had snuck its way into my life and the trail of destruction it brings was coming.  The questions I had raised were not real.  I had looked at my circumstances, my dreams and goals and decided that life was chaotic and order-less.  Because pride entered my mind, my body and spirit followed.  I let my devotions and prayer time lack.  I concentrated on my fears rather than my Father.

As fear and anxiety was trying to control me, I was reminded of these two passages which clearly show that God is in control and knows what He is doing:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

“’For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” – Jeremiah 29:11

Was God going to let me down?  No.  Was God going to forget me?  Certainly not.  Was God going to supply all my needs as He sees them?  Absolutely and a resounding yes.  The proof of this is what happened in the months to come before my wife gave birth.

As we had decided not to have any more children, we had gotten rid of everything.  Crib, gone.  Clothes, donated.  Toys, trash.  We thought to ourselves, we don’t need these anymore so why keep them.  The only item that we did not get rid of was a stroller that we had bought when my eldest son was born.  Again, fear and pride tried to take over.  This time, I refused them access to my life.  God was in control and knows what He is doing.

Before my wife went into labor, she was surprised with a baby shower.  This was the first time she was actually surprised.  (Every other time, she figured things out.)  Out of that party, all our needs were met.  We were supplied with diapers, formula, clothes and any other baby item you can think of.  In fact, we were overwhelmed with the assortment of baby items we were given.

It has been nine months since Nathan was born and all of our needs continue to be met.  Formula and diapers have been fully paid for.  God is so good to us and He showed us that time does not matter for Him.  When He says He is going to do something great, He does it and overflows our life cup with His blessings.

Our lives are not our own.  We set goals, dream of our future, but ultimately God is in control and what His plans are for us are better than the ones we create.  To have our “greatest life”, we need to submit to His authority, ask for His goals for us and live the lives He has determined in advance for us to live.  His plans are there to enhance our lives, not hurt them.  His goal is to share His Son with the world.  What is better than watching someone come to the realization that they are a sinner, saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ?  The greater the sinner, the greater the worshipper once saved!

Don’t do what I did.  Learn from my mistakes and errors.  Pride led me to be a control freak which led me to fear and anxiety.  Salvation led me to the cross which led me to eternal life, joy and peace.  As a sinner saved by Jesus Christ, I am still prone to allow pride to take over.  However, our minds are renewed by reading Scripture and spending time with our God and Father.  This then will lead us to be able to say to pride, “Away from me Satan.”

Concentrate on the cross and life will be filled with joy and happiness even within the trials and tribulations.  This life is temporary and short.  Why waste our time worrying about the future?  Let’s all set our eyes on Christ and what He has done.  His work is eternal, ours temporal.  His promises are right and true.  Our words are filled with sin and pride.  When we focus on what Christ has done and what He has planned for us, we will forsake our own thoughts, goals and dreams and take His on.  Once we do that, life becomes an adventure instead of a burden.  Make a decision today not to worry about “Driving, Dopiness and Diapers”.  Allow your thinking to focus on our “Daddy” who loves and cares for us, even when we decide to sin.  He knows what He is doing.  He did create the entire universe.  I think He has a handle on our problems.

God bless and encourage someone today.

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What is Your Greatest Passion? – Greatest Life Series Pt. 2


When you think of the word “passion”, what do you think of?  Do you think about the movie where two people have a “passionate moment”?  What about business?  Have you ever heard of someone pursuing their “passion” and being successful?  Now think of those who are in the news yelling and screaming about change.  Aren’t they described as being “passionate”?  In my opinion, the word “passion” is grossly overused and totally misunderstood.

Recently, I was speaking with someone regarding a situation where they upset me.  As loving as I could muster, at that time, I asked the individual several questions, asking them to explain their actions.  Their response to me was, “I can hear your passion.”  After think about this for a moment, I thought to myself, “This isn’t passion.  This is being pissed.”   If it was “passion”, my strong desire would have led me to do something that I would probably regret.  Luckily for everyone involved, we were able to come to an agreement that we would never agree.

The term “passion” is used for so many things.  When someone voices their anger, we call it passion.  When someone pursues their dreams, we call it passion.  When someone is in “love” or “lust”, we call that passion.

So what is passion?  In the simplest of terms, passion is an overwhelming desire that leads one to action.  This could be negative or positive action, but in all cases, the overwhelming desire leads to action.  What is your greatest passion?  What are you so excited about that it led you to action?  Not just saying words, but actual action?

In Scripture, we see a verse that so many people in our culture have become familiar with…

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.  That whoever believes in Him, will not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

Have you ever thought about this in detail?  Have you ever considered its implications?  If not, let me share some quick thoughts.

First, this verse says that “God so loved the world…”  In the Greek, the word “loved” translated from the word “agapos”.  We get the term “agape” or “unconditional” from this word.  It is a form of decided unconditional love.

Second, what did this “agape” love trigger?  “…that He gave His only Son.”  Did you catch it?  The God of the all creation unconditionally loved us so much that it led Him to action, to send His only Son.  God was so passionate about us, that it led him to act accordingly.  What’s even more mind blowing is this verse:

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.  This command I received from my Father.” – John 10:17-18

Isn’t that amazing?  After John wrote how much God passionately loved the world, Jesus confirms this with stating, “No one takes it (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”  Jesus was so obedient to the Father, that He too passionately loved the world.  So much so, that He gave His life up for us.

Think of it this way.  God (Father) passionately loved us so much that He gave His Son (Jesus).  Jesus passionately loved the Father and the world that He gave His life up by his own willingness.  He wasn’t surprised to see Judas and the soldiers when they came for Him.  It wasn’t unexpected when they beat Him and cursed at Him.  He wasn’t surprised or shocked when He hung on the cross and suffered.  In fact, it was Jesus who asked the Father to forgive us, because we didn’t realize what we were doing.  Jesus was passionately in love with you and I.  His love led Him to action.

So, what is your greatest passion?

Maybe, you love your career so much that you work as much as you can.  Is it possibly your kids or spouse?  You desire to spend as much time with them that even your work schedule revolves around them?

Whatever, your “passion” is, may I suggest that if you are not passionate about Jesus Christ, you are not living your “greatest life”?  We all have dreams and goals.  We all want to achieve the best for our families.  We all desire to be the best, but without Christ, our lives won’t be the greatest they can be.

As I stated earlier, Jesus was so passionately in love with the Father and us, that He gave His life for us.  It is because of Christ and Christ alone, that we can go to the Father and worship.  It is because of Christ alone, that we can pray with confidence.

We call the time surrounding Easter, “The Passion of Christ”.  This proves that our understanding of what passion is, is correct at times.  Those who termed that time of the year understood that His love for us was so great, so real, it led Him to take action.

We didn’t deserve His passionate love and still don’t.  Yet, Christ in all His understanding decided to love us with action.  So what should our response be?

I don’t know about you, but for me, our response is logical.  We should respond to Christ by accepting His free gift of eternal life.  Then once we do that, He places a “passion” in us to serve the Father.  That “inserted free passion” allows us show the love of Christ to others through action.

“Faith without works, is dead.” – James 2:17

Are we acting in a way that shows the passionate love of Christ?  Do we say things that show others how passionately in love He is with them?  When we take this perspective of Christ’s passion for us, we see the world differently.  We see what others can be in Christ, rather than who they are.  We act in love toward others, caring for them in every way.  Not just those we like, but also to those who hate us.

Living your greatest life, must include the passion of Christ.  Living your greatest life must include loving others like Christ loves us.  Living your greatest life must include a living, breathing, action packed life that displays the supernatural change that only God can do through Christ.  Live your greatest life and make Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior.  He passionately loves you.  What’s your action toward love going to be?

From the Depths


As he sat in the hospital waiting for the doctor’s word on his son, Ron pondered every conceivable question.  Why is this happening?  What did my son do to deserve this type of treatment?  What is the purpose in all of this?  As questions continued to arise, he placed his tear-filled eyes into his hands and wept like all was lost.  It was then he began to remember happier times.

Six years earlier, Ron and his wife, Barbara, had been surprised by the news that she was pregnant.  Although the child was unplanned by them, they understood God had bigger plans for this child.  They began to adjust their lives anticipating the arrival of their little baby.  Ron worked feverishly to ensure that most of the necessary construction on his house was completed, while Barbara picked out colors and cribs.

After the arrival of their baby boy, things went well for them.  He began to grow as most children do, making up words, playing with their toys and learning to say, “No.”  For the first five years of his life, David appeared to develop normally.  It wasn’t until the elementary school called indicating that David failed a hearing test.

David had experienced ear infections for most of his life.  Sometimes medication didn’t work, sometimes it did.  In all cases, it appeared that he was healed every time.  There were no “red flags’ that entered the mind of Ron or Barbara.  Now their biggest fear became a reality.  David had a tumor that needed to be removed, otherwise he could die.

The doctor called it cholesteatoma tumor, a non-cancerous tumor inside the ear that eats away at bones and cartilage.  Normally, it wasn’t fatal, but in David’s case, they feared that due to the size of the tumor, it would begin to eat at the base of the skull.  It was the worst news they had ever heard.  Never did either of them understand how or why this happened.  The doctor speculated David may have been born with it, while another possibility was one of his earlier infections created the tumor.  In either case, no one knew how or where this tumor came from.

Ron had sat with his son in the waiting room of the hospital.  He watched his son play with various toys as if there was nothing wrong.  The anesthesiologist entered the room with a smile on his face.  He carried a small cup of clear liquid and called David over to him.  David gladly took the drink and within minutes began to feel sleepy.  Ron and Barbara knew the time had come for doctors to attempt to remove the tumor.

Ron dressed in the suit provided by the hospital.  Dressed in white from head to toe, Ron didn’t cry.  In his mind, he didn’t have time for that.  This time was for David.  His son needed him more than ever.  Fully dressed, Ron picked up his son and carried him down the hallway.  As Ron looked back, he could see Barbara place her head on her mother’s shoulder and cry like the world was lost.  Not being able to bear the sight, Ron turned his head and followed the nurse.

They approached a small room, where every electronic contraption could be found.  Large lights were overhead, a heart rate monitor was to his right and the operating table was straight ahead.  Behind the table was where the anesthesiologist stood waiting for David to ensure he was fully asleep.  Looking around, the doctor stood there encouraging Ron with a smile as if to indicate that all would be okay.  Ron doubting the situation wanted to run with his son in his arms, but knew that wouldn’t be the best decision.  David had this foreign tumor and it needed to be removed.

Ron carefully placed David on the table before him.  The doctor placed a mask on David’s face and asked Ron to leave.  Ron leaned over his son, kissed his head and whispered, “Don’t worry, everything will be alright.  Jesus is with you.”  It was then that faith turned into a reality.  Did Ron really believe this?  Was what he read really true?  Was God really with his son through this?  Ron lifted his head, nodded at the doctor to say, “He is in your hands now”, turned and walked away.

The poor nurse assigned to escort Ron back to the waiting area, placed her hand on his back and said, “Everything will be okay.  Your son is in the best hands.”  Not desiring to listen to anyone or hear any words of encouragement, Ron just turned to the nurse and crudely stated, “Please be quiet.  I don’t want to talk with you right now.”  The nurse, having wisdom, just smiled and continued the silent walk back to the waiting area.

After checking on his wife, Ron decided it was time for him to get some air.  He told Barbara that he was going outside.  Barbara didn’t acknowledge Ron, but Ron understood that she heard him but didn’t care because her baby boy was undergoing surgery.  Ron slowly turned toward the door and walked outside picking up his cell phone.

As Ron stood in the sun he decided to call one of his friends, Bobby.  Bobby had helped Ron understand many different situations in life.  Bobby was a temporary pastor at his church and had walked with him through the process, thus far.  Now Ron needed to work through this so Bobby was his best choice.  The phone rang and Ron heard the comforting voice of his dear friend.

“Ron, how are you?  How is everything with David?” asked Bobby.

“He’s in surgery right now”, stated Ron with an exacting voice.

“So then the question is… how are you?”

With tears in his eyes and a fluttering voice Ron shared, “Bobby, I don’t understand.  God gave us this child.  Why did He allow this to happen?  David didn’t do anything to deserve this.  Why is this happening?”

With the wisdom of God on his mind and sympathy in his voice, Bobby said, “I wish I could understand, but I cannot.  Have you cried out to God and ask Him?”

“No.  Right now I am angry with God and don’t want him to be angry with me.”

“Bobby, didn’t Job cry out to God?  Don’t you think he was angry?  He lost everything, his home, his worldly wealth, his health and even all of his children.  Even King David cried out to God in his time in need.  In fact, on the cross, Jesus cried out, ‘Father, why have you forsaken me?’ Cry out to Him.  He will answer”, encouraged Bobby.

Ron thanked him for his time and comfort and agreed that crying out to God directly was the best way to understand the situation.  Although, Ron didn’t feel like talking with God, he understood that was the only way to possibly get answers to his questions.

As he sat in the hospital waiting for the doctor’s word on his son, Ron pondered every conceivable question.  Why is this happening?  What did my son do to deserve this type of treatment?  What is the purpose in all of this?  As questions continued to arise, he placed his tear-filled eyes into his hands and wept like all was lost.  He cried out to God and said, “Why?  Why is this happening?  What has David done to deserve this?  There are so many others out there who have done worse, so why can’t you punish them?”

No answer came.  As Ron continued to cry out to God but over the course of the next few hours, the questions became demands.  “God, why aren’t you answering me?!  I demand an answer.  I can’t handle this situation.  You said you wouldn’t give me anything I can’t handle.  God, where are you?!”

Again, no answer came.  Just as Ron was giving up on his prayers, the doctor came out, still clothed in hospital scrubs.  As she approached, she told them, “Ron, Barbara.  I want to let you know that David is doing okay.  He is currently resting but unfortunately, he will have to do this again in six months.  We attempted to get all of it but we cannot do any more until then.  I know it has been over five hours, but the next surgery shouldn’t be long.  After David wakes up, you can take him home.”

Another surgery?  Ron and Barbara didn’t fully understand why their precious little boy needed anther surgery but trusted the doctor for her experience and knowledge.  Questions flooded Ron’s mind once again.  What was happening?  Why to his little boy?  All he could do is get his son, take him home and give him the care he needed.

Six months later, the second surgery came.  Once again, they found themselves in the waiting room with their son.  Again, the questions flooded Ron’s mind.  As they waited for the doctor, their son was in the play area putting together some puzzles.  Not far from David, was another little boy who appeared to be crying and whimpering in his mother’s arms.  Curious about the situation David approached the little boy and asked, “Why are you crying?”

The boy’s mother replied, “He has to go into surgery.”

Overhearing David’s conversation, Barbara asked the crying boy’s mother, “Oh, what kind of surgery?”

“Tubes.  It’s a pretty long surgery, about an one and a half hours.”

Barbara just smiled and said, “I understand.  Our son needs surgery in his ears too.”

The boy’s mother responded, “Tubes?”

Barbara mustered all of the strength she could find and replied, “No.  I wish it was.  My son is having another surgery to remove a cholesteatoma tumor.”

“Oh I’m sorry.  Here I am crying over this silly procedure, while your son has a more serious situation”, the boy’s mother stated while wiping tears from her eyes.

Barbara responded, “Don’t worry about it.  Our son already had one surgery, so this should be his last.”

“How long is your son’s surgery?” asked the mother.

“The first one was about six hours but this one should only be two or three hours.”

The other mother appeared shocked and the look on her face resembled that of a statue with the expression of shock and disbelief.  Barbara and the boy’s mother continued their conversation when something incredible happened.  David turned toward the boy and said, “Let’s play a game” and took the boy by the hand and led him to the video game console.

“What just happened?” asked the boy’s mother.

Ron realized that something special was happening.  He had seen God work before, but never like this.  God was working through his son in order to bring comfort and compassion.  Before the mother could ask the question a second time, Ron responded, “God is working through my son to reach your son.”

It was about that time that the anesthesiologist came forward and called David’s name.  Once again, David was given a small drink which made him “sleepy”.  Ron then picked up his son and carried him back to the same operating table they had visited six months prior.  He laid his little boy down, kissed him once again and smiled at the doctor to acknowledge his approval of her skills.

A couple of hours passed and Ron and Barbara waited patiently for the doctor’s good word.  No one came.  They inquired from the front desk, who called for the doctor, but no response came.  “What’s happening?  Why is it taking it so long?” were questions that raced through their minds.  Another hour passes, no word from the doctor.  After another six hour surgery, the doctor emerged with a smile on her face.

“I’m sorry I didn’t respond earlier, but there were minor complications.  The tumor had grown back so we needed to remove the tumor again and continue with the second stage of surgery.  Your son is resting now but all is well.  I believe we got it totally this time”, said the doctor with confidence.

Ron and Barbara finally felt relief.  Their son had been healed.  Ron still questioned God, but realized that the battle was over.  Their son would completely recover from his ailment.  He may not be able to hear but at least he would live.  Satisfied with the doctor’s results, they took David home and cared for him.

A few years went by and there was no sign of the tumor.  Only the scar behind his ear became the evidence of a prior complication.  One afternoon, Barbara took David to the doctor for a routine checkup.  It was there, the world was turned upside down once again.  The doctor warned, “I am sorry but the tumor grew back.”

Devastated by the news, Barbara asked, “Is it fatal?”

The doctor turned and said, “No.  It is operable, but I recommend a full ear canal wall down.”

Seeing the confused look on Barbara’s face, the doctor continued, “It means that he will no longer have an ear canal.  We will remove it completely, so that if this ever happens in the future, we can take care of it right here.”

This news brought a sense of relief to Barbara, but how would she tell Ron?  He had been questioning God since the last two surgeries.  Would he completely flip out and turn away from God or would he respond by going to God?  This, unfortunately, was a risk she was going to have to take.  No matter the outcome, she would stand by Ron and pray that he would respond properly.

She picked up her cell phone and dialed Ron at work.

“Hello”, said Ron.

“Hi honey”, Barbara stated with hesitancy.

“What’s wrong Barb?”

“David needs another surgery.”

The news was crushing.  It was as if his heart had been ripped out of his chest and placed into a trash compactor.  Everything hurt.  His body, mind and soul ached with pain beyond comparison.  It was then Barbara interrupted his self pity session, “Ron.  It’s operable.  The doctor will remove his ear canal and remove the tumor once again.  Once completed, they will be able to do it in the office so that David doesn’t have to go through this again.”

There was some sense of comfort to that news, even though his life felt crushed.  At least David would only have to go through this one more time.  Ron, however, knew that he needed to carry his little boy once again and place him onto the operating table.  The toughest of tasks he ever encountered was once again upon him.  Would he be able to do it again?  Would he loose his mind?  As he contemplated each of these questions, he remembered his first thought, ‘At least David would only have to go through this one more time.’

Weeks went by as Barbara and Ron prepared David for the final surgery.  Day after day they would answer David’s questions.  “Why is this happening to me?  Is God really there?  What will happen after this surgery?  Will I get sick again from the ‘sleepy medicine’?”  David has a number of significant and relevant questions.  After the first two surgeries, David had gotten very sick and didn’t want to leave the hospital.  Although the doctors and nurses gave him an anti-nausea shot, David’s body continued to react negatively.  Vomiting, stomach cramps, headaches and pain surrounded David after every surgery.  For David, the nightmare was going to continue.  Was this going to ever end?

On one occasion, David asked Ron, “Daddy, is Jesus really with me during my surgery?”

Understanding the fear in David’s mind, Ron responded, “Absolutely.  Jesus is always with you.  He never leaves us alone.”

“How do we know?” asked David.

Holding back the tears, Ron responded, “Jesus told us this in the Bible”.  It was then Ron waited for the response he thought he would get.  However, David was to respond in a different manner.

“Well, Daddy.  If you believe that, then so do I.  I love you, Daddy”.

No longer could Ron hold back his feelings.  Tears began streaming down his cheeks.  He opened his arms and David gladly embraced his father giving comfort and relief.  Attempting to control his composure, Ron looked into David’s eyes and said, “Thank you.  You helped Daddy today.”

“How?” asked David with a curious look.

“You helped me believe what God has told me.”

“What did he tell you?”

“He told me that this wasn’t about me.  It was about you.  God told me He was going to use these problems for your life.  I don’t know exactly what this means, but I do trust Him to complete the work He has started.”

David smiled.  He didn’t quite understand what Ron meant, but he knew if his daddy was happy then so was he.

The day of the final surgery came.  Once again, the anesthesiologist gave David the “sleepy medicine” but this time asked him a question.

“David, now that you are older.  Do you want to walk in on your own or would you like a wheelchair?”

David thought for a moment and looked up at Ron as if to ask for his approval.

“Would you like for me to carry you in again?” asked Ron.

David then looked at the anesthesiologist and with a sense of confidence and said, “I think I will walk in.  Can my daddy come too?”

With a smile on his face the anesthesiologist looked at Ron while bending down to David’s height and said, “Sure.  He can come too.”

David then grabbed Ron’s hand and walked down the hospital corridors to the operating room.  This was the first time David had seen it with his own eyes.  The other two times, David remembered falling asleep while waiting.  Fear began to encompass the young boy’s mind and body.  He knew he couldn’t turn back but he was scared.  David turned to Ron and asked, “Daddy, can you stay with me until I fall asleep?”

Ron smiled and said, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

They entered the operating room and Ron picked up David and placed him on the table.  While the doctors prepared the anesthesia machine, David held Ron’s hand.  Recognizing David’s fear, Ron bent over to kiss David.  He then assisted the doctors in placing the mask over David’s nose and mouth.  Ron then told David, “Remember, Jesus is with you and I’ll be right here when you wake up.”

David continued to hold Ron’s hand, gripping Ron tighter and tighter to let him know that David didn’t want his daddy to leave.  A few seconds later, David’s eyes drew heavy and his hand slowly released Ron’s hand.  Ron then knew it was the doctor’s moment.  Ron turned to the doctor and said, “This is my boy.  Please take care of him.”

The doctor acknowledged Ron and said, “As a parent, you have my word.”

Ron turned around and met the nurse in the hallway who was to assist him in getting back to the waiting area.  As Ron met up with Barbara, he embraced his wife and comforted her once again.  Both knew this was the last surgery, but it still didn’t make it any easier.  Emotions flared from one extreme to the next, from happiness to sadness, from smiling to depression.  Each moment was different from the next.  As they once again waited for the doctor to say she was done, Ron decided to take a walk outside.

Once there, Ron decided it was time to do business with God.  He hated the random thoughts that flooded his mind and wanted help to get them in order.  Standing by the ledge, Ron gripped it with both hands, looked up toward the sky and said, “Lord.  I know you are in control of all things.  You have shown me how faithful you are.  Even when I am not faithful, you are.  Please let me know if this is truly the last surgery.  I know you won’t give your children anything they can’t handle, but I am not sure if Barbara, David or I can go through this again.”

Ron then patiently waited for a response.  Almost immediately, his random thoughts became order.  Where there was disorder in his mind, now had a sense of organization.  As Ron searched his thoughts, he was reminded something Jesus told his disciples.  He remembered that during his final meal with his disciples, after his resurrection, Jesus told them to “baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.  Teaching them everything I command to you.”

Although Ron didn’t believe in trusting his thoughts normally, nor did he believe in numerology, Ron believed that this portion of God’s work was going to be complete.  He thought to himself, “The first surgery was for the Father, the second for the Son and this one for the Holy Spirit.  All of these surgeries were so that each member of the God-head could take part in working in David’s life.  Each one desired to do a work but each work was with one purpose, to bring David closer to God.”

Excited to hear this word from God, Ron immediately shared it with Barbara.  Although they would not have confirmation for years to come, Ron believed that God was done with teaching David this way.  It was God’s special way of reaching out to David and carrying him through the dark times of his life.  It was in their darkest moment, that God revealed Himself to their hurting souls.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. “ – Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)

Terror Chains


My life was spent on a ship.  For as long as I could remember, the life on this ship was hard, very hard.  The requirements of our lives encompassed continuous movement.  Constantly moving.  Never stopping.  Every moment of our lives was spent rowing the ship.  No matter how tired we may have been or how sick we felt, rowing the ship was the orders given by the captain.

No one had ever seen the captain.  We had heard he was a ruthless fellow, beating those who question and killing those who rebelled.  Rumors had been spread that the captain was once good and pure.  The story surrounding the captain was mysterious and questionable.  How could this man once be good and pure and yet be so evil.  No one knew for sure, except that if we didn’t continue to row, the whip would make our back bleed.

Every moment of every day, the faceless beings walked up and down, cracking their whips crying, “Row you meaningless dogs!  Row!”  Those who were too weak were beaten until unconscious.  Others who refused to do their task, were first beaten and then placed into the brig, where blood curdling screams could be heard.  We heard rumors about that as well.  Death was assumed, torture guaranteed.  Some would eventually return to their task of rowing with us, while others were never to be heard from again.  Only those who had been there knew, but no one ever spoke about what they experienced down their in the chambers of death.

Those with me were family.  My father was to my right, my mother to my left.  Father was hunched over his section of the oar handle, sick and exhausted.  Mother and I continued to row hoping the faceless crew didn’t notice.  Suddenly the air behind me snapped with authority.  “Row, you meaningless dogs”, exclaimed the faceless beast.  I could then feel the air suddenly retract and then snap with the same authority.  “I said row!  What is this a sleeper?  If you don’t row, I’ll make an example out of you!” shouted the faceless beast.

Each member of the crew was faceless.  No one ever knew how they spoke or how they breathed.  No nose, no mouth, no eyes, yet they saw our every move.  Their body was that of a man, but their voice was lower pitched, raspy and toned with evil, like a serpent that could speak mans native languages.  Their whip was always drawn, their hatred always present.  They stood about seven feet tall.  They wore a simple vest and torn shorts.  Never did they wear shoes for that was a sign of inferiority.

“Father, wake up”, I whispered.

“Silence, you little puppy!  Let your father speak for himself”, exclaimed the faceless beast.

Father didn’t respond, nor did he move.  All that could be seen was a beaten man, hunched over lightly breathing.  “Father, wake up”, I screamed shaking his shoulder.

A slap was heard across the ship, but I felt the impact.  The faceless beast drew his closed hand and struck me on the back of the head.  All I could hear were the muffled cries of my mother as she screamed for help.  A ringing had interrupted all other sound and my sight was blurry and faded.  A few moments later I came to.

“Are you alright honey?” my mother asked with tear filled eyes.

I nodded acknowledging my mother’s question and subsiding here fears.  looked to my right to see where my father was.  Father was still there.  Barely rowing, sweat dripped down his body.  His clothes were drenched in sweat and blood.  He had mustered all of the strength he could find in order to stay out of the brig.  Father had been there once, but like the others, he never spoke about it.  Knowing he was here relieved my fears and nightmares.  I wanted to reach over and give him a hug but could not due to the chains we all bore.

Every slave on the ship had rusted shackles on their wrists and ankles.  Each one was connected to the other.  As I looked down, I could see my feet dirtied with soot, blood and slime.  My wrists were swollen from the incessant rowing.  No matter how much they hurt, I knew I could never stop.

Suddenly, my shackles fell.  What just happened?  I looked around and others had shackles that had fallen.  The chains that held us to the ship had fallen off and no one understood how or why. What if the faceless crew noticed the shackles had fallen?  Would we end up in the brig, the chamber of death?  Questions arose in my mind, but no answer could be held.

“Get up and leave”, whispered the voice inside my head.  Was I to move?  “Get up and leave”, the voice said a second time.  I leaned over to my father and noticed his shackles had fallen off as well.  My mother whispered, “Did you just hear that?  I was just told to get up and leave.”  She had heard the same inner voice that I just experienced.

In an instant, my father regained his strength and grabbed my shoulder.  “Let’s go”, he said to my mother and I.  We stopped rowing and stood up.  The faceless beasts continued to whip the others around us, but seemed to leave us alone.  As we left the benches we were previously chained to, a few observances came to mind.  First, there was darkness all around us.  Never had the daylight breached the thickness of night.  No stars were in the sky, no water beneath the ship.  How were we floating?  Where were we rowing to?  Nothingness appeared to be everywhere.  Hopelessness, despair, fear and trembling surrounded those still chained to the oars.

“Come toward me”, whispered the voice.  All of us looked at each other.  We all had heard it.  Where was it coming from?  “Come toward me.”

As I looked around, I saw a distant beam of white.  It was like a black canvas that had a single bead of white paint.  “There!  The voice is coming from there!” I shouted to the others.  Many others whose chains had fallen began to walk toward the white dot.  I just stood there observing my surroundings, wondering what was happening.

“If you want to live, then come to me”, exclaimed the soft voice.

What did it mean?  Of course I wanted to live.  Life was the very thing that kept me alive for so long.  Each moment that I rowed, I thought of what the possibilities were had I not been on the ship.  I desired to run with other boys my age.  I longed for a time where my mother and father smiled as I played in the park, happy and free.  Life was the very thing that kept me alive.

“If you want to live, come toward me and never look back”, said the voice.

I began to walk with my father and mother toward the dot and then realized we had left the ship.  Desiring for others to join us, I decided to turn back and see if others could be freed.  As I turned my shoulders, my father grabbed me and said, “You heard the voice, son.  Never look back.”

It was then I remembered a story that my father had told me when I was younger.  It was a story about a man and his wife who were told to leave the City of Sin.  The city had been so evil that destruction had crept toward them.  In order for them to survive, they needed to leave.  Unfortunately, the wife desired to return to the City of Sin.  She turned back and took one step when she froze into a pillar of salt.  I knew that I didn’t want to end up like that.  I acknowledged my father’s words and turned toward the white dot.

It had grown into a brilliant light, that was more beautiful than anything I had ever seen.  Peace and joy exuded from the light.  I then noticed that we no longer wore the torn, bloody clothes we had left the ship with.  We now wore robes of white, brilliant white with clean cushioned sandals.

As we walked forward, I could hear the screams of torture and death.  My curiosity desired to see what was happening, but my desire to live outweighed that option.  As the blood curdling screams continued, we entered the light until the screams could no longer be heard.  Now the brilliance, peace and joy surrounded our very being.  Finally, we had entered the promised land, happy and free.

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.  He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,and broke away their chains.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” – Psalm 107:13-15 (NIV)

The Shadow of Death


He awoke with sudden shock which made his hands shake, his heart race and nausea filled his stomach.  As he tried to gain his composure, his mind raced with possibilities.  Where was he?  What happened?  How did he get here?  With every possible answer, came another question and with every question, fear entered his mind.

In order to attempt composure, he remembered songs that his mother had sung when he was a little boy.  Every night, his mother would sit at his bedside and make up songs about the day.  She sang soft and sweet.  Every song, a lullaby.  Every note, a soothing agent.  No matter how bad or good his day went, she always sang with her gentle, soothing voice.  Even the angriest of animals would be lulled to sleep when she sang.

Once he was ready to sleep, she would sing her last note and say, “Goodnight my David.  Remember, Jesus never sleeps.”

“Jesus never sleeps”, David thought.  Unfortunately, this gave no consolation to his current predicament.  He knew his eyes were open, but nothing could be seen.  Neither height, nor depth, nor width of his surroundings were known to him.  Darkness enveloped his very being.  All he knew, was when he stretched out his hands, no walls or ceiling were present.  Only the floor was detected, a dirt floor with some small rocks.  Again, the thoughts raced, “Where am I?  How did I get here?  Am I blind?”  The unknown became the messenger of fear.  The more his realization of the unknown, the more he feared.

“Hello!” David cried.  “Is anyone out there?  Help!”

No answer came.  Only the echo of his own voice.  Again David cried out, “HELP!  I can’t see!  Anyone, please help me.”

Frozen with fear, David felt he couldn’t move because he couldn’t see.  If he moved, how would he know where to go?  Would he fall?  What if something attacked him?  How would he defend himself without sight?  His fears became so great that his mind tortured his soul with such force that his body responded with paralysis.

Moments later, he heard a voice, “David.  Are you there?”

David thought to himself, “I must be hearing things.”

The voice came a second time, “David.  Are you there?”

Knowing, beyond doubt, David cried out, “Yes! I’m here!  Help me!”

“Follow my voice.  It’s the only way!”

David thought, “How can I follow a voice?  What if they bring me deeper into this place?  What if this is a trap?”  Gaining some composure, David yelled, “How can I trust you?”

“Follow my voice.  It’s the only way”, the voice said a second time.

“But how can I trust you?”

“Follow my voice.  It’s the only way.”

Although David knew he didn’t have many options, he also understood that following this voice may be the only way to survive.  With extreme caution, David bent down on his hands and knees and began his journey crawling in the direction he thought the voice was coming from.

“That’s it David, crawl toward me”, the voice exclaimed.

While David continued his crawl, he realized the voice had exclaimed something extraordinary.  The voice knew he was crawling.  He couldn’t see anything or anyone, so how did the voice know he was on his hands and knees?  David began to fear again.  What if this voice was leading him away from the exit?  Would there be enough air for him to breathe?  Suddenly, David stopped and sat with his legs crossed, as he didn’t know what was around him.

“Why did you stop, David?”

“How did you know I stopped?”

“David, follow my voice.  It’s the only way.”

David didn’t know what to do.  Was he to continue his journey or sit there and wonder how he would survive this ordeal?  Almost instantaneously, David remembered something else his mother had done with him as a child; she held his hand until he fell asleep.  Every night she sang, his mother would also hold his hand as if to reassure him that everything was going to be okay.   Her tender touch would bring his mind to ease and his heart to calm.

“David, follow my voice.  It’s the only way”, the voice said again and again.  Every few minutes the voice would reach out and call to David to start his journey again.  Over and over, the voice called to him, sometimes loud, sometimes soft.  It was then David began to analyze the voice.  It was a soothing, soft man’s voice.  It was as if the voice understood his feelings and gently called out to David.  The times which were louder, David felt that the voice wanted a response.  The softer times, the voice just wanted to let him know it was still there.

After thinking of his mother, he decided to continue his journey on all fours once again.  David propped himself to the awkward position and began to travel toward the voice once more.  It was then David noticed his hands and knees began to hurt.  Rawness started to encroach on his flesh.  Movement led to pain and pain to fear.  Suddenly, David felt moisture on his hands and knees.  He didn’t hear water so could only assume the crawl had taken a toll on him.  He feared he was starting to bleed.  David didn’t understand why this was happening to him or why.

The voice cried out, “David.  Get up and walk.  It’s the only way.”

David got up as if to say, “I trust you”.  Although attempting to stand bore more pain, a different kind of pain, he knew the voice was right.  From his crawl position, he was able to get to his feet.  After a moment of stretching his muscles into proper position, he started to take his first steps.

Each step was more daunting than the next.  He wasn’t sure how to walk in the dark as like most people, rely on sight to accomplish this task.  With each step he stumbled.  Left in front of right and right in front of left was the mantra he repeated to himself.  Every so often, he would fall from a loose rock or dizziness.  He would then hear the voice and get back up and continue the journey step by step.

Without warning, he saw a white dot in the distance.  What was it?  Could it be?  A sliver of light appeared in front of him.  When he saw the light, it changed his mentality and attitude.  He realized that fear was gone and pain was diminishing.  It was then he heard, “David, continue toward the light.  It’s the only way.”

David wanted to run and even tried.  However, when he ran, he would fall causing pain and fear to reenter into his body, mind and soul.  He decided that walking was the better of choices.  At least he would only stumble occasionally.  With every step, the light grew and when the light grew, so did hope.  David knew the end of his journey was in sight, or so he thought.

Suddenly, David took one wrong step and fell.  His fall was not like the others.  He fell on his back and slid hard and fast.  As he slid, he tried to stop but could not.  Finally, he slowed down and came to a stop.  As he rolled over to prop himself up, he looked around and didn’t see the light.  What had happened?  Did he slide that far back?  Fear and pain began to grow while he felt hope was lost.  He sat down once again and cried.

“David, follow my voice.  It’s the only way”, the voice called out.

Like before, the voice called out over and over again as if to motivate David to continue his journey.  This time, David did not wallow in fear and pain.  He called back, “Okay, I’ll try again.”

The voice said, “When I tell you, reach to your left.”

David didn’t understand what the voice meant, but since the voice brought him to the light, he figured the voice knew something he didn’t.  David continued his slow journey step by step.  This time he didn’t stumble as much.  He barely tripped or fell.  After what seemed like hours, David heard the voice call to him once again, “Reach to your left”.

Trusting the voice, David reached out with this left hand and slowly moved it toward his left, circling up and down attempting to grasp at whatever may have been there.   At that moment, it felt like, something brushed his fingers.  He wasn’t sure, got on his knees and reached out with both hands.  After a few minutes of flailing his arms in front of him, David gripped the object that brushed his hand.  To his surprise, the object felt braided and course.  It was a rope.  He gripped the rope with both hands and raised himself to his feet.

As he held the rope, he looked up and saw the light again.  This time, it was bigger than ever.  It appeared to be almost the size of a full moon on a clear summer night.  David then realized his journey was going to end.  Once again, fear and pain seemed to be swept away by the freedom of hope.

David started to reflect on this journey and realized one question remained, how did he get there to begin with?  He remembered hiking in the woods and pitching his tent.  He remembered the fire he created to keep warn and cook some food.  He remembered falling asleep and waking up to a noise outside of his tent.  He remembered wanting to fall back asleep but kept tossing and turning due to the anxiety he felt from the forest noises.

As he continued to climb, he thought to himself, “Maybe this is a dream?  Maybe this isn’t real.”  He continued to rummage through various thoughts and scenarios in an effort to answer his questions.  However, just as before, no answer came.  It was then David realized that he hadn’t heard the voice in a while.  He stopped climbing to rest and catch his breath.  David then shouted, “Voice, are you still there?”

No answer came.

“Voice”, he said a second time, “Are you still there?”

Again, no answer came.

David mumbled, “I knew you would leave me.  Everyone else has.”  As David wallowed in his state of loneliness, he realized that the light was not only peering but also exposing his surroundings.  David looked around and noticed he was surrounded by dirt and rocks.  David realized he was in a cave.  He also noticed that a small, shallow body of water was within reach.  It was then David realized how thirsty he was.  As the feeling of thirst grew, David willed himself to his feet and began to walk toward the body of water.  Then David heard something strange, it was running water.

Bending down, he dipped his hands into the body of water and took a long drink.  He had hoped the water was not contaminated but without thinking, he drank the water until his thirst was satisfied.  After a few more minutes of rest, David felt that he needed to continue to leave this place, this cave of fear and pain.  He rose from his spot, walked over to the rope and continued his climb.

What seemed like days later, David was able to let go of the rope.  The incline became flat.  David realized his journey was about to end.  He could now see the outside world.  Hope then became belief.  David now knew he was about to leave this cave of fear and pain.  As David reached the opening to the cave, he heard the voice once again, “David.  Welcome to my fields.”

David looked around but didn’t see anyone.  He responded, “Where are you?”

“I am here, but you cannot see me right now”, the voice exclaimed.  “Listen to my words and obey my commands.”

David wasn’t sure if he wanted to listen or obey but decided to respond rather harshly, “You left me!  I was alone in there and you left me.  I cried out to you but you did not respond.  Why?”

The voice responded, “Who was it that led you to the light?  Who was it that led you to the rope?  Who was it that placed you there?  Who was it that subdued your fear and pain?”

David couldn’t respond.  He lowered his head feeling weakness and shame.  David then recognized, the voice had been with him the entire journey.  While David sulked with shame and disbelief, the voice said, “My son, don’t feel shame or disbelief.  You followed my voice.  You followed my light.  Well done.  Now I have something else for you to do.  Look behind you.”

David lifted his head and slowly turned around.  He saw a torch, some food and a container to hold water on a large boulder.  As he walked toward the items on the boulder, the voice said to him, “Take those items and go back into the cave.  There search the cave and look for others who have heard my voice or seen my light.  Help them on their journey.  Encourage them that the end is near.  Teach them about the rope, how to trust in the voice and light and not to worry about the ‘what if’ thoughts.  Lead them out of the cave and into this field.”

David looked up and asked, “But how will I know who they are?  How many are there?  Why did you place us there?”  Questions ravaged his mind.  He was confused as to what had really happened.

“David”, the voice said, “Do you remember last night when you cried out to me?  When you asked me to help you out of your problems?”

Suddenly, David remembered that just before he fell asleep, he cried out to God asking him for help.  He didn’t want to waste his life and wanted a new direction.  It was then David realized who he was talking to.

“Lord, forgive my doubt”, David responded.

With a sense of compassion, the voice said to David, “Do not worry about how many or why.  All I ask is that you do what I commanded you.  Others need you.  I need you.  Therefore, go and enter the cave.  Help others believe.”

David gripped the items on the boulder.  He approached the opening to the cave and lit the torch.  One last question plagued his mind, “How will I know when my task is done?”

The voice responded, “When you see Me, then you will be finished.”

“When will I see you?” asked David.

“When you are finished”, the voice responded.

David realized every answer had a question, but not every question deserved an answer.              As he entered the mouth of the cave, he saw an inscription on the wall.  The inscription said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.”  David then remembered the words of his mother, “Jesus never sleeps.”  With comfort on his mind and with a sigh of anticipation, David entered the cave and searched for others that were like him.  Those that are afraid.  Those that are hurting.  Those who have no hope.  As David found others, he would tell them about his journey, his struggles and his discoveries.  He would remind them about the voice and show them the light.  David now lived the journey that once overtook him with fear and pain.  Finally, David understood that this life was not about him.  It was about finding and helping others to see the Light and hear the voice of God.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been give to me.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Jesus Christ.  (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)

God Bless and encourage someone today.

The Mara Tree


It had finally come true.  His dreams were finally happening.  John never expected his dream to own a farm would ever come true, but it was about to become a reality.  Anxiously sitting in the bank, he nervously waited for the banker to come in with the completed paperwork.  As his leg shook incessantly, he looked around, like a child waiting to see their favorite movie character.  After a few minutes, the bank official entered the small office.

“Here we are.  All documents have been finalized and you are now the proud owner of the farmland.  Congratulations John”, said the bank official.

With paperwork in hand, John gleefully walked out of the bank, singing one of his favorite songs.  As he was about to leave the bank, he stopped at the glass door, turned around and yelled, “Thank you!” to the bank official, who was smiling and waving him goodbye.

That was almost 20 years ago.  He couldn’t believe it had been that long.  Sitting in his tractor, tilling the land for planting, John had been reminiscing about times past.  Good times and bad, happy and sad times, times of great harvest and times of famine.  He had been placing himself on the emotional rollercoaster ensuring that he had traveled the right path.

As the tractor came to the last edges of his land, he turned off the engine and just sat there in the quietness.  A gentle breeze massaged his body and mind.  The sun wasn’t as strong as it could be but was warm enough to satisfy any chilled bones.  John took off his hat to wipe the sweat off of his brow.  He reached down for his thermos and poured a cup of hot coffee, black with sugar, and sat with his feet up on the edge of the tractor.

John thought to himself, “This year should be a very good year.”  However, John also knew that what he grew this year was of such significance for the next 7 years as he would start a new harvest during that time.  If the land was on his side, he could harvest enough fruit and vegetables for several thousand families.  The key to success was the crops he would plant.

The next day, John began the process of planting various fruits and vegetables.  Apple trees would take years but the return on his investment would be ten-fold.  Corn, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and other such vegetables, would line the interior of his land.

A few months after planting, he noted that there was a gap in the middle of his farm.  It was as if nothing was planted there.  The center of his farm appeared desolate and lifeless.  John said, “I know I planted vegetables here, so why is nothing growing?”  John didn’t understand what was going on, so he decided to investigate with some professional land surveyors.

Over the next few weeks, John met with different professional land surveyors.  They explained that on his land, if the soil was too acidic, nothing would grow there.  Some thought a mole or rabbit had settled just beneath the surface, while others told him that his seeds were bad in that area.  Unfortunately, none gave John an explanation that he could accept.  All seemed to be guesses or riddles that could not be answered.

As John contemplated the reasons for this phenomenon, a man called from the distance.  He was a slender man with a business hat and a briefcase.  He waved one hand in the air and greeted with a joy that John had never seen before.

“Greetings John.  My name is Mr. Natas and I can give you an answer to your dilemma.”

John curiously looked and remarked, “Oh you can, can you?  I have had several professionals come here only to give me nothing but guesses and stories.”

“I understand John.  This is not the first time someone has doubted me”, claimed Mr. Natas.  “But I will tell you an answer and one that I am sure you will be pleased with.”

John knew he had no choice.  He didn’t have any answers but maybe this Mr. Natas could guide him in the right direction.  “So, Mr. Natas, if I let you help, what is your fee?”

“Nothing”, Mr. Natas responded.

“Nothing?” asked John.

“Nothing.  All I ask is that you pass along whatever I give you to someone else.”

That didn’t sound difficult.  Here was someone who could give John and answer and all John had to do was pass along whatever was given to him by Mr. Natas.  John gladly responded, “I agree.”

Mr. Natas smiled and placed his briefcase on top of picnic table.  His thumbs wound the combination and unlocked the briefcase.  He opened the top and pulled out a small envelope and a piece of paper.  He placed both of the items on the table and said, “Here is a single seed of Mara fruit.  It is one of the most beautiful and best tasting fruit you have every encountered.  It doesn’t take long to harvest, nor does it take several seasons to produce.  Once you plant the seed, it will grow within a month and will produce fruit in less than three months.  All I ask is that you sign here agreeing to the terms of sharing the fruit to your friends and family.  Remember, this fruit is desirable by all once seen.  Sign here please.”

John picked up the pen, which appeared old but distinguished.  He looked into Mr. Natas’ eyes to see if there was anything that would stop him from signing.  As he peered into Mr. Natas’ eyes, John could see innocence and love.  With calmness and ease, John signed the paper and handed it to Mr. Natas.  Both John and Mr. Natas said their goodbyes.  As Mr. Natas walked away, he turned and said, “Remember, you agreed to share this fruit.  Share it well.”

John opened the envelope and saw the small seed.  It was one of the tiniest seeds he had ever seen.  Doubt started to overcome his mind.  What if Mr. Natas was wrong?  What if the seed didn’t grow?  All John knew was that if this didn’t work, his dream of continuing to be a farmer may be in jeopardy.  John cautiously planted the seed in the middle of the desolate land and hoped for the best.

A month passed by and John wanted to see where his new fruit tree was growing.  He ran out to the middle of the farm and came to the spot where he planted the seed Mr. Natas had given him.  He looked around but saw nothing.  All around him was desolation and dust.  Nothing had grown.  He had been lied to, again.

Anger welled up in John.  So much so, that he picked up a rock by his feet and hurled it with all his might toward the other crops while screaming at the top of his lungs.   Why would so many people take advantage of him?  Why would Mr. Natas have the gall to lie to him during his time of desperation?  John never understood why this happens to him.

As John wallowed in his anger and sadness, tears flowed from his eyes and hands.  As he cried wondering what he was going to do next, he noticed something unusual.  Where his tears touch the ground, a small stem grew.  Had that been there before?  Was this the famous Mara tree?  John gained his composure and stared at the tiny stem.  Thinking he just missed it, he began to jump for joy but he couldn’t stop thinking about those who ripped him off.

Days went by and the plant grew more and more.  He remembered that in a few short months he would be able to begin his harvest.  He wondered if the small tree would produce a crop like he had been previously promised by Mr. Natas.

 

Finally, the day of harvesting came.  John and his wife began the process of bringing in all of the fruits and vegetables for their market.  As John’s wife, Ella, came toward the center of the farm, she noticed how the small tree had no fruit.  She had not been pleased with John the day he told her about the tree.  She thought it was odd that someone would simply help them without a standard fee or royalty.  She shouted, “John, come here.  I need to show you something.”

John stopped his work and ran to his wife.  “What is it darling?”

“Look at this stupid tree.  What do you see?”

John looked up at the small tree and said, “I see a small tree with leaves.”

“Exactly”, she exclaimed, “No fruit.  I told you this was a bad investment.  Now what will we do?  How will we survive?  We needed this fruit to survive?”

Frustration and bitterness welled up in John’s spirit.  They had argued over this small tree for days.  Over and over again, they argued over what to do and how to do it.  Ella wanted him to build another barn in the center as it would make harvesting easier.  But John knew that if his crops didn’t produce enough this year, they might lose the farm.  Not knowing how to answer, John ignored her comments and walked away.

Suddenly, Ella turned and saw something magical.  A small piece of purple fruit hung in between the branches.  She knew it wasn’t there before.  How did it get there?  She picked the purple fruit and thought, “This looks amazing.  I wonder how it tastes?”  She knew John didn’t know about it but wanted to taste it more and more.  As she held the fruit, she could feel a sense of desire like she never felt before.  It was as if the fruit called to her.  She brought the fruit to her mouth and took a large bite.  Juices flowed from the fruit and the sides of her mouth.  The taste was unlike anything she had ever had.  Sweet, yet tangy or maybe sour.  Whatever it was, it was the most appetizing fruit she had ever tasted.  She quickly wiped off her mouth, dropped what was left and continued to harvest the crops.

 

A week later, John and Ella continued to fight over the tree and many other things.  The work on the house, the chores in the barn and even the color of paint to use inside the living room was what they argued about.  After their yelling and screaming match, they would storm out of the house and continue the harvest.

Every basket had something in it.  Vegetables and fruits came in droves.  Their stand continued to be full but not as many people stopped by to purchase goods.  It became so bad that their fruit and vegetables started to turn rancid.  It was then they started to argue about that as well.

One morning, John walked the fields trying to understand what was happening to him and Ella.  As he walked he entered the center of his farm and noted the large amount of harvestable fruit on the Mara tree.  It was then he decided to harvest the tree and give away the fruit as he had promised Mr. Natas.

He walked to all of his neighbors and even into town to give away the fruit.  As he was told, many people wanted the fruit.  They saw how desirable it was and even tried to give John money toward the fruit.  John said, “No thank you.  I promised I would give it away.  But if you would like, I have other fruits and vegetables to sell.”

No one appeared interested.  They only wanted the Mara fruit.  As Ella experienced, it was juicy with a sweet and sour taste.  As they ate more, they desired more.  John was able to give away all of the fruit he harvested.  Some began to ask for more, but when John explained that he had no more, the people began to yell and curse.  How could he tempt them with such desire?

Toward the end of the harvest season, John noticed something that made him curious.  More Mara trees had grown but not just in the center of the farm but around the rest of the crops as well.  All had fruit and all were ripe.

When John brought this observation to Ella, both Ella and John wondered how this happened.  John began to monitor the situation to see if any more trees began to sprout.  Over the next few days, John noticed that he no longer had a harvest of corn, tomatoes or other fruits or vegetables.  He only had a harvest of Mara fruit.

John decided to look at a copy of his agreement to see if he was able to sell the Mara fruit.  He dug through some papers and came across his contract.  As he read it, fear overcame his whole being.  His contract stated that the fruit had to be given away and never sold.  But what about his other crops?  Wherever the Mara trees grew, his other crops suffered and died.  How was he supposed to make a living giving away Mara fruit?

As John stood and pondered his situation, he looked up and saw a mirror.  He saw an image of a man he had never seen before.  This man was old and tired.  A man who appeared to be hungry and hopeless.  It was then he realized he was looking at himself.  He held the contract up in disbelief and spoke into the mirror, “How could you have done this?  How could you be so stupid?”  As John continued to beat himself up he suddenly noticed something in the mirror.  The signature of Mr. Natas appeared to read something else.  The “N” had a long arrow pointing down and the “S” formed the image of a serpent hissing.  What intrigued him more was the spelling of Mr. Natas’ name.  In the mirror the contract signature read, “sataN”.

It was then John realized, he had given root to Satan.  He allowed his desires to cloud his judgment.  John had allowed Satan to opportunity to destroy his goals and dreams.  He ran out of his house, screaming with ax in hand.  One after the other he chopped down every Mara tree on the farm, hoping to save his other crops.  No matter how hard he tried, more and more trees sprung out of the ground bearing the Mara fruit.

Day and night John fought with the land.  He continued to chop down tree after tree.  Pulling up saplings that looked like the Mara tree.  When the sun rose the next day, John looked over the land and noticed every crop had been uprooted except that of the Mara trees.  It was then John realized that every bitter thought and every angry action caused a Mara tree to grow.  He also realized that giving away the fruit caused more pain and suffering to him and Ella.

No more did John live his dream.  No more could John and Ella survive on the farm.  They abandoned all hopes and dreams and rode to the city in the hope of one day returning to the farm.  For now they needed to understand and learn that when the root of bitterness enters a life, it ruins not just the one person, but also others surrounding them.

 

God bless and encourage someone today.

Upon the Sacred Sand


The waves gently crashed against the shore.  White caps caressed the sand.  As the water progressed along the sand, Allen knew not all was well.

He had just received word that his life was to be shortened.  Not fully understanding the circumstances, he walked at the edge, where the water meets the sand.  What was this about?  Why him and not someone else?

Doctors had warned him earlier in life that his lifestyle was harmful.  As a teenager, he had been subject to the wars of the streets.  His parents divorced.  His mother an alcoholic. His father absent.  It wasn’t until he met Rolo that Allen understood what acceptance was about.

Rolo was the leader of a local gang that ruled the streets.  He led a group of hoodlums and reprobates.  But one thing Rolo understood, if someone needed to feel accepted, he was the guy.

Rolo was the one who raised Allen during his formidable years.  He showed Allen how most rejected him, but only a few accepted him.  In order for Allen to feel accepted, all he needed to do is sell some “pharmaceutical” products to other teens.  Allen believed Rolo and thus began his journey down a funnel cloud of destruction.

Over the next few years, Allen would eventually get hooked on the drugs he sold.  Getting high and crashing became the norm.  In the morning, he would get high in order to handle his day.  As evening came, he would begin to crash but would intervene with another dose of drugs.

Regularly, he would wake up with blurred vision of lights and white suited people surrounding him.  The nurses and doctors would strap his hands and feet to subdue his temper while regaining true consciousnesses.  Several times, he remembered how the warning shots fired over his mind and body.  He had been told his life was on the line and several times almost lost the battle.

One time as he left the hospital, a homeless man stopped him and asked for help.  At first, Allen thought to himself, “Whatever!  I need help too.”  Instead of responding to the homeless man’s request, Allen just rolled his eyes and kept on walking.  The homeless man persisted, “Please help me.  I haven’t eaten and need food.”  Allen ignored the man and continued to walk, crossing the busy city street.

As Allen entered the busy intersection, he continued to hear the homeless man cry out for help.  Allen turned to acknowledge the man’s cries with a response of hatred and fear.  He lifted his head, opened his mouth and shouted, “Leave me alone!  You’re not the only one who needs help, you homeless…”

Allen was not given the opportunity to finish his sentence when he noticed the frail homeless man entered the intersection.  Suddenly and without warning, a taxi broadsided the homeless man separating his body and soul.  It was then Allen realized life was too short to continue down a path of destruction.

As Allen walked the beach, also he remembered how he met his wife.  Ruth was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.  He had seen her from a distance in the deli for several months, but never had the nerve to approach her.  Once while he was sitting and staring at her, she turned, tilted her head, winked and smiled the most comforting smile.  A few minutes later it was Ruth who approached him.

Not long after they met, Ruth and Allen got married.  Unfortunately, like his parents, his marriage didn’t last long.  He had begun to drink again and ended up in an angry stupor night after night.  Fight after fight both Ruth and Allen flung insults and negativity.  After six months of marriage, Ruth walked out never to return.

Now five years later, a pain had entered his stomach.  At first, he thought it was simply a diet problem but as it intensified day after day, he decided to go to the hospital to see if they had a solution to his problem.  After several days of tests, the doctors found a mass near the outside of his stomach.  Within 24 hours, Allen finally knew what ailed him, stage four cancer.

When he inquired how this was possible, the doctors told him that years of abuse lead to days til death.  No matter what they wanted to try, it would never extend the weeks he had left.  Knowing this he opted to leave the hospital.

He walked and walked, not returning home, but instead entered the beach.  Now as he walked remembering both the good and bad, he looked toward the sunny blue sky and cried, “Lord, why me?  Why now?”

As the words left his mouth he felt a hand on his shoulder and a whisper in his ear, “Is everything alright?”  Allen slowly turned and saw a man walking with him.  With tears in his eyes, Allen responded, “I’m dying.”

The man softly said, “Are you sure?”

Allen whimpered a simple, “Yes.”

The man and Allen spoke for several hours, mostly talking about Allen’s past but laughing occasionally from some funny stories.  Allen felt comforted by the man’s words.  The man spoke words of encouragement and truth.  He told Allen about another man who died for his enemies.  A man who felt that all people were important.  He explained that if acceptance was to be realized, Allen had to let go of his life.  Allen didn’t fully understand what he meant, but it felt good.

As he started to feel better, Allen turned to the man and asked, “What is your name?”

The man had disappeared.  Allen desperately turned in circles looking as far as the eye could see.  There was no one around.  Was it the cancer?  Was he so distraught that his mind began to hallucinate?  Was he going insane?

In an instant, he realized what had just happened.  The mysterious unnamed man was speaking of himself.  Could it really be him?  Could the man really been the famous Jesus Christ?  Allen looked back to the sky while the ocean caressed his feet and cried, “I believe.  Please don’t leave me.”

There was no answer.  He cried and cried, “Please don’t leave me.”  Again no answer.  After a few minutes of tears and despair, Allen realized the man would not return.  He fell to his knees, covered his face and quietly wept.

As his head began to fill with guilt from past sins, he raised his hands toward heaven and said, “Lord. I believe.”  At that very moment, he felt a sense of joy and peace.  It was a feeling he never had before.  He knew that even if he didn’t continue this life, there was another life that he could look forward to.

Suddenly, a distant figure appeared.  Allen raised his head and saw the outline of a person.  He jumped to his feet and began to run shouting, “You came back.  You came back!”

As he approached the figure, he realized the person he saw was different than the mysterious man.  This person had long hair and curves that were of no man.  Disappointed, Allen stopped running and once again fell to his knees.

The distant person then began to jog toward him.  In a matter of seconds, Allen could hear the cries of the person.  “Allen, honey.  I did come back.”  It was Ruth.  Allen then raised himself to his feet, held out his arms and hugged Ruth with such love and peace.  They kissed for a few moments and spoke of how they both met a mysterious man.  It was at that moment they realized, God had visited them both.  Allen then knew he was standing upon sacred sand.

God bless and encourage someone today.