What’s next……?

Reflecting on the past couple of weeks I’m reminded of people in my life who are gone now, but never forgotten. My two most recent losses went way out of their way to scacrifice for and build into my life. First was my mom. She and my Dad  took me in as a young child and did what they had to do at very diffcult time. This was not done out out of a sense of duty but with hearts full of love and compassion.
As we laid my friend to rest on Saturday, I saw many people at the memorial who were in one way or another inter-connected. The common factor was Jeff. Some were family, some were friends like me, some were colleagues and employees, some were teachers of his children, and then there were a number of men whose lives had been impacted in a positive way as a result of one of Jeff’s passion. And that was the passion of leading someone to the beginning of faith or to a deeper walk with God’s Son Jesus.
Jeff had a number of other passions too. A very obvious passion was photography, as evidenced by photo after photo shown in the video presentation at the service. Jeff must have had the single largest personal photo collection of anyone I’ve ever known. There are literally maybe a hundred or more volumes of photos of each of his children. I mean a whole long wall of albums. Jeff was truly a photo buff. I recall seeing a photo in his home of himself when he was maybe 9 or 10 years old. And what was around his neck? A camera. And the irony is that Jeff was color blind.
When do you do your best thinking? Strangely enough I do mine at two different times. One is in the middle of the night when I should be purring nicely. My mind starts racing and I have to get up and record my thoughts or loose them. The other time I get good information is when I am mowing my yard. I give myself a lot of advice when I mow. It may be the fumes or the heat but I get real clarity when I’m doing this. As I was receiving my self counseling session over the weekend in 96 degree heat. The thoughts that kept invading my pea brain is this. What long lasting effects do our inter-connections or  relationships have on other people?   
I’ve seen example upon example from others, of what NOT to do. And this runs the gammut from fathers, to employers and even so called friends in my 58 years. I’ve witnessed (and I’m sure you have too) time after time men (and women) who slander, insult, deride, berate and generally disregard the diginity and basic goodness of other people. They leave a path of destruction behind them and many times could care less. Who treated you that way? Are you endeared to them now?
We’ve also all seen good and even wonderful examples of people who live out the “golden rule”. They treat others with respect and care. They look for the good in people instead of looking for and maginfying the bad. We admire and respect people like this, don’t we?  We hope that we will be like them.
But my question to us all is this. Are we really becoming who we admire? Are we following in the footsteps of that Dad, Grandad, Mother or friend that carved out a good path in front of us? Have we succumbed to the way of the world and seek only what is good for ourselves?
I suggest that we all take a long hard look at ourselves. If you’ve seen something in the life of Jeff or others that you’ve admired, start being like that wonderful attribute you’ve witnessed. Call someone and see how they are doing. Challenge them to greatness. There might even be a time when you need to call someone out. But even this can be done with care and in a loving way. I appreciate all the more when people care enough about me to tell me I am doing something wrong. And especially when I know they are doing this because they REALLY do want the higher good in my life and love me. Isn’t this the same purpose that we discipline our children?
As our lives go forward, let us all live our lives intenionally. Love others like today is your last. Complete tasks as if you won’t have a second chance. Treat your wife and kids with loving care. Teach them by the example with your own words and actions. Make sure there is enough evidence to convict you of loving people.
I will have more to say about Jeff later, but for now I will end by saying this. Jeff cramed more into his 47 years than most of us could handle in several lifetimes. And he did so full tilt, wide open, and usually sliding in sideways to a stop. He lived life to the full. He loved his wife and kids. He cherished life. Let’s do the same. Be inter-connected.

Tough Week…..Tender Family

…..Well my reflective and sentimental mind awakened me again very early for the second Friday morning in a row. Last week I was up early reflecting on my Mom’s life and passing and remembering what she did for me and I shared many of those thoughts at her memorial service. But today it is about Jeff.
I could not fall back to sleep as my mind was reeling with thoughts and memories of Jeff Thompson and family. I knew that I had to get up and jot down my thoughts or I would not be able to remember them or I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep completely.
So here goes, from a restless mind.
Could this family possibly have started with a Toga party? Not 100% sure if that is correct but I think I recall Jeff telling our Tuesday morning guys when we were all telling about how we met our wives. DeeAn, if this is not true I apologize! We all have our unique stories of how we met our spouses, huh? Some are just more amusing than others.
When I first met Jeff his family was still in what I would call the “fledgling stage”. His kids were still pretty young. And Amy (the youngest) was a very young duckling and cute as pie. They were all small, innocent wide eyed and cute.
Just so you’ll know what kind of folks I’m talking about, this portion of the Thompson clan began with a special needs child. Families with special needs kids have challenges that most of us will never face. It takes people of true compassion and care to intentionally have a child with many needs. And then to add five more gifts to their quiver makes this story even more special.
Jeff was a learner and observer. He watched how others were parenting their kids and was always curious about how to deal with the challenges of raising kids, especially once they reached the dreaded teenage status. For those of us a little further along in that process, we gave Jeff what advice we could and then we would all pray together for God’s direction and the grace to be the kind of husbands and dads that our families needed.
I remember a few extra special times where Jeff was doing things for or with his kids. Like when he went to church camp for a week. Reports were that he was the kid that was very close to being kicked out of camp for speeding on a golf cart around campus and “other things”. He was just one of the kids. But he wanted to be with his kids any time he could. So he went to pre-teen camp.
Then there was the time of the surprise gift of two four wheelers that were hidden in my garage until Christmas morning when I delivered them for Jeff to his driveway. The looks on those kids’ faces were something. And the excitement Jeff had was equal.
I recall a Colorado trip when the family van broke down and it took almost a week to get parts for repair. They turned that potentially bad experience into a memory, as they sort of camped out in that little town and even went to the local church there that week.
Jeff intentionally took his kids individually on trips to wherever that child wanted to go. I guess living in a large family, you can at times get lost in the shuffle. Well that is not the case here. He planned for inclusion and always made it fun and directed to that child. From NASCAR to Mexico to Mid America Mall to rescuing dogs or rescuing friends, he always included his kids and taught them by example.
Besides Jeff’s wife and kids that he cherished, he loved dearly his mom, his sisters and their extended families and had many funny stories to go along with them all. I could extract some hush money from them, I’m sure!
There were others that Jeff considered family as well, like Andrew and Lori Spurgeon. He opened up his home and his life to their family and supported every international mission effort they were involved in with compassion and care. He very much respected Andrew’s spiritual wisdom, squeaky laughter and his love of rutabagas. Go figure.
From my view Jeff keyed on strengths, not weaknesses with respect to his family. He always told them he was proud of them and affirmed them every chance he got. He taught them hospitality, by on many occasions having groups into their home for meetings or welcomed anyone into his home.
I could go on for much longer but I will end this now. These are not just random thoughts, but reflections screaming to be released from my feeble mind.
Jeff was not a superman. He had feet of clay. He was broken at times and deeply remorseful for any errant thoughts or actions. And he knew he was forgiven by and relied fully on God’s mercy and grace to keep going.
This wild and crazy guy poured out his life into his family.

Hilarious Living

….more on Jeff
How would you describe your life? Full or empty. Happy or sad. Rich or poor. Fulfilled or lacking. What if you could get up every day and live your like you have always wanted? Rich, happy, satisfied and living life to its fullest.
I think one of the key factors in living life this way is how we give to others. We are all really good at taking what is earned or given us. But when that is turned around how often do we wake up and think about other’s needs instead of our own.
When I think of Jeff I truly think his brain thought this way. In sprite of difficulties and pain he seemed to always see the needs of others as very important. The New Testament teaches us this. “God loves a cheerful giver” ~ 2 Cor 9:7. For the scholars out there familiar with the languages, cheerful most assuredly means “hilarious”. That word to me means LOL, break over and fall down laughing, tears running and snorting and gasping for breath kind of funny.
I witnessed this type of giving from my brother Jeff. He would make a game of it. He would sneek around and do things for others and then run off laughing. Like ringing the doorbell after leaving an envelope full of cash on a porch and then disappearing. His giving was a game. And he got a big kick out of it.
Once we were praying for a guy who was having trouble finding work. Probing Jeff found out that the guy needed a new suit of clothes to help him land a job and couldn’t really afford it. Quitely and annonymously this fellow found himself with several hundred dollars to get him back in tip top shape to find a job.
When others heard about needs they talked, they prayed, they stragegized, they figured out all of the whys and the why nots. Jeff skipped all of this. He just gave.
When things starting getting slow, he was worried about having to let employees go. What did he do? He went to work part time with a friend to fill the gaps. He did this more than once. Lately it was rumored that he had been even driving a school bus to augment his income. But do you think he was ever lacking in his giving to others?
Jeff and I talked many times about how God was big enough for anything we faced in life. Although there were many reasons for Jeff to be sad, he always seemed to find a way to be a hilarious giver.

New Priorities

Something I learned from Jeff….
We all have priorties in our ordered and sometimes mundane worlds. Some are just natural priorities created by nature of the moment. I won’t go into those but we can all imagine what they are. Others are created out of demand, need or by some thing or some one that we are related to. Other priorities yet are set in motion by our professions. But the fact is, we all have priorities.
Jeff’s set of priorities revolved around his faith, his family and his friends. About a year after I got to know Jeff pretty well, we started praying as a group that God would turn the men of our church “on it’s ear”, so to speak. We earnestly prayed one Friday night late into the evening that God would shake up the “sleeping” men of our church and that it might begin with us as a small group. Talk about a huge deal and new priority! We had one.
Over the future months something happened that had to have been a “God thing”. Through that persistant prayer and follow up, one by one, men who were struggling with broken marriages, alcoholism and other addictions and just plain old laziness spritually, came and visited our little group of warriors. And as they saw the genuineness of men like Jeff and heard his “story”, things began to change. As this was happening we felt there would be resistance, therefore we redoubled our prayer effort and prayed for EVERY man of our church that Jeff had on his hit list. And as we prayed we did not hurry it. We prayed by name and specific circumstance. This was just a new priority.
We talked many hours about how we wanted God to transform us into godly men, husbands and fathers. And as it would happen when people earnestly pray, God always responds from His gracious well of mercy.

The Gift of Giving

…..more about my buddy Jeff.
Jeff called me JIMBO. He would answer the phone “Olah Senior~”. Can’t tell you how many times he and I went to breakfast lunch or dinner. But it was many. And I would have to fight him some times over the bill. He liked to pay. There was normally not an agenda. Just lunch. But we always ended up talking about our relationships with our God.
Soon after getting to know Jeff I realized we were on the same page about many issues regarding other people and life in general. We shared that field combat ideal and practice that “no man is to be left behind”. This may be a figure of speech to some, but for Jeff this was destined to to be routine practice. He may not have admitted it or realized it, but he had the spiritual gift of giving.
Cannot tell you (even close) how many needs that Jeff was responsible for filling. He was a quiet repsonder to other peoples needs. During the course of any conversation if Jeff heard of a need, either physical or spritual I could see the wheels turning in his mind. He just couldn’t let those things rest. Jeff was a DOER, not just a hearer (reminds me of the James passage). He lived his faith.
Jeff was intrigued by something that I had a passion for. And that was praying to God and believing God at His word that he would provide for every need within the scope of His will. Intercessory prayer (praying in behalf of someone else) became a regular thing for Jeff. He kept lists of other peoples names and the needs they had. Again these could be anything. Physical or spiritual. Didn’t matter. He had a passion for allowing God to use him as his instrument.
I am truly grateful to God for the time I had to spend with Jeff. He didn’t do things half way. For him is was all the way or the highway.
I’ll talk about Jeff’s family later and you will see more about what they meant to Him.
Check back…..

A Life Lived Well

As you can see I have not created an entry for some time. My original intention was to create a blog to help consumers with the basics of financial matters as related to credit. But life happened and my credit business fell by the wayside and now I am on to other ventures.

Last night as I lay awake not being about to fall asleep it occured to me that I wanted to share some new things via blog. Since Facebook is not the place for lengthy recitations, I thought this could be the appropriate place to talk about my friend and compadre Jeff Thompson.

Night before last we all lost Jeff to a tragic accident. But when this unfortunate event took place he was doing something he really loved. He was spending time in the pasture across the street from his home. I’m sure Christy his daughter had a lot to do with his love for the outdoors and animals, but Jeff had developed a love for horses and all things related to them. Ironically, Jeff’s new found love a few years ago helped him overcome a long episode of severe back pain. After two back surgeries Jeff still fought daily pain. He tried everything he could to aleviate the pain. Nothing seemed to help.

But as Jeff found out more and more about horses Christy help feed and water Jeff’s new passion since she had a long love for animals and especially horses. So it didn’t take very long before Jeff was buying boots, a hat, all kinds of tack and finally a pickup. It wasn’t long before he started buying horses of his own. Jeff was hooked.

So when Jeff walked across the street on Monday night he was not just feeding horses or helping his neighbor, but he was feeding a passion. But this was not Jeff’s only passion. He had many, let me tell you!

I consider Jeff one of lmy dearest friends and comrades. We had common wishes and desires. We shared a common love for our wives and kids. We shared a common passion to help others find depth in their faith, especially for men.

We began our friendship in a group that was called, at the time, ISI. This stood for “Iron Sharpens Iron”. This name was taken from Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” NIV. This men’s group met each Tuesday morning @ 6:30 a.m. at our church. This was an existing group that Jeff had already been a part of. And I was a “newbee”.

Frankly I was not prepared for such a group nor for such a guy as Jeff. I was in a transitional time of my life (but aren’t we all!) I came with the intention of just listening and not talking. But the dynamics of the group were such that the participants were “encouraged” to share what was going on in each others lives. It was an eye opening and engaging forum. For the first time in my life I heard men talk about the REAL issues of life and marriage and family. I resisted talking as long as I possibly could, but if you know Jeff he wouldn’t let you rest until you opened up and shared what was REALLY going on.

I will talk more later about this group and where it took us. But for now I want to start this blog again and talk about my relationship with Jeff and how much this man means to me and my family.

So check back often and I will be updating as many times as possible in the next few days and weeks as my mind recalls and my tears allow me to see and type.