Time to Pay Our Respects Again

Our founders started out as a ragtag group longing to be free at any cost. They fought the good fight against insurmountable odds. The crown of England surely had a strangle-hold on our fledgling nation. Those brave men who came before us marshaled their determination to beat back the oppressors who were determined to crush us. Our patriots were really the underdogs in that fight. But they had something the king did not have – RESOLVE.

In the process of forming our wee nation our forefather worked tirelessly to forge a document to seal our republic into a strong bod. That document has surely stood the test of time thus far. Our constitution became a framework so we’d have a government that was FOR, WITH and BY the people. It’s mission was to insure balance between the power brokers so we’d be governed, yet not dominated. Have strength, yet be kindly bridled.

Each year about this time we’re reminded of the sacrifices made to secure, protect, and keep our freedoms. Throughout our history we’ve made our share of enemies, most of which were borne completely out of a burning thing called jealousy. Our nation was designed to give the commoner a share of the pie. It was also designed to allow someone (anyone) and an ability and a passion to become great, even with little.

Our foes have historically be people in other nations. From time to time we’ve had haters of freedom within our own ranks. Detractors of freedom will always be nipping at our heels. Kings, princes and tyrants can’t stand to see the common man have and utilize opportunity, and then succeed. It makes them look bad. It also diminishes their own ill-placed hunger for power.

For the brave men and women who’ve stood for our ideals in the middle of a blinding rain at 3 a.m. And for the patriot whose risen early and stayed up late training in order to serve. And for the servant warrior who has spent tireless effort standing watch over our republic and protecting our ideals.

For all of those who’ve even given the ultimate sacrifice for us – we salute and honor you this Memorial Day. We revere you. We’re humbled at your effort as you’ve stood in our place and given your all so that we can sleep at night with that joy of freedom in our hearts. To the servicemen and women of every rank in every generation and in every location – we stand up in honor of your memory and your service. We wave old glory in your honor.

God Bless you and God Bless the United States of America!

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Celebrating a Birthday – Especially in Heaven

He was my sounding board and confidant. And spiritual younger brother/friend. We pulled each other back from despair a number of times when life just didn’t make sense. He was Encourager-Par Excellence. He was the “get it done” person in the room. If you told him “Sorry that idea or project just isn’t possible” it was his signal for “watch and see it happen”. He’d go into high gear and make things happen. That thought process wasn’t just a human determination. It was coupled with the understanding and belief that our God is bigger than our problems or any obstacle we might face. The word “no” was just not a valid answer to my friend. He simply wouldn’t accept failure or defeat. He had a zeal for life that many will never attain. The enthusiasm and determination he exuded had a way of rubbing off on you.

One day he wanted me to come over with my pick-up to help him with a chore. It was one of those cold and blustery North Texas days late in the winter. I was sort of in a mess at that time because I was recovering from a broken arm and torn rotator cuff. The plan was to load a horse into a trailer and then take that horse to a breeder somewhere down close to Tyler, Texas. Because of my injuries I was still in a sling, but I could still drive.

We (bride and I) arrived at the land across from Jeff’s house and one of the guys who lived next to  the pasture had captured the horse in question and was trying to load said horse into a single stall horse trailer. After some wrangling, the horse finally reluctantly complied and they tied his bridle to the inside of the trailer, with what I thought was a flimsy rope. While watching being loaded I noticed that this little trailer had seen better days and I was a bit skeptical of the road worthiness of the wheels and tires for a 90 mile trip. But knowing Jeff, we were going to at least try.

Before I could back the truck up to latch onto the now loaded trailer and leave, this horse starting bucking and kicking in the trailer. I really thought the horse (and trailer) were about to start rolling down the hill. But while Mr. horse bouncing around in that trailer the rope with which he was tied broke free. So now this horse was confined, but loose, inside that little trailer. You are not going to believe this next part.

This horse was not happy and was not going to have any part of this trip or this trailer. His eyes were bugging out and then his head was sticking out the window of the trailer. Believe it or not, that horse proceeded to come out that side window. I was certain this whole thing was about to get really ugly with a horse half in and half out of a trailer window. But somehow he came out completely and then headed for the hills! It was the craziest thing I think I ever witnessed.

Horses became one of Jeff’s passions during the final chapter of his life. He left us way too early. But we are only given so many days on this earth by our creator. God’s purposes for Jeff had obviously been accomplished. During our friendship some great spiritual lessons were learned by both of us. In the pursuit of trusting God we both witnessed God’s hand in our lives and in lives of others too.

Jeff Thompson would have turned 52 years old today. He left an indelible mark on those around him, especially me. I might have a few impossible tasks in my path, but those are not really obstacles in my estimation, thanks to my buddy Jeff. Happy Birthday in heaven little brother and friend!

 

Scabs and Scars

I’ve personally been met with obstacles and challenges in my life that left me battered, bruised and broken. I bear scars of failure and defeat. Some wounds have been deep and lasting. Some battles I’ve faced seemed to have lasted for a lifetime. Then there are are those really tough events that defined my life, at least for a time.

The human condition gives us all episodes of life where we get punched and slapped and knocked down. It’s just life. Some battles leave you with evidences of your survival. Some skirmishes can leave you with nasty little scabs. Then there are those events that leave indelible marks on your life. Those seem to stay with you. Scars left behind can be reminders of failure and brokenness.

A few years ago I was at crossroads in my life. Failure and despair seemed to haunt me. That thinking seemed to be a new norm for me. I decided one day that I was far better at failure than I was at winning. Let me tell you, that is not a place you want to be. That feeling takes you captive and makes you its slave. It seems there is no escape from that dungeon.

But then I found some really wise counsel, from some very honest and godly men. They didn’t ridicule me, they didn’t shun me. They didn’t try to figure it all out for me. They came along side me in my pain. They prayed with and for me. They hounded me with compassion and care, in an humble yet strong kind of way.

It was a rather odd and new time for me. Men were taught to suck it up, take it on the chin and just deal with it. Don’t show your weakness, don’t display your pain. And whatever you do, do  not tell any other man your weaknesses or failures. If you do, your man card is cancelled permanently. Does anyone know who wrote those rules?

I can honestly say, at this point in my life, that I wear my scars as badges of honor. I know I am a survivor of the rarest kind. I’ve been in the trenches of life and am still here to tell of them. I have a marriage that has stood the test of time. I have folks around me that I’d willingly give it all up for. I’ve seen ugliness and pain yet I smile in spite of it all.

There’s nothing special or gifted about me, yet I’ve found the secret to success in life. It is not about reaching some pinnacle of fame or fortune, or reaching some lofty goal or getting some large reward.

I’ve learned to simply rest in what my God has shown me, in my pain. He’s a trustworthy teacher that takes you to the highest of places of submission and tests you to see if you really do trust him. When I’m shaken and thrown down I know that He still loves and cares about me, especially in my pain. It must seem odd to those around me, but I’ve been blessed beyond measure in some of the darkest places in life. Yet God is good. All the time.

 

State Of The GOP – Part 2

Well time moves on and the race for power and control continues to take the normal twists and turns. Super PACS and media gurus work separately and sometimes in unison to promote the current new favorite darling candidate, regardless of who the base of the party really favors. They try and tell us who we favor, but truth be known we have much different ideas that the candidate of the month club.

Debates continue and they also continue to be a manipulative machine favoring and giving time and credence to candidates who are doing the best in the “so called” polls. Media and money favored candidates are given the most air time for questions. Some candidates are down-right ignored in favor of the ones who might cause the most stir. And the pitting of the candidates continues with the crafty questions and directed rebuttals. People like Ben Carson are basically ignored in favor of higher profile personalities. So the beat goes on.

It seems incredible to me that some would-be presidential candidates hang on for so long when in actual comparison (face to face exchanges) they just don’t do well or perform as hoped. Yet they keep spending money like there is no tomorrow. But I guess it is normally other people’s money from their particular special interest groups that are the promotors and pushing them.

Hopefully the issues of the day are bringing all of us to the place where we ponder the questions like, who do I really trust and respect to hold the highest office the land of all lands? We must start drawing our conclusions and distinctions. It’s time to draw the lines of importance. We must decide who we think is a true and faithful patriot that we can trust our destiny with. Who is it that can muster a nation behind him or herself and lead us to higher ground? Who will honestly and faithfully uphold the constitution of our land? Who best suits the fact that their life will never be the same again and who can  also make us proud to be Americans, again?

Pundits abound. Crazy statements are thrown around like cheap candy in a parade. Shocking truths (and half truths) abound. Truth is hard to find. When truth is spoken it is spun into anything but the truth.

We have some tough days ahead of us. With every passing day we see events that undermine our freedoms and give us concern about our common goals of freedom. The current leadership seems to think they are the supreme and ultimate decision makers for us all. Soon, and very soon, we will see a change as we gain control once again of our constitutional republic. We’ve witnessed historic flagrant abuses of power, but that will end. The winds of change will once again bring us back to the middle.

America has had enough and together we will heartily and loudly restore our republic soon. Sensibilities will prevail and we will again enjoy a sense of comradery, pride and peace as we move our values back to a place of goodwill and statesmanship.

Light Bulb Moment today

I had one of those light bulb moments early this morning.
It came to me as a single word – Mission.
What does Mission mean?
Webster defines this as: an important goal or purpose that is accompanied by strong conviction; a calling or vocation, or an important task or duty that is assigned, allotted, or self-imposed: or sending or being sent for some duty or purpose.
 
For a number of years I felt like I had several missions in life. Among those were to be the provider for my family and to be the man God called me to be, for the protection and nurture of the wife  and brood he blessed me with. Another mission was to raise our kids in the “right” way. That mission was a joyous and rewarding endeavor.
 
A little later in my adult time I had a mission to be a leader among, and with, men of faith. That became a passion that was shared with other like minded guys who were in various stages of their lives. It was also a rewarding and fruitful experience and watch as God blessed and prospered that deepening faith experience. 
 
All the kids are gone now. They are pursuing their own missions now. So, for the most part my fathering mission is pretty much accomplished. My provider mission and role of provider has changed to being the provider for my wife and myself. The men’s ministry mission waned in recent years, as some of my closest allies and comrades left this place for a better land.
 
A discussion began last evening with my bride about the frustration we feel as believers in that the population at large are very much different than we are. Our society is very much “into themselves” and searching for happiness in things and events that we personally find no joy or purpose in. We sort of feel out of touch with the mainstream. We want to be and attempt to be relevant and “part of the crowd” yet we just can’t embrace many of the activities and attitudes that make the multitudes happy nowadays.
 
So, as often happens early in the morning, the Holy Spirit speaks. Not with great detail but with single words like MISSION. In the “mature age” of our lives I think we need a new mission. We need something that we are jazzed about. We need to throw ourselves into something that makes a difference in the lives of other people. And we need to be on the same page as a team for this mission. At this point I have not a clue what that might look like or be? But the same spirit that injected this new word into my thoughts, will also bring something to us that will energize our batteries and give us new meaning and purpose.
As we allow our spiritual gifts to be employed openly in the mighty hand of God, there will be purpose and drive and success. There will also come with that the fulfillment of knowing that what we are about is something that makes our creator smile.
I’m ready to find my new calling, whatever that might be. Stay tuned for further mission news!   

The Powerful Names of God

 

Most Wednesdays I post to a private FB group of guys I’m part of. I summarize what I’ve gleaned from a weekly video series. The past 6 weeks or so our study has been on the Power of God’s Names by Tony Evan. There are over 80 recorded names for God. In this study we covered the names we hear the most, like Jehovah, Elohim and Jireh and several more. The Final word of the study was the name Emmanuel. Besides the name Jehovah, Emmanuel is the most recognizable name, since it is used a lot at Christmas in verse and song.     

 

The names of God reveal to us the many different attributes of God. Like Mighty Warrior, Everlasting Father, Healer, Redeemer, and the list goes from there. Emmanuel- means “God with Us”.  The “with us” refers to Jesus, the Christ. Each and every name for God is replicated in the person of Jesus. HE embodies each one of the names and attributes fully. He was fully God and also fully man. That’s one of the mysteries of the triune God. God is One in three and three in One. The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Whatever we need or desire from God they are all embodied and avail in the God/Man Jesus.  

Philippians 2:5-11 is one of my favorite passages in the New Testament. It sums up Jesus Christ very well.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

If you desire anything from God you will find it available to you in his son Jesus. It is not rocket science or brain surgery, but it will send you to heaven and will give your brain the ability for correct thinking. That will lead to a life filled with goodness and wonder. It is very complex in nature and scope byt that’s God’s business. But very simple to claim him as your own. That’s our business.

                                                         
The message in Philippians 2:6-11 has blessed me for 44+ years.

Ready to Retire? Always!!!

Well, today we say farewell to my good buddy Curtis. I’ve had the privilege of working with Mr. Curtis for almost 4 years. When I walked into this place for the first time (through what I thought must have been the back door to the business) I was smack in the middle of the customer service department. I was there looking to interview for a new job and Mr. Curtis was the first person that greeted me.

It really helps when you walk into a new place seeking employment to find some like Mr. Curtis. Whatever fear and trembling I must have felt was tempered quickly by the ease of style and friendly character of this fellow. While waiting for the person interviewing me, it was only a few sentences in that I and my buddy were talking food and especially BBQ. Funny how God uses people and passions together very quickly, isn’t it?

Well, I ended up getting the job. And I worked in a different building but shortly thereafter we moved to another location and all of us were finally all together. It was here that I learned about the life and adventures of Curtis. And what a storied life! I thought I had done a lot of things in my time. But I met my match.

Once you meet Curtis, you will never be the same. And if you’ve met him you will understand (without a doubt) that he has a deep and abiding faith in our God. And yes we do share the same One and only God, expressed in the form of Jesus the Christ.

Speaking of Jesus, one of Curtis’s common questions is to anyone he knows is this – “Did you know that Jesus loves you and I do too?” I would kid him at times and say “I sure hope so!” Or I might tell him “I know Jesus does, but I’m not sure about you.”

He ends all Facebook or email messages with “Love Ya”. Now it takes a real “manly man” to boldly tell someone (anyone) that he Loves You. But that’s how he rolls. And it is his signature.

He told me last week that he would be moving on to greener pastures this week and move to the retirement home. Well, at least he has plans of staying home more. And fishing. And singing and whistling and humming. And doing just about anything he wants to.

But I have a suspicion that as he enters this new phase of fun that God will have some new things for Mr. Curtis to be involved in. And I’m sure it will be spreading good news somewhere in his world.

We all have “stories” to tell about our lives. But Curtis really does have a life changing story of redemption. He’d be the first to tell you that he was a real stinker in his earlier life. And it wasn’t just doing all the wrong things. He was a real life agnostic. Webster’s defines this with several flowery words. Doubter, Scoffer, Cynic, Skeptic, Unbeliever.
agnostic – a person who claims that they cannot have true knowledge about the existence of God (but does not deny that God might exist)
It’s interesting that the descriptors of such a person seem to all be negative. But the Curtis that I know is anything but negative. So how’d that change happen?
It was a complex, yet simple, change that he attributes only to God’s “wonder working power”. Not only was Curtis ill and close to death more than once, but he was despondent, depressed and pretty much without hope. Yet in the midst of his pain, someone kept praying for and encouraging Mr. Curtis that he’d turn to God for help and healing. Finally Curtis did “simply” turn to God for his “complex and complete healing power”. I can’t recall how many years ago that was, but the main point is, it was not a temporary “fix”.
God took that piece of clay that was broken and made it pliable again. And what he reconstructed was a “man after God’s own heart”.
I didn’t know the old Curtis Shelton. I only know the redeemed man that God healed and changed. Happy Trails my friend! I know you’ll keep telling the Good News of God’s redeeming power.

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.

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.