When waters rise

While listening to the rain hit the roof and windows I am reminded of another rainy day just over a decade ago that left a lasting impression.

 

On December 30th, 2005, Willow Creek overflowed its banks and sent torrential floods pouring through our neighborhood and into the northernmost section of downtown.

 

After receiving an evacuation notice from the fire department, Karen notified me at work. But my attempt to get home was quickly met with obstacle after obstacle. Police barricades, impassable streets, fallen debris, and a collection of lookie-loos intermingled with travelers attempting to get through.

 

Our home was in one of the worst sections of the flood: right along the creek. And, though I normally enjoy four-wheeling, trying to get my truck across the raging water was not a fun task. How I kept it from stalling is beyond me.

 

I parked at the highest point of the driveway (where the water just touched the bottom portion of the doors), yet soon found myself sloshing through water up to my thighs while crossing the lot; where I saw Jeffrey on the top step, obviously scared, but doing his best to put up a brave front. — No matter what faults he has, or what sort of trouble he’d been in lately, I was as proud of him at that moment as I have ever been of anyone.

 

Upon entering I found Karen hard at work, trying to get as many necessities packed as she could. But the situation was taking a noticeable toll on her. So, the water be damned, I decided the family needed a little prayer time to calm things down. And we stopped everything, stood there in the kitchen holding hands, (with me dripping wet) and prayed for strength and for God to hold back the water…(like He’s done before.)

 

The very next time I went out to check the water level I realized it had not increased at all since my arrival. Within an hour I could see a slight decline. And by 9 pm the water was off the step, barely on the sidewalk, and parts of the lot were again visible.

 

Sure, some may scoff, or claim “coincidence.” And everyone is entitled to personal opinion. But we three; Karen, Jeffrey and I, had no doubt who helped us out and held back the water (especially since it continued to rain hard).

 

A good thing He did too, since we soon discovered that in Karen’s haste to pack up she forgot to supervise Jeff’s attempt to pack. And “necessities” means something quite different to an 8-year-old. Like three large duffle bags filled with only toys and videos.

 

Oh well! Live and learn.

 

 

[*Just remember, whenever a problem, like the water, rises in your life there is always someone to turn to.]

Using what we have available

[*The following is by Allen Elston. He is a retired country preacher that led a congregation on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation for 30-plus years. He is also a friend and mentor, and I really like his rural/country wisdom, and way of viewing things.]

 

Recently, just before sun-up, Juanita came running into our outside room all excited: “Did you hear that? Come to the bedroom and listen!” Then I heard the machine-gun staccato chatter on our tin roof that would have awakened the dead, followed by another similar sound answering from the other end of the house. I slipped outside and around the corner just in time to see the whole drama reenacted. Two cock flickers (woodpeckers) were staking out their territory, and without a big tree for miles around to echo their reverberating challenge of territory, they were taking what they could find and using it to get their message across.

The next morning was even better. The winner was on the dome cover of our stove pipe with an encore, followed by a few bars played on the ridge cap of the barn; then with an undulating dive to an old truck cab, he let out a squawking call and hammered out the hallelujah chorus. But the message remained the same: “I don’t have a big dead tree, so I will use whatever I have to get the message across!”

Using what we have available, where we are, is the essence of giant killers and little boy’s lunches. God has gifted us with certain spiritual abilities that make each one of us unique. He has placed us where circumstances blend with ability, and then with His power permitted to work in us, He accomplishes His work. This surprises us sometimes, but it should not. He has told us that He is at “work within us both to will and to do His good pleasure.”

We frustrate the will of God and lose direction when we start comparing and competing with others. It may be subtle, unmentioned pressure to be as successful as the spot-lighted people and churches at our conventions. Encouragement may be their motivation, but often it has an adverse effect on us with less enviable records: good news becomes bad news to me. And yet, as Mark Twain said, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” I’ve had to deal with comparisons as a motivation throughout my years of ministry, every time I wrote a monthly report. In my mind I would say, “I could do that if I had all the help they have, or all the financial support.” When I needed to have asked, “Have I been sensitive to what the Lord is trying to do around me and through me, or have I given excuses about my circumstances and failed to do what was possible, even with what I had?” Oh, what a place for discouragement to stand!

Surely, if an innovative woodpecker can do it, so can I.

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(Allen Elston, at 90-plus years old, at play and work on his spread in Central Oregon.)

Encouraging others

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“See what encouragement can do, Stanley?

We made it together.”

After discussing the start of this new blog with an acquaintance from church, I was surprised when they asked, “Why do the blog if you’re clarifying your own thoughts?” In other words, they are wondering why I don’t just keep it to myself.

 

As stipulated in an earlier post, I did that once before. Sadly, the journals were lost. However, as previously mentioned, I can recall the satisfaction gleaned from introspection. It was a blessing, and I want to encourage others to enjoy the adventure of their own introspective journey.

 

It takes more guts than you might imagine to openly and honestly dissect your personal belief system, and discover why you believe the way you do. Many people find out they are merely copying what is politically correct to say, with no foundation to back-up what they claim to believe.

 

That type of shallow belief system is akin to those who hear God’s word and do not act upon it, like the man who builds his house on sand:

 

And everyone that hears these sayings of mine, and does them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon the house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. — (Matthew 7:26-27)

 

If you build your belief system on a solid foundation it will be able to weather and survive whatever turmoil will arise.

 

Another reason I opted to publish the blog comes from the eleventh chapter of Romans:

 

If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. — (Romans 11:14)

 

I grew up in a low-income, gang-infested area of L.A. County. I am well-acquainted with poverty, violence, desperation, and feelings of hopelessness that thrive in such areas.

 

Likewise, I watched all my hopes and dreams come crashing down as I became a partially disabled Veteran.

 

However, instead of wallowing in self-pity, blaming everyone else, and playing the “woe is me” card, I chose to put God to the test (which He encourages us to do, by the way). And, although it has not always been easy, I have never regretted that decision. When you truly commit to God (that doesn’t mean just say the words) there comes a “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) just like the word of God claims. And it is truly something to cherish.

 

If everyone discovered that peace, suicides and other destructive actions would rapidly diminish.

 

Therefore, if just one person is encouraged by my effort than the effort is worthwhile, and I will feel blessed indeed.

 © JW Thomas

Question regarding the Word of God

I read a post on another site today that appeared to question the divine inspiration of God’s Word. It is one of those questions that can never be truly answered with 100% certainty, since none of us were there. However, we each can base our beliefs on our experiences and knowledge. What follows is my comment to that blog:

Have you ever heard of the unction of the Holy Spirit? There have been many times in my life when I felt led to do something for no apparent reason or in contrast to what I had intended to do. And, inevitably, if I performed that which I felt urged to do a feeling of joy enveloped me in a way that would never have happened if I simply did what I had originally intended prior to the subtle but persistent urge. And many times I would later learn that the action I followed through with blessed one or more individuals in a way, and with needs, that I was unaware of.

I have since learned that this is part of the unction of the Holy Spirit. As a Christian I believe the Bible was set down through divine inspiration: the unction of the Holy Spirit. However, as a human, can I attest to the complete infallibility of the Bible (especially with so many variations of the Bible out nowadays and throughout history)? The most honest answer a human, with all our faults, can give is “no.” Only God knows for sure if those He touched with divine inspiration followed through to the letter. But one thing I do know beyond all doubt is that I have witnessed things that cannot be explained by science or natural laws. And I believe a perfect God can easily take something fallible and use it for good… and for His glory.

God’s Word has always been a message of hope. Whether humanity has always used it for that purpose is another story. However, evolution (by itself) has never been a message of hope. It tells humanity they are nothing more than an accident of nature with no real purpose beyond existing from birth to death. Only by attaching the initiation and instituting of natural laws by a supernatural intelligent Creator (Intelligent Design) can any hope be found in those  theories.

 

You Rock My World!

What rocks my world? – In a sense, you do. And I mean that truthfully. Because I believe everyone has not one, but many stories to tell. That includes you.

Ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, as my grandmother use to say, I’ve experienced or observed both the worst and best of what humans do to each other. And it still fascinates me.

I’ve experienced everything from the gang infested streets of L.A. to the pain of military service; in fact, I’m a partially disabled Vet. I’ve also seen victims and culprits during a dozen years of investigative and security work. I’ve even worked as a morgue transportation driver. Thus, I’ve witnessed the extremes from sociopathic evil to heroic sacrifice. And it never ceases to amaze – this thing called Human Nature, or the Human Condition.

Consequently, after observing, experiencing, or participating in these acts or events, I’m compelled to utilize them in some creative format or outlet in such a way that they may inspire, exhort, or teach others. Poems, songs, art, animation, comedy, writing, and even scripts have been used as outlets for me to share the interesting aspects of the human factor.

The facet of this whole process that I find special; in fact, sometimes it just blows me away, is when people come up to me long after the fact with a compliment. And I’m not talking about the courtesy compliment, like “that was a good song,” or “I really liked your play.” They’re all fine and good, but those rare golden moments are even better when someone comes up and says, ”that song has been dear to my heart for years… you helped me through a real bad time.” Or, “I learned so much in that piece you did.” Or, “that character I got to perform in your play is still the most interesting and down to Earth character I’ve done.”

You see, that’s what really makes human nature amazing. Not just to think, but to know, that something I experienced, or witnessed someone just like you doing, can then be used to change another person’s life for the better.

So I’ll continue to be me, and I hope you stay that special you that I love to observe in human nature – because the divine creation of God, human nature, rocks my world!

Thank you.

Now allow me to ask you the same question: what rocks your world?

 

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“Even majestic gardens can begin

with a single bloom.”

Pulmonary

The following poem was inspired by an event that took place in my life. I was with the worship team from my church, and we were performing for the Pi Um Sha celebration on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. The event was going well, but my body wasn’t. I thought I had pneumonia, but it turned out much differently. And I thank God for urging one of the team members to pay attention to what was happening to me. And they convinced me not to wait for a scheduled appointment with the VA.

Pulmonary

 

Late night call

Unexpected

Requested

Good deed on the ‘morrow

Pi-um-sha

Celebration

Scheduled act

Off-track

Saving grace

Take their place

Walk a mile in their shoes

Performance rules

Friendly decision

With physical division

Mind is willing

Body is weak

Up before dawn

Shadow blanket on tepees

Nine songs played

Message relayed

To early risers

From sheltered wombs

Two-dozen rebirths

On early morning meadow

Nine of which opt

For souls reborn

Lead them on my brother

Lead them on my sister

Equipment take-down

Break-down

Something is amiss here

Time to celebrate

Where’s the elation

Smile lost

Physical cost

Good deed tallies up a toll

Lethargic

Peer concern

I am not me

Joy is gone

Strength follows

Liquid in lungs

Drowning in the high desert

Out of water

Out of time

Another service to go to

No can do

The body battles

Civil War

Knotted

Contractions

Cramps

Best wishes

But no offers

No assistance

Via con Dios

One step at a time

Agony

Heartache

Heartbreak

About to burst

Thirst… for life

Curse… the pain

A nickel’s worth of days

Man-Up!

Function

Modern Americans

Plenty of best wishes

Vocal loyalty

No action without royalty

VA delay

No wish to pay

Yet when they call

Perhaps to give all

We cannot forgo

Our part in the show

When there’s a need

To bleed

For the myth called Liberty

Yet in this circumstance

It’s a whole new show

With a VA song and dance

And “Old Glory” loses its glow

But pain chose the road

Policy be damned

ER… here I am

Thread the needle

Suck the blood

Sadistic duties

Monitor the scope

More angel than devil

Is all I can hope

I am the voodoo doll

Repeatedly stabbed

NAs… RNs… Blood techs

Phlebotomists

MRI

See the mass

Fluid’s a decoy

No virus

A consequence

Pulmonary Embolism

Silent death

Avoided

Legs clear

Heart clear

Origin unknown

A nomadic clot

“Bend forward”

“Hold breath”

“You’ll feel a little pinch”

Liar!

Steady

Fluid extraction

Feel the steel

Internal probe

“Try not to tense up”

Yea, right!

“You’re doing fine”

Compared to what?

Caught it in time

Prognosis good

Treatment begins

Stomach infusions

Twice daily

I will survive

If the cure doesn’t kill me first

© JW Thomas

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“Doggone angels are always

watching over this one!”

Faith and fellowship

Most Christian churches have some form of celebration event(s) acknowledging the birth of our Lord during December. The congregation that I attend usually has a couple. Yesterday was the annual children’s Christmas show included in the third part of the Christmas Cantata, followed by a time of food and fellowship.

 

In an Age when the education system persecutes a young boy for drawing a stick figure of Jesus on the cross, it is reassuring to know that not all of our religious freedoms have been abolished (like various other countries).

 

It is a joy and a blessing to watch the children in a faith-filled environment, and among like-minded peers, proclaim the reason for the season through scripts and songs. And all the children, with the exception of the very young or very shy, enjoy participating in the festivities, and put forth genuine effort.

 

Likewise, the following feast is Christ-centered, fellowship oriented, and fit for a king. And yes, though we are a small congregation, the public is invited; including the local homeless (which our church ministers to year-round, and have often housed during the freezing days of winter).

 

It is very important for believers to fellowship with each other. In fact, Christians who feel they can do without some kind of fellowship with other faith-filled believers are only fooling themselves; or, sadly, not true believers in the first place.

 

With all the opposing faiths and philosophies permeating our society, believers can benefit greatly from fellowship with like-minded individuals.

 

Naturally, Sunday school, church service, and other church events are excellent ways to be involved in fellowship. However, they are not the only choices.

 

Home bible studies; Christian concerts, plays, and other entertainment events, along with faith-filled social networking, like Christian singles, couples, or senior groups are equally fine alternatives for fellowship; as well as many others.

 

Fellowship with like-minded believers is not just a social outlet. Fellowship can be beneficial on many levels. For instance, it is a way for new believers to connect with mature Christians, and learn by getting answers to the multitude of nagging questions most new believers feel overwhelmed by. It is also a way for believers at all levels of their Christian walk to be encouraged, inspired, and even challenged to maintain, endure, and grow.

 

A perfect example occurred today. During the bible study, prior to the church service, a young man was in attendance. He has only been in our small community about six-months, and is having a rough time. I felt compelled to assist him with his material needs, and as I did it opened the door for further fellowship.

 

This fellowship continued after the service and during the dinner, where others soon took part. In fact, it was such a blessing to several of us that we lost track of time, and were the last ones at the tables after everyone else had left, or were in the last stages of cleaning up. So we helped with the clean up, and then made plans to get together again.

 

Not only did I learn things about each individual in the conversation, which has a tendency to draw us humans closer through familiarity, but I was also touched by the miracles and other testimonies, showing how God has worked in these other lives.

 

The secular world claims such miracles and interventions by God do not happen, because they have never seen it. But the reason they have never seen or experienced these blessings lies in their unbelief. You can only receive such intervention if you truly believe. It is based on faith.

 

The secular world will never acquire that level of faith, nor will a secular minded Christian. Such faith only comes about through an enduring Christian walk and persistent study of God’s word. And part of that Christian walk includes fellowship:

 

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching. — Hebrews 10: 24-25

 

I encourage you to enjoy the blessings of fellowship with true believers. It can definitely help your faith.

© JW Thomas