Encouraging Word….

I was out of breath. It could be the thin air of Denver, Colorado or it could be that I smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day. But either way I was gasping to stay in the game and was not succeeding.

It was a regular pick-up game on the courts near my house, not far from where Denver’s airport is now. Basketball was my game 10 years ago, in high school, but now I was in a game where most of the players were the age I was back then, and I was the ‘old man’ and this day I was resembling that remark. Slow and breathing hard, I could not keep up with the kid I was guarding.

I called for a break and the kids all chuckled, “Yeah, let’s let the old man take a break, he looks like he is ready to croak.” I shook my head and gave them a dismissing wave. But they were right. How did I go from playing ball for hours at a time to not being able to play for a half hour? As I sat down near my car, opening the cooler that held a six-pack of Coors beer, I knew the answer. Popping the top on the beer, it was too many of these and way too many cigarettes. But what the heck, I wasn’t a kid anymore. I had nothing to prove. At least I could still play with these young punks, I thought.

As I sat there one of the kids came over and sat next to me. He was eyeing the beer and I had an idea that he wanted to ask for one. The law in Colorado at the time allowed drinking of 3/2 beer at the age of 18 but I was pretty sure this kid was 16 maybe 17. I didn’t say or do anything. I just sipped on my beer and waited. He didn’t ask for a beer but seemed intent on something else. What did he want? I wasn’t in the mood for a heart to heart talk. Soon he spoke.

“You used to play back in high school, didn’t you? Most of the guys think your still pretty good for an old guy.” All of 26 and I was already the ‘old guy’ life wasn’t fair. I nodded my head but said nothing. He continued, “Did you ever play college ball? I have had a few scouts from some local schools UCD, and others come to scout me out. But I don’t know if I want to do an athletic scholarship. I am planning to go to a theological college in Kansas.” With that he was quiet, I guess waiting for me to make a comment, so I did. “No, I never played ball in college. I was a pretty good high school player, but I knew I didn’t have what it took to play at that level. But you, yeah, I think you have the goods. Why not put that theology stuff on the back burner or go to a college that has both ball and the studies you want?”

He looked away, with a serious expression. Then he turned to face me and said, “No, my dad and mom really have their heart set on me being a minister, like my dad. They are afraid if I go to a big school, I will get all involved in college life and forget about God.” Wow, I thought, an awful lot to lay on a kid! Being a Catholic dropout, I thought I was not the right guy to give this boy advice, but I said anyway, “Do you really want to be a minister? Maybe a few years in college will clear it all up for you. You seem kinda young to be committing your life to something you’re not sure about.” He nodded but then was distracted by the other kids wanting to get back at it. I guzzled my beer and wearily headed back to the court; glad I didn’t have to face the stuff this youngster did.

Decisions. Everyone of us from the time we come of age have had to make decisions that would affect our lives for years to come. I made many in my teens and early twenties from which

I am still feeling the repercussions. My problem, as I have stated here many times, was that I did not have a relationship with God the Father. I did not know the saving power of Jesus Christ and I could not rely on the guiding light of the Holy Spirit. I made these major decisions alone with my limited years of experience and lack of knowledge of the world we live in. And I can tell you that as I fell into that pattern, I made one mistake after another. And as I did that, I became more and more lost in a world of hopeless anguish. And, of course, hurt many people a long the way.

Today I am writing to those who probably never read this blog. I want to tell our youth that this is the day, if they do not already have it, to seek a relationship with Jesus Christ. But if a young one reads this or not it is our job, as those who have experienced life and know what Jesus can do, to encourage our youth. And maybe today share with a youngster you know one or two of these Bible promises:

When they are unsure of their future: 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.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

When they are afraid and feeling depressed: “So, do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

When they are working for the Lord and feel discouraged: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

When they just feel this world is an overwhelming place: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

There are so many more that we can encourage with. And yes, they are meant for us too, but so needed by our forgotten youth. Today could be the day one of them you know is trying to make a life decision, do not let them do it alone. Open the door of the Holy Spirit for them, it could mean life or death!

I certainly did not do that for the youth back years ago. We played ball together several times after that but never really talked again. I pray he made a decision guided by the Holy Spirit. I feel so sad for all the young I have failed to lead to the Word, including my own son. But it is a new day and there is hope, may we share Jesus with one of his children today!

Blessings
John
4/24/19

Easter Lost, Easter Found…

Easter is another one of those holidays that were confusing to me as a kid. Being Catholic we had just gone through Lent, a time when we were told to give up something we really liked for 40 days. Normally for us kids that would be candy. I was never sure why we had to give something up, that part was never really explained very well but it was what we did. At the beginning of Lent we had ashes applied to our forehead, I didn’t know why we did that either.

A week before Easter, was Palm Sunday. Now that I understood to be the commemoration of the day Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. Each year at church they would give out palm leaves. I guess that is what they were. We normally let those dry out and then make crosses. I hate to keep saying it, but I didn’t know why we did that either. Finally came Good Friday. Most years we spent from Noon to 3:00 PM in church, the hours Jesus hung on the cross. During that time when I was an altar boy, I spent a good part of those hours on my knees. The hours went by slowly, I was never sure what to do. I had no real concept of the cross or Jesus sacrifice. It just seemed like a brutal thing to commemorate. I was always glad when that time was over.

Saturday night we decorated Easter eggs. My mother got one of those PAAS kits. You would mix water, vinegar and one of the colored tablets. Sometimes we would write our name on the egg first with a wax crayon. When the egg was colored the name could be read. If we were really daring dip one half the egg in one color and the other half in another. I don’t know if they still have those kits today but if they do, I bet kids are still having fun. I know after all these years I still remember and have fond memories of it.

When Easter arrived, it was almost anti-climatic because it seemed to be more about jelly beans and chocolate bunnies then about the risen Christ. Yes, we did attend church and there was a special service but once it was over, we spent the rest of the day making up for all the lost candy days during lent. I probably ingested enough sugar on Easter to keep me buzzing for weeks. A big ham dinner and more candy and colored hard-boiled eggs! How did we survive it?

Looking back, I guess the true meaning of all of it was lost on me. The ancient practices, myths and pagan celebrations held no meaning to me. I do not mean this as an insult to Christians that still celebrate the Easter season in this way. As long as this time is a way to draw you closer to Jesus, his death and resurrection then I hope you feel blessed today. For me it is not about the season or even the day we call Easter. It is about Jesus crucified, “. he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death- even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2: 7-8) It is about Jesus our resurrection, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11: 25-26) Easter is a celebration of your and my salvation, the culmination of God’s plan of rescue for this lost planet. It has nothing to do with Easter bunnies or colorful eggs.

So today I am celebrating, but we did not color any eggs, or do I have hands full of jelly beans or even a chocolate egg. Today my celebration is all about the hope I never knew until I was met by the risen Savior. He gave me the hope of his soon coming! That is my joy and my celebration today. I think this song says it best:
We Have this Hope

We have this hope that burns within our heart,
Hope in the coming of the Lord.
We have this faith that Christ alone imparts,
Faith in the promise of His Word.
We believe the time is here,
When the nations far and near
Shall awake, and shout and sing
Hallelujah! Christ is King!
We have this hope that burns within our heart,
Hope in the coming of the Lord.

We are united in Jesus Christ our Lord.
We are united in His love.
Love for the waiting people of the world,
People who need our Savior’s love.
Soon the heav’ns will open wide,
Christ will come to claim His bride,
All the universe will sing
Hallelujah! Christ is King!
We have this hope this faith, and God’s great love,
We are united in Christ.

So Happy Easter you all! Jesus is risen and he is coming back soon! Hallelujah!

Blessings,
John
4/21/19

Thoughts of my Father…

My father was dying. The call from my brother left no doubt of that. As I sat contemplating it, I could not truly say how I felt about it. It was true over the last few years we had grown closer. Before cancer had taken most of the life out of him, we had talked on the phone every few weeks. You know, just regular conversations. Mainly about construction work and what projects I was working on. Dad always wanted to hear about the rough and tumble stuff. But also, because we were living in Salt Lake City, Utah at the time and doing genealogical research on my wife’s family, I had asked him to send me some basic info about our family so I could look into it. The results had fascinated him. I guess you could say we were becoming father and son again. It had not always been that way.

After my mother passed away in 1973, Dad had gone to pieces. For him that looked like months of drinking to a point of suicidal thoughts and actions. Many a night I would receive a call I dreaded, my father slurring threatening words about the gun he had in his hand. I would drive the 10 miles of back roads to his cabin out past National Mine, Michigan just to find him passed out in his chair. Gun laying in his lap. I did everything to get that gun from him. But it was almost like he had a sixth sense. Whenever I would reach for it, he would awaken. No wrestling the gun away from my 270-pound father. It could not go on and it didn’t.

One day he announced a trip to Chicago. This meant leaving the restaurant for a short period in my care. We owned a family restaurant at the time in Ishpeming, Michigan. I figured I could handle working construction during the day and taking care of opening and closing the place for a short while, we had good people working for us. But the short trip lasted months and for a kid like myself, not even 20 years old, things were getting stressful. Then my world changed again. My dad was getting married, and to someone we all knew, my sister’s mother-in-law. I won’t even get into what kind of strain that put-on family relationships.

As for me, I felt almost a relieve. Dad returned home with his new wife and took back control of the restaurant. That was ok until I was told that I no longer would be part owner of the place. My name had been added after the death of my mother and now my name was being removed to be replaced by dad’s new wife. I have to tell you it hurt. For over a year I believed I  had held him up and kept the restaurant from going under, without so much as a hand shake, now I was out. Things went from bad to worse from there. Until by the time I moved south to work on a nuke plant my dad and I barely spoke to one another. And for years it went like that.

My life became a complex of moves and confusion. Alcohol, the family curse, began to take its toll on me. My father’s life changed too. The restaurant was sold eventually and soon he was settled into a community near Orlando, Florida. We saw each other briefly during the years I lived in California when he came out to visit family. We didn’t speak much. I really did not think of him as my father anymore.

Yet along the way, I became a father myself and I was a good one for a short period of time. I would think I will be a better dad than my old man. But the truth came, and it hurt, I was not. I could not do what he had. Through the struggle of raising not one but four kids and struggling with his addictions somehow, he held it together. No, he wasn’t a real-life version of ‘Father Knows Best’ but knowing first hand the demons he wrestled with,  I began to see, my father did a pretty good job. And in those bi-weekly talks we had, I wanted to ask him how.

I was blessed to visit him in Florida with my brother and sister during his extended fight with colon cancer. We finally did have those talks and he tried to assure me one day I would find the strength to conquer my demons. Looking at him then, the once bigger than life man, who had eroded to a skeletal figure. It hurt to see him. But under his fear being near death I saw he had a certain peace. I was also blessed by my siblings who packed dad’s household up and moved it to California in his last days. My sister nursing him and loving a man she also struggled to find peace with. And on his very last day, my brother had a friend of his fly to St George, Utah from San Diego and back just so I could be at his bedside when he died. Can I ever thank him enough? I will let all you answer that.

Dad died in 1995. I was still buried in my own addictions and he did not live to know me as a saved man. But as with my mom, who died so long ago, I believe I will see him in the kingdom. He made his peace with the Father, as I have and along with so many other will be there on that glorious day when: “. the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). What a day that will be! Remember you dad and mom today, those folks who raised you, biological or not, maybe whisper a word of thanks!

Thank you, Raymond Thomas Weston, I know you are now sleeping in Christ waiting his soon coming. I will see you then!

Blessings
John
4/17/19

Reap what you sow….

Six o’clock could not come soon enough! Was it Saturday or Sunday? Far as I could figure we had been on 7/10’s for over two months now and like happens when you work seven days a week, ten hours a day, neither days nor time have much relevance. All I wanted now was to find the closest liquor store and get me a fifth of whiskey and a 6 pack of malt liquor. Then head to the motel and clean this grime off of me. Food just wasn’t that important, but I sure needed a drink.

After getting the supplies at the liquor store, I pulled into the motel parking lot, but something was not right, cops were everywhere and there was an ambulance sitting almost directly in front of my door. What was going on? Trying to pull my truck into the parking lot around all the commotion, a cop stopped me and said, “You can’t come in here right now this is a crime scene.” As he was saying this, he was whirling his arm the direction I just came in, directing me out. When I didn’t back up, he drew closer to the window and said, “Hey, buddy, didn’t you hear what I said? I need you to get this vehicle out of here. No one is allowed to enter.” As he approached closer, I said, “Yeah, I heard you but that is my room and I need to get some sleep, 4:00 AM comes pretty quick. What am I supposed to do?”

All of a sudden, he seemed to have more interest in me. Looking closer at my truck, then going around to check out my license plate, he said, “Are you one of the construction workers staying here?” Now I felt a shock of fear run through me. Was all of this about one of my crew mates? Trying to think if anyone was missing onsite today or if someone had left early. No, all were accounted for, but still… Reluctantly I said, “Yeah I am here with four other guys, what is going on?” He told me to park my truck over in a vacant lot close to the motel, the Sergeant would probably like to talk to me. This was getting worser and worser.

Parking the truck, he came back with what looked like a plain clothes cop and before I could get out of my truck, he leaned into the window and said, “Could I see your ID, sir?” When I reached for my wallet, he spoke again, “Slowly, with one hand!” I raised my left hand and reached for my back pocket with my right, drawing out my wallet. Handing it to him, I asked again, “What is this all about? I just want to get to my room.”

He whispered to the uniform cop and I was sure they were going to run my info and as the uniform left, the Sergeant said, “Which room is yours, there has been an altercation here. A man has been injured outside that room.” He was pointing to my room and my heart went cold. I spoke with a shaky voice, “I am in room 4.” Pointing at the door where all the activity was going on. The uniform had come back as I was saying this and whispered to the Sergeant. Who then turned to me and said, “Mr. Weston, do you know a man named William Kyle?” I breathed in hard, thinking, Billy? What has happened to Billy? To the cop I just nodded and said, “Yeah, he is a friend of mine. What has happened to him?”

The cop did not give me the details, but it was clear that Billy had been jumped while knocking on my door. It seems some local, the husband of a girl Billy had been messing with had beat him pretty bad. The cop then asked me, “Do you know anything about Mr. Kyle’s activities since he has been here?” I thought, oh yeah, I knew about Billy and his way’s with women. But to the cop, I just shrugged my shoulders. This was going to be a long night!

In my years as an Ironworker, I traveled a lot. It is called ‘booming’ within the trades and those that do it are called boomers. Most of the time, a crew, as few as 3 or as many as 5, would ‘boom out’ together. Finding jobs that had a lot of overtime that would last 3 months or less. In the good years there was plenty of that kind of work to be found.

For me it was always a time of loose morality. A stranger in a strange town, not staying for long led to many temptations and like so many of my crew mates, I had no reason to resist. My theory back then was, get it while you can! No one is going to know what you are doing. Kind of like the commercial that I have heard advertising the pleasures of Las Vegas. Their theme is, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!” There is only one problem with that, it aint true!

What I learned but never took to heart, was that all my actions have a reaction. There are consequences to everything we do. God’s Word says it plainly, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. Whatever a man sows, he will reap in return. The one who sows to please his flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; but the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.…” (Galatians 6: 7-8)

No matter what any of us believe. Our actions are like tossing a pebble in a pond, the ripples that flow out affect everything in their path. I took this to heart way to late in my life. And because of that I left a lot of pain, hurt and broken relationships in my wake. It is only through the grace of God, as shown through the cross of Jesus Christ, that today I can stand forgiven. It is my prayer that you who read this heed the warning, now!

My friend Billy paid the price physically and I wish I could say that changed him, but it didn’t. Nor did it change me, only a few years later I was in a similar situation where an irate husband was on my trail for messing with his wife. I look back on those time with regret and have tried to make amends where I can. I am blessed to know we have a God who loves so completely that he will accept a repentant sinner like myself. He is waiting for you too, my friend. Look in the mirror today. If you don’t like what you see, turn to HIM who saves completely. You will find peace.

Blessings,
John
4/15/19

Golden Years….

Don’t you love the commercials expounding the wonders of living in our ‘golden years’? If you watched these parodies you could almost believe that life after 60 is so wonderful that it puts being young all to shame. There is only one problem, at least in my experience, I am not one of those glowing grey hairs portrayed on the screen. No, my life as a senior has left many things to be desired.

Like most of us who live in the real world, most nights I struggle with sleep and most days I struggle staying awake. After years of Ironwork, my joints are somewhat worn. They seem to creak and crack almost in a sad kind of rhythm. And I do not know if it is a result of the gallons upon gallons of booze I drank or the myriad lines of drugs I snorted or just that my brain is old, but it doesn’t work as well as it once did. Don’t even get me going on the joys of living with cancer with all it’s lovely hot flashes and night sweats. No, my golden years are certainly not an advertisement for the joy of aging. So, with all that being said, why do I live with more joy today than I did as a healthy youth? Aww, now we come upon the one true advantage of age for hard headed and hard-hearted guys like me: living long enough to know better! Through the grace of God, I have lived long enough to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. So, in fact, I am in my golden years after all.

The truth is some people come to the realization of their need for a Savior at an early age. When I was first coming to the Lord, I could be just a little bit jealous of these folks. Their lives seemed so perfect. Their kids were happy and healthy. How come they are so blessed, I would think. Why did I have to struggle all those years to come to a place they knew from the get-go? For more than a few years I did not understand God’s timing or reasoning about this, and yes, I was a bit… no I was a lot resentful. But like so many things with us as hard headed humans, it took a tragedy in my life to finally allow me to see that I have been blessed beyond all reason. Let me explain.

I had slowly come to the Lord since 2009 and by 2012 I could say I truly believed in Jesus Christ and the Word of God as my plan for salvation. You could say I was ‘head’ saved. I knew all the stuff it took to be a Christian and for the most part I was living as one. I was no longer the scoundrel I had once been. Gone was the filthy language. No more drinking or doing drugs. I prayed every day and read my Bible come rain or shine. Yep, I was a bonafide Christian for sure or at least my head had been saved. Not so for my heart.

Then came the tragic year 2014. My already ailing wife went through one devastating health set back after another. Until shortly after Christmas she succumb to the cancer, she had lived with for over 14 years. All of a sudden, I was alone. Not just physically but emotionally and even more importantly, spiritually. Now it was time to sink or swim. I could no longer wade in the shallow end of the pool of faith and I knew it. But how? How could my ‘head’ salvation travel that 12” journey to my heart? The fact was it was time for my Romans 8:28 moment.

That verse says this: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) God was about to take the tragedy of death and use it to work good in my life as promised.

In March of 2015 still lost in the blackness of grieve and spiritually scared to death, a young pastor asked me to become his co-leader in Wednesday night prayer meetings. At first, I thought, man, this dude is crazy. Why would you want to put a guy who is doubting everything in front of a bunch of praying folks? This is a formula for disaster. But I went along just because I didn’t have the strength to fight it. And by the end of the first meeting I led, I was sure I had been right. I was not cut out for this. But the strangest thing happened. After the meeting I wanted to just sneak out, but I was surrounded by people thanking me for the powerful testimony and prayer time. My testimony was powerful? My prayer was meaningful? I wasn’t convinced but as it continued to happen, I saw God’s affirmation of who I was in his eyes and that led to deeper prayer and meaningful Bible study. I finally realized that all my life led to this place, this special relationship with Jesus Christ, a special relationship only we could have. I was all in! My hard heart melted!

I now feel blessed that I was allowed to live long enough to see God’s plan of salvation for me. I share my testimony wherever I can. God has shown me my lostness was a fertile ground of examples of how he never lets us go. We can never do anything so terrible that it cannot be washed in the blood of Jesus Christ. I am finally in my golden years and as many as I have left will be spent sharing his love and mercy as displayed in this man who was lost and now is old but found! Can I get an Amen!

Blessings and Happy Sabbath,
John
4/12/19

A Glimpse of God…

I was born in Chicago. I guess you could say that I was a city kid and in most ways am still pretty much citified. I remember as a kid going on a Boy Scout weekend where it was necessary that I set up a pup tent and sleep in a sleeping bag. And even though we were just in what are called in Chicago ‘forest preserves’, I still felt a million miles away from my comfort zone. That would be my own bed, in my upstairs bedroom, conveniently shoved under the slope of the roof (don’t sit up suddenly or it could cause head damage), in the ‘Cape Cod’ house on Whitehall Avenue. Yeah, the great outdoors would never be my thing…. Or would it?

The strange thing is that as a kid, I never dreamed of living any further then maybe over in Stone Park or one of those ritzy neighborhoods I would ride my bike through. Instead, I spent a lot of my adult life living in rural America. Yeah, I have lived in big cities, L.A., Salt Lake City and in the Bay area, to name a few. But I have also lived in Hanover, Indiana, St. George, Utah and Green River, Wyoming. And it was in the Green River area where I became acquainted again with sleeping rough, in a tent and yes, in a sleeping bag.

I have written a few blogs about these times. It was in the first days of ‘cell towers.’ Cell phones themselves were still pretty much an oddity. Our company had purchased two of them, but they were big and bulky. They kind of looked like the walkie talkies used during WWII. All the same we had a contract to install the tower bases for several of them in the mountains around Green River and where they were being installed there were no accommodations, hence tent living.

Of course, by this time in my life I was no longer that kid who had the security of a permanent home. My life had taken many twists and turns. I had lived in fancy homes and slept in my car. I had spent months living with a bunch of guys in a man camp and I had spent more than a few days being locked down for varies crimes and arrests. I no longer was afraid of the great outdoors, but I still was not a great lover of it. I would say, a lot of that changed in those weeks spent in the mountains of Wyoming.

Have you ever been there? Maybe not Wyoming, but in the mountains at night. If you have you would know that there is something beyond words that is on display every night. It is meditative and restive all at once sitting below the enormous canopy which is only visible in the thin air and total darkness of the mountains. And if you want it to or not it changes you.

In those days, I was at the height of my atheistic hatred of God. I was among hardened and hardcore guys, like myself, who wanted nothing to do with all the nonsense espoused in the ‘Good Book’ or by those phony Christians. But strangely enough under those skies, the talk which normally centered around sports and sex, changed. A disquieting awe washed away the late-night bawdy talk, to be replaced by and almost reverent conversation about this magnificent spectacle we were seeing. One night a young man and I were the last ones up. I have written about our conversation before. But it is worth writing it again. Because that night I think both of us, if only for a moment caught a glimpse of God.

Those of you who know the Old Testament stories of Moses might know that he once asked God if he could see his glory. Moses wanted to see God. Well, God told him you could not handle seeing all of me. So, he hid Moses in the cleft of a rock and just showed him his back. The whole story is in the book of Exodus 33: 17-23, it is a beautiful read. I don’t know what Moses saw, but I have come to believe he saw God, the Creator, and the beauty and majesty of it must have blown his mind. I don’t think we saw all of that on that night so long ago, but we caught a glimpse of it.

When we did, still passing a bottle of booze between us, our conversation went to one question. The young man asked me, “Can you sit here and look at this and not believe some one created it?” Oh man, I wanted so badly to say, “There is no God! This is a product of the big bang, nothing more!” I wanted to say it, but I couldn’t. For that one night. Maybe for that one moment, when I like Moses, got a glimpse of God, I could not deny him. Not in the face of this enormous sky.

In the morning light, most of that was gone. We returned to being hardcore Ironworkers. The question he asked that I never answered, did not come up again. But each night before I slept, the awe of that moment would disquiet me, and I would try to drink it away. I never did that either. I now relish it because I can read these words and relive it, now knowing the truth: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2) As a stone cold atheist I saw the glory of God and lived to tell the story.

For some reason, I have been in the mountains at other times since then but have never experienced what I did that night. But when I get the chance, I still want to be under that Big Sky to relive it. Maybe when you are planning your next vacation or just traveling take the time to find a high place where it is dark and quiet. For some that might even be your back yard. If you look God is trying to reveal himself to you. I know it is true.

Blessings
John
4/10/19

Revenge is not mine….

I bet most of you reading this have had a boss who you either loved or hated. In my over 40 years in the construction trades, I have had a lot of them. I have to say for the most part I got along with most of them. And even the ones I could not tolerate, I did my job, shut up and stayed under the radar. But there is always that one guy who no matter how you go-a-long to get-along still finds ways to get under your skin. In my career that was, Jim ‘Big Daddy’ Rathe.

Big Daddy got his name because he resembled the actor and singer, Burl Ives. I know that name is a blast from the past and for some of you younger folks he may not even register. But back in the day he was well known and to 50’s and 60’s movie goers his best and biggest role was in a movie version of Tennessee Williams ‘Cat on a Hot, Tin Roof’. There he played the patriarch of a southern family; the Pollitt’s and he was known as Big Daddy Pollitt. The movie was a yawner for me, too stereotypical in every way, even with Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor heating up the screen. But like most folks, I could not help but love to hate Big Daddy. And Jim Rathe not only resembled Burl Ives physically, it seemed to me he studied the movie character, because he played the Big Daddy part pretty well every day of the week.

I met Big Daddy when I was working on a TVA dam resurfacing job. We were working 7/10’s (7 days a week, 10 hours a day) That was the reason I had boomed into this project for the overtime and the money it paid. It was a nasty job from the get-go, mosquitos, gnats and deer flies 10 hours a day. Along with some of the hardest reinforcing work I had done in my career. But it was made all the worst because Big Daddy was on the job and on my case.

I was never sure if it was because I was a northerner or because I was a long-haired hippy type, but it started the minute I walked onsite. I handed my referral to him at 6:00 AM, in plenty of time for a 6:30 start but it did not seem to please my boss, he said, “John Weston. It says here you are a Local 1 boy. Well, I guess up there in that local you fellas can mosey on to the job any old time. But here we like to get the jump on it. We startin’ at 6:00 you should have been here a half hour ago.” With that he was out the door saying over his shoulder, “Seein’ you is already late, grab that spool of cable yonder and let’s see if you can weave me some 20’ chockers.” That put fear in me right off the bat, I had not wove cable since my apprenticeship and I am sure Daddy guessed that, because I saw brand new store bought chockers in the gang box. He was going to test me and hope I failed. I did not and that seemed to irk him even more. From than on it was a contest. Insults and giving me every nasty job, he could think of did not chase me down the road. His constant calling me ‘long hair’ even though half the guys on the crew had longer hair, did not sway me. I hung in for the full duration of three months. I thought the day he was signing me out, then at least, he would give me a small nod of approval. He never did. In fact, as I was picking up my gear, he said, “Son, you are a sad example of an Ironworker, but then, I guess I couldn’t expect more from a scrawny, long-haired boy like you!” I knew he wanted me to take a swing at him, but I just said, “Big Daddy, someday you will live to regret you ever said that. But for now, ____ ___” I won’t write the words I used, but they were full of venom.

I have often wondered how I would have reacted to Big Daddy if I was a follower of Jesus back then. I look at it now and know that I tormented him as much as he tormented me. I thought I was being the ‘bigger man’, I mean he started it and kept on me, but the worst part of the story is a held a grudge about it for a long, long time. And in the end, I did get revenge on Big Daddy. I will tell you about that but first I want to say, I have regretted and confessed it along with my other litanies of sins.

The book of Romans says this, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. (Romans 8: 19-21)

In my life before Jesus I lived for revenge. Holding on to grudges for years. And nothing gave me more pleasure than finally giving someone their comeuppance. I never saw how holding on to that hatred, ruined my life more than theirs. And I wish I could say that today, the attitude of the verse above was how I always live. But anger and revenge still well up in me. But, all praise to God, there is a difference. I now see it for what it is and with the power of the Holy Spirit turn it over to Him who had no guile, who died saying, “Forgive them Father they know not what they do.” How big is that? How little is my puny vengeance? I can now, sometimes with effort, lay this sin at the foot of the cross. Thank you, Jesus!

As I said. I did get my revenge on Big Daddy. He came to work on a nuke plant where I was a foreman. Even though he did not work on my crew, I found ways of making his life miserable. Such a waste of time. Such a waste of energy. Too much of my life has been wasted in anger. If you are struggling with it: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” Peace, my friends, it is wonderful!

Blessings,
John
4/8/19

Thrilling life…in Jesus

“What are you a funny guy or something?” the man across from me said. I looked at him as seriously as I could, then said in return, “I did not mean it to be funny, do I look like I am joking?” With that he was silent and seemed to be trying to assess the situation. I could see he was coming to a decision and with a couple long nods of his head, he said, “OK, partner, you seriously want me to get you into the red zone? If I do it, it is going to cost you!” With that he took a long pull off of his drink, then held the empty glass toward me. I knew that buying him a drink would be the cheapest part of the bargain we were about to make.

In May of 1980, I had moved from Denver, Colorado to Washington state. There were several nuke plants under construction in the state at the time. A few in the Pasco area and two near Elma, in the Olympic National Forest. I chose the Elma project known as Satsop or WPPSS #3 & 5. It was my plan to work these until completion. Little did I know how much disaster was awaiting the project, the state and my own life. Within a week of my arrival, Mt. St. Helens let go a massive eruption burying eastern Washington in ash. And a week later it did it again this time sending its ash over the Western portion of the state where I lived and worked.

The effect of that was devastating. Causing loss of life and in my case loss of work and pushed my already disintegrating marriage closer to the brink. But along with that it fascinated me. I was living within a few hundred miles of an active volcano and like so many others after seeing pictures of it on TV and in the newspapers, I wanted a closer look. Now I sat across from one of the people who could get me there.

After a little more negotiation, it was settled. The price was steep, but I had expected that. He had also warned me that, yes, he could get me into the red zone but once I was in, I would be on my own. Giving me directions how I could slip out without getting caught, there would be no guarantees. It bothered me little, I was willing to risk it just to get some pictures and see this cataclysm close up.

A week later he picked me up at the same bar. The ride was pretty much silent, the only conversation was more warning of the danger and more warnings of the cost if I was caught inside the zone. For my part there was a lot of head nodding. Within an hour we were approaching the restricted area. He stopped long enough for me to climb into the back seat of his Chevy Blazer. Soon I was under a tarp and other items, well hidden. The ride from there was short and except for a stop at the red zone road block there was no trouble. I was in! In another ten minutes we came to a stop and he let me out of my hiding place. With a last warning he dropped me off saying, “Fifteen minutes, no more. Don’t move beyond where we are. The road we just came in on should be traffic free. I am the only guy surveying the damage here. Back track until you see the check station then take the path on the map, I gave you. Your chances of getting caught are 50/50, but that is what you signed on for. Lastly, if you rat me out. I will make sure you pay big time.” With that he rolled up his window and headed out. Leaving me in a place that resembled another planet.

From the time I was a kid, I guess you could say I was a thrill seeker. I mean, I chose a profession where danger, injury and death were part of the job description. But that never seemed enough. I craved more. Getting involved in extreme sports such as free climbing, without ropes and hang gliding. Some folks said I was just plain crazy, and others were pretty sure I had a death wish. Looking back on it now, I think I was just trying to fill the empty void that was my life. It seems all my addictions, all my attempts at relationships and yes, even my thrill seeking was tied to the fact that there was a hole in my life, and nothing seemed to fill it. For years now that has changed.

I haven’t lost my zest for life. In fact, I am still living on the edge, but not the edge of this world. The edge of eternity. And let me tell you something, there is nothing more thrilling then living the life as a follower of Jesus Christ. The difference is, that I am no longer seeking to fill that void, He has done that. I now find that the risks I take might still mean death and there are a whole lot of people who knew the old John who say I have really gone crazy, fanatical now. And they would be right. My thrill now is leading others, lost as I once was to know Jesus. It is a full and exciting life. The Apostle Paul said it well, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20) When you take this verse on as your life statement, everything changes. Life takes on a whole new meaning. The challenges and thrills are out of this world, literally!

Sometime in 1981, I stood in that devastation, thrilling at being inside so near to that still erupting volcano. It was awesome and really expensive. Within ten minutes I was arrested. I never knew if the guy who got me in set me up. Either way, my brand-new Pentax with wide angle lens was confiscated, I never saw it again. I paid a large fine and escaped without jail because the courts were overloaded with ‘thrill seekers.’ At the time I still thought it was all worth it. Today, I am thrilled to get up in the morning. I no longer hang glide or hang off shear face, but I seek each day to do the Father’s work and there is little this side of heaven that gets me going like it does. I am now blessed to share those thrills with RuthAnn. No more voids, a full life. NO FEAR, that is what I am talking about.

Blessings and Happy Sabbath,
John
4/5/19

He built me a road….

The room was cold when I woke up. I knew that much but was not sure about anything else. Trying to calculate what time it was or even what day. I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, no answers there. Reaching over to the table near the bed I picked up my watch, 4:41, A.M. I assumed. Pulling the thin blanket up below my chin, a feeling of dread and loneliness crept over me. It was not the first time and from my track record it would not be the last.

As I lay there, I felt tears beginning to well and I wanted to scream, “Stop. Why are you crying? Man-up!” but instead the tears came, and I began to sob uncontrollably. My life was a mess. My second marriage had ended after months of accusations and violent fighting. Drug usage which had slowed to a trickle was now becoming a torrent again. And I was soaking up the booze at a level even out of control in my eyes. Even my boss who tolerated a lot from me was starting to question my employment. I needed to get my act together, I knew it…. but.

Grabbing the pack of smokes from the same rickety table I lit one up. I was now remembering the night before and it was another night of too much booze, snorting a few lines in the bathroom of the club and then driving home completely wasted. In fact, I remembered having a bottle of whiskey next to me on the seat of the truck, taking hits off of it as I drove. How crazy is that, I thought. What a sad loser, I am! Was my next thought.

But even as I lay there, repenting my life, in the next instance the urge to wash it away, forget it all, swept over me. Was that bottle in the room somewhere? I could down just enough of it to get rid of this dread and aloneness. Where was it? Flicking on the lamp next to the bed, a pale-yellow light filled the room. And as I searched this dingy place, I now called home, I spotted the half empty bottle sitting on the old chair by the door. For a minute I was torn, I knew I should resist the urge. Let it go. Start this day as the first day of my new life! Yes, I should! But within a minute I was out of bed and grabbing the bottle with shaking hands. Just a few to stop the demons, that is all I need. Knowing deep within me that if I fed these demons just a little, they would want more and more, they always did. I was a loser, I was lost!

I hope none of you who are reading this have ever been in the place I have just described. But if you have or if you are. I do not write these words to discourage or say there is no hope.

Yes, I can truly say, that morning as I recall it now, there was no hope. I absolutely knew that. I was defeated and, in my mind, there would never be a time when I would not wake up repeating this pattern day after day. For those of you who have never experienced this depth of lostness, the only way I can accurately describe it is like living on the edge of a deep chasm. Out in the distance you can see a place full of beauty and peace but there is no road to it. The chasm is where most all your attention is held. Daily it seems you are being drawn closer and closer to it. And eventually you know there is only two choices you live each day; each moment being led into the void or you jump into it instead. That is what my life of hopelessness was like!

Don’t get me wrong. There were days when it seemed the road to that beautiful place was opening up. I could feel hopeful, but that road was being built on sand, bolstered by temporary, worldly things. Moments of passion or extasy. Or seeing the innocent joy a child showed. But soon the booze and drugs would rob me of those hopeful thoughts. Something was missing.

Jesus said it this way, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

That is what I was missing in my life. I had no solid foundation in Jesus and in the Word of God. I know many people have been able to overcome addictions with programs or even AA, but few of those who I have talked to made it to this beautiful land without faith and believe in the higher power. That higher power if people admit it or not is Jesus Christ. For me he became the road builder. And he built it strong, through his Word. It took him years to get me to this land I saw out in the distance years ago. But he knew I needed time along that road to stop and look back at the void behind me, see it receding into the distance. Then turn to see I was ever closer to the peace of HIS land, the land of joy and eternal life.

I now live at the edge of that beautiful land. I am awaiting the soon coming of Jesus Christ. There are times when I still turn to see that chasm far distant from me and Satan calls from it saying, “You need to find that bottle you lost!” But now I am able to turn away and see the cross and the one who wants to spend eternity with a ‘loser’ like me. My friend, if today you find yourself standing at the edge of that chasm, don’t wait, get help. Seek out a Christian program or at the very least say this prayer, “Lord, Jesus, help me a sinner! Save me from this darkness and bring me to the beautiful land. Build the rock-solid road for me!” He will do it, I live to tell you, it is true!

Blessings,
John
4/3/19

Being a Watchman….

Being married to a school teacher changes the way I now view the year. Most of us have four seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. But I now know that teachers have school year and summer vacation, that is it. Luckily there are respites in the 10 months of school that do center around the seasons: fall break, Christmas break, and Spring break. Last week we were on Spring break along with all the teachers and kids in the local Georgia area, it was for us a time to spend catching up on all the things around the house and yard we just do not have time for while school is on. It was also a time when I ignored my computer, I decided to take a break from writing so I could spend more time with RuthAnn and enjoy the amazing weather we had. So, this morning my head is not clear, and my fingers are not flying across the keyboard. In fact, it is mornings like this that I wonder if I have anymore to share. But just as I think that the Holy Spirit gives me what I need!

Being on Spring Break has reminded me again how short our time is and how quickly time passes us by. Even though we took the luxury of ‘sleeping in’ until 6:00 or 6:30 most morning over the past week we were still up and at it by 9:00 but then the day just flew by and before you knew it, 6:00 PM. Where did the day go? In fact, as I was reading my one-year Bible readings this morning I noticed that today is the 92nd day of the year already, one quarter of 2019 is gone. It left me thinking, what have I accomplished in those days. No not worldly accomplishments. I certainly haven’t accomplished much there, and I am not that concerned about it. I am speaking of things I have done to forward the Kingdom of God. What have I done so far this year to share Jesus?

I suppose I could look here to this blog and say that I have written close to 40 blogs over the past 90 days and in those blogs, I have shared the miracles of a saved man. From alcoholic and druggie who had lost all hope and belief in God to this guy who knows God and wants to know him better each day. Sitting here reflecting; is this blog enough or should there be more. Well, here is what I found as I prayerfully searched God’s Word.

Some of you, I am sure know who Ezekiel was. A prophet of God during one of the most trying times in the Jewish nation’s history. He was called to be the ‘watchman’ of Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel was already taken in captivity. Now the southern kingdom was about to suffer the same fate. It was not without God’s warning. He sent prophets like Ezekiel to turn the people back to the one true God. But it was not just their jobs to stand on the street corner preaching, “the end is near!” No here is what God told Ezekiel, “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so, hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.” (Ezekiel 3: 17-19)

Do you see the awesome and awful responsibility God gave this prophet? Do you think he calls us to do any less today? Look around us. We are in the same world that Ezekiel was mired in. A world so full of sin that the people did not even recognize it was sin anymore. Does that sound familiar? If you and I have accepted the love and mercy of Jesus Christ and are saved by HIS blood are we not just as responsible AND just as accountable for those we know are lost in this world’s wickedness and are doing nothing about it? I don’t know about you, but I think I am, and I know that means I am not being the ‘watchman’ God has called me to be!

So, the question is, how do I change that? What more can I do? The answer for me might be scary but it is pretty clear. First, I need to do this, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) I need to humble myself and turn from my sins. Then I can, like the prophets, have that open line of communication with God. No longer fear being his watchman. And the holy boldness of the Spirit will do the rest!

So today that is my prayer that when I can be humble, open and when, “… I heard the voice of the LORD saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

The days are passing quickly. We are called to be watchmen! Are you ready, Am I? Today is the day. Let us say it together, Here we are, Lord, send us!

Blessings
John
4/1/19