Lessons from Shiloh

Do you have a dog? i do, and he is the best dog in the world. His name is Shiloh, he is a Mini-Aussie, and if my neighbor could get away with it, he most certainly would dognap my boy. He goes on every trip i take now, the countless trips to Colorado, and now most recently, my trips to Vegas to see my boys. He is an amazing traveler. He understands the concept of a pit-stop, jumping out of the car, doing his business quickly and jumping right back into the car without hesitation. He loves sitting out on our deck and just enjoying the fresh air as well as long walks. He enjoys his belly being rubbed, his chin being scratched as well as just below the ears. Once you start he won’t let you stop either.

When we are on a walk, i have him tethered on a leash. He doesn’t often pull but will take as much slack as i give him. When we reach the light, if it’s green, we walk right through, of course. However, if it’s red, we will stop, i will stop, and he will walk until either his slack is used up, and he is caught back, looking at me like, “let’s go!” or i say, “woah” or “stop” or “wait” or “sit.” He then will look up at me as he sits and wags his little nub of a tail, which is more hair than a nub actually. When we get back to the house, as we walk up the stairs, i will take the leash off, and he will head to the door. He stops, looks back, and waits for me. He will look at me and then the door as if to say, “Ok, open the door now.” He can be a tad impatient. Ok, maybe more than a tad. He doesn’t like waiting, doesn’t understand the why, especially at the light.

Jonny Lang is known for singing the blues, but he also sings gospel and rock, a songwriter and guitarist. He is very talented and one of my favorite musicians. i have seen him live, and he doesn’t disappoint. Two of my favorite songs, That Great Day, and Red Light, can be heard on my playlist and often i will hit repeat because i get lost in the lyric. The idea behind Red Light is the way life can change, decisions made, good ones and bad ones. It’s the pause.

God often uses red lights in our life; of course, He also uses yellow and green. Like Shiloh, if we aren’t tethered to Him, we will walk right into oncoming traffic. If we are tethered to Him when He stops at the light, and our slack runs out, that jolt can cause you to look back as to say, “let’s go!” Not realizing the danger that is just ahead. His word to us, “woah” or slow down, take it easy, we’ll get there. Or perhaps, “stop” that is not the direction i want for you. The hardest sometimes is “wait” because we want to know why and we rarely get the answer. “Sit” is also hard as we don’t often want to sit; we want to go and go fast. Yet, the reality is that each of these prompts is for our benefit. His desire for us is pure and Holy. We need to be willing to listen.

Some of you will say, “who wants to be tethered? The answer is nobody does. Yet, there is one who’s an example to us, both free and tethered.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He Himself is doing.” John 5:19-20

So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on My own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And He who sent Me is with Me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” John 8:28-29

i often wonder what Shiloh is thinking when he sits at the light, usually very patiently, even still eagerly awaiting the words, “let’s go.” i want to be like him, i desired to be tethered to the Lord, walking with Him so closely that i not only sense His presence i hear His voice and His gentle reminders, warnings, and commands. Woah, stop, wait, and sit. my favorite prompt now is sit, “sit in My presence, sit with Me, let’s hangout together, tell me about your day, how are you feeling?” Yes, i like to sit in His presence. Today may you find yourself tethered to Jesus, and may you obey His Word.

You are loved,

cj

Hold my Beer

“The End is Near! Repent and Believe in the Name of Jesus!” i can see the apocalyptic signs now. You know the ones in all the movies about calamity and destruction. Of course, they are always portrayed as the morons, even if there is significant destruction. There was a street preacher the other day on a major intersection in Billings. He was standing on a ladder, he had a microphone, and his message was, “repent!” It got me to thinking and that is always a dangerous thing.

Way back in January, i had been watching the “YouTube” fringe news, and as i did, i became aware of the impending pandemic, even as many in the mainstream either didn’t report it or said there is nothing to see here. i began to stock up on things just in case. Not in an alarming way and not all at once, just a little here and a little there is all. i told those close to me, “hey, it might be nothing, but better safe than sorry.” i also mentioned some other things, and those things, although without fanfare, did come about as well.

i am not Nostradamus, i don’t pretend to know the future; however, i think 2021 is about to tell 2020, “Hold my Beer!”

i have a gut feeling i am not the only one who thinks this way. i also have a feeling that as others become more vocal, we will be portrayed, like the movies, as morons, kooks, and extremists. They will say things like, “how many times has the world almost ended since 2000? Remember Y2K? And who could argue? We have been desensitized and, in a sense, programmed to react this way. But even this is prophetic.

knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.“” 2 Peter‬ ‭3:3-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

i am simply writing this to say, stay alert, stay vigilant, stay in the word . . . And it wouldn’t hurt to maybe stock up on things like water, non-perishable foods, vitamins, and some paper products. Be smart. Have a plan. If 2020 is any indication, 2021 is going to be a wild ride, and i have a feeling we aren’t long for the Trumpet blast.

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:50-52

Be somebody else.

“Well, what else would you call a second chance?” she asks. “You don’t like the man you were. Very well. Be somebody else. There’s nothing stopping you, not anymore. As I said, I envy you. The rest of us are stuck with our mistakes.”

Have you ever woken up and thought how amazing it would be to be . . . someone else? Not another person, like your neighbor or a celebrity, but a new you? Your past wiped clean, and your future unwritten or uninfluenced by your history. A brand new start. i know that many do, it is written about, movies are made about it, and friends share thoughts, “if I had it to do it all again . . . I would . . .” fill in the blank.

i watched a Hallmark movie (don’t judge me) that had this lady get into a car accident and she had amnesia. She is taken in by strangers and takes a new name. For a short time, she gets to be someone completely new. Of course, she falls in love, remembers who she is, tries to return to her old life, realizes she doesn’t like that person, and returns to her new love, insert happy ending.

i am currently reading a book. It has started with a man who has amnesia. The more he finds out about the person he was, the more he wants to be someone else. That is where this line from the book comes in. It is a brilliant line! The book is “The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle,” the author is Stuart Turton. i am only to chapter 8 but plan on spending the rest of the day reading it. Anyway, that is where i got the line above. Again it is brilliant, and it sums up humanity’s view on new beginnings so very well. i even underlined it and made a footnote.

You wanna know something incredible? A new beginning IS possible, without having to suffer amnesia. Paul writes: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

Paul also writes to the Philippians: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: FORGETTING what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on . . .” (3:12-14)

It is a fresh start. No longer bound by your past in the eyes of God. You have essentially been given a “do-over” just like when we were little and playing a game . . . it was always a gracious move to give your opponent a “do-over.” God, through Jesus the Son, has given humanity the opportunity for a “do-over,” one only needs to receive it. Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are NEW every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Jesus teaches us about forgiveness in this way: “Then Peter came up and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” Matthew 18:21-22

Every day, actually, every moment, every decision, you have an opportunity to “be somebody else.” You don’t like who you are? Then “be somebody else.” Make a mistake? Confess, repent, forget, move forward, be somebody else, be the person God created you to be. Be an ambassador for the Kingdom of Heaven. Be the change you want to see in the world. Be somebody else.

Life is full of new beginnings. Some we chose; Some are thrust upon us by different circumstances. Either way, seize the moment. Fear not for God is with you and be somebody else. The only person holding you back . . . is you. Today, i choose to be the person my dog thinks i am.

You are loved,

cj

Take Joy in the Simple Things

Take joy in the simple things. i recently had to go to the County Treasurers Office for some vehicle registration stuff. Some of you go to a DMV, others to MVD, here in Montana, we go to the County Treasurer for such things as vehicle registrations and Title work. Especially if you want to expedite the process. When i arrived, i had to take a number, wait outside until my number came up on the screen, then go inside and stand in a line. There i waited for my number again. Once inside i went to the counter.

Now the process goes like this when the office receives your title work and processes it; they then send you a postcard. When you receive a postcard, it gives you instructions on how to make an appointment and avoid the number line described above. i had not received a postcard; my temporary registration was due to expire, and with my current form of employment, that was a huge problem. So as i began to explain this to the clerk, she just kept on stating that due to the current state of life with Covid, they were easily 90 days behind schedule and that all temporary registrations were automatically extended and no paper would be needed.

Great, but when you are dealing with an automated and digital platform, this doesn’t cut it. As i tried to explain my situation and my present flux in life and my travels to and from various places, she sought the assistance of another clerk. After a few minutes, it was determined that they were unable to help me out. i needed to go to another place, talk to another person, and find out on their end what was going on first. So i did.

i was given a date, i waited two days beyond that and went back to the Treasurers’ office. To make a reservation would have landed me well beyond the expiration date of my registration, so i once again went anticipating a long wait. i simply prayed as i headed downtown, “Lord, please make a way for this to be done today. Help me to explain clearly and give the person on the other side of the counter compassion.”

i arrived and didn’t have to wait outside, i was second in line inside and waited only a few minutes. Once inside i went to the clerk, and since i knew the process and i was attempting to expedite it, i went into my story. She looked . . . flummoxed. She went through the common answers as her mind was programmed to do, postcard, wait, appointment, 90 days, etc. etc . . . “Jesus, please,” i thought.

Ma’am, i understand the process; here is my concern, and i am not sure how to fix this without your help. She changed, her face changed, her posture changed . . . she looked at me and could see, i am sure, the desperation. “When did the other office send your paperwork?” “At the latest, Friday, according to their title department.” She got up and went into a side room where you could visibly see stacks of paperwork, like a Sunday morning comic strip, or a scene from a movie where the person is overloaded with piles of paperwork. i thought as i stood there, “no wonder nobody wants to go in there!” She came back out a few minutes later, “All i can say is, it was meant to be.” my paperwork was right ON TOP!

She completed my paperwork, printed out my registration, handed me plates, and smiled and said, “It was meant to be.” i was so blessed at that moment. With a choked up smile and watery eyes, i said, “thank you! i really appreciate this. You have no idea what a burden of worry has been lifted.” Her response, “it was meant to be.” As i turned to walk out, i said, “may the Lord bless you abundantly.” i had no postcard, no paperwork, no answers, but i had Jesus. Some might chalk this up to chance. Sure. But if you would have seen the change in her spirit as i prayed, “Jesus, please.”

i think of the persistent widow and what Jesus teaches through the parable in Luke 18:1-8. Here is just the end of His thought.

“And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly.” Luke 18:6-8

And in the sermon on the mount, Jesus talks about not worrying here in Matthew 6:25-34, but again here is just the ending of His thought.

“But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34

Each day i am learning anew what it means not to worry and to take joy in the simple things of life. So to you, i say, take joy in the simple things.

You are loved,

cj

The Church at Bugz’s

What is the Church, or where is the Church? Both of those are loaded questions. Of course, they both have simple answers. We are the Church, those of the Way, born new through Christ. Its location is the gathering of those of the Way. These are the prominent answers of the western church, and although they are correct, they are also far from right.

i could spend hours writing out the answers, but the problem with the western church is our answers. They are too theological and represent vast knowledge but lack simple wisdom, in the sense that the people who need to know don’t want that theological answer. They want simple, not for lack of intelligence but because they lack interest, and they aren’t coming to the Church to find out. What they see, doesn’t match what they are told, so what hope is there in that? Why would they want to be apart of something steeped in hypocrisy?

When i moved into my little apartment, my new neighbor and i struck up a friendship. We will sit out on our shared deck and talk about life. One day he shared his passion for pool. He once upon a time was a ranked semi-pro pool player and participated in a U.S. Amateur Open Pool Tournament; he owns a million pool cues!

One Sunday i was headed to Church and then to drive. It would be my first Sunday in town in some time as i have spent many weekends on the road between here and Colorado with my family during my mom’s final performance this side of heaven. i was going to try a local Church out but as i was returning from a morning walk with my ride or die, Shiloh, he is a six-year-old mini-Aussie, and perhaps the coolest dog on the planet. Anyway, as i was entering my apartment, my neighbor was exiting his. “Hey, I am going to Bugz’s to shoot some pool, do you want to go?” Now for those who don’t know, Bugz’s is a bar/casino.

At first, i started to make an excuse for why i couldn’t go. After all, it was Sunday; one doesn’t go to a bar on a Sunday and definitely not to shoot pool! But something grabbed my tongue, and i ended up saying, “Yes, i will meet you there in a few.” And so i did. He shot pool while i pushed balls around with a stick. He showed me some ways to hit and plan and see the table as a whole, each shot, although, individual, is part of a greater plan. Even if you mess up, there are ways to redeem your previous shot. Don’t waste opportunities and sometimes the easiest shot is not the one you take, defense can be a good strategy, don’t slam your stick on the table, sorry, pool cue.

We talked about a lot of things around that pool table. Life, current events, Jesus, each moment was blessed. It reminded me of something; This is the church. It is living in community. It isn’t a place or a building or a set time. It is lived in the heart of the believer and pours out in moments of time, every encounter, every conversation, each relationship. Jesus in me, Jesus through me, because Jesus is for me.

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but have itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill you ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

i am not discouraging the assembling together of the saints. i am a firm believer in that! The Church should gather in groups to share life and worship. But as i have written previously, the Church cannot just be a building; it is not a set time; it is every moment, every encounter, every decision. Choose to be the Church today, love the unlovable, show mercy and grace, walk humbly.

You are loved,

cj

i spent the evening with a prostitute . . .

The title is not just clickbait, i did actually spend the evening with a “professional” prostitute; actually, i am not sure how she would title her profession, but you get the idea. i guess i should explain how we met before you all jump to conclusions, as is human nature. i picked her up in my car off the street, well it was a parking lot, her and her little dog, a Yorkie, super cute and i think she liked me, still talking about the Yorkie. Just to make it easier to read, let’s give my new friend a name, let’s call her Elaine. If anyone has ever watched Seinfeld, you might get that reference. Elaine jumped right into the car . . .

Elaine: “hey, baby, how’s your day?”

me: “i am good, staying busy! How’s your day going?”

Elaine: “****! They were supposed to have my order ready to pick up, but it’s not ready. It will be later today, they say. I don’t have anywhere to go, and I can’t just wait here so I am going back to my hotel.”

me: “Well, that’s a bummer. Although, you are at the second-best hotel in town.”

Elaine: “Best! Hotel in town, have you layed in there beds?”

me: “Can’t say that i have. i am guessing you like their beds?!”

Elaine: “Yes, I have a great bed at home, but I think theirs just might be more comfortable than mine!”

We continued to talk about life, as i do with everyone i pick up, and i pick up a lot of people. Elaine was my first . . . how do i say this without sounding disparaging? Um, an escort or just prostitute? At this point, i was yet unaware of her profession, however. In fact, we reached her hotel, i was preparing to drop her off when she propositioned me.

Elaine: “I don’t know if you can do this but would you be willing to pick up my special order when it’s ready and bring it to me?”

me: “Well, i suppose, but i can’t promise that i will be available to do it, i might be busy.”

Elaine: “Oh, it’s ok, baby, there’s no rush. You would just be saving me round trip fare. Besides, I would much rather pay you.”

me: “Ok, that’s fine, i would be glad to do it.”

Elaine: “Give me your number, sweety, so I can text you when it’s ready.”

At this point, we exchanged numbers, and i waited for her to text me that it was ready to pick up. The rest of the day passed, i drove till 1:30 am. No text.

The next day . . . or as it was 1:30 am when i stopped, later that day, i did receive a text. Her item was ready, she had contacted the store and changed the name to mine, and i went and picked it up. i met her where i had dropped her off the day before. She handed me some money for my trouble, a sweet smile, and a “thank you.” i responded with the typical response of, “you’re welcome,” and i drove away. i was still oblivious to what she did for a living. She was to me just a sweet lady, who needed help with picking up an order, and i am a helpful guy.

Fast forward to 8:07 pm the same day as the item drop off.

Text Message from Elaine:

Elaine: “Hey CJ, I have two questions for you… First of all, are you free tonight?
Ps – thank you again for picking up my order the other day btw.”

me: “i can be whats up
And you are welcome”

Elaine: “Thanks.. I could use someone to drive me but to Gillette… Yes, I know. But I’ll pay cash upfront (when you pick me up..)

me: “Wyoming? 😳 i could do it tomorrow but the turn around tonight i just don’t think i could do it.”

Elaine: “Okay. I have a ride tomorrow but I also have someone who wants to see me tonight which would be lucrative and worth it for me to find a ride.”

(This was my first clue, but i shook it off, telling myself, “don’t project that onto anyone.”)

me: “How much are you thinking?”

Elaine: “200? You tell me..
Plus gas..”

me: “i am in the middle of a delivery and i will need to go home and let my dog out
When did you wanna leave?”

Elaine: “Ok… Let me confirm with my client. Hang on..”

i thought to myself, “maybe she is a masseuse or something, late-night clients, though?” i wasn’t so much confused as i was just hoping that it wasn’t what i was thinking. At this point i prayed, “Lord, i don’t know what is going on here but if you want to use me in this situation, first, help me not to miss what you are doing. Second, help me not to screw up what you are doing. Lastly, help me to be faithful to You, in Jesus name . . . amen.”

Elaine: “Okay, so they flaked. I hate when that happens. Sorry to bug ya.”

me: “No worries”

Elaine: “Thanks for being kosher….
“Ya .. I thought I had something going on here. But it turns out I don’t. So it got a little happy when I’m had a prospect even though they were in Gillette!”

me: Always kosher and happy to help out . . . The world needs more nice people

Elaine: “Amen!
“I find that people really suck more times than not
“I don’t understand what’s so hard about doing what you say? Why say it to begin with!
#facepalm

“well I don’t know what you have going on or what your home life is like butt if you would like to grab a drink at some point this evening I -evidently- am free and would like to.

At this point, i paused, “Lord, this is a terrible idea! And yet i believe you put me here, in this situation, on purpose. So, give me grace, give me wisdom, give me strength. In Jesus Name . . . amen.” i then agreed to meet her, and i did. We went to one of the billion casinos that Billings has, and she won $160—some luck. We eventually talked about her profession. i asked if i could ask her questions. She agreed. We talked about why? She was very candid with her response. It boiled down to money. i attempted to express that life was more than money and “things” (possessions). As we walked her dog, i invited her to my blog . . . she would later text me for the information again, and i sent her a link. i have no idea what she is thinking. There is a good chance she is reading this right now! And if (YOU are), i hope that i did not offend you, “Elaine,” and i meant every word i said to you. You are loved!

In sharing the following verse, i am in no way elevating myself to Jesus. However, Jesus, through us, should encourage us to do and be and go and serve and love . . .

Luke 7:36-50.

36 Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” 

40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” 

So he said, “Teacher, say it.” 

41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 

43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the onewhom he forgave more.” 

And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” 

48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 

49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 

50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (New King James Version).

You are loved,

cj

Life in a tiny apartment

R.O.U.S.

This morning my downstairs neighbor told me she thinks we have a rodent between the floors because when i am gone, she can hear gnawing. “When you leave that rodent comes out and gnaws on wires or something for hours,” i suggested it may be Shiloh, my mini Aussie, gnawing on his bone, he has two really yummy bones; not that i would know, they just look yummy. Anyway, she did not agree. Growing up, we lived in several apartments. One thing about them is everything, every noise, anytime you drop even a pin; it’s like setting off an atomic bomb or something. Knowing this i attempt to walk softly and minimize my clumsiness. When Shiloh does enjoy his bone, he uses his paw to press it firmly to the floor so that he can, well, gnaw on it. i am fairly certain this is the rodent.

my bike was stolen from my porch or deck or landing, whatever it’s called. i was away, you know if you have read any of my previous posts, at my parent’s home. When i returned, it was the first thing i noticed. It had a tire lock on it and a flat tire, so i am not sure how they managed to run off with it, but one thing is for sure, they did not ride off into the sunset. i hope they needed it, Jesus said, if someone steals your coat, give them your tunic as well. Basically, a tunic is a shirt, so if someone steals your coat, give them your shirt as well. In this instance, i should probably put a sign on my deck that says, “here is the key to the lock on the bike you stole.” Maybe add a footnote, “thanks for being my final excuse not to ride it.”

my apartment is so tiny it is like a studio; only it has a wall between the bedroom and the living room. i lived in a very small apartment when i first moved to Wasilla, AK. It was two bedrooms and although the square footage is probably not much more than this place . . . it now feels like a mansion in comparison. Have you ever seen the sketch, Joe’s Apartment? i am not recommending it, i just remember bits of it from my younger years. i don’t even know what the premise was except that Joe, the guy living in the apartment, had made a bond with the many roaches residing with him. Except for the fact i keep my home clean, and i don’t have roaches, and my name isn’t Joe, it’s basically the same thing. Although, it does appear that i have at least one R.O.U.S. that comes out when i leave. So who knows maybe a T.V. Show in the works, “cj’s apartment.”

Why am i telling you these random things? Well, here goes; You never know what life is growing to throw at you. One minute, a family, a big house, and the next . . . um, not, that. One could easily give up, some do, but the story doesn’t have to end there or here. Each day, every moment really is another opportunity to see the good, to choose joy, to do what is just, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. A lot of introspection has and is going on in my tiny apartment. i suspect that will continue for some time. The one constant in my life, Jesus, i know He will always be with me. His mercy is new every morning, and His love is sure.

Here is a final note, don’t put your hope and your joy and your worth in possession, or influence, or others, YOUR WORTH is in knowing the LORD and in His presence, period.

“”Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew‬ ‭6:25-34‬ ‭ESV‬‬

You are loved,

cj

See you later 👋 . . .

my mom died today. How does one say that simply, without sounding callous? Really, just her body died as her spirit lives on. And although i said, goodbye, i also said, see you later.

This is my mom preparing for her annual Christmas party

Some say that faith in God or any god, for that matter, is a waste of time. Or they will say, “whatever helps you cope.” For those of us with faith, believing in the Great I Am, there is a comfort that comes when a fellow believer passes, even if that person is family, in my case i call her mom. So yes, it does help us cope. However, it’s so much more than that as well.

my mom’s joy is her testimony, as i wrote previously (see here). Her joy through tragedy in her own life. This has been my witness of my mom. It’s a lesson learned. She also taught us to fight, to not give up, and to get up each time you get knocked down, just keep getting up. She’s known for singing, and one song comes up every time in family discussions, “I Woke Up This Morning Feeling Fine.” She taught herself the piano and played by ear. Whenever there was a piano, which was often, you would hear her play, and without fail, this song echoed down the halls.

That is the assurance that comes in knowing Jesus. It’s unexplainable, but the peace, the comfort, the joy, the hope, the knowing . . . it’s amazing. For those that feel this is just a way to cope than so be it. For those of us, that know . . . It’s everything.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
‭‭1 John‬ ‭5:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

i recently visited a gated community with twenty-four-hour manned security. You had to have credentials to enter the community. Do you live there? If not, you have to be on the “list.” In order to live in this community, you need to pay and pay a lot i am sure! i can’t imagine the homeowners association costs, they had a pool with lifeguards, tennis courts, trails, and a park, the upkeep alone on those things is enough to send the HOA costs through the roof, not to mention the twenty-four-hour manned guard shack. Now factor in the cost of the home! Folks actually live like this! i felt like such a peasant when i was there like i should be bowing and saying things like, “your majesty,” or “yes, my lord.” But everyone in that development paid to be there and paid a lot. To get on the “list,” which is temporary, you have to have a reason, and someone has to have told the gate guard you were coming, they had to put you on the “list.” But again, it was only temporary; only residents were allowed to stay, those that paid to be there.

The Kingdom of heaven will be even greater than this housing development. What about the cost? It is also very high. However, that price has already been paid. You just need to get your name on the list, and this list isn’t temporary. Who paid the price for us? Well, Jesus. Why? Well, love, that is the answer He loves you, me, us, so much, He paid the price for us to live in the Kingdom. So how do we get on the list? The book of Romans says; “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (Romans 10:13) It is believed that Paul wrote the letter to the Romans. Peter is recorded as saying this in the book of Acts, written by Luke. “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Peter was quoting Joel 2:32 “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.”

Why the need? There is an issue of sin that needs to be dealt with, and it goes all the way back to the garden and the beginning of time recorded in Scripture. We are all born into sin, for which we become accountable when we reach an age of understanding. It is at this point a price is required. Either you attempt to pay for it yourself, which is impossible, or you call on the one who paid the price for you already.

my mom is on the list. She has called upon the name of the Lord. She dedicated her life to His service. When she arrived at the gate, the guard opened it and welcomed her home. i am thankful for this assurance. Although i will miss my mom, and i will miss her, that is temporary! For this wasn’t a goodbye, it was a see you later! Thanks to the blood of Jesus.

You, too, can have this assurance. If you don’t already, comment below or send me a message depending on where you see this, and i will gladly answer any questions you might have. You are so so loved. But let me stress this, everyone serves something, what is it that you serve? A system, a government, money, fame, etc. Joshua (In the book titled after him, the 6th book of the Bible) at the end of an epic speech says this; “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

The difference will be simple; it’s either “goodbye” or “see you later.”

To my mom, “i will see you later!” To you, i hope for the same.

You are loved,

cj

So many sandwiches!

i want to say that a few Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday concerts were added while on the tour as my dad called local Churches along the way.

Sitting with my mom as she withers away is the most difficult thing i have ever done. Today, i sat with her and we listened to hymns together (some Christmas because my mom loves Christmas) as we held hands . . . She slept, i cried. Each hymn so sweet and just brought back so many memories. When i was younger we traveled as a family and sang in churches. One particular summer that i recall is my favorite summer of all time. i lived in two shirts and one pair of jeans, although i am sure i had more. The two shirts were from the movie, “Return of the Jedi”. Both were softball style shirts (if that makes sense) one was blue, that one was my favorite, the other red. i also lived in a fifth-wheel trailer.

That summer between concerts i remember the road trips, the stops, the hikes, the sandwiches, we ate so many sandwiches! i remember setting up for the concerts, eating at all the potlucks, so many potlucks, and the tearing down. i remember every concert was exactly the same and yet completely different and that is the best i can describe them. Shawnee our German Shepherd was the best traveler! She and i were buds. i remember all the family and old friends of my parents that we saw, some for me, meeting them for the first time. We even did a mini concert at the home of a cousin or family friend.

i remember all the historical sights we visited, some recently destroyed because humanity has gone mad. So many state and national parks too. i learned so much and am so thankful for those memories. It is the source of my appreciation for music and music of all kinds but especially my fondness of the hymns. my mom’s voice echoing through the sanctuary’s of big churches and little churches . . . Brick churches and log “cabin” churches, old wooden chapels and fancy plush churches. Her voice was angelic, she will definitely be featured in the heavenly choir where i am sure she will be found shortly upon her arrival into heaven.

Music is her life blood i think. my mom loves music. In heaven, the Bible says that the angels sing around the thrown. This will definitely be where mom is found. She will have that old voice back, strength in her bones, and air in her lungs, as she sings out around the thrown joining in with the angel choir, a new song! It is this image that fills my mind and heart with comfort and peace. i am reminded of Jesus words at what is referred to as the sermon on the mount.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-10)

In these final days, moments, with my mom i am thankful for these words from Jesus. May His Kingdom come, may He reign in our hearts and minds and lives forever and ever, amen. Be blessed today knowing that He cares for you. How do i know? Because of sandwiches, so many sandwiches! He comforts through His word, through His Spirit, and through memories, so many great memories! i love you mom, may you enter your much deserved reward in peace; May your heavenly concert tour be as full of joy as our earthly ones.

You are loved,

cj

Feeling Helpless in a Familiar Place

my mother is dying. Six months, that’s the best the doctors think. Being a pastor i have sat with countless families as they have said goodbye to a loved one. i have been there to support, pray with/for, encourage, and cry with them. i have helped with final arrangements, from just giving ideas to even taking on the full planning of a funeral for those who just didn’t know or couldn’t plan it themselves. Now here i am with my mom, and its as if i am completely clueless. my brother has taken on the significant role of caretaker during these days of home hospice, nurses do come in, a few days a week, to check on things, but the day to day care, my brother has taken on, and all i can say is WOW! He amazes me. Again, i am clueless, i can’t even think of what to do. my sister is here as well, and she has stepped right in, and i just sit back . . . oh, i do some, when asked, or the task is obvious.

Did i mention that i have sat with many a family in this very situation and have had the whereabouts to know what, how, when, where, to do, and or give support. It’s like i am frozen here. i feel helpless, and it makes me feel selfish because the only one here who is genuinely “helpless” is my mom. Stuck in bed, dependent on her family and a team of nurses. i have tried and will continue to try and do all that i can, i am trying to change my mindset, move in different ways, trust more, pray more, be more . . . aware?!? Is that the right word? i don’t know. i want to honor her the best i can, for she has been the joy and inspiration of the family.

The commandment in scripture to “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12) is actually in reference to older or elderly parents, of course, the principle can also be applied to children and their parents. Although we mostly refer to it in the latter, it definitely is more the former. i stated above, i want to desperately honor my father and certainly now more than ever my mother in these final days. i believe that i have done a fair job to this point of my life, but at the same time, i think of all the times i fell short in this area. my mom would say if asked, that she is proud of me. That makes me happy, but i wonder, is it warranted? Have i earned it?

Jesus didn’t, nor does He expect us to earn His forgiveness. He gave freely of Himself on the cross to make us righteous and holy. What a gift! There is a song by Steffany Gretzinger called, “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.” WOW! What a powerful song and a fantastic voice! The opening lines of the song are so powerful; the song opens like this: (i will link to a video of the song at the bottom)

“If my heart could tell a story
If my life would sing a song
If I have a testimony
If I have anything at all

No one ever cared for me like Jesus
His faithful hand has held me all this way
And when I’m old and gray and all my days
are number on the earth
Let it be known, in You alone
My joy was found
Oh my joy, my joy

Let my children tell their children
Let this be their memory
That all my treasure was in heaven
and You were everything to me

This song is my mom. This has been her testimony, and it has been my challenge. i can’t listen to this song without getting lost in memories where my mom’s joy filled the air. She has been the bedrock of our family, the glue if you will, and she did it all with joy. And that joy was founded in her faith in Jesus. Her legacy, her testimony, can be found in this song by Steffany Gretzinger, and i am glad that i stumbled upon it. i hope that it blesses you and challenges you as much as it has me. i pray this becomes my testimony as well, for no one ever cared for me like Jesus . . . and Jesus, through my mom, is her testimony. May Jesus, through me, be mine.

No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus, Steffany Gretzinger

You are loved,

cj