“Inactivity” Update

While I have been “inactive” on this blog, I have been quite active otherwise. As I mentioned in my update April 4th, my mom went home to be with the Lord at 2:00 am the morning of April 4th, 2017. Her last wishes were that her body be cremated, and that we would hold a simple Memorial Service at her home church, Rainbow Springs Village Church. I honored her final wishes, and we had a beautiful, but simple, Memorial Service April 28th at her home church. Needless to say, I pretty much “lost” the month of April.

As I started contemplating what to do with her property, I became aware of a desperate need for a home in Florida for my brother and his family, close to SHANDS Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. Mom’s place seemed to be the perfect solution to their housing needs, combined with the reality that I don’t “need” to sell that property.

A bit about my brother, Steve Melton: For starters, I have no biological siblings, so Steve and I are not “blood-relatives“, which is how we can share the same first name. God, in His infinite wisdom, sometimes brings people into our lives for some yet-unknown reason, or reasons, and those people become “family” to us. Thus it was with Steve Melton his wife Karen, and their daughter, Allison, or Allie.

I joined Rainbow Lakes Fire Department in 2002, and not long thereafter, several of us from RLFD went to Williston Fire Department, where Steve was an Officer, for some training. Steve joined us at RLFD in 2004, and while I was still pretty “green“, not much more than a Rookie, he was a seasoned pro who had risen through the ranks in several other Fire Departments, including all the way to Chief – at the tender age of 27. He was, and still is, one of the finest Fire Officers I have had the privilege of serving under. He is also an EXCELLENT Instructor, one of the best. Even though I was still pretty “green” as a Firefighter, I am also thirteen years his senior, kind of a “big-brother“, so we hit it off immediately. Our relationship has grown stronger through the years.

How is Steve my brother? We are both Veterans, so regardless of branch of service; ALL Veterans are brothers and sisters. We both served in the Army. The Fire Service is a FAMILY, regardless of whether a person is a career (paid) Firefighter or a Volunteer Firefighter. The “red-stuff” (fire) doesn’t who is on the other end of the nozzle applying the “wet-stuff” (water). Steve is also a Brother in Christ, so in that we AREblood-brothers“. Last, but certainly not least, we have “adopted” each other as “family“. Yes, Steve IS my brother, and I love him and his family like my own.

Steve and his family have been living just south of Greenville, South Carolina for several years, where they moved to be closer to his mother and some of Karen’s family. We almost lost Steve in 2012 after he was bitten by a brown-recluse (fiddle back) spider. Poor health care in Greenville allowed his foot to become VERY infected. Steve is also diabetic, so he doesn’t heal all that well anyway. The super-industrial-strength antibiotics which were necessary to finally subdue the infection destroyed his kidneys, so he is in end-stage renal failure. During a bariatric chamber treatment to help heal his foot, he suffered a massive heart attack, and almost died. Five bypasses later, he was back on the mend. Even though he has been cared for in Greenville, his care is far below the level of care that he needs, including ultimately a kidney transplant. Enter SHANDS Hospital. They have a world-class kidney-transplant team AND a philosophy of “integrated-care“, which means that his care-team will all be coordinated by one “quarterback” doctor. No more “Doctor A” doesn’t know what “Doctor B” is doing, and so on down the list.

Steve was able to get an appointment at SHANDS on May 8th to start getting his health care moving forward at SHANDS. Another friend offered him a place to crash near my mom’s place, but it would have been a less-than-ideal situation. Opening mom’s home up to him was a much better way to go, so I welcomed him “home” to mom’s (now my place) in time for him to rest up a bit before he went to his appointment at SHANDS. His initial visit to SHANDS turned out to be almost a week long, because he had a mild heart-attack during his first appointment and was rushed immediately to the ER. He spent most of the time in the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU).

I spent a lot of time going back and forth from where I live in the Orlando area to Dunnellon, where my other home is, to take care of Steve, so most of May went to that endeavor.

Yes, June has arrived, and it is June 15th as I write this update. I have been busy preparing to speak at the CNA Conference at Rock Haven Lodge in Tennessee June 24th and 25th, so yes; I am getting ready to travel. After the Conference, I am driving down to where Steve and his family live in South Carolina to visit them and help them get ready to move back to Florida. Call it a “vacation”, and it will be – sort of. More like, as my Urologist put it, a “workation“, but I am sure that even as I help them get ready to move, there will be some “fun” times along the way. The last weekend I am out of town, I will be at the Christian Naturist Festival at Lake Como Resort in the Tampa area. I pull out for Tennessee this coming Monday (6/19), with a stop at my other place to take care of some business,

SO, unless I have some “spare” time, and am feeling creative, I will be absent from this blog until the latter part of July. Please keep me in your prayers as I travel, serve the Lord, and serve His people.

God bless!
Steve

Do You Have “Enough”?

It is easy in our materialistic-society to say “No, I don’t“, particularly if you compare what you have to what someone else has. Someone else will ALWAYS have more – more money, a nicer car, a finer home, and better clothing, and the list goes on, but do YOU really have “enough“? I would be lying if I said that I don’t struggle with it once in a while. Would YOU like to have more?

Money…
It would be easy for me to “justify” a desire to have more income, because it would make it easier to do ministry at Cypress Cove because I could live closer, but that ignores the fact that I am where I am for a reason – to minister to my neighbor-gal. That ministry has been going on since mid-2013, and I have lost track of the number of times and ways that I have been there for her.

Many people want more money for selfish-reasons, so they can buy more toys and googas, which they want but don’t need. More money may also mean a fancier home in a more prestigious neighborhood, or a membership at an exclusive golf and country club, or both.

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

Health…
Who wouldn’t like to be young, strong and healthy again? Who wouldn’t like to reverse the effects of aging? I have enough aches, pains and health-problems for someone twenty-years my senior, and I would really like to kick “Arthur” out of my “house“, but I can’t, so I have learned to live with my reality as it is. I would love it if I were able to see with BOTH eyes and never needed glasses again, but that is NOT going to happen…yet.

50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 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 will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:50-57)

Power…
How much power is “enough“? It has been said that “Power corrupts, and absolute-power corrupts absolutely“, and we can see that vividly in our world. A small handful of people hold the reins of power over billions of people, and an even-smaller handful hold the keys to the world’s nuclear-arsenals. One mad-man with an itchy trigger-finger could ignite a nuclear-holocaust. Does anyone “deserve” that much power?

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Prestige…
Prestige usually flows from having Wealth and Power, because it is rare to find a person who has Prestige who doesn’t have either Wealth or Power, or both. Like Wealth and Power, Prestige is fleeting. One day you have it, the next day you don’t, but what if there was a “prestige” which is eternal?

I don’t have Wealth, or Power, or Prestige, but I am a child of the KING of kings and LORD of lords, and I have a home which is eternal…

Fame…
Fame is also fleeting, because it is built on how others see you. You can’t make yourself “famous“, although you can try. I don’t want or need Fame, because what I do isn’t for the adulation of other people.

Final thoughts…
ALL of these things are fleeting, temporary, and none of them will survive us beyond the grave. Job, in the midst of his poverty, penned these immortal words:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

I have “enough“, do YOU?

In Christ,
Steve

Invincible…

Yes, I wish I was invincible, but I’m not. When we are young, we may think that we are invincible, but as we get older, and those health-debts start coming due, we may find that we don’t have enough in our health-bank to pay those debts. I was just reminded AGAIN that I am NOT invincible.

After my eye-stroke in 2007, I have tried to take better care of myself, and while doctors have kept hounding me to lose weight, I am the lightest that I have been since about 1980. But, the health-debt from my younger years was still too great, so this time I had an episode with my heart. I am no “fan” of hospitals, although I have spent a LOT of time in hospitals with my good friend and neighbor, Liz, who has had four surgeries and many other hospitalizations, but I had no choice.

This past Monday evening (1/25/16), I had just finished eating supper, so I got up to take my dishes to the sink, and suddenly my heart went into palpitations. I have had two or three of these episodes before, but they have all resolved within a few minutes, so I sat down in the same chair I am sitting in now, at my computer. A few minutes later, I checked my blood-pressure. It wasn’t particularly high, but my pulse-rate was over 150 beats per minute. Over the next few minutes, I checked it three more times, and as my pulse-rate went up, so did my blood-pressure. My pulse-rate topped out at over 170 beats per minute, and wasn’t coming back down. It was time to do something.

Thankfully, Liz got home about the time I started having the palpitations, and since I had been text-messaging with her about it, she was ready to go when I was. By the time I walked out my door, she had pulled her car in front of my driveway. We quickly decided that I should go to the nearest hospital, which is less than ten miles from here. When we got to the hospital, she told me to stay in the car while she went inside for help. Liz worked in an Emergency Room for several years so she knew what to say to get their attention, and within two or three minutes, she and two other people came outside with a wheelchair. I was immediately whisked back to the triage station, bypassing the waiting room, which was full, and admitting.

While a young fellow took my vital-signs, a young lady entered my information into their computer. A short time later, I was taken back to one of their treatment-rooms. After I got into that room, a nurse hooked me up to a monitor and inserted an IV line. She also drew blood for lab-work. A few minutes later, a technician brought an EKG machine in and ran an EKG strip on me. She did notice an anomaly on my EKG. An hour or so later, the ER doctor came in to tell me, based on my vitals, the lab-results and the EKG results, that she highly-recommended that I be admitted and see a cardiologist the next morning. I was a bit hesitant, but I also know that heart-disease runs in both side of my family, so I agreed. Liz had to go back home to try to get some sleep because she had to work the next day. By about midnight, I was moved to the cardiac care unit (CCU).

I am a frequent blood-donor, but that doesn’t mean that I “like” getting stuck. That didn’t keep a “vampire” from coming in every three hours for more blood. I didn’t sleep well that night because my system was still keyed-up and the air-vent above me sounded like a jet-engine. I may have slept for a total of two hours – maybe. Anyone expecting to get some rest in a hospital will get a quick reality-check.

The cardiologist came in first-thing the next morning, and he ordered an echocardiogram and a chemical stress-test. A lady appeared with the cardiac-echo equipment a few moments later. I have had several echocardiograms through the years, so it was no big deal. Shortly after she finished the echocardiogram, I was taken downstairs to nuclear medicine for the stress-test.

The stress-test was done in three stages, or phases. I was injected with a radioactive material, and then my heart was scanned with a gamma-camera. That scan took 15 minutes. Next, I was taken to the stress-test lab.

There are two varieties of stress-test, the exercise stress-test, and the chemical stress-test. Because I have limited mobility, due to severe arthritis, and COPD, I was given the chemical stress-test rather than the exercise stress-test. The exercise stress-test involves walking on a treadmill with the intensity being raised every three minutes while hooked to a ten-lead monitor. The chemical stress-test involves getting injected with a cocktail of chemicals which stresses the heart similarly to exercise while hooked to a ten-lead monitor. That may have been the most physically-grueling five minutes I have ever had, but my tech kept encouraging me through it. Once the chemicals wore off, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had survived it.

Because I and the other man who went through the stress-test at the same time hadn’t eaten since before midnight the night before, they took us to a little nook where we could eat and drink something. The orange juice tasted a bit strange and the turkey sandwich was a bit bland, but it was a welcome repast. After I finished eating, I was taken back in for another gamma-camera scan.

After I was done with all the tests, I was taken back up to my room where lunch and a big cup of water were waiting for me. Lunch was DELICIOUS! Yes, hospitals CAN serve good food, at least once in a while. My afternoon was spent waiting for results, and waiting, and waiting. I did manage to get a couple of cat-naps during that time. My nurse hooked me up to a bag of potassium, LIQUID-FIRE, and it was main-lined and bare-back with nothing to dilute it. When I couldn’t take the burn in my arm and shoulder any longer, I asked her to disconnect it, which she did. As hard as I try to keep my potassium level up, it wasn’t enough, and I sure hope I don’t get that low ever again.

The cardiologist finally came in to see me after supper, and when he did, he had a big smile on his face. I had passed the stress-test with flying-colors!!! He also told me that I have a strong, healthy heart, which was even better news. I had NOT had a heart-attack, and even though I do have some anomalies in my heart, I am NOT a heart-attack waiting to happen.

What I dislike most about being in a hospital is feeling “cooped-up“, because I am not able to move about freely as I choose. I don’t like getting stuck multiple-times, but being “cooped-up” is even worse. I did get excellent care, and kudos particularly to the nurses who cared for me. Special kudos go to Myra, my day-shift CCU nurse, because even though I gave her fits, she always had a smile on her face, and I always knew that she cared about me.

When my legs get restless and start cramping, I get restless and have to get up and move around a bit, so I would disconnect the monitor, hang the urine bag on my pants-pocket, and walk around. Every time I did, Myra would remind me to stay in sight of her, because if something happened while I wasn’t on the monitor and out of her sight, she would feel responsible. She accompanied me on one of my forays which meant that I could walk farther than just inside that small unit. Thank you Myra!

I am sure that Myra was ready to “get-rid” of me when it time for me to get discharged, because she accompanied me and Liz out to the lobby, where I gave her a big hug. Thank you Myra, because you made my hospital stay a bit more pleasant.

Special thanks go to Liz, who stepped up to the plate when I needed help. I was not in any condition to drive myself to the hospital. THANK YOU LIZ!!! You were my angel.

No, I am NOT Superman and I am NOT invincible. I am just an ordinary guy who is paying the price for pushing myself many times in extraordinary circumstances. I am reminded that the Apostle Paul also knew a bit about weakness and infirmities and left us this gem of divine-wisdom.
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”

In Christ,
Steve

The Price Of Greed…

Elisha cured Naaman of his leprosy, but he didn’t want any of Naaman’s money. Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, thought that Naaman got off too light. Gehazi saw all that money and got greedy…

After Naaman had traveled some distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, “My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.”

21 So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. “Is everything all right?” he asked.

22 “Everything is all right,” Gehazi answered. “My master sent me to say, ‘Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.’”

23 “By all means, take two talents,” said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi. 24 When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left.

25 When he went in and stood before his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?”
“Your servant didn’t go anywhere,” Gehazi answered.

26 But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes—or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves? 27 Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow. (2 Kings 5:19-27)

Many years ago, my wife and I were in Amway for a while. We were presented a “dream“, a “dream” of material-success. We were encouraged to go out “dream-building“, to look at homes in nice neighborhoods, to look at cars that cost more than our home, to look at “things” that screamed “conspicuousconsumption“, to build a “dream” based on GREED. Those things struck us as being “empty“, “hollow” and “shallow“. We would be building our success based on helping other people become “successful“, but we saw it as fueling our GREED by fueling the GREED of others. We weren’t “built” that way. We refused to sacrifice who we are on the altar of GREED. GREED has a price, a price we weren’t willing to pay. We refused to use other people as stepping-stones to our own success.

People were created to be loved.
Things were created to be used.
The reason why the world
Is in chaos is because things are being loved
And people are being used.

Greed says “I will never have enough!”
Contentment says “Thank you Lord for my daily bread. I have everything I need.”

Naaman (MY Way…) had everything except his health, and he got that back too. Gehazi had everything he needed, including his health, but when he got greedy, he got what he wanted, material possessions, but he lost something far more valuable – his health.

I am finding that the older I get, the less I need. My “home” is 22 years old and suits my needs very well. I have friends who live in newer motorhomes that will never be paid-for because they had to sign 30-year mortgages to buy them. One couple lost both of the air-conditioners on their “older” (2006) motorhome within a few days of each other. She was whining about how “old” their motorhome is. They don’t pay for rent or electricity, and even their golf-cart is provided because he is on staff. Another couple is going to spend part of their vacation at the factory where their motorhome was built getting some warranty-work done. Theirs is also less than ten years old. Oh, and mine is paid-for. I don’t begrudge either of these couples what they have, because they have worked their entire lives for it. Both men served in the military for over twenty years each, so they have paid their dues, but sometimes having “more” means having more problems. Just because it is out there doesn’t mean that I have to go out and get it for myself.

I have “enough” because God has given me “enough“, and I am thankful for it. Contentment brings thanksgiving. GREED fuels the perpetual striving for MORE. Is it worth the price?

In Christ,
Steve

Storms…

35 That day when evening came, He said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” (Mark 4:35-41)

Small boats and big water…
Even though some of Jesus’s disciples were experienced fishermen and good sailors, this storm was “over the top“. They had experienced many storms on the Sea of Galilee, but they thought this one would be their last.

Not long after 9-11, a friend of mine and I were patrolling in the Port of Tampa when a heavy thunderstorm blew in. We retreated to the Coast Guard Station to wait it out. After we tied our boat up to their dock and disembarked, the Station Officer of the Day met us. There had been an explosion at a power plant or sub-station in New York, but very little was known about what actually happened or whether it was an act of terrorism. He wanted us to check two power plants, one in the Port area, and one south of Tampa, and a ship which was docked at another Port south of Tampa for “suspicious activity“. After consulting the nautical chart, we agreed to take the mission. We were in a fourteen-feet, aluminum fishing-boat… Some would have said that we were crazy, maybe even out of our minds.

Even though the Gulf of Mexico is much larger than the Sea of Galilee, a storm can turn it from quiet waters to BIG WATER very quickly. We aren’t told how long it took Jesus and His disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee, but it took us eight hours to accomplish our mission. Yes, at times it WAS a scary ride. We didn’t find anything “suspicious” at any of our check-points.

Storms…
We all go through storms in life, whether they are physical storms or the storms of life. We can all remember some of the great storms, Hurricane Katrina, Super-storm Sandy, and even Hurricane Charlie, which cut a path of destruction diagonally across Florida. There have been super-tornadoes that cut mile-wide paths of utter-destruction for tens of miles. Storms are scary, and their devastation is real.

My wife and I rode out the tail-end of Hurricane Charlie in Daytona Beach, Florida. If there was a “peacefulplace” in that storm, we were in it. As the hurricane approached from the south, we were on the north side of our hotel, sheltered from the storm. We watched as debris pelted the vehicles in the motel parking-lot, which was right in front of us. A piece of roofing landed on the new Mustang which was parked beside our vehicle. It made a huge dent in the roof, before slithering down the side of and Mustang and coming to rest under our vehicle. We watched as the storm tore huge pieces of roofing off of the motel just north of us. We also watched as a transformer exploded into a ball of fire. When we woke up the next morning, devastation was everywhere, but there wasn’t a mark on our vehicle. We, and our vehicle, had been in an oasis, a place of calm during the storm. Coincidental?

We rode out three more hurricanes over the course of the next few weeks. She was at her work, and I was at my volunteer Fire Station. Even though they were bee-hives of activity, they were oasis, places of calm during the storms. We pooled our food, and the parents of one of our Officers made sure that we had good meals to eat. Sleeping-arrangements weren’t very comfortable, but we made do with what we had. Even though we didn’t have running water, we had six-thousand gallons of water in our tanker. Yes, devastation was all around us, but we were safe, and none of our fire apparatus got damaged.

Storms of life…
The storms of life can be even more devastating. Things can be replaced, homes repaired or rebuilt, but losing a loved-one is permanent. A lost spouse, parent, sibling or child can never be replaced. After my first wife committed suicide in 1997, I thought that I could “replace” her with another wife, that the “replacement” would take away the pain of my loss, but I was wrong. I did remarry, and remarry, and remarry, but none of them ever took the place of my beloved. Connie had, and still has a special place in my heart, a place that is all her own. I finally wrote my “farewell” letter to her about three years ago, but there will always be that part of me that belongs to her alone.

Health-problems is another kind of “storm” that many of us deal with. I have several ongoing health-problems, but they are manageable most of the time. Some days are worse than others, but I can still get vertical, put one foot in front of the other and take nourishment, so I am blessed. My brother has been in and out of the hospital MANY times in the last three years, and we almost lost him three years ago.

There are no “perfect” relationships because there are no perfect people. Some of us are more “broken” than others, so when we enter into a relationship, we bring our “brokenness” with us. If we expected that our new spouse was going to “fix” what was “broken” in us, we quickly found out that that wasn’t going to happen. Only God can “fix” what is “broken” in us.

Who is this?
Even though His disciples had spent quite a bit of time with Him, His disciples really didn’t understand who Jesus is. Many years later, John the Apostle finally unraveled the answers to that question for us .

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 14)

Jesus is the eternal “Word“, the Lord and creator of all there is. He had spoken the cosmos into existence, scattered billions of galaxies across the heavens, and when He said “Let there be light“, the nuclear fires of a gazillion stars lit as one, so calming the Sea of Galilee was “child’s-play” to Him. He had also knelt in the dust, taken a handfull of it, and lovingly fashioned the first man, before breathing His own breathe of life into the man. That is as “personal” as it gets.

Peace, be still!
We desperately want and need peace, but there is only one person who can breathe peace into us, Jesus Christ. He can place us in a place of peace in the midst of a violent storm. He can cause peace to surround us and ours such that, even though everything around us is destroyed, we suffer no harm or loss. God doesn’t “wave-off” our storms, any more than I could have “waved-off” those four hurricanes or the people of New Orleans could have “waved-off” Hurricane Katrina, but He can give us peace and the strength to go THROUGH our storms.

The storms of life ARE going to assail us, and there is no escaping them, but we can know peace in the midst of our storms. Do you have His peace?

Peace, be still!
Steve

David and Goliath

Are you faced with a “Goliath“? Are you facing what seem to be insurmountable obstacles in your life? Have you ever lost your job suddenly and without any warning? Have you ever been unemployed AND unemployable? Are you faced with financial distress so great that you don’t know how you are going to pay your bills, let alone live? Are you in a relationship that seems so irreparably-broken that you think that there is no hope of saving it? Are you plagued by a growing list of chronic health-problems? Have you lost a loved-one to death, and wondered how you could ever carry-on without him or her? Has the seemingly “organizedchaos” of your life descended into utter-pandemonium? Several thousand years ago, David, a young shepherd-boy, faced Goliath, a man who was nearly twice as tall as him, but he conquered that that giant with the help of the Lord. So, sit back, relax, and buckle up, as we look at how David slew the giant, and how we may “slay” our “giants” with God’s help. We may never completely “slay” our “giants” in this life, but God has promised to show Himself strong where we are weak.

David and Goliath

17 Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. 2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. 3 And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. 4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. 8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years. 13 The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. 16 For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.

17 And Jesse said to David his son, “Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers. 18 Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.”

19 Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 And David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the encampment as the host was going out to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21 And Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22 And David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage and ran to the ranks and went and greeted his brothers. 23 As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.

24 All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid. 25 And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.” 26 And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 27 And the people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.”

28 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” 29 And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” 30 And he turned away from him toward another, and spoke in the same way, and the people answered him again as before.

31 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. 32 And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”

38 Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, 39 and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.

41 And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

48 When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.

50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52 And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp. 54 And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.

How big was Goliath? Six cubits and a span translates into 9 feet, 8 inches tall. His armor weighed 5,000 shekels of bronze, or 125 pounds. and the head of his spear weighed 600 shekels of iron, or about 15 pounds. He was enormous! He was a trained warrior, he was invincible, and yet he was felled with a stone hurled from a sling. Maybe everyone else thought he was too big to fall, but to David, with the help of God, he was too big to miss.

Goliath thought that David was easy-pickings, a push-over, but he was dead before he hit the ground. Using his own sword to lop his head off was merely the coup-de-gras. Even though David removed and saved Goliath’s armor, his real reward was seeing the hand of God at work and saving the Israelites from the Philistines.

David may have been a “lowly shepherdboy“, but God had prepared him well for this battle. As a shepherd, he was responsible for his sheep, including protecting them from predators. Lions and bears are serious predators, and to go against one of them with a stone and sling would be unthinkable today, but they were all in a day’s work for David. Never underestimate the effectiveness of “primitive” weapons, when wielded by a skilled hunter. Of course the true game-changer was God Almighty. David faced Goliath as one would face a Sherman Tank armed only with a sling-shot, except that with the help of the Lord God, that small stone became a precision-guided anti-tank missile. Goliath never even saw it coming, let alone duck.

My “Goliaths”…

Why do I keep writing? Why do I keep baring my heart and soul for you, my beloved readers? Is it because I am an “overcomer” and have something to brag about? This blog is “STRUGGLES“, not “Triumphs“, because I am still a struggler. I hope that, by writing about my struggles, someone is given hope in their own struggles. I received an email recently from a very dear friend of mine, and he told me that when he read my testimony, he was challenged to revisit and think more deeply about his own faith. Thank you my dear Brother! That is why I keep writing…

The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 3:12-14, said: “12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul, even though he was an Apostle, was still a struggler.

Jobs…

I have lost four jobs since 1994, and all were under suspicious circumstances. Two of those jobs lasted ninety days or less, and three of the four were “management” positions. I won’t bore you with the details of each, just a thumbnail sketch, and to the best of my knowledge, none of them involved some kind of impropriety on my part.

1994 – Quality Assurance and Maintenance Manager – Fiberglass cooling tower manufacturer. “Christianowned” – less than ninety days.

1997 – Safety Manager and Maintenance Foreman – Aluminum trailer manufacturer. Three years. My wife committed suicide shortly thereafter.

2000 – Maintenance Assistant – Nursing home – ninety days.

2008 – Service Manager and Lead Mechanic – Bicycle shop. “Christianowned” – about four and a half years.

By the time I lost my last job, I was over fifty and pretty much unemployable. Companies weren’t hiring “olderworkers“.

Finances…

I am very familiar with “too much month at the end of the money“, and I have faced that problem many times. I wish I could say that I always have money left over at the end of the month, but I am exstatic if I break even. Some people would say that if I didn’t write that check for my giving to the work of the Lord, I would have more money, but in my experience, if I DON’T write that check for the work of the Lord, it is garaunteed that I WON’T have enough money for the month. Non-Christians don’t understand God’s economy and never will. Finances are one of my “Goliaths“.

Relationships…

I wish that relationships were easy to maintain, but they aren’t. It takes two to make a relationship last, and even if one spouse is doing everything they can to keep a marriage together, the other spouse can still ruin it. I am a veteran of several failed relationships and three failed marriages. My latest “marriage” lasted less than six weeks. She decided that she wasn’t “happy” in our relationship, so she moved out, and went and moved in with another man. In spite of everything I did to try to reconcile and restore our marriage, we are still seperated, although we are still legally-married. I prayed, my church prayed, my international community of friends prayed, but to no avail. I finally had to leave it in God’s in-box for Him to take care of, and He still hasn’t…yet. Patience…

Health,,,

I could list all of my health problems, and yes, the list seems to be growing, but that is one “Goliath” that I don’t have to face alone. A few years ago, when I had no health-insurance, and barely had two nickels to rub together, I got fast-tracked into the VA health-care system. Over the last almost seven years, I have had an incredible group of health-care providers, both doctors and nurse-practitioners. My two ARNP urologists deserve special thanks, because the first one cared enough about me to stick with it until she was able to figure out what is wrong with me, and the one I have now has continued to carry the baton for me. My hematologist is tops, and even though we have a disagreement once in a while, I wouldn’t trade him for any other. God has definitely been at work making sure I get the best health-care that is available.

Death…

On October 22, 1997, I got the kind of news that I pray no-one else ever has to face. My wife of 19-1/2 years had committed suicide. I was devastated. My world was already crashing down around me, and that was a catastrophe of horrible proportions, but I didn’t have to face it alone. I even lost my own children. Through it all, God sent several people, including my parents and a very dear pastor, to come along-side me so I didn’t have to face it alone. Life before that had been “organizedchaos” to a certain extent, but it quickly descended into utter-pandemonium. I had lost just about everything that I held dear, including my wife and children.

These are just some of the “Goliaths” I had to face through the years, but one thing is certain, and that is that God has always been faithful to me, even though I haven’t always been faithful to Him.

Additional thoughts…

I believe that God sometimes allows us to face our own “Goliaths“, not to test our metal, but to test and deepen our trust in Him. Some of us, myself included, never seem to “get it“, insisting that we can go it alone, hoping that we are smart-enough, tough-enough, strong-enough, skilled-enough, or whatever-enough to deal with the situation. I have been a master of “doing it myself“, and a chronic “slowlearner“. Just a few days after my first wife committed suicide, a friend of mine asked me how I was doing. I told him “I am doing okay. I am tough and resilient.” Was I crazy? Maybe… Was I in shock? Probably… Grief will do that to you, and it is called DENIAL!!! That was only the beginning of many tough, rocky roads that I would travel over the next several years. It would take me fifteen more years before I started allowing myself to grieve her death, and that grieving process isn’t over yet. Some of that pain is still there, but I am no longer afraid of it. Connie is gone, but definitely NOT forgotten.

I failed that test, and have failed many since then. It has take me a long time to start realizing that I don’t have to face my “Goliaths” alone. It is a lesson I still have to learn, day by day, sometimes hour by hour, because I still don’t always completely trust God to do what I can’t. Maybe that is because I don’t always see Him topple that giant how and when I want Him to. Another lesson I still need to keep learning is that He is God, and I am NOT.

What is my only hope in life and in death? That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

What “Goliaths” are you facing that still aren’t toppled? What “Goliaths” have you faced with God’s help and are now buried in the “Goliath Cemetery“? If you feel so inclined, please join in on this conversation. I would love to hear your story.

In Christ,

Steve