Friendliness….A heaven or hell issue?!

My heart is light today. It has been a tremendous weekend of services at IFUPC. We had our spring revival that was preached by Reverend Shane Burns. The church had a tremendous outpouring of God’s spirit in each service. From the prayer rooms to the front doors, God moved in a mighty way. There is no way that I can explain how awesome church has been.

It seems that when everything is going well, some things are bound to go wrong. This is a question that I have had on my mind all day. “Is shaking hands with people at church a heaven or hell issue?” To be fair, I don’t think it is. That is my position on this question. To elaborate or perhaps belabor the point here is my reasoning.

When we go to church, our minds (thoughts) and hearts should be on the Lord. We should not be focused on what Susie is wearing, David’s rowdy kids, or Joe’s new car. It goes without saying that we should not be keeping count of who did not shake our hands and greet us. Is it important to be friendly and greet each other? Sure. Am I going to bust hell wide open if I don’t shake your hand? No. The Word of God addresses friendliness. “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly.”

Friendliness in the House of God is important. However, there are more important things to do at church, such as making sure that we touch the Throne of Grace, worshipping our Lord and Savior, and perhaps asking for forgiveness for our road rage. I am sure that if a congregation was interviewed, 100% would say that they do not intend to slight anyone by being unfriendly. Therefore, it stands to reason that if you want people to be friendly to you, perhaps you should be friendly to others.

It is my hope that you guys have had a wonderful day. I am still in the process of learning upholstery. It is going well-ish. Take care and I will chat with you all soon.

Freeman out.

The complete thought….

Yesterday, I was on my way to the flea market, when this thought occurred to me. My thought was this: Some people would rather cling to the “what ifs” of the past than accept the blessings of God. You can’t accept God’s goodness while bitterly holding on to failures of the past!

We pray and ask God to bless us, or that He will work on our behalf, but we don’t want to accept the solution that He has provided. It reminds me of a joke that I heard once. A man is trapped on a roof during a flood. The water continues to rise and he climbs higher. A man in a canoe comes by and offers help. He refuses to accept the help. An officer in a boat comes by and again the man refuses. God will provide! A helicopter comes and again he refuses salvation. He drowns. He stands before God and demands to know why God did not provide help. The Lord looks at him and replies,” I sent you a canoe, a boat and a helicopter.” Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

Clinging to the past keeps us from accepting the help that the Lord provides us. There is no secret ingredient to living life. We must shut the door on the past and CHOOSE to move on. Yes, I am aware that this can be difficult but it’s on us to make the effort. Failed marriages, relationships, and careers are hard to overcome but we must realize that God doesn’t want us to lie in the dirt and continue to be beaten by our mistakes.

Rather, God gives us a fresh start. A chance to experience love again. Jeremiah 29:11 reads. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I heard a minister preach that the children of Israel were to be in bondage for 400 years in Egypt. They spent 430 years in bondage, did God make a mistake? No, He did not.  Moses killed an Egyptian and had to flee Egypt. It is entirely probable that because Moses got out of the will of the Lord, that he hindered God’s will and Israel suffered because of it.

Bitterly holding on to the mistakes of the past, keeps us from wholly accepting God’s will in our lives. I have many good memories from my past. Many are from my days in the military. However, most of my memories from that time glamorizes my addiction to alcohol and pills. If I was to be honest, my battle with addiction is not a good memory. Addiction led me down a dark path, it made me dependent on a substance that did not bring me peace. When I sobered up, I still had the same issues that I began my day with. It never gave me a solution to my problems. My drunkenness gave me a hangover, my addiction to pills made it hard for me to generate a plan to overcome my troubles. The only peace that I have ever found has been in Jesus.

I do not want to hinder the plan that God has for my life. Nor do I want to miss the blessings that God wants to give me because I am holding on to things from my past. In the Bible, you can find many Scriptures that will show you that God has good things that He wants to give His children. However, we must be in position to receive them. Part of being in position requires us to let go of the past. Don’t allow the past to dictate terms for your future.

I have completed this thought. It is my fondest wish that you folks have a great Sunday. Take care and I will catch up with you all later.

Freeman out.

Early morning musings….

Good morning! It is 0530, and I am awake. The coffee is making in the background, and I am eagerly awaiting my early morning conversation with the Almighty. Yes, I am aware I can speak to Him at any time. I suppose never needing to rest or sleep is a perk of being God. However, this morning, I am praying for a specific reason. Somehow, that is different from the general mumbo-jumbo that we pray. Prayers generally follow a certain routine: “God please help me with this test…” or “Dear Lord, how am I going to pay these bills and buy groceries…” then there is the prayer for the sick “God Uncle Jay has (name your illness here) please heal his body! These are only examples, but you get the point.

Speaking of healing, I know many folks who have spent long hours in prayer, but they never received the healing that they pray for. Does God not care enough to heal them? Is He powerless to complete the healing? No, of course not. The Bible provides insight into this and other questions like it, I am going to paraphrase it, but the Scripture says, “My ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts.” In all things, God sees the past, present and future. Yesterday, I had lunch with my pastor. We spoke at length about several things, but during our conversation he mentioned that the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. God knows your shortcomings before they ever happen. When I walked away from my calling, He knew how far I would go, and my steps brought me full circle back to where I started.

Be encouraged in the Lord. If situations or circumstances seem to be overwhelming, lean on Him. As in the case of Job, God may allow things to spin out of control for a bit, but amid the craziness, He is there. He is our strong tower, refuge and strength. According to the Scriptures, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings of eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” So, if life has spun out of control, give the situation to Him and let Him guide you to safe harbor.

God bless you all, I hope that you guys have a wonderful day.

Freeman out!

My exit from darkness.….A Walk in Darkness….

“What a beautiful morning!”

 The early morning sun broke over the mountain range and its radiant light shown upon Cheyenne Mountain. This ten-mile run does not diminish the beauty of the morning. Cold air is better breathed through the nose, so I focused on my breathing to help me power through this part of my physical exertion.

“Lord, you are an artist! Look at the colors of the morning sky! It is Denver Bronco orange out here!”

Somewhere on this run, I realize that my journey through darkness has come to an end. I can smell the food cooking in the dining facility, the perspiration taste like salt as it falls upon my chapped lips, the colors of the morning is vibrant against a pale blue sky.

“Yes, finally my chains are gone! God you are my chain breaker!”

Tears pooled in my eyes, I lower my head so that no one can notice my sudden burst of emotion. My heart pounds furiously in my chest. I am elated, and I am also fearful. The change in my perspective has occurred so suddenly, that I am baffled as to when it actually happened.

“It doesn’t matter when, where or why. All I know is that my depression is no longer in control of my life. I feel light!”

Completing our run, I walk toward my vehicle, and I notice that I am no longer angry about everything. There are new emotions in place of anger. Fear for instance, is suddenly popping its head up concerning my exit from the military.

“What am I going to do? Will I be able to find work? How will I make ends meet on my disability?”

However burdensome these questions are, I am looking forward to retiring from military service. Perhaps, it will all come together. After all, the Scripture proclaims, “All things work together for good  to them that love the Lord and is called according to His purpose.” I do not go to church, but I do love Jesus. It is difficult to tell with the profanity and off-color conversations that I choose to engage in, however, none of that diminishes my love for God. Right?

In many ways, I feel that if my career is over, so is my life. I have sunk all of my energy into cultivating my career and everything else has been placed on the back burner. There was a word that is thrown around to describe people like me, workaholic. It is painful for me to take leave, but now that I am retiring, I am looking forward to some serious downtime. Maybe I will go fishing. However, at this juncture I am busy celebrating my exit from darkness.

The smell of fresh cut grass on the football fields tickle my nose, the vibrant colors of the leaves enchant my senses, and the clean mountain air taste good after suffering from depression and the constant beatings that life has handed out to me over the last few years. It feels great to be alive.

Driving home from work, I realize that I had not given thanks to God for walking with me through this difficult period of my life. Tears stain my cheeks as I drive down I-25.

“Thank you, Jesus, for not abandoning me when I needed you the most. Thank you for not only being my Savior, but my friend as well. I love you.”

In this moment of prayer, I feel the presence of Almighty God. As if He had come to say that He would never leave me nor forsake me. My journey has been completed and I doubt that I would have survived without His grace and mercy carrying me through.

The cry of my soul…..A Walk in Darkness…

In the darkness, my soul cries out. The anguish that I feel does not diminish. I am lost, my life has sunk to the bottom of the abyss, I slowly drown in the sea of depression.

“God, where are you? Forgive me, I have made a mess of my finances. I have destroyed every good thing in my life. I am unworthy to come before you and ask for your help. Please give me direction, if you are willing please bring me out of this darkness.”

I receive no answer. My prayers hit the ceiling and go no further. Why can’t I touch Him? Have I not lost enough?

Inwardly, my soul fears that I have drifted too far from the mercy of God. According to the Scriptures that are written, God will allow people to believe a lie and be damned (if you continue to reject His presence). This thought sears my consciousness, and I am suddenly fearful that my eternal soul is lost forever.

“Why can’t I touch you? Have I drifted too far from your mercy?”

Tearfully, I seek God’s presence. Sorrowfully, I beg for forgiveness and my only answer is silence. Where do I go from here?

“I am unworthy of a second chance. Please allow me to feel your presence again. I know that I turned my back on you and the calling you placed on my life. Forgive me please.”

In the darkness, sound carries. Everything that you see in light appears differently in the dark. Objects are magnified and grow in intensity. The same applies to my journey through this dark period of my life. Unable to feel the presence of my Savior, I continue to push forward. Unwilling to change my direction, my life remains aimless.

I throw myself into pretending to be happy. Violent video games, movies, and other avenues of self-pleasure, I withheld nothing from myself. While playing Elder Scrolls Online, I paused my game to do something else. Walking back to my recliner, I reach for my controller.

“You will never find love in Colorado. There is nothing for you here.”

It was the first time in my expedition through darkness, that I felt the presence of God. Tears rush to my eyes, and I furiously wipe them away. I sit in my recliner. Suddenly, reaching level fifty did not seem to matter anymore.

I wish that I could say that I immediately sought the Lord and turned my life over to Him. That is how the story should have ended, but it doesn’t. Instead, I continued to try to live my life without the guidance of the Lord.

That is another story for another day. Redemption and restoration will have to wait a while longer.

A glimpse of hope….A Walk in Darkness….

“Son, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.”

My grandfather’s voice cut through the narcotic-laden mist in my mind. My walk through the darkness has scarred me. As I stumble through the inky, black halls of my life, I trip and fall. My heart and soul openly bleed, then it scabs over and awaits for the next series of bruises and cuts to be placed upon them.

“God, where are you?”

The narcotic cloud weighs heavily upon my eyes. Dazed, I continue to search for the one thing that has long eluded me, hope. Perhaps, I can find it in a new bottle of whiskey. After emptying the contents of the bottle, all I find is a hangover and thirst. Maybe hope is hiding in solitude. Shutting myself off from the influence of friends and family, I search for some semblance of hope and restoration. Nope. Hope is not to be found in solitude.

“God, why did you leave me? Why can’t I find my way out of this?”

As a soldier, we are taught to utilize our night vision. The instructors place us in a dark room and tell us to shut our eyes for thirty seconds. Then we open our eyes. Viola! Our eyes have become accustomed to the darkness. Searching desperately for hope, I force myself to stand still.

“Close your eyes….”

Forcing myself to take a deep breath, I close my eyes. I listen for any sound that may signal an exit, there is none. Silence engulfs me.

“One thousand one….One thousand two….”

Slowly, I count to thirty. Upon my completion of thirty seconds, I open my eyes. To my surprise it seems that a layer of darkness has been removed, I can make out the walls that I keep walking into. I reach out and I feel the texture of said walls. Carefully, I make my way down the hallway, still searching fruitlessly for hope.

“Hello? God? Why won’t you answer me?”

Even with my eyes accustomed to the inky darkness, I still stumble. As my medication starts to wear off, my head begins to pound. I try to ignore it, but when I do the pain becomes that much more unbearable. Bony fingers of pain seem to be trying to pull my skull open. Finally, I relent, and I swallow more narcotics. Once again, the heavy cloud of narcotics dims my vision.

I am lost in the darkness, once again I do not find what I am looking for. Forcing myself to stand still once again, I close my eyes and wait. Tears silently roll down my cheeks as I realize that hope is nowhere to be found.

“When you have done all you can to stand, stand.”

My pastor’s voice cuts through the fog of narcotics that has flooded my brain. Raw emotion causes me to choke up and I sob loudly. New tears follow the path of the ones that now stain my face. I feel nothing, but this memory stirs my remembrance of my childhood. In the darkness, this brief glimpse of hope radiates within me.

Questions and no answers….A Walk in Darkness….

“Why can’t I move past this?”

 This question and many others caused me no end of stress as I progressed through my walk in darkness. The more I attempt to wrap my head around the abysmal state of my life, the more I realize just how powerless I am.

“You will never overcome the mess that you have made. There is no hope, you might as well quit now!”

The first step in righting your ship is to stop the negative self-talk. At some point you must realize that when the chips are down, you must believe in yourself (also, it helps to believe in God). The more I belittle myself, the worse my predicament becomes.

Everything that I touch implodes. Take my marriage for example, the more I try to correct the mistakes I make, the worse the situation becomes.

“Stop being an idiot! Don’t take everything so personally! Be pleasant!”

Nothing works in my favor. If I attempt to be pleasant, I take her snide remarks personally. If I don’t take things personally and I was pleasant to boot, I act like an idiot. There is never any peace in my marriage.

Sometimes you are the windshield, and other days you are the bug. It is a fact of life that no good deed goes unpunished. Another truth is that when it rains, it pours. In my walk in darkness, these two truths are a constant.

“I don’t need anyone or anything. I got this!”

 The truth is that I think I can handle whatever life throws at me. Boy, am I ever wrong! The strongest people need someone to lean on. This lesson I learn the hard way. When life finally gets done beating the brakes off me, and I lie broken and battered on the floor, I realize how powerless I am.

“God are you there? Do you hear me?”

My questions often had no answers. it seems that the more questions I ask, the only answer I ever receive is silence. I hear that silence is golden. This is not true, especially when you are suicidal. I feel tormented by the endless silence that is my only companion. My prayers feel like they bounce off the wall. They seemingly go nowhere.

Speaking of prayers, I hear that the effective maximum range of thoughts and prayers is zero meters. However, in my experience they are highly effective. Mine must not be, however, I know some people who can touch the throne of grace on my behalf. Dialing my mother’s number, I ask her to pray for me.

“Mom, I don’t know what to do. Everything is breaking apart. How do I make my wife love me again? Why won’t anything go right?” My mother listens as her oldest son unburdens his heart.

“Son, I don’t know. I know that God hears every prayer that is uttered. Lean on Him and let Him be your refuge from the storm.”

I try. Somehow though, I can never break through. Perhaps, it is my failure to follow through. Or perhaps, it is the fact that I prayed once, and when it didn’t happen the way that I think it should, I quit praying. Either way, I am still sinking in quicksand, with no way out.

Everywhere I look, people are thriving. My squad is doing great things in preparing to head to Afghanistan. I am lost back here on Rear Detachment (we can’t deploy so we clean among other things). I feel useless. In all my years as a soldier, I have never felt like I serve no purpose. My Medical board is proceeding, but I don’t want out of the Army. It’s out of my hands now.

“SGT Freeman, you are unfit for duty. You are hereby processed for separation from the United States Army.”

Standing at attention, I briskly salute my commander. I turn and exit her office in a daze. This situation presents a new question.

“Now what?”

Storms and my refuge….A Walk in Darkness….

“Geez, the wind is ripping this morning!” As I sit here in my quiet house, the wind is whipping across my front porch. It has been causing the tin on my roof to rattle. Of course, as I start typing this the wind dies down a bit. However, it has got me thinking about the storms in our lives and how they can show up at any moment.

The storms of life often show up with no warning. It is perfectly peaceful and then, wham! Our vehicles break down, tires go flat, or we run out of gas in the middle of nowhere. Then our children get sick at inopportune times (usually when we are too broke to take them to the hospital). I could keep adding to the list, but you get the point by now. The wind howls and batters us. Much like a dinghy on the open sea, we are thrashed upon the waves.

However, there is good news. God is the creator of the wind and the waves. According to the Bible, Jesus walked upon the troubled waters of Galilee. In the middle of the storm, He was amid it with His disciples. It is vital that we realize that God did not abandon them in the middle of the storm. The wind was howling, and the waves were crashing into the side of their vessel threatening to capsize the ship, but God came to their rescue.

Faith even allowed Simon Peter to walk on the waters to Jesus. If his eyes were on Jesus, his feet carried him to his Savior. However, when he focused on the storm, he began to sink into the waves. Thus, a great lesson is taught to us in this recording. If life has thrashed you, and you feel that you are hopelessly lost, turn your attention to God. Cast your eyes toward the hills from whence cometh your help. In the Scriptures it is written, “He is an ever-present help in times of trouble.” Granted, God is not our “get out of jail free” card. Nor does having faith in God mean that we will not encounter storms.

However, faith in God does mean that we do not have to face the storm alone. Sometimes storms are a means to position us where He wants us to be. Other times, storms are meant to try us and prove our faith. There is always a reason for our storms, we may not realize it but that does not diminish the truth that storms serve a purpose.

In my own life, I have encountered storms. If you have been keeping up with A Walk in Darkness, I talk about the storms that have shaped my own life. Hindsight has allowed me to see the reason for many of these storms. Each one positioned me in another situation that brought me home. These storms helped me find my way back to God. He did not move, He was exactly where I left Him. You notice that I said, “I left Him” not that He abandoned me. This truth I do know, that for every moment of darkness that I walked through, He was with me. Often, I tried to do it alone, however, I was not strong enough to shoulder the stress and pain that I encountered. When I felt that I could not take another step, He gave me the strength to take another step.

In life, the clouds may roll in, the thunder may rumble, and the waves may threaten to overwhelm us. However, in the darkness, that is when we are the closest, we will ever be with God. For it is in the darkness that God carries us. There is an old Gospel song that says, “He is my rock, my sword and my shield.” In my life, He has been my sure foundation and my friend, my strong tower and my refuge.

Questions about faith and the righteousness of God….A Walk In Darkness….

“Hey Corporal Freeman, do you believe in God, angels, demons and all that religious crap?” Standing outside of our Humvees, waiting for our convoy leader to brief us, I nodded my head. “Yeah troop, I believe in God.” Smirking, the soldier walks over to where I am. “Then why didn’t God protect that girl we saved from being raped? Why didn’t he protect her from her father?” Shrugging in my body armor, I tried to get comfortable with the 90 pounds of gear that I was carrying. “Man, I don’t know. We are strangers here in this place. This isn’t our customs. Perhaps, God needed company….who knows the mind of the Almighty?”

This question continues to haunt me. Why do bad things happen to good people? Some would say that it is a vicious cycle called life. That when something good happens, ten things must go wrong. Others would say that God is nonexistent. That my faith in God is a shallow expression of my own inadequacies. Standing in the extreme heat of that day, an entire group of soldiers waited for my response to the questions posed to me, I failed to answer his questions. However, I have a response now. If I had to do it again, this is what I would say: “Having faith in God does not mean that we will not suffer trials and tribulations. Faith does not mean that everything will go right in our lives. If I die today and there is no God waiting to judge me, then I have lost nothing by believing in God. My life has been enriched by believing that someone was looking out for me. If you die today and God is waiting to judge you, then you have lost everything. When Jesus was beaten for our transgressions, and then carried his cross to His crucifixion, he suffered for us. Is it not right that we suffer misfortunes to prove our faith in Him?”

To this day, I can’t recall that soldier’s name. I can recall the heat, the smell of the yellow sand, and the knee-deep sewage however, his name eludes me. The horrors of war will never fade in my mind. The questions that he posed to me has troubled me for years. I hope that he found the answer that he was looking for. War makes an individual question their humanity, and at its absolute worst, it makes one question the righteousness of God. What happened to the girl mentioned above? Her father didn’t rape her. He killed her for embarrassing her family. She was beheaded to restore honor to her family’s name.

Yes, there has been horrible atrocities committed in the name of God. To name a couple there were the Crusades and the Inquisitions. Both events happened a long time ago, and somehow the attitude that is associated with these religious undertakings are prevalent in our society today. However, just because bad things happen, this does not diminish the goodness of God. Nor does it mean that God is powerless to intervene and keep events like this from happening. A knight in shining armor has never had his mettle tested. The same holds true for Christians. You can’t appreciate the mountaintop if you have never experienced the valley. In the book of Hebrews, the Scripture reads, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” Another Scripture states that we walk by faith and not by sight. We may not understand why horrible atrocities occur, but one day God will reveal all to us. Until then, I will keep faith in a better tomorrow.