"I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands." - Psalm 143:5

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

For Freedom's Sake


menstout My childhood of abuse is a well documented story (you can view a small video here) but today's thought is more of a proclamation than a post. I will be co-speaking October 27 with Tom Zahradnik, a close friend of mine (follow him here and here) at a men's event. Tom and I share a heart to see men set free to become all they are meant to be. We'll be sharing our testimony and challenging men to confront the issues in their live that are hindering following hard after the Father. Will you pray for us and the men that will be there that night? And if you are a man reading this and would like to talk further about being set free from the past, just drop me an email at: jcdude56@gmail.com. I would love the opportunity to help and encourage you in any way I can. Bless ya!

"Never regret anything you have been through, because only with those trials will you become a better person the next day." - Crystal Hunt

It takes a strong man to forgive the pain and abuse you walked through. This toughness involves a decision…a powerful, life changing decision. This choice concentrates on what we can give rather than what we can dish out (like judgment or punishment). When we forgive we go on a salvage operation...it is a rescue mission for our souls. It means we confront our past and let nothing dominate us except God’s will for our life. It means we make a stand and believe what Gods says is true.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

Confronting our past is not an easy gig. It takes guts…it takes courage…it takes a man willing to make some hard choices. Maybe you don’t believe you have what it takes to make those choices. Maybe you have never heard those words…but I’m here to tell you that you DO have what it takes…you ARE the man. Father God is calling you to freedom, to a way of living that is so radically different from the one you merely exist in today. Yes this life involves surrender, it does require sacrifice but if you will be honest with yourself today you will see you have already surrendered to something. You have surrendered to something less than God’s best for your life. You have sacrificed dreams, plans and desires because you have refused to believe you could be free.

Let’s be brave men…let’s make tough choices…lets decide to be free. Past abuse does not have to define us. What our fathers failed to do or say doesn’t have to be the final word of our manhood. God is calling us to become sons…His sons. God’s words, His view of who we are defines us…this is the heart of God…to be our Father.

I refuse to describe myself as a victim of abuse…why? Because I am a set free son of God! My painful past does not or will not dominate who I am. Its way beyond “forgiving and forgetting”…way beyond “time heals all wounds”…its freedom! Because I forgave my father I can view my past without the pain or shame attached to those memories. I walked through a dark, horrible time; the enemy wanted it to be a killing field for my life. The enemy wanted me to give myself to this identity and for a while I did, I allowed to corrupt my view. When I forgave my dad, when I choose freedom, when I took a stand…I began to win back my identity. That was a hard choice but a necessary one for freedom to take root and grow.

I desperately needed (still do) a Savior, someone to rescue me…and my future. When I think of the near death experiences and the attempts to derail my life, I shudder inside. Forgiveness has enabled me to live the life God has intended for me, it’s so much more than being “saved” it’s a calling to become someone. I can become the husband, the father, the brother, the son and the man I was designed to be…because I’m forgiven.

The Father rescued me with the gift of forgiveness…He can rescue you too.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Honor Guards and Toothpicks



“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing”. - George Bernard Shaw

I smiled the moment I saw them. Scattered around the funeral home were little white ceramic containers filled with toothpicks…yes, toothpicks. Of all the funerals I’ve attended, I’ve never seen toothpicks in any of them and probably with good reason. Except this funeral called for them…almost begged for them.

tooth_picks When you met my father-in-law Jim, you were sure to meet him with a toothpick in his mouth, working on it like it was alive and he had to tame it. So it was fitting that my sister-in-law placed several of these little honor guards in key places, ready to offer a small tribute to Dad to whoever so chose.

My sons did, along with their cousins, who considered Jim a father figure having lost their own dad many years ago. (BTW Guess who was the first person on the scene the tragic night their dad died? Yep, you guessed it, Jim was.) So here was this group of young men, proudly marching around the funeral home with toothpicks securely in their mouths knowing Jim would laughingly approve of the salute. It was quite a sight…Yes…I had one wrestling in my mouth also.

Friday night at the wake, an honor guard of fireman (around 20) came to honor Jim, a fellow volunteer fireman who served as chief and even Chaplin for the Valhalla Fire Company #1. Their dress uniforms matched the one Dad wore in the coffin as did the honor they shared as public servants. Crisp salutes and a prayer by the current Chaplin would set the stage for the next day; this honor guard would give way to another.

folded_flag Jim’s final resting spot would be in the Orange County Veterans Cemetery in Goshen, NY, in an area called Hero’s Way. Dad served in the Navy during Korean Conflict on the USS Lake Champlain and this day the Navy would honor him. The Naval Honor Guard, 4 young sailors, would march, salute, play taps and fold an American flag in a simple moving ceremony which reduced most to tears. Another salute…more honors to share…the paying for respects now over.

Or is it?

I started to write this post not quite sure where I was heading with it. I was reading my father-in-law’s obituary today and had a thought. An obituary is a small post note of a larger story, memories contain the larger tale. I see the effect of Jim’s story on my children, each one taking a step of maturity during this season of sorrow. The memories of their grandfather will help shape many decisions going forward and guarding honor will be part of their journey.

After the funeral I went back to the funeral home with two of my sons to pick up the family belongings. In the middle of the large room was a chair with Dad’s Fire Chief Hat; in it was all the medals he was awarded during his time of service. (The funeral director removed them from Dad’s uniform prior to burial). Here were the remaining symbols of Jim’s honor I thought, gathered in a small velvet bag in his hat. It seemed trivial and small for it to be sitting on a fold up chair in an empty room, when it called out for a pedestal and spot lights. Then I remembered the man behind the honor…the man who didn’t like fanfare, who served because it was the right thing to do.

I picked up the hat, grabbed a toothpick and left…with a huge smile on my face.


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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Graceland (No, it’s not in Memphis)




“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” Philippians 1:21

There is a place, a land of no shadows, where one sees every corner of redemption’s power. When you walk here, you walk in freedom. Every hindrance is removed, bondage wiped out and captivity destroyed. Like I said…freedom…unlike any felt before. Pain has no hold here, not just free of pain but no memory of pain, no remembrance of its grip. Unspeakable joy fills hearts; all surpassing peace swallows up grief, fear and doubt.

This is ultimate healing…this is Graceland.

This is where Jim Breden is walking tonight. As I’m writing he’s experiencing the greatest freedom he’s ever known. He is face-to-face with His Messiah and nose-to-nose with eternity’s promise. My father-in-law passed away October 1, 2012 around 11:30 pm, he was surrounded by family and he left this world peacefully.

A proud Navy veteran, volunteer fireman, Sunday school teacher, husband, father and grandfather…Jim filled his life with…life. He engaged in acts of service as if life depended on it and he was right. Everyday life is dependant on those individuals willing to give of themselves, my wife’s Dad was one of those people. He was also a character, in my mind he was a mixture of James Dean, John Wayne and Popeye…always pulling out a reserve of strength with style and swagger to get a job done. He was every bit of a one of a kind.

I’m so sad that my wife lost her father; I’m sad that he died from a horrible disease and couldn’t finish his race with his body strong and vibrant. Yet the person I saw lying in the Hospice ward of the VA hospital was not the man I will choose to remember. His legacy is much stronger than that.

I remember the night when I went to ask his blessing to marry his daughter Christine and how nervous I was. Every time I worked up the courage to ask, he seemed to know and would leave the room, making me sweat while waiting for him to return. Finally, with much laughter, he came back into the room and gave me his blessing.

Now, it’s his turn…

I’m the one laughing…with joy. For just a few hours ago…Pop walked into his Father’s presence and got His blessing for a job well done. That’s one of the perks of living in Graceland.


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