Last Year at this time

No Comments

 

This is a poem I wrote last year at this time. Praise God He has brought me through it and has blessed me with so many things this year.

“A New Year’s Introspection”

I cannot stand outside my own house and look in my window.

When gazing inward there is no mirror to reflect what is real.

Phantoms of pains past haunt me.

Resolutions fall lifeless to the floor.

When I take the next step into darkness, what will I bring with me?

Scars. Memories. Consequences. Fears.

Moments I cling to like handfuls of smoke.

And grieves too heavy to bear.

Lord, speak to my heart and remind me of goodness.

Map out where you kept pace with me on the path.

Show me what could have been worse.

And where I strayed from you.

Help me walk away from the echo of my own regrets.

Weave meaning into memories on my guilt eaten soul.

Motivate my heart toward good today.

And give me the strength to venture on.

 

 

Overcoming Fear

2 Comments

I love to write deeply. By doing so I learn about myself.

Yesterday, I was writing when I chanced upon things that I had written down from my inner searching to discover motives and characterization for my novel. I ran across a question I had asked of myself, but I have yet to answer. I wrote, “by that time dad was gone… there was no more putting cans up at that point… so I wonder at what point did I stop being afraid in my life?”

Someone told me they didn’t understand my post. Some background story was necessary. Basically, my father was an alcoholic. We feared his coming home so much that we would stack food cans in front of the door to alarm us. He is gone now. I should no longer be afraid. At times, I still am.

I have worked with teens who have been through the horrible trauma of abuse and even though the threat was gone, they still feared Dad would come home at any moment, or that he was around the next corner waiting to harm them. At what point does someone like that give up those fears, and by giving them up, do they become more vulnerable? I asked myself if there will be a time when my book’s character no longer fears. How do I show that? How do I show it in my own life?

There are actual fears such as the fear of my dad when I was younger. The terror I would have when he would come into the room and the threat of danger immobilized me. But not only that, I also had of the fear of pleasing others. It is basically a fear of rejection, the fear of what life, or others, may do to me.

Fear distorts our thinking. We fear what we cannot overcome or what we cannot control. We fear that what is in front of us is far beyond our abilities to conquer. We feel powerless. We feel impotent. The enemies seem all powerful. We fear death. We even fear our own happiness and success. We are uncertain that our own resources—our own strengths—are not good enough to overcome the problem.  We want to escape. Fear produces flight. Anger attacks, but fear escapes.

Fear is not wrong. The question we must ask is which way does fear move us? Yes, fear produces flight, but what is the direction of our flight? In the book, “The Princes of Albion,” the young twin boys, Jachin and Boaz, play in a Wheatfield. They call it their “sanctuary.” That is because it’s the place they escape to hide from their father and his drunken rages. While they are in the field, a bird suddenly flies into Jachin’s tunic. (his shirt) His brother doesn’t believe him at first. They hear the cry of a hawk up above and realize that the bird is trying to escape danger.

When we try to protect ourselves, what we should do is fly to the protector. Fly to something that is greater than us. In our life, we either fear the world or we fear God. God is not impotent as we are, God is omnipotent.

It is okay to feel fear. Big fears make small ones go away. For instance, my daily fears of doing my work well to please my boss, or whether my bills are going to be paid are real fears. Will I say something that will make someone not like me? Those fears go away if someone in my family is in a car accident and I fear for their life. Big fears make small ones go away. I guarantee that when my mother was in an accident I wasn’t thinking whether my bills were going to be paid. Fearing God is a big fear.

We are terrified of love. We even fear God’s love. Love is a scary thing and a lot of times we don’t believe that God loves us enough to take care of our little problems. The Bible says that love casts out fear. It’s God’s love toward us and his willingness to be concerned about our lives that we forget and focus on our small fears instead. We forget that It is His power that can take care of our problems and give us peace over our fears. When we trust in him, we are no longer helpless. We are no longer powerless. Fear is a flight away from harm to a safe place without hurt just like the little bird in Jachin’s shirt.

When you fear, submit to God instead of demanding control or success to overcome the thing you fear. Acknowledge it it’s real. There’s something to be afraid of. Acknowledging it tells us something about ourselves. We should then struggle with why we do not trust God in this matter. Is God all of a sudden not powerful? Are we looking to ourselves and our own lack of ability?

We need to remember God’s acts and the things that He has done in the past. Such as those miracles in the Old Testament and in our lives. Remember the testimony of friends of the things that God has done for them. Let God’s love remove our fear.

What do I mean by fearing God? I don’t mean a “reverential awe.” I mean be afraid of Him. God has the ability to do whatever he pleases. He has the ability to cast us in hell. It is the great fear of separation from God for eternity that moves us. He loved us so much he sent Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins (The things that separate us from God). He desires a loving caring relationship with us as our protector and our provider. You will either fear the world or you fear God. Fear Him.

I certainly don’t negate the fact that fears linger and are triggered when least expected. Some may do things to overcome them. Take Karate, do meditation, push it aside, years of therapy. But when something big happens, that is beyond your control, such as your wife dying or someone you love being diagnosed with cancer, where do you fly to then?

So, the question was… at what point do you give up your fears? The answer is… the moment that you trust God with the circumstance. You fly into his tunic with the feeling that the thing that you are afraid of, can be overcome by Him. By giving those fears up would you become vulnerable? You already are. Recognize that. By giving up your fears to Him, you give it to the One who is all powerful and can handle any problem. Let His love conquer your fears.

Jon Hopkins

6/15/2017

The Formula: Part Two

2 Comments

ngaw2pg

I arrived to the cabin in the middle of nowhere on a Thursday evening, settled in, and started praying. When I grew tired, I read in my bible.  My empty tummy was constantly on my mind.

I don’t remember what I read. But I didn’t do like a friend of mine in Bible college who opened the Scripture and placed his finger on the page and read this: “Judas went out and hung himself.” He said, “That’s not what God wants me to do.” He opened it again, finger down on a verse that this time said, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might;” Uh… that wasn’t it either. One more time: “What you are about to do, do quickly.” He closed his Bible and said, “I think I’ll ask someone else.” Nope, I just read some in the Old Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs to start off.

I told God that I didn’t understand what was happening in my life. I needed answers. What was I doing wrong?

I slept well that night and began again early the next morning. When I was not praying or reading, or thinking about food, I would go on a walk in the woods and cry out to God.

Friday evening it came. A migraine. One of the worst. I had brought no meds. No shots. Not even an aspirin.

I knelt by my bed and held my head while I called out to God. “Take these away from me!”

Nothing.

“God, please remove this pain!”

Silence.

“Lord, will you take this migraine?”

“No.” It was almost audible. No?

“Why not?” I wailed.

A long pause then very softly, “ I want you to give them to me.”

Ah, yes, there is a difference between taking and giving. I prayed harder giving the migraines, the pain, my health to Him. I didn’t stop there. I gave Him everything I could think of. My family, each by name. Even extended family, in-laws and outlaws. I listed all I owned even the socks and shoes I had on my feet. “God I give you my ministry. And…. My life.”

Kneeling quietly, still in pain, I passed out there beside the bed.

When I woke up I was still on the floor. Cold and cramped, but my head didn’t hurt anymore. I went straight to my routine. No food- only water – and Bible and prayer as if nothing had really happened. My headache was gone, but I didn’t deserve it.

That afternoon as I walked, I told God I was tired of trying to do everything. All I did in life was by my own strength and I couldn’t do it anymore. I did not please others, the pastor, my wife, or the teens I worked with. I was a failure. I talked it through until a formula began to form in my mind. “All I’ve done was of my own power, by the pastor’s direction, to the teens.” I knew that wasn’t right. I tried again. “All I do can’t be like that. It can’t be of my pastor, through my talents, to the teens.” And again, “Of God, through my own strength, to God’s glory.” After going through the many combinations, I realized that no, it had to be this and only this: “Of Him, Through Him, and To Him.” I was satisfied. This was the only formula that was correct. And I had been doing it all wrong. On the walk back, I asked God for forgiveness and told Him I would follow this formula from now on.

A peace came over me when I reached the cabin again. I wasn’t even hungry anymore. That was what I needed. Not food. Not a cure. I needed a formula to hang my life on.

That night I slept well. No migraine. I returned home that day. I wondered if God had really let me give them to Him.

That week I met with my pastor. I told him of my weekend getting alone to talk with God. And about the miracle of the life-changing formula He gave me.

He sat back in his chair. Rubbed his chin and grabbed for his Bible. “Do you know that is in the Bible?”

“No.” I thought it was original because I had to work through and eliminate so many things to come to that conclusion. “I have never heard or read it before.” I told him.

He turned to Romans 11:36 and read, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.”

“Let me see that!” I thought he made it up and was kidding me. Yet, there it was on the page in black and white, right above the verse that says we are to give our lives as a living sacrifice. I noted it said “give” and not “Lord, take my life as a living sacrifice.” There is a difference. I was shocked. I had no idea.

A week went by and no migraines. Two weeks. A month, and I began to look at what I was doing differently. Different food? Medicine? No, nothing. Two months, three, then six months went by with no headaches.

That was around twenty years ago. I have not had a migraine since that Friday I prayed by the bedside in the cabin.

And… the formula still rings true. It changed my life. Everything is “Of Him, through Him, and to Him.” Whether it is my writing. My Job. Ministry. Or even how I treat my own children.

You know, we look for God in the little things. The inches, the minutes. The things that didn’t happen that could’ve. I found Him in a great thing. How do you measure a changed life?

And oh, yeah, some advice: don’t eat a big meal after fasting for three days. Good idea, bad idea.

 

The Formula: part one

1 Comment

13241701-chemistry-teacher-writing-science-and-chemical-formula-on-whiteboard-stock-photo

Miracles happen every day. Most times we ignore them and they go unacknowledged.

We tend to measure God in inches, seconds, and by how well we feel.

“One half inch to the left and that bullet would’ve killed me.”

“If we had left for that trip ten seconds earlier, that would be us in that wreck on the highway!”

“My knee stopped hurting. It’s a miracle!”

Now, I don’t discount these things as possible godly interventions, but it seems to me that our measurement should be much broader. Why should we limit God to inches and seconds? He is much bigger than that. I have learned to measure God by His direct actions in my heart that change my life dramatically.

One such miracle began my second year in college. What seemed to start as a healing miracle became so much more.

They began. My first experience was right after finals. I thought my head would burst. I vomited and rode the waves of pain in my dorm room thinking it was just stress.

As the years progressed they became worse and increased in frequency. In the meantime, I graduated, got married, fathered two children, and worked a fantastic job in the field of psychology.

While at work one day, I said I was ill and didn’t wait to be released. I left. My head was killing me. When I got in the car, I vomited. I stumbled back into the building. It was the first time I experienced hyperventilation from the pain. I passed out. My boss called 911, and I was taken to the hospital to spend the night in intensive care. They thought I was dying. So, did I. It would not be the last time I rode in an ambulance for this.

The doctors declared that my problem was called “vaso-constrictor rhinitis.” Basically, my blood vessels in my sinus were overly sensitive to temperature changes, and that in turn triggered migraines.

Once, I was at a professional baseball game with friends sitting in the cool of the shade. However, the sun moved—as it is prone to do—and I soon sat in the heat. They carried me out of the ballpark.

Doctors attempted many things to give me relief. They changed my diet and prescribed various medicines. I began injecting a common migraine medicine called Imitrex that normally cost ninety dollars a shot. There were some days that I was directed to take as many as three shots to quell the migraine to no avail.

After years of suffering, the condition affected my work. I requested to be put on part time work status. At the same time, I also worked as a youth pastor at a church. I struggled to keep that position without it affecting my ministry, but I was now having three to five migraines per week.

Totally frustrated, I talked with my pastor.

“What should I do?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

“Why is God doing this to me?”

“I don’t know. Maybe you should ask Him.”

I wanted answers, wasn’t he the connection to God? Past laying-on-of-hands for healing from several groups didn’t even make a dent in my malady. Even an exorcism at this point would be welcome.

Devastated, I drove home from that meeting and told my wife that I needed to get a way for a few days and talk to God. She always supported me. We called a friend.

“Can I borrow your cabin by the lake for a few days?”

“Whatever you need, come get the keys.”

I picked up my bible, grabbed a change of clothes, and kissed my wife goodbye. I set out to do something I had never done before—fast and pray.

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

The time I prayed not to wet my pants.

5 Comments

        89723287293305d488c8854a1ac4b9fc

Bible College was some of the best years of my life. So many new friends, so many new things to learn, and so many adventures.

            Like the time my roommate and I decided it would be fun to shoot marbles at squirrels out our dorm room window—using wrist rocket slingshots! The table we stood on suddenly broke sending us and our other roommates’ fish tank crashing to the floor. We escaped through the broken glass, water and wiggling fish. Thirty years later I saw that roommate and apologized. He never knew it had been us that did it. We went to the park to hunt squirrels after that.

I wanted to do well in college. I wanted to learn all I could and more importantly, be more like Jesus. But, I had to work a full-time job and go home on the weekends to teach a Junior High Sunday School class. So, it was certainly difficult. There was not a lot of free time for opportunity to do good.

One night, coming back to the dorm after work, I prayed that God would use me. As I came to a red light I saw a car sticking out in the middle of the road in front of me. A man flagged me down for help. As soon as he got into my 1974 white mustang, I knew he had been drinking. I knew that odor well.

“I’m outta gas.”

“O.K., I’ll take you to go get some.”

“Gotta gas can at home. Take me there.”

“Sure,” I said, thinking that I was going to help this man and do a good deed.

I told him that I was a Bible college student. He was very friendly and talkative.

“I like the Bible,” he slurred. “Turn here.”

I thought that he would run right in, get the can, and we’d be on our way.

“Come inside. My wife has to meet you.” He patted me hard on the shoulder.

When my dad was drunk, I always did what he said. Perhaps that is why I opened the car door and followed him into the house. It was about midnight by then.

“I want you to meet my friend,” he told his wife as she got out of bed and put on her robe. “What did you say your name was?”

“Jon.”

“Yes, Jon. Have a seat in the kitchen, Jon,” then to his wife, “get us a beer!”

“Just water for me. Thanks.”

Guzzling his beer, he sat across from me and talked. He told me of his time in Vietnam. “Are you in the Army?”

I shook my head, no.

He leaned forward, put his finger to his nose and whispered, “I’ve done terrible things. Terrible things.” Taking another long swig of the beer, he told me of the time his platoon entered a Vietnam village and killed every one. “Women and children too.” He started to cry. “I’ve done terrible things.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, wishing somehow I could leave.

Then he said it.

“I blew a little boy’s face off.”

I gulped.

“Put my boot on his chest, my gun under his chin and…fired.” He blubbered, wiping tears from his cheeks. “I’ve… done terrible things. Do you think God can forgive someone like me?”

“Yes, sir.”

A long pause. I didn’t know what to say. There are no good guys in war. I looked at his wife standing against the wall with her arms crossed. She shrugged.

“Can we get the gas can now?”

“Yeah, Yeah, I’ll get it,” he said. He stumbled to the bedroom.

Back in the back room he cursed. I heard things fall. Or were they thrown? He marched out of the room, fuming. “You’ve been goin’ out on me, ain’tcha?” He carried a shotgun. He pointed the gun my direction. “Who are you? You been sleeping with my wife. I know it. Don’t lie to me!” Every other word was a curse word.

Then, he moved forward and placed the end of the shotgun under my chin. Pictures ran through my mind of the little boy in Vietnam. Feeling the cold steel pressed against my throat and chin I prayed, “God don’t let me wet my pants. Get me outta this!”

He swayed in front of me, squinted and snarled. He cocked the gun.

His wife called out, “Don’t!”

I let out a breath and calmly said, “I’m your friend, Jon. Dontcha remember? You ran out of gas. I brought you home to get a gas can. I’m here to help you.”

He blinked. Sniffed. Wiped his nose. Slowly he lowered the shotgun and turned toward the bedroom. “Don’t feel so good. I’m going to bed. She’ll get the gas.” He barely staggered through the bed room door when he passed out crashing to the floor.

A long pause.

“I’ll get the can,” his wife said.

On the way to the gas station, she talked. “You’re a Christian, right? Me too. But he won’t let me go to church.” She went on and on about her life. I felt very sorry for her. She seemed scared all the time. “He’s o.k. when he’s sober. Really. But that’s rare.”

I emptied the gas into the tank and asked her if she would be o.k.

“Yes, Pray for me.”

I looked around, then grabbed her hand and said a prayer. She cried. Then smiled.

That night, I was very late for curfew at the dorm. But no one stopped me. I walked first to the bathroom, and looked in the mirror. At some point, I must have bit my lip. I smiled an awkward smile. “Thank-you God for dry pants.”

I have never picked up strangers ever again.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Stuck on the threshold. Blue tennis shoes part 3

2 Comments

0f9678c200b56e6a19cd5ea4883b25e7

“Hold the screen door,” I told my twin brother.
“What is it?”
“A Nickel!”
I couldn’t pick it up. It was stuck on the wood.
“Your Uncle glued that nickel to the threshold when he was but a boy,” Grandma said. “It’ll take a miracle to get it off of there.”
I tried anyway.

In the house my Dad yelled at my Mom. He did that a lot.

It was the fall of my fifth grade year. We had moved to a farm outside the town where my parents grew up. The population sign said “360” but I think it was less than that.

“Get in the car!” my Dad screamed at my brother and me. He had my youngest sister in his arms. She was bawling loudly. I could smell her soiled diaper. Shaking, I looked at my brother and we both started for the car. Behind me I heard my other sister—five years old—call him by first name and yell, “NO!”

“I don’t want you any way.” He said, and slammed the screen door behind him so hard I was sure the nickel had come loose.

The car spun out and we went to the farm. We lived in my Great aunt’s two story farmhouse. There was a large front porch and a tire swing on the big tree in the front yard. Our Great Aunt had died of nose cancer. She had done too much tobacco snuff and her nose was completely eaten away by the cancer. My brother and I would gross out at the sight of her. She placed a big Band-Aid over the place where her nose should have been.

“How does she smell?” I would say.
And my brother would reply, “Bad as always!”
We would laugh till our sides ached.

But today I wasn’t in a laughing mood. Mom and Dad had fought before. At times he would beat her terribly. This time was different. Everything was wrong.

“Get outta my face. Go feed the chickens,” Dad yelled at me when we got back to the farmhouse.

Scared to say anything, I went out to the chicken house to feed the chickens. While in there, my mind raced. I thought of the time my brother had frightened a skunk in the hen house and had been sprayed. Or the mountain of chicken dung we shoveled out of that place and how accomplished we felt. There was a time we had to dig up rocks so Dad could plant potatoes. We pretended they were Gold.

But, what was I going to do now? I didn’t want to be with Dad. I wanted to be with Mom. So, I ran away from the chicken house, past the cattle into the dark woods. I crossed the creek, and stopped for a moment at a place where I could see the county road. I held my breath and ducked down when a car drove by. Was that Dad’s car? I wasn’t sure.

Eventually, I came over a hill to another farmhouse. I was hot, tired, and thirsty. I needed help.

“Are you run-away?” the man asked.
“No, Sir. I just need to get to town to my Aunt Marie’s house.” He knew the place.
“Well, if’n you’s a runaway, you just crossed the state line and you’re in big trouble.”
“No, sir. Just going to my aunt’s.”

He took me in his truck into town. I kept looking to see if Dad was following us. I spied two rifles in the back window. I made note of that—just in case.

I liked Aunt Marie’s place. Her husband was a short man—the town milkman. We called him “Uncle Pint”. They both were very kind to us. When we got to aunt Marie’s, the farmer didn’t say anything, just dropped me off. I excitedly ran around back as that door was never locked. Perhaps Mom was there.

I walked in, letting the screen door bang behind me. I felt safe and called out to see if anyone was home.

Just then, the front door opened and the room filled with light. I had a direct view. Standing there was my Dad.

On the way, back to the farm, I found out from my brother that during my run my mother had called the police. They told her that they couldn’t do anything as “He’s the father. He has rights.” They allowed her to pick up a few things and she and my sister went to Kansas City. They went to live with her sister.

The next few months I stayed with Dad, my brother, and my baby sister at the farmhouse. Dad would be gone much of the time. Sometimes he would not come home for several days. When he was home, I never knew when he would hit me or ignore me. Some days he would take us with him to the bar. We would sit out in the car and listen to Old-time Radio Mystery Theatre until the car battery would go down. One time he came out with his friends and gave my baby sister a cupful of whiskey. They laughed as they watched the little baby get drunk.

We started fifth grade. The school was so small that they combined fifth and sixth grades. There were only four boys in the class and two of them were my brother and I. But we didn’t get much schooling that year. To care for my sister, my dad made my brother stay home from school. Then the next day, I stayed home and cared for her. I listened to the radio and did what I could. We drank milk and tried to scramble eggs to eat. The school always made sure we had food to eat when we were there. It was then I grew to love peanut butter.

He enjoyed fishing, but would only take one of us at a time so the other could watch the baby. He couldn’t tell us a part and always took my brother. “You should be glad you didn’t go,” my brother said.

One day I was listening to the radio. I remember clearly that the song “Snoopy and the Red Baron” was playing when they stopped the song and I heard this, “We are in a tornado watch.” I had grown up in California. I didn’t know what to do. I went from room to room, carrying the baby. I looked out the windows all day ‘watching’ for tornados.

Eventually, the School made my dad hire a babysitter for the baby.

One night he brought a woman home.“Think we need a maid,” he said.

One of those nights, the woman had brought along her mentally challenged child. He wanted to play cards. So I went downstairs to get them and I saw Dad in bed with the new maid. They would always be gone in the morning and dad would say, “She didn’t work out.”

During that time, we tried to make everything better by living in a world of adventure. We would play in the wheat field, or the barns, whatever we could do to avoid the pain in our lives.

If we cleaned house, Dad would let us walk several miles to play with a friend. The friend’s mother was the babysitter. We would “coon hunt” or try to shoot frogs with a bow and arrows. We lost all
the arrows.

One day Mom snuck in a call. “I’m praying for a miracle to get you back.”

I felt like that glued nickel. Only, I was not stuck on the threshold of a back door. I felt like I was stuck on the Threshold of Hell.

Days passed. Bad days passed.

“Get out of bed.” My Dad yelled. “Get dressed and meet me at the car.”

He had been gone all night again. I put on a white T-shirt, my ‘farm jeans’, and a pair of blue Converse tennis shoes—no socks. He drove us to town, to Aunt Marie and Uncle Pint’s house.
Mom was there!

My sister had gotten sick at the babysitter’s overnight. She had a 106° temperature. When they couldn’t reach Dad, they got ahold of my aunt. They didn’t want to be involved.

“The baby’s gonna die,” she told her. ”It’s an ungodly fever!”
She gave the babysitter my mother’s phone number.

Mom rode a bus from Kansas City. They said that when she got there, they placed the baby limply in her arms. And then something miraculous happened. The fever broke. The baby survived.

Now, standing there, Dad cussed my mother out. I thought he was going to beat her up again.

“I just started a new job and I’m late.” He yelled. Then to my brother and me, “Go to school.” He quickly left, evidently expecting us to walk to the school. We always did whatever he commanded.

“Let’s take you to school,” my Mother said.
My heart sunk. What was she doing?

We went to school and Mom had us pick up our things. She talked to the office and we left. We then got on a bus and went to Kansas City to live with her.

Many people talk of God healing them of great illness and pain. The miracle here was not the healing but the fever itself. It wasn’t an ungodly illness. It was a Godly illness that God sent my sister to get us out of that terrible situation.

Years later, they bulldozed the farmhouse that we used to live in. My Dad had abandoned it and it had been taken over by wild dogs. My Aunt Marie’s house is no longer there either. But Grandma’s house is still there. I can’t help but wonder if that nickel is still there on the threshold. It would take a miracle to remove it.

Categories: Uncategorized

Blue Tennis Shoes –Part two

1 Comment

10553545_10152785383438948_7264924831039744147_n

I have reviewed what I wrote as “part two” and it skips to where I have been in the last year. It is revealing and… more than I might be ready for. I will work up to it. Not wanting this to be a memoir, I thought that I would in this post connect some of the dots that led me to where I am today…

Mexico changed me. Aware of God’s loving kindness to me, my attitude was transformed. I no longer had plans to kill myself. That is probably why to this day I have never owned a gun.

I got more involved in church, even had a girlfriend—briefly. And, I didn’t even resent the bully-target of taking my Bible to school. A Mormon friend saw my stance and decided to bring his books to school as well. He had more to carry than I did.

In gym class the bullying continued. The worst of the gang was a pastor’s son of all things. When we started a class in gymnastics I knew I would never be able to climb the rope or do an iron cross on the rings, but I could do a backflip.

One day, I jumped hard on the trampoline, flipped high and landed goofywompus. The angle sent me shooting out into space. I knew it would leave a mark when I splatted on the gymfloor. But to my surprise, a big guy was standing there and he caught me like I was a baby in his arms. I began to sit next to him in choir. For some reason the bullies left me alone. I don’t know if Phil Vineyard ever knew I used his friendship as protection. He has been there when I needed someone most.

During a church youth canoe trip, I still wore my blue tennis shoes. Things were going well for me. As I was running to my tent, the shoes fell off. (they were so worn.) It would be many years before I owned another pair.

I went with the Youth group on another Mission’s trip. This time to Peru. It was an amazing experience. One day, several of us got left behind. Waiting for the group to come back and pick us up, I sat with the Missionary and Pastors as they told funny stories of their ministry. Then Dr. Bill Dowell from Baptist Temple in Springfield, Mo. shared his heart for ministry. He gave me much to consider. I was amazed at his courage and boldness.

Later on the Peru trip, we visited an old Monastery. A flock of sheep driven by a young boy passed us. A little lamb straggled behind. I picked it up and turned. Someone took my picture.

The next summer, the Youth Pastor asked if I and another young man wanted to drive with him to Lynchburg, Virginia, to a Youth Pastor’s Convention. I agreed, thinking it would be a blast. For several days, I sat and listened to messages aimed at Youth Pastors and heard them share their burdens. When they cried, so did I. That burden was somehow passed on to me as if Elijah himself had given me a mantle.

The last year of High School I had a difficult time walking the halls. I kept looking at the other kids wondering if they had had such pain as I had experienced in my life.

I gave up my goal of being an artist and applied to Baptist Bible College before the year was out, not knowing what waited there for me.

To be continued…

Blue Tennis shoes

2 Comments

13935112_10154415437213948_525253920541031708_n

Writing the second book in my series The Long-aimed Blow, coauthored with my twin brother, is harder than I thought it would be. The first book talks about trauma. Book two is how the characters responded and deal with the trauma. It has brought back many memories and has thrown me into a deep depression. Let me explain. No, let me summarize….

As an identical twin, it is always difficult to get individual attention.

One day as a child, I was sick—and my brother wasn’t. He went on to school and I got to stay home. Mom brought me soup and put a cool rag on my forehead. I felt loved. It was not long before I had learned to fake being sick and would be sent home from school for more individual attention.

One day, waiting in the nurse’s office for mom to pick me up, I overheard the principal tell my mother, “He’s not really sick. We know that. But what can we do? It is such a shame, he has so much potential. If only he’d just stay in school.” I felt so ashamed. I thought that was the last day I would equate sickness with love.

I looked for the attention in other ways. I found that I could get praise for drawing and art and was kinda good at it. (so was my brother) I could sing and wanted the solo in the Christmas program, but some girl got the part. I failed at a spelling bee when I couldn’t spell the word “dirt.”

Much of the trauma from my fifth grade is seen in the Princes of Albion. I won’t take the time to tell that story now. I walked away with only the clothes on my back and a pair of blue Converse tennis shoes.

I was never good enough. Never as good as the other guys. Never strong enough. I once cried because I had little arms. In sixth grade, the other boys knocked me down on the playground, took my shoes off and my white socks, then lifted me up and paraded me around the school yard waving my socks like flags.

I intently watched the other boys and saw that they got attention from girls by saying something funny. I had been using my sense of humor to escape bad feelings for a long time and I started being a wise guy/clown in class. People laughed when I told a joke or a good pun. But the laughter never felt like love.

In high school they dumped my blue tennis shoes in the boys’ toilet, put a jock strap over my head, and a punctured can of Right Guard down my gym shorts. At the church youth group, I nominated myself for the Spiritual Council. I got one vote—mine. (They read the results out loud). I did art for the youth department and tried my best. I was in the ninth grade play… but forgot my lines.

But, I didn’t feel loved. I would look at myself in the mirror at home and tell myself how much I hated who I was—until I blacked out. My brother had a girlfriend, but I was too shy. No one loved me. Oh, mom did. But she was mom. I began to seek ways to commit suicide.

That summer the youth group was going to Old Mexico for a missionary trip. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay home and die. But my brother was going, so I reluctantly went. I remember stepping on the bus. I looked down at my worn out tennis shoes and said, “God, I’m so tired.” That trip we built a building from the foundation to the finished roof. It was hard work. We handed out Bibles in the afternoon. In the evenings we would hold meetings. I was asked to give my testimony. I made one up.

I met an old Mexican who spoke a little English. He asked my name and I told him.  He called me “Jaunisito.” I asked what that meant and he said, “Little Jon with love.” I gave a scoffing laugh and gave him a Bible.

By Thursday of that week I was exhausted. That evening–very late–the Youth Pastor gave a Mission’s message on God’s love for all mankind. I heard him say, “God loves you.” And I broke down. I did not believe him. He was very wrong. I walked to the back and fell to my knees and sobbed.

Then, in my despair, I somehow felt God’s arms enfold me and He whispered in my ear, “It is true. I do love you, Jon.”

…to be continued…

I am able

2 Comments

When Jesus asked his two disciples if they were ready to drink form the cup he drank from and to be baptized with the baptism he would be baptized with, they replied, “We are able.”

When I was in Junior High I was bullied by a group of boys so much so that I would have to race home to keep from being beat up. They called me names, and threatened me daily. Then one summer one of them confronted me while I was mowing a neighbor’s yard. He wanted to fight. I said, “No. Christians don’t fight.” He replied with a crass comment about Christ and before I could think. I had pushed him down and sat on top of him—my knees on his arms. I raised my fist and told him to leave me alone.

At that moment I was grabbed under the arms and hoisted to the fence. With my shirt bunched in the young man’s grasp and his fist held high, I gasped. It was the boy’s older brother—a Golden Glove winning boxer. He glared at me and yelled, “Say you are a wimp, and I’ll leave you alone!”

 I knew he would pound me to a pulp. It was gonna hurt really bad. So I ducked my head and whimpered, “I’m a wimp.” He made me say it again before he let me go. He picked up his little brother and they left me standing alone in my shame against the fence.

I have regretted it ever since. Whenever I shrink from a hard task, neglect doing things I know are important, or take the easy road to the battle, I am reminded of this one event.

Many times I answer the call to duty with the words, “I cannot” in my mind.

When it comes to writing, I still struggle with this. I am not good enough. In the movie “In the Heart of the Sea” Herman Melville tells a man, “I am not Nathaniel Hawthorne.” And I say, “I am not Herman Melville.” Someone may one day say, “I’m not as good as Jon Hopkins.” It is easy to discount reader’s praise for my work. But I just write and try my best to do it well.

In every life there are experiences of darkness. When we are put up against the fence-edge of dread the Master asks, “Are you able to follow me through this trial, this sacrifice, this mystery of pain?” We must remember that the greatest blessings of grace lie beyond this experience. He leads me. I am not able. I wimp out. But I follow the One who is able. Anyone can do the possible. He can do the impossible.

Today I will say to the raised fist, “Bring it.” And trust in God to lead the way.

Categories: Uncategorized