I realized that while I have many Quotational Ponderings entries, the Personal Ponderings category has regrettably not seen much use. I attribute this to my internal conflict with the belief that other people have things of significance to relate and I have not. To remedy, here’s a ponder that I have been considering lately:
“In seeing the goofy things I share and like on social media, I begin to wonder if a sensible woman could love such a man. Yes, I’m certain that it is possible, but is it improbable.”
I think the answer is a solid “it may be so”.
So, is that goofiness “who one is as a person”, or is it “how one chooses to be as a person”, and if the latter, should not one make the choice to be otherwise at some point? Is there some mysterious balance one needs must strike, and how can one possibly know that there is and what that balance looks like? Can one mature from being a man-child yet somehow remain a unabashed fan of animated movies like How to Train Your Dragon and Monsters Inc., Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, and goofy goofy Doctor Who?
Further, when does eccentric cross the line into oddity; say, if one has possibly knitted a 16′ long scarf in emulation of Tom Brown’s fourth iteration of The Doctor, has a barrier been irretrievably breached?
C.S. Lewis warns against filling to our lives with habits, hobbies, interests, and luxuries as a way to guard one’s life and heart against risking love and so to try to fill the void. Are we choosing those things over the possible joy and fulfillment of sharing one’s life, heart, and being with another? Are we men choosing to be a child and in so choosing to forgo the dream of ever raising a child (children)?
Moreover, are we making the same awful mistake in our relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ; with our loving Heavenly Father? What awesome and important thing is it that we are choosing to give up if such is so?
I have married friends who appear to have found and struck that balance and I look up to them as exemplars. They however, figured out that balance much earlier in life. Is there an age at which it becomes too late and one must live with the consequences of one’s ill-considered choices.
Ponder, ponder ponder.
Zen Pencils has crafted a wonderful comic to illustrate what C.S. Lewis says on this subject of hearts, hobbies and luxuries. [Original here]
A friend sent me a photo today, of a bunch of redheaded girls in school uniforms and woolen pullovers and their ponies on a sparse beach under an overcast day with the chill ocean wind blowing hair, manes and fetlocks and breakers rolling up on the sandy shore. ***
It has every amiable quality of what I and my Lost Beloved would call a Very Irish Day… of our favorite days in Ireland that combined what we called Snuggle Weather with crisp clean scent, the smell of the ocean, the cool moisture of the air (but never damp), the overcast sky, and so much beauty that gave the feeling of a very High Dynamic Range photo.
Such was our first day in Ireland when we pulled into the car park of the Rocky View Farmhouse B&B in Fanore, Co Clare. We were greeted by a little short-haired cat that despite the cool wind was almost painfully warm to the touch who insisted on being thoroughly pet with a little pepper-box grinder churning away in its throat.
We get a couple of Very Irish Days with the changing of the seasons here in Missouri. They always leave me yearning and nostalgic. Until a few years ago I was still able to greet them in my scratchy Aran wool cardigan and wool driving cap. Years before that we would tell one another that it was a Very Irish Day and hold one another and just smell and feel for a brief while. I confess, I always smelled the day through the scent of her hair in my face.
I’m very grateful to have these little occurrences every so often, though in truth they now feel like something that happened to someone else. It feels like I experience them at second-hand, vicariously through some other. I think maybe that is for the best. I think that in this way God gives me a way to re-experience the joy while buffering any sorrow that might still be lingering in closets I thought well swept out.
*** Not so very different from the precocious school children on the Aran Islands who wanted to play tinwhistle with me and pet our Whin and exclaim, “Oh, and isn’t he gorgeous! Has he had his nuuuts?”. Fortunately by this time we had heard this exact statement made dozens of times across both the Republic and Northern Ireland, and I was able to answer, “Thank you. He’s a she and yes, she’s had her kibble this morning.”
We’ve gotten news that after two years of ceasefire, hostilities and shelling have resumed in the region we were going to work to rebuild and that it’s a flack-jacket only area.
I’ve been up and down in weight with illness, daily full-body hives allergic reactions and trying to get trips in with Uber. Last weigh in was 288 which is twelve wonderfully absent burdens. Oh to be Bunyan’s Christian and to lay -that- burden down at the cross along with my pack, my heavy-load.
This will be the last post unless the situation changes. I’m still working on my health and weight with the hope that the opportunity will again present. It’s one of those easy times to say with complete confidence, that if God wants it to happen, He’ll do what needs doing.
Now to turn my attention to the upcoming 5th Annual Men’s retreat. Last year’s was fantastic in every way, but the stress and worry completely did me in. I resolved to start planning this year’s before even leaving the site. This year I have marketing handled. Instead of mailing each of 7 churches a PDF, we printed 1/4 pg professional fliers to send to each pastor. Because Staples made a mistake we ended up getting -both- sides in colour and they look absolutely fantastic (thank you Staples. You moved mountains.) I still have half my marketing budget remaining and firm confirmation that the regional head will chivy the individual churches into sending their men (He’s the guest speaker after all *chuckle*). I feel relaxed and optimistic. It’s great working with Pastors Ed & Adam to put something together that I trust will bless -hard-.
Making slow progress towards the goal with only 8lbs since my last post. I had some setbacks for two weeks with health (requiring steroids) that have thankfully been remedied and I’m back on track following those two weeks. I don’t know if it’s actually possible to reach the goal in time for the trip which is now tentatively scheduled to begin in mid June.
The original cost estimate of $1,500 had risen to $2,000 and that caused concern because I don’t want to use the scholarships the church is providing. I decided to trust instead of worry and soon after started driving for Uber and am already more than ¼ of the way to that goal and I hope to be able to contribute -to- the scholarship fund. I can drive as little or as much as I want so it’s all a matter of pushing to make it happen.
Still praying to know if this is the right thing to do.
Many steps forward, a few steps back, but still making progress. I was down to 292 as of last Friday but the weekend was difficult. Back on track as of yesterday (well, Sunday afternoon really) and 5 lbs down. It hasn’t been too difficult. Protein in the a.m., Oatmeal for lunch, leaving only the evening hours to battle with.
Energy has been sapped for exercise but I still managed to reach goals most days. The Fitbit food tracking is both great and frustrating, but for the first time I have a intake tracker that I can make work for me for most things and I anticipate that I’ll remain diligent in using it for that reason.
It looked for a while like the chances of my being able to go to on the Ukraine mission trip might be nil and a lot of my ‘goal’ motivation was depressed. What was once a 6-person trip with -maybe- 1 or 2 open slots has now expanded to accommodate all who would like to go and serve. Finances seemed like another limiting factor but I received an estimate last evening that was about a third of what I expected and there will be some scholarships available. I am strengthened in my resolve to press on towards the goal!
I have been using Duo Lingo to try to bring back a nearly completely lost two semesters (10 hours) of College Russian. I had forgotten how much I loved, and how difficult I found this language.
Still praying for answers and a heart to hear if my desire to go meshes with His desire.
So begins a journey that I hope ends in the Ukraine. I cannot join my church’s mission team and be an asset at 300.bs and a BMI of 43 with bouts of Chronic Fatigue pulling me down unexpectedly. I’m hopeful that with prayer and a goal and accountability, that I can achieve returning to a weight I last saw in 2000 when I joined Tiger Christian Life on a mission trip to Honduras.
This morning, as I prayed asking God to bless Raina, fulfill her, give her happiness, heal if healing is needed, and seek her if seeking is needed, I realized that I referred to to her as my Lost Beloved. It got me thinking and I realized that I have been using this epithet for a couple of months now as God has granted much healing of heart.
I realized that I haven’t given up on God’s ability to restore my marriage, I’ve just turned the whole thing over to Him, and whatever He decides to do will be the best and most fulfilling outcome, whether that means a restored marriage, a new marriage, or living out a remaining lifetime of singleness.
I believe I’ve finally decided to stop being crippled and broken. I’ve come to the point of casting off the crushing burden I’ve carried for so long.
Three years ago, nearly to the day, I composed a poem as part of the healing and dealing process:
That was a necessary step then to cope and function because I -was- crippled and broken and I was tripping and falling and injuring myself over and over.
I’ve had the box open once since then and I think that too was necessary to bring me to the point where I am now, at Peace. The re-opening was recent and I didn’t beat myself up because I gave myself the grace to grieve again as part of the healing process. Now I realize that I wasn’t grieving as I had in the past, and I wasn’t tripping; I was saying farewell.
Farewell not just to my Lost Beloved, but to all of my hopes, broken promises (the ones I broke as well), lost happiness and broken dreams, all tied to her in connection, and around my neck as a millstone.
I’ve said farewell and I’ve found desperately sought after peace which I had never hoped to find. I didn’t believe it possible. I think I’m ready to close that box and this time, seal it shut with tape. I may one day throw the box away, but I don’t by any means wish to forget what had been up until 7+ years ago the best and most rewarding portion of my life.
I’m open now to new best and most rewarding portions.
My finger is now unadorned.
She is lost, to me. I have found myself, and only by God’s loving grace. I don’t know what’s next, if anything, and for now, I’m not fussed. I like it here. It’s so much better than where I have been previously.
Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely on some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better he might change the accusation, and you would be no gainer by the correction. If you have your moral portrait painted, and it is ugly, be satisfied; for it only needs a few blacker touches, and it would be still nearer the truth.
— Charles Haddon Spurgeon, sermon, “David Dancing before the Ark because of His Election” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 35.
I’ve been working hard since before Faithwalkers, during and after, to turn my desire for a beloved (specifically my lost beloved) over to God and be able to know I’m not just speaking empty words when I pray, “Lord, please build in me a desire to sincerely say, It’s yours. Do with it what you will. Do with me what you will.” I’ve been feeling at peace now for a couple of weeks but as an article I’ve yet to publish will show, I have great faith in God on behalf of others, but a great problem with having demonstrably little faith when it comes to myself. I’ve been having difficulty trusting in the peace to be what I asked for and to be real and lasting. I think that unconscious attitude may be changing as this seems twice on this issue God has answered my prayers with mercy and grace.
I was tested in this all too soon when a shared-friend shared with me a photo my lost beloved posted to her social media. A photo of her holding a sweet precious little baby. She speculated that it might be my lost beloved’s own child. She knew I would like to know as I’ve been denied pretty much all knowledge for five years, but thought it might be unfortunate if true, especially if conceived out of wedlock.
I was entirely surprised to be able to honestly respond that if the little one is my lost beloved’s, then it’s reason for joy. My lost beloved looked so much happier, healthier, and more at peace than I’ve seen her in 7 years. From the earliest days of our marriage, she wanted desperately to have children and to be a mother, but it seemed that PCOS and some autoimmune difficulties would deny her the deepest wishes of her heart. If she’s remarried; If she has a family; yes, there is an ache, but I cannot help but be grateful to God. I prayed for this for 7 years while she was my wife. After a period of learning to see past my own broken heart and what I thought unendurable pain, I’ve prayed nearly every day since that wherever she is, that God blesses her, brings her peace, happiness, fulfillment, and most of all close relationship with Him in all things. I wanted, and still want, truth be told, these things to be with me, but I want even more for her not to be denied the deepest desires of her heart. Gone is a portion of the selfishness that ruled my heart, selah.
So, yes. Right now I am feeling at peace and feeling as though prayers have been answered and requests fulfilled. There’s nothing on the horizon, but, for now, that’s OK. My want for my lost beloved to return and reconcile is in no way diminished. My want to have a beloved and be a beloved and to raise a family in love is in no way diminished. These deeply held desires have not been diminished, they’ve been surrendered to a new keeper… one who is far better than I with such things. There is peace. Unless I once again try to wrest back control, there will be peace, and possibly through peace, fulfillment, or fulfillment of a sort not yet known or longed for.
I ran across this excellent article, and while there is much to take away, it’s clear that it was written to the Rebeution youth. For those of us who have once been married, the temptation is to seize on it all, most especially the optimism and hope Paul gives for those who are single, and while some of that is there to be seized, I do not think all, and care and consideration should be taken.
“Singleness is not a form of embarrassed earthly purgatory. It is not a sign of God’s displeasure. It does not make you a different kind of Christian or require you to start your own separate Bible study with the other spiritual lepers.”
Perhaps Keeley, but that’s exactly what divorced singleness is. You’ve bet the farm on what you knew was not a gamble and you’ve lost. You’ve given away your best; innocence, youth, energy, optimism, all your ‘firsts’, hopes and dreams, and your entire heart and you come away with a pitiful remnant.
I keep returning to the nightmare at the beginning of Josh Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye; “I thought I had your heart.” “You do. All that’s left is yours.” Marriage is the first marriage. Remarriage, while it can be wonderful and can be many of the things the marriage was supposed to be but wasn’t is still something different.
Once you understand that you’re almost forced by good conscious to limit your remarriage yearning to only those who are also the remnant that you are. You become convinced that you have no right to take from another what you yourself lost, even if freely given. You recognize and defend in that other person the potential and the ethereal “right” to have a marriage, not a remarriage, with a fully intact compliment of God’s gifts; innocence, youth, energy, lifespan, etc.
It therefore becomes difficult to see post-martial singleness as a gift, because 1 Cor 7 singleness is a completely different animal. Your gift of singleness has been spent. Your gift of marriedness has been spent. “Yes God, I’m ready to serve……….All that’s left, is Yours.”
“There is not a flower that opens, not a seed that falls into the ground, and not an ear of wheat that nods on the end of its stalk in the wind that does not preach and proclaim the greatness and the mercy of God to the whole world. There is not an act of kindness or generosity, not an act of sacrifice done, or a word of peace and gentleness spoken, not a child’s prayer uttered, that does not sing hymns to God before his throne, and in the eyes of men, and before their faces.” — Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968), Seven Story Mountain (1948)
For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.
David, Sarah, Dwight, Tony, Bill… To name a few. Thanking God.
To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
I wonder if Lewis was not considering this passage when he wrote Book 3: Chapter 8 of A Pilgrim’s Regress, “Parrot Disease”. ‘Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no difference between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’
Every day a jailor brought the prisoners their food, and as he laid down the dishes he would say a word to them. If their meal was flesh he would remind them that they were eating corpses, or give them some account of the slaughtering: or, if it was the inwards of some beast, he would read them a lecture in anatomy and show the likeness of the mess to the same parts in themselves—which was the more easily done because the giant’s eyes were always staring into the dungeon at dinner time. Or if the meal were eggs he would recall to them that they were eating the enstruum of a verminous fowl, and crack a few jokes with the female prisoners. So he went on day by day. Then I dreamed that one day there was nothing but milk for them, and the jailor said as he put down the pipkin:
‘Our relations with the cow are not delicate—as you can easily see if you imagine eating any of her other secretions.’ Now John had been in the pit a shorter time than any of the others: and at these words something seemed to snap in his head and he gave a great sigh and suddenly spoke out in a loud, clear voice:
‘Thank heaven! Now at last I know that you are talking nonsense.’
‘What do you mean?’ said the jailor, wheeling round upon him.
‘You are trying to pretend that unlike things are like. You are trying to make us think that milk is the same sort of thing as sweat or dung.’
‘And pray, what difference is there except by custom?’
‘Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no difference between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’
‘So Nature is a person, then, with purposes and consciousness,’ said the jailor with a sneer. ‘In fact, a Landlady. No doubt it comforts you to imagine you can believe that sort of thing;’ and he turned to leave the prison with his nose in the air.
‘I know nothing about that,’ shouted John after him. ‘I am talking of what happens. Milk does feed calves and dung does not.’
‘Look here,’ cried the jailor, coming back, ‘we have had enough of this. It is high treason and I shall bring you before the Master.’ Then he jerked John up by his chain and began to drag him towards the door; but John as he was being dragged, cried out to the others, ‘Can’t you see it’s all a cheat?’ Then the jailor struck him in the teeth so hard that his mouth was filled with blood and he became unable to speak: and while he was silent the jailor addressed the prisoners and said:
‘You see he is trying to argue. Now tell me, someone, what is argument?’
There was a confused murmur.
‘Come, come,’ said the jailor. ‘You must know your catechisms by now. You, there’ (and he pointed to a prisoner little older than a boy whose name was Master Parrot), ‘what is argument?’
‘Argument,’ said Master Parrot, ‘is the attempted rationalization of the arguer’s desires.’
‘Very good,’ replied the jailor, ‘but you should turn out your toes and put your hands behind your back. That is better. Now: what is the proper answer to an argument proving the existence of the Landlord?’
‘The proper answer is, “You say that because you are a Steward.”’
‘Good boy. But hold your head up. That’s right. And what is the answer to an argument proving that Mr. Phally’s songs are just as brown as Mr. Halfways’?’
‘There are two only generally necessary to damnation,’ said Master Parrot. ‘The first is, “You say that because you are a Puritanian,” and the second is, “You say that because you are a
‘Good. Now just one more. What is the answer to an argument turning on the belief that two and two make four?’
‘The answer is, “You say that because you are a mathematician.”’
‘You are a very good boy,’ said the jailor. ‘And when I come back I shall bring you something nice. And now for you,’ he added, giving John a kick and opening the grating.
Five long years, wishing for just one thing
Dreaming, imagining, yearning. Knowing.
Knowing each friendship offering meant, to me, more;
Meant more than would permit accepting.
Each, refused in love, to take unfairly.
Sneak attacks not withstanding.
Resolved never to accept without ring;
That single, solitary, most yearned-for thing.
‘Till today, blessed event, joy-filled radiant smile.
On beautiful hand a beautiful ring.
Parity achieved deep within.
Offered. Accepted, at last without sin.
The first the last.
A fondest farewell.
A new desire kindled;
Benediction of blessing;
Prayer for all joy.
May God bless and preserve;
New life together in Him.Christian Puddleglum Ransom Harper
December 19, 2015
The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Frost said, “…but I have promises to keep; and miles to go before I sleep; and miles to go before I sleep.”
Miles and miles seem little difficulty in light of the promise we know awaits.
This marvelous little book by Randy Alcorn fell into my metaphoric hands just at the right time when I and my roommate were asked to start a small-group bible study and the topic asked for was “How to debate with love.”
Below are quotes that I found especially meaningful. (More to follow as I continue my exploration.)
What Gives Us Away?
A friend sat down in a small London restaurant and picked up a menu.
“What will it be?” the waiter asked.
Studying the puzzling selections, my friend said, “Uhh…”
The waiter smiled. “Oh, a Yank. What part of the States are you from?”
He hadn’t said a word. But he’d already given himself away.
In the first century, Christ’s followers were also recognized immediately. What gave them away?
It wasn’t their buildings. They had none.
It wasn’t their programs. They had none.
It wasn’t their political power. They had none.
It wasn’t their slick publications, TV networks, bumperstickers, or celebrities. They had none. What was it?
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. ~ Acts 4:33
They testified to the truth about Christ and lived by His grace. Truth was the food they ate and the message they spoke. Grace was the air they breathed and the life they lived.
The world around them had never seen anything like it. It still hasn’t.— Randy Alcorn, The Grace & Truth Paradox, Ch 1
“We should never approach truth except in a spirit of grace, or grace except in the spirit of truth. Jesus wasn’t 50 percent grace, 50 percent truth, but 100 percent grace and 100 percent truth.
Truth-oriented Christians love studying Scripture and theology. But sometimes they’re quick to judge and slow to forgive. They’re strong on truth, weak on grace.
Grace-oriented Christians love forgiveness and freedom. But sometimes they neglect Bible study and see moral standards as “legalism.” They’re strong on grace, weak on truth.
Countless mistakes in marriage, parenting, ministry, and other relationships are failures to balance grace and truth. Sometimes we neglect both. Often we choose one over the other.”
“A paradox is an apparent contradiction. Grace and truth aren’t really contradictory. Jesus didn’t switch on truth and then turn it off so He could switch on grace. Both are permanently switched on in Jesus. Both should be switched on in us.”
“Some church services are permeated with Christian clichés that mystify unbelievers. Nobody’s drawn to what’s incomprehensible. Grace compels us to put the cookies on the lower shelf where the uninitiated can reach them. Jesus warmly welcomed the nonreligious and spoke words they understood. So should we.
Other churches try to make sinners feel comfortable. How? They never talk about sin. Never offend anyone. They replace truth with tolerance, lowering the bar so everyone can jump over it and we can all feel good about ourselves.
But Jesus said, ‘ ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also’ (John 15:20).
Something’s wrong if all unbelievers hate us.
Something’s wrong if all unbelievers like us.
If we accurately demonstrate grace -and- truth, some will be drawn to us and other will be offended by us—just as they were by Jesus.
When we offend everybody, it’s because we’ve taken on the truth mantle without the grace. When we offend nobody, it’s because we’ve watered down truth in the name of grace.”— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 2.
“Grace never ignores the awful truth of our depravity. In fact, it emphasizes it. The worse we realize we are, the greater we realize God’s grace is.”— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 3.
“God has written His truth on human hearts (Romans 2:15). Shame and twinges of conscience come from recognizing that truth has been violated. When people hear truth spoken graciously, many are drawn to it because of the moral vacuum they feel. Hearts long for truth—even hearts that reject it.”— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 4.
This next one is very similar to Ray Comfort’s analogy in his talk Hell’s Best Kept Secret in which he talks of Jesus being offered not as salvation from the transgressions of the law, but as “Life Enhancement”. People are enticed to ‘try on Christ’ with promises that their difficulties in life will be resolved (using a parachute as metaphor for Christ), but without any true understanding of the jump out of the airplane that is to come. They put it on. It is uncomfortable and bulky and gives no benefit and so they tear it off, are angry at the parachute (and the stewardess who gave it to them), and resolves never to be fooled by that nonsense again. This as opposed to the one who is told at the outset that there will be a jump to come and the only thing that will save them is wearing the parachute. Then when the difficulties of life befall him, say for instance, a new stewardess who trips and spills boiling hot coffee on him, he doesn’t cast off the parachute and say “You stupid parachute!” No, holds it all the tighter, and may ever Look Forward to the jump to come.
If a teacher is guilty of preaching life enhancement instead of the truth, then there is nothing at all redemptive in his ministry. Indeed, it is less than redemptive. It is damning.
The opposite is nearly as bad. That is, preaching truth in absence of all grace. Ray Comfort clarifies, “I’m not talking about Hellfire Preaching. Hellfire Preaching will produce Fear-Filled converts. Using God’s law will produce Tear-Filled converts.”
The world’s low standards, its disregard for truth, are not grace. The illusory freedom, however, -feels- like grace to someone who’s been pounded by graceless truth—beaten over the head with a piece of the guardrail. In fact, people who grow up in joyless religion learn that there’s no hope of living up to such daunting standards. “Why even try? It’s -impossible!-.”
But properly understood, biblical truths are guardrails that protect us from plunging off the cliff. A smart traveler doesn’t curse the guardrails. He doesn’t whine, “That guardrail dented my fender!” He looks over the cliff, and sees demolished autos below, and is -grateful- for guardrails.
The guardrails of truth are there not to punish, but to protect us.— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 4.
Godly living centers not on what we avoid, but on whom we embrace. Anytime we talk more about dos and don’ts than about Jesus, something’s wrong.—Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 4
For all of you who wonder how my heart can still yearn for my former wife (as well as the girl I thought to make my wife), I can finally explain it for you (and for myself).
I realized… I don’t fit in… -anywhere-. I am oddly and eccentrically shaped. Every single venture outside my door (and even those inside) are plagued with the pain and tension of never fitting in even despite much effort.
That’s ok. I have friends who extend grace and love and make a place I can fit in despite my odd shape.
So why do I not close off my heart to (and the hurt from) those few I have truly loved? It’s simple now to explain. With them, I fit. They loved me (I believed) and none of my irregularities and rough areas stuck out in inconvenient places… and in that context, I could relax.
Never, ever, ever am I able to have that comfort and relaxation out of that context. Every day is an arduous intimidating task to do the same thing I did yesterday. Hated it then. Hate it today.
I have had two, all too brief, periods in my life when that wasn’t true.
I think therein lies even some of my desire to have a family… Families fit, because they grow around one another. Love is the flexibility that not only molds one shape to the next, but also changes some of the difficult things about each one so that they fit naturally in that context and then outside of that context.
Of course, I’ve also learned that I apparently relaxed too much… the lesson there would be that I can never truly relax, but that’s a lesson, despite learned, that I will -not- embrace, because to do so would be to reject life and all hope of whatever joy God may grant in this lifetime.
I’m hearing the word religion being used as though it’s a bad thing and it’s started bothering me greatly. I understand why people have turned it into a negative word, but I think it’s very important that we fight the urge to go along with talking about religion as though it’s something bad… or even something good… because “religion” is not inherently bad or good, and any goodness or badness is added by what I myself make it.
No matter how we might strive to emphasize the difference between our orthopraxy and the orthopraxy of someone else… i.e., stressing that our Christianity is about “relationship” while distancing yourself from, say, the strict liturgical practice of one denomination or church or other, we are still committing religion and always will be.
It’s ok to self-identify as a Christian of a particular mindset/practice, but I’m thinking we’re doing everyone and the English language a great disservice if we aid in the demonization of a functional decent word that is free from the burden of the additional baggage people are trying to incorrectly (foolishly) hang on it.
Herein I find irony… I myself have been doing this and doing it for years. My profile settings on Facebook have read: “Religious Views: Christian – Relationship not Religion” since I created my account lo these many eons past. That changes today.
My religion is Christianity, and by that I mean what was meant the two times the word appeared in scripture, “One who is following Christ.” I’m going to strive to fight the compulsion to hang more baggage on my answer.
Six years and a bit ago, my beloved, beautiful, sweet, and precious Raina Janel left.
Six years ago I read an article written by a couple, who, against all reason and overcoming insurmountable barriers, had their marriage miraculously restored from scattered ashes after six years.
Six years seemed impossible, but even so, it always was a fixed quantity in my mind.
As it loomed ever closer, I realized that I had unconsciously begun to view six years as a cut-off… a limit on God’s sovereign power to enact any miracle He might desire to perform. A countdown clock ticked ever nearer towards that day when all hope would be gone.
This I realized a year and a half ago…. four and a half years into my great and all-encompassing sorrow… and I realized I had been a fool.
God is not limited by the calendar. He may, by His own rules be limited only by the death of one or the other of us, but I don’t know His rules and so it would be foolish to expect that even death is any barrier or hobble.
I press onward, with no hope in the restoration of our marriage but infinitely increased hope and trust in Him. What a testimony He may give us. Six paltry years… pshaw. Childsplay! Imagine the testimony to His Awesomeness of a marriage restored after 20 or 30 years; if only a couple places their hope and their hearts in Him, and if not us, I pray others.†
God is Great! He patiently and gracefully continues to work on me… my heart, my all. I hope I’m an improved man for 6 years; more humble, less certain that I’ve got anything figured out, less full of false pride, and a more loving heart. I remain an abominably slow and stubborn, but still dedicated student.
† This paragraph sounds contradictory. I really have absolutely no hope in this any more and a over a year and a half ago I put all things Raina away in a box on a shelf, both metaphorically and literally, and for the most part, there she has stayed for the sake of my sanity and so that my mind was clear to focus upward instead of backward. I speak of the gift of a testimony not in the sense that I harbor hope for one, but in the sense that I know that nothing is beyond Him and so I don’t rule it out. For all I know, He has either nothing, or something different in store for me. Whatever it is, or isn’t, I trust in Him that it will be best.
YOU have no enemies, you say?
Alas! my friend, the boast is poor;
He who has mingled in the fray
Of duty, that the brave endure,
Must have made foes! If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.
You’ve hit no traitor on the hip,
You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip,
You’ve never turned the wrong to right,
You’ve been a coward in the fight.
Charles Mackay, (English Chartist poet, 1814–1889)
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest, 1915 The Writings of Philosophers, Poets, Novelists, Social Reformers, and Others Who Have Voiced the Struggle Against Social Injustice, Selected from Twenty-Five Languages, Covering a Period of Five Thousand Years, Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968)
Think about it. In recent years it’s become very front-of-mind to have accountability in the area of our lives generally described as sexual integrity. We encourage men and women alike to find like-minded folks to support them as they try to align this area of their life with God’s standard. We invite these trusted people to have unfettered access (if we’re being honest) into our lives to make certain that we cannot keep sexual sin hidden… sin such as porn, affairs, sex outside of marriage, visits to strip clubs, prostitutes, chatrooms, hookup apps, dating sites, etc., even mentally lusting after those who are not our spouse.
That kind of accountability seems almost insane to one who has not gone through the experience of a self-motivated “dying to self” and deciding that we desire God more than we love our sin and pride, or alternatively, of being caught out by a loved one or leader and given a choice between being accountable or facing consequences we cannot bear to face.
Yet, even to those of us who are striving for accountability in this area, many of us would balk far more strongly if someone were to suggest that we asked ourselves if we needed to be Financially Accountable. We’d be willing to let others in to our sanctum sanctorum of deepest inner secrets of our sexual thought-lives, computer usage, and dating activities, but the very idea of letting another like-minded brother or sister see what choices we have been making with our money would be almost cripplingly unthinkable. We’d take up arms and fight; Yes,fight to the point of destroying friendship and fellowship if anyone were to dare suggest that we might be hiding a dirty-little-financial-secret; a little expenditure here, a ‘just for emergencies’ maxed-out credit card there…
Why? I don’t know why for each person, but there is one reason I think would be fairly common, that reason being that it’s not just that we don’t want others judging our financial honesty, but that financial honesty would shine a revealing light on a whole host of things in our lives that we are dishonest about, things that we are ashamed of and want kept secret.
In some ways it might be even harder for those of us who have sought accountability in the area of sexual integrity because we have, in our hearts, incorrectly begun to feel that we’re really upstanding folks. We’ve exposed the dirtiest, darkest, most shameful, most hidden parts of ourselves and let the light of honesty shine into the darkest corners and most hidden niches. We might think ourselves justified in keeping this other area of our life in shadow behind locked doors. We might be loathe to admit, even to ourselves that we might find ourselves far and away more greatly ashamed of our little financial dalliances than ever we were about an occasional look at a skin mag, viewing an imagination-inspiring Hollywood movie, hanging out on dating sites where the conversation can become… stimulating, a Google image search with Safe-Search features disabled, or that lingering look we take each time we pass the desk of the secretary at work who is completely unaware of just what we can see when standing while she’s sitting.
The bible tells us that even our best is as filthy rags, I would think most especially if our best is helping us give ourselves a pass somewhere else. Isaiah 64:5-8 NASB
6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
And all of us wither like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
7 There is no one who calls on Your name,
Who arouses himself to take hold of You;
For You have hidden Your face from us
And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.
8 But now, O Lord, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand.
Has something very helpful to the Christian walk perhaps been misused and caused great harm for some in this area? How many of us Christians would be inclined to wave our Financial Peace University graduation certificates (metaphorically speaking) to quell any questions others who care about us might have for us. We’d never wave our actual budget. I know I’ve waved my certificate a time or two when uncomfortable scrutiny has fallen upon me. Heaven forbid that we wave our “I Tithed” sticker around like we’ve just left the voting polls to rebuff inquiry into this area, because, “If I’ve tithed, I must have my financial house and heart in order.” I’ve been amused at the social meme lately of completely replacing rhetoric with the antithesis of rhetoric; the “Because Science!” or “Because Racist!” argument [air quotes], however, it’s not so amusing when I realize that I might have myself used the “Because FPU!” or “Because Tithe!” arguments to stomp on honest inquiry.
I guess this area for some of us may be one more example of Col. Jimmie Coy’s ABoBs (A Bowl of Beans one is willing to purchase in exchange for their eternal spiritual birthright).
“Eve was not taken out of Adam’s head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.” — Matthew Henry
Stories tell of a 17 year old Abraham Lincoln singing a poeticised (Created by himself?) version of this put to music for a sister’s wedding.
“Jesus said whatever you do to the least of these my brothers you’ve done it to me. And this is what I’ve come to think. That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, who I claim to be my Savior and Lord, the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in a beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken….” — Rich Mullins
Ran across some unrelated quotes that I don’t want to lose track of:
The secret of rock music: “If you can’t be good, be loud.” — Rich Mullins
The current trends in worship: “Shallow, mindless, stupid, and perfectly harmless, at best.” — Rich Mullins
“I don’t want to be tolerated. Argue with me, and I will respect you. — Rich Mullins
“It never fails. God will put people in your path that irritate you, especially if you’re prone to be irritated.” — Rich Mullins
“I hope I would leave a legacy of joy -a legacy of real compassion,” — Rich Mullins
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him, and under running laughter. Up vistaed hopes, I sped; And shot, precipitated, Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears, From those strong Feet that followed, followed after. But with unhurrying chase, And unperturbed pace, Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, They beat--and a Voice beat More instant than the Feet-- "All things betray thee, who betrayest Me." I pleaded, out law-wise, By many a hearted casement, curtained red, Trellised with intertwining charities (For, though I knew His love Who followed, Yet was I sore adread Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside); But, if one little casement parted wide, The gust of His approach would clash it to. Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue. Across the margent of the world I fled, And troubled the gold gateways of the stars, Smiting for shelter on their clanged bars; Fretted to dulcet jars And silvern chatter the pale ports o' the moon. I said to dawn: Be sudden; to eve: Be soon-- With thy young skyey blossoms heap me over From this tremendous Lover! Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see! I tempted all His servitors, but to find My own betrayal in their constancy, In faith to Him their fickleness to me, Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit. To all swift things for swiftness did I sue; Clung to the whistling mane of every wind. But whether they swept, smoothly fleet, The long savannahs of the blue; Or whether, Thunder-driven, They clanged His chariot 'thwart a heaven Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o' their feet:-- Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue. Still with unhurrying chase, And unperturbed pace, Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, Came on the following Feet, And a Voice above their beat-- "Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me." I sought no more that after which I strayed In face of man or maid; But still within the little children's eyes Seems something, something that replies, _They_ at least are for me, surely for me! I turned me to them very wistfully; But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair With dawning answers there, Their angel plucked them from me by the hair. Come then, ye other children, Nature's--share With me" (said I) "your delicate fellowship; Let me greet you lip to lip, Let me twine with you caresses, Wantoning With our Lady-Mother's vagrant tresses, Banqueting With her in her wind-walled palace, Underneath her azured dais, Quaffing, as your taintless way is, From a chalice Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring." So it was done; _I_ in their delicate fellowship was one-- Drew the bolt of Nature's secrecies. _I_ knew all the swift importings On the wilful face of skies; I knew how the clouds arise, Spumed of the wild sea-snortings; All that's born or dies Rose and drooped with; made them shapers Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine-- With them joyed and was bereaven. I was heavy with the even, When she lit her glimmering tapers Round the day's dead sanctities. I laughed in the morning's eyes. I triumphed and I saddened with all weather, Heaven and I wept together, And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine; Against the red throb of its sunset-heart I laid my own to beat, And share commingling heat; But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart. In vain my tears were wet on Heaven's grey cheek. For ah! we know not what each other says, These things and I; in sound _I_ speak-- _Their_ sound is but their stir, they speak by silences. Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake by drouth; Let her, if she would owe me, Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me The breasts o' her tenderness: Never did any milk of hers once bless My thirsting mouth. Nigh and nigh draws the chase, With unperturbed pace, Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, And past those noised Feet A Voice comes yet more fleet-- "Lo! naught contents thee, who content'st not Me." Naked I wait Thy love's uplifted stroke! My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me, And smitten me to my knee; I am defenceless utterly. I slept, methinks, and woke, And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep. In the rash lustihead of my young powers, I shook the pillaring hours And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears, I stand amid the dust o' the mounded years-- My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap. My days have crackled and gone up in smoke, Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream. Yea, faileth now even dream The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist; Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist, Are yielding; cords of all too weak account For earth, with heavy griefs so overplussed. Ah! is Thy love indeed A weed, albeit an amaranthine weed, Suffering no flowers except its own to mount? Ah! must-- Designer infinite!-- Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou canst limn with it? My freshness spent its wavering shower i' the dust; And now my heart is as a broken fount, Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever From the dank thoughts that shiver Upon the sighful branches of my mind. Such is; what is to be? The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind? I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds; Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds From the hid battlements of Eternity: Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then Round the half-glimpsed turrets slowly wash again; But not ere Him who summoneth I first have seen, enwound And now my heart is as a broken fount, Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever From the dank thoughts that shiver With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned; His name I know, and what his trumpet saith. Whether man's heart or life it be which yields Thee harvest, must Thy harvest fields Be dunged with rotten death? Now of that long pursuit Comes on at hand the bruit; That Voice is round me like a bursting sea: "And is thy earth so marred, Shattered in shard on shard? Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me! Strange, piteous, futile thing, Wherefore should any set thee love apart? Seeing none but I makes much of naught" (He said), "And human love needs human meriting: How hast thou merited-- Of all man's clotted clay the dingiest clot? Alack, thou knowest not How little worthy of any love thou art! Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee, Save Me, save only Me? All which I took from thee I did but take, Not for thy harms, But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms. All which thy child's mistake Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home: Rise, clasp My hand, and come." Halts by me that footfall: Is my gloom, after all, Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly? "Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest! Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me."
Francis Thompson (16 December 1859 – 13 November 1907) was an English poet and ascetic. After attending college, he moved to London to become a writer, but in menial work, became addicted to opium, and was a street vagrant for years. A married couple read his poetry and rescued him, publishing his first book Poems in 1893. Thompson lived as an unbalanced invalid in Wales and at Storrington, but wrote three books of poetry, with other works and essays, before dying of tuberculosis in 1907.
The legendary song “Awesome God” was not crafted in a comfy-cozy songwriting room, with fresh legal pads and flavored coffee. It was picked up somewhere between Tennessee and Missouri, in the cab of a sweaty little pickup truck, on the way to a concert. Rich told me that while he was driving, he envisioned an imaginary “hellfire and brimstone” preacher, waving his finger in the air, making proclamations about God to his congregation. Line by line the man shouted out the phrases of “Awesome God.” Rich committed those lines to memory until he got to the venue and found a piano to figure out what key to play it in. After he’d played it for me, Rich said in a small voice “I think it’s going to be big.” Rich then asked me if I would sing the verses and he assembled a small choir for the choruses. We rehearsed and performed “Awesome God” for the first time that night. It amazes me how good Rich’s intuition was about that song, as it continues to impact so many people.
— Steve Cudworth
“There are certain things we must not pray about – moods, for instance. Moods never go by praying, moods go by kicking. A mood nearly always has its seat in the physical condition, not in the moral. It is a continual effort not to listen to the moods which arise from a physical condition, never submit to them for a second. We have to take ourselves by the scruff of the neck and shake ourselves, and we will find that we can do what we said we could not. The curse with most of us is that we won’t. The Christian life is one of incarnate spiritual pluck.”
— Oswald Chambers (24 July 1874 – 15 November 1917)
“It means that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”
― Aslan, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chapter 15), Clive Staples Lewis, 1950