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All Chances Gone. No Beagle Puppy

All the chances I might have had to finally figure out how to forgive and reconnect with my father, and hopefully, lead him back to a saving relationship with Christ from his jaded atheism ended five days ago.

A relative searched out my contact information and let me know last night that my father was discovered by police on a requested wellness check. They estimate he passed away four days previous.

A lot of mixed emotions. There is remorse for my failure and inability; remorse for times when I became righteously angry at his (continuing) mistreatment of my mother, my sister, and myself. There is regret that he seemed a textbook Sociopath that might have never been reached by any efforts of forgiveness and reaching out. There is prayer that God gives grace to those who may have their free will compromised, through no fault of their own, by mental damage/illness. The remorse is mostly quiet remorse and it may grow more intense as God works on my heart, but I can’t see how I could have done anything much different than I did.

I am glad that he is no longer able to affect my mother and myself. My sister has been beyond his grasp since passing away at the beginning of 2005. Glad, but I did not wish him dead. I wished him all the life it took to come back to God in humility as a supplicant, and then, perhaps, a life remainder of quiet peace. Not the false peace of a sociopath unable to know of troublesome things, but of one who knows, knows he is forgiven through no act of his own, and who is able to accept that forgiveness and wrap it around himself like a comforting blanket.

If there were to be a funeral service as nearby as Kearney, Nebraska, and had I a surfeit of time and money, I would very much like to attend, and tell him that I loved him in every way that was left open to me and that I hope that in spite of my failure to reach him that he is somehow covered under Grace.

My mother suggested that I should attend for another reason, and one which, even the possibility of would make me chose not to attend even were I able. She suggested that I might get a Beagle Puppy, and since I am trying to find a way to pay for Nursing School, that it would be a very wonderful blessing to have a Beagle Puppy. I cannot stomach the idea of one more controlling manipulation, one more carrot and stick, one more act of twistedness being done to me.

Briefly, as a child, perhaps 6 years old I had been given a copy of the American Kennel Club’s Dog Breeds Book because I was nuts about anything/everything ‘dog’. I loved its bright yellow cover (my favorite colour then) and all the black and white photos of different breeds. I had poured over it like other boys pour over baseball cards memorizing stats, or in this case, characteristics, classifications, temperaments, grooming needs, and so on. I had paper-clipped pages for different breeds and honestly, I would have liked to have all of them, or even just one of them. There was one at the time that stood out among the rest and that might have met my father’s stringent requirements of an acceptable dog. It wasn’t Benji, Benji after all being a shelter dog of mysterious heritage. It wasn’t my present day loves, Shih-Tzus (I don’t think we’d yet doggy-sat me mum’s boss’ Roxy and knew Shih-Tzu joy) and Border Collies (They weren’t even recognized by the AKC at the time and more’s the pity they ever were). It wasn’t a Samoyed or an Alaskan Malamutes like my beloved (ok, she belonged to my sister Allison, but she lived with me for several years) Nikki. The page I came back to over and over; the page with two paperclips and a third big one on the few full-colour pages in the center, was the Beagle. I wanted this small scrappy smart trim little dog who just looked like it had a heart bursting with love for a little boy. Constant “Beagle Puppy” desire followed but gained no traction with my parents… or rather with my Dad who must control everything.

Mayhaps not so briefly. My parents were active in the church I had grown up in as bible-study leaders, youth ministry helpers, and as drivers for the church van. It happened that the youth group decided to go on an outing to the almost-better-than-Disneyland-way-better-than-Six-Flags Knott’s Berry Farm. It also happened that the day of the trip was my 8th or 9th birthday. When we reached the park I was given the ‘choice’ of going around the day with my father, or with my mother. How can you make a wrong choice when there’s no real choice at all. My mother made such things fun and exciting. My dad complained and groused about the price of food which he would never have purchased anyways. Mum would get small treats when she could but as she really didn’t have much of ‘her own money’ (her nurse’s salary was taken and controlled by my father), even those occasions were rare. He criticized and belittled everything. He condescended upon everyone, especially international workers and visitors. There was no fun with my Dad, no joy. He refused to ride any roller-coasters (some of the best were at KBF, The Corkscrew, Montezooma’s Revenge, etc), and my mum was a roller-coaster-nut. I went with my mum. Later in the day we reconvened at a covered picnic area and there was a surprise birthday cake and party waiting. It could not have possibly been a more perfect day and would have stood in my childhood as one of maybe 3 or 4 actual happy memories (Meeting Benji(Benjean) and her trainer was one, a certain Day at Angeles Crest Christian Camp was another).

It’s not. It’s not one of those. It was one of the other kind of days of which there were so many, and this the one that still hurts the most. As we were leaving the park and getting back in the van and I was nursing the fireball candies (They had to last. Whenever would they come again?) my mother had disobeyed my father and bought for me, my father took me aside. He pulled out his wallet and from that took a clipping from the classified section of the L.A. Times. I still remember the smudged newsprint attempt at including a photo of a litter of Beagle puppies and their mum… a little hard to make out in pure black & white process. My dad told me that he had planned, if I were to come with him for the day, for us to leave the park while others were enjoying the rides and attractions and to go and pick out a puppy from the litter, but as I had went with my mom, I would be getting no puppy. Not today. Not ever. I don’t remember how I reacted beyond sitting at the back of the bus for the long trip back to central LA with a forgotten fireball burning a hole through my cheek as I neither felt nor tasted it, crying, being embarrassed and thinking that I just didn’t want to continue. I -think- it was around this time that I tried and failed to commit suicide with my dad’s .22 auto that I had no idea how to charge or un-safe. I couldn’t bear the thought of my ‘mistake’ and that it would have ‘forever’ effects. To children, ‘forever’ means ‘ever after’, not ‘until circumstances one day change’. I didn’t think in terms of ‘unfair’ because I had never known ‘fair’. I had had so much fun with my mum, and I should have had fun with my mum, but I didn’t realize I was unwittingly making or breaking some Faustian bargain at the time. I didn’t want to be alone with my father, not before, not that day, not ever, and because of it my ‘mistake’, there would never be a puppy to replace Rascal and Samson who had both passed away long before I even got to really know them. I would never have a puppy. I don’t remember anything after that until my mother moved us out of his house. It’s all blanked out. I think I shut down. I think I was crushed beyond caring about anything at all.

Could he really be that twisted so as to do it again? Could he put some stipulation in his will where I would be ‘rewarded’ for making the ‘right’ wrong decision and punished for making the ‘wrong’ right decision. Nobody could possibly do something that heinous, could they?

I don’t want a Beagle Puppy. I don’t ever want a Beagle Puppy from him. I don’t want to miss his funeral, but I very much wish I had been able to miss that birthday at Knotts Berry Farm.

The answer is, “Yes, he could.”. Money has always been his go-to method to control and hurt or bless (not altruistically, but for the returns it brought him) people in his life.

My answer is, “No, I cannot. I Will not.” Today I would say, “I Shan’t.” but it just doesn’t seem as appropriate here. I will find some other way, like everyone else, to take care of Nursing School and other needful things, and the harder it is, the it will be all the worthier for the difficulty.

I hope he’s been granted grace and understanding for the difficulties of his own childhood and for the mental derangement(s) he suffered.

I feel free. Freedom that being half a nation away could never bring. Free of that nagging worry that he could still find some way to hurt my mother or less likely, myself. I wouldn’t have traded his life for that freedom, but the equation was not of my making.

I suppose I am finally free to change my last name to something that doesn’t hurt because now doing so won’t hurt him. I wonder at even bothering to wait, but I know it was in the hopes of reaching him for Christ. Would that I could embrace the wonderful Cepelness that was a small part of my life, my Uncle Al and Aunt Carol and all their kids and their kid’s kiddos, and a fair bit of good Cepelness back in Nebraska, but put together, all represent a drop of joy in an ocean of hurt.

Progress, Dec 21, 2016, 275lbs.

The mission trip to the Ukraine is back on (tentatively) for this summer, this time at more of a safe remove from Putin’s aggression.

Today I’m very excited to go to my third or fourth Bariatric appointment since starting taking Belviq. I’d really not lost any weight for the past 6 months or so that I’ve been taking it. I thought I’d noticed a difference in cravings, but not significantly so, and even that did not last. On my last visit the doc told me that it would only work if I cut out processed carbs and refined sugars. I thought, “That will be the day.”

Today I will go in 25 lbs lighter than the last visit. Only 35 lbs remain to reach the go/no-go goal of 240 lbs.

The convenience of prepared food pretty much means processed carbs and refined sugars. I realized something I already knew about myself… a diet never works. Bad days undo a dozen good days. The only thing that works for me is an exclusion diet… forcing me to buy ingredients and prepare food… essentially making all my choices for myself before I’m in the situation of being hungry, tired, and in a hurry and apt to go get something on the run. So… out with processed carbs, all gluten, all refined sugars, and uncooked milk (That keeps my love of Chex cereal in chex, sorry, I meant ‘check’). In with lots of protein and some rice and limited potato. I began this new lifestyle on October 30.

It’s been great for the most part. It has also had a secondary benefit and a secondary motivation. Anytime I spend money it’s with the thought of, “I want to be married.” Which to me means, I have to get a handle on debt and learn to better live within my means. Not buying fast-food once or twice a day and a big (diet, caffeine-free) fountain soda every day eases so much load on my finances and gives me so much motivation not to fudge the rules. That thought also pertains to my weight as well. I don’t think I have the right to bind myself to another if I’m not doing everything to stay healthy for ‘us’ and for any children. It’s a mantra, “I want to be married. I want to be a father. I want to be of use to God.”

This makes 41 lbs lost since Oct 6, 2015.

I had hoped to be to 270 by Jan 1 and that’s still possible. I really thought I’d never see (feel) 270 lbs again. I have vague memories of the last time, exercising with the Berrys, working hard, and how much better I felt. Going back several years to my times fasting and praying as a desperate alternative to suicide after Raina left, I remember hitting 250 lbs and being stunned at how much better I felt. I hadn’t seen 250 lbs since getting sick in Ireland and coming back 10 lbs heavier (and then never looking back from there) to the sedentary depression of the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue.

I’m very encouraged. Nuvigil has helped a lot in all facets of life. I’m more active and more productive and more positive because I’m more active/productive and can think more clearly.

Other milestones

  • 250 lbs – June 2003 after returning from the Green Isle. I’ve never since been below this weight.
  • 240 lbs – the weight I had pretty much maintained for several years before visiting Ireland in early 2003.
  • 238 lbs – the weight I was the day of my wedding. I fit into my suit though I still felt huge and constricted.
  • 210 lbs – I hit this weight shortly (and briefly) before my friendship with Raina began. I had done another exclusion/poverty diet and my life had been going well. I fit into a 2x shirt and I couldn’t even remember when I had done that… High School perhaps? My goodness but did it feel so very marvelous.
  • 170 lbs – I think I could be content here, in the normal BMI range, just below the overweight range. My cardiologist said I would have to lose more, but he was an arrogant ass who argued with me for half an hour and trotted out his degrees and accolades insisting that I’d never lower my cholesterol with behavior modification and that I -must- slave myself to use of a statin drug drug for the rest of my life. I proved him wrong in a year and I think 170 lbs would be a lovely reasonable weight provided some of it is lean muscle.

Christmas 2008

2008 was the year I desperately clung to Christmas while sobbing. This was the year I did all of our traditions alone, miserable but not knowing what else to do. Sobbing and holding the pups and telling them that their mommy would be back knowing I was trying to convince myself and failing to convince any of us. Feeling like a child who had something done to them, something they had no capacity to understand, unable to see anything other than the hurt and unable to believe such hurt was possible. Wondering if it would get worse, or easier, if it would ever stop, or if there had ever been a reality without the pain… All before, even the massive pain of Christmases in childhood seemed like a self-deluding fantasy made up to try to distract from the only thing I could ever, would ever, had ever known.

God was there. Through God, Bart Larson was there. Greg Cranston was there or soon would be.

It is 2016 and I have chosen for the first time to put up a Christmas tree. A gifted tree and many essential bits given by friends who love me, whom God had put there to make Christmas 2008 look like a dreadful long-ago nightmare, the David and Sarah Cranstons, the Colin and Barbara Smialeks, the Dwights, the Cindys, the Boltons, all the people of Valley View, The Berrys, the Elder Cranstons and me mum Kay who has been growing in wisdom and inner strength and become able to counsel back.

I will put up trees each year and will hang, like delicate heirloom glass ornaments, more names on each bough.

There will be a time when it’s not only my hands doing the hanging, but those with slender more delicate fingers than mine, and more delicate slender hands to join in years following. We will hang names until the boughs creak under the weight and I will feel only gratitude for the Christmas Tree of 2008 for making me know what else is possible so that I might never take for granted that which is.

At the top we will illuminate one name, bright, above all, encompassing all, making all possible. Like a brilliant star will sit the name of Jesus Christ.

Serendipity

I think I imagined the whole thing, or I would think that, but I don’t have that good of an imagination. Somebody imagined it.

Serendipity.

What a wonderful wonderful word.

Serendipity.

How boring a world lacking…
Serendipity.

It took the imagination of Creator God to give us serendipity. I can imagine the thought process…

Ok, I’ve created beauty, I’ve created time and physics, I’ve created creatures, I’ve created Australia and a bunch of creatures just to confuse them and let then know the holy importance of whimsy. I’ve invented chance and probability. I’ve invented consequence and coincidence and I will be amused at watching them try to puzzle out which is which. I’ve created all the emotions of the Heart, good and bad, and I’ve given them the ability to know and understand heroism and the choice to choose to be heroic, and know and understand villainy and given them the choice not to be villains. I’ve covered everything. I even created the word “susurrous” and when they’re ready, I’ll let one of them use it and think himself the word’s progenitor. But there’s one thing missing… A situation. An experience. Something that may be recognized after the fact, but cannot be manufactured, anticipated or repeated in exactly the same way more than once. Serendipity. I will give them serendipity. I can share my imagination with them in the tiniest portions and watch it grab them and carry them along to places they otherwise would not have gone and be delighted at their delight. Yes. Serendipity. That’s the final gift, the composer’s last and most endearing invention on the theme, the conductor’s final flourish of the baton before setting it down and stepping back from the podium.

When Love is Not

I’ve had occasion recently to ponder, not the concept, but the word “Love”, and how truly troublesome it can be especially if it is divorced from the objective standard given us by God and seen in His character throughout scripture.

thefourloves-cslewisLewis penned an entire book titled, “The Four Loves” to try to add some clarity to this carelessly used word by examining the Greek Language’s use of four different words to differentiate between unconditional unmerited love such as God pours out upon us, familial love; an almost obligatory and instinctual love we have little say in unless we are damaged or seek to suppress or corrupt it, brotherly love and affection, and erotic desire (born from some mixture of the other three, one hopes.)

fourloves

It is to be hoped, nay expected, that when two people vow to inextricably tie their lives together that it is based strongly on the first three with delicious anticipation of the fourth, and that at the time of giving oneself to another that the concept, the definition, is one shared and understood by both. If this a priori is not true than all my following ponderings are so much rubbish, or at best only true a posteriori in select cases.

How is it if one or both come to alter their definition/conception away from that originating point, even into something they both might have assigned the term ‘hatred’ to if asked back at that genesis.

The problem arises from the same word being used to describe very different things with both members believing their description to be the true definition of ‘love’. How can two such people ever hope to communicate and understand one another? If one is stuck with their original conception of ‘love’ and ‘hatred’, how can any accord ever be reached with another whose concepts have altered?

What one sees as love, the other sees as the most egregious hatred. There can be no accord between them. The plea, “tell me that you believed I always loved you” is in reality a plea to, “please join me in acceptance of my new foreign definition and then realize that I have ‘believed, within that definition’ that I have always loved you.” I don’t think that can ever happen, even if one desires to love the wayward as God loves His waywards.

It’s like asking the person (or indeed, God) to please change the fundamental makeup of their nature without understanding that, even were that possible, that to make such a change would render them no longer the person they were and are, and therein lies the rub. There is the unresolvable paradox. If that person were to change thus, the wayward would come to feel towards them contempt and derision. Whatever remnants they still possessed of the original genesis of love would be turned to vapor, a noxious poisonous vapor.

The cliché is “Apples and Oranges” and though cliché, no less true. If one asks the other to give them an apple expecting to receive a eccentrically-shaped red-coloured fruit and they are instead given an orange-coloured nearly perfectly spherically-shaped fruit. The receiver will not believe they have received the requested apple, but something different and not desired. The giver however will believe that they have fulfilled the request for an apple and never understand why the receiver can not, will not appreciate their gifting. They will contest the definition of ‘Apple’ and in hurt and desperation will escalate their rhetoric to even greater levels of hurt given. One will lament that this simple expected thing cannot be given and the other lament that nothing they give the asker will satisfy unless it meets the asker’s (long since discarded by the giver) qualifications of ‘red-coloured’, ‘eccentrically shaped’, ‘core in the middle’. Both will experience great hurt.

tristandormouseI wanted to tie in a quote from the movie rendering of Neil Gaiman’s “Stardust”, in which the fallen star Yvaine pours out her heart to her beloved which a witch has bespelled to be a tiny adorable dormouse, thinking and believing that he can in no way understand her. It’s so well said and is simple and amusing honesty when she says that love is, “unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing”. Her final, “Nothing but knowing you loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine.”, I think highlights best why “When Love is Not”, both are miserable beyond all reckoning.

You know when I said I knew little about love? That wasn’t true. I know a lot about love. I’ve seen it, centuries and centuries of it, and it was the only thing that made watching your world bearable. All those wars. Pain, lies, hate… It made me want to turn away and never look down again. But when I see the way that mankind loves… You could search to the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful. So yes, I know that love is unconditional. But I also know that it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing, and… What I’m trying to say, Tristan is… I think I love you. Is this love, Tristan? I never imagined I’d know it for myself. My heart… It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it’s trying to escape because it doesn’t belong to me any more. It belongs to you. And if you wanted it, I’d wish for nothing in exchange – no gifts. No goods. No demonstrations of devotion. Nothing but knowing you loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine.

this is equally true of the concept and definition of Marriage.

I do not agree with Yvaine on a few crucial points. She seems to be echoing romantic Platoistic nonsense that suggests that there is a true love, a destiny, a thing for which one’s own choices and actions are largely meaningless. Love is -always- a choice in all its guises, even στοργή which may, by choice, be amplified or depressed.

Tom’s going home again water-lilies bringing. Hey! Come derry dol! Can you hear me singing?

tom_bombadilListening to an old favorite while getting showered this morning and was struck with a realization. In considering marriage and relationships, old Tom sets an example in his regard and consideration for his lady Goldberry which should be the no-excuses, no-exceptions standard we men must hold ourselves to with our own lady Goldberrys.

I can count on two hands examples I’ve seen in my own life. They are what I aspire to for myself. Almost without exception, they are men (and women) who have made God the head of their marriage.

This, of course, flies in the face of feminist claptrap, and I make no apologies. Any nonsense that makes less of a Daughter of Eve in silly pursuit of making her ‘equal’ is to be laughably discarded. I hope that they themselves find someone who considers them of far more worth than ever he does himself, and who likewise makes no apologies.

Most men may never reach this standard, but may be content if like a standard in battle, it goes ever before him displaying his colours and character, as much reminder to himself as caution to those ahead.

For some reason, beyond my ken, this KHOD comic was listed in the marshwiggle.org site statistics for yesterday. I adore KHOD. How very apropos. Here, Spencer’s father is showing his standard to his son and teaching him to yearn for a similar standard of his own.

KHOD, July 11, 2013, "It gets worse"

KHOD, July 11, 2013, “It gets worse”

God ain’t got no taste

RichMullinsHeadshot

“One of the reasons I love the bible is because the humans in the bible are not very refined. They’re pretty goofy if you want to know the whole truth about it. And I remember when I was a kid and people would always say, you know… ’cause I was always one of those typical depressed adolescent types, I wrote poetry and stuff. It’s how morose I was as a kid and people would go around saying, “Cheer up man, because God loves you.” And I would always say, “Big deal. God loves everybody. That don’t make me special. That just proves that God ain’t got no taste.” And I don’t think He does. Thank God! Cause God takes the junk of our lives and He makes the greatest art out of it and if He was cultured; if He was as civilized as most Christian people wish He was, He would be useless to Christianity… but God is a wild man. And I hope that in the course of your life you encounter him. But let me warn you, you gotta ‘hang on for dear life’… or ‘let go for dear life’, maybe is better.”
— Rich Mullins, in a live performance of Sometimes by Step

And he lifts up his arms in a blessing; For being born again

I walked out the door this morning and was checked hard by a moist cold wind that smelled so fresh and clean that I had little choice but to stand still, feel, smell, and then praise God for His blessings. Praise Him for seasons that turn and turn again and days so in-your-face awesome that even should you be consumed with internalized doldrums or busy thinking those work-a-day thoughts, they will gobsmack you with beauty and pleasure.
RichMullinsHeadshot
And the wrens have returned, and are nesting;
In the hollow of that oak, where his heart once had been.
And he lifts up his arms in a blessing, for being born again.

— Rich Mullins, The Color Green, A Liturgy
a Legacy, & a Ragamuffin Band

Can Goofiness and Manliness Coexist?

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]

zenpencils-toloveanything-hearthobbies-cslewis

Clive Staples Lewis

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
— Clive Staples Lewis, The Four Loves

If you want someone to know the truth, you tell them. If you want someone to love the truth, tell them a story.

andrewpeterson
“So it’s a good question, and I’m not sure I know how to answer it, but today I think He did it that way in the arena of history and time and place because our hearts can only grasp His love if we’re told it in a story. Someone said, ‘If you want someone to know the truth, you tell them. If you want someone to love the truth, tell them a story.’ Since God is after our hearts… since He knows the only way for those hearts to work properly is to exist in the knowledge and experience of His love. He laid down his life to tell us a story.”
— Andrew Peterson in answer his wife’s wondering
why the horror of the Crucifixion had to happen.
“He Gave Us Stories”, Reformation Bible College,
2013 Fall Conference, Creation & Re-Creation.


Go back to timecode 34:45 to hear his guiding idea behind writing The Wingfeather Saga. He had a vision of who the main character Janner Igiby was and who he was to become and that it could only be accomplished through conflict. “The only way for Janner Igiby to become that person was for me to ruin his life. To send him on an adventure that would cause him pain. To strip him of everything that was familiar. To bring him to a point where he could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. And now, at the end of my story I keep thinking about how my whole point, my whole goal at the end of this epic tale I’m trying to tell is to make the darkness seem so great that it’s insurmountable. To make it so that the main characters in my story are on the brink of giving up hope, so that at the very last moment, I can lift the veil, and blow their minds and they can see that there was something stronger than all the darkness.”

Reading Narnia to Your Children

Andrew Peterson - On reading the Chronicles of Narnia to his boys
“I read the Narnia books to my sons when they were little boys and I cried the whole way through. I don’t know how many of you guys have read those books to your kids. It’s one thing to read the Chronicles of Narnia as a boy. It’s another thing to read them as a man to your children and I just wept my way through those books.”
I too tear up throughout reading the Chronicles of Narnia. I struggle not to weep upon listening to him say these things as he describes my own dream for fatherhood. I rejoice that there are other men out there doing exactly that and fulfilling that selfsame dream. This only serves to revive all the same feelings I had upon first becoming acquainted with Andrew Peterson through the below video, Family Man. Not everyone has their dreams fulfilled. I am glad that some do. I am grateful that God gives comfort and contentment even to those who do not.

Dragons Can Be Beaten

GKChesterton
“Fairytales don’t tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairytales tell children that dragons can be killed.”
— Paraphrased of G. K. Chesterton.
“Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.”
— G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles (1909), XVII: “The Red Angel”


Quote discovered in listening to an interview with artist, author, and musician Andrew Peterson.

A Very Irish Day

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.

2016-08-22 13.34.35

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.”

DCP_2799[1]

Paralyzed with Awe at the Power of Prayer

Peter Kreeft

“I strongly suspect that if we saw all the difference even the tiniest of our prayers make, and all the people those little prayers were destined to affect, and all the consequences of those prayers down through the centuries, we would be so paralyzed with awe at the power of prayer that we would be unable to get up off our knees for the rest of our lives.”
— Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy, Boston College

Ukraine on Indefinite Hold

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-.

VVCC-2016-Men'sRetreatFlyerQuarterPg-Front
VVCC-2016-Men'sRetreatFlyerQuarterPg-Back

Progress, Mar 29, 2016, 287lbs.

60ForUkraineMaking 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.

This hoop has been jumped through and arrived last week:
CepelPassport2016Sm

Still praying to know if this is the right thing to do.

Progress, Mar 1, 2016, 295lbs.

60ForUkraineMany 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.

Begin, Feb 20, 2016, 300lbs.

60ForUkraine
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.

Higher Tribunal Than Him

I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.

— Clive Staples Lewis – Letters of C.S. Lewis (1951)

Clive Staples Lewis

Lost Beloved

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:

Boxed it All Up and Put it Away for Good
BoxOnTheShelf-CleanedUp-130x130

No longer strewn across my life, mental dross to trip and fall.
Reminders of the long ago, hang not upon each wall.

Gathered in a cardboard box, packed and ordered well.
Flaps folded in and interlocked, form corrugated shell.

Place upon a storage shelf, away from thought and mind.
Discarded not, disturbing not, from now till end of time.

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.

Ugly Moral Portrait

Charles SpurgeonBrother, 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.

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Peace

The Jordan is waiting for me to cross through
My heart is aging I can tell
So Lord, I’m begging
For one last favor from You
Here’s my heart take it where You will

— Rich Mullins, Elijah

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.

Christianity Cannot be Moderately Important

Clive Staples Lewis“Only thus will you be able to undermine their belief that a certain amount of ‘religion’ is desirable but one mustn’t carry it too far. One must point out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of -no- importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

— C. S. Lewis, Christian Apologetics, God in the Dock and other Essays, page 102, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Sep 15, 2014

Postmarital Singleness

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 a Gift and That’s Biblical in Case You Forgot

“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.”

All Good Proclaims God

“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)

Grateful for Friends

Philemon 1:7

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.

Titus 1:15-16

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
sensualist.”’

‘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.

’Іοϋλίαν ποθω*

snoopyhugwoodFarewell Hug

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

*Until today.

Update: January 17, 2017. I’ve had this as private for a while but decided to just let it be what it is and make it public. I thought about removing it all together as it’s not technically true, ‘The first the last’. I’ve been hugged and hugged hard and hugged back a little, and endured/enjoyed sneak-attacks, and nearly been knocked on my keester by the wonderful unrestrained exuberance. The wonderful thing though is the enduring truth of the line “at last without sin.” She’s like a crazy little sister now and I can enjoy spending time and conversing with her and her husband. God blesses.

2 Timothy 4:18

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.

The Grace & Truth Paradox – Randy Alcorn

The Grace & Truth Paradox
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

Fit Though Misfit

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.


When did Religion become a ‘bad’ word?

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.

Disappearance of Theology from the Church

David F. Wells

“The disappearance of theology from the life of the Church, and the orchestration of that disappearance by some of its leaders, is hard to miss today, but oddly enough, not easy to prove. It is hard to miss in the evangelical world–in the vacuous worship that is so prevalent, for example, in the shift form God to the self as the central focus of faith, in the psychologized preaching that follows this shift, in the erosion of its conviction, in its strident pragmatism, in its inability to think incisively about the culture, in its reveling in the irrational.”
― David F. Wells, No Place for Truth: Or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology

Lower the Law and you dim the light

Charles Spurgeon
“Lower the Law and you dim the light by which man perceives his guilt. This is a very serious loss to the sinner rather than a gain, for it lessens the likelihood of his conviction and conversion. I say you have deprived the gospel of its ablest auxiliary [most powerful weapon] when you have taken away the schoolmaster that is to bring men to Christ. They will never accept grace until they tremble before a just and holy Law. Therefore the Law serves most necessary and blessed purpose and must not be moved from its place.”
— Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Six years in… and trusting God

LovelyRainaSix 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.

« Six years »

5750790729_e7723ee282_xlargeAs 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.

TogetherWeddingGod 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?

Charles Mackay (1812-1889)
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)

Are you having a secret sordid affair… with money?

Hiding MoneyThink 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

5 You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness,
  Who remembers You in Your ways.
  Behold, You were angry, for we sinned,
  We continued in them a long time;
  And shall we be saved?

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.

Some final thoughts:

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 think in a lot of ways, our hearts and priorities may far more clearly be reflected in our bank statements than our CovenantEyes or X3Watch accountability reports.

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).

Originally posted to Facebook November 1, 2014, as a follow-up to thoughts posted October 17, 2014 and republished here as An Invitation to Self-Reflection

An Invitation to Self-Reflection

Dark Corner
Originally posted to Facebook October 17, 2014.
Lately I’ve been pondering some questions I would ask myself and invite others to ask them of themselves.
If I would answer ‘yes’ to the following question, “Am I in a relationship with other believers that involves some form of accountability?”, then these follow-up questions to myself would follow:
  1. In all the aspects of my life in which I am ostensibly transparent, is there any activity or aspect which I have compartmentalized away and either consciously or unconsciously in order to make certain that it never gets exposed, discussed or explored, by not bringing it up or by steering the conversation in a different direction when someone else brings it up? Might I even go so far as to confess other areas of weakness both to show a sincere desire for accountability and to direct attention away from my secret activity? Do I have a dark hidden corner?
  2. If the answer to #1 was yes, why do I do it? Am I:
    1. Ashamed or embarrassed?
    2. Fairly certain that I know what their response would be and that they might question whether it was wise, or Godly, or somehow at odds with the kind of relationship with God that I want and profess to want to have?
    3. Completely certain that I know what their response would be because it’s come up before and perhaps I even agreed at the time (Do I not now?) that it was unwise or unGodly or somehow at odds with who I claim to (want to) be in God?
  3. Finally, if the answer to #2 matched any of the possible reasons, or even reasons that weren’t suggested, how important really, is that activity or aspect, and do I really want to keep possession of that activity or aspect?
I say finally, but it leads me to ponder something Col. Jimmie Coy asked us about at the Valley View Community Church 2014 Men’s Retreat; Does that ‘thing’ qualify as an ABOB, A Bowl of Beans, a bowl of lentil stew which I desire so very strongly that I am willing to trade away my entire birthright, as did Esau, in exchange for gaining or keeping. Further, when I’ve reached the bottom dregs of that bowl, will I still agree with the logic and reasoning that led to my decision? Will I find lasting satisfaction that replaces the value of my birthright, or will I find lasting remorse over that which I forsook?
From Jimmie Coy: “ABOB, A Bowl Of Beans…is anything that will separate you from your Spiritual eternal birthright. ABOB calls to each of us but ultimately it is what separates us from our greatest treasure. As Desmond Doss would say, ‘If we miss heaven, we have missed everything.’ IC, jdc”

Divine punishments are also mercies and particular good is worked out of particular evil

SurprisedByJoy1“If the Northerness seemed then a bigger thing than my religion, that may partly have been because my attitude toward it contained elements which my religion ought to have contained and did not. It was not itself a new religion for it contained no trace of belief and imposed no duties. Yet unless I am greatly mistaken, there was in it something very like adoration; some kind of quite disinterested self-abandonment to an object which securely claimed this by simply being the object it was. We are taught in the Prayer Book to ‘give thanks to God for His great glory’ as if we owed Him more thanks for being what He necessarily is than for any particular benefit he confers upon us; and so indeed we do, and to know God is to know this, but I had been far from any such experience. I came far nearer to feeling this about the Norse gods whom I disbelieved in than I had ever done about the true God while I believed. Sometimes I can almost think that I was sent back to the false gods, there to acquire some capacity for worship against the day when the true God should recall me to Himself. Not that I might not have learned this sooner and more safely in ways I shall now never know without apostasy, but that divine punishments are also mercies and particular good is worked out of particular evil and the penal blindness made sanitive. “ ~ C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
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