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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.

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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.”

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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-.

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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:
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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
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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.

Courage and Kindness | writingmymelody

Source: Courage and Kindness | writingmymelody

My own journey has been a little different and Nice has been a necessary step, but only because my starting place was Mean. My father*, manipulative, mean-hearted, controlling, and critical, raised me to be a carbon copy of himself in my thinking and attitudes. Until I was rescued from his control, my basic operating system was Mean, Condescending, and Hurtful.

Rescued at something like 10 years old, it took many years away from his influence before I began to have an inkling that things were wrong. I was Mean, even towards my rescuers. My inkling was no stronger than knowing that there were some people in my life that I really liked and admired who were different from all I knew and I knew that they were different somehow in ways I could not comprehend.

It was not until I was in residential treatment at Charter Hospital my freshman year in high school that a group-therapy leader named Darrel finally got through to me. He was one of those different people and I think it took my first admiring him, for the crisis event that soon followed to have an impact on my arrogant, legalistic, selfish, condescending, and mean heart. Indeed it took that admiration for there to be a Crisis Event at all.

In a group therapy session, I was being my usual charming argumentative combative condescending-self when Darrel braked hard and brought the conversation to a screeching halt and said, “You know something Christian? I just realized. You really ARE an A**hole.” When I got back to my room after the expected tantrum of “You can’t say that to me!” had run its course, the crisis began and it left me broken and floored.

I thank God for putting Darrel, and another person who’s kind heart and love for God has saved my life over and over the past couple of decades, Bart Larson, Chaplain, Photographer and Artist and at the time Chaplain for the adolescent unit at Charter Hospital. (This next to the author of the blog post I reblogged) [You’ve likely seen his name on the pictures that used to line the walls at Life Spring and still do at Valley View.] He counseled me then. He rescued me from demonic spiritual attack. He counselled me after. He did our premarital counseling. He tag-teamed our wedding with Pastor John Drage of The Rock. He helped us through miscarriage and pain and 6+ years of failing to re-conceive and my lost beloved’s health issues with PCOS, autoimmune nightmares and celiac disease. He helped us as our marriage fell apart and helped me after she left and kept me from ending my life many times as I grieved and grieved. He even helped me fix things and professionally paint our marriage home to get it ready for forced sale from the divorce. All quietly and kindly and unassuming. He has never stopped helping me and pouring out to me God’s kindness (modeling it to me).

Along the long road from Mean to where I am now, which on good days, is leagues and leagues down the path towards Kindness, there was a necessary intermediary step, or rather whole long section of the path. Niceness. It started clumsily and ineptly and most especially, deliberately. I didn’t understand Kindness, I only knew the effects of kindness, upon me, from others. I had to make very conscious deliberate decisions to ‘Be Nice’ where all my life my BIOS, my Firmware, my autopilot had been ‘Be Mean’.

Good days. Bad days. Good encounters. Bad encounters. Starting with far more bad than good until finally the bad became ‘the old man’ who stayed buried most of the time. He’s still not dead, but he’s not enjoying the sunshine and fresh air any longer and the guard I’ve set on his prison is usually very diligent.

Being Nice opened me up to being able to learn and come to a deep and intuitive understanding of the kindness of these people in my life, and through them, the kindness of Christ who ruled their lives. It gave me feelings of success (and self-forgiveness/grace/acceptance) instead of self-loathing, and encouraged me to keep fighting to move from Nice to Kind. It taught me to move my lifelong relationship with Christ from seeing Him from a legalistic and truth perspective to a relationship of recognizing His kindness and loving Him for it and learning to temper Truth with Grace (as is best exemplified in Randy Alcorn’s “The Grace & Truth Paradox”).

I’m not Kind yet. I am kind-of Kind. I am Kind-er. I have times where kindness is my auto-pilot and love is the lift that keeps my plane aloft. Much of my ROM BIOS/Firmware has been flashed with new base instructions.

Going from Mean, through Nice, to Kind, has been every bit a “Fake it ’till you make It.” journey.

Much of the difference between Kind and Nice has been the journey from deliberate and forced to natural, heartfelt, and sincere.

* none of this can be separated from the lessons of Total Forgiveness as taught by R.T. Kendall. Total Forgiveness parallels this idea ‘nice until kind’ in a strong way in that the process of Total Forgiveness is a daily decision to forgive. That practice will continue daily for a lifetime unless God eventually heals you to the point where you no longer need to decide each day because you have totally forgiven them.

One of the steps towards Total Forgiveness has been to realize that he would probably be completely bewildered and possibly very hurt that I see things this way. Realizing that has been one of the first steps towards extending him true grace. He’s no more and no less a sinful fallen lump than I am. We’re both ragamuffins, but only I’ve been given the blessing of realizing it.

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.

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