What it Means to Fall in Love

With­in this Chris­t­ian vision of mar­riage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at anoth­er per­son and get a glimpse of what God is cre­at­ing, and to say, “I see who God is mak­ing you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to part­ner with you and God in the jour­ney you are tak­ing to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your mag­nif­i­cence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!”

— Tim­o­thy Keller, The Mean­ing of Mar­riage, Ch 4, pg 121

Bound to Fulfillment

With­out being for­giv­en, released from the con­se­quences of what we have done, our capac­i­ty to act would, as it were, be con­fined to one sin­gle deed from which we could nev­er recov­er; we would remain the vic­tims of its con­se­quences for­ev­er, not unlike the sorcerer’s appren­tice who lacked the mag­ic for­mu­la to break the spell. With­out being bound to the ful­fill­ment of promis­es, we would nev­er be able to keep our iden­ti­ties; we would be con­demned to wan­der help­less­ly and with­out direc­tion in the dark­ness of each man’s lone­ly heart, caught in its con­tra­dic­tions and equiv­o­cal­i­ties, a dark­ness which only the light shed over the pub­lic realm through the pres­ence of oth­ers, who con­firm the iden­ti­ty between the one who promis­es and the one who ful­fills, can dis­pel. Both fac­ul­ties, there­fore, depend on plu­ral­i­ty, on the pres­ence and act­ing of oth­ers, for no one can for­give him­self and no one can feel bound by a promise made only to him­self; for­giv­ing and promis­ing enact­ed in soli­tude or iso­la­tion remain with­out real­i­ty and can sig­ni­fy no more than a role played before one’s self. [empha­sis mine]

— Han­nah Arendt, The Human Con­di­tion, 2nd ed., pg 237

The Wounds We Carry

Many peo­ple come to mar­riage hav­ing been seri­ous­ly hurt by par­ents, lovers, or for­mer spous­es. I am not talk­ing about par­ents who phys­i­cal­ly or sex­u­al­ly abuse their chil­dren. I’m talk­ing of the more wide­spread expe­ri­ences of cold and indif­fer­ent par­ents or of ver­bal­ly abu­sive par­ents who know how to pun­ish chil­dren emo­tion­al­ly. Then there are the dat­ing rela­tion­ships or for­mer mar­riages in with the oth­er par­ty wrong and betrayed you. All of these expe­ri­ences can make it extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to trust the oth­er sex, while at the same time fill­ing you with deep doubts about your judg­ment and char­ac­ter. “Wound­ed­ness” is com­pound­ed self-doubt and guilt, resent­ment and dis­il­lu­sion­ment.

— Tim­o­thy Keller, The Mean­ing of Mar­riage, Ch 3, pgs 60–61

I let myself be crip­pled by this for about sev­en years… my own voice com­pound­ed with the schiz­o­phrenic lies and dis­tor­tions of she who sought, with great suc­cess for a time, to under­mine every decent thing I’ve ever been or done.

…extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to trust the oth­er sex, while at the same time fill­ing you with deep doubts about your judg­ment and character…self-doubt and guilt, resent­ment and dis­il­lu­sion­ment.
Even know­ing the voice was one of psy­chosis and hatred, didn’t stop it from wound­ing me more deeply than I could have imag­ined, wound­ing ever deep­er time and time again. I would be filled with those deep doubts about my judg­ment and char­ac­ter. I would despair of ever hav­ing a future, and I would allow axes of utter non­sense to fell my tree-of-self-aware­ness.

I am so very grate­ful, not just for the heal­ing God has giv­en me, but espe­cial­ly for the pro­tec­tion and reas­sur­ance against such attacks. I had thought to nev­er again be sub­ject­ed to such attacks until a let­ter arrived a cou­ple of months ago. This new pack­et of hatred sought to go back to the utter begin­ning of our love affair, well before mat­ri­mo­ny, and paint over great beau­ty with foul and rot­ted pig­ments of self­ish­ness and wicked­ness. Instead of felling me for a time, it became one more rein­forc­ing arti­fact to add to a pile of cor­re­spon­dence which my spir­i­tu­al and psy­cho­log­i­cal advis­ers agree show a descent into mad­ness.

It pro­duced deep sor­row, but sor­row is not at all the same bun­ny of which Tim speaks. You can­not des­per­ate­ly and deeply love some­one, what­ev­er the cir­cum­stances, and not ache for them and the pain, unhap­pi­ness, and poi­son of hatred they con­tin­ue to imbibe.

I won’t say that I’ve grown com­plete­ly immune, and to be hon­est I do not want to become so. Satan does find those very occa­sion­al low­est points to charge one of his tempters with whis­per­ing into my ears tired old lies and doubts. I am glad I am not entire­ly immune sim­ply because the hubris of immu­ni­ty would be an utter lack of hum­ble­ness and fail­ure to see myself rela­tion­al­ly as fall­en man in need of Christ. If I became that, I might tru­ly begin to be the mon­ster she describes. I think Spur­geon said it best when he said, “Broth­er, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” All the more rea­son to sur­round myself with friends and spir­i­tu­al lead­ers who know me well and hold me ever account­able. Instead, I think it leaves me clear to see those issues with my char­ac­ter and judg­ment that still mer­it large allo­ca­tions of prayer and effort.

God brings joy in the morn­ing.

Psalm 30, HCSB 1 I will exalt You, Lord, because You have lift­ed me up and have not allowed my ene­mies to tri­umph over me. 2 Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me. 3 Lord, You brought me up from She­ol; You spared me from among those going down to the Pit. 4 Sing to the Lord, you His faith­ful ones, and praise His holy name. 5 For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor, a life­time. Weep­ing may spend the night, but there is joy in the morn­ing. 6 When I was secure, I said, “I will nev­er be shak­en.” 7 Lord, when You showed Your favor, You made me stand like a strong moun­tain; when You hid Your face, I was ter­ri­fied. 8 Lord, I called to You; I sought favor from my Lord: 9 “What gain is there in my death, in my descend­ing to the Pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it pro­claim Your truth? 10 Lord, lis­ten and be gra­cious to me; Lord, be my helper.” 11 You turned my lament into danc­ing; You removed my sack­cloth and clothed me with glad­ness, 12 so that I can sing to You and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise You for­ev­er.

I’ve explored only of the wound­ing caused by adult rela­tion­ships. So long since has God healed me from the first type of wound­ing Tim dis­cuss­es, that I near­ly for­got to touch on the sub­ject. Learn­ing some cru­cial truths resolved my fear of being mar­ried and of being a father to chil­dren such that they no longer seem jus­ti­fi­able con­cerns. I remain vig­i­lant but no longer par­a­lyzed.

I have learned to tru­ly love, to affirm, to serve, to sac­ri­fice, to place the pre­rog­a­tive of anoth­er above my own and to take joy in doing so. I am not my father. I will nev­er vis­it upon a beloved wife or child the ter­rors vis­it­ed upon me; the fear of which kept me from believ­ing I had any right to love and be loved. I will have my own unique blind­ness­es and short­com­ings, but nev­er those and nev­er lack­ing the love and humil­i­ty that keeps me from real­iz­ing (yes, after prompt­ing and time per­haps) that these blind­ness­es and short­com­ings exist.

I like­wise real­ized is that even were there some ‘demon’ hold­ing license to lurk with­in me, a fear I once very much held [knowl­edge of which was used by anoth­er as impo­tent firey dart which fail to wound], I do not exist in a vac­u­um. I will nev­er be sep­a­rat­ed from peo­ple who know me and who have been giv­en leave to look deeply into my life and sift and seek and con­front.

Most impor­tant of all con­sid­er­a­tions is that my deal-break­er-if-lack­ing cri­te­ria for a future beloved is a deep, abid­ing love of Jesus Christ com­bined with a sharp intel­lect, a heart of love and wis­dom, and the courage to be bold. A mar­riage is not one per­son per­form­ing solo, but two per­sons act­ing in sweet and sacred con­cert with one anoth­er.

2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
For God has not giv­en us a spir­it of fear and timid­i­ty, but of pow­er, love, and self-dis­ci­pline.
If one mem­ber begins to play off-piste and ignores the direc­tion of the Con­duc­tor Almighty, the music quick­ly sours and the part­ner in error must cor­rect if sweet­ness is to again be achieved.

I am no longer slave to a heart of fear on this, or this, or this account.

The Proper Study of God’s Elect is God

It has been said by some­one that “the prop­er study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equal­ly true that the prop­er study of God’s elect is God; the prop­er study of a Chris­t­ian is the God­head. The high­est sci­ence, the lofti­est spec­u­la­tion, the might­i­est phi­los­o­phy, which can ever engage the atten­tion of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the per­son, the work, the doings, and the exis­tence of the great God whom he calls his Father.

There is some­thing exceed­ing­ly improv­ing to the mind in a con­tem­pla­tion of the Divin­i­ty. It is a sub­ject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immen­si­ty; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infin­i­ty. Oth­er sub­jects we can com­pass and grap­ple with; in them we feel a kind of self-con­tent, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this mas­ter sci­ence, find­ing that our plumbline can­not sound its depth, and that our eagle eye can­not see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn excla­ma­tion, “I am but of yes­ter­day, and know noth­ing.” No sub­ject of con­tem­pla­tion will tend more to hum­ble the mind, than thoughts of God…

But while the sub­ject hum­bles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larg­er mind than the man who sim­ply plods around this nar­row globe… The most excel­lent study for expand­ing the soul, is the sci­ence of Christ, and Him cru­ci­fied, and the knowl­edge of the God­head in the glo­ri­ous Trin­i­ty. Noth­ing will so enlarge the intel­lect, noth­ing so mag­ni­fy the whale soul of man, as a devout, earnest, con­tin­ued inves­ti­ga­tion of the great sub­ject of the Deity.

And, whilst hum­bling and expand­ing, this sub­ject is emi­nent­ly con­so­la­to­ry. Oh, there is, in con­tem­plat­ing Christ, a balm for every wound; in mus­ing on the Father, there is a qui­etus for every grief; and in the influ­ence of the Holy Ghost, there is a bal­sam for every sore. Would you lose your sor­row? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge your­self in the Godhead’s deep­est sea; be lost in his immen­si­ty; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invig­o­rat­ed. I know noth­ing which can so com­fort the soul; so calm the swelling bil­lows of sor­row and grief; so speak peace to the winds of tri­al, as a devout mus­ing upon the sub­ject of the God­head. It is to that sub­ject that I invite you this morn­ing.

— Charles Had­don Spur­geon, Jan­u­ary 7th, 1855

Hearts of Withheld Respect of Less Concern Than Hearts of Withheld Love?

There seems to be a strange dis­con­nect between our val­u­a­tion and per­cep­tion of Love and our val­u­a­tion and per­cep­tion of Respect. We’ve learned much about authen­tic love over the past cou­ple of decades. Cer­tain wis­dom (God-based) on the sub­ject has emerged and come to the fore in attempt counter cer­tain world-dom that seems per­va­sive. So, now, we echo state­ments like “Love is a Choice” and ideas express­ing that gen­uine love is unselfish and sac­ri­fi­cial, putting anoth­er first even though they may not seem, to some, to be wor­thy or deserv­ing. Anoth­er way of look­ing at the “wor­thy or deserv­ing state­ment” is to say that one holds expec­ta­tions, which, real­is­tic or oth­er­wise are or are not being met. Part of “Love is a Choice” is choos­ing to real­ize that one’s expec­ta­tions might be unrea­son­able, over­ly high, or, not to put too fine a point on it, unlov­ing.

Respect, how­ev­er, seems to be regard­ed very much dif­fer­ent­ly by these same peo­ple. Real­ly, when you get down to it, how can respect be any dif­fer­ent? Respect is a choice. Respect is less depen­dent on the per­son one is or is not respect­ing, and more depen­dent on the barom­e­ters and expec­ta­tions we impose upon oth­ers. How often has some­one said, “I can love this per­son but I could nev­er respect them.”? It sounds a lit­tle schiz­o­phrenic to me, and I’m cer­tain that I’ve said the same on more than one occa­sion. Cog­ni­tive dis­so­nant much? I need to take a good hard look at myself and see if I’m not talk­ing non­sense.

Myself, I would be dev­as­tat­ed to think of myself as an unlov­ing and uncom­pas­sion­ate per­son. I would lose sleep over it and be dis­traught if I, or worse, oth­ers, failed to see me as lov­ing and com­pas­sion­ate. In times past, I think I would have expe­ri­enced very lit­tle dis­com­fort were I accused of being pos­sess­ing a heart of dis­re­spect.

I would prob­a­bly feel and maybe express that I am com­plete­ly jus­ti­fied in depriv­ing anoth­er of my respect because of some fault I per­ceive that per­son to hold. Well insu­lat­ed by my jus­ti­fi­ca­tions, I would prob­a­bly nev­er even stop to con­sid­er if my heart of dis­re­spect might be sin­ful, dis­obe­di­ent, in need of repen­tance, and deserv­ing of effort to change just as much as would an unlov­ing heart.

I think that if I’m reluc­tant to self-exam­ine in this area, it is because I’m will­ing to make a show of sur­ren­der­ing on the very easy; the unlov­ing heart, pro­vid­ed I can use it as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to hold out on the very dif­fi­cult; the heart of judge­men­tal dis­re­spect.

Should not I; should not any­one, be just as anx­ious to come-clean and work to cor­rect one as we are the oth­er?

Know­ing I pos­sessed an unlov­ing heart would cause me to hurt, then reflect, then fret and pon­der [hope­ful­ly stop­ping short of use­less rumi­na­tion], to seek the help of a coun­selor, to sub­mit in account­abil­i­ty to those I trust to chal­lenge me and dis­ci­ple me to change. I would yearn to roadmap a solu­tion and then per­se­vere to com­ple­tion.

I think my cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance would maybe push me not to see a heart of dis­re­spect as any­thing like the same kind of bun­ny.

We can just choose to keep the cold heart and mind that can­not [or refus­es to] give to anoth­er a quan­ti­ty of respect one min­im greater than the oth­er has ‘earned’ or ‘mer­it­ed’. We can con­tin­ue to won­der per­plexed­ly why, despite our accu­mu­la­tion of gold foil stars for hav­ing lov­ing and com­pas­sion­ate hearts, the kind of lov­ing rela­tion­ships with oth­ers we yearn for con­tin­ue elude us.

I want to begin apply­ing the same ἀγάπη love stan­dard to my respect stan­dard.

Grace is unmer­it­ed favor. Noth­ing more, and cer­tain­ly, noth­ing less.

I want to be as grace-giv­ing with respect as I seek to be with love.

I want to be as heart­bro­ken by my pos­sess­ing a dis­re­spect­ing heart as I would be pos­sess­ing an unlov­ing heart.

I think back to my child­hood and I see now clear­ly, that a par­ent may cov­er up a twist­ed heart of self­ish abuse in their own minds by lav­ish­ing ‘love’ and pro­claim­ing to all who will lis­ten, what a lov­ing par­ent they are… all the while, shred­ding their child’s heart with con­stant unre­lent­ing meat-grinder scalpels of with­held respect or expressed con­tempt and dis­ap­point­ment.

My father may have been cor­rect every time he con­temp­tu­ous­ly expressed how I failed to meet even the base expec­ta­tions a child should meet, and how worth­less I was. [ He was entire­ly incor­rect. ] Even if he had been cor­rect, his goal was nev­er to make me a bet­ter boy, a bet­ter per­son, a bet­ter future man. That which I have accom­plished in those areas, I have had to do entire­ly on my own under the hos­tile rain of his dis­cour­age­ment. This I have done in spite of know­ing that I would nev­er earn his favor. He believed him­self jus­ti­fied in with­hold­ing respect. He is now beyond all capac­i­ty to give. Per­haps he always had been.

When I vis­it­ed my father in Bran­son dur­ing my fresh­man year in high school, he even told me that he had been try­ing to par­ent me using Dob­son­ian “Tough Love” and that if he had got­ten it wrong, it wasn’t for lack of try­ing. By his next words, he proved that lack of try­ing fig­ured strong­ly into things. Had he tru­ly read “Love Must be Tough” (The book in which Dr. Dob­son coined the term “Tough Love” before giv­ing it to the world as his last­ing lega­cy to mis­quote and mis­use), as he claimed to have done, he might have known that the book was writ­ten to help and encour­age the hus­bands and wives of spous­es who refuse to repent of and turn from sins such as ver­bal, phys­i­cal, emo­tion­al, and sex­u­al abuse, and infi­deli­ty.

Imag­ine name­drop­ping Dob­son as scape­goat for all the pain one inflicts on anoth­er. Paul might well respond, “μη γενοιτο”. My father was cer­tain­ly not alone in hav­ing made the attempt.

I think it is clear, going for­ward, that when we see these lit­tle ten­den­cies in our­selves to inflict upon oth­ers, that which was inflict­ed upon us, our heart’s cry should be a des­per­a­tion to do what­ev­er must be done to rem­e­dy. Once brought to our aware­ness, the absolute very last thing we may allow our­selves is excuse and self-per­mis­sion to con­tin­ue liv­ing life in this man­ner. We must counter our hearts of non-respect as strong­ly as we must hearts of unlove.

To acknowl­edge and then make excus­es or pass respon­si­bil­i­ty and not make des­per­ate effort to change is addi­tion­al retroac­tive abuse to the child we were, a vis­i­ta­tion of the abuse we suf­fered as chil­dren upon our adult selves, and of course, abuse of those God has put into our lives for us to, serv­ing as His proxy, show­er with His love and His respect.

The best response I could have ever made to my father was not to fight him, not to hate him, not to resent him, and cer­tain­ly not to try to show him that he was wrong and that he should repent. The best response is to instead to make cer­tain that I become the healed and impen­e­tra­ble wall through which his influ­ence is nev­er again per­mit­ted to vis­it hurt on anoth­er.

We are instru­ments capa­ble of serv­ing as proxy for anoth­er.

Do we allow our­selves to be used as the tools of those who have hurt us, or do we offer our­selves up to the Heav­en­ly Father who loved and sac­ri­ficed all to save us?

This sub­ject has been an ongo­ing pon­der for approach­ing a year. To this point, I’ve not had the courage to say what it was that gelled pon­der into a need to write this arti­cle.

Con­fes­sion. Con­tri­tion. ὁμολογέω/homologéō.

Recent­ly I have been in a sit­u­a­tion where peo­ple I very much love and very much respect (as Emmer­son Eggrichs would say, “Peo­ple of basic good will”) have done some things I regard as need­ing remedy/redress. I try not to put peo­ple on pedestals any­more, but it’s more of a strug­gle with folks I very much do love and respect who are in a posi­tion of author­i­ty. I think that the fact of their being just as human as the next guy engen­ders in me feel­ings of betray­al, which is unfair and ridicu­lous on my part. Rather, I hurt for a good­ly while refus­ing to remem­ber that they are fal­li­ble per­sons of good will with their own fears and hangups and foibles. In my hurt, I hurt back and feel jus­ti­fied doing it.

I am respon­si­ble for not just what I do with such knowl­edge, feel­ings, sit­u­a­tions, but how I do it.

Emmer­son exclaimed in a ver­bal con­flict with his wife Sarah, “You know you can be right, but you can be wrong at the top of your voice.. I’ve always had an inkling of what he meant, but I think I under­stand his mean­ing bet­ter now.

Some­times it’s much less about feel­ing respect than treat­ing anoth­er with respect.

A friend point­ed out to me while I was doing it that I was clear­ly dis­traught and maybe should find anoth­er time, venue, and method.

I felt jus­ti­fied based on the oth­er person’s action and my hurt, so I con­tin­ued unheed­ing.

It’s dif­fi­cult. My mind is still think­ing up ways I could have bet­ter used the oppor­tu­ni­ty to dev­as­tate resis­tance and dri­ve home what I per­ceived as real­i­ty.

Mean­while, my heart is break­ing, and all these thoughts on respect are crush­ing me down.

My heart is telling me that respect… true respect… would be to not speak from my hurt… would be to make effort and fig­ure out how to accom­plish what I feel is apoc­a­lyp­ti­cal­ly impor­tant, but in a way that did not give voice to a heart of dis­re­spect. These folks are cer­tain­ly worth it. I’m worth it. Christ is wor­thy of all and infi­nite­ly more.

I don’t know that I’m capa­ble. It seems an entire­ly impos­si­ble task. It seems that by the time I fig­ure out how to accom­plish it, it may be too late for real-world events.

Respect means try­ing in spite of all that. Respect means turn­ing to God to be strong where I am new­born blind-kit­ten weak.

And Then There Was One: Goodbye My Little Thistlepants

This­tle­downe start­ed seiz­ing ear­ly Wednes­day morn­ing. MU Vet Emer­gency got him sta­bi­lized and able to come home with anti-seizure meds and pred­nisone for his extreme hyper­glycemia. My room­mate woke me at 2am this morn­ing to let me know This­tle had been act­ing strange for a half hour. A half-hour lat­er after try­ing to give This­tle hon­ey and cool his hyper­ther­mia with cool water, Dwight, my room­mate was kind enough to take This­tle back to MU Emer­gency (I was not able to func­tion after an ear­li­er mas­sive dose of Tra­zodone). They were unable to cool him, bring his blood-sug­ar back up or stop the seizures. He was hap­py and healthy two days ago… a lit­tle dynamo of sweet play­ful affec­tion­ate fun that when­ev­er I sat down on the couch to work for a while would glom onto my leg and take a nap, con­tent to be in close con­tact and to be stroked occa­sion­al­ly.

On the phone, before I start­ed sob­bing, still talk­ing through with the doc­tor (who lat­er start­ed sob­bing her­self) how hope­less the sit­u­a­tion was, Hawthorne in the oth­er room start­ed grief howl­ing for the first time in his life. He knew the lit­tle broth­er he’d come into the world with and had been insep­a­ra­ble from for his entire life was leav­ing him.

Nursing School Update — Approaching Roadblock

Class­es at Colum­bia Col­lege have been absolute­ly fan­tas­tic, as I work to earn the sci­ence cred­its lacked by my Bach­e­lor of Arts degree in Com­put­er Sci­ence. I’ve now tak­en Pre-chem and Clin­i­cal Micro­bi­ol­o­gy with lab in-seat in the evenings and have achieved sol­id A’s in both.

Alas, nei­ther A counts towards the Sci­ence GPA that will be eval­u­at­ed in con­junc­tion with my even­tu­al per­for­mance on the ATI TEAS VI exam, but they are good indi­ca­tor, that, with the prop­er accom­mo­da­tions, as well as increased matu­ri­ty, I can per­form well in aca­d­e­m­ic pur­suits.

This ses­sion I am reluc­tant­ly tak­ing a 3 hr course in Med­ical Ter­mi­nol­o­gy that won’t count towards either the Asso­ciates in Nurs­ing or BSN in order to meet min­i­mum enroll­ment hours for my finan­cial aid pack­age. I have hopes that it at least will be ben­e­fi­cial in future cours­es, though a great deal of it is review.

Fol­low­ing this course my progress will be at a stand­still until I can fig­ure out a way to pay for school. I’ve exact­ly one year of course­work remain­ing (course sched­ule per­mit­ting) before I would be ready to apply to the Nurs­ing pro­gram. I’ve reached the aggre­gate lim­it for sub­si­dized fed­er­al loans (and I had hoped not to accrue more debt for this). My attempts to find full-time employ­ment with Colum­bia Col­lege which would yield the ben­e­fits of a full tuition waiv­er have so far proven unsuc­cess­ful, but thank­ful­ly my exist­ing employ­ment, due to end July 31, has been extend­ed for anoth­er full year, so I am secure… if not able to advance my degree pur­suit.

I am decid­ing to treat this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to try to get cre­ative and to be care­ful with my bud­get to see if I can­not man­u­fac­ture a way to con­tin­ue… like­ly not in the fall, but per­haps in the spring semes­ter.

Pray­ing and trust­ing God. Very grate­ful for what I’ve been giv­en so far and for the pro­vi­sions and oppor­tu­ni­ties. So aware of how blessed I am.

The only way to overcome the unpredictability of your future is the power of promising

When we make a promise we take it on our fee­ble wills to keep a future ren­dezvous with some­one in cir­cum­stances we can­not pos­si­bly pre­dict. We take it on our­selves to cre­ate our future with some­one else no mat­ter what fate or des­tiny may have in store. This is almost ulti­mate free­dom.

When I make a promise, I bear wit­ness that my future with you is not locked into a bion­ic beam by which I was stuck with the fate­ful com­bi­na­tions of X’s and Y’s in the hand I was dealt out of my par­ents’ genet­ic deck.

When I make a promise, I tes­ti­fy that I was not rout­ed along some unal­ter­able itin­er­ary by the psy­chic con­di­tion­ing vis­it­ed on me by my slight­ly wacky par­ents.

When I make a promise I declare that my future with peo­ple who depend on me is not pre­de­ter­mined by the mixed-up cul­ture of my ten­der years.

I am not fat­ed, I am not deter­mined, I am not a lump of human dough whipped into shape by the con­tin­gent rein­force­ment and aver­sive con­di­tion­ing of my past. I know as well as the next per­son that I can­not cre­ate my life de novo; I am well aware that much of what I am and what I do is a gift or a curse from my past. But when I make a promise to any­one I rise above all the con­di­tion­ing that lim­its me.

— Lewis Bene­dic­tus Smedes (1921 — 2002)
“Con­trol­ling the Unpre­dictable – The Pow­er of Promis­ing“
Chris­tian­i­ty Today Jan. 1983

I’m an Absolute Clod.

by Thomas Phillips, oil on can­vas, 1807
The Clod and the Peb­ble
“Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for anoth­er gives its ease,
And builds a Heav­en in Hell’s despair.“So sung a lit­tle Clod of Clay
Trod­den with the cattle’s feet,
But a Peb­ble of the brook
War­bled out these metres meet:

Love seeketh only self to please,
To bind anoth­er to its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.”

William Blake (1757 — 1827)
I announced at a meal with friends last evening that I was a dirt clod. They love me, so as expect­ed they object­ed. I asked them, “Well, would it be bet­ter to be a peb­ble in a brook? Which would you rather be?” The expect­ed answer. I asked, “Why a peb­ble?” I was answered, “Well, a peb­ble in a beau­ti­ful brook with the clean water flow­ing over me would be much bet­ter than a hunk of dirt.“This was the lead-in I hoped for because I want­ed to read for them a poem I’d nev­er come across before, one that sang out my own feel­ings and beliefs on love. I’d nev­er come across it before because I always assumed Blake, Shelly, Keats, Wordsworth, and all the oth­er Eng­lish Roman­tic poets to be a bit inac­ces­si­ble, and I find forced Roman­ti­cism to be rather off­putting. Even works of the great Rab­bie Burns, the Bard of Ayr­shire, which I desired to read, while beau­ti­ful and the fod­der for many a love­ly heart-cap­tur­ing tune, was still, beyond the dialect strug­gles, dif­fi­cult and a bit unre­lat­able. Assump­tions make for bad out­comes for you and for some fel­low by the fam­i­ly name of Ump­tion. I’m not going to run out and buy a tome; I real­ly have to much to read on my list for the next three life­times, but I will be more open to the expe­ri­ence by hap­pen­stance and serendip­i­ty.

Blake’s “And builds a Heav­en in Hell’s despair.” mea­sures well against my top stan­dard as it seems a phrase I would expect from C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, or the lyric gift­ings of Andrew Peter­son.

This par­tic­u­lar serendip­i­ty occurred as I trav­eled to that love­ly meal shared with friends. I was again lis­ten­ing to what I am cer­tain is the absolute best book on under­stand­ing true covenan­tal and joy­ful mar­riage I’ve ever found, and I doubt the like of my ever find­ing one bet­ter. A recent dis­cov­ery, I’m on my fourth lis­ten and still find­ing lit­tle pre­cious gems. My phys­i­cal copy of “The Mean­ing of Mar­riage” by pas­tor Tim­o­thy Keller will join books by Lewis, Eggerichs, and Kreeft in a place of hon­or upon my book­shelf once I’m done fill­ing it’s mar­gins with anno­ta­tions from the heart.

Keller through­out illus­trates that the covenant of Mar­riage as pre­scribed by God; love through com­pan­ion­ship, ser­vice, and self-sac­ri­fice, bears pre­cious lit­tle resem­blance to the post­mod­ern social-human­ist me-cen­tred mar­riage that is so per­va­sive today. One would expect that God need not check the box labeled, “Sub­sti­tu­tions not per­mit­ted.” or “Dis­pense as pre­scribed.”

Tru­ly, it seems that through­out his­to­ry, mankind, even the Israelites, God’s Cho­sen Peo­ple, have cho­sen designs that devi­ate great­ly in crit­i­cal respects and suf­fer great­ly for the devi­a­tion. When Christ clar­i­fies that the adul­tery of the Ten Com­mand­ments takes place in the heart, mind, and eyes as much as in the bed­room; when He rebukes the reli­gious lead­ers argu­ing over divorce telling them that God grant­ed divorce to them only due to the hard­ness of their hearts we doubt not that the curse on rela­tion­ship that fell upon us through Adam and Eve was doing its painful work then amongst the Isre­alites as ter­ri­bly as it does for all of us today.

A fall­en world pro­duces only high­ly imper­fect repli­cas of the arche­type. Under­stand­ing the arche­type helps to shore up weak­ness­es, cor­rect tran­scrip­tion errors, and repair imper­fec­tions one pair of hearts at a time, and I think that is what Keller has done here in pro­vid­ing such under­stand­ing. He dis­cuss­es and then sweeps away the world’s rub­bish and then expounds upon and makes acces­si­ble and under­stand­able… and most impor­tant­ly, desir­able God’s great­est gift and bless­ing to His chil­dren avail­able, to us this side of heav­en. He shines ray of bright light daz­zling The Shad­ow­lands. He teach­es the only method capa­ble of build­ing a Heav­en in Hell’s despair.

I am a clod. A joy­ful clod of clay in full aware­ness of God’s bless­ings, not a peb­ble lulled by the end­less mind­less tune­less music of the rill pass­ing over me, bom­bard­ed by beau­ty, less­en­ing appre­ci­a­tion until I val­ue it not.

This view of mar­riage and our­selves is some­what alle­gor­i­cal of God’s love for us. We clods of clay don’t mer­it a sec­ond glance.

  • I am The Stone the Builders Reject­ed – Psalm 118:22
  • I am the Lost Sheep that would have been far eas­i­er to aban­don. – Luke 15:1–7
  • I am the Prodi­gal Son rebel­lious yet beat­en, all con­ceiv­able worth removed before being redeemed. – Luke 15:11–32
  • I am the clay in the Potter’s hands – Jere­mi­ah 18:1–6
  • I am the Wid­ow of no sta­tion, ostra­cized as a woman of for­eign descent made valu­able by my Kins­man Redeemer. – Ruth 1–4
  • I am the Lost Coin. – Luke 15:8–10

The Potential Destructiveness of Should

I’ve come to pon­der if the word should, whether from inside, or imposed by the out­side, might have the poten­tial to be very destruc­tive. When the word is used, most often it may be trans­lat­ed to read, “[You/I] do not mea­sure up.” How good are our pro­tec­tions against false ‘shoulds’? Do we let oth­ers impose a stan­dard upon us with­out con­sid­er­ing the valid­i­ty of and author­i­ty behind the ‘should’. Worse still do we stop and ques­tion our self-imposed ‘shoulds’?

This is an area in which we should exer­cise the most dis­cern­ment, and yet, con­sis­tent­ly for myself and oth­ers it seems to be the area where we prac­tice dis­cern­ment the least. We keep poor defens­es against the ene­my with­out and seem­ing­ly reserve no mar­gin of safe­ty from the sup­posed ally with­in.

An excel­lent Faith­walk­ers Sem­i­nar titled “All You Need is Love: The Sim­ple Path to Mar­riage” plant­ed some seeds that may only now four months lat­er to be sprout­ing. They lured us in by promis­ing us a method­ol­o­gy that coun­ters the last 25 years of Chris­t­ian dog­ma on dat­ing and rela­tion­ships. Some­thing dif­fer­ent, and some­thing far less com­plex, oner­ous, and dic­ta­to­r­i­al. A breath of fresh air maybe, right?

Here’s the sem­i­nar descrip­tion:

Thou­sands of books, sem­i­nars, and coun­sel­ing ses­sions have been spent on try­ing to fig­ure out exact­ly what you need to get mar­ried. I think the path to mar­riage is a lot sim­pler than it is often made out to be. Of course sim­ple doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean easy, but let’s get togeth­er and talk through the Bib­li­cal prin­ci­ples of love that pro­vide a sim­ple path to mar­riage.

Pas­tor Paul John­son opened the sem­i­nar [LISTEN] by hand­ing us a 20 item list of all the great chest­nuts of rules and advice that we’ve all been told by youth lead­ers, pas­tors, and our Chris­t­ian men­tors about seek­ing rela­tion­ship. They asked us to clas­si­fy each one as either 1) a com­mand, 2) a prin­ci­ple, or 3) a pref­er­ence. I’ll list them here; a whole list of exter­nal­ly imposed [musts/shoulds].

  1. You must get coun­sel before pur­su­ing a rela­tion­ship
  2. Phys­i­cal attrac­tion should not fac­tor into your inter­est in anoth­er per­son
  3. Only mar­ry a Chris­t­ian
  4. Don’t date until you’re ready to get mar­ried
  5. Don’t kiss until your wed­ding day
  6. Hus­bands must bring home the bacon
  7. Wives must stay home and take care of the kids
  8. You must be out of debt to get mar­ried
  9. You must be con­vinced that this is the per­son you’re going to mar­ry if you want to date them
  10. You must be con­tent to be sin­gle and not look­ing for a mate
  11. You must be sex­u­al­ly pure before mar­riage
  12. You must be a mature Chris­t­ian before you get mar­ried
  13. You must be able to make and keep a bud­get before get­ting mar­ried
  14. You must “like” and eval­u­ate a poten­tial spouse for at least a year before talk­ing to them about your feel­ings
  15. Men must pur­sue and women must wait
  16. You must be com­plete­ly objec­tive in your eval­u­a­tion of a poten­tial spouse
  17. Your life vision and direc­tion needs to be iden­ti­cal for a poten­tial rela­tion­ship to work
  18. Men must talk to a woman’s father before ask­ing her out on a date
  19. You must guard your heart from any attach­ment
  20. You must have con­vic­tions on birth con­trol before dat­ing

S’wha? I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that last one. Per­haps they made it up to round out an even twen­ty items.

Two I think? Yes, two. Two of those are bib­li­cal com­mands. All of the rest fall into the cat­e­gories of good prin­ci­ples (one may read Proverbs for that), and pref­er­ences. We have all expe­ri­enced those who give advice and instruc­tion (whether solicit­ed or not) with the atti­tude of you [should/must]. They tend to be rather legal­is­tic about it and they suf­fer no dis­cus­sion or dis­agree­ment. Ques­tions are shamed to silence by being called sin­ful. Unwill­ing­ness to let go of some­thing is respond­ed to with accu­sa­tions that the some­thing has become an idol. Prin­ci­ple becomes Com­mand and well, Pref­er­ence too in most cas­es.

An long­stand­ing irri­tant to me has been the care­less and thought­less use of the admo­ni­tion “Guard your heart?” or the chal­lenge, “Are you guard­ing your heart?”. A help­ful phrase turned mantra instead does harm. I some­times have the hyper­bol­ic image in my mind of a mar­ried youth pas­tor telling a young man on his first and ill-con­sid­ered for­ay into love to “Guard your heart.” who, even though the young man has matured and has his eyes set on find­ing a God­ly com­pan­ion for the road of life, is thought­less­ly chas­tised each suc­ces­sive time to “Guard his heart.” Played out to the ridicu­lous end, the sce­nario changes venue to a nurs­ing home where the no longer young man, bach­e­lor his entire life, shows inter­est in a wid­ow on the same ward, only to be told by sign lan­guage to up the vol­ume on his hear­ing aid by his cur­mud­geon of a youth pas­tor so that he may hear his youth pastor’s admon­ish­ment to “Guard Your Heart.”

The sem­i­nar leader point­ed out that the bible gives us a word for peo­ple like that who do those types of things: Phar­isees. As bad as these out­ward Phar­isees are, they often pale in com­par­i­son to the Phar­isee many of us keep inside of our­selves.

I know that in my own life I impose ridicu­lous, some­times impos­si­ble ‘shoulds’ on myself. My arro­gant Phar­isee also then decides for oth­ers that since I fail those stan­dards oth­ers must be pro­tect­ed from me for their own good. They real­ly must be allowed no say in the mat­ter.

So how do we guard against the out­ward and inward Phar­isee? I’m only the rud­est novice in this new dis­ci­pline, and as such, I only have a list of things I am test­ing out for pos­si­ble inclu­sion in a per­son­al how-to list.

  1. First deter­mine if the source is exter­nal or inter­nal.
  2. Ques­tion. Do not blind­ly accept.
  3. Respect lead­er­ship, but do not assume that they infal­li­bly lead in all things.
  4. Pray. For guid­ance and wis­dom. Pray for con­fir­ma­tion or inval­i­da­tion.
  5. Test all against scrip­ture.
  6. Avoid extremes. Seek to grow towards the ideals of par­a­digms, but nev­er to achieve them entire­ly.
  7. Be on the look­out for state­ments made in the absolute.
  8. Be on guard against gen­er­al­iza­tions too vast in scope.
  9. Be high­ly self-skep­ti­cal of any­thing moti­vat­ed and craft­ed inter­nal­ly; most espe­cial­ly if much inter­nal thought and debate over a long peri­od of time has led to unortho­dox con­clu­sions.
  10. Be wary of emo­tion­al states that lead to self-imposed ‘shoulds’.
  11. The more I am cer­tain, the more uncer­tain I should prob­a­bly be.
  12. Does a con­clu­sion elim­i­nate hope, con­demn holy desire, or affirm help­lessnes? If so, it’s doubt­ful it’s from God.
  13. Be alert to the reac­tions of oth­ers when I share my think­ing and con­clu­sions… if they start look­ing at me fun­ny, I should weigh care­ful­ly all respons­es and not assume I’m right.
  14. If it’s a per­son­al ‘should’ that I’d nev­er sug­gest oth­ers adopt, Be afwaid. Be vewy afwaid! Is my dou­ble-stan­dard born of arro­gant pride and con­tempt for another’s ‘low stan­dard’? Am I hold­ing myself to an unrea­son­able impos­si­ble stan­dard that great­ly dif­fers from the one I mea­sure against oth­ers.
  15. Be will­ing to learn from some­one less knowl­edge­able than myself.
  16. If I’m reluc­tant to solic­it the opin­ions of oth­ers or to seek guid­ance then it’s an espe­cial­ly good time to take Elmer Fudd’s advice to heart. The greater the reluc­tance, the greater the like­li­hood that I NEED an exter­nal gut-check.
  17. Stop uni­lat­er­al­ly decid­ing things for oth­ers. Stop steal­ing from them the right to make up their own mind, to take their own risks, to explore a pos­si­bil­i­ty that excites or intrigues them! Acknowl­edge and respect their wis­dom and hon­or their right to test and weigh and decide for them­selves. Do not hold con­tempt if they reach con­clu­sions dis­sim­i­lar to mine. They may well be the wis­er and have a bet­ter under­stand­ing. Be will­ing to let them make mis­takes … This is per­haps one of the things for which my friends gave me great­est grace and patience, because I kept mak­ing these uni­lat­er­al deci­sions and con­clu­sions that I must not, or am sup­posed to not ever seek a new beloved for the rest of my days. This was the time peri­od where my excel­lent Chris­t­ian coun­selor Brad­ly Roark told me that “Per­haps you need to let some­one who is less knowl­edge­able than you teach you about love.” I thought it pro­found at the time, but as usu­al, I failed to real­ly grok his full mean­ing. That came with the full­ness of time and more hard lessons. Far more pro­found than I orig­i­nal­ly kenned, and far far far more hum­bling. Learn­ing that I can be a very well-edu­cat­ed idiot has been so very free­ing.
  18. If I am self-deny­ing myself some poten­tial bless­ing due to some self-imposed rule or stan­dard I can nev­er achieve, and if it’s a stan­dard or denial God might not be will­ing to back me up on and hasn’t been explic­it about in scrip­ture, I must remind myself that God is a lov­ing non-dic­ta­to­r­i­al par­ent who loves our free-will, who gave us the bible not as a rule­book, but as a fence around a lush green pas­ture, keep­ing us in the good, and away from the bad.
  19. Do not take the bit in my mouth and run. Do not wear blind­ers. Do not stick fin­gers in my ears and yell out obscur­ing noise like a brat­ty child.
  20. Sun­screen good. No sun­screen bad. Rest of advice based on years of Jedi teach­ing expe­ri­ence, yes?
  21. I did men­tion ‘pray’, yes?

Over sev­er­al years, and under the guid­ance of Chap­lain and beloved friend Bart Lar­son, with some rein­force­ment from my pas­tor at church, I have tried in my com­mu­ni­ca­tion to replace “you state­ments” with “I state­ments” and most impor­tant­ly the “you should state­ments.” Like­wise I have been try­ing not to use hyper­bole like “always” and “nev­er”. I’ve tried to put in check a ten­den­cy when excit­ed to care­less­ly use superla­tives, sweep­ing gen­er­al­iza­tions, and exag­ger­a­tion. Need­less­ly to say, despite try­ing a mil­lion times, I always always fail and nev­er ever suc­ceed in efforts not to use the very most egre­gious exag­ger­a­tions and worst hyper­bole. Actu­al­ly, it’s a process and I’ve made so much won­der­ful progress down that road. I still slip from time to time, or for­get and grow care­less. Suc­cess has been very reward­ing as it has allowed friend­ships to go deep­er and pre­vent­ed much offence that leads to argu­ment. I’m grate­ful to both of these men

I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it.

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, com­ing back from the fire; limp­ing, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been say­ing is quite right, I shouldn’t won­der. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Sup­pose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan him­self. Sup­pose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more impor­tant than the real ones.

Sup­pose this black pit of a king­dom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pret­ty poor one. And that’s a fun­ny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies mak­ing up a game, if you’re right. But four babies play­ing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hol­low. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narn­ian as I can even if there isn’t any Nar­nia. So, thank­ing you kind­ly for our sup­per, if these two gen­tle­men and the young lady are ready, we’re leav­ing your court at once and set­ting out in the dark to spend our lives look­ing for Over­land. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Sil­ver Chair
If it is dis­agree­able in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for your­selves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the Riv­er, or the gods of the Amor­ites in whose land you are liv­ing; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
— Joshua 24:15 NASB

Relationships: Telling vs. Being

UPDATE March 18, 2017 — Anoth­er facet of the below offers itself up to me. One thing we as men must also do is acknowl­edge the pos­si­bil­i­ty that it is she, not our­selves, who has the right of things. We may indeed not be the ‘right’ man. If we are attract­ed to her as a per­son, it must be in part a deep respect for her judge­ment and intel­lect. All the more rea­son it seems there­fore to not be telling, but instead work towards being.

A man can­not con­vince a woman that he is the right man, he must instead sim­ply be the right man and give her the oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­vince her­self.”

A grow­ing con­vic­tion has been on my heart as of late at the close of what looked, to myself, like the fer­tile ground for a deep rela­tion­ship. I hope to car­ry that con­vic­tion for­ward into the future.

We men try very hard to be at our best and to show women the best truth of our­selves. There is noth­ing wrong with this as long as it’s hon­est; how­ev­er, if hon­est, need we to make such effort? It is dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate our anx­ious desire for her to love and val­ue us from our desire for her know us on the deep­est lev­el and judge for her­self.

I think we essen­tial­ly argue with her cau­tions and fears and wis­dom to see a truth we believe, but which she does not yet believe she has suf­fi­cient cause to cred­it. Not aloud do we argue. We try to antic­i­pate objec­tions and fears and present our­selves as the expe­ri­en­tial coun­ter­ar­gu­ment. If con­scious­ly done and to bad pur­pose, this may be regard­ed as an attempt to manip­u­late. Noth­ing of val­ue or strength may be built atop a foun­da­tion of manip­u­la­tion.

If any of what we do is dif­fer­ent than what we nor­mal­ly do in the course of our dai­ly lives, then it is like­ly unwise. We present to her the man we desire to be, not the true man on which she may depend.

When, in the nor­mal course, it becomes evi­dent that she has come to oppo­site con­clu­sion, we may, in des­per­a­tion or fear, try to move the argu­ment into speech, at which point any poten­tial for the future is like­ly quashed.

One may con­vince anoth­er through argu­ment or even delib­er­ate demon­stra­tion, but that con­vic­tion will not stand when, inevitably, we fail to to entire­ly be the best of our­selves. This breeds only feel­ings of betray­al, anger, and dis­gust towards the one who pushed the oth­er to come ’round to their own way of think­ing.

Instead a woman must see things her way and in her own tim­ing, with­out feel­ing pres­sured or manip­u­lat­ed. Any con­clu­sions she draws must be her own based on her own obser­va­tion and expe­ri­ence. That con­vic­tion then may stand when small chal­lenges present them­selves.

She must see us at the times we are not pre­pared for her to see us. She must see us when we are strug­gling with­out hav­ing aware­ness that she is watch­ing, to over­come our sin­ful selves in a sin­ful world. This means act­ing nat­ur­al both when she is and when she is not around.

There­fore, we as men need to just be the right man, not just for her, but for God, for our­selves and for always. She may reach her own con­clu­sions that she likes and appre­ci­ates what she sees, and so might desire deep­er rela­tion­ship with us; com­mit­ment shared between the two of us. She may not. If she does not, noth­ing else we may do may bring her to these strong con­vic­tions no mat­ter how con­vict­ed we our­selves are.

From that seed is the true poten­tial that only seemed present in the fer­tile ground.


This arti­cle needs a com­plete rewrite.
“Why, bless me, if I haven’t gone and left out the whole point,” said the Chief Voice. “That you have, that you have,” roared the Oth­er Voic­es with great enthu­si­asm. “No one couldn’t have left it out clean­er and bet­ter. Keep it up, Chief, keep it up.”
Some­one I trust to read eval­u­ate and cri­tique my writ­ing told me that they thought my mes­sage was, “Be your­self so she knows what she’s get­ting into.” and then after I tried to clar­i­fy, “It makes sense… A real, informed choice is bet­ter, long run. Like Jesus said about count­ing the cost.”

In reread­ing I can see that I real­ly did seem to be mak­ing that idea the focus.

I am remind­ed of the Chief of the Duf­fers and his sup­port­ive cho­rus of under­lings in The Voy­age of the Dawn Tread­er.

My attempts to explain that the focal point of the arti­cle was sup­posed to be the Telling vs. Being, not the what you are or are not telling or being were not enough to over­ride that orig­i­nal impres­sion.

I tried to use an anal­o­gy, but even that was unsuc­cess­ful, so it seems a rewrite is in order. That anal­o­gy fol­lows.

I’m a fan of Sub­aru and Toy­ota cars, so I used one as the focus. I said some­thing along these lines:

Imag­ine that you’ve gone to a car deal­er­ship hav­ing researched vehi­cles, reviews, rat­ings, cost of ownership/maintenance fig­ures, and awards. You have a very clear idea that you want a Sub­aru Forester 2008 Gen 2.5 X L.L. Bean edi­tion, and you know which two of the nine avail­able paint/interior options would thrill you.

At the lot you are met by a sales­man who half-lis­tens to what you say you’re look­ing for and then asks to show you a new­er and more expen­sive Hon­da CRV.

You explain that you like the CRV, but you’ve done your research and thought about it and you want the Forester.

Instead of chang­ing his tack, he instead tells you what is wrong with your choice and why the CRV, even though a good­ly bit more than you had bud­get­ed is a bet­ter choice. He too cites awards and reviews and rat­ings, and lit­tle facts about both vehi­cles that make you vague­ly sus­pi­cious and untrust­ing, won­der­ing if he’s being straight with you. You’ve been lied to in the past, cheat­ed and are deter­mined not to be led astray again or drop your well con­struct­ed and need­ed guards.

He’s per­sis­tent and first leaves you con­fused and then think­ing that maybe your research failed to make you aware of the prob­lems inher­ent with a Forester and indeed all Sub­aru vehi­cles. Maybe you hadn’t real­ly giv­en Hon­da a fair view­ing. Even­tu­al­ly, against your bet­ter judge­ment and in spite of your safe­guards, you let him talk you into the Hon­da and you pur­chase it.

You start from the lot with some con­fi­dence, but soon your deci­sion does not sit right with you, espe­cial­ly because you end­ed up hav­ing to make loan pay­ments much greater than you had bud­get­ed for.

Imme­di­ate­ly you start notic­ing lit­tle annoy­ances… lit­tle things that are dif­fer­ent than what you had fall­en in love with in the Forester. Things that are miss­ing or that don’t work the same. The ride isn’t what you were antic­i­pat­ing expe­ri­enc­ing in the advanced AWD vehi­cle. You quick­ly grow dis­en­chant­ed. You begin to have a mild dread at look­ing at the vehi­cle, get­ting in, start­ing it up. Some of the things you want­ed the Forester for are just not pos­si­ble in the CRV.

Finances are tight, and always look­ing up at you from your bud­get is that larg­er than planned for loan pay­ment which is mak­ing the bud­get tight.

Inevitably some­thing breaks down, or there is a recall. You think to your­self, “The Sub­aru is much more reli­able, and their repair shop is so much bet­ter to deal with after the sale than the Hon­da shop has shown itself to be. Even if a break-down is a rea­son­able expec­ta­tion, you hold it against Hon­da as evi­dence that their entire brand is rub­bish. Not like a Sub­aru.

You get to the point that you can’t wait until you’ve paid down the loan and can sell it and get your deposit and some of the pay­ments back and buy a vehi­cle you do like. Look­ing at your bud­get, you real­ize that you’re going to have to keep irri­tat­ing dri­ving this vehi­cle for a long long while yet. In research­ing mar­ket val­ues you see that your CRV has held none of its val­ue so you’re upside down and won’t get enough from sell­ing it to even make the large down-pay­ment you like to make when pur­chas­ing a vehi­cle.

You try to remind your­self that it was your deci­sion and so you make the best of it, but you resent hav­ing to do so. You’ll “nev­er be going back to that deal­er­ship again, and that’s for cer­tain!” You’re a good stew­ard and believe that you have to accept the con­se­quences for your bad choic­es and can’t just dump the car and get anoth­er. You can’t help but bad­mouth Hon­da even though you know deep down that they’re actu­al­ly pret­ty good cars.

Now imag­ine the oppo­site. Your sales­per­son lis­tens and doesn’t have that vehi­cle but makes some calls and finds one they can get in soon. He affirms your choice and com­mends your research and good think­ing. It takes a few days longer, but you end up dri­ving off the lot with no mis­giv­ings about the planned-for very lit­tle bit you had to finance.

Imme­di­ate­ly you keep falling more deeply in love with the fea­tures, design, ameni­ties and per­for­mance that have met or exceed­ed your most hope­ful expec­ta­tions. When things inevitably need repair, you take it in course and view the cost and the ser­vice you receive with a lot more accept­ing and for­giv­ing atti­tude. You tell oth­ers about your ‘baby’ and how great Sub­aru vehi­cles are and that they should con­sid­er becom­ing a Suba-nut like your­self.

You enjoy dri­ving the thing. All the needs you expect­ed to have have are met and the ones you want­ed but weren’t pos­si­ble with the Forester, well, you knew that going in and you had made the deci­sion that it was still the vehi­cle for you.

When you even­tu­al­ly dri­ve it into the ground, long past when it was still as com­fort­able and still met your needs. You love that car. You almost want to bury it in the back 40 and keep the hood orna­ment emblem on your key­chain instead of sell­ing it for scrap.

The above anal­o­gy breaks down some­what. Mar­riages aren’t to be sold and trad­ed like cars. We don’t get to trade-in when things are dif­fi­cult or less than we had hoped for down the line. We as men need to quit try­ing to be car sales­men.

I don’t know that it clar­i­fies the thing. The idea here is that even if the sales­per­son was hon­est and didn’t mis­rep­re­sent things, the choice to buy the CRV is one you were talked into, not one you’d real­ly have come to on your own in the absence of high-pres­sure out­side influ­ence. You feel that if the CRV was just ‘being’ all those things, you might have cho­sen it your­self instead of being pres­sured by some­one who was ‘telling’ you to trust his con­clu­sions and to make a deci­sion you were not hap­py with.

Ukraine on the horizon. 271.5 lbs. Halfway!

So it seems that things might be falling into place. It will mean not tak­ing any class­es over the sum­mer, but all things con­sid­ered, that’s prob­a­bly a good thing as I will be tran­si­tion­ing jobs (pro­vid­ed I find a new one) and fig­ur­ing out what the future going for­ward looks like, as I plan to start tak­ing class­es at 75% full-time (Two eight week ses­sions each semes­ter. Sci­ence class­es that are all 3 hours lec­ture and 2 hours lab, so 10 hours. Finan­cial Aid only applies if you are enrolled in at least half time (full is 6 hrs/session, or 12 hrs/semester)). If I find a full-time job with tuition waiv­er at Colum­bia Col­lege, then finan­cial aid will be entire­ly unnec­es­sary.

I have $1,000 in sav­ings as an emer­gency fund that I may raid if sup­port rais­ing doesn’t cov­er it. I’m very grate­ful to my cousins Jer­ry & Tra­cy Cepel in Cal­i­for­nia for a very kind gift out of the blue that has eased many strains and wor­ries.

The only things stand­ing in the way of going and rebuild­ing hous­es in Ukraine and get­ting to know her won­der­ful peo­ple and per­haps share my love for Christ with them at this point are my weight/health, the can­tan­ker­ous heart of a despi­ca­ble man that would aggress against the free­dom of his peace­ful and kind neigh­bors, and the pos­si­bil­i­ty that I won’t be able to arrange the time off of work.

But I rejoice! I’m 271.5 lbs, and since tech­ni­cal­ly I start­ed this effort at 303 lbs, that’s halfway! 270 lbs is still the mile­stone that my fin­gers are reach­ing and scrab­bling to grasp, but I need, right now, to appre­ci­ate the mile­stone I have reached and hold onto it tight­ly for a moment before stum­bling onward.

If the goal is 60 for Ukraine well, then… I’m MORE than halfway. Halfway is a won­der­ful place to be. 33 lbs lighter is a won­der­ful place to feel. With that gift from my cousin I resolved to mend a lack in my wardrobe, a lack of any for­mal or semi-for­mal wear for job inter­views, church, wed­dings, funer­als, nice meals out, nights at the sym­pho­ny, char­i­ty ban­quets for My Life Clin­ic, et. al., … What had been impos­si­ble at 300 lbs, let alone 316 lbs has become almost eas­i­ly pos­si­ble in the low 270s.

I feel bet­ter. I’m more con­fi­dent. I feel as though I’ve matured, mak­ing delib­er­ate choic­es instead of lament­ing hav­ing to make do with the best I can do when a nice occa­sion rolls around; wear­ing what’s appro­pri­ate instead of ‘the best that I have’ when going to an inter­view. I could attend my father’s vis­i­ta­tion and grave-side hon­ors feel­ing I wasn’t dis­hon­or­ing him. I’ve done some hard work and a great deal of self-denial to get here and that feels like matu­ri­ty too.

The biggest gift from the weight­loss, on an emo­tion­al lev­el is that, as I have cho­sen to put myself out there, seek­ing rela­tion­ship with some beau­ti­ful Daugh­ter of Eve or anoth­er, that I am more com­fort­able in myself. Fret­ting about not want­i­ng to sad­dle her with an obese per­son whose health might be uncer­tain. Fret­ting with not being able to respect or stand myself when I need to love what it is that I’m ask­ing some­one else to love. Fret­ting that she’s see­ing me and judg­ing me and has con­tempt for me as a man when most like­ly she is only see­ing that I under­stand her and make her feel loved, cared for, cher­ished… and that I make her laugh and that we expe­ri­ence and share joy in com­pan­ion­ship. Fret­ting that desires for par­ent­hood would be self­ish if I can­not play and inter­act with kid­dos. It has giv­en me the con­fi­dence to know that I -can- do this. Gone is that long dark teatime of the soul when I knew I sim­ply could not, or when I would try but always fail.

God bless­es. It’s like He, the omni-potent one is im-potent -not- to bless. God bless­es.

Yeah, um, so that happened…

I take a bewil­dered look around and find that I, a 42 year old man who’s clear­ly fail­ing fast, am a brand spankin’ new stu­dent at Uni­ver­si­ty. When did they start let­ting all these chil­dren into high­er-learn­ing? $108 to rent a text­book for 6–8 weeks? Pray­ing for strength as a some­what fright­en­ing new adven­ture com­mences.

They’re all using these lit­tle flat pock­et tele­vi­sions with­out an aer­i­al. They seem to think noth­ing of get­ting fin­ger­prints all over them.

Facing Fears — My Father’s Passing

Many friends have read and processed and giv­en feed­back on my pre­vi­ous arti­cle, “All Chances Gone. No Bea­gle Pup­py”. They have also extend­ed to me much love and sup­port, for which I am very grate­ful.

I too have read and reread, edit­ed a bit here and there as some­thing such as this, put out there for pub­lic con­sump­tion should be painstak­ing­ly authored. I have reread and processed, and tak­en into account much of the feed­back and advice, and even exhor­ta­tions I have received from oth­ers.

I do after all, pon­der.

I came to the con­clu­sion that I was still being manip­u­lat­ed and con­trolled… by my own fears. Was I fright­ened of a emo­tion­al bug­bear blown out of all pro­por­tion over the years even if that bug­bear may prove, in fact, to be real­is­tic in some ways?

I was giv­ing him too much pow­er… where he has none.

I was let­ting fear be jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for not doing what I tru­ly wished to do, for­go­ing two oppor­tu­ni­ties, one of which will nev­er come again, and the oth­er which may nev­er be offered to me again.

The first oppor­tu­ni­ty is that of being able to say ‘good­bye’ and tell my father that I loved him in every way left open to me, and those ways fierce­ly. Per­haps it is self­ish, and I don’t know if I have a need or not yet, but I would very much not like to real­ize down the road that I have need for this clo­sure. I acknowl­edge that time might damp­en some feel­ings and allow oth­er feel­ings to have pri­ma­cy and with those, find only regret at hav­ing made a mis­take.

The sec­ond is to see fam­i­ly that I dear­ly love and have had lit­tle oppor­tu­ni­ty to be close to. The lack of close­ness was my own fault. I was so with­drawn into a shell of pro­tec­tion that I self-denied myself one of the best gifts I have and ever will have been giv­en. The asso­ci­a­tion was too strong. Again, I think this was dri­ven by a sort of fear. I spoke of regrets above. This regret already exists and is far greater than I antic­i­pate the oth­er might ever be if I again let those fears con­trol me.

Time march­es relent­less­ly onward and I have already lost much oppor­tu­ni­ty as now age and dis­ease, and its thiev­ing nature may have already robbed (No, my hurt and fool­ish­ness did the rob­bing, alas.) me of what I most desire. I could eas­i­ly spend a lot of effort and hatred toward myself for this fool­ish­ness, but it is point­less and I must act on the les­son of giv­ing the grace I give oth­ers to myself.

I don’t know about Bea­gle Pup­pies. That sce­nario, with time and tem­per­ance, seems less like­ly, but I do acknowl­edge it is still a pos­si­ble real­i­ty. I hon­est­ly don’t how to han­dle it if those fears are real­ized. I only know that I can­not let those fears dic­tate what I do.

I had for a few days tried to pass the respon­si­bil­i­ty for how I han­dled those fears off onto the shoul­ders of my father. That is non­sense. He can do noth­ing to me, then or now, and he can­not ‘make’ me fear­ful. Only I have that respon­si­bil­i­ty. It’s past time I owned that. Anoth­er oppor­tu­ni­ty for self-grace in that I think that try­ing to pass the respon­si­bil­i­ty was an inevitable part of the process, but that grace only has mean­ing if I also admit it was wrong and chose to do that which is right.

I could wish that Bea­gle Pup­pies played no role. Such lament is use­less, self-indul­gent, and waste­ful. I could lament that Bea­gle Pup­pies -ever- played a role, -ever- were a ‘thing’, but lamen­ta­tions do not alter. Lament only hin­ders one from pro­gress­ing for­ward if main­tained longer than is appro­pri­ate and healthy.


I will, from this point rede­fine Bea­gle Pup­py to mean only some­thing that I very much love. I will dis­card that oth­er def­i­n­i­tion in a box of use­less things des­tined for even­tu­al anni­hi­la­tion in fur­nace infer­no. There is one Bea­gle Pup­py like no oth­er. He slum­bers on the apex of his dwelling… when he’s not patrolling the skies over France, keep­ing them safe from the men­ace of Man­fred Albrecht Frei­herr von Richthofen. He admirably serves as per­pet­u­al short­stop and nev­er lets a ground ball past in for­mal and pick­up-games. He did once make a failed bid to forcibly replace Char­lie Brown as team man­ag­er, but we will speak only of his suc­cess­es here.


I had more loved images than would make sense in-line in a post already push­ing those lim­its, so here are the remain­der:

All Chances Gone. No Beagle Puppy

A fol­low-up arti­cle has been added here: Fac­ing Fears — My Father’s Pass­ing

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.