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 14 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:
CepelPassport2016Sm

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

Progress, Mar 1, 2016, 295lbs.

60ForUkraineMany steps for­ward, a few steps back, but still mak­ing progress. I was down to 292 as of last Fri­day but the week­end was dif­fi­cult. Back on track as of yes­ter­day (well, Sun­day after­noon real­ly) and 5 lbs down. It has­n’t been too dif­fi­cult. Pro­tein in the a.m., Oat­meal for lunch, leav­ing only the evening hours to bat­tle with.

Ener­gy has been sapped for exer­cise but I still man­aged to reach goals most days. The Fit­bit food track­ing is both great and frus­trat­ing, but for the first time I have a intake track­er that I can make work for me for most things and I antic­i­pate that I’ll remain dili­gent in using it for that rea­son.

It looked for a while like the chances of my being able to go to on the Ukraine mis­sion trip might be nil and a lot of my ‘goal’ moti­va­tion was depressed. What was once a 6‑person trip with ‑maybe- 1 or 2 open slots has now expand­ed to accom­mo­date all who would like to go and serve. Finances seemed like anoth­er lim­it­ing fac­tor but I received an esti­mate last evening that was about a third of what I expect­ed and there will be some schol­ar­ships avail­able. I am strength­ened in my resolve to press on towards the goal!

I have been using Duo Lin­go to try to bring back a near­ly com­plete­ly lost two semes­ters (10 hours) of Col­lege Russ­ian. I had for­got­ten how much I loved, and how dif­fi­cult I found this lan­guage.

Still pray­ing for answers and a heart to hear if my desire to go mesh­es with His desire.

Begin, Feb 20, 2016, 300lbs.

60ForUkraine
So begins a jour­ney that I hope ends in the Ukraine. I can­not join my church’s mis­sion team and be an asset at 300.bs and a BMI of 43 with bouts of Chron­ic Fatigue pulling me down unex­pect­ed­ly. I’m hope­ful that with prayer and a goal and account­abil­i­ty, that I can achieve return­ing to a weight I last saw in 2000 when I joined Tiger Chris­t­ian Life on a mis­sion trip to Hon­duras.

Pondering? Or Ruminating?

Guy Winch http://www.ted.com/talks/guy_winch_the_case_for_emotional_hygiene

Cathy Dow­nen http://www.agapechristiancounselingservices.org/dont-worry-be-happy/

rumi­nate
[roo-muh-neyt] Spell Syl­la­bles
Syn­onyms Exam­ples Word Ori­gin
verb (used with­out object), rumi­nat­ed, rumi­nat­ing.
1.
to chew the cud, as a rumi­nant.
2.
to med­i­tate or muse; pon­der.
verb (used with object), rumi­nat­ed, rumi­nat­ing.
3.
to chew again or over and over.
4.
to med­i­tate on; pon­der.

As Tim­on and Pum­baa say, “It’s a won­der­ful phrase.” Well no, they say ‑not- rumi­nat­ing, “Haku­na mata­ta” is a won­der­ful phrase.

Lost Beloved

This morn­ing, as I prayed ask­ing God to bless Raina, ful­fill her, give her hap­pi­ness, heal if heal­ing is need­ed, and seek her if seek­ing is need­ed, I real­ized that I referred to to her as my Lost Beloved. It got me think­ing and I real­ized that I have been using this epi­thet for a cou­ple of months now as God has grant­ed much heal­ing of heart.

I real­ized that I haven’t giv­en up on God’s abil­i­ty to restore my mar­riage, I’ve just turned the whole thing over to Him, and what­ev­er He decides to do will be the best and most ful­fill­ing out­come, whether that means a restored mar­riage, a new mar­riage, or liv­ing out a remain­ing life­time of sin­gle­ness.

I believe I’ve final­ly decid­ed to stop being crip­pled and bro­ken. I’ve come to the point of cast­ing off the crush­ing bur­den I’ve car­ried for so long.

Three years ago, near­ly to the day, I com­posed a poem as part of the heal­ing and deal­ing process:

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

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

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

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

That was a nec­es­sary step then to cope and func­tion because I ‑was- crip­pled and bro­ken and I was trip­ping and falling and injur­ing myself over and over.

I’ve had the box open once since then and I think that too was nec­es­sary to bring me to the point where I am now, at Peace. The re-open­ing was recent and I did­n’t beat myself up because I gave myself the grace to grieve again as part of the heal­ing process. Now I real­ize that I was­n’t griev­ing as I had in the past, and I was­n’t trip­ping; I was say­ing farewell.

Farewell not just to my Lost Beloved, but to all of my hopes, bro­ken promis­es (the ones I broke as well), lost hap­pi­ness and bro­ken dreams, all tied to her in con­nec­tion, and around my neck as a mill­stone.

I’ve said farewell and I’ve found des­per­ate­ly sought after peace which I had nev­er hoped to find. I did­n’t believe it pos­si­ble. I think I’m ready to close that box and this time, seal it shut with tape. I may one day throw the box away, but I don’t by any means wish to for­get what had been up until 7+ years ago the best and most reward­ing por­tion of my life.

I’m open now to new best and most reward­ing por­tions.

My fin­ger is now unadorned.

She is lost, to me. I have found myself, and only by God’s lov­ing grace. I don’t know what’s next, if any­thing, and for now, I’m not fussed. I like it here. It’s so much bet­ter than where I have been pre­vi­ous­ly.

Ugly Moral Portrait

Charles Spurgeon
Broth­er, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you false­ly on some point, yet be sat­is­fied, for if he knew you bet­ter he might change the accu­sa­tion, and you would be no gain­er by the cor­rec­tion. If you have your moral por­trait paint­ed, and it is ugly, be sat­is­fied; for it only needs a few black­er touch­es, and it would be still near­er the truth.
— Charles Had­don Spur­geon, ser­mon, “David Danc­ing before the Ark because of His Elec­tion” in The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Taber­na­cle Pul­pit Ser­mons, vol. 35.

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)

Titus 1:15–16

To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbe­liev­ing, noth­ing is pure, but both their mind and their con­science are defiled. They pro­fess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and dis­obe­di­ent and worth­less for any good deed.

I won­der if Lewis was not con­sid­er­ing this pas­sage when he wrote Book 3: Chap­ter 8 of A Pil­grim’s Regress, “Par­rot Dis­ease”. ‘Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no dif­fer­ence between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’

Every day a jailor brought the pris­on­ers their food, and as he laid down the dish­es he would say a word to them. If their meal was flesh he would remind them that they were eat­ing corpses, or give them some account of the slaugh­ter­ing: or, if it was the inwards of some beast, he would read them a lec­ture in anato­my and show the like­ness of the mess to the same parts in themselves—which was the more eas­i­ly done because the giant’s eyes were always star­ing into the dun­geon at din­ner time. Or if the meal were eggs he would recall to them that they were eat­ing the enstru­um of a ver­minous fowl, and crack a few jokes with the female pris­on­ers. So he went on day by day. Then I dreamed that one day there was noth­ing but milk for them, and the jailor said as he put down the pip­kin:

Our rela­tions with the cow are not delicate—as you can eas­i­ly see if you imag­ine eat­ing any of her oth­er secre­tions.’ Now John had been in the pit a short­er time than any of the oth­ers: and at these words some­thing seemed to snap in his head and he gave a great sigh and sud­den­ly spoke out in a loud, clear voice:

Thank heav­en! Now at last I know that you are talk­ing non­sense.’

What do you mean?’ said the jailor, wheel­ing round upon him.

You are try­ing to pre­tend that unlike things are like. You are try­ing to make us think that milk is the same sort of thing as sweat or dung.’

And pray, what dif­fer­ence is there except by cus­tom?’

Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no dif­fer­ence between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’

So Nature is a per­son, then, with pur­pos­es and con­scious­ness,’ said the jailor with a sneer. ‘In fact, a Land­la­dy. No doubt it com­forts you to imag­ine you can believe that sort of thing;’ and he turned to leave the prison with his nose in the air.

I know noth­ing about that,’ shout­ed John after him. ‘I am talk­ing of what hap­pens. Milk does feed calves and dung does not.’

Look here,’ cried the jailor, com­ing back, ‘we have had enough of this. It is high trea­son and I shall bring you before the Mas­ter.’ Then he jerked John up by his chain and began to drag him towards the door; but John as he was being dragged, cried out to the oth­ers, ‘Can’t you see it’s all a cheat?’ Then the jailor struck him in the teeth so hard that his mouth was filled with blood and he became unable to speak: and while he was silent the jailor addressed the pris­on­ers and said:

You see he is try­ing to argue. Now tell me, some­one, what is argu­ment?’

There was a con­fused mur­mur.

Come, come,’ said the jailor. ‘You must know your cat­e­chisms by now. You, there’ (and he point­ed to a pris­on­er lit­tle old­er than a boy whose name was Mas­ter Par­rot), ‘what is argu­ment?’

Argu­ment,’ said Mas­ter Par­rot, ‘is the attempt­ed ratio­nal­iza­tion of the arguer’s desires.’

Very good,’ replied the jailor, ‘but you should turn out your toes and put your hands behind your back. That is bet­ter. Now: what is the prop­er answer to an argu­ment prov­ing the exis­tence of the Land­lord?’

The prop­er answer is, “You say that because you are a Stew­ard.”’

Good boy. But hold your head up. That’s right. And what is the answer to an argu­ment prov­ing that Mr. Phally’s songs are just as brown as Mr. Halfways’?’

There are two only gen­er­al­ly nec­es­sary to damna­tion,’ said Mas­ter Par­rot. ‘The first is, “You say that because you are a Puri­tan­ian,” and the sec­ond is, “You say that because you are a
sen­su­al­ist.”’

Good. Now just one more. What is the answer to an argu­ment turn­ing on the belief that two and two make four?’

The answer is, “You say that because you are a math­e­mati­cian.”’

You are a very good boy,’ said the jailor. ‘And when I come back I shall bring you some­thing nice. And now for you,’ he added, giv­ing John a kick and open­ing the grat­ing.

’Іοϋλίαν ποθω*

snoopyhugwood

Farewell Hug

Five long years, wish­ing for just one thing
Dream­ing, imag­in­ing, yearn­ing. Know­ing.

Know­ing each friend­ship offer­ing meant, to me, more;
Meant more than would per­mit accept­ing.

Each, refused in love, to take unfair­ly.
Sneak attacks not with­stand­ing.

Resolved nev­er to accept with­out ring;
That sin­gle, soli­tary, most yearned-for thing.

Till today, blessed event, joy-filled radi­ant smile.
On beau­ti­ful hand a beau­ti­ful ring.

Par­i­ty achieved deep with­in.
Offered. Accept­ed, at last with­out sin.

The first the last.
A fond­est farewell.
A new desire kin­dled;
Bene­dic­tion of bless­ing;
Prayer for all joy.

May God bless and pre­serve;
New life togeth­er in Him.

Chris­t­ian Pud­dleglum Ran­som Harp­er
Decem­ber 19, 2015

*Until today.

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

2 Timothy 4:18

The Lord will res­cue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safe­ly to His heav­en­ly king­dom; to Him be the glo­ry for­ev­er and ever. Amen.

Frost said, “…but I have promis­es to keep; and miles to go before I sleep; and miles to go before I sleep.”

Miles and miles seem lit­tle dif­fi­cul­ty in light of the promise we know awaits.

The Grace & Truth Paradox — Randy Alcorn

The Grace & Truth Paradox
This mar­velous lit­tle book by Randy Alcorn fell into my metaphor­ic hands just at the right time when I and my room­mate were asked to start a small-group bible study and the top­ic asked for was “How to debate with love.”

Below are quotes that I found espe­cial­ly mean­ing­ful. (More to fol­low as I con­tin­ue my explo­ration.)

What Gives Us Away?

A friend sat down in a small Lon­don restau­rant and picked up a menu.

What will it be?” the wait­er asked.

Study­ing the puz­zling selec­tions, my friend said, “Uhh…”

The wait­er smiled. “Oh, a Yank. What part of the States are you from?”

He hadn’t said a word. But he’d already giv­en him­self away.

In the first cen­tu­ry, Christ’s fol­low­ers were also rec­og­nized imme­di­ate­ly. What gave them away?

It wasn’t their build­ings. They had none.

It wasn’t their pro­grams. They had none.

It wasn’t their polit­i­cal pow­er. They had none.

It wasn’t their slick pub­li­ca­tions, TV net­works, bumper­stick­ers, or celebri­ties. They had none. What was it?

With great pow­er the apos­tles con­tin­ued to tes­ti­fy to the res­ur­rec­tion of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. ~ Acts 4:33

They tes­ti­fied to the truth about Christ and lived by His grace. Truth was the food they ate and the mes­sage they spoke. Grace was the air they breathed and the life they lived.

The world around them had nev­er seen any­thing like it. It still hasn’t.

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace & Truth Para­dox, Ch 1

“We should nev­er approach truth except in a spir­it of grace, or grace except in the spir­it of truth. Jesus was­n’t 50 per­cent grace, 50 per­cent truth, but 100 per­cent grace and 100 per­cent truth.

Truth-ori­ent­ed Chris­tians love study­ing Scrip­ture and the­ol­o­gy. But some­times they’re quick to judge and slow to for­give. They’re strong on truth, weak on grace.

Grace-ori­ent­ed Chris­tians love for­give­ness and free­dom. But some­times they neglect Bible study and see moral stan­dards as “legal­ism.” They’re strong on grace, weak on truth.

Count­less mis­takes in mar­riage, par­ent­ing, min­istry, and oth­er rela­tion­ships are fail­ures to bal­ance grace and truth. Some­times we neglect both. Often we choose one over the oth­er.”

“A para­dox is an appar­ent con­tra­dic­tion. Grace and truth aren’t real­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry. Jesus didn’t switch on truth and then turn it off so He could switch on grace. Both are per­ma­nent­ly switched on in Jesus. Both should be switched on in us.”

“Some church ser­vices are per­me­at­ed with Chris­t­ian clichés that mys­ti­fy unbe­liev­ers. Nobody’s drawn to what’s incom­pre­hen­si­ble. Grace com­pels us to put the cook­ies on the low­er shelf where the unini­ti­at­ed can reach them. Jesus warm­ly wel­comed the non­re­li­gious and spoke words they under­stood. So should we.

Oth­er church­es try to make sin­ners feel com­fort­able. How? They nev­er talk about sin. Nev­er offend any­one. They replace truth with tol­er­ance, low­er­ing the bar so every­one can jump over it and we can all feel good about our­selves.

But Jesus said, ’ ‘No ser­vant is greater than his mas­ter.’ If they per­se­cut­ed me, they will per­se­cute you also’ (John 15:20).

Some­thing’s wrong if all unbe­liev­ers hate us.

Some­thing’s wrong if all unbe­liev­ers like us.

If we accu­rate­ly demon­strate grace ‑and- truth, some will be drawn to us and oth­er will be offend­ed by us—just as they were by Jesus.

When we offend every­body, it’s because we’ve tak­en on the truth man­tle with­out the grace. When we offend nobody, it’s because we’ve watered down truth in the name of grace.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 2.

“Grace nev­er ignores the awful truth of our deprav­i­ty. In fact, it empha­sizes it. The worse we real­ize we are, the greater we real­ize God’s grace is.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 3.

“God has writ­ten His truth on human hearts (Romans 2:15). Shame and twinges of con­science come from rec­og­niz­ing that truth has been vio­lat­ed. When peo­ple hear truth spo­ken gra­cious­ly, many are drawn to it because of the moral vac­u­um they feel. Hearts long for truth—even hearts that reject it.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 4.

This next one is very sim­i­lar to Ray Com­fort’s anal­o­gy in his talk Hel­l’s Best Kept Secret in which he talks of Jesus being offered not as sal­va­tion from the trans­gres­sions of the law, but as “Life Enhance­ment”. Peo­ple are enticed to ‘try on Christ’ with promis­es that their dif­fi­cul­ties in life will be resolved (using a para­chute as metaphor for Christ), but with­out any true under­stand­ing of the jump out of the air­plane that is to come. They put it on. It is uncom­fort­able and bulky and gives no ben­e­fit and so they tear it off, are angry at the para­chute (and the stew­ardess who gave it to them), and resolves nev­er to be fooled by that non­sense again. This as opposed to the one who is told at the out­set that there will be a jump to come and the only thing that will save them is wear­ing the para­chute. Then when the dif­fi­cul­ties of life befall him, say for instance, a new stew­ardess who trips and spills boil­ing hot cof­fee on him, he does­n’t cast off the para­chute and say “You stu­pid para­chute!” No, holds it all the tighter, and may ever Look For­ward to the jump to come.

If a teacher is guilty of preach­ing life enhance­ment instead of the truth, then there is noth­ing at all redemp­tive in his min­istry. Indeed, it is less than redemp­tive. It is damn­ing.

The oppo­site is near­ly as bad. That is, preach­ing truth in absence of all grace. Ray Com­fort clar­i­fies, “I’m not talk­ing about Hell­fire Preach­ing. Hell­fire Preach­ing will pro­duce Fear-Filled con­verts. Using God’s law will pro­duce Tear-Filled con­verts.”

The world’s low stan­dards, its dis­re­gard for truth, are not grace. The illu­so­ry free­dom, how­ev­er, ‑feels- like grace to some­one who’s been pound­ed by grace­less truth—beaten over the head with a piece of the guardrail. In fact, peo­ple who grow up in joy­less reli­gion learn that there’s no hope of liv­ing up to such daunt­ing stan­dards. “Why even try? It’s ‑impos­si­ble!-.”

But prop­er­ly under­stood, bib­li­cal truths are guardrails that pro­tect us from plung­ing off the cliff. A smart trav­el­er does­n’t curse the guardrails. He does­n’t whine, “That guardrail dent­ed my fend­er!” He looks over the cliff, and sees demol­ished autos below, and is ‑grate­ful- for guardrails.

The guardrails of truth are there not to pun­ish, but to pro­tect us.

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 4.

God­ly liv­ing cen­ters not on what we avoid, but on whom we embrace. Any­time we talk more about dos and don’ts than about Jesus, some­thing’s wrong.

—Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 4

Fit Though Misfit

For all of you who won­der how my heart can still yearn for my for­mer wife (as well as the girl I thought to make my wife), I can final­ly explain it for you (and for myself).

I real­ized… I don’t fit in… ‑any­where-. I am odd­ly and eccen­tri­cal­ly shaped. Every sin­gle ven­ture out­side my door (and even those inside) are plagued with the pain and ten­sion of nev­er fit­ting in even despite much effort.

That’s ok. I have friends who extend grace and love and make a place I can fit in despite my odd shape.

So why do I not close off my heart to (and the hurt from) those few I have tru­ly loved? It’s sim­ple now to explain. With them, I fit. They loved me (I believed) and none of my irreg­u­lar­i­ties and rough areas stuck out in incon­ve­nient places… and in that con­text, I could relax.

Nev­er, ever, ever am I able to have that com­fort and relax­ation out of that con­text. Every day is an ardu­ous intim­i­dat­ing task to do the same thing I did yes­ter­day. Hat­ed it then. Hate it today.

I have had two, all too brief, peri­ods in my life when that was­n’t true.

I think there­in lies even some of my desire to have a fam­i­ly… Fam­i­lies fit, because they grow around one anoth­er. Love is the flex­i­bil­i­ty that not only molds one shape to the next, but also changes some of the dif­fi­cult things about each one so that they fit nat­u­ral­ly in that con­text and then out­side of that con­text.


Of course, I’ve also learned that I appar­ent­ly relaxed too much… the les­son there would be that I can nev­er tru­ly relax, but that’s a les­son, despite learned, that I will ‑not- embrace, because to do so would be to reject life and all hope of what­ev­er joy God may grant in this life­time.