Personal Ponderings

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.

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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.


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.


What a wonderful wonderful word.


How boring a world lacking…

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

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

When Love is Not

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KHOD, July 11, 2013, “It gets worse”

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

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

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

Can Goofiness and Manliness Coexist?

I realized that while I have many Quotational Ponderings entries, the Personal Ponderings category has regrettably not seen much use. I attribute this to my internal conflict with the belief that other people have things of significance to relate and I have not. To remedy, here’s a ponder that I have been considering lately:

“In seeing the goofy things I share and like on social media, I begin to wonder if a sensible woman could love such a man. Yes, I’m certain that it is possible, but is it improbable?”

I think the answer is a solid “it may be so”.

So, is that goofiness “who one is as a person”, or is it “how one chooses to be as a person”, and if the latter, should not one make the choice to be otherwise at some point? Is there some mysterious balance one needs must strike, and how can one possibly know that there is and what that balance looks like? Can one mature from being a man-child yet somehow remain a unabashed fan of animated movies like How to Train Your Dragon and Monsters Inc., Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, and goofy goofy Doctor Who?

Further, when does eccentric cross the line into oddity; say, if one has possibly knitted a 16′ long scarf in emulation of Tom Brown’s fourth iteration of The Doctor, has a barrier been irretrievably breached?

C.S. Lewis warns against filling to our lives with habits, hobbies, interests, and luxuries as a way to guard one’s life and heart against risking love and so to try to fill the void. Are we choosing those things over the possible joy and fulfillment of sharing one’s life, heart, and being with another? Are we men choosing to be a child and in so choosing to forgo the dream of ever raising a child (children)?

Moreover, are we making the same awful mistake in our relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ; with our loving Heavenly Father? What awesome and important thing is it that we are choosing to give up if such is so?

I have married friends who appear to have found and struck that balance and I look up to them as exemplars. They however, figured out that balance much earlier in life. Is there an age at which it becomes too late and one must live with the consequences of one’s ill-considered choices.

Ponder, ponder ponder.

Zen Pencils has crafted a wonderful comic to illustrate what C.S. Lewis says on this subject of hearts, hobbies and luxuries. [Original here]


Clive Staples Lewis

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

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

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

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

Reading Narnia to Your Children

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

A Very Irish Day

A friend sent me a photo today, of a bunch of redheaded girls in school uniforms and woolen pullovers and their ponies on a sparse beach under an overcast day with the chill ocean wind blowing hair, manes and fetlocks and breakers rolling up on the sandy shore. ***

It has every amiable quality of what I and my Lost Beloved would call a Very Irish Day… of our favorite days in Ireland that combined what we called Snuggle Weather with crisp clean scent, the smell of the ocean, the cool moisture of the air (but never damp), the overcast sky, and so much beauty that gave the feeling of a very High Dynamic Range photo.

2016-08-22 13.34.35

Such was our first day in Ireland when we pulled into the car park of the Rocky View Farmhouse B&B in Fanore, Co Clare. We were greeted by a little short-haired cat that despite the cool wind was almost painfully warm to the touch who insisted on being thoroughly pet with a little pepper-box grinder churning away in its throat.

We get a couple of Very Irish Days with the changing of the seasons here in Missouri. They always leave me yearning and nostalgic. Until a few years ago I was still able to greet them in my scratchy Aran wool cardigan and wool driving cap. Years before that we would tell one another that it was a Very Irish Day and hold one another and just smell and feel for a brief while. I confess, I always smelled the day through the scent of her hair in my face.

I’m very grateful to have these little occurrences every so often, though in truth they now feel like something that happened to someone else. It feels like I experience them at second-hand, vicariously through some other. I think maybe that is for the best. I think that in this way God gives me a way to re-experience the joy while buffering any sorrow that might still be lingering in closets I thought well swept out.

*** Not so very different from the precocious school children on the Aran Islands who wanted to play tinwhistle with me and pet our Whin and exclaim, “Oh, and isn’t he gorgeous! Has he had his nuuuts?”. Fortunately by this time we had heard this exact statement made dozens of times across both the Republic and Northern Ireland, and I was able to answer, “Thank you. He’s a she and yes, she’s had her kibble this morning.”


Ukraine on Indefinite Hold

We’ve gotten news that after two years of ceasefire, hostilities and shelling have resumed in the region we were going to work to rebuild and that it’s a flack-jacket only area.

I’ve been up and down in weight with illness, daily full-body hives allergic reactions and trying to get trips in with Uber. Last weigh in was 288 which is twelve wonderfully absent burdens. Oh to be Bunyan’s Christian and to lay -that- burden down at the cross along with my pack, my heavy-load.

This will be the last post unless the situation changes. I’m still working on my health and weight with the hope that the opportunity will again present. It’s one of those easy times to say with complete confidence, that if God wants it to happen, He’ll do what needs doing.

Now to turn my attention to the upcoming 5th Annual Men’s retreat. Last year’s was fantastic in every way, but the stress and worry completely did me in. I resolved to start planning this year’s before even leaving the site. This year I have marketing handled. Instead of mailing each of 7 churches a PDF, we printed 1/4 pg professional fliers to send to each pastor. Because Staples made a mistake we ended up getting -both- sides in colour and they look absolutely fantastic (thank you Staples. You moved mountains.) I still have half my marketing budget remaining and firm confirmation that the regional head will chivy the individual churches into sending their men (He’s the guest speaker after all *chuckle*). I feel relaxed and optimistic. It’s great working with Pastors Ed & Adam to put something together that I trust will bless -hard-.


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