I’m loving little serendipitous happenings and trying to hold onto them as tethers to this life… trying with deliberation not to let them slip by unnoticed, unremarked. As such I want to relate the serendipity before explanative background. I’m chuffed and a little bewildered.
This morning in the last 10 minutes of Sunday worship practice it was decided that I should have a go at playing a cello part for the special music during the offering. I was delighted and a bit terrified (though surprisingly not troubled by jitters). We played a song I’ve long wanted us to play, Your Glory as performed by All Sons & Daughters and I was privileged to join the beautiful piano, guitar and drums of Ingrid, Adam, and Stephen, and beautiful (During practice, beautiful. On stage, I’m not certain I heard them at all.) vocals of the first two and our Glyn holding down the low end of the vocal spectrum.
I’m honestly not certain how good it sounded, but it felt good and it did seem people were worshiping, and several were deliberate in giving affirmations afterward.
So, to the backstory. I’ve always loved the cello. I feel it has a physical resonance with the human body that allows it to touch and penetrate and stimulate and comfort where other instruments do not. That said, in all my other musical affections, the cello has always felt a bit beyond grasp. I’ve had Great Highland Bagpipes. I’ve built a practice set of Uilleann Pipes. I have three early system flutes, two of which for certain were built in the 1800s. I’ve gotten to own and have enormous pleasure from all sorts of whistles, recorders, guitars, banjos, a concertina, mandolins, a violin, a Bodhrán, a Glockenspiel, pianos, clarinets, and a bouzouki.
At university, I studied flute and bassoon and played in community ensembles. Unfortunately for ensemble work, I’ve always struggled with getting lost, confused, and muddled if playing anything not holding the core shape of the melody.
For some reason, the cello seemed beyond grasp of my silly hobbyist’s desires to make music with all the beautiful clever contraptions that have caught my fancy.
Then, a couple of years ago something very unfortunate happened. A good friend and musical mentor passed away suddenly leaving the church bereft of a bass player to lay foundation and harmonically underpin the melodic texture of the other instruments. Also, by serendipity, a young man of our church had moved on to different missional adventures, leaving behind a beautiful Ibanez 5-string electric bass, and every time I’ve inquired if he wanted it back, he has responded by saying, “If it’s being used to further the kingdom, I think it probably where God wants it.”
I started teaching myself to play the thing while sitting at the soundbooth during worship practices, without much hope of being able do the harmonic thing where I’ve always tended towards the melodic. It turned out to be surprisingly easy and fun and not the bugbear I’ve always made it… I want dots on a page, not Alphabet figurings. I fear the abstract and cling to the concrete.
I do love the bass and it’s growling percussive sometimes smooth voicings, but it put me back in mind of yearning for the beauty and resonance of the cello. Each year I would attend our association of churches’ Faithwalkers Mid-west conference and be joyfully transported when Lucas Shogren of Clocks & Clouds would lay down his bass and pick up the cello. As the bass began to seem within my reach it seemed to draw the cello along with it. If I could teach myself to fill a role on one instrument, perhaps I could do the same on one very similar in many respects.
I did not think to have the opportunity to try as cellos are very dear and I could never justify the initial outlay just to journey down a road a piece to see how I got on. I talked to friends about looking for one, but only in a vague wishful way. Enter Facebook Marketplace. I try not to look so that I don’t find a bunch of things I didn’t know I need to have. In one of my rare moments of weakness, I found what looked to be a beautiful used full-sized cello here in town when I happened also to have a few unbudgeted kopeks rattling around in my pocket. It seemed a rather low price for a lovely student-model instrument in a very good hard-side rolling case with not much more than a small f-hole crack to provoke concern. I felt bad about talking the owner down to a price I could afford, but which probably could not have purchased the case new.
Of course, I quickly found it to be unplayable with a tuning peg that had no affection for the pegbox to which it should adhere, and a bridge that was placed nowhere near where it should be and had been inexpertly carved to uselessness so that if the bridge were to be positioned correctly, the strings would lay on the fingerboard. I had to find a skilled luthier and save my shekels (They seem to hold value better than do kopeks) for a while to engage him to stop the crack, replace the peg with one stout enough to stick properly, and carve a new bridge.
I got the work done but life intruded for a couple of months, and I never got a chance to get the thing out and play with her now that she was a playable instrument. It’s been growing on my mind for a while that I need to put down the bass guitar, which is fun and relaxing to play, and start the hard work of the neophyte learner. Halfway through this last practice I remembered that determination and got my little girl out and tuned her. She tuned. Right away, things were looking up *chuckle*. I started figuring out where notes make their home. I had hoped that I would have this under my fingers somewhat considering that the Mandolin, Violin, and my Bouzouki are all tuned to GDAE. Nae. A bit of a mental rearrangement as the cello lives a perfect fifth below but doesn’t quite make it to the low B I love on the Bass. In the middle of the song they were practicing, they asked me if I was going to play with them Sunday morning for the special. I thought they were havin’ a go, as this was pretty much the first time I’d done more than fight to tune and saw out a few scales.
This morning during practice, things really sort of clicked into place. One of my friends on the stage has told me in the past that she values boldness so I decided that I could either stay silent and wonder and wish, or be bold and risk doing poorly. Risk was rewarded. As vague and wishful as the cello has always seemed, and as surreal as playing it during worship felt, this morning it was made solid.
The potential was made solid. Before me lies a good deal of work and frustration; to pull from various sources to try to learn good technique and not practice in poor habits that will hold me back further on. Before me lies the investment to make as familiar and comfortable, the notes of first-position of the cello as they have become on the bass, and to build a toolbox of techniques and ornaments to add richness and variety.
My goal is feasible. I want only to do what I’ve been doing with bass, but do it with an instrument that makes me want to simultaneously hold my breath and weep. I want to use this instrument and ask God to use me as His instrument as we seek to worship and facilitate the worship of others in our family.
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.
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.
“Controlling the Unpredictable – The Power of Promising“
Christianity Today Jan. 1983
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.”
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:
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.
I can count on two hands examples I’ve seen in my own life. They are what I aspire to for myself. Almost without exception, they are men (and women) who have made God the head of their marriage.
This, of course, flies in the face of feminist claptrap, and I make no apologies. Any nonsense that makes less of a Daughter of Eve in silly pursuit of making her ‘equal’ is to be laughably discarded. I hope that they themselves find someone who considers them of far more worth than ever he does himself, and who likewise makes no apologies.
Most men may never reach this standard, but may be content if like a standard in battle, it goes ever before him displaying his colours and character, as much reminder to himself as caution to those ahead.
For some reason, beyond my ken, this KHOD comic was listed in the marshwiggle.org site statistics for yesterday. I adore KHOD. How very apropos. Here, Spencer’s father is showing his standard to his son and teaching him to yearn for a similar standard of his own.
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.”
College, 2013 Fall Conference, Creation & Re-Creation.
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 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.
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.”
Guy Winch http://www.ted.com/talks/guy_winch_the_case_for_emotional_hygiene
Cathy Downen http://www.agapechristiancounselingservices.org/dont-worry-be-happy/
Synonyms Examples Word Origin
verb (used without object), ruminated, ruminating.
to chew the cud, as a ruminant.
to meditate or muse; ponder.
verb (used with object), ruminated, ruminating.
to chew again or over and over.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.”
For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.
David, Sarah, Dwight, Tony, Bill… To name a few. Thanking God.
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
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.
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.