The Potential Destructiveness of Should

(*Update: This post had been unpub­lished while I worked to gain some per­spec­tive. I have done so. I am in a dif­fer­ent place. I am repub­lish­ing for pur­pos­es of hon­est con­ti­nu­ity.)

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

Book Review: The Meaning of Marriage

(*Update: This post had been unpub­lished while I worked to gain some per­spec­tive. I have done so. I am in a dif­fer­ent place. I am repub­lish­ing for pur­pos­es of hon­est con­ti­nu­ity.)

Work in progress as I read the book.

I’m not cer­tain what brought this book to my atten­tion but mar­riage is at the fore­most of my per­son­al inter­ests, most espe­cial­ly God­ly mar­riage, and many years have giv­en me a deep respect for the teach­ings of Tim Keller.

I’m 23rds of the way in and I’m rethink­ing how I need to write this review. There is sim­ply too much out­stand­ing con­tent in each chap­ter to cite even a por­tion it all.

I’m absolute­ly lov­ing this book as one of the best I have read in a long long while. I often think peo­ple find my views and ideas on mar­riage to be a lit­tle archa­ic if not strange. It’s very affirm­ing to read a man such as Tim Kel­lar not only shar­ing many of those ideas but expound­ing upon them in a much more eru­dite man­ner. The man fre­quent­ly, I mean very fre­quent­ly, cites the wis­dom of C. S. Lewis and pref­aces it with an expla­na­tion of ‘why’ that far out­strips the one I’ve been giv­ing my pas­tors and arm­chair the­olo­gians for decades. Same rea­sons, far bet­ter spo­ken.

Introduction

Society’s idea of a Soul­mate: A per­fect­ly com­pat­able match

…we quick­ly came to see that we shared the secret thread that C.S. Lewis says is the thing that turns peo­ple into close friends, or more…

You may have noticed that the books you real­ly love are bound togeth­er a secret thread. You know very well what is the com­mon qual­i­ty that makes you love them; but you can­not put it into words. Are not all life­long friend­ships born at the moment when at last you meet anoth­er human being who has some inkling of that some­thing which you were born desir­ing? — C. S. Lewis

Relationships: Telling vs. Being

(*Update: This post had been unpub­lished while I worked to gain some per­spec­tive. I have done so. I am in a dif­fer­ent place. I am repub­lish­ing for pur­pos­es of hon­est con­ti­nu­ity.) I’m inclined to be more def­i­nite on my update of 2017-03-18. I’m not the ‘right’ man.

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

(*Update: This post had been unpub­lished while I worked to gain some per­spec­tive. I have done so. I am in a dif­fer­ent place. I am repub­lish­ing for pur­pos­es of hon­est con­ti­nu­ity.)

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.

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 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.

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.
RichMullinsHeadshot
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

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

andrewpeterson
“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.”

DCP_2799[1]

Ukraine on Indefinite Hold

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

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

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

Now to turn my atten­tion to the upcom­ing 5th Annu­al Men’s retreat. Last year’s was fan­tas­tic in every way, but the stress and wor­ry com­plete­ly did me in. I resolved to start plan­ning this year’s before even leav­ing the site. This year I have mar­ket­ing han­dled. Instead of mail­ing each of 7 church­es a PDF, we print­ed 14 pg pro­fes­sion­al fliers to send to each pas­tor. Because Sta­ples made a mis­take we end­ed up get­ting -both- sides in colour and they look absolute­ly fan­tas­tic (thank you Sta­ples. You moved moun­tains.) I still have half my mar­ket­ing bud­get remain­ing and firm con­fir­ma­tion that the region­al head will chivy the indi­vid­ual church­es into send­ing their men (He’s the guest speak­er after all *chuck­le*). I feel relaxed and opti­mistic. It’s great work­ing with Pas­tors Ed & Adam to put some­thing togeth­er that I trust will bless -hard-.

VVCC-2016-Men'sRetreatFlyerQuarterPg-Front
VVCC-2016-Men'sRetreatFlyerQuarterPg-Back

Progress, Mar 29, 2016, 287lbs.

60ForUkraineMak­ing slow progress towards the goal with only 8lbs since my last post. I had some set­backs for two weeks with health (requir­ing steroids) that have thank­ful­ly been reme­died and I’m back on track fol­low­ing those two weeks. I don’t know if it’s actu­al­ly pos­si­ble to reach the goal in time for the trip which is now ten­ta­tive­ly sched­uled to begin in mid June.

The orig­i­nal cost esti­mate of $1,500 had risen to $2,000 and that caused con­cern because I don’t want to use the schol­ar­ships the church is pro­vid­ing. I decid­ed to trust instead of wor­ry and soon after start­ed dri­ving for Uber and am already more than ¼ of the way to that goal and I hope to be able to con­tribute -to- the schol­ar­ship fund. I can dri­ve as lit­tle or as much as I want so it’s all a mat­ter of push­ing to make it hap­pen.

This hoop has been jumped through and arrived last week:
CepelPassport2016Sm

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

Progress, Mar 1, 2016, 295lbs.

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

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

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

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

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

Begin, Feb 20, 2016, 300lbs.

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

Pondering? Or Ruminating?

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

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

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

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