Religious Liberty vs The Law

This probably isn’t news anymore, but here’s a little secret that many in ministry don’t like to discuss openly…we struggle too.  We struggle everyday with feelings of inadequacy, failure, anger, hurt.  We wrestle with the big questions, wonder if our faith is big enough, strong enough.  We worry about all the answers we don’t have, about the answers we do.  And these are on top of all the things that we face just because we’re human just like you and we have lives and jobs and families and responsibilities that weigh on us.

Some of these struggles are caused by internal things.  But others are caused by external stimuli; things that happen that we feel like we have to react to, or not react to as the case may be.  For me one of the most difficult struggles recently has been Ms. Davis’ stand against issuing marriage licenses in KY lately.  Well, I suppose in many ways that’s not entirely true.  It’s not so much her stand as it is all of the noise out of both sides of the issue that I think are obscuring the most important issues at play here.

The first is that these are people involved in this standoff.  Real people, who have family, people who love them, both the couples trying to get married and Ms. Davis herself.  These people have hopes, desires, beliefs; they get hurt, they are struggling with the situation that they find themselves in and they are both being held up as something larger than themselves by activists on both the Right and the Left.  It magnifies and intensifies every aspect of what is already a painful and stressful situation.

The second can best be summed up by the meme below:

ReligiousLaw_meme

However, it’s not entirely that simple either.  (And please note, I am NOT comparing Ms. Davis’ stand to Osama’s murders, but to the rationale behind each one’s stance)

Saying that religious beliefs should be protected and promoted above the law of the land is great if it’s a belief that you agree with.  At that point, sure, what’s the harm in making MY thoughts and MY beliefs that supreme figure of our nation…except that not everyone shares those same thoughts and same beliefs.  What if the religious beliefs being supported are for a religion you disagree with, or are afraid of?  Will you still support those decisions?  And at what point can and should the government intervene?  Be very careful with how much intervention you ask for.  It opens the door to many many unintended consequences…just talk to Hobby Lobby and the Satanic Temple in Detroit.  Pretty sure those two groups never thought they’d have something in common until after Hobby Lobby won their lawsuit in the Supreme Court.

I am not saying that I agree with Ms. Davis, because I don’t.  But I don’t want to dismiss her thoughts and beliefs out of hand either.  As a believer, even one with different beliefs than Ms. Davis, how much do I want the government to force me to do something against my religion?  Because that’s what we’re talking about here.  Personally I think she should just resign.  Or barring that, reassign her to another position and give her duties to someone who can fully carry out the responsibilities of that office.

But to see my first point above, Ms. Davis is a person.  She may be biased against full LGBT rights, but does demonizing her or sending death threats to her house and family make the position of those who disagree with her any stronger?  One of the most powerful forces of the Civil Rights Movement was that it was the persecuted being arrested, not those doing the persecuting.  I fear that this request of gov’t involvement will reframe the discussion in a way that is harmful to the LGBT community for decades to come.

I am also a believer in the building of community, not tearing it down.  And that means living with and dealing with people who agree with me AND people who do not agree with me.  I look at my Facebook wall and the many posts from members and other ministers in my denomination (and other denominations) about this and other decisive topics and I see so much hurt, anger and feelings that run so strongly there seems to be no way for us to hear each other…let alone manage to have a civil conversation about it or attempt to understand why the other person feels the way they do.

It may be a vain hope, but I will keep trying to get people to listen to each other.  Not to change their points of view, but perhaps to more fully see each other as someone of worth.  To understand that in order for our community to grow and be healthy we need ALL of us.  Not just the ones we like.

Staring it in the face

So it’s been a while since I put anything up…hmm… Not as long as I thought though. Maybe I am getting better at getting back to writing stuff more regularly?  Riiiiight.  I wouldn’t hold my breath either.

I came up against this reality not long ago.  But first I want to share something with you.  As I was praying in my room this morning, just sitting on my floor talkin’ to God, my eyes wandered around and across to an orange page on the floor not far from me.  After reading it the story on the page really hit my gut as being in direct answer to my prayer.  God truly can act in the most amazing ways in our lives…so, here it is —

The Cracked Pot

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck.  One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water in his master’s house.  Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments.

But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.  After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream.

“I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.”

“Why?” asked the bearer.  “What are you ashamed of?”

“I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house.  Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some.  But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again the pot apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side?  That’s because I have always known about your flaw and I took advantage of it.  I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them.  For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table.  Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”

This story really hit me today as I was thinking about how I felt my own efforts in my ministry, my work, my relationship were not up to where I’d like them to be.  But then there’s the moral too, just to add icing to the cake…

Each of us has our own unique flaws.  We’re all cracked pots.  But if we will allow it, the Lord will use our flaws to grace His Father’s table.  In God’s great economy, nothing goes to waste.  Don’t be afraid of your flaws.  Acknowledge them, and you too can be the cause of beauty.  Know that in our weakness [God can] find our strength.

I must admit I’ve been feeling a little like a fifth wheel some lately.  As I’ve mention previously I was recently ordained a minister and not only that but as of the first of this year, am also a co-pastor in my congregation.  I’m still busy at work and my son and I are starting a joint family therapy bi-weekly session to start working on how we relate to each other.  Things there are much much better than they have been, but at times it’s still a struggle.  And to top it all off, and this is really one of the most important things for me (and one of the most wonderful), I’m engaged to be married and the wedding is in about 4 months….  So… it’s not like I don’t have a bit on my plate I suppose.  But like the pot, I was feeling more and more aware of my flaws, rather than the beauty God had been (and continues to) using my flaws to create.  It was a good reminder and comes at a good time for me.

I am not perfect.  I screw up, make mistakes, don’t take advantage of the opportunities afforded me, ignore people I shouldn’t… but like the pot, if I listen to the water bearer, the bearer of the Word, acknowledge the flaws in my life and make room for His word… well, then… grace and beauty are only a part of what He can do with my life, and with yours.

Snowy Lenten thoughts…

So it’s late and I should totally be getting ready for bed and work tomorrow.  That’s the thing about weekends, you can’t wait for them to come but once here they disappear with a flash.  I’ve often wondered the older I get if that feeling would ever go away, much like children think the days last FOR-EEEEEEEEEEVER while we see the months just flyin’ by.  But I think not.  Weekends are like that I suppose.  Take this one for instance.  Friday night after work I went home, spent some time with my son finishing up our Yu-gi-oh card game we’d started the other night, fixed dinner and then I got together with some friends and role-played till about 1:30 in the morning or so.  Saturday I spent the day cleaning up my house and that evening I had about 12 people over for a game night, full of fun, food and board games which lasted till about 1am again, then a friend and I stayed up till about 3 watching a movie.  Sunday brought church, potluck (love our food!), then home to catch up on laundry and other cleaning up from Saturday, then roller-skating for about 90 minutes then home once more to get the kiddo ready for bed and then I settled in to watch a movie.  (Have I mentioned I really really like watching movies?)  And then this…

Where does my time go?

My son wanted to have someone over this week to come visit and as I started looking through my calender of this week it started looking something a bit like this –

Mon – Work, cook/clean, free rest of evening

Tues – Work, cook, roller-skating

Wed – Work, cook, Bible Study

Thurs – Work, cook, help at church with setting up rummage sale for sending our kids to summer church camp

Fri – Work, pick up drive-through, Game night with my friends

Sat – …..getting ready for my second IVLD day, but nothing else yet…

And I thought how amazing it was that I was the one so busy, not him.  Normally it’s the parents shuttling their children around, but this time it’s me.  But during this season of Lent we are supposed to spend the time in prayer and meditation.  Asking for forgiveness of our sins and spending time repenting.  This is a time of preparation, of getting ready to celebrate the miracle that was Easter.  But it has to start in the wilderness…away from all our business and the responsibilities of our lives.  One thing I found out this year as I was looking up some scriptures for church today was that the whole celebration of Lent arose from the scriptures in the Gospels of Jesus’ time in the wilderness before he began his ministry.  It was a time of preparation for him as well.  If Jesus needed such a time before he could go out and minister to the world around him, what does that tell us today about how important taking time away is?

And yet, can we do it voluntarily?  I celebrate my Involuntary Liberation Day the first Saturday of every March.  It’s to commemorate the day my ex-wife left me and I was liberated from the shadows of the man I was.  It’s not a celebration of my marriage ending, nor is it a celebration of the fact that she’s gone.  That’s the involuntary part.  I didn’t want it to end.  But WHEN it (my marriage) ended I was presented with the opportunity to be liberated from the mistakes of my past and the painful habits of a lifetime in a way I never would have dreamed of before.  So I celebrate the vista before me.  I have spent much of the past two years wandering in this wilderness.  Some of it has been my wanderings, other times I have allowed myself to be led.  Sometimes I have even managed to hear the voice prompting me in the direction I should be going.  It’s all been a part of my desert journey.  Moses led the Israelites in the desert for 40 years…not because they didn’t know the way, but because the generation that sinned against God had to pass from the earth before they could enter the promised land.  Those who had never known the spirit-crushing weight of slavery would be able to live and flourish in the new land God promised.  My spirit has been wandering because the parts of my life that have sinned against God must pass away before I can enter into a new covenant with Him.

I wasn’t sure I was gonna share anything about this here because as open as I’ve been on here before there are still some things I don’t like talking about…and I know some of the people who read this…of course part of it’s my own fault, I really don’t have to have this attached to my Facebook page…but this is too a part of who I am, and part of this is a public declaration of my desire to be made new in Christ’s own image and to become a better father for my son.  One of the things I am giving up for Lent is the negative images/thoughts/perceptions I have in my head of my own self-worth and of what women are like.

I struggle liking myself.  I have not had a really strong positive self-image since I was a teenager.  My experience with dating tainted, in many ways, my perception of myself and of relationships with women.  I won’t go into details, but I did not do well in the dating arena and got into situations where the decisions I made had very negative consequences for a number of people.  And for most of the past two decades I have not wanted to forgive myself for those mistakes.  Hindsight is not always 20/20 and the lens through which I viewed those times because the prism that delinieated who I was, what I was allowed to do, to say and to be.  I used the guilt, my guilt, and my shame from that time to build up walls around me and in time they twisted who I wanted to be and I became the kind of person who had to have others around me constantly telling me why I was worthwhile to feel loved.  I was a broken and needy soul who hounded others for approval and acceptance because I would not grant it myself.  I turned from those who could give it to me in healthy ways and instead indulged in a lifestyle of sex and drinking that was inherantly self-destructive, even as I sought out what I thought was love and acceptance.  The arrival of my son saved my life, in so many ways… but it did not uncomplicate it, nor did it suddenly make things all better.  Because of the circumstances of his birth and my relationship with his mother, I still struggle some days with how I view him and what my relationship with him should be/can be/will be.  But these last few years I have had several wonderful, challenging, compassionate people in my life who have challenged my old way of thinking in ways that I don’t always like, or want to talk about, or even think about in my own head.  It has hurt, it has caused me discomfort, examining BOTH the good and the bad actions I’ve done in the past and finding out where the ties are that have bound me down.  I don’t claim to know all of them yet, but I am on a path, and as I’m finding them this Lent season, I am letting go…or at least offering them to God, and trying to get out of the way when God takes them.  That has been my promise to God and my challenge.

I’ve also been struggling with reshaping my views on women.  They aren’t all crazy…well, not mean spirited crazy anyway.  😉

I have been hurt many times by women who saw me as a knight out to save them and then discard when no longer needed.  I have held my partners to unrealistic standards of what one person should be responsible for, it was not their place to heal all the hurts in my soul, nor make me into a whole person.  I need to do that myself with God’s help, and then if desired I can move slowly into a healthy relationship with someone.  But I have lots of trigger points, things that make me nervous, make me mad for no appreciable reason, that all arise from old arguements…  I have used and been used by past partners and desire a new way of thinking, living, loving.  All this is part of my penitential prayer –

God,

You who are our parent, lover, friend, and companion.  You whose love and joy know no bounds.  You who run to us with open arms.

I stand before you… broken…torn…ashamed.

I have turned from you, run from you, hide from you.  I have screamed at you, thrown myself away.  Still you chose to stay close.

I fought you until my strength gave out before the patience of your peace.

Holding me, you took me into the desert.

You walk with me, change me, mold me.  Even as the clay of my life screams out in pain and agony at the process I can feel something wonderful happening inside.

I know it’s not me that’s doing it.  But you require that we agree… that we invite you in.

I don’t remember everything that came before, weariness sometimes overtakes my mind.  But I remember the day I asked you.

I asked you to break me and make me new….and so we have gone to the desert together.

But now Lord, I stand halfway.  My scouring is completed for now… the temptations facing me are almost done.  Once again, my strength falters, once again weariness and shame press close in.

I beseech thee God, wrap me up in the joy of the life you offer.  Flood the wrinkles of my soul with your love.  May the peace of You bring balance to the stormy scene inside me.

My journey is not yet done.

I begin this Lent season with me.  With my sin.  With my repentance.  With my desire to turn closer to You.  Oh Lord, let us begin, and let it begin with me, that I may find new life in You.

Amen.

What is all this for?

What a week…or two…

It’s funny, I go from writing semi-regularly to not writing for six months to writing almost daily and now back to only semi-regularly.  Not sure why that strikes me so, just does.  Lack of sleep probably.  Life has been pretty busy lately, lots of social events, rehearsals, trying to keep my house in order, bible study, having my bathroom torn out and replaced…yeah…good times… But all in all, it has been pretty good.  I have a group of people I care very strongly about who enjoy hanging out with me, playing games, watching movies and just visiting.  I have a faith community that loves, uplifts and supports me.  All of which is very important when I think about strangling my 12 year old…well, okay, so I only occasionally think about strangling him.  He’s basically a good kid, and a fairly typical teenager.

Which is why it’s so distressing at times to see him succumb to peer pressure when it comes to things like dancing, “gay”-bashing, and telling nasty jokes.  Granted, he hasn’t done much of any of this and it’s all still in it’s nascent stages, but dealing with it is a challenge, for him and for me.  The one bright spot in the whole thing is that he doesn’t seem to buy into most of it just yet.  He’s just as likely to be confused by someone saying/doing stuff like this as he is to join in.  I hope to keep him on my side of the fence for this stuff.  Just gonna have to keep at it.

Of course lately the big thing has been dealing with the neighbor’s Nintendo DS.  My son is borrowing it on sort of a long term basis (my neighbor hasn’t really played with it in a couple years) since we do not have one of our own and it’s been a challenge at times as my son does not always remember to deal with the privilege of borrowing it the way he should.  The other day he was going to a church youth rally and my father, who was taking him, asked him three times if he had the DS with him.  My son, having just bought some new game/item for the thing, lied all three times, insisting that “No, I don’t have it with me.”  Mind you he’s not a great liar (see above paragraph about basically good), but he can be convincing enough to get away with things every now and then (also see above about typical teen).  I caught him in the lie later than evening and as a consequence have grounded him from the DS for the last several days.  We haven’t killed each other…yet.  But every day he has asked about playing the thing.  I understand struggling with patience, believe me I do.  I understand feeling like things are unjust and wanting to have my desire filled right then and there.  And I don’t always succeed where I need to.  But I want my son to be better at these things than I and until he goes at least a full day, waking to bed, without asking about it, he’s not going to get it back.

Which brings me to the topic at hand in this.  You know this whole desert thing?  This whole journey, this conversation with God, there are plenty of times I feel like my son.  That I feel like I just found something I want and I want it NOW.  But I can’t have it.  The time is not right.  I’m still too impatient myself.  I’ve asked my friends to assist me in keeping true to the promise I made of staying relationally free for a year and a day, not because there is anything magical in any sense to it (it’s a strongly traditional time for many reasons), but because without that time limit, without that boundary I know I would go out and find a relationship to get into.  And it would not necessarily be healthy or good for me or my son…but I’d do it because I suck at waiting…and I HATE being patient.  But my father challenged me this weekend.  In effect he asked me why I’d chosen the year and a day.  And he reminded me that what was important, was not the length of time, it’s just an arbitrary number, but what the time was supposed to teach me – which is to take time to let things be, don’t force things.  And give time for not just me, but my son, to get used to the idea of me dating again.  I have to be sensitive to not only my own needs but his as well, without letting either one run roughshod over the other…and balancing is really hard to do.  But what else has all this been for if not for something like this?

God did not make my previous marriage fail.  My ex and I did that well enough on our own.  But God has taken the broken pieces of my heart and my life and has promised to create from the shards a new creation in me.  If I will let Him.  If I will be patient.  If I will just let things “BE”.

I’m trying.

It’s hard.

I want more now, but I also want what I see dimly at the journey’s end.  “When [my] willingness to live in sacred community as Christ’s new creation exceeds [my] natural fear of spiritual and relational transformation, [I] will become who… [I am] called to be.”

I AM afraid.  But the call is more insistent now, not any louder, but I am definitely more aware of it.  The call the change, to be reborn.  There is joy in my heart and my life such as I have rarely known.  And if it is His will, if I can let it be for now, God knows the desires of my heart, and the feelings I have for those around me.  God will not leave my side.  I pray that I stay by His.

Anger Management and ADHD

Common Behaviors and Problems of Adult ADHD

The following behaviors and problems may stem directly from ADHD or may be the result of related adjustment difficulties:

  • Chronic lateness and forgetfulness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Employment problems.
  • Difficulty controlling anger.
  • Impulsiveness.
  • Substance abuse or addiction.
  • Poor organization skills.
  • Procrastination.
  • Low frustration tolerance.
  • Chronic boredom.
  • Difficulty concentrating when reading.
  • Mood swings.
  • Depression.
  • Relationship problems.

These behaviors may be mild to severe and can vary with the situation or be present all of the time. Some adults with ADHD may be able to concentrate if they are interested in or excited about what they are doing. Others may have difficulty focusing under any circumstances. Some adults look for stimulation, but others avoid it. In addition, adults with ADHD can be withdrawn and antisocial, or they can be overly social and unable to be alone.

So I bolded all the things I either have or have had problems with in my life, currently and in the past.  It’s an interesting issue, realizing you have something, then coming to terms with it.  Both my son and my father have been diagnosed with ADHD and given the checklists out there (such as the one above), it’s not hard to make the logical jump that, given that ADHD is a hereditary disease, I probably have it too.  I really wrestle with this one.  I have struggled all my life with coming to terms that my mother has MS.  When I was younger I used to be ashamed that my mom was different from all the other kids’ moms.  But I still loved her.  As I got older my respect for her strength and the love and support my father gave her, frankly just intimidated me.  They have been an amazing couple and continue to this day, something like 40-odd years.  Impressive in a society in which most of us will be divorced at least once…or twice in some cases…

I know living with two people with ADHD could not have been easy for my ex.  Especially when only one of them admitted to it, and it was not me.  Tonight I lost my temper.  Now, I’d like to excuse this by saying I’m tired, I’ve been working a lot of overtime the last two weeks and it’s been a rather stressful time, all of which is true.  But it does not excuse me yelling at my son.  He was arguing with me about something that happened at school, he’d borrowed a Nintendo DS and the styallus (the control stick) had gotten broken.  I finally yelled at him to “lose the attitude.”  And the voice in which I said it, and only that, along with the look on my face, drove my son away from me crying.  I didn’t call him names or belittle him, nor heaven forbid, did I hit him.  But the voice that came out…it startled even me.  And the crazy thing was as soon as I yelled out, I was over it.  I just let my buttons get pushed.

After about five minutes of him sitting in his room and me cooling off in the kitchen, I went and sat outside his door and apologized.  I was out-of-line for getting that angry, I said.  And I meant it.  He came out and sat in my lap for a while as he calmed down and I cooled off.  We talked, and he apologized for arguing with me.  We’re two of a kind, he and I.  And I have my own struggles with this disease.  I can only admire my parents and hope to eventually do as well…

Struggling with Single…part II

So I’m throwing this together against the backdrop of hurriedly getting ready for work after waiting outside in the cold for a bus that was almost 20 minutes late, again.  I have had a great time since MY new year began last Friday.  I’ve gone to see Where the Wild Things Are, which I totally recommend for anyone who loved that book as a child, went roller skating again for the first time in FOREVER, been hanging out with people I love and care about and have been staying up waaaaaaay to late talking to my friends…which leads me back to the title of the thing.

I have set for myself a time line of a year and a day from the day the divorce became official before I start dating again.  January 8th, 2011 to be exact…it’s a Saturday, go figure.  And yes, I had already looked it up…  I don’t mean this time line to be an artificial construct, but whether I want it or not (NOT!) my son and I need some more time together and apart before I start looking for someone to share our lives with.  To share my life with.  I’m not ready for another relationship, I just got out of one and shortly before that, ended the unofficial one that had diverted my attention from this journey for the last six months (not maliciously I might add, we still care for each other, but we are just heading in very different ways with our lives).  So, where does that leave me?

I LOVE to flirt.

I enjoy talking to attractive young women who for reasons I’m still a little fuzzy on, find me interesting and even funny.  But where do I draw the line?  I’ve asked my friends to be blunt with me and help keep me single for this year, for although I’m bound and determined to do it myself, I also know my weaknesses.  I struggle with being single.  I am not a huge fan of being alone, I like surrounding myself with friends, family and loved ones, a real pack animal.  But this journey requires sacrifice from me, at least for a while, and I can’t say I really want to, but that would not be true.

I WANT something more.

I WANT something better.

I want to BE a better person…and this journey is a part of that process.  I know if and when I meet the right person, if they are there, they will understand this journey and support me on it…but I don’t know if that’s better or worse.  Like the old prayer says, God grant me patience but grant it to me quickly…

I can’t rush this…

It HAS to move forward at its own pace.  I need to allow my son time to come to terms with the fact that he IS loved and trusted and allow him time to build that trust with people again, before asking him to start building it with someone in particular.  It still breaks my heart that he felt he had to ask me to find someone who “actually likes ME” next time I start seriously looking for a partner.  He’s not ready.  I’m not ready, I just want to be.

I need to be friends first.

I need to have time first.

I need to have space first.

And my son needs those things just as much as I.  He and I are both on this journey, albeit, I was the one who started it all.  I know in my head I can forgive myself…I still don’t feel it in my heart.  I love my son, and don’t want any more heartache to fill his life.  He’s had enough.  Me?  I’m just a glutton for punishment, but I’m tired of my punishment hurting the people I care most for around me.  Maybe this time I’ll learn…

But I still struggle with being single…

Nights are the longest time…

So the big day is comin’ up.  Just two more days.  On Thursday at approximately 9:00am the relationship that has more or less helped to define me for almost the last decade of my life will be over and done with.  Space and relationally it ended almost two years ago, shortly before I started this blog.  Legally and emotionally…well, that’s been a different facet altogether.  I knew this was week was gonna be rough, for a couple of reasons.  First of all it’s the 2nd busiest day of the year for work.  Second, the weather and my son make life interesting and a little stir crazy.  And then thirdly, there’s the divorce.  I just have so much goin’ on in my head, even I can’t sort it all out.  Today a dear friend sent me a list of 45 lessons for life in a power point presentation.  I actually had gotten the exact same thing earlier that day from my boss at work, but I hadn’t really wanted to read it then.  The few I looked at in the morning one hit a little close and the last thing I felt I needed was to get all worked up before one of the craziest days of the year for us at work.  And then I got it again tonight when I got home from work after a very, very long day.  And I looked, and tried to listen…  and struggled…

I’m scared.

I’m scared I’m gonna fail.

I’m scared I’ll succeed.

I want to keep on this path, and I have been shown and given such love and support, more than I could have ever imagined.  And part of it scares me.  I’m not used to it.  Even writing this blog, I managed to keep things and people at arms length.  I don’t like to open up.  I know dear readers, it may be a little hard to believe but if you were here in front of me, I assure you the odds of us ever talking about most of what’s on here are about as likely as the KC Chiefs winning the Super Bowl in my lifetime.  I struggle with words, especially when they matter.  There’s a line in a great song I love  – “The more I think, the less I see” – and that is so me.  For a long time I have fought the idea that I could ever forgive myself.  I think too much.  One of my best friends and I, that’s sort of our code for all the things we consider and talk about.  No one else spends as much time on minute stuff as he and I.  There’s a quote from one of my favorite book series by C. S. Friedman, the book is called When True Night Falls.  The two main characters are a warrior priest named Damien Vyrce and a human/demon-prince, Gerald Tarrant, who was once the founding father of the priest’s church, before selling his soul to Fear.  And I think the interplay captures things very well, Tarrant starts off –

“Do you know what repentence means, for me?  Do you really understand it?”  There was anger in his voice now, but it had a desperate edge, “Repentence means standing before God and saying, I’m sorry.  For everything.  All the sins I ever committed, I wish they could be undone.  I wish that I could go back to that time and do it all over again. […]  I wish I could have died before my dream took hold […]  I wish I could have died in ignorance of what this world would become, severed from the world of the living before I could begin to untangle the mysteries that surround me.  I can’t do it Vyrce.  Not honestly.  I could say the words, but I could never mean them.  And my last dying thought would be of all that I had yet to see, which God’s forgiveness had cost me.”  He laughed shortly, bitterly.  “Do you really think that would work?  Do you really think such an attitude would save me?”

Now it was [Damien] who shut his eyes.  He could hear the pain in his own voice as he spoke.  “You’re trapped by your own intelligence you know.  A simpler man would have found his way back to God long ago.”

“Don’t you think I know that?” he whispered.  “Don’t you think that knowledge is part and parcel of my damnation?”

[…]  “No one is ever prepared to meet God,” Damien said queietly.  “We may think we are, but’s only because we don’t understand Him.”

There were many times in days past I felt much more like Tarrant.  The older I get, on the good days, the more I feel like the priest.  Struggling with the good and evil inside each of us, trying to hold onto Hope.  But I’m still scared to go to sleep some nights.  The fear of dying at age 3o is now two years past the date, but it’s still hard to shake the feeling of living on borrowed time.  I try to thank Him every morning for the day I’ve been given.  I know each day is a gift, a present.  I’m just leery of accepting it.  Too many old hurts.  Too many old fears.  They weigh me down and push me around.  And then there’s number 38 on the list… “Yield.”

Every time today I’ve read that one I’ve cried.  Because it’s the one thing on that list I truly want to do, and struggle the most with.  Let go?  Lay back?  Trust?  I don’t want to, but I don’t want to carry it anymore.  Who will I be when it’s gone?  What will be left when everything that has crushed me all these years is lifted?  Will there be anything left?  I’ve been writing in this thing for almost two years and I still don’t feel much closer to figuring out who I am.  Should I yield it all at once?  Can I even do so?  Should I do it a little at a time?  Would I ever get done?

I was going through old pictures today… always rough when you are already emotionally touchy.  Particularly if you are like me and have a tendency to hold on to things that should probably let go.  I have pictures from all sorts of things I probably shouldn’t anymore.  Pictures of ex’s, places and things that are mixed at best in my history.  But they help to tell my story.  But they aren’t always the best parts.  Like the rest of it, should I get rid of them or put them back in storage?  I tell my son over and over again he shouldn’t hang on to the negative memories and emotions, that the only way to move forward is to let go… sounds like good advice doesn’t it?  Now if only I could follow it.

I’m tired.  I’m nervous.  I’m upset.  But in the end, no one has the power to make me feel anything I don’t let them.  And I don’t have to carry the world on my shoulders.  I am NOT responsible for the whole world.  Even for all of MY world.  I just wish I was a simpler man.  It’s not the answer… at least, not the one I’m looking for.  I sympathize a lot with both of those characters though in the quote above.  Where do I find myself these days in that journey?  I like Augustine, a man who would have undoubtedly gotten along with both of them.  Valleys and peaks, pain, loss and shame.  Elation, joy and peace.  I’ve gone through both lately, but this… this is definitely a valley.  I knew this week would be bad.  But I’m trying to remember that God’s most powerful when we are at our most vulnerable.  And as pkkid said on her blog, “Courage being only ‘nothing else left to try’.”  Well…

I’ve tried things my way.  I ran for so long and wasted so many year.  I have nowhere else to turn God, but You.  I have spent myself and throw myself on Thy mercy and at Thy feet.  I did not come to dance.  I did not come to sing.  I did not come to laugh. .. I come to cry.  I come in pain.  I bring my fear to lay before you.  I bring my hate and my anger.  I’m too tired to carry them anymore, but don’t have the strength to let go.  Help me I pray to let go.  Help me please to just let go, and trust in You.  You who are and have been worthy of my trust and my love.  Rock my soul God.  We aren’t done breaking me yet, but the refiner’s fire is hot and the journey is not easy for the metal.  Pain and shaping, cold and beatings… but in the end, if we can hold to it, there’s the promise of something different, something better, something stronger, someone closer to You.

God grant us all peace this day.  I still can’t sleep, but I’m workin’ my way there.  And I defintely am never ready to meet God.  But God is reaching out to me and is surprising me everyday with another thing on the list… Number 30 – God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do — and number 34 – Get outside every day, miracles are waiting everywhere.

May you find your miracle.

hard to believe we were ever that young
hope comes in many sizes