Unexpected Journey

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

“then you must take up your well-shaped oar and go on a journey until you come where there are men living who know nothing of the sea, and who eat food that is not mixed with salt, who never have known ships whose cheeks are painted purple, who never have known-well-shaped oars, which act for ships as wings do.” The Odyssey – Homer

By any measure Odysseus had a tough life.  His original journey tore him away from his beloved wife and into a bloody war. His return journey was fraught with so much adversity that most back home figured he must dead, but he made it home (just in time to fight off a horde suitors vying for his wife). Time for a rest … nope … he had one more unexpected journey. Peace could not come until he could let go of his past. (adapted thought from Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life )

You might be thinking that this is another attempt at explaining my continuing spiritual reconstruction project.  While that was an unexpected journey, that is not the one I want to talk about.  A new path is revealed due to the lifting of the haze that has obscured my vision for most of my life. As the years have passed the fog thickened along my path.  It was not until my friend Anne blogged about her experience with the “Brain Fog“, which, she thought was due to an early “change of life”.  I chalked mine up to a midlife kind of thing.  Both of us found out later that our bodies were playing tricks on us.

Check out Anne‘s blog to follow her unexpected journey as she learns to cling to the Savior and trust him as she battles her own monster named Fibromyalgia.  If you suffer from chronic pain or deteriorating health issues, take some time and be encouraged by her journey.

Journey in the Mist

My original murky journey led me down a path of uncompleted tasks, failed attempts, and unfulfilled dreams.  Although my life was full of love and joy, there was always a sense that my I had been squandering my gifts.  I knew that I had so much more to give, but it seemed that I was running into walls of my own creation.

As long as I can remember I believed I could do just about anything. My parents always believed in me, so it is natural that I would believe in myself.  I was moderately successful at most things I attempted with very little effort.

In middle school I was first chair trumpet player, started every inning of every baseball game and maintained a high batting average, started both ways in football, maintained high grades in school, and advanced rapidly in Boy Scouts; all with very little sustained effort.  I worked hard in spurts … until the newness and praise dwindled.

High school came along just in time to give me some new challenges and a new burst of energy.  As a small person, maximum effort would be the only way I could be successful in sports. Football … that was not going to happen, baseball … I was catcher and size and strength are pretty important (not to mention my eye sight was deteriorating) I let band take a bake seat and I gave up Boy Scouts.  Academics would have been fine if I did not have to read and turn in homework so I squeaked through. I took up 2 new sports; track and my real love … wrestling. Four years was just about my limit.

Off to college.  No really new challenges to sustain my effort and didn’t even make it a full semester. Most of my adult life I have claimed that it was the injury that killed my college career … that is a lie. It was my inability to maintain a consistent work ethic and accompanying embarrassment that finished my college career. It was not that I was lazy and did not want to work hard. I actually loved working hard. I just could not maintain focus for any length of time. I can only see that now, back then I just made excuses.

Onward to adulthood which brought many an unexpected journey. Worked jobs that I were “beneath” my abilities … failed. Started a family (and then got married), not the ideal start.  Joined the Navy … mostly because I knew that I could not just quit and my family needed me to provide.  It was new and challenging so I did pretty well for the first 5 or six years, but nuclear power requires one to “study unceasingly”.  That was a skill that was not in my tool bag.  Fortunately, I an a gifted encourager, teacher, and coach so I developed outstanding sailors that were under my charge.  Since leaving the Navy many of you have heard me say that I got out because I had three girls entering their teenage years and they needed me home  … that is a lie (well at least a half truth)My inability to advance made continuing my career difficult, so I served out my time and moved on to civilian life hoping a new challenge would bring about a change in fortune.

Since leaving the Navy 19 years ago, life has brought much of the same. I took up many hobbies and activities, but even these were only short-term successes and ran the same course as my professional life. I Running a marathon was a temporary relief, but it did not fill the void.  All of my jobs, hobbies, and projects that started out like gangbusters and ended in failure or at least an incomplete.  In a last-ditch effort to arrest the death that was occurring within, I trained for and completed a marathon. I had finally completed something, but it was not enough to rekindle the fire.

Bend in the Road

About 8 years ago, overcome by embarrassment, disappointment, and a longing for a clear success, the haze of depression fell heavily on my heart.  Moving forward seemed pointless, so I began to shut it down and rolled to a halt. Despair took root.

My family saw it. They knew something was wrong, but could do nothing but love me.  When you have failed to follow through with promises and commitments, friends are hard to come by.  I had no outlet for my grief. Grief?  Yes … I grieved for the loss of my dreams, I grieved for the end of hope, and I grieved for death of the Chuck that I thought was inside.  I only went on because of my family. Going through the motions was all I muster.

My annual physical went pretty well other than a minor adjustment to my thyroid medication. As got up to leave the doctor asked if I had any other concerns. I stopped told my emotional atmospheric condition. After another half an hour of questions, she was concerned enough to prescribe me an anti-depressant.  Within a couple of weeks, I was moving again.  I don’t know if it was forward motion, but it was motion.

I don’t hate my job, but I struggle to stay engaged. This is nothing new, it is my MO.  Start something new … throw myself headlong into it, advance, get bored, lose focus, disengage, performance drops off.  Here we go again! I see it happening and yet feel powerless to stop it. No process or practice seems to phase my ability to re-engage my job.

So I am discussing this with my daughter Dorothy and she mentions that her husband was struggling as well and he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD).

hmmm … interesting.

Unexpected Journey

This was never something I imagined. It never occurred to me that I suffered from mental illness.  Healthy and intelligent there was no way that my brain chemistry could be jacked!  Through the years my health has slowly deteriorated (Asthma, thyroid, cholesterol).  The symptom that was there all along went undiagnosed for 54 years.

I don’t know if things would have been, but that journey is over. I am grateful for the opportunity to start this new an unexpected journey. Even if the changes are minor, for the first time in a long time I feel like I can “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”

Not the way I would have chosen
Not the way I would have chosen

Today was my first day on medication.  I have sat for three hours reading, researching and writing.  Yesterday, I would not have thought this possible.

If you are struggling … talk to someone. Pray that God will send the right person. Maybe all you need is friend, but maybe your struggle deeper than a friend can touch.  Whether it is physical or emotional, don’t go it alone and don’t turn down help.

Remember there are many more like me out there.  Look along the side of the road, they are there I assure you.  Please don’t pass by on the other side of the road.  Don’t fail to carry your oil and wine.  You are the one who can bind up wounds and care for the broken and oppressed.

He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. – Luke 10:34

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

How do you determine who to vote for or do you not vote at all?

My friend Anne posted a heartfelt question on Facebook today and instead of writing a simple comment, I figured I would vomit out my answer on my much neglected blog.

“Let’s say you vote for your convictions, principles, and values when it comes to your President, your Senators, etc. Let’s just say that no candidate truly expresses your values, but they do profess (and who knows what is just talk and what is true) some things that you do agree with. They just may not be of the character you would hope for – they may not be the perfect expression of all that you hold as valuable and dear.

Let’s just say that NONE of them do so.

How do you determine who to vote for or do you not vote at all?”

Most people I know are struggling with this decision just like Annie!  To me it is not an option to not vote so … how do I decide when no candidate fits the perfect ideal?

Here is the process that I am trying to sort through.

Primary Considerations

  • Is the candidate trustworthy? The rest of this is moot since we cannot honestly answer the rest of these questions.
  • What key issues and challenges will the next chief executive face?
  • What is the candidate’s view on those issues AND would they have the authority to execute or influence the government regarding those issues? (If a candidate has an off-the-wall idea that could never be enacted, it is not an issue)
  • How does the candidate’s views on those issues line up with the things I feel are core values for a “just” society?
  • Is the candidate an effective leader and manager? Can he/she get things done?
  • Would the candidate be a respected leader on the world stage?

Secondary Considerations (What if they fail the primary considerations)

  • Is there an issue that is a game changer for me? (for many, a pro-life/pro-choice stance or their stand on same sex marriage is a game changer)
  • Is the candidate even keeled and reasonable? (Not a hot-head or mean) (Unfortunately, the only even keeled guy I have seen probably won’t make it through the primaries)
  • This will sound awful, but if I can find no good characteristics in the candidates, then maybe I should vote for the one that is least likely to bring about change. This puts the onus on Congress (which might be even scarier).

I have tried to wean out my opinions in my little checklist.   I don’t intend on publically backing a candidate because quite honestly, I am not as certain of anything once was.  There is a tremendous freedom in uncertainty.  Releasing faith from that box is quite empowering and allows me to see a God that is much bigger than I ever imagined.  In the case of politics, it allows me to be able to see past candidates and look instead to the mission set before me.

“I look to the hills! Where will I find help? It will come from the Lord, who created heaven and earth”. (Psalm 121:1,2 CEV)

The anger and bitterness that prevails in our nation is reflected in the candidates that appear to be succeeding.  What is the driving force of this anger? I have some ideas…

A portion of our population is dropping farther and farther behind. There are many reasons for this (not just laziness and victim mentality).  Generational poverty caused by centuries of racism, rapidly changing economic structures that have left working class people without societal worth, and the resulting quick fix programs, have left them slaves to government programs, addictions, or crime.

What about the middle class? Why are they so angry?  In our arrogance we bought into the consumerism peddled to us and became slaves to our jobs, our credit rating, and our material possessions.  (We bought into the American Dream)  We became intoxicated with a false sense of security.  Cast as superior to the victim class we were empowered and felt like the movers and shakers of society.  Unfortunately this left us vulnerable to the puppet strings of the drivers of the economy.  What happens when the puppet master revokes power and it all comes toppling down?  Suddenly your values are no longer the mainstream of society and your social standing begins to slide. White, middle class, Christians unexpectedly have lost their grip on the reigns of society resulting in confusion, depression, defensiveness, anger and bitterness.

The oppressor has worked a masterful plan to divide and conquer.  We are goaded into battle against the powerless and become a part of a plan to enslave an entire society.   As long as we refuse to lock arms with the weak and continue to side with the power brokers, we will continue to find ourselves powerless to take dominion over the Kingdom.

If we continue to buy into the narrative of anger and bitterness, we will continue to be rewarded with candidates that reflect our anger and bitterness.

It is up to us to make changes to society.  It is not going to be easy and it won’t happen overnight.

It may cost us:

  • We may have to give up liberties that we feel are our “rights.”
  • We may have to put away our sword.
  • We may have to grieve sin (ours and those of others) instead of hating it.
  • We may have to give up our status.
  • We may have to give up our right to be right.
  • We may have to place a priority on love in the face of hate.
  • We may have to pick up a cross and laydown our lives for our nation.
  • We may have to give up our nation for the sake of Christ.

Let love be your only debt! If you love others, you have done all that the Law demands.  In the Law there are many commands, such as, “Be faithful in marriage. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not want what belongs to others.” But all of these are summed up in the command that says, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” No one who loves others will harm them. So love is all that the Law demands. (Rom 13:8-10)

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