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

Drought Condition – Is Fire Imminent? (The Prequel)

As I reflect on my last article, Fire is Imminent Part I, I realize a few things:

  1.  My blog no longer has anything to do with its original intent (journaling my first marathon) and I really need to either start another blog or put some time into a revamping this one.
  2. That my running experience has brought out some of the initial signs of the drought condition in my life.
  3. Before I can discuss my world perspective and the path I believe that God is opening before us, I need to reconcile the last few years of drought that have brought me to this place.
  4. Attempting to paint pretty nature metaphors is not my forte.

Another Disclaimer:  Today’s entry is not for you. After observing this past season of agenda driven manipulation, I feel that it is important that I establish in my heart just where I stand, what agenda and motivation might be driving me, and whether I have any business moving forward with any thoughts that might be considered persuasive or argumentative. If I continue with this series, this journal may have no bearing whatsoever on discussions that are ahead.  Feel free to stop reading now and save yourself a boring read.

Good Bye Daddy:  In the fall 2007,  life revolved around our first experience of giving away a daughter in marriage   A wedding is obviously a very emotional time. For me it turned out to be an Alpha/Omega moment.  Obviously, it was the beginning of a new life for Sarah and Michael, but it signaled to me the beginning of the end for me (Daddy).   During Sarah’s wedding I removed a white linen scarf from my neck and placed it on Michael’s to signify the passing of my fatherly covering on to her new husband.  Though out my adult life, I was able to hide behind the noble pursuit of marriage and fatherhood; now I began to realize that I could no longer cower behind my role as Daddy.  God had an identity that He had established for me from the beginning; A purpose much bigger that I was willing to accept, but  I could no longer hide from it.  So what does one do when he is exposed? … obviously one runs!

Enter the Maraman:  After the wedding, Taylor, a friend at work handed me a book, “Ultra Marathon Man” by Dean Karnazes.  As the book was passed around the office, a group of us decided to sign up for the Louisville Derby Festival Marathon in April 2008.  I won’t go into the rest of that story since this site was created for that purpose. If you are still reading (God love you) and are interested in that journey you can start with, About – Just a Footman and 1st Marathon.  It was a fantastic experience that I would not trade for anything.  I thought during that training that maybe this was a direction that I might want to explore.  I made some attempts at gathering some people together to form a runners fellowship, but after the race the race that fire quickly died.  Unfortunately, although I can run pretty well, I have no passion for it.  As a matter of fact, if you read many of my blog entries you will find that I actually despise running.  Since that time I have completed a sprint triathlon and some long over night relay races, but nothing has ignited any new interest.

Who the Heck You are I think?  Late 2008 brought another wedding (My oldest son). Having not reconciled the first wedding, this one was more than I could handle. The fall and winter brought maybe the lowest point in my adult life.  I believe that depression is often brought on by a complete lack of purpose and I had abandoned my search for purpose for a season.  Suddenly I was questioning everything I had ever believed.  Although I felt like my life was spinning out of control, somehow, through God’s grace, steadiness began to take control again, but not after I had made many bad decisions and hurt many people.  Still confused, without a passion for much of anything, I sunk into a stagnant pool of muck.  Although many major life events would occur over the next couple of years that should have brought great joy, my shoulders remained bent and I could not lift my gaze above the horizon.

New Titles / New Realizations:  The Spring of 2010 brought the birth of our first grandchild and another wedding (My oldest Daughter) that brought a halt to the slide.  I bore a new title, Poopaw, but it did not take me long to surmise that this new role as grandfather and associated awesome title did not give me purpose or the passion that would be required to pull me out of this self-inflicted hell-hole.  Additionally, in the Spring of 2010 a glimmer of something began to grow deep down.  A talent and gift that had always been evident started to emerge again out of the shadows.

Pressing Toward the Goal:   Coaching had been a part of my life on and off as far back as 2005, but in 2006 I started as an assistant soccer coach.  My knowledge of kids and love of sport seemed to be a enough to help out despite my complete ignorance of soccer.  In 2007 I began head coaching and in the Fall of 2009 I obtained my first certification.  My youngest son had moved beyond my level of coaching, but the love of these young boys and girls compelled me to continue.  It became increasingly clear to me, that combining sport with character and relationship building was something that I could do that might make a difference.  The Fall of 2010 brought a group of young men into my life that altered my whole view of coaching and began to give me a glimpse of the purpose that God might have for me.  As I sought ways to instill character, leadership, and unity in these you men, God began to pull me out of the despair that had for so long enslaved me and set me on a path toward the goal.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

The Drought is Not Over:   “I do not consider that I have made it my own”  Roots are still anchored in hard and cracked ground, leaves are brown and brittle, and there is little or no fruit of any type hanging from the branches.  I do not know the anguish that God feels when He looks at His creation and I am not driven by a passion to share His love, compassion, mercy and grace with a world that so desperately needs Him.

Father, drop a spark into this weed of a man and burn up all that does not bare fruit. Make real to me your anguish for a world that knows despair far beyond anything that I have encountered over my short time on earth. Set me ablaze with a passion for your will and set a clear purpose before me.  If it is Your will use me to ignite a forest fire in those who are called by Your name.

Haystack Life – Live Undaunted

Warning: if you don’t like rock music … turn down your volume, but note the lyrics.  Then rock out in your own way! 

A few weeks back, I knocking out 9 miles late at night,  I was rocking to some Switchfoot and feeling pretty good about my progress.  As I jogged along, I reflected on some of the blogs I had read and people who have influenced my mini life-renaissance that is currently pushing me forward.  I have told you about a couple of these folks (Annie B and Bill).  I find myself in awe of their ability to utilize the gifts that God has placed within them to overcome adversity and still reach out to touch others. There are many others that I have watched impact lives on a consistent basis. I may not know their stories, but I think that it is safe to assume that they have had their share of adversity.  After all, bible even warns us that we will run into some bumps in the road.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation… ” (John 16:33a ESV)

FB whiningSo what sets these people apart from the rest of us, who are often just paralyzed by the storms of life? (or who bemoan our “tribulations” on Facebook) How is it that some people just seem to dwell on the positive, press on, and become a light instead of disappearing into the black hole of despair?  Admittedly, some people are not as susceptible to clouds of depression and a negative outlook.  Maybe it is genetic or possibly experiences in our past, or a result of negative upbringing.  Whatever it is, maybe we should just keep reading and see what the bible says about this dilemma.

“…But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b ESV)

Oh … take heart .. and you have overcome.  Nice …  What?  I don’t use words like “take heart”. My dark cloud of despair often throws a shadow over my faith so that I can’t see His overcoming power. I am just not getting this!

I am not usually a fan of using the Amplified Bible. (The same reason I don’t read much Charles Dickens … to many words for my tiny brain)  In this case, I like it. (I check it out whenever I run across phrases I don’t normally use)

“In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]”

Undaunted! I love that!  It is better than courageous; better than confident; and more than certain.  It speaks to moving forward despite the challenge. What about that challenge?  It has been deprived of power!  The only power it has over the purpose that God created me for is the power that I give it.  He created me to accomplish some things in this life and He has deprived the storms of life (pain, physical abilities, sadness, loneliness …) of the power to stop me from accomplishing all that He has for me.  I am the only one that can do that.

What am I doing with this abundant life of mine? Sure, I know I have raised 7 awesome children that are making a their own mark on the world.  Admittedly, I have a touched a life or two with my coaching and mentoring., but out of the 52 years of life that I have lived, how much of that time has progressed toward a goal that is worthy of Him whom I purportedly serve?

Have I been moving forward undaunted by adversity?  No, I have lived a “daunted” life.  I allow myself to become easily discouraged and stagnated by circumstances that do not go as planned.  Well … at least as I planned.  Are God’s plans daunted by troubles?  Of course not!  I think it is about time I realized that every moment of every day of this gift of life that He has given me is part of His plan if I choose to be a part of it.  It is about time that I start seizing every opportunity to be a part of that plan.

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  (James 4;13-17)

Haystack

Get out of the Mud / Regaining a Grip

Yes, I have slipped on my commitment to sharing my journeys with Mark.  I will pick it up again tomorrow.

I loved mud.  Walking in it, playing in it, slinging it … the boy in me has always considered  mud to be an oozing, gushy, slimy delight.  Mud between the toes is an experience to be relished.  One of my greatest childhood memories is of the days John Coyner and I spent days jumping into a huge mud pit. the mud was so deep that it we sunk almost our arm pits.  It was an awesome bluish/black slimy that had been dredged from the bottom of the Tred Avon River and deposited within a berm just for our recreation. We would jump in, claw our way out and then go lay on the beach until it dried and our skin looked like it was cracking.  Then we would jump in the river to clean off and then go right back to the mud. In those carefree days of childhood when I was free of responsibilities mud like such an appealing distraction.

Pig in the mudOne of the things I think I love about mud is that it is so slippery and hard to handle.  It makes every action unpredictable.  I makes walking difficult, climbing nearly treacherous, and grasping objects nearly impossible.  In sports like football and horse racing, odds makers often have to change the odds completely when the event is held in the mud.  It often a great equalizer.

I have been reminded over the past couple of weeks that when I allow my priorities to be “muddied up”, my walk becomes more difficult, climbing up from a stumble becomes treacherous, and maintaining a grasp of situations become nearly impossible.  The harder I seem to try and get a good hold on my life, the more it tends to slip away.

A couple of weeks ago, I made some life changes.  Just some dietary changes and a re-commitment to improving my physical health.  As is often my habit, I did not really do this prayerfully and as a result, my priorities became quite muddy.  I tried hard to better “manage” my time to clarify things, but I kept falling farther behind.  The main thing I stopped doing was writing.  This may not seem like a big deal to most people.  It is not like a make a living writing or that people rely on my daily blog posts. Writing is my accountability.  It is a check point that is crucial to the race course that God has set before me.

So the question has been for me, “how do I get back on track?”

GRACE!

Until I realized that I was too slimy to get out of my predicament and that I would need to rely on Him to clean me up and pull me up, I was going to continue to slip back into the mud.  Grace says you don’t have to worry about catching up and making up for past failures.  I don’t have to do two weeks of blogs over the weekend to get back on track (which was my plan).  I just need to seek His face and His will for me today.  Yesterday is gone. (Also see Taking Advantage of a Mulligan)

I understand that in some cases, restitution for our sin is required, but God makes a way for us in those cases.  He does not leave us to deal with those on our own.  If we try to make everything right in our own power, timing, and ability, we may very well end up in a worse condition.  I have many examples of messing this up as well.  His grace is sufficient in every situation.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:6-10)

Sticks, Stones, & Stealing Satan’s Stuff

Mark 3:20-30:  Jesus & Beelzebub

I am not sure if this the origin of the term “demonizing”, but it would make a whole lot of sense if it came from this story.   Jesus, instead of returning venom with venom, kind of teases them with His response, but adds a stiff warning at the end.

bsgfan4evr.deviantart.com
bsgfan4evr.deviantart.com

Now it is not surprising I guess for the family to call Him crazy, I mean, He is the step-child. On the other hand, these other dudes from out of town coming in accusing Him of being a demon or the prince of demons even is quite uncalled for.  First, He breaks down their argument, but with very pointed change of words. He uses the Hebrew word, Satan (accuser) instead of the pagan demon Beelzebub (Lord of the Flies).  This is interesting since they came to him as accusers (and actually were pretty annoying like flies). His argument actually left them with a win-win situation either Satan was in a civil war which would weaken his kingdom or a stronger Man had come along that was going to bring down that kingdom anyway.  WINNING!  Jesus was sort of declaring Himself a thief in Satan’s house.  (A much better thief than Bilbo I think)  If you cannot tell, I find this whole interchange quite amusing.

Then, the hammer falls. Jesus gives a pretty harsh warning about calling God’s work demonic.  Generally, when we hear about the whole blaspheming the Holy Spirit, we isolate as the unforgivable sin and leave it out of the context of the story.  The ‘accusers’ have mocked the works of God and credited His work and His healing power to Beelzebub.  Most of us do not like someone taking credit for our work,but when the one taking the credit stands for the exact opposite of your whole being this is more than enough to send us over the edge.  Pretty serious stuff these experts of the law are doling out.

As the seriousness of the situation begins to sink in, I wonder how many times I attribute the greatness of God to other powers.  Maybe I don’t attribute His awesome works to Satan, I do think at times I may take credit myself for things that I had a hand in and withhold glory due to Him.  On the other hand, do I accuse God of being the bringer of evil or difficulty, hanging my head in self pity or shaking my first at Him.  I know that in some degree, I often lose sight of the giver all good gifts and confuse Him with that old liar.  I do not want to make a political statement, but I will tell you that I have to repent of some of the things I have said about people with different view points.  I do not believe that is no place demonizing or disparaging any person or group.  Jesus took the high (obviously) and set an example for us.  The Good News is that He left the door open for every one of us to recognize the great gift of life that He is offering us.  It is our job to keep that door open for those that have not seen it yet and avoid giving them reason to attribute our mean or hateful behavior to a God who knows none of that.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,

who put darkness for light and light for darkness,

who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,

and shrewd in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20,21)

Healing of the Man with the Withered Hand

Mark 3:1-6 Healing of the Man with the Withered Hand

Let me tell you about my best friend Charlie.

Charlie CroppedI was deep into one of the worst years of my life. Due to an injury, I had lost my long time dream of wrestling in college and had subsequently dropped out of school.  I had an on-going conflict with my parents and moved back to Kentucky were my fiancé was coming to school with the hopes that I would be able to rehab and get back into school and wrestle again.  I took a job at Steak and Egg Kitchen and enrolled in a couple of classes.  About two weeks into the semester, she dumped me to experience more fully, the college life.  This was the last straw. I plunged deep into depression and was contemplating taking my own life.

Charlie was a tall, drug dealing, long haired, long bearded, blue eyed (Some said he resembled Charlie Manson) janitor at the University of Kentucky Student Center.  Despite his many short comings, he waws highly intelligent, had an infectious smile and loved to laugh.

CaprisHe worked 3 to 11 and I worked 11-7, so about 11:30 he would wander in and sit at the end of the bar, drink coffee, and we talked.  He might leave for a while if we got busy, but he would be back.  On days that I got off early, he would throw my bike into the back his Mercury Capris and take me back to my apartment.  Sensing that I was unstable and never left until he thought I was going to make it through the day.  He would sit in a rocker and talk until I fell asleep and then he would quietly head out.

Wow has it changed!
Wow has it changed!

After a while, my depression began to lift. I started hanging around with him at the student center until I headed to work.  We pretty much became inseparable. While he did introduce me to some things that were not quite savory, together we both realized that we wanted more from our lives than just a day-to-day existence.  While I explored many different religions and philosophies, Charley never really showed any interest until one day we both stumbled across the Gospel of John.  Together, the two of us tore hungrily into the writings of “the one whom Jesus loved” wanting desperately to know this love.  On the evening of August 12th 1982, on a sidewalk of a busy commercial area in Lexington, that same Jesus came and made Himself real to us and we were forever changed.

Charlie and I walked through that first several months of new life together.  We learned to worship, pray and seek the face of the One who met us that day on the Euclid Avenue.  I was beginning a new life in more than one way.  Within six months, I would be a husband and a father and Charlie was there through that whole transition as well.  My best man and God father to our first child, one would think that would we were destined to be joined together for a long time.

Circumstances and direction can change quickly, but we know that God is sovereign and has a plan that we have no clue about at times.  Only 3 months after our wedding, we moved 600 miles away in hopes of some stability for our family.  Charlie heart would begin to break for a world that, like me , needed to know the love that John had described to us.  He gave and he loved and he told everyone that would listen and even some who would not that they did not have to go through life unloved.

We moved back to Lexington about 18 months later for a short period of time as I prepared to enter the Navy.  Charlie and I had some time to catch up and pray.  We spent one night just before I shipped out praying at his apartment and we both had visions. I saw Him speaking words of love to a crowd and as He turned to leave, fiery arrows  pierced his back.  He saw himself in a pit trapped with an ugly version of himself and he was scrambling to escape.  Needless to say, we were both pretty freaked out. I shipped out and he went back to touching lives.

He had taken in a young, homeless street-wise teenager who was struggling with some very evil influences.  Although the young man knew that he wanted his life to change, he was not ready to give up on his old life.  One moment he appreciated the guide lines that Charlie set for him, and then some outside influence drew him away.  It was frustrating for Charlie, but being patient, Charlie hung in there with him.

I was on hold in Great Lakes, IL awaiting the birth of our third daughter when I received the call.  This young man that Charlie had love and cared for and a middle aged lady had brutally killed my friend, stabling him dozens of times in the back him the closet of his apartment.

Charlie SmileWhy do I tell this story when I read Mark 3:1-6?  Yes, this passage address how the world often rejects the love, healing, and love that Jesus brings and responds with hatred, evil plots, and death.  You could draw the obvious analogies. Maybe, you think it the fact the Sabbath is for healing and rest and that Charlie has entered his rest and you would be absolutely correct.  But the truth is that I will always think of Charlie when I read about these verses because on that day back in 1985, Jesus said to my friend “stretch out yours hand“.   You see, my friend, the whom Jesus loved … had a withered hand.

 

Ready or Not

Mark 1:35-45  Healing of the Leper  (Not really the point) Image from: http://souljournaler.blogspot.com/ I mostly read the English Standard Version. Why? Because I like it. I am beginning to appreciate different translations more and more.  Many will debate the accuracy of this one, the readability of that one, and the intent of another … blah, blah, blah. It all makes me realize  the  sovereignty God and how amazing His Word really is.  His amazing love and grace is not limited by our ability to read or hear, much less our ability to write or properly interpret dead languages. No offense to those who have dedicated their life to reading, interpreting, translating and teaching classical biblical languages.  My son-in-law and many others in my family have made this their life’s work and have touched many lives through their pursuit.   God uses them to provide us with new insights and perspectives from an unchanging God to an ever changing people.  My point?  If God wants to speak to me and my need out of a translation or paraphrase translated and written by an ass, well, it would not be the first time.

All of this to say that a word in verse 35 jumped out at me … ­’desolate’.

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

This word is not used in any other translation that I could find. It is usually translated with ‘lonely’ or ‘deserted’ or a close synonym.  ‘Desolate’ may very well be a “bad” translation, but it said something to me.

des•o•late [adj. des-uh-lit; v. des-uh-leyt] Show IPA adjective, verb, des•o•lat•ed,des•o•lat•ing. adjective

  1. barren or laid waste; devastated: a treeless, desolate landscape
  2. deprived or destitute of inhabitants; deserted; uninhabited.
  3. solitary; lonely: a desolate place.
  4. having the feeling of being abandoned by friends or by hope; forlorn.
  5. dreary; dismal; gloomy: desolate prospects.     (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/desolate)

droughtJesus had just made the decision to take the show on the road, so to speak. Knowing that a small town ministry was about to explode may have added to the reality of the task at hand. He needed to be ready and these fisherman he had gathered were not going to be much help. so He had to go to the only One that could give Him comfort and assurance.  When I see the word ‘desolate’ I see Jesus’s humanity.  He knew what was coming and like in the garden later on, He was not relishing this next step.  If you were Him and could see into the future for the next 3 years, how would you picture the landscape?  #5 dreary; dismal; gloomy: desolate prospects. or perhaps #1 barren or laid waste; devastated: a treeless, desolate landscape.  How would you feel? #4 having the feeling of being abandoned by friends or by hope; forlorn.

The place that he went to pray may not have been any of these things, but seeing the path laid before Him, I can imagine that when He fell on the ground before His Father, the landscape of prayer that He found himself in may have pretty desolate.  Did He really expect that leper He healed in verses 41 & 42 to keep quiet?  Maybe, He was hoping that He could buy a little more time before things kicked into high gear.  Maybe not, but I know that I would be scrambling for a little more time!

I am sort of a morning person. The peace and beauty of the morning, with the gentle sounds of birds or rain or wind, allow me to feel God’s presence in a special way.  Unless …

‘Then lead on!’ said Boromir. “But it is perilous.’ 
      ‘Perilous indeed,’ said Aragorn, ‘fair and perilous; but only evil need fear it, or those who bring some evil with them.’ (JRR Tolkien: Fellowship of the Ring)

Although it may not be evil that I bring with me to the Lord, (obviously it was not evil that Jesus brought) but the landscape of prayer that I enter is often dark and dismal because of the fear, doubt, and burdens that I bring.  Sometimes those quiet mornings become pretty creepy and that place of peace seems pretty desolate.  When I feel unprepared or unqualified for a task before, I often catch myself doing a little prayer dance around the issue.

I think God understands that I bring these things with me to the prayer closet and He rejoices that I am there.  I don’t always get off my knees fired up to enter the fray, but I get up knowing that He is with me.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,

that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! (Psalm 30:11,12)

Ready or Not – Facing the Future

Mark 1:35-45  Healing of the Leper  (Not really the point) Image from: http://souljournaler.blogspot.com/ I mostly read the English Standard Version. Why? Because I like it. I am beginning to appreciate different translations more and more.  Many will debate the accuracy of this one, the readability of that one, and the intent of another … blah, blah, blah. It all makes me realize  the  sovereignty of God and how amazing His Word really is.  His amazing love and grace is not limited by our ability to read or hear, much less our ability to write or properly interpret dead languages. No offense to those who have dedicated their lives to reading, interpreting, translating and teaching classical biblical languages.  My son-in-law and many others in my family have made this their live’s work and have touched many lives through their pursuit.   God uses them to provide us with new insights and perspectives from an unchanging God to an ever-changing people.  My point?  If God wants to speak to me and my need out through a translation or paraphrase translated and written by an ass, well, it would not be the first time. (maybe it is written in my language)

All of this to say that a word in verse 35 jumped out at me … ­’desolate’. (New American Standard)

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 New American Standard Version)

This word is not used in any other translation that I could find. It is usually translated with ‘lonely’ or ‘deserted’ or a close synonym.  ‘Desolate’ may very well be a “bad” translation, but it said something to me.

des•o•late [adj. des-uh-lit; v. des-uh-leyt] Show IPA adjective, verb, des•o•lat•ed,des•o•lat•ing. adjective

  1. barren or laid waste; devastated: a treeless, desolate landscape
  2. deprived or destitute of inhabitants; deserted; uninhabited.
  3. solitary; lonely: a desolate place.
  4. having the feeling of being abandoned by friends or by hope; forlorn.
  5. dreary; dismal; gloomy: desolate prospects.     (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/desolate)

droughtJesus had just made the decision to take the show on the road, so to speak. Knowing that a small town ministry was about to explode may have added to the reality of the task at hand. He needed to be ready and these fisherman he had gathered were not going to be much help, so He had to go to the only One that could give Him comfort and assurance.  When I see the word ‘desolate’ I see Jesus’s humanity.  He knew what was coming and, like in the garden later on, He was not relishing this next step.  If you were Him and could see into the future for the next 3 years, how would you picture the landscape?  #5 dreary; dismal; gloomy: desolate prospects. or perhaps #1 barren or laid waste; devastated: a treeless, desolate landscape.  How would you feel? #4 having the feeling of being abandoned by friends or by hope; forlorn.

The place that he went to pray may not have been any of these things, but seeing the path laid before Him, I can imagine that when He fell on the ground before His Father, the landscape of prayer that He found himself in may have been pretty desolate.  Did He really expect that leper He healed in verses 41 & 42 to keep quiet?  Maybe He hoped the He could buy a little more time before things kicked into high gear. Maybe not … but I know that I would be scrambling for a little more time if I were Him!

I am sort of a morning person. The peace and beauty of the morning, with the gentle sounds of birds or rain or wind, allow me to feel God’s presence in a special way.  Unless …

‘Then lead on!’ said Boromir. “But it is perilous.’ 
      ‘Perilous indeed,’ said Aragorn, ‘fair and perilous; but only evil need fear it, or those who bring some evil with them.’ (JRR Tolkien: Fellowship of the Ring)

Although it may not be evil that I bring with me to the Lord, (obviously it was not evil that Jesus brought) but the landscape of prayer that I enter is often dark and dismal because of the fear, doubt, and burdens that I bring.  Sometimes those quiet mornings become pretty creepy and that place of peace seems pretty desolate.  When I feel unprepared or unqualified for a task before, I often catch myself doing a little prayer dance around the issue.

I think God understands that I bring these things with me to the prayer closet and He rejoices that I am there.  I don’t always get off my knees fired up to enter the fray, but I get up knowing that He is with me.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,

that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! (Psalm 30:11,12)

DQPO

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”


Excerpt From: A. W. Tozer. “The Pursuit of God With Devotional Guide.”

DumbQuestions Training was a big part of my time in the Navy. We always had “that guy” in class deemed the DQPO (Dumb Question Petty Officer). Many of his questions seemed to cover information that everyone should have known or that displayed his complete lack of understanding of clearly stated information. Class and instructor alike groaned when his hand went up, yet he was undaunted and continued his quest for knowledge.

Despite the groans, we all knew that he was a vital part of training and many secretly envied his tenacity, boldness, and thick skin. Our thirst for knowledge was not great enough to overcome our pride and fear.

Image from: http://www.markandlauraward.com
Image from: http://www.markandlauraward.com

So what about those people that seem to be at the altar every week agonizing over the most simple life issues? They cryat the drop of a hat and rejoice about simple everyday victories (over and over again). We groan when they offer to pray, knowing that we will undoubtedly have to endure run-on and redundant prayers that are often offered in broken King James English or a completely disregards the English language. Of course … we all know that they are a vital part of the body of Christ and secretly wish that we too had that kind of persistence, courage, and desire.


And yet …there I sit.
Struggling with depression, buried in financial woes of my own making, hating my job, physically in pain, worried about the direction of my children, wondering what could revitalize my marriage … and ignoring the obvious call from the only One who can set me free. Pride and fear has overcome my thirst for The Savior and has planted my butt firmly in my seat avoiding that altar at all costs.

” I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. “

DQPO

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”


Excerpt From: A. W. Tozer. “The Pursuit of God With Devotional Guide.”

DumbQuestions Training was a big part of my time in the Navy. We always had “that guy” in class deemed the DQPO (Dumb Question Petty Officer). Many of his questions seemed to cover information that everyone should have known or that displayed his complete lack of understanding of clearly stated information. Class and instructor alike groaned when his hand went up, yet he was undaunted and continued his quest for knowledge.

Despite the groans, we all knew that he was a vital part of training and many secretly envied his tenacity, boldness, and thick skin. Our thirst for knowledge was not great enough to overcome our pride and fear.

Image from: http://www.markandlauraward.com
Image from: http://www.markandlauraward.com

So what about those people that seem to be at the altar every week agonizing over the most simple life issues? They cryat the drop of a hat and rejoice about simple everyday victories (over and over again). We groan when they offer to pray, knowing that we will undoubtedly have to endure run-on and redundant prayers that are often offered in broken King James English or a completely disregards the English language. Of course … we all know that they are a vital part of the body of Christ and secretly wish that we too had that kind of persistence, courage, and desire.


And yet …there I sit.
Struggling with depression, buried in financial woes of my own making, hating my job, physically in pain, worried about the direction of my children, wondering what could revitalize my marriage … and ignoring the obvious call from the only One who can set me free. Pride and fear has overcome my thirst for The Savior and has planted my butt firmly in my seat avoiding that altar at all costs.

” I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. “