What’s going on?

In this world…

It’s very difficult to become a statistic. It’s particularly difficult when you’ve been sold on the completely unbiblical fantasy that being in the Kingdom will somehow shield you from the troubles of the world. It’s even more difficult when you’ve read and applied the concepts from all the Lifeway relationship books, attended counseling and seminars, and prayed with your spouse every night. Still, Christians get divorced, statistically in the same numbers of non-Christians. The daily prayers for my family’s protection, the Shaunti Feldhahn books, and the personal accountability group did nothing to shield me from the announcement that fateful night, three years ago, when my wife said, “I don’t love you anymore”, “I’m leaving”, and “I want a divorce”. There was no way to pray her out of it. There was no way to avoid the constant custody battles over the last three years. There was no amount of claiming the power of the Holy Spirit that would stop the freight train of bitterness and hatred and life-sabotage that is my ex-wife. The fact is, Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We were never promised a pass on the shit-train.photo-1477295642034-731bf6bd37e2

Probably the only thing more damaging to faith than the breakup of my family and all of the related trials that have been my daily bread since, was my failed attempt to stand for my marriage. I found Charlene Steinkamp’s podcasts less that 24 hours after that initial announcement. I fasted… from everything. I spent a year taking in nothing but sermons, the Bible and Rejoice Marriage Ministries materials. I didn’t listen to music, watch TV, or play video games. I lived a life of constant prayer and meditation. I put Brother Lawrence’s practices into place in my life and never stopped talking to and listening for God. Admittedly, I experienced some amazing miracles during that season, and I still do. You will never convince me that God isn’t real and that He does not speak to us or act in our lives. After two years of standing, though, I was really struggling with the character of God… You see, He kept making it abundantly clear that my marriage would not be restored.

You see, I think that standing is great. I think that it’s something that honors God and the covenant you made before Him when you said, “I do”. The problem is, You can’t put God in a box that says He will or should restore every marriage. Maybe He has another plan and purpose. The rhetoric that calls anyone else who comes into one’s life after their first spouse a “counterfeit” or a device of the deceiver, sent to ruin your stand, denies God the ability to bless your life through anyone else.

I never thought I would be one of those divorced people, it’s true. I also never thought that anyone existed that could be such a blessing in my life as the woman I’m with now. I could never consider her a counterfeit. I could not have invented her if asked to create my perfect partner. She is nothing short of the most incredible blessing I’ve ever received. A blessing that I never would have experienced without the pain and suffering of divorce. Now, when I look back at my 10 years of marriage, I can see that I was tolerated rather than cherished. I was used rather than loved. I was abused instead of respected.

So, God is bigger than any box that we can put Him in. He loves to work in and through the lives of broken people. He delights to surprise us with joy in the midst of heartache and uncertainty. Take heart! Your marriage my be restored, or you may receive an unexpected and unfathomable upgrade. God. is. good.

…all the time.

Blessings.

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There your heart will be also (Moving)

As I load the van a second time today,

I realize that moving, for one like me,

Is just transporting the debris of my broken life

from one place to another and then hiding

it from myself.

 

This load goes to the landfill.SOLID WASTE AUTHORITY-2

My daughter’s crib can go.

Why did I keep that?

A box of carefully packed framed photos

of the wedding.

 

I will see the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living…

Some kids toys that didn’t fit in this house

ended up becoming squirrel habitat

in the shed.

 

Oh, God, why didn’t you kill me

three years ago when I was blissfully ignorant??

I know I shouldn’t treasure anything

in this life, but my family

was a treasure.

 

I don’t want to do this anymore.

I don’t want to be alone.

I’m sick of helping people.

I’m sick of my fake surreal life.

I want out.

 

Where is my breakthrough?

I’m trying to come to terms

with your bringing everything to term.

I don’t know what’s going on in this womb of despair.

I just want out.

 

God, I hate my life. I hate it.

I know you’re in this, somewhere.

I know you have a plan,

or I wouldn’t still be here.

Any hints?

 

I take another walk down the roadIMG_4689

that crosses behind my house.

I look out across the fields through tears

at farms of people I don’t know.

I cry and snot…

 

I’m shouting at You in the middle of the road,

out across the fields.

If anyone is around I’m sure they think I’m crazy.

Maybe I am.

Maybe…

 

Three tissues weren’t enough for this walk.

I’d better return to the house.

It’s not home. I’m homeless now.

Any house without a helpmate

is not home.

 

Daddy, I know you’re a jealous cuss.

I know you don’t want me to want this

near as strongly as I do.

But you can’t hold me at night or fall asleep

drooling on my chest.

 

I’m tired. I hate this. I hate me.

Everything is so gray and tasteless.

I can’t even sleep anymore.

Won’t you at least let me sleep??

Help me!

 

God, I hate moving…

 

Contentment & Zombies

So, here I am. It’s a Sunday afternoon, and I’m wondering, “have I been ghosted by yet another one?” Maybe I have. Maybe I haven’t. If I have, the only thing I can chalk this one up to is divine intervention. We were getting along great, like day before yesterday. Yesterday, she had to cancel a date. No big deal. I was totally okay with that. Then suddenly, silence has ensued for almost 48 hours. She’s read my messages. No response.

Cartoon-Zombie-300pxWhy does this upset me? I am not content. I know that we are to be content in Christ. I know that I need to love God first and delight myself in Him. My heart is sick with discontentment. I long more than anything for someone to hold and love and cherish. I hate my life so much that I often express the ultimate discontentment to God by asking why he hasn’t killed me.

I am not suicidal. My dad did that. I won’t ever do that to my kids… ever. I just sometimes wonder why God would have kept me alive through all of this while so many people around me who had good lives and were doing good works for Him have died. Seriously, If I had gotten terminal cancer three years ago,

  1. My wife would have been able to find someone new with a clean conscience and without sinning.
  2. My children would not be in the middle of a giant custody tug-of-war that didn’t end when the legal agreement was signed.
  3. I would be with God and wouldn’t have experienced any of this ongoing pain, frustration, heartache, and discontentment.

I just keep telling myself that God must have some purpose for me. There must be some plan. What does He want from me? What am I supposed to do? Why am I still here. For some time after my wife left, I had a vibrant walk with God, where he used me daily. Some of the highlights include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Helping an old lady, named Madeline, wandering along the side of the road on a cold winter evening.
  • Helping someone with car trouble in the Library parking lot.
  • Regularly ministering to a friend whose wife had died of brain cancer (again, a woman who was by all accounts worthy of sainthood).
  • Helping a lost and confused elderly gentleman, whom I ran into at the pizza shop, find his way home.
  • Meeting, ministering to, and praying for of a retired kick boxer from Puerto Rico in a part of town I would never normally have been in.

Lately, though, I’ve been moving through life like the walking dead. For the last six months, despite practicing the presence throughout the day, surrendering myself to Him daily, regularly crying out to know His will, and often asking to be put in the right place at the right time to do His work, I have been living a half-life.

My prodigal spouse has officially moved on. She introduced her NCP as, “my husband”, at a recent viewing I attended. I felt the last hope for our marriage die inside of me, and at the same time I did feel a renewed sense of life. I felt that, “now I can escape this liminal existence!”

The presence of a new woman in my life (she texted me back, by the way 🙂 Yay!), while very pleasant, does not bring contentment. Only God brings contentment. I am trying to learn contentment. So, today, I cried out to Him a lot. I asked the Holy Spirit to Comfort me, to lead me and guide me, and to teach me contentment.

So, now, even though I don’t feel like it, I will praise Him.

Psalm 29
A psalm of David.
1 Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of his[a] holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
Sirion[b] like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord strikes
with flashes of lightning.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord twists the oaks[c]
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
11 The Lord gives strength to his people;
the Lord blesses his people with peace.

 

Sitting this one out

Dear Reader,

Please don’t let this discourage you. Standing is a good thing. It is the right thing to do, even, particularly if God has affirmed it and called you to do it. Keep it up as long as God leads you to do so.

I was going to leave this unsaid. I was just going to live my life and not record it here, but I don’t want anyone to be mislead. Some of you know me in person. A very few readers have actually spoken to me face-to-face, even though I write under a Pseudonym here.

I’m done. I could go into all of the reasons. I could spout off the circumstances, the depth of my pain, and even the ways God is encouraging me to put this in my past. I know that none of it ultimately matters to you. You will simply assume that I have become a broken apostate Kool-aid drinker, who has abandoned faith for reason and given up God’s plan.

So be it.

Pray that God will reveal His will, whatever it may be. My stand is over. May your stand be as blessed as mine was cursed.

Much Love,

Me

The supernatural, the mundane, and relational strain

The supernatural…

508302228_ae37586ce9_b

Some rights reserved by hickory hardscrabble

My relationship with God has been under a lot of strain lately. I know this is common to man in general, but the last month or so has been a doozy. I told God that I need restoration soon or some supernatural dispensation of Holy Spirit power. I have to trust that there is some purpose to this mess and that it is not just random pointless pain and suffering at the whims of Satan and his minions, entirely out of God’s control to stop. I have to believe that He cares. I have to believe that he is at work. The truth is, I’m starting to hate myself, so I really need to know that He loves me… I really need to know that, even if I’m not sure that I really love Him… The thing is, that we’re commanded to love him. Further, a friend recently had me watch this brief talk by Brennan Manning, where he espouses the need to believe that God, in fact, loves us. Honestly, I want to believe that. I know it, intellectually, but I just don’t believe it. Manning points out that this is likely a function of my gloom, pessimism, low self-esteem, self-hatred, and despair, which in the context of my circumstances is understandable.

So, my regular readers will know that I struggle a lot with this whole Baptism of the Holy Spirit / Gifts of the Spirit thing, often wondering if I am missing something in my faith and my walk. Perhaps I listen to too much Derek Prince and Jim Cymbala. The problem is, I keep hearing preacher after preacher and scholar after scholar, men for whom I have great respect, say that this is for every believer and that God will freely give it.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)

So does the fact that I’m not “filled with the Holy Spirit”, as in I’m not displaying the overflow in any manifestations of the spiritual whatsoever a sign that…

  • I am not really a child of God?
  • I am deficient in some serious way?
  • I am in the midst of some sever disobedience that is blocking the Spirit’s work?
  • my life is still under a curse that is blocking me from receiving the blessing?
  • this is not true, not really Biblical or has somehow been grossly misinterpreted?

The mundane…

Honestly, God shows up in my life a lot. An old friend bought tires for my car recently. I find myself put in numerous situations to extend the love of Christ, from my many chance encounters at Walmart to old ladies along the road to broken down cars in the library parking lot. I constantly have opportunity to share and I receive the most astonishing reactions. A friend and mentor of mine pointed out recently that perhaps I am missing the fact that I am more likely to experience God in the “mundane” than in the “supernatural”. Okay, I get that. I understand that most of my life is made up of the mundane. Yet, I am supposed to live and walk in the spirit, to keep my eyes on the things above, and to live according to the Spirit. Further, I am supposed to be serving a dead-raising, sun-stopping, sea-parting, multitude-feeding, heart-softening, never-changing God. If He doesn’t change, then, presumably, He’s still working through supernatural power today, just as he was in the Bible.

When I focus on the mundane, on that which I perceive through my senses, then all I have is the flesh. The mundane is my court-appointed co-parenting workshop, whose underlying message or theme, which can be summed up in the following statements, two of which were overtly stated and the others frequently implied.

  • Your spouse is never coming back.
  • Emotionally mature people grieve the loss and get someone new.
  • You need to detach from your spouse as quickly as possible because they’re never coming back.
  • Divorce can be very positive if you would just accept it and move on.
  • This is no one’s fault and is very normal.

In the mundane, I feel totally beaten down, rejected, and unworthy. I desperately need the supernatural. That’s why I am here, in the sheepfold. I didn’t sign up for this gig to have friendly folks to hang out with on a Sunday morning.

I can’t seem to get my eyes off of the mundane, lately. There was a time, when this all started, that I could see the big picture from God’s perspective. In October, I was providing encouragement, embracing the radical nature of my stand, and focusing past my discomfort. Now, I feel lonely, tired, rejected, lonely, attacked, abandoned, and lonely. Did I mention lonely? Further, thanks to this dry spell in terms of the Spirit, or the supernatural if you will, I feel not only rejected by my spouse but also by the God of the universe. I begin questioning whether or not I am destined to be used for the purposes of God by simply being a tragic footnote in the pages of history, like Esau or Jonah… someone who should be after God’s heart but is just missing it in some profound way.

In the mundane, I’m starting to loathe and fear the woman my wife has become. This person I’m standing for, out of obedience to God and love for her, is beginning to become a stumbling block to my daily walk. As I receive more and more attacks and the attorney fees mound beyond what I can hope to pay, I have to expend more and more emotional and spiritual energy every day, on my knees before God, praying for help to forgive, to love, and to cherish. Every event for our children becomes an additional turn of the screw as my prodigal spouse tries to push me further out of their lives. My spirit cries out in excruciating pain when I see the OM embrace our children as though they were his, when they tell me that mommy said they could call him “daddy”, and when I see my whole extended family sitting with them while I sit off somewhere else on my own.

The bottom line is, if God doesn’t show up in the supernatural soon and I am left with only the mundane to sustain me, then I cannot stand. I cannot do this in the flesh. This is not possible in the mundane. A friend of mine often says that the enemy wants us dead, insane, or incarcerated, and I can see those as viable possibilities in the life of a stander without some supernatural dispensation of Holy Spirit power. Let’s be honest, do this is not natural, and it certainly is not mundane.

Relationship strain

So, as I said earlier, my relationship with God has been under a lot of strain lately. I know that I need to navigate this valley in obedience to Him, open to what He is trying to teach me. I know He is with me. I know that He loves me and wants the “best” for me. I “know” these things, but left to the mundane, it is difficult to feel these truths through the pain, struggle, and exhaustion of daily life. Maintaining a long obedience through this valley in the absence of supernatural strength and the promised “peace that passes understanding“, is tiring to say the least.

I find myself walking through the store, looking at every woman in my age range, not wearing a wedding ring and thinking, “Father, why am I doing this for a woman who has rejected me?” On the weekend when my whole family is with the other man, and I have no one, I find myself alone and often end up turning to an online game for community… I have struggled with this… a lot. I have deleted this game three or four times and repented of even liking it. I have given it up, reinstalled it, and gone whole weekends doing nothing else. I feel like a failure and a fake. I feel like I’m supposed to be stronger than this. I feel like I was never a real Christ follower to begin with.

If I really loved and trusted my Lord, I wouldn’t be so caught up in what I lack, paralyzed by the fear of my “lonely” future, or so self-focused in general. I wouldn’t be upset that I haven’t seen a covenant truck in two months. I want to be focused, serving, obedient, and serene, like Paul was, but I feel like this valley is causing me to regress rather than grow. I just want to throw a childish temper tantrum at the foot of the cross. There’s a ridiculous image for you. I know that this distance and this strain is my fault, but I don’t know how to get beyond it without some supernatural dispensation of Holy Spirit power. Simply pulling myself up by my bootstraps isn’t working.

Somebody pray for me.

Is it “not good”???

If you’re reading this for the usual dose of encouragement and insight, STOP. Hit the back button and leave. I am not having a good Spring. April and May have been hard on me. This is a post of emotional vomit, lamentation, and hard hard questions, many of which aren’t even rational in light of my previous posts. This is a post of pure simple irrational pain. If you’re feeling strong, self-confident, and ready to speak into my pain, read on…

20 “Why is light given to those in misery,
and life to the bitter of soul,
21 to those who long for death that does not come,
who search for it more than for hidden treasure,
22 who are filled with gladness
and rejoice when they reach the grave?
23 Why is life given to a man
whose way is hidden,
whom God has hedged in?
24 For sighing has become my daily food;
my groans pour out like water.
25 What I feared has come upon me;
what I dreaded has happened to me.
26 I have no peace, no quietness;
I have no rest, but only turmoil.”

Job 3:20-26

So, as this stand of mine goes on day after day with no end or resolution in sight. The wise, sagely Christ followers in my life are reassuring me that I am growing so much in my walk of faith. I am told that God is “wooing” me right now and that I need to “abide in His love”. I have to be honest, though. Despite frequent miracles, unmistakable signs, and divine appointments out the wazoo, I am still really really struggling… I get the whole, “I am loved by the God of the Universe” thing, but I really don’t. I’m still working on getting His love from my head to my heart. It’s the spirit of rejection blinding me. I know it is, but I still struggle.

You see, I read the book “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts“, with my wife, several years ago. It was obvious right away that my love language is physical touch.  A friend recently pointed out that it is “a little difficult to get a hug from your heavenly father.” No crap! I keep asking Him for a hug… I tell Him I need to feel love with skin on… If it weren’t for my kids and their constant affection, I believe I would have withered long ago. Standing is so hard for touch people. You can get just about every other love language from your friends, but a short awkward hug from “a bro” just isn’t the same. I want to be held and cry my guts out! I am so sick of not being held! I think this is why I am struggling so much right now… I just have all of this bottled up hurt and no satisfactory way to release it. Due to our screwed up legal system, custody rules and expectations, I am not even allowed to cry in the presence of my children, let alone cry when I am holding them.

I told God that I need restoration soon or some supernatural dispensation of Holy Spirit power, or I am going to crack and go find someone to hold me. I know that is not good stander etiquette, but there it is. No time table (Don’t put God on a time table… Satan will use that against you… ~says everyone from the stander community)… Just a cry for help. My flesh can’t do this anymore. Restore me, kill me, or change my freaking love language! You designed me this way, God. You know how much this hurts! What the heck??

Somehow I’ve made it a whole year without needing to cuddle a pillow to go to sleep… So He has provided some supernatural grace there somewhere. Still I wish I could feel really loved by God in the absence of a person through which I feel that love and favor. I keep asking Him for that. Every day, I ask for that. I think that emotionally I still feel like my rejection by my wife is a rejection by God because I only ever felt loved and favored by Him through the “blessing” of her… Which is of course a slippery slope to idolatry… or is it? God did design us male and female and created us to live in this community.

So, I have some questions… some hard questions for God and for the standing community as a whole.

  1. Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not good that man should be alone…” It certainly isn’t. How long am I supposed to suffer for my spouse’s sin? How long am I to do life without a help-mate while she enjoys all the privileges and support of having a non-covenant partner, the support of society, the support of friends, and the support of family?
  2. Where is the body of Christ on the weekend when my whole family is with the other man, and I have no one? “I’ll call you brother.” “We’ll get together and do something.” Father, You know how many people said that last week… The weekend rolled around, and I, alone, ended up turning to an online game for community…
  3.  How long am I supposed to believe for restoration, and when am I supposed just start believing that God will graciously keep me alive until I die, this life will suck and be increasingly more painful every day, and then I get to go to be with Him and live happily ever after?
  4. If God hardens and softens hearts throughout the scriptures, according to His plans and whims, then why when our hearts and our prodigal’s hearts harden is it, “just free will”? Where is the the scripture that says, “God touched hearts throughout these scriptures, but from this point forward, you’re all on your own. Good luck. Enjoy your free will.”?

I know that this is not a positive or uplifting message. I know that this is bordering on blasphemy. I am not trying to make anyone stumble. I’m just crying out for encouragement. I’m looking for someone to speak into my pain and confusion and help me transcend my flesh because it is crying so much more loudly than my spirit right now. This year of starving my flesh and feeding the spirit should have made this easier, but apparently it hasn’t. I feel like Frodo, buckling under the weight of this ring, and my friends have their lives to live. I am making the long and lonely journey with only the Holy Spirit as my companion, and He has been a piss poor companion lately, giving me the silent treatment, letting in all manner of attacks from my prodigal, and basically leaving me to my own devices.

So, help me, my community… my brothers and sisters… give some words of encouragement. Pray for me. Tell me that everything I have said is so wrong and mislead and that I am missing something huge and obvious and clear. Pray that God would grab me by the collar and shake me around and wake me up because the eyes and ears of my heart are flooded in darkness and despair.

God, Father, Daddy, please help me!!!!!

Expectations, Walmart, and The God of the Universe

I arrived home this evening from work, and I was immediately struggling. I was struggling with depression, anxiety, and obedience. I did not want to be struggling, and I did not want to give in. So, presently, I decided to “move”. I have found that if I stay in one place when struggling, I’ll continue to struggle until I fail in some profound way, sometimes even lashing out at God. I called a friend, and he invited me to a bar to play pool. I turned him down. I’m convinced that a bar, even with Christian friends is no place for a stander.

Some rights reserved by Paul L Dineen

Some rights reserved by Paul L Dineen

I decided to do one of my least favorite activities and go to Walmart. It has been a year since my wife left me to live with her non-covenant partner. So, when I have my kids on Resurrection Sunday, I will not be invited to the in-laws, two minutes down the road, because they have chosen to stand against my stand and side with the adulterous relationship. The result, is that we will not have Easter with Nana and Popop, as usual… Instead, a loving and generous colleague from my place of work and her husband has invited us for dinner. She even sewed pillows for our kids and is making them Easter baskets. Incidentally, I am responsible for crackers and cheese as well as stuffing some eggs. Ergo, off to Walmart.

I hate Walmart… I have nothing against the store itself these days. I hate being in Walmart, seeing couples and families shopping, knowing I am coming home to an empty house. I hate the fact that I used to complain about going to Walmart with my wife. I would like to go back in time and punch myself in the face for that. So, here I am, in Walmart, and I’m struggling still. I’m not getting along with the Holy Spirit particularly well. It has been a year. I have stood. I have prayed. I have fasted from food, media, secular music, and numerous other things. I’ve given up playing video games in obedience. I have prayed and prayed and prayed. Countless friends have prayed and had their friends pray and had their churches pray, and my wife still cannot see beyond that demonic squid on her face. I still love my wife. I still want our family healed. I want to be restored because I don’t want to see her live in sin and rebellion, but honestly, I am not feeling a lot of warm fuzzies for her right now. In fact, I was struggling a few moments in Walmart with the thought of taking my ring off. I never struggle with that. Tonight, I did. I just wanted someone to look at me like I am interesting or worthy of affection. I know that is ridiculous, but there it is.

Standing in the shoe section, picking out some shoes for my daughter, I said under my breath, “No! I am standing! Father, forgive me. Father help me get through this.” That was my expectation. I wanted to survive my trip to the store. Lately, when entering any store, I ask God to put me in “the right place at the right time” and to use me. I did no such thing tonight. I simply wanted to survive until I could become unconscious at home.

Well, God got me through. I finished my shopping. I got in line, and I did not begin to freak out like I normally do in line. There’s a stillness, waiting in line at Walmart. No one is talking to you. You can try to fidget with your phone or look around, but the fact is you are stuck there, with nothing to occupy your mind, facing whatever reality you have found yourself in. I hate going to Walmart, but I despise standing in line there thinking about the life I am living presently… So I pray… Practicing the presence keeps the demons away. I had chosen a line with a tall kid in his early twenties. He looked unhappy. I thought, that’s my line. I don’t know why I thought this… It just was there. When it was my turn, I broke protocol by preempting the his hello with, “how are you?” I don’t know why I said this. I didn’t particularly care how he was at the moment.

He said, “well, I am alive and breathing, so I suppose that that beats the alternative..”

I, being so self-absorbed in my pity party, cleverly responded with, “Well, that is debatable. I often think I would quite prefer the alternative.”

“Well”, he said, “I’m not so sure. I’d like to think there might be something on the other side, but I really have no idea.”

At this point, I am screaming at God, on the inside. Father, I’m not ready for this!! I didn’t ask to be used tonight! How on earth did I fall into a conversation about this cashier’s eternal life??? What are you doing, God? I feel like a bumbling idiot here! On the outside, I am fumbling desperately with a response. While sliding my card in the kiosk, I pick the conversation back up with, “well I know that there is something in store for me that beats the heck out of my current circumstances.”

“Well”, he said, “That sounds promising, but if there isn’t, though, I’m okay with that. That will be 64 dollars and 98 cents.”

So, I left. I apologized to God profusely for doing such an insanely poor job of representing Him. I asked the Holy Spirit to intervene and work on that man despite my poor performance. I put my groceries in the trunk of my car and went around to the front seat. There, on top of my prayer journal were two tickets to the local Assembly of God Church’s Easter service. This was one of those moments when there was no point in arguing. Sometimes the Spirit speaks to your heart. Sometimes, though, it just gives your heart that look… that look that says, you know what to do, and if you make me spell it out I’m gonna slap you. So back in, I went, tickets in hand. He was very busy with other customers, but he turned my direction as I walked up. I said nothing profound or clever. I simply handed him the tickets and said, “These, sir, are for you.” I turned and walked out. I am no evangelist, but I am trusting that the Holy Spirit can work even in the context of my ineptitude.

So, once again, God exceeded my expectations. He used me despite of myself, and I left Walmart crying and feeling awestruck, foolish, and overwhelmed with His mercy, grace and goodness.

Identity Crisis pt. 2: Dreams, schemes, and recurring themes

Back in June, I posted a poem, called Identity Crisis. I am certainly in a different place now than I was then, but the first stanza still applies to my life to a certain extent:

I don’t know what to do.

I don’t know where to go.

I don’t know what to say.

I don’t know how to act.

Honestly, I don’t know who to be.

Dreams

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Dreams, hopes, aspirations, or one’s calling tend to be one of the primary motivating factors in one’s life. It is our “dreams” that keep us going, that help us get out of bed in the morning, and keep us out of Pilgrim’s slough of despond. As standers, I would guess that most of us, like myself, were cruising along in life near the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy. We were thinking about our career and family goals or perhaps even seeking God about how He intended to use us in a bigger way. Then it hit, like an atomic bomb or category 5 hurricane, wrecking our life and knocking us down to the middle or bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy. Our one-flesh partner said, “I don’t love you anymore” and went to live with someone else. Maybe they filed for divorce and are even going after the children and their half of all you own. At best we’re now operating somewhere between belonging and esteem, but we’re most likely between safety and belonging. This is true particularly if you face financial difficulties and / or a custody battle.

Maybe it’s wrong or shallow, but I’ve been crying out to God for something with which to replace my dreams. I just feel so despondent. I’m not excited about life anymore. There is so much monotony and the things I used to really look forward to about this time of year are all wrecked and demolished and mired in intrigue and scheming and satanic machinations. I spent more than half of my life wanting to escape reality. The last six years I have loved my life. I have embraced reality, and have for that brief season been very very happy. Now I find nothing but the desire to escape again. I just want some positive goals… something more than survive, hope for restoration, avoid losing my children, and avoid financial ruin.

I want to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14), but I’ve lost sight of the goal. What is the goal? What is my goal? This is so simple yet so elusive. I am trying desperately to, as Paul says in Romans 12 to offer my body as a living sacrifice, so I may be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Then I will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will… the goal to win the prize…

Schemes

My life is no longer proactive, but rather reactive. I find myself spending every day wondering when the next email or text message is going to come in that I must react to. Not only is the enemy keeping my wife in the far country with another man, but he’s actively using her as a tool to reap further destruction. Daily I face a new scheme to separate me from our children, give me some new legal of financial hoop to jump through, or complain that I have not met some expectation or responsibility that she arbitrarily made up for me to do.

Is this what my life is to be about, Lord? Am I to live in a constant state of reaction to negative situations? How long can I keep this up? Not long without Your strength. I need my daily bread, Lord. I need you to show up and help me. I’m being beaten into the floor over here. HELP ME!

Recurring Themes

So, I find myself mired in recurring themes, or as the Bible would call them, curses. My dad committed suicide when I was in elementary school, and I grew up with challenge after challenge. Even Christmas, a magical time for many children was bittersweet and somewhat empty. By the time I was getting beyond that, I received the gift of a step-father who wanted nothing to do with me and caused me to live in constant fear and rejection until I left home at 18.

Now I get to feel those feelings of rejection and inadequacy surrounding the Holidays all over again from my one-flesh partner, who has essentially said, “I wish you were dead”. I also get to watch my children struggle to understand what is going on. One of my favorite pastors to watch on Youtube, Derek Prince, describes this phenomenon both here and in his book, Blessing or Curse: You Can Choose, as:

a long, evil arm stretched out from the past. It rests upon you with a dark, oppressive force that inhibits the full expression of your personality. You never feel completely free to be yourself. You sense that you have potential within you that is never fully developed. You always expect more of yourself than you are able to achieve. Or again, that long, evil arm may have the effect of tripping you up as you walk. Your way seems clear before you, but from time to time you stumble—yet you cannot see what it was you stumbled over. For some uncanny reason, the moments at which you stumble are those when you are within reach of attaining some long-sought goal. Yet your goal eludes you.

What to do?

So the solution is both simple and miserably difficult at the same time. Seeking a stronger relationship with God, waiting on Him, and trying to spend more time with Him will ultimately:

  1. become a goal to focus on and cause me to thirst for more.
  2. strengthen me to face many trials.
  3. give me hope and increase my faith.
  4. give me confidence and power to rebuke the spirits of fear, despair, and heaviness.
  5. help me to trust God to take away the curse.

Great! We solved the problem. Problem solved! WRONG!

It’s not so easy to cultivate a stronger relationship with God, seeking Him, waiting on Him, and trying to spend more time with Him in prayer, reading the Word, and just sitting in His presence. It takes time and strength and discipline and perseverance. I’ve also found that no matter how often I ask, He won’t just give me warm squishy feelings for Him. I would love to be able to wake up with that “I’m in love” feeling again. It would be even better from God, who will never leave me nor forsake me. Unfortunately, a thirst for God requires cultivation. He won’t just give me a thirst for Him.

Instead, I wake up feeling rejected and empty. I go to do a job that I really love, working with people I really love, while being constantly haunted by empty the feeling that I am ultimately rejected by the one person for whom I care more than any other in the world. Meanwhile, I spend my day in fear of the next text message or the next email and what it will mean I have to do, face, or fight. That’s the enemy’s plan. Keep me focused on the circumstances… keep me reacting… keep me in despair and fear.

Fighting Back

So, I imagine that I can choose to fight back or give up. The enemy wants me to give up, and as attractive as that looks right now, I don’t want to give him the satisfaction. So, how do I fight back? I feel like I spend nearly all of my spare time, listening to or reading the Bible, listening to audio and video sermons, and praying through. I quote scriptures to the enemy, I proclaim scriptures to my empty house, and I remind God of his promises in scripture. I fast and pray. Still I struggle. What must I do?

I guess I need to crucify my flesh. I need to give up on searching for any fulfillment outside of Him, and I need to give up on the distractions that come my way. I need to make the hard decisions that it’s not okay to spend an inordinate amount of time playing video games, watching movies, practicing martial arts or thinking about any things that do not edify me. I need to force myself to open my mail. I need to reach out to the people who will really pray for me and let them know that I am not a spiritual giant. I am struggling. I am drowning. I need to be lifted up. I need to be ministered to. Maybe I need to fast and pray for God to open my heart, reveal Himself more, and help me to hear and know Him, rather than fasting for a laundry list of needs.

Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe I’m not. Maybe I just need to relax, trust, and obey. All I know is this is getting more heavy by the day, and I need more of Him.

Radical Extremists are not P.C.

Some rights reserved by Jordon

Some rights reserved by Jordon

Sometimes I can’t even believe what I’m saying to people… I’m normally very reserved about this stuff, and I’ve always been leery of those crazy snake-handling charismatic types, but… well, I’ve decided the Bible is either true or it isn’t.

Jesus was pretty radical. Seriously, you don’t become the enemy of the entire religious establishment of your own people by being politically correct. Jesus was a religious extremist. He said crazy things, like.

9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. (Matthew 18:9)

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)

Standing is turning me into a radical extremist. Where once I used to be, pretty PC, an NPR-listening yuppie hipster, and generally laid back, I am now understanding that there is such a thing as truth, it is not relative, and the Bible does not make suggestions.

The Seeker Friendly Movement, Cheap Grace, and The Truth

Many churches, mine included, are trying desperately to reach as many lost and hurting people as possible and to be a light in the community.The danger, here, is that it is very easy to slide down a slope from acceptance, lack of judgement, and grace extended to non-believers to a place where your congregation of believers are not expected to live any different as Christ followers than they did when they were not.

Are we not going to fail and sin, even as Christians? Yes, of course we are. Will we not still receive Gods’ grace? Of course! We just have to be careful not to cheapen His grace by saying, “I know that this is sin, but it makes me happy. I’m going to keep doing it because He will grant me grace and forgiveness.” That is not Christianity. That is urinating at the foot of the cross. Remember, that Jesus promises to come and make a home with those who obey His teaching. Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the ones who do the will of God.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ (John 8:31-32)

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23)

Paul warned that a time would come when people would not put up with sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3). However, with over 70% of adults under the age 25 thinking all beliefs are equally valid (according to Barna Research), sound doctrine is exactly what is needed. It is the Word of God that plants the seed for the new birth (1 Peter 1:23), and the Word must be taught for the purpose of “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and for taking the true message out into the world (Matthew 28:19-20) (Got Questions).

So do we need Christ’s church to be a grace-filled community? YES! We cannot, however let sound doctrine be discarded. We can’t just look the other way, while a brother or sister is in open unrepentant rebellion against God. It’s bad for us and it’s bad for them. What is more judgmental, confronting them in love to bring them back onto the right path or considering them lost and gossiping about them behind their back?

I said all of that to say this. You should watch these videos. Then you should start reading your Bible and see what it really says. Then decide whether you really want to do this or not. Stop playing Christian.

 

 

 

 

Ignatius for Standers.

Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish knight from a local Basque noble family, hermit, priest, and theologian, who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). He was a bit of a reformer but he worked from within the established Catholic Church, rather than splitting off. That’s the best I’ve got, as an Evangelical who knows nothing of the Catholic tradition. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Why am I talking about this dude? Well I’m giving his spiritual exercises a try in an attempt to draw closer to God and to be less focused on self and circumstances. How many times have we heard Charlyne Steinkamp yell, “Stop looking at your circumstances!”? Well it turns out that is really difficult to do.

The Spiritual Exercises are a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices developed by St. Ignatius Loyola to help people deepen their relationship with God. For centuries the Exercises were most commonly given as a “long retreat” of about 30 days in solitude and silence (Ignatian Spirituality).

I am currently doing An Ignatian Prayer Adventure, an adapted version of the Spiritual Exercises, found at Ignatian Spirituality, rather than purchasing a book. The actual written content of each exercise is rather brief. The meat comes in my reflection, my meditation of the scripture, and the prayers I journal as I go. I am three days into this adventure and I have found these exercises to be ideally suited to the life of a stander. If you are standing, and you’re struggling to connect with God, as I am. If you feel like you need to add some depth to your devotional experience, I invite you to give these exercises a try with me.

You’ll need:

  • a Bible or two (I’m using an NIV, a Message, and my Bible app).
  • a Journal (any notebook will do)
  • Some good pens.
  • A quiet, “sacred space” to work in.

I like to have a cup of coffee as well, but that is not entirely necessary. There are some great tips on getting ready to do this “retreat” here. Oddly, each day I have found that the exercise has deepened and expanded my understanding of the theme and passages in Charlyne Cares. If you’re already doing that devotional, as I am, I think that you will find that it fits nicely into this time of prayer and reflection.

I’m sure that this work will inform the next few posts you find here. Meanwhile, I leave you with one of the passages I have been chewing on and praying through for the last three days.

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush[a] and Seba in your stead.
4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:1-7)

That, my fellow standers, is how God feels about us and our spouse despite what we may be seeing on the ground.