7 out of 18 ain’t bad… well it is bad…

I recently re-read Bob Stienkamp’s devotional entitled “18 Signs that something is happening“. Turns out, I’m currently rocking seven out of 18 to some degree or another. That should be encouraging or uplifting, but it’s not. In fact, I’ve felt like it’s been 11:59 for about two months now, and I’m really starting to run backwards, rather than even crawl forwards.7out18

You feel like giving up. The enemy will make you think nothing is happening and nothing will ever change.

I am certainly here. More than any of these other signs, this one is manifesting itself powerfully in my life. I feel like my hopes and dreams for a better future have shriveled up and died inside me and my heart is becoming harder and more cold and lifeless each day. I am still standing, but it’s like a routine. I’m going through the motions, but on the inside I have retired. I’ve stopped praying for miracles and have started to simply plead for relief from the daily onslaught of fresh attacks. I know that as Christians we have the freedom that comes with not having to fear death, but I fear life. I fear loneliness. I fear years of perpetual pain, rejection, and isolation. I haven’t even seen a Covenant truck in months. I feel like its just over for me, like I missed some turn I was supposed to take and I’ll never leave this valley. So I just need to find a half decent place to settle down here, while my Shepard steps out to tend the rest of the flock.

People are constantly reminding you about your mate’s free will and how you have grounds for divorce.

As my prodigal finds new ways to attack me every month, legally, financially, and through custody challenges, my friends not only remind me that I can sign the divorce paper any day, but also that I can counter sue for fault divorce. After all, they say, she left you for another man, and now she is taking you to the cleaners. After all, I am the wronged party. They want to know why I am continuing to allow her to have the upper hand.

People tell you God wants you to be “happy.” In truth, God is a lot more concerned about your holiness than He is about your happiness. He also cares about your mate’s lost condition.

Everyone has someone for me. They’re sick of watching the slow train wreck that is my life without doing anything to improve my circumstances. I am desperately lonely and worse I have a strong spirit of rejection hanging from my neck like a leech. I don’t want a mate near as much as I want someone to want me, to like me, or just to not hate me and treat me like dirt. My own rebellious heart is telling me that God wants you to be “happy”, during my better moments. During my worse moments, it tells me that God wants me to be “miserable,” so I can be more like Christ, and I despise Him for it.

You can see no way out of specific circumstances, such as financial problems. Remember, God works best when nothing else will.

I’m literally being destroyed. My prodigal is making sure that I am financially beaten down in every way. I can no longer see a means out of the hole that I am in, other than a miracle of God. At one point, I was standing for restoration. I was standing for my wife’s soul. I was standing for the family of our children. I was standing for the Glory of God’s name. Now I’m standing for survival. I’m standing because when it’s all said and done I want to know: Does obedience really bring blessing, or is His Word as fallible as everyone says it is? Is He omnipotent or impotent? I have no other hope left. If God isn’t who He says He is, then I am doomed to a life of poverty and loneliness.

You are tempted to take off your wedding ring.

This is happening a lot more lately… Okay, it’s happening every day. I feel like Frodo, buckling under the weight of it. I cannot stand up under any more legal fees. I do not understand why my wife, my helpmate for so many years wants to destroy me so badly. She left me for another, and I am suffering the consequences. I cannot face this vast army. I no longer have the mental, emotional, or financial capacity to defend myself. If God does not show up now in a big way, I will be financially ruined. I’m not sure I will have a place to live next month. So, do I feel a great desire to proclaim my devotion to a covenant with someone who wants to destroy me? My human nature wants to fight back. My flesh wants to run into the arms of anyone who will love me and tell me it will be okay. I shouldn’t need a woman for that, but my comforter is apparently on vacation this year. So, I find myself wanting to pocket this ring every time I find myself in a room containing available females who might make me feel like a person if they came up and spoke to me.

You mistakenly start to view your local church as a hindrance to restoration. Satan may give you fear over how your returned prodigal would fit in. Your pastor may come out against marriage restoration. The returned spouse and their church relationship is one of the many areas that God can and does heal for restoring families. Right now, you need the love and support of a church family.

Since I began my stand, despite support from my head pastor, my spiritual director, and most of those closest to me, I have at times seen my church as an apostate, seeker sensitive Sunday Show, serving up cool aid Christianity to the myriad adulterous couples seated around me. My spouse said she never felt connected or accepted there when she left me. I have visited the local AOG church in hopes of finding more “spirit filled” believers. I have made friends at a local Mennonite church in hopes of finding a smaller, closer community of believers, but my church is my church. If I cut ties with that community, what do I have left?

In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat was able to proclaim a fast for all of Judah. I do not have Judah. I have my church. I have my friends to call on. In a lot of ways, I have found that my church, the body of Christ for me is actually my immediate circle of brothers, mostly from my church, but some not, who hold me up, support me, keep me accountable, and love me through listening and helping with the mundane tasks of my life.

Prayer partners may be removed. There came a time in Charlyne’s stand, near the day of our remarriage and before the Internet, when my wife’s personal prayer partner moved out-of-state. God was telling my wife that she needed to depend on Him, not others.

Everyone has a life, and it seems like everyone’s life has them right now. My strongest prayer partners will stand with me for a season and be removed by tragedy, other interests, bouts with depression, and even trials and temptations. It seems I am constantly reaching out to someone new to stand with me and relying on people from many different parts of my life. Prayer partners burn out. Honestly, I feel like a lot of folks are still praying for me, but many have stopped praying for my prodigal. Despite supporting my stand, they’ve given up on her. Many of them say to “give her over”. They don’t realize that despite the hurt and the pain and daily attacks coming in from her, saying, “give her over” is like telling the spouse of someone with cancer to “just shoot her and put her out of her misery.” They mean well, but… “give her over to her sin and let Satan have her?”

You are tempted to make major changes in your own life. It could be reclaiming your maiden name or changing the door locks on your home for no reason. Whatever you are considering doing, it would say to your prodigal spouse, “It’s over!”

In some ways, I don’t have a choice. I have to move. I have to give up our marital home because I cannot afford to buy my prodigal spouse out of it.

Honestly, I’m ready to sign. I know that is a choice. I’m tired of being hurt with something new every week. Despite what I said above, I’m a little bit ready to “give her over”. I am such a contrary mess. What it all comes down to, is in my selfishness, I want a companion. I want a partner to hold me and tell me it is going to be okay. I want to be loved not hurt. I want to be wanted not hated and despised. I want to be valued and cherished and desired.

You sense a certain uneasiness in your spirit. Where you had once started growing in the Lord as a stander, you now feel something indescribable in your life. Some people confuse God wanting them to intensify their stand with Him, with God wanting them to give up on their stand for a healed home.

How about, I feel spiritually dead. I know that God brings growth and wisdom through pain and suffering. I know that he is looking for my complete surrender. At some point though pruning turns into cutting and eventually destroying. I’ve experienced so much growth over this last year and now it’s turned 180°. Now rather than growing me the pain is killing me. Each day for the last month I’ve become a more hardhearted rebellious and despicable person.

Is that an uneasiness in spirit? I hate my life, and I don’t want to live this way anymore. I’m tired of proclaiming His greatness when He wont be my genie and give me what I want!

I’d like to stop at seven…

I don’t think I can take any more. Honestly, I could totally go for:

Satan sends a counterfeit into your life. Just when things are the bleakest, Mr. Right or Miss Perfect arrives. Some standers make the mistake of thinking, “This must be of God because we are so perfectly suited for each other.” Counterfeits always look better than the real thing.

Of course, that won’t be the card I’ll pull. I’m not even going to say out loud the one that would destroy me. Everything else I’ve ever told God I could never take He has done to me in the space of a year and a half. I really don’t need any more. I can barely convince myself that getting out of bed in the morning is a good idea. Honestly, I cry out to God every morning to give me the strength to get up and face the day because I don’t want to do it any more.

The 11th hour…

I know that His timing is perfect and He’s known for coming in the 11th hour and changing everything in an instant. Well, it feels like 11:59 for me. Something has to give before I do.

Pray for me.

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Another wrinkle

Brothers, fellow male standers, this is for you. I recently “found” this series… okay, I’ve come across it about 30 times over the last year, but didn’t want to listen to it. I always had a reason not to. It didn’t apply to me, etc.  A couple of night ago, I felt lead to listen to it, but I played video games until midnight and fell asleep in the first 5 minutes of the talk. The next night, I tried to listen and again, I fell asleep. Last night I listened, and was amazed at what I heard. Brothers, I am anxious to hear your thoughts on this. Please listen, particularly to parts one and two, embedded below. Parts three and four a linked.

I do not know whether I was lead to listen to this or mislead to listen to this. I don’t know exactly what to come away from this with, but I do know that my wife is still trying to dominate my life even though she has been living with another man for over a year.

I’m not looking to have anyone burned at the stake here. I just have a new way to pray. Whether mislead or not, I am praying against the spirit of witchcraft and its influence over my family. I’m interested in your thoughts on this, brother standers. Does this ring true in your experience? Does this seem like pure insanity? Is it somewhere in between?

Embracing Gods’ Best

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

So, I’ve been struggling lately to embrace God’s best. Somewhere along the line, I made the decision to follow Christ, having no idea what that really meant. No one tells you when you sign up for this gig that this means taking up our cross daily, that we will face many trials, and that a lot of them are going to come into our life as a part of God trying to make us more like Christ. The goal is, of course, being used for the kingdom. Apparently if we have anything in this world that we love more than being used for the kingdom, then God loves us too much to allow that to continue.

Léon Bonnat [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When I first began this stand, I read and listened to a lot of Charlyne Stienkamp, which allowed me to pin this suffering squarely on “the enemy”, Satan and his minions. I read and listened to a lot of Derek Prince. I learned about generational curses and spiritual warfare. Finally, I began to get turned onto the teaching of Charles Stanley. None of these teachers contradict each other, and they all are very well-grounded scripturally. It was when I began to listen to Stanley, though, that I began to realize that while I may have active curses in my life, while I am facing a spiritual battle, while the enemy is attacking my marriage and my family, God is still sovereign. NONE OF THIS HAS COME INTO MY LIFE WITHOUT HIM ALLOWING IT.

  • My spouse’s adultery – allowed by God.
  • This steamroller of a divorce – allowed by God.
  • My wife’s frequent attempts to take our kids away from me – allowed by God.
  • My current financial distress – allowed by God.
  • Every daily attack that comes in (and I mean daily now) – allowed by God.

Why? Apparently this is somehow making me into the man He wants me to be — the man He can use. To get some context of where this is coming from, perhaps you should listen to these messages:

I know that God brings growth and wisdom through pain and suffering. I know that he is looking for my complete surrender. At some point, though, pruning turns into cutting and eventually destroying. I’ve experienced so much growth over this last year and now it’s turned 180°. Now rather than growing me, I feel that the pain is killing me. Each day, for the last two months I’ve become a more hardhearted rebellious and despicable person. While I was approaching my prodigal spouse and her non-covenant partner with love and forgiveness, now I find myself struggling to even look at them.

Meanwhile, I am beginning to have little tolerance for Christian-Kool-Aid-euphemisms, like “His timing is perfect” or how “He loves me too much to let me say in the situation that I was in: being happy in the world”… That doesn’t feel like love it feels like sadism. I’m so glad that my life is allowed to suck so that I can join in His sufferings become more like Him… or so bitter that I want to jump off a bridge and set myself on fire. Before you arrange an intervention, NO, I AM NOT TURNING MY BACK ON GOD. I’m simply asking some hard questions.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to be obedient and I want to finish strong. I don’t want to become embittered and fall away. Still with every new beating and every new attack, I’m starting to lose my zeal to bring Glory to His name… In fact I feel a little bit like an idiot; the world’s biggest joke, even bringing it up.

I know it’s selfish. I know it’s incredibly self-centered. I know there are so many people in this world that have it so much worse than me. Still, I hate my very life. Honestly, I don’t want to do this anymore. This doesn’t feel like living. It’s like I’m only living a partial existence, walking around half-dead. After all a big piece of me has been ripped away, and I’m just walking around letting the wound hang open and fester. At least the world’s prescription would patch up the hole little bit and stop the bleeding. Additionally, I get to experience a new wound every week thanks to how much my stand angers my prodigal spouse.

When it all comes down to it, it doesn’t matter whether it’s free will, spiritual warfare, or just the insanity of a broken world. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, then nothing happens that is outside of his control. I can whine all I want to, but He is going to do whatever he wants to do anyway. So, pray for me while I try to buckle down, embrace God’s best, and hope that the second coming is scheduled this quarter.

And I know that in all things, God works for the good (from His perspective) of those who love Him (more than His blessings), who have been called according to his purpose, whether it suits them or not. God is in control. I am not.

God bless, let’s be careful out there.

The supernatural, the mundane, and relational strain

The supernatural…

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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!!!!!

Power Ups for you

Fellow standers, how are you doing? If you’re anything like me, you vacillate in any given week between living victoriously and trudging through the slough of despond.  I posted recently that we have been chosen for a special mission of great significance that will save the lives of many others. We are in an epic battle. Occasionally, we need some power ups… Our faith is being tried, stretched, and tested every day. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God… I recently made these scripture cards to keep around as a faith boost. Feel free to print them and place them on your mirror, your refrigerator, your dashboard, and wherever you need encouragement. I will probably make more, but for now, this is all I’ve got.

Printable Verse cards

Printing Instructions

For best results, print these to card stock, though decent quality paper will work just fine. Use the following settings when printing to get two cards per sheet: Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 5.01.59 PM I’ve been wanting to print out some verses to put around my house, on mirrors and such, to proclaim and gain encouragement from. I am too picky to just copy and paste the verses into a word processor and slice them down, but too busy to fire up InDesign or Illustrator and give them the proper treatment. I made these using Canva, which is a free graphic design app for web and iOS. Enjoy.

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.

Love is…

How many of us had 1 Corinthians 13 read at our overly-opulent, weddings? How many of us had any clue what those words actually meant while quick stepping through that first dance, shoving cake in each others faces, or preparing to leave for a ridiculously expensive honeymoon in a part of the world where the locals where barely scraping by?

When I said “I do”, I had no thoughts of real “1 Corinthians 13 love”.  I just wanted to have all of my adolescent romantic fantasies fulfilled and have the “security” of knowing that I would no longer have to fear being alone (Insert ironic chuckling here). Eventually, I learned all about 1 Corinthians 13 love, when my wife of 10 years left me for another man at her new job. That’s when I learned that…

 

Love is choosing to be alone when you want desperately to be with someone else just to ease the pain.

Love is spending your every last cent to put off signing a paper you know that God hates.

Love is waiting in obedience for a restoration that may never come.

Love is praying for the soul of someone who wishes you would just disappear.

 

Love is praying every night to be filled with love and forgiveness for the man your wife is in bed with at that moment.

Love is reading to your son and playing Legos when your doubled up in sickness and there’s no one around to care for you or back you up.

Love is choosing to get up and serve God today even He hasn’t brought your helpmate back.

Love is praying and longing for restoration with someone you don’t even know if you like anymore.

 

Love is crying yourself to sleep because you haven’t held your daughter in 6 days.

Love is hating your very life but refusing to quit because you live for God, your prodigal spouse and your kids.

Love is praying for your in-laws, who have turned on you without cause.

Love is walking two acres in the snow and wind to dig out your car and warm it up to take your son to school.

 

Love is living out the “better or worse ’til death do us part stuff” even when your spouse is not.

Love is smiling to your colleagues who think you are insane and saying “God’s got this” when you want break down sobbing.

Love is hanging on and hanging in when you want to run and hide.

Love is standing in gap.

 

Trying…

Father, I’m trying to be obedient…

to “wait upon” you.

to stand strong.

Give me the strength

to learn what I must.


I hurt today…

more than I have in a long time.

I’m tired… so tired.

I feel inept to this task,

and I don’t seem to be growing.


I should be more mature.

I shouldn’t want to escape

or hide in a hole.

Why is it so hard to do simple things,

like open my mail?


Why does every decision seem

to pit my heart against my wallet?

How long, oh Lord…

how long?

Come quickly.


I would have broken down and lost it by now,

unless I really believed

That I would see the goodness of the Lord

In the land of the living.

So, I wait…


Forgive my impatience.

Forgive my selfish heart.

You seek growth…

while I long for comfort.

Help me hold on.


I’m trying…

some days more than others.

My focus is all off.

It hasn’t even been a year…

and already I struggle.

Love, Obedience, and being tired…

Thoughts from a recent conversation

*I will continue to obey, even though I am tired

I am tired of having an adversarial relationship with my wife, tired of feeling like I’m losing everything important to me, tired of feeling like I’m as much a failure as a parent as I am as a husband, and tired of failing to hit the mark so often. Heck, I don’t even want to face the day anymore… I live in dread of the next text or email. I want off of this train, but where would I go? I worry that God won’t restore me or kill me and I’ll just have to keep going. Living out our faith definitely seems harder than dying for it. Still, I will serve Him and trust him. I will trust that He is a loving father and not some twisted sadist, enjoying chips and dip while our tragic lives play out.

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. If I don’t, I’ll snap. I’ll utterly lose all touch with humanity. I need God. I need Him to hold me together. I could use some serious prayers to stay out of the slough of despond. I spend far too much time lately looking like a hapless victim to everyone. That’s not a good witness to anyone. 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.

I’m trying to love Him… I’m not sure I ever did… I obey Him, and I try to serve Him, and I talk to Him almost every moment I can spare part or most of my brain to do so. I read His word. I listen to sermons almost non-stop… I don’t sing though… I haven’t really felt like praising Him since my wife left. Am I holding a grudge against God? Am I holding my praises hostage? I don’t know… the praising, loving part of me just feels dead… like a lump of cold clay. I refuse to give up on my God, and I cry out to Him every day… I just feel guilty for not feeling any love for Him…

4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place (Revelation 2:4-5).

I know that God has this… I know that He is in control… I just wish I felt it. I trust Him. I wait upon Him. I cry out to Him, but do I love Him? A fellow stander recently expressed what many of us have been feeling inside, “I miss feeling.. important… special…. noticed…” That got me wondering if that’s how God feels about me. I wonder if that’s why this is all happening. I wish I could make my heart love Him, but I worry that want to love Him just so he will end this pain and heal my family. I’m questioning everything… I am not willing to turn on God for a moment, but maybe that’s only because I know the other team loses in a big way. Is that love, or is it totally selfish and self-serving self-preservation?

Likely, though, loving God has very little to do with warm fuzzies. It probably has a lot more to do with trust and obedience… mainly obedience… So, I will continue to obey, even though I am tired

* These are thoughts removed and cleaned up from a conversation I had recently with some fellow standers with whom I have found community. In looking back over the conversation, I realized that others may benefit from being included in this conversation. So, I posted it here. This is also an explanation of why I have been so silent lately…

Survival Supplies

Here’s the stuff that I have been consuming to help me survive this week. Enjoy:

Sermons etc.

Scriptures

Proverbs 3:5-6 New International Version (NIV)
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.[a]

Psalm 91 (emphasis added)
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”