faith

The games people play

An open letter to Christians dating (especially the ladies),
I wrote the post below last night, hit publish, and continued to play the game until I fell fitfully asleep regretting it:

So, I just got off FaceTime with my kids. They are at “the other house” this week. I keep going over the last few years of my marriage and the things my wife said to me the night she left. 2913052110_86f6b014a2_z

It seems like the biggest mistakes that I made in my relationship, the ones that ultimately drove my wife into the arms of another man and out of our marriage were:

  1. Being too available. I gave up a lot of hobbies and a second job to be at home with her and the kids and to help with the kids / housekeeping etc.
  2. Letting her know regularly how much I loved her. I bought cards just because. I wrote little notes. I sent texts. I bought flowers. I bought gifts. I never wanted her to doubt how I felt about her.
  3. I shared my feelings, concerns and weaknesses in a transparent and vulnerable manner.

No, I am not being sarcastic in the least. I know that those seem like the qualities that we’re all told to have as Godly men. Those are touted as positive characteristics that all Godly women are seeking. The night my wife told me she was leaving she shared all of the things she couldn’t stand about me and why she just had to “get out”. They included:

  1. You’re always around. You have no hobbies. Your whole life is me and the kids. That’s really pathetic.
  2. I feel like you care for me and love me far more than I do you. That’s not fair, and I can’t stand to look at that “I love you” look on your face anymore.
  3. I don’t feel like you’re a real man. See, you’re crying right now. You’re kind of a big baby.

Wow. This feeds into everything the male relationship gurus say about how we have to “play games” and pretend to be indifferent, disconnected, and unavailable to get a girl. Apparently this also applies to keeping a girl, even one you’re married to.

So, here we are, two years later. This girl I really like, who really seems to like me (we call or text every evening) hasn’t contacted me all day, and I haven’t contacted her. I’ve had plenty of opportunities. I’ve thought about her several times. I feel as though I initiate conversation too often though, so I am painfully letting the silence hang and waiting to see if she will contact me. How ridiculous is that? I really want to call her or text her, but I feel like if I do, I’m setting myself up to “lose the game”. I feel like I have to play the game. I hate feeling like that. I hate it.

I don’t want her to think I’m clingy. I don’t want her to think I’m too devoted. I don’t want to look like “a big baby”. That phrase will never leave my head. Thank you, prodigal spouse.

I also can’t help but think this is unbiblical or wrong, but it’s become a part of the courtship process because of the fall and I just have to live with it.

I hate this.

 

So, I regret playing games. I pray that I’ve done no lasting damage to my relationship with this amazing woman. All I managed to do, I think, was miss an opportunity to talk with her, but perhaps she enjoyed the break.GAMEFREE-2

Either way, I think if we have to play games, maybe the relationship isn’t worth it. My end goal is marriage, and I think the worse-case-scenario is not that I’ll lose the girl. That’s happened to me already in the worst way possible. I think that the worst thing that can happen is that I’ll end up married to someone I have to play the game with. I’ll end up with someone with whom I cannot:

  • Serve
  • Love
  • Honor
  • Cherish
  • Be transparent with
  • Love as Christ loved the church.

I don’t want that. So, this girl, as amazing as she is. This girl that I’m willing to wait for even though she is really busy, deserves more than to be played with. That said, if she wants to feel the need for “a chase” or desires a guy who is aloof, unavailable, and disengaged, then maybe she isn’t as awesome as I think she is and I’m better off without her. I will allow God to be my anchor, and no human relationship, no matter how much I desire it. I need to look to Him to hold this fast if it is His will. If it isn’t, then I’m better off without it. It’s just hard to see that sometimes, particularly when I’m down & feeling insecure.

Christian ladies, go read the dating advice websites. See what is being said about women and what they want. If you ever want a relationship that lifts you up instead of tearing you down. If you ever want to have a real spiritual leader in your home, you can begin by stopping with the games. If you’re getting a text every hour, yes, he may be a clingy-stalker-psycho. If you’re getting a nice text or call every day, he just might care for you, which I would think is what you want. If you’re seeing someone, and you don’t want him to second guess your feelings and whether or not he’s constantly being “tested”, don’t assume he knows. The social media marketing is intense. Every single or divorced guy’s Twitter and Facebook feed is filled with invasive intense marketing by these guys who say YOU WANT US TO TOY WITH YOU! Go ahead, send your man a text right now. Tell him you don’t need him to play hard to get. Tell him you appreciate his transparency and authenticity… that is, if you really do.

Blessings.

J.


 

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Nearly 2:00 am

A Prayer…

IMG_4676Well, God, it is 1:58 am, and I can’t sleep. I’ve asked You for sleep, but You’re not giving me sleep for whatever reason. I got on my knees and prayed. Maybe I’m supposed to be praying for someone…

I ended up sitting in the middle of my bedroom floor crying. If You want to have a conversation, then here we go. I hate my life! I hate it so so much. I just want it to get better! I want out of this depressing in-between place where nothing seems right and everything seems gray and dull and meaningless.

I’m dating someone really great… Thank you for bringing her into my life, and I hope that that goes somewhere. She’s pretty non-committal, though, and she doesn’t have very much time to devote to spending time with me. Is this just one more person who is passing the time with me waiting for something better to come along? I can’t take much more of that.

The wife of my youth is now officially married, with the name-change and all, so don’t talk to me about standing and restoration. That ship has sailed and You didn’t do a damn thing about it. So, I’m asking You to bring me into something new. I’d like it if you would bless and grow the relationship I’m in now, if it is a relationship…

Honestly, I just want to hold someone and be held in return! I want my help-mate! My life is not “very good”. It’s very not good. It’s ugly and empty and broken and sad and lonely and I hate hate hate it so bad!

Why, God, did You not just kill me three years ago when I was blissfully enjoying my life? I even remember telling You that I was so happy that You could take me out right then. You didn’t. You left me in this world to experience more pain than I ever thought was possible. You know me. You are supposed to love me! You know how much I hate being alone! You know how much pain I’m in right now! Daddy, if you love me, why won’t you help me?  I know that sometimes we need discipline and challenge and trials to grow, but we need love and tenderness and gifts of love too! I feel like an abused, neglected child. It has been two and a half years!

Help me! Show up! Did You forget about me, over here in the corner, crying my guts out? Oh Father, have mercy on me! Help me! If nothing else, just let me sleep! I keep proclaiming that “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).

I will wait upon you. I’m trying to be strong. I’m trying to take heart. Father, I’m waiting for a breakthrough. You know what I want. I know You have a plan and You know what’s best, but I am in a lot of pain right now. This doesn’t feel like Your best.

Help me! I want out of this in-between place! Help me!

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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.

 

A cry for encouragement…

OK friends help me here because I’m struggling.

I know that the enemy is working overtime against me, as I sit here at my children’s soccer games in my wife and her lover’s city of residence… I know that I’m struggling because I have to watch my kids cuddle with my now ex-wife, her lover, and his mother while I sit here, alone in a strange place. Either way, the spam from hell is rolling in. I know it’s lies, but I really need some encouragement. All I have here is discouragement. Even my closest friends and mentors have given up on my stand. I have recently had about five very mature brothers in Christ pretty much tell me that I am not going to be restored. One even told me that the Holy Spirit told him not to pray for restoration for me. I asked God for a sign of encouragement (Covenant Trucks), and He gave me the opposite sign (Payne Trucks) about 18 times in the last two months, and not one Covenant Truck.

Then, today, on the way to the soccer game, I see two Covenant Trucks, one of which is the painted over variety. I feel like a wave blown and tossed by the wind. I don’t want to be double minded. I want to be standing or not standing. The thing is, if I’m not going to be restored, I’m not going to stand just out of obedience and self-sacrifice. Unless God sends an angel into my bedroom to tell me I must stand in lieu of restoration to be a light in these dark times, I want to stop being lonely and miserable.

I’m an educator, and for better or worse, my whole life revolves around data. We don’t use a technique in the classroom unless the numbers back it up. So, here is my struggle. I can’t bring to mind one single testimony of a prodigal wife turning around without seeing her husband move on to someone else and becoming a stander herself or without contracting some terminal illness and coming home to die.

Seriously, if anyone has any data on this please reply here. Is my faithful stand doing a darn thing? Are there any numbers to suggest that women are not consumed with so much pride that they simply don’t come around without some drastically negative stimulus?

Help me out here peeps. I mean maybe I missed something. I did, after all, stop reading Saturday testimonies, from Rejoice Marriage Ministries about six months ago, when I started to realize that roughly .04% of testimonies were about wives actually coming home. A lot of times, I would see a man’s name and get excited, but it would just be something about how he was able to be a testimony or some such thing. It was never, “my wife came home and praise God, we’re restored and happy”. Perhaps men just don’t share testimonies. I can tell you that if God brought my wife home, I’d be shouting it from the mountain tops and glorifying His name in blogs, tweets, podcasts, profile updates, and everything I possibly could.

The thing is it’s been almost two years… I know, some of you have stood for much longer. Maybe you got a promise of restoration. I never did. Maybe you’re good at doing life alone. Maybe you don’t whither when you are are left without companionship for long periods of time. Maybe this wasn’t your one worst nightmare, the thing you told God you could never ever take, coming true. Maybe you’re just a bad ass and you can take severe emotional and spiritual punishment like a champ. I am not that strong, and the Holy Spirit has stopped providing my “strong-stand-juice”. The divorce is final. Everyone I know has stopped praying for my restoration. I can’t name one personal Christian mentor in my real-life circle (not online friends) that is not encouraging me to “move on” (A.k.a. find somebody else and stop being so darn miserable).

Come on peeps. Give me some encouragement. Flood the comments with stories of women who came home to their husbands without seeing their husband move on to someone else or contracting a terminal illness. Don’t bother if all you have to say is that I’m saving my wife from burning in hell (I’m a bit of a Calvinist, so that argument is meaningless), or that my stand is going to make my children better people, or that God is going to bless my obedience in the afterlife and be disappointed in me otherwise. I don’t need guilt. I need encouragement. If the only reasons to stand are negative ones, then what is the point?

I hate my life. I hate waking up. I hate going to bed. I hate eating. I hate silence. I hate music. I hate television. I hate reading. I hate everything I used to love. Hanging out with my kids is even bittersweet. Almost every moment and every conversation reminds me of her and how she was stolen by another man, with whom I am going to have to share those precious children for the rest of my life… I am tired. I am tired of hating everything. I am tired of living a life washed in gray. I am tired of not sleeping. I am tired of being tired. I have told God that I am willing to be willing to give this all to Him. I have asked for His help to let this all go. I have asked for Him to help me love Him so much that He is all I need. I don’t think He meant for me to live this way. So please, no pat answers or Bob Steinbeck quotes about how I need to suck it up for the sake of her soul. Send me some real testimonies. Give me some hard data. Give me some real encouragement that this does happen in the wild. I want to know that real wives do come home.

Someone help me.

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.

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.

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.