Monday, August 27, 2018

Ouch! My back hurts!

The truth of my life at this moment is that I have messed up my back.  Here's how:  We had decided as a family to re-shingle the house on our own.  In the process, we found that we needed to replace the plywood that sits underneath the shingles.  I was trimming one of the boards and ended up falling down between the supports and ended up on the floor of my daughter's room.  Ouch!  Very Ouch!

I ended up in the worst pain I had personally consciously experienced in my life.  We had to call 911 and ask for help.  After getting me into the ambulance (thanks Snohomish Fire Department!!!) and to the hospital, they treated my pain and scanned me in several different ways.  I even got scanned by the MRI machine.  😊  I found out that I had compression fractured two of my vertebrae in my lower back.  And one of them was the one you have to watch out for because it helps you regulate your bowels.  (I didn't fracture that one badly enough to cause that irregularity though, whew!)  They fitted me with a brace to help me through my day.  Once I reached a stable place of managing my pain they released me.

I was so relieved to be set free from the hospital, even though this time it didn't seem like such a big deal.  But part of my release was to wear a brace that I call my Iron Man costume.  It has been both a blessing and an irritant.  Today I still have 5 weeks left of wearing this wonderful contraption that reminds me not to bend or twist.  It also keeps me in good posture.  But I don't like the thing.  I am patient with it.  I appreciate what it does.  I am glad it helps me not get sore as quickly or experience as much pain.  But I don't like it.

So I am now trying to gently push myself in recovery from this injury, even if I do have to lay back and relax for a long while after a time of activity.  I am in prayer with God to continue to receive healing.  As a family, we were blessed with gifts and prayers from our church and other family and friends.  I know I was personally blessed through their prayers for healing.  Thanks everyone for your help and prayers!  If you would like to continue praying please pray for God to bless us in this busy season of starting school again and for me to keep up the healing plan for my back and self.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Choice or circumstances?

I am personally faced with a question in my life.  Am I where I am today because of my circumstances or choices?  What do you think?  Today I am blogging a little differently.  I have picked out some pictures that talk about this question from some different perspectives.  Please comment your thoughts below.  Thanks!

Monday, May 7, 2018

"Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary."

Extraordinary?  Am I someone who is extraordinary?  Well...the truth is yes and no.  What do I mean?  I am not someone who is making world-wide changes or has tremendous influence or has any superpowers.  But I am extra-ordinary in a different sense of the term.  I am a person who is loved by God and has come to realize that increasingly day after day.

I have always been a fan of watching Robin Williams movies.  The one that really caught me when I was younger and then rebirthed interest when I was in college was "Dead Poet's Society" where he played a younger teacher who captivates the imaginations of his class and at one time has them all standing on their desks quoting "Oh Captain, my Captain."  At another point in the movie, he teaches the meaning of carpe diem.  He says to them in the hallway by the trophies and pictures of those in the past, "Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary."

We are so influenced by the teachers and the encouragement we have has as we grew up.  In fact, I was talking with a long-time best friend this morning about how our kids have been affected by the teachers that they have had.  Both of us had a child with a terrible first-grade experience and watched smart kids take a major hit.  But then both kids have had great teaching following that and we have both been blessed by a rejuvenation of teaching that re-equipped them to enjoy school and learning!  Way to go to all awesome teachers out there, who recognize differences and take steps to help all the kids in their classes.

So what are the bad influences in your life?  Anyone can be a significant influence on your life.  Parents are a definite influence.  So are teachers and other authority figures in your life. Friends alter and change who you are as you live in the world.  Even people you don't like or even don't really know can be a significant influence on you.  For me, there was one boy I knew since kindergarten that made a comment about me in high school that has persisted in how I think about myself to this day.  But, I have since been able to teach myself how to deal with that.

So, how did I deal with these influences in our lives? First, I need to recognize that my life is being impacted by those influences.  Second, I also need to understand that you are the one responsible for the choices I have made then and even now.  Third, I need an awesome mentor or friend to help me retrain yourself.

But what does that mean to me?  I have friends, don't I?  Probably yes, but perhaps not a real friend though.  Not in the close, awesome, kind of friend I mentioned earlier.  A real friend or mentor is someone that I have come to find that I can share anything with and know that they will listen honestly to me, accept me as a person, and tell me the truth when all is said and done.  Someone I can call at 1 a.m. Christmas Eve if you need to.  Someone you share anything and everything with.  I am not referring to my spouse: she is my number one friend that I can share anything with but there are things I don't necessarily want to talk through with her when I am thinking through them because she is more directly involved with the consequences of my actions and has a win/lose position in my choices.

I do need a friend that I can share this kind of relationship with on a regular basis.  I have friends here and there that I can call and talk to about anything.  But they are far from where I live.  One is an hour plus drive from my house and the other will soon be living on the other side of the country.  So that is still someone that I am looking for.

However, whether or not I have an awesome friend there is one that I can trust to help me through and give me the strength and answer that I need regardless of the situation: God. 
Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.  (Proverbs 3:5-6 NCV)
I have found that no matter what I do, no matter what I think makes the most sense, and no matter what other people say to me,  God's way is always the right way.  I have thrown myself against His way for long enough to know that He always knows which way is right.  It may not seem just, or fair, or loving at the time, but His way has always been shown to be the best and most loving way in my life.  He has shown me his mercy and extravagance at the right times.  He has celebrated with me and cherished me.  He has given me blessings and corrections.  He has walked on the "mountaintops" in my life and has walked with me through the "valleys."  I have found that friends always help us through, whether that would be Jesus or someone else that is extra-ordinary.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

My Story... (Part 2)

So, continuing my story from last time, I had given my life to Jesus in high school and expected things to change for me.  And a lot of things did!  But all my life previous to that I had learned to look like the "good boy" despite having things about me that would say otherwise.  I had learned to hide the yucky things that I did.

I think that when I was a junior in high school I was on an awesome retreat called Chrysalis.  It was a pretty extreme retreat where we weren't allowed to know what time it was or communicate with anyone outside.  Not for everybody.  On this retreat, we spent some time in prayer and fasting and God surprised me.  He gave me an idea that I was called to become a pastor.  Wow!  Both incredibly cool and wonderfully scary.  I wasn't sure what this meant for me at the time.  I knew I had a lot of work to get done.

In my senior year of high school, I started a Bible study as an official school club.  I was pretty proud of that because I went to a public high school in Seattle and had to prove that that would be okay.  We met regularly all year and the four or five of us that attended together really enjoyed it.  And also this year I applied to SPU for my college education with a degree in Christian Theology.  It seemed like everything was building up to what I needed to do to become a pastor.  But there were some things in my "closet" that still needed the grace of Jesus.

When does a person know that they are saved and headed to Heaven?  When I first consciously gave my life to Christ, prayed the "Prayer" of salvation, I thought that I was prayed and done.  God would make things better for me and I would be living in the comfort of Heaven from then on.  That's how it works, right?  One and done?  The answer was: nope!  False expectations can twist your thinking around in so many directions that you are dizzy like when you step off that carnival ride that spins around and around by the time it's all done.  But what I'd expected from Jesus was a false expectation.

Despite getting married to an absolutely amazing woman, despite going through a tough process and getting ordained in the church, despite having success in my work and my life, I had trouble following me.  I personally fought with an addiction for most of my life: I was addicted to sex.  I can't count the number of times I wanted to be free from it and prayed to God to take that temptation out of my life.  But He didn't.  I thought I was stuck.  I had found ways to indulge myself since I was young.  I had thought that marriage would fix me.  It didn't.  I had thought that becoming ordained would fix me.  It didn't.  I had thought that reading the right books on becoming pure would help.  They didn't.

My problem was that I had expected God to remove the temptation from my life, but instead, He wants us to have the chance to say "yes" or "no" to it.  His strength would enable me to find a way through but I still would have that temptation in my life.  It seems that my answer was a combination of 1 Corinthians 10:13 and James 5:16.  Not only did I need to pray, but I needed to seek the prayers and help of another lover of Christ.  I needed people in my life that I could be honest with.  But I had isolated myself in my shame that I had no one that was keeping me spiritually honest.  So, in the end, I needed to join a sex addicts' group.

What a change I have experienced through this pile of crap I had gathered and piled up in my life and coming out of it with the help of other people!  I learned that living on my own without other Christians in my life meant I was pointed at hell.  Jesus came to this world not only to pay the price for my sins but to start a relationship with me.  Feeling the love of God and sharing that with others means that I have to be a person in the world who has good relationships with real people.  Love is not a feeling, but an action.  I could pray constantly throughout my life, but if I don't love (share the grace and goodness God gives me) the people around me, I gain nothing (1 Cor 13).

So, did that fix me?  No.  I am still a broken person that makes mistakes in the world around me.  But I am a broken person that gets his strength from Christ.  I am a broken person that follows the path that God has put me on.  I am a broken person that is loved by the other broken people around me.  I am a broken person that has the choice to love those around me too.  The point is not that I will get "fixed" but that I will learn to lean on Christ for help in my life.  No matter what I will face or go through in my life.  My relationship with Christ has been growing by leaps and bounds these last several years--and it encourages me to seek to love those around me too.

Yes, that means that though I have faced times of poverty and have no idea where the money to pay bills will come from I still am loved by Christ.  That means that though I have experienced brain cancer and the prospect of a drastically shortened life I am still loved by Christ.  Though I struggle in my relationships to be present and worthwhile I am still loved by Christ.  No matter where what choices I make in my life, I still have the love God gives to me.  And it is through the love I experience from Christ that I can love others.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

My Story... (Part 1)

There is something that I love listening to: people's stories about themselves.  My Grandpa Bob loves telling stories about things that happened in his past and I will sit there in rapture visualizing the various scenes that he shares.  We all have stories.  I have a story too!  I thought that this week I'd share a part of my story (if I were to share the whole thing, we'd be here for quite a while... 😁).

I grew up with a single mother and one brother.  We lived in a one bedroom house and my mom had to sleep in the living room to give us all the space we need.  We went to church--often for both services Sunday morning.  My brother and I did many things there.  We were acolytes--cute young kids who lit the candles during the service; we went to Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, and other events held at the church; we were at church during meetings that our mom went to; and for a while we just hung out when my mom did some janitorial work.  I was baptized there and sung in the choir for kids.  They held many concerts there too, which were a mix of fun and boring ones.  It was at this church that I learned about going to church as part of religion.  Something that we do without thinking much about what it means in our lives. 

I had made surface relationships with people throughout the church but never learned that what we learned should really be applied to our personal lives.  I knew God, but nothing about the Trinity.  There was no real exploration of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as the persons of God.  I learned here how to best seem like I was a "good boy."  It seemed that everyone thought that I was a good boy and treated me that way.  I seemed to like that best.  I could "know" people without really knowing them.

This was something that I learned to lean on as I grew up: I knew how to act like a good person but then could do whatever I wanted to on my own.  I wasn't a bad person, but I definitely made some bad choices that ended up hitting me later in life.  I'd lost my virginity and became addicted to pornography by the time I ended my freshman year at high school.  I'd given up my religion and spent time studying Wicca through the beginning of my sophomore year.

Things changed for me in later high school as well: I met Jesus Christ and gave my life to him during my sophomore year.  I'd been dumped by a girlfriend because she said she was looking for a Christian to be with and that made me question what it meant to someone to give up a great relationship (humble of me, right?) because of their beliefs in Christ.  That led me to some of my friends and their youth group.  Ultimately that led me to confess my belief in the fact that I was a sinner and needed the grace that Jesus provides to us through his crucifixion and the everlasting life provided through his resurrection.

My life opened up for me at this point.  I had taken all the mess and uncomfortableness my life had become filled with at this point and gave it over to Jesus.  I no longer needed to worry about being a "good boy" on the outside.  I no longer needed to worry about the consequences of my actions.  I had Jesus' forgiveness on my side.  I had a new view on my life and what it could possibly become.  I had started to find out more about the Trinity and what that might mean to me.  I had received relief and help in my life.  I knew that I had a God on my side that could and would help me to grow and change.  It felt supremely freeing to me.  I had begun to grow.

However, what I'd learned earlier in my life about looking like a "good boy" would still persist and come to make things look good in my life while I was still secretly dying too.  But more on that next time!  What I'd received here was a realization that there is a God in the world who loves us so much that he sacrificed his own life for us.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Difficult Endings: Death. How do I follow God through this?

My Grandma and Grandpa, years ago... :-)
Do you have anyone close to you?  Do you have anyone close to you that is also close to leaving this world?  Dying?  I do.  My grandmother.  Mom's mom.  Grandma.  She has been struggling with cancer for the last several years but has now reached the point where medicine cannot help her anymore.

I visited her yesterday and shared some very precious time with her.  She had been told a few days before by her oncologist that there was nothing left.  That news was so crushing to her.  Crushing for me too.  My Grandma is only a little while from the eternal.  I have been having a hard time normalizing that in my mind.

This woman is almost like a mother to me in my realm of people that I care about.  She's been there when times had been tough for me.  She's been a cheerleader for my best the whole way through.  She constantly asks me questions about what I am doing and what I am planning on doing.  Questions about how I think about this news story or that person in government.  Questions about my favorite sports teams.  She has promised me that if I ever needed physical help or finances that she and Grandpa would be there for me.  I have been able to trust her to be a safe person to listen to me.  And this wonderful woman is leaving now...

I have been thinking about my own needs coming up, and the needs of my family at home and my larger family.  I have been thinking about my Grandpa and how he might react.  The entire time I have been mulling over the future in my mind I have also been praying.  My wife has been awesome too because she knows how important Grandma is to me and she has blessed me.  But I have relied upon the strength that God gives me to make it through.  Heavily.  I cannot point to a scripture and say that "this Bible passage" helps me.  I do think about what I read in II Corinthians 4:16 which says, "So we do not give up.  Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day." (NCV)  Paul writes about how all of us wear down over time.  Although I don't like that fact, I can trust it's true.  But our minds are made new by Christ's graceful gift to us.

So what have I been doing?  Something of everything to be honest.  I feel the desire to hide, to share, to pray, to cry, to shout in anger, to expect the worst, and to tremblingly hope.  She is still here and she still is my Grandma.  All I can do otherwise is trust and have faith that God knows what He is doing and will bring her home before too long.  Please pray for her and for those around her.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Sensational Easter Sunday!

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!

Wow!  I love Easter Sunday!  Especially this last service that we had at my church.  The pastors had worked really hard in preparing us these last several days.  It started with a very experiential Good Friday service where we looked at and felt several parts of communion and Jesus's "last days."  We left that night with no "promise" of an awesome Sunday.  As far as we were left, Jesus was dead.  Gone.  Buried.  Ended.  I was able to leave that service feeling a little bit of what the disciples felt: a loss of a great teacher, mentor,
and friend.  I was able to think of what that must have been like for them, which is not something I had been able to really accomplish before.

Then we came in on Sunday morning and that service picked up where the Good Friday service ended.  With a dead Jesus.  But we continued the story through how those nearest to Jesus were able to pick up hope person by person.  It was absolutely amazing to notice how Jesus went and visited with people personally and talked with them until they realized that Jesus was really
alive and was talking to them.  Not a big event, but lots of little ones that individually would have been absolutely spectacular!

That hit me right where I tend to hide.  When I hide, I do my best to isolate myself, put up a shield of "no one passes," and wait until I come out and hope everything has gone away.  I have been wrestling mightily with that character defect for a long time.  I have to intentionally release myself from that so that I can function as a more healthy individual.  So when I thought about the fact that Jesus came for all of us,  I realized I was adding the fact that he came for
me personally and individually as well.  Same thing for you too!

So, the next time that I think that I can hide from other people and God I have something to connect with and think about. I was not created to be alone.  Jesus died so that I wouldn't be alone.  He gives me grace so that myself wouldn't be alone.  He gives me his Love so that others wouldn't be alone either.  What a sensational Sunday!

14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert,[b] the Son of Man must also be lifted up. 15 So that everyone who believes can have eternal life in him.
16 “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. 17 God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him. 18 People who believe in God’s Son are not judged guilty. Those who do not believe have already been judged guilty, because they have not believed in God’s one and only Son. (John 3:14-18 NCV)
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All power in heaven and on earth is given to me. 19 So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach them to obey everything that I have taught you, and I will be with you always, even until the end of this age. (Matthew 28:18-20 NCV)
 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In God’s great mercy he has caused us to be born again into a living hope, because Jesus Christ rose from the dead.  (1 Peter 1:3)