What A Tic Tac Taught Me

See the source imageRemember Tic Tacs? Introduced in 1969 and still sold today, the mint is a favorite.

I remember as a kid consuming whole packs of them within a short time. (Nana and Grandpa were shocked.)

Recently, after hearing somewhere that peppermint has a beneficial effect on digestive issues, I reacquainted myself with these “pills,” and now keep them available in the car, at my bedside, and in my dialysis bag.

(Point being, I’ve held a lot of Tic Tac packs in my hands.)

I had never seen an imperfect Tic Tac until I found this:
IMG_0102    IMG_0103   IMG_0034(1)  IMG_0033(1)

(Yes, I saved it.) I was sitting in my dialysis chair when I came across the broken tablet, so I had plenty of time to think upon it.

You probably won’t be surprised that I thought of the parable of the lost sheep – the one and the ninety-nine.

The world’s way is to leave the one. It’s not practical or cost-effective to delay or drop everything for the lost or faulty, especially in today’s throw-away culture.

We’ve all been among the ninety-nine, not wanting to wait to get to wherever we’re going. We could not care less.

Until we are that one. (Yes, I believe every one of us has been there.) And when we’re saved or have consideration given to us, I hope we all will never hold that selfish, compassionless attitude again.

“Cheap” Grace?

“Cheap” Grace?

small crossHave you ever heard the phrase “Cheap Grace?”

It’s meant to describe a sinner’s attitude toward God’s forgiveness when that sinner continues to sin – when that sinner chooses to continue to sin and knows he/she is doing so. Recently, I had a revelation about “cheap Grace.”

There’s no such thing.

First, Grace is most definitely not and can never be cheap. This is simply because of the price Christ paid for it. He gave everything he had – and more – in order to give Grace to me.

Second, that price has already been paid. And this is the important thing – the revelation: nothing I ever do or don’t do can ever change that. Whether I know I’m sinning or not doesn’t matter. Grace remains paid for and given.

IMG_3346Third, perfection on my part is not possible, and won’t be until Jesus “returns or calls me home.” IOW, I’m going to fall again and again in this life, sooner or later. The important thing is whether or not I get back up and try again, knowing that He died for me and that I can stand in His strength.

Fourth, regarding trying again, I will never stop reaching out to grasp the hand being held out to me. I simply can’t. Another way to look at this is in the idea that I can never “unknow” Grace. It’s like seeing something. I can never unsee it.

pexels-photo-267559.jpegSure, I can doubt. My faith can waver. But there will always be that thread connecting me to Him. I won’t ever be free of it. (This is actually a comforting thought.)

Fifth, cheap Grace requires that I think something I do or don’t do effects my condition in God’s eyes. This is the same thing as saying that I can earn or deserve it.

I know I can never earn, will never deserve, nor ever afford Grace. It is a gift. It’s freely offered, no strings attached.

And it’s that knowledge that empowers me to keep working on changing my heart and my behaviors.IMG_3218

How I Cannot Not Believe – A Testimony

Thursday, April 12, 2018 – 01:41

Dear younger me
Where do I start
If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far
Then you could be
One step ahead
Of all the painful memories still running thru my head
I wonder how much different things would be
Dear younger me,
– Dear Younger Me, Mercy Me (verse 1)

Where do I start?

Well, first I have to recommend the song – it’s one of those ‘you wish you wrote.’ It’s that good.

OK. That’s a beginning. Younger Me, in this case, was ten years ago this coming Saturday, April 14.

Maybe somehow it was today’s me that got through to that man. But this testimony is not so much about then as it is now. Because now I cannot not believe.

So, you’ll have to pardon me for asking your time to read some of the older posts here on Sharing God’s Story – there are a few that are testimonies. But I’ll summarize with the milestones.

The old me was dealing with OPIA (Obsession, Procrastination, Isolation, Avoidance) through non-stop alcohol abuse, sexual brokenness, and video gaming. Completely wasting a life. (BTW, opia is a real word – plural of opium. Which fits.)

Then rock bottom, part 1 happened. I was shocked into awareness of what I was doing to myself.

Dear younger me
I cannot decide
Do I give some speech about how to get the most out of your life
Or do I go deep
And try to change
The choices that you’ll make cuz they’re choices that made me
Even though I love this crazy life
Sometimes I wish it was a smoother ride
Dear younger me,
– (verse 2)

I entered recovery. Actually, I think a better description is, “My Journey of Spiritual Formation.” I had grown up in a somewhat Christian home, and the verse that foretold is:

Proverbs 22:6
Start children off on the way they should go, and even
when they are old they will not turn from it.
(In my adolescence I’d become a prodigal.)

Let’s just say I remembered my Father and began the long walk home. Only a few months later, failing badly and in a state of utter hopelessness, I attempted suicide (rock bottom, part 2) – and was delivered by Jesus Christ. The worst and best day of my life.

Dear Reader, I can only hope the magnitude of both the addiction and salvation is apparent to you. The latter was The Mountain-Top Experience all the faithful yearn for. And since then there have been more miracles; although they were more frequent in the first few years. (Note that.)

Again I need to condense the story. I returned to church. I journaled and read the Bible. I volunteered with worship teams – I led a worship team. I gave my testimony several times at several different 12-step programs. I became a Stephen Minister and led a men’s online small group. I started this blog. I hoped(?) to eventually earn my living in the church. I went “all in” for the kingdom.

Rock bottom, part 3 was not of my doing – certainly not by choice!

My health failed in the summer of 2014. What has followed is kidney dialysis (from then on, 3.5+hrs/3x/week), open heart surgery, diverticulitis and an abscess requiring removal of part of my colon. And more.

(By my count there were seven hospitalizations of ten-plus days, including in the July’s and August’s of ’14, ’15, and ’16. You understand: some serious, major operations, but thankfully, no complications with any of the complicated physical recoveries. (Note that, too.)

That brings us to “today,” starting with November 2017. Looking forward to a kidney transplant, possibly within the next year or so, I needed to get a hernia repaired.

This is a “routine” procedure usually done on an outpatient basis. My 92-year-old father-in-law had one at the same time and went home the next day (only because of his age). Because I’ve been on blood-thinners since the heart surgery, I expected to be in over a weekend.

Instead, it was ten days, seven of them in the ICU due to extensive bleeding in my abdomen. The blood-thinners had been restarted too soon, too aggressively. I was in agony, my belly swelled up and hard like a basketball. (To give you some idea of the scale, I had control of dispensation of fentanyl; every six minutes I could dose myself more.)

There’s nowhere for blood to go in there, and the only viable treatment was time, letting the body naturally re-absorb the fluid.

Remember those things I noted? Fewer mountain-tops in recent years. Major operations with no complications. And the one routine procedure? A disaster.

For me, physically and spiritually.

Where was God? Why had He abandoned me? Was I being punished for something? Why was this winter unending? Why did it take three years for my blog to reach 200 followers when others hit the thousand mark in just six months? What was my true purpose? Why should I believe?

Since November, I’ve been down. Depressed. Questioning. I took myself off the transplant list. I never want to see the inside of a hospital again. And old habits have crept back into my life, such as video gaming for hours at a time and dwelling on lustful temptations.

But I continued to serve and journal and pray and read the Good Book, seeking answers. I think I have them now.

If I knew then what I know now
Condemnation would’ve had no power
My joy my pain would’ve never been my worth
If I knew then what I know now
Would’ve not been hard to figure out
What I would’ve changed if I had heard

Dear younger me
It’s not your fault
You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross
Dear younger me
– (bridge and verse 3)

Our God tests our faith. (Think Abraham and Isaac.)

For me, I’ve contemplated the following as questions on my test.

  1. Fear of physical pain – obviously the biggest one. I never ever want to go through such excruciating torment again. I still haven’t re-activated myself on the transplant list, even though I know that it is a more beneficial option than long-term dialysis. Can I submit to the chance of such suffering happening again?
  2. Trust in God, in His love for me – all those other, much more risk-filled procedures went fine or met expectations for their physical recovery. Why me? Why now? Does God punish? (Think Job.)
  3. The weather – yes, it has an effect on me. This winter has been long and cold, keeping me inside, not willing to go out and serve as much as I had been. Where is Spring?
  4. My Purpose and the results – how would I ever maintain a ministry? Where’s the practical, earthly success?
  5. Fear and worry about the future – what happens to me after transplant, when I’m no longer on SSDI (disability). I haven’t worked since 2014. But this is not just about finances. Having found my bliss, I dread the thought of having to go back to work that I have no passion for.
  6. Fewer mountain-tops – why is faith so hard?
  7. My natural tendency toward indolence – I have to include this as my contribution (or lack thereof). But why does faith take such hard work? Why must it require such active, ongoing effort?
  8. Expectations – Is it my plan vs God’s plan? Must I be realistic about accepting the miraculous, not expecting the miraculous?
  9. Testing our trust – does God test us?
  10. If I’m so special and unique and a part of God’s story, where’s the success? Is it just a question of scope, of reaching just the one and not the ninety-nine? Of possibly never knowing that I reached anyone?

I’ve always been a “James 1:8” kind of guy. I constantly swing between doubt and surety. Faith is not logical. But Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Psalm 39 GW
:7 And now, Lord, what am I waiting for? My hope is in you!
:8 Rescue me from all my rebellious acts…
:10 Remove the sickness You laid upon me. My life is over because You struck me with Your hand.
:11 With stern warnings You discipline people for their crimes.
:12 Listen to my prayer, O Lord. Open your ear to my cry for help. Do not be deaf to my tears…

– (song tag)
You are holy
You are righteous
You are one of the redeemed
Set apart a brand new heart
You are free indeed

Every mountain every valley
Thru each heartache you will see
Every moment brings you closer
To who you were meant to be
Dear younger me, dear younger me

This is how I cannot not believe.

04:11 – I’ll have to (hopefully) add pictures and links later. It’s time to go to dialysis.