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.

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Blessings v. Lessons; Existing v. Living

Blessings v. Lessons; Existing v. Living

Monday, April 9, 2108 – 00:58

Heavenly Father, Creator of all things, including me. Thank You for this day, full of opportunities for both blessings and lessons. It would be nice if the education didn’t have to be painful or disappointing – but perhaps that’s all in the attitude I choose to have towards it.

I know I’ve been down for a while now on attempting to make progress because I’m not liking Your discipline.pexels-photo.jpg
But actually, I was recently reading (in Mindset) that it’s the non-successes in life, not the godsends, that provide the real chances to grow. Of course, that would be true only when something was different on the next attempt. After all, repeating the exact same actions and expecting different results is pointless, right?

In recovery-land, we call that insanity, and we addicts/obsessives-compulsives are all very good at it. Yet, that’s where I am right now.

Psalm 39 GW
    “Teach me, O Lord, about the end of my life.
    Teach me about the number of days I have left
        so that I may know how temporary my life is.

pexels-photo-301926.jpegIf contrary experiences all have one thing in common, it’s that they are the events that make life un-boring. We appreciate the good stuff more when we don’t want to avoid all the less-good. We love the sunshine more because of the rain. The joy of daylight more because of our inherent fear of the dark.

It’s kind of like seeing the negatives positively as an unexpected but very welcome part of living – as the surprises. That lets us view them as (almost) pleasant things (because we recognize what they represent: a chance to really build character.)

Romans 5 GW
…We know that suffering creates endurance, endurance creates character, and character creates confidence. 

Otherwise, we’re just checked out. We’re just existing, killing off time until the classroom bell rings.Screenshot 2018-04-09 02.41.35.png

That’s what I’m doing. (I’m just not doing.) I know I’m spending way too much time playing King’s Road (a video game) on Facebook. It’s just virtual success that’s satisfying me.🙄

God, motivate me to take a chance again on Your purpose. You have promised that Your plan for me is to give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11), but I’ve been taking it easy.

img_0161I know we need some rest and recreation to be healthy, but I can so easily get too focused on play in place of work. I have done so more often than not throughout my life.

Grant me not just courage, but excitement in living again.

In Christ’s life-saving, life-changing, life-giving, life-fulfilling name, AMEN

Peace Is An End

Peace Is An End

Friday, April 6, 2018 – 01:13

pexels-photo-269583.jpegHeavenly Father, Thank You for this day. Thank You for life itself, so much better than not-life. I may have said this before, but I know there will be an after-life – no doubt about it!

The real question is, “What will I think and feel in the after-life?” (Or ‘of ‘ – what will I think of it? I’m hoping I will never stop enjoying it. Unlike life. Although, I don’t really mean that, because again, life is so much better than not-life. I’m pretty sure there was nothing at all to like about not-life. Then again, sometimes, when I need to zone out… those are the times when nothing is better than something.)

😶 🙄

Father, Thank You for change.

IMG_3189Grudgingly.

It’s not always easy to thank you for change. Does anyone like it? (Well, yes – when things are bad!) But I think what we humans all seek are good times that never end.

Maybe that’s what heaven is like. The best of times. Only. Unending.

I think what this post is about is: reaching a point (aka aging) where there are almost as many moments as not when I’m ready to have that answer. I want to know “the grand secret.”

I’m just not 100% sure there’s going to be anything to like. (Oi, here we go again – another James 1:8 moment!)question mark

Psalm 38 GW
15 But I wait with hope for you, O Lord.
You will answer, O Lord, my God.

21 Do not abandon me, O Lord.
O my God, do not be so distant from me.
22 Come quickly to help me, O Lord, my savior.

The funny thing about this desire to look up the answer to the biggest question on the test – combined with finally having to have some patience – is that I experience peace.

Maybe this is the peace that surpasses.

img_3028Take for example when I had days lying in a hospital bed after my kidneys failed or when I was recovering from surgeries. There was seriously nothing else to do but think – to be still – and know that someday – maybe soon – I was going to get the Truth.

And I am ok with that. I can look forward to it. I’m ready.

Philippians 4:11-12 ESV
…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. …In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret…

You know the saying about how the only thing that never changes is change itself?

Not true! Someday the days of our lives will stop changing. Peace is being ready for its unexpected arrival.

Peace is the end.

serenity prayer coinGod, today I pray that this quiet assurance and worry-lessness will last throughout the remainder of my time here on earth. (Of course, it won’t – I’ll get worked up over some or other minor inconvenience…) In which case, I ask You to remind me in whatever way necessary of what You have revealed to me as I write this.

“Grant me the serenity… the courage… and the wisdom…”

In Jesus’ reassuring name, AMEN