Blessings and Lessons

Hello!

I suppose I should say “Welcome Back!”

Or you should say that to me?

August of 2018 was my last post to Sharing God’s Story. Because I’ve been dealing with mental/emotional/spiritual stuff  – kicked off by that hernia-repair catastrophe in November 2017.

It’s taken a while, but I think I’m getting back on track. And so, I had an idea about what I could do.

Kinda start over.

Well, start a new blog, for instance. A blog about taking 11 years of journals and shaping the Blessings and Lessons they contain into something that you, dear reader, might be interested in and could actually benefit from.

I say I’ve been in “recovery” from a lot of hurts, habits, and hangups, and I wrote daily about the wonderful things I was learning. Another way you could describe it is ‘The blessings and lessons of discovering the real me and the purpose I have here.’

So I intend to write a book containing all the gems of wisdom documented in those 18 diaries, and I’m going to blog about the whole process! (A book and a blog about writing the book!)

This is my commitment to you. And I hope you will feel free to hold me accountable to this goal.

Now that I’ve started, I feel great anticipation in moving on to the next step!

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A Life on Faith Support

A Life on Faith Support

Dear Reader,

pexels-photo-695963.jpegIf you’ve been following, you’ll have read about my disastrous hernia repair this past November. Today, six months later, I think I’ve finally reached an understanding about why it’s been so life-threatening.

You see, since that incident, my Faith has been on Life Support.

It’s a combination of things that’s left me like this.

Obviously, there was the excruciating physical pain I experienced, and, now, fear of risking that agony again, even (and especially) by undergoing the elective, “normal life-restoring” kidney transplant.Image result for bible verses god's big picture

Then there’s the absolute irony of “sailing” – so to speak – through several serious surgeries (i.e. open heart, having part of my colon removed) – only to be sunk by a routine, out-patient operation.

small crossMostly, though, it’s been emotional and spiritual stuff.

I’ve had a lot of doubt and anger at God for letting it happen to me, for putting me through it. I’ve lost my trust in Him. Doesn’t He promise not to harm me?

And I’ve been fretting over our financial future. For the past four years, I’ve been on disability. I’ve done some part-time, sit-down rideshare driving, but, otherwise, I haven’t had to work, to labor.
That would change a year after successful transplant when benefits would end.

And what about His plans to prosper? Three years of blogging for a mere two hundred followers? That’s not the fruitful ministry I envisioned for Sharing God’s Story.

I think I’ve found the answer in that last sentence – and it’s something that’s tripped me up many times before.IMG_4207

My Life is supposed to be on Faith Support.

See the source image

Father God,
I’ve been crying out about where You went, where You’ve been. But I took myself off Faith Support.

I’ve wanted to know how You will work this for my good – what are Your plans to prosper and not to harm me? 

But that’s not how You work. My plans and Yours don’t always agree. Neither does Your timing. And which always ends up perfect?

I forgot the lessons You’ve brought me through these past ten years, and the absolute trust I had found at a few precious milestone moments along this crazy journey.

That is the kind of faith I need again: trust instead of fear, in spite of fear.

Help me to let go:

  • of fear,
  • of expectations on how You will work all things,
  • of my plans for how You should work things,
  • of life itself, (O yes, I do know how to do this)
  • of the need to be the one to plan it all out
    (that’s Your department)

Mine is to simply take one step – the next right step, by Your guidance – at a time.
Please shine Your light extra-brightly on what that is for today.
Like You always have.
Help me to see it, to be still, and to look and listen.

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.