Friday, August 17, 2018

Fade to White....

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

This means we’re supposed to control our tongues and make sure that our words are helpful, not hurtful. But I don’t always remember to do that.

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9)

Because I did not take every thought captive, I had allowed myself to be easily provoked and responded inappropriately at times.

Here is something to think about: When in the middle of a situation, where we are being provoked, we can either react, or we can respond. Say those two words out loud, and you will notice that it is difficult to say the word “react”, without sounding angry or aggressive. It is an aggressive sounding word. “Respond” sounds much calmer. When we “react” to something, or someone, it is usually immediate and without much thought, and it becomes easy to allow ourselves to be provoked into an angry reaction.

However, if we take a step back, take a deep breath or two, or seven, we give ourselves some time to think about how to properly “respond” to the situation so that our words and actions are helpful and not damaging. I tend to forget that sometimes. Because of this, I had to admit to something I had ignored for quite some time…..

I have anger issues. I denied that reality for a great many years. Then I read “Take Your Life Back”, by Steve Arterburn, and some of what he wrote there spoke directly at me and what I was going through. It was precisely what I needed at that point in time. It was at that time when I realized I had, what Steve referred to as, “Floating Anger”. I had read, prayed and adhered to those verses above and honestly thought I had it all under control. Especially after dealing with certain things I had previously gone through. But now, over the past few years, I had been allowing myself to be “quickly provoked”. Apparently, I had allowed someone to get close enough inside to trip those triggers and allow suppressed issues to come to the surface. Things I had buried so deep that even I had forgotten they were there.

I finally realized that I was only expressing those issues onto those closest to me, the people I love the most, and I knew I had to do something about it. I had to go all the way back to where it started so I could deal with the source of the anger and eliminate it once and for all. But I hit a roadblock. So, as suggested in Steve’s book, I sought professional help. That wasn’t easy to do.

During my sessions and treatments with my counselor, I was asked about things I still remember about my childhood and to try to recall as far back as I can.

The earliest thing I can remember is standing in front of my mother in our living room. It was late at night in our little house in Oildale. Mom had called the three of us kids out of our bedrooms, and into the living room. There she sat on the old blue vinyl couch, with my little sister to her right, and my older brother to her left. Mom in her robe and the three of us in our pajamas. She told us that dad had left and was not coming back. The year was 1968. I was six years old. Mom was crying as she shared this news. Little sister cried (probably because mom was crying), and my older brother cried too. Mom hugged both of them on either side of her. And there I stood. Right in front of them. Alone. I did not cry. I just stood there. Numb. I felt absolutely nothing. And that is all I can remember. I have no memory of my life before that moment, and most things following that are a blur. A couple of years later, a counselor told my mom that I was holding something inside, and that I apparently refused to deal with it. Me? I have no idea. The anger, the hurt, the feelings of abandonment, took years to surface. (Picture the Hulk, waiting for the trigger to set him off).

I have been told, although I do not personally remember the details, that dad was rather abusive toward us. When my brother and I got into trouble, dad would take us to our room (my brother and I shared a room in our small house in Oildale), whip off his belt, bare our butts and whip the tar out of us. Mom would pace the hall outside of our room and pray for us while she listened to the beatings and the screaming. If she did speak up or try to protect/defend/help us, he took it out on her too. (One thing I do remember, is the “flap-flap-flap” sound of that belt being whipped out for our beatings. To this day, when I remove my own belt, I do it slow and smooth).

Even though I have blocked this out and do not remember those events (mom said she prays constantly that we never do), I do know it to be true. The reason? When my son was younger and would mess up and deserve to be punished, in an angry rage I would go after him. At that moment, I would experience a “flash” of memory, sort of a micro-second “flashback”. What I saw was my dad doing to me what I was about to do to my son. It scared me so bad that it made me stop, yell at him to go to his room and stay there. This accomplished two things: 1) He could sit in his room and think about what he had done and what was coming to him, and 2) I could go outside and cool off.

When I finally did go to his room, he and I would talk about what he had done and why he is going to get a swat, or two. And, following the example of my step-dad, I always used my hand, to make sure I did not hurt him too much. Then, after the swats, I would hug him, pray with him, tell him I loved him and that he could come out of his room once he settled down.

I could not explain those flashbacks, where they came from or what they were about. All I knew at the time was that they scared me and I did not want my son to experience what I saw.

Another reason that I know those things to be true are that my older brother remembers it all. He dealt with it also, but in other ways. My aunt, mom’s younger sister, was also witness to a lot of it. I had to ask and press them to tell me what happened back then, because I needed to know. I needed to know so I could overcome those demons and escape the holds they had on me. (How can you escape from something you cannot see or understand? I have heard it said that you cannot think outside the box until you know what is inside the box.) I needed to know so I could heal and move on. I was told mostly generalizations, no details. I guess it is still too painful to talk about certain things. But I had heard mention over the years of “throwing a two year old into a wall”, and “kicking his son in the rear with cowboy boots”.

Other things transpired throughout my life which created a wider chasm between my father and me. I felt betrayed, abandoned, small, insignificant, and not very important. I had no value to him. I loved him so much it hurt. And he left me. My hero, my protector, my best friend, my everything - was gone in an instant. And he never even said goodbye. I meant nothing to him. I understand that he left mom for another woman. He left our family for another family. But the way I saw it, the way I felt – was that he… left….. ME !

I hadn’t realized it before, but my self-esteem was pretty low during those early years, even before dad left. My brother, my dad and I were involved in Indian Guides. It was a lot of fun and we all had Indian names. Dad was Black Hawk, my brother was Broken Arrow, and me? I was “Little Chicken”. We had other nicknames aside from Indian Guides too. My brother was called Dynamite, and I was called “Termite”. Yeah, by the time dad left, I was feeling really important! (heavy on the sarcasm there).

Life went on. He provided other disappointments over time, so much so that at the age of 13 I finally decided to give my step-dad a chance. That turned out to be a good thing. Carl was the one who taught me to live off the land, think things through so I could make good, well informed decisions. He taught me how to be a man. The kind of man my father refused to be. Carl, my real dad, is the best thing that has ever happened to our family.

My father died in November of 1997 and I still did not shed a tear for him. I felt nothing when I heard the news. If anything, I was angry at him for leaving me yet again. I wanted another chance with him, I wanted to talk to him, I had a lot of questions for him, and I was denied that opportunity. I wasn’t even told of him being nearby just a few months before his death. He visited my brother, and if I had known, I would have driven the hour and a half just to see him, if only just for a moment. And again, all those feelings of worthlessness came back. I never mattered to him at all. I was never “enough”.

The Bible says that the sins of the father can be passed down on his children for up to four generations. My brother seems to be okay. I however, have inherited dad’s anger issues. I found myself lashing in out in fits of rage at the slightest provocation. When treated as though I do not matter, that I am not enough, or not good enough, when I am looked down upon, or spoken to in a derogatory manner, I became angry and had often times lost my temper. And I took it out on those dear to me that did not deserve it. But none of that made any sense to me. After all, I was the good kid, right? The nice, quiet, timid guy at school that people wouldn’t take seriously because I would not exert myself. I guess, like a lot of people, I just wanted to feel like I mattered to someone. I did not need to matter to everyone, or to be important to everyone, I do not need to be in the spotlight or have any attention, but it would be nice to feel like I am a priority, someone of value, a person of some importance – to just one person. I have never felt that. Ever. And when the one person closest to me goes out their way (it seems) to make me feel insignificant – I would lose it and blow up. Sometimes I think that I was not actually angry, but just hurting so bad that the little boy inside me was screaming for attention, for someone to notice me and just love me. I have feelings. I have thoughts and ideas. But no one seemed to care. No one listened. I did not matter.

So, there I was. Trying to get to the root of this problem so that I do not continue the cycle of my father and grow past him and make sure that I become nothing at all like him. I have been told that I walk like him, talk like him, look like him and have similar mannerisms as he did. There is not much I can do about that. I can however, refuse to behave like him. I can refuse to be my father. The sins of my father, regardless of how many generations it is being passed down, ends with me. With ME.

And all that time, I had forgotten the one most important detail of my life:
I am a child of the King. I am a son of the Almighty God and I strive to be more like His Son, instead of Russell’s son.

I am however, human. I make mistakes and I sin. I wanted to conquer this sin and move forward and provide my wife and my family with a safe provider and protector and servant leader in my household. I want to be my wife’s “safe place”. I want her to be able to trust me.

The Bible teaches us that in order to have peace, we need to forgive and let go. I came to realize that no matter what happens – I needed to forgive him. Since he died in 1997, I can no longer talk to him about this, but I can talk to my Heavenly Father, and turn it all over to Him. Some say that dad was a Christian and that he is in heaven now. I honestly don’t know. I will find out when I get there.

From one of my daily devotionals, I read that :

Forgiveness does not mean pardoning the offender. It doesn't mean saying, it's okay...because, really, it's NOT okay. Forgiveness is simply putting it all on the willing shoulders of the only One who can possibly bear it, and leaving it there. (And if you're like me, you'll need to do that approximately 2,592 times a month.) It goes something like this for me: "God, I can't even sort out my part and their part in this whole horrible mess, but I'm just going to give it to You. YOU sort it. You deal with them. You heal me. I can't." And when you do that - when you stop trying to sort the blame and the hurt and the cruelty and how much hurt they must have gone through to treat you the way they did - oh, friends. It's like relief. You mean I don't have to figure it all out and demand a pound of flesh for every ounce of pain? No, really, you can't. The only way that lets you free of the ugly contagion of the kind of forgiveness that comes through the mercy of the Savior. You don't have to muscle through to a feeling of gentle kindness towards someone who has hurt you beyond words. I always thought THAT was forgiveness. All you have to do is dump it all, daily, hourly, every 10 seconds...on Jesus. He who bore the cross is utterly gentle with your scars...and utterly able to carry the unbearable weight of your past.
John 8
31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

God’s timing is pretty awesome, isn’t it? Another one of my daily devotionals said this:
If you're going to face the dark secret, you need someone to go with you there who will not condemn you, and that would be Jesus. He's known your secret all along. He died to pay for all that sin. He died to forgive it. You need someone who is also strong enough to carry that secret, to heal its wounds, to restore you. Isaiah 53 says of Jesus, "He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him." That actually happened on Jesus' cross where every sin and every secret of your life was dealt with and paid for.

The problem is that I already knew all of this. But as our pastor explained, “Don’t just hear this with your ears, hear it with your heart!” As James 1:20 tells us, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Ouch.

So, I finally agreed to see a Christian counselor to try to work on my anger issues. To try to get to the root of it all, find out where it came from, why it was still there, and how to heal and move beyond it. My therapist suggested a form of psychotherapy called EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. I was reluctant at first but decided to give it a try. There was no “in your face” eye treatment, but rather a different form of the treatment where the therapist helps me relax and remember. I read that EMDR shows promise as an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The article said that PTSD, aside from veterans who have been in combat, that it affects about 8 percent of civilians. PTSD is a debilitating illness that can result when a person lives through a traumatic event such as war, rape, physical abuse, serious accidents, and natural disasters. EMDR uses a patient’s own rapid, rhythmic eye movements to dampen the power of emotionally charged memories of past traumatic events. So, was I dealing with a form of PTSD? I really do not know. I do know that I was physically abused as a child and survived being shot in the face when I was 20. So….maybe. Either way, I thought that the EMDR procedure was worth a try.

I was asked to close my eyes and go back to the earliest thing I can remember, which was the scene at the couch, and was asked to recall what I saw and felt. This process occurred several times.
Following my first EMDR session, I felt numb. Just like that six year old little boy missing his dad. I thought I would get better over time, but I had been numb every day since then. Someone tried, it seems, to test me a few times and provoke me to anger, but I refused. I took every though captive to Christ and refused to allow the enemy to have a hold on me, my emotions, and my thoughts. When spoken to negatively, I changed the subject to something more pleasant, or I just walked away. Sometimes both. Although I was not angry, I had no joy either. I felt nothing. It took a lot of energy to just get through the day, every day. When I took a deep breathe, which almost sounds like a heavy sigh, I was asked, with contempt in their voice, “Why are you so mad?!?”. I could not get them to understand that I was not angry, I was just taking a breath. Sometimes I need a deep breath to collect my thoughts, and gain my composure. It does not mean that I am angry. It could mean that I am taking steps to not allow myself to become angry. (So don’t push it!).

My heart felt like it was dead. Actually, I could not feel anything in my heart. No anger, no love – no……. nothing. Just numb. I didn’t want to be numb. So, what did I want? I did not know.
Because stuff happens, it was a few weeks before my next session. I needed to get un-stuck from the slump I was in. So at my next appointment, I was eager to pick up where we had left off.

This time, when I would go back to that scene in the living room in front of the couch, things changed. I had asked God fervently to lead me and guide me and provide the healing I so desperately needed. And He showed up. I had been resisting Him and doing things my way for way too long. I am so thankful He never gave up on me.

You see, only God, through His love and grace and power, could truly set me free and bring peace, to me and those around me. Remember the story in Luke 19 where Jesus asked his disciples to get him a young colt that had never been ridden? Jesus rode that unbroken young donkey into Jerusalem while people were screaming, shouting and throwing their cloaks and palm branches in front of him. Total loud chaos! And that young colt kept its cool. As any horse person can tell you – that was not normal. That unbroken animal should have been freaking out and buck of its rider. But, it was being ridden, controlled, by the Master of Peace Himself. I needed Jesus to calm the wild and hurting animal inside of me, for me, for my children, for my wife, for the people I love, and for all of the people I've hurt. I cannot change the past (oh, how I wish I could), but I can take charge of my future.

So the treatments continued. Each time I went back to the scene in front of the couch, it became increasingly more difficult to see colors, which before, had been quite clear. I found myself in a place that seemed like the inside of a white cloud. I approached what I believed to be the Throne of Grace, the foot of the cross. I needed to talk to my dad, but I no longer have access to him. I asked God to talk to my dad for me. I asked God to forgive me for sinning against Him and my wife, my children and everyone else I had ever taken my anger out on, and to please tell my dad that I forgive him. I forgive him. That I love him. That even though I miss him, I no longer need him. I want him to know that I will always strive to be the man that God wants me to be in spite of the poor example he provided to me and my brother. I hope he is well and that if he is indeed in heaven, I will see him again one day. I asked God to give my dad a hug for me, if he is there with Him. I then turned it all over to God, and left all my anger, my anxieties, my hurt and all bitterness at the foot of the cross. As the song says, my chains are gone and I have been set free.

By the last time I was asked to go back that living room, I could not make out any details. Every image, everything I could once see clearly, was now a blurred image faded out like an old photo that had been overexposed. For the first time in a long time, I felt a huge release as I was able to sit up straight and take in a deep breath as I let it all go, and watched everything, with tears streaming down my cheeks, slowly fade to white. The images didn’t go dark, or “fade to black”. It all became lighter, brighter and faded to white.

I am no longer numb. I am no longer in a constant state of depression and a new joy has filled my spirit. I now fully understand what is meant in 2 Corinthians 5:17, where it says, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

Oh, there are still those bad days when it isn’t easy to feel the joy, but after spending some time with my Heavenly Father, He restores me. I do my best to meet with Him each and every morning, and to spend time talking with Him throughout the day.

The old is gone, and the new has come. I called out to God in my darkest hour, and through His grace and mercy and power, it all faded to white. It…..faded………..white.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
(Isaiah 1:18)

So, do I still get angry? Yes, sometimes. However, God’s Word tells us “In your anger, do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). It is not a sin to become angry. It is only sin when your anger controls you. My anger, when it happens, is less than it was and it does not control me.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:
Everyone should be quick to listen,
slow to speak and slow to become angry, because
human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
(James 1:19-20)

So I make a constant, conscious daily decision to take very thought captive, be slow to anger, and focus on being the man that God has called me to be.

Walk in Love.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Try Using Your "Sexy" Voice....

The other day, my fiance, Chris, and I were talking and found ourselves in a rather animated discussion. As we were talking, expressing our thoughts and opinions, her voice became louder and more excited. She was not angry or upset with me, but she was just rather passionate about the subjet matter. So I asked her to repeat what she had just said, but only this time, to use her “sexy” voice. (She has a really nice one!)
We soon discovered that it is nearly impossible to maintain a certain level of intensity in an argument when you are trying to sound sexy.

Being the social creatures that we are, communication is important. A healthy relationship requires an open exchange of ideas and thoughts. However, how the other person perceives what we are trying to say is most often based on how we say it, rather than what words we use.

So, the next time you find your voice rising and your temperature increasing while conversing with your spouse, try using your “sexy” voice. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the conversation cools down and takes a positive turn.

If nothing else, you’ll both enjoy a good laugh from the experience.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The "Official" Alpha Dude Joke Book

Well, I put it off as long as I could (my mother once told me I would never amount to anything because I procrastinate, so I told her, "You just wait!"), but I finally finished and published my first book.

That's it right over there ------------>
If you are looking for a collection of good, clean jokes that you can openly tell in church (or anyplace else), then you've come to the right place.

I like to make people laugh, or at least smile.
I don’t care if people are laughing with me or at me. As long as they are laughing, that means they are experiencing at least the slightest bit of joy, even if only for a moment.
I know it isn’t my job to make people happy, but I try to at least make them feel good while I have the chance.

One thing I’ve learned since I was asked to be the Alpha Dude, is that people like to laugh. They also like to share their own bits of humor with me as well.

I’ve tried my best to only include the funny ones here.

I wrote them down as best as I could remember, so if you see something you've heard before, only different, that's why.

You can see the book and the preview, and even order yourself a copy or two or three hundred or so, if you so desire.
Just click on the book cover over there on the sidebar to the right.

I’d also like to extend my appreciation to my big brother, Rick, who established the “Scott Trammell Project” at our church to insure that I don’t tell any joke more than once, and that the ones I do share are actually funny. If, for some reason, I do not adhere to this criteria, I get punched in the arm. Hard. Rick has enlisted several rather large and strong fellows to assist in this effort. I have learned a lot through this experience, and lucky for me, I learn quickly.

So go ahead, sit back and enjoy the ride. If you like what you see here, share the joy. If you don’t, then please don’t tell Rick, I’m not sure I could survive the beating.

“The joy of the Lord is my Strength”.

Blessings to you.

Alpha Dude

Friday, November 04, 2011

Finding Peace…..Alone with God

I apologize for this being so long. I can get a little preachy sometimes.

Okay, so I have noticed how people speak about other people in their lives that may have hurt them or caused them pain, both in and out of church, and most times it is pretty easy to tell if they have gotten over their hurts or not. You can tell by the way they speak about them or their current situation, and it also shows up in their tone of voice and their mannerisms whenever those particular subjects come up. For a while there, I was no different.

Yes, I do have a past. Yes, I have been hurt, very deeply. But it does not get me down and it does not control me. The enemy has no power over me and does not dictate my life and how I will react to certain things.

So how did I do it? How do I keep on doing it? Well, because you asked (and even if you didn’t) I will tell you.

I found a passage in the Bible that has come to mean so very much to me and is the focal point, or beginning , of how I tie so many other scriptures together to make sense of my life.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

This is how I explain how people can know God’s will for their lives. I am convinced that if you do these three things, then God’s Will, will become apparent in your life.

Now, I like the NIV, but it is important to look at other translations to get the full picture of what God is telling us here.

First, “Rejoice always”. Other translations say this as “be joyful” – always. This is because God never says anywhere in scripture that He wants us to be happy. In fact, all Bible references to the word “happy” tell us that happiness is a feeling. It is an emotion and it is fleeting, it is temporary, and it does not last. However, the Bible DOES tell us that we are to “know joy”. And you know very well that “joy comes from knowing the Lord”. Rejoice, be joyful, always. You see, joy is something you know, it is a decision you make, it becomes a state of mind, a condition of your heart. So, just “know”.

And about that word “joy” – a friend of mine described it this way: The word JOY is an acronym that means: Jesus, Others, and You. If you prioritize your life this way, then you will understand JOY. Remember, when asked about which commandment was the most important, Jesus answered “Love God”…first, then He said to “Love others”.
Also, Philippeans 2:3 says,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests
but each of you to the interests of the others.”

So, 1) Jesus, 2)Others, 3) You. That is JOY.

Pray continually. That one isn’t so easy, so I figured a way to do it. Like most people, I’m sure you pray first thing in the morning. So do I (most days). I ask God to help me live my life today in ways that are pleasing to Him. And I fail at it each and every day. But, when I finish praying in the morning, I do not say “amen”. This way, my entire day, everything I say and everything I do is a constant prayer to Him. There have been days when I am so ashamed that, “Oh man, I cannot believe that I just prayed THAT to God”. I don’t say “amen” until I am ready to go to sleep at night. Praying continually.

The hardest one though, is “give thanks in all circumstances”. Give thanks in everything, and for everything. No need to explain this one. You know for yourself how hard this can be. “Seriously God? I’m supposed to be THANKFUL for THAT?!?” Yeah. Everything.

So how do I keep from talking badly about those who may have wronged me? How do I keep from thinking bad thoughts about them? I pray for them. It isn’t easy to be angry with someone if you are praying for them. Go ahead. Try it and see for yourself. Also, I have some really good guys who hold me accountable, and they have my permission to do so. They are the kind of friends that I need and that I want in my life. I don’t need anyone to offer comfort and a pat on the back, I need strong Christian men to speak truth into my life when I need it, and to give me a Holy Spirit butt-kicking when I need it or deserve it.

Here’s another verse that helps me not speak ill of others:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen.”
(Ephesians 4:29)

I think it is important that we not misunderstand what this verse means by “according to their needs”. I strongly believe that we need faithful people in our lives that will speak truth to us, God’s Truth, when we need it. We need to trust that those people will tell us what we “need” to hear, not what we “want” to hear. There is often a huge difference. “….that it may benefit those who listen.” Think about it, if people only tell us what will makes us feel better about ourselves, what benefit is there? We have learned nothing, and we have not grown, and have no opportunity to grow. I want to grow (and not just because I am vertically challenged).

And one thing that was very difficult for me was to forgive.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.”
(Ephesians 4:32)

I had been beaten, punched, kicked, pushed around, bullied, spit in my face (seriously, that was just gross), had obscenities hurled at me, screaming and yelling at me. Good grief, all I tried to do was have a conversation, but I suppose you cannot disagree with some people without setting them off.
And I still had to forgive.

With all of the above, one scripture passage kept appearing in my daily devotionals.

“But mark this:
There will be terrible times in the last days.
People will be lovers of themselves,
lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,
disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control,
brutal, not lovers of the good,
treacherous, rash, conceited,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—
having a form of godliness* but denying its power.
Have nothing to do with such people. “
(2 Timothy 3: 1-5)

With that in mind, particular individuals are no longer in my life.

*Oh, and about verse 5, “having a form of godliness…”, Paul is talking about Christians here. These are people who attend church, claim to be followers of Christ, attend Bible Studies, and may be active in church. But their lives do not reflect what they say they believe, they are lukewarm Christians (see Revelation 3:15-17 to see what happens to lukewarm Christians), and they are only “good” while they are at church or surrounded by their “church friends” (and sometimes, not even then!). Remember, you may be able to fool the people around you, but you cannot fool God. He knows your heart.

I now sleep better at night, and people around me have said they have noticed that “dark cloud” is no longer hovering over me. All I ever wanted was peace.

A few years ago, some very dear friends became concerned and asked, “Why is the guy who was always smiling, no longer smiling?” Then recently, they came up to me, hugged me and yelled, “He’s back!” I hadn’t even noticed, but apparently others did. And they do.

I’ve basically been alone for quite some time now, and I don’t mind telling you – it sucks.
But, if I had my choice, compared to what I’ve been through, I would rather be alone.

You may have already figured out that I am pretty much an idiot and have terrible luck with women.
But God loves me anyway, and everything will heal over time. And believe me, I have learned my lesson about rebounding and rushing into a new relationship way too soon.

As Andy Stanley pointed out, the perfect woman for me is out there somewhere, and God knows who she is and He knows where she is. So the best thing for me to do is to get and stay as close to God as possible and He will make things happen according to His perfect timing, not mine.

So I spend my time serving Him and serving others in His name, and drawing as close to Him as I can. I hope His timing is soon, because all that nonsense is far behind me and I am ready to move on.

I am still alone. But I am at peace.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Story of my Life

So, yeah, it's like that.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

One Man's Perspective

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen.”
(Ephesians 4:29)

This isn’t an easy subject to talk about, and since I am personally going through some of this right now, I do need to be mindful of what I say and how I say it. However, I do plan to be straight forward and direct, so if you are offended or put off by anything mentioned here, well, that is probably a good thing.

One thing I think that most of us can agree with is that men are basically stupid. Don’t get upset. God made us that way from the very beginning. I know you gals won’t argue with me on that one.

It all started way back in the Garden when God declared that it is not good for man to be alone. Any woman who has gone away for any amount of time and entrusted a man to stay home and take care of her houseplants can attest to that. Think about it – God put a man in charge of the entire Garden of Eden! It could be one of the reasons why God said that isn’t really a good idea for man to be alone. (yes, I know it has more to do with the fact that all the animals had mates and man didn’t, but bear with me, okay?)

God knew all about us men from the very beginning. So God decided to make a helper suitable for the man.

So, God made the woman since it really isn’t good for us guys to be alone. But you need to understand how God did it. You know that Eve was created from one of Adam’s ribs, right? You knew that. But do you remember what God did before he took that rib from the man? You guessed it. He caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. Now, I challenge anyone to find anywhere in the rest of the Bible where it says that man ever woke up.

Throughout scripture you will find verses that say things “Arise O sleeper…” (even in Ephesians 5:14). Even Jesus quoted that saying from the Old Testament. I really think He was talking about us! Jesus had to ask His disciples if they could stay awake with him for even one hour! Wake up guys!

So maybe that is why God had to make a helper for the man. We need help. Your husband may be a highly educated man, with a great career and with high standing in the community, but we just are not designed to make it all on our own.

And as for not being to altogether bright, I heard that even Mrs. Einstein was known to say things like, “Albert, you’re such an idiot!

So here are some suggestions to help you two get along a little better. I know beyond any doubt that these things would have been a great help in my own life.

Okay guys, admit it, whenever there is a disagreement or an argument, who is at fault 90% of the time? Yep, that’s right. We are! Remember what it says in Ephesians 5, and 1 Peter 3? Have you done all you can to lift her up, make her holy, keep her washed clean through the Word? Can you present her to Christ as radiant, without stain or wrinkle, but holy and blameless? Yes, it says blameless. Blameless. The onus is on us. The men.

Did you love her as you love yourself? It doesn’t matter if she started it or if she is being totally unreasonable, you are to love her as Christ loves us.

Remember, the first part of the passage in Ephesians 5 tells us to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ

Then it says that the wife should submit to her husband. That is all it says to the woman. It is all that needs to be said. The woman gets it, she doesn’t need to hear any more.

The man however, needs a bit more direction and explanation, so the next several verses tell him what he specifically needs to do. Keep her holy and blameless, washed, clean, lift her up, present her to Christ as radiant, without stain or wrinkle or blemish. Love her as you love yourself!  (We have to be told!)

And ladies, are you loving your husband like the Bible tells you too? Remember, the last part of the last verse of Ephesians 5 is what ties it all together. “….and the wife must respect her husband”. It doesn’t say that the wife shall, which would make it a command, but it says must. You must respect him, even when you don’t feel like it. It is what makes all of his efforts worthwhile.

Please note that this scripture only tells the wife to do one thing – respect her husband (the submit thing is a part of that), but the rest of that passage is an instruction to the husband to behave in such a way as to give her good reason to respect him!

Do you see it yet? It is a team effort! You both have to do your part in order for it to work. But the main part of making it all work for the good of the team falls on the woman. I’m serious about this. But ladies, you need to know a few things before you start throwing dishes at me.

Ladies, we love you. We really do, but please, talk to us. One of the main reasons for marital problems, that I read, is a lack of communication. We cannot read your mind. We would sure appreciate it if you would tell us specifically what it is that you are thinking and what it is that you want. Subtle hints don’t always work, and even flat out telling us sometimes doesn’t register, so you may need to tell us again. But please be nice about it. And remember, the way you say something is more often more important that the words you use. Please speak sweetly, the way you did back when you were trying to get him to notice you.

We know you women enjoy conversation, but most men don’t need all that much. Just because your husband doesn’t say anything doesn’t mean he isn’t speaking to you.

Did he bring you flowers for no reason? Did he open your door for you? Did he help you on with your coat, or hold your chair for you, and remember to put the seat down? (Guys, are you paying attention here?) Did he help with the dishes, help take care of the kids, help out around the house so you don’t feel like a maid? (seriously guys, are you paying attention?!?) While you were sitting together in church, did he reach over and touch or hold your hand? He may not have said more than two words in any of that, but his actions spoke volumes. Were you listening?

Guys, I know it isn’t easy, but please try to use a few more words than just a belch and “Good dinner, Hon”. Women need more than that. They need to feel loved, with kind words and non-sexual affection. But mostly – do stuff for her. Help her out.

And ladies, please understand if you don’t already, your man needs to feel appreciated. Just a few simple words of affirmation go a really long way. Affirm him. You’ll be glad you did.

The bottom line here folks is simply this: Be nice to each other.

Do nice things for your spouse without expecting anything in return. You may be amazed at the response.

[Naturally, if there are problems in your marriage that go beyond all of this, you should seek counseling (talk to your pastor or a professional counselor). But please, do NOT seek advice from your “friends”. Go straight to someone who will actually help you.]


Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:32)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests
but each of you to the interests of the others.
(Philippians 2:3)

Friday, February 04, 2011

No Fear

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

Now, I certainly do not proclaim to be wise, nor do I claim to have knowledge or understanding of the Holy One, rather, I consider myself to be a full-time, long-term, struggling student of the Word.

I have been in the church for 49 years now. I gave my life to Christ 36 years ago, so suffice it to say that I have heard a great many sermons on many different subjects. It is also safe to assume that I have sat through more than my fair share of sermons on tithing and giving. Putting money in the plate on Sunday morning seemed natural to me since, well basically, on Sunday morning that is just what you do. But I had always put in a dollar or two or whatever my grandfather gave me to put in there. And I never really thought much about it.

I continued to “tithe” during my early adult years, but it was still always an embarrassingly small amount. I can still remember the day when I learned that the word “tithe” means ten percent. But I didn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed, I felt fear. How could I give a full ten percent when I have a wife and child at home, while attending college full time, and we barely get by as it is? I increased my giving a little bit but it was still nowhere near ten percent. I’d heard someone say that God values your time more than He does your money, so I began volunteering my time at church. Sometimes I had even used that as an excuse for not tithing.

Once I finished college and began my career, I heard a pastor explain how “tithing” is an Old Testament requirement and that Jesus changed all that when He came here. According to Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament, He wants it ALL. 100%. All of your time, all of your heart, all of your mind and body, all of your soul, all of your spirit, and as for money – it is His to begin with. He merely allows us to manage it for Him. And according to the lessons in Crown Financial Ministries, He lets us use 90% to live on. It ALL belongs to God anyway. In fact, everything we think we own belongs to God, He just lets us use it.

Well, ten percent was still a lot of money to me, so I volunteered even more time at church and increased my giving to what I considered to be a comfortable level, but still way short of ten percent. And, although I consider myself to be thrifty and manage money wisely, I have still struggled financially.

I came to Northview in December of 2004, and became a member soon after. So it has been six full years since I first heard Pastor Steve’s annual tithing challenge, where he quoted from Malachi 3. You see, my only desire is to please God and live my life for Christ, but I had never thought of myself as robbing from God. I work hard for a living and earn my own way and provide for my family. But still, times were hard and the idea of tithing a full ten percent seemed like a lot to ask, but then Steve quoted “Test Me in this”, says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

So I signed the card and took Steve up on his challenge. I did the math and wrote that first check for the full ten percent. I could not help but think that a whole month’s worth of those tithe checks added up to a really nice car payment! But I stayed the course and waited patiently for God’s blessing to pour out all over me. But things did not get better for me financially, they got worse! I remember thinking about Steve’s challenge and that money back guarantee, and thought of how much all that money could really help me out. I also remembered the lessons from Crown Financial Ministries in that it all belongs to God anyway, so there was no way I was going call and ask for that money. The challenge was for only 90 days, but I had decided to give it a full year, in case God was also testing me in patience.

Each year Steve laid down the same challenge, and each year I signed that card and gave the full ten percent. But each year my financial situation did not improve. My savings account was depleted, and there were times when I feared I could not get to work since I could not afford to put gas in my truck. There were days when I drove on fumes and a prayer. And just like Mother Hubbard, often times the cupboards were bare. I had to borrow money and use credit cards just to stay afloat.  (another thing you are not supposed to do!)

I found myself unemployed for a few months in 2007, but God did provide and I was able to find a new job at basically the same salary as before. And although those few months of unemployment brought a lot of problems for me financially, as soon as I started my new job, I resumed tithing as well. But those blessings still did not come. But now I was also haunted by the debt accrued during unemployment.

During all of this, I still had a rather dim view about tithing. I was not a cheerful giver and I found no joy at all in giving money to the church, let alone adding the Next Chapter campaign on top of it. I still gave, but I was giving grudgingly. And around this time every year, Pastor Steve presents his tithing challenge with the guarantee that God will pour out blessings. But the blessings still did not come. I was getting rather frustrated. “Okay God, I’m ready! Here’s your check. I’m ready to receive those blessings now!”


I saw tithing and giving as a chore and I realized that I was only in it to get something out of it. I wanted those blessings God had promised in Malachi 3. But the blessings were not coming. It was also during this time that I met another fellow in our church whose financial situation had been worse than mine. He told me that he had reached the point of turning everything over to God and telling God, “I’ll trust You all the way to zero”.

Those words struck me very deeply, and I decided to do something I should have done from the very beginning – I decided to pray and turn over my whole heart, including my finances, over to the One who provided them in the first place. “Seek first His Kingdom…..” Yeah, I remembered that memory verse from Sunday School. “…….and all these things will be added unto you”. What things? ALL things. All my needs, all the necessities of life. All of the blessings He had promised. From the Crown Financial Ministries course, I understood the difference between needs and wants, but I was still struggling.

You see, I was being obedient, as He instructs me to do in His Word, but my heart was in the wrong place. I wasn’t doing it for Him, I was doing it for me! So I asked God to change my heart, and offered myself to Him as His humble servant. I asked Him to help me live my life in a way that is pleasing to Him.

I also prayed, “Lord, I trust You all the way to zero”. And sure enough, God took me all the way to zero, sometimes below zero, but He always provided and brought me back up. I learned to appreciate what He gave me. I also learned to live on a very small budget.

Just over a year ago, things began to change. Certain financial situations began to turn and go my way a little. Not much, but just enough to where there was a little bit left over at the end of the month. Financially, I was no longer suffocating and I could breathe a little better. I also began sponsoring a child in Indonesia through Compassion International. What a blessing! I was even able to complete my Next Chapter pledge early, and give a little extra as well.

Then a job opportunity opened up at work and I applied for it. There had been a salary freeze at work for the last several years, so there had been no raises, even though the cost of living had increased. God blessed me with the new job, which meant a promotion and a small raise. I remember my first thought as being, “Wow, I get to tithe more! Now I can do something for someone else!” I was genuinely excited, but then asked myself “Where did that thought come from? That certainly doesn’t sound like me!” I thanked God for the blessing and for changing my heart.

And the blessings started. Not a lot, but small abundances. I noticed that each one of those abundances were also accompanied by an opportunity. An opportunity to help someone else in need.

Sometimes I laugh at the fact that the opportunity to help someone out financially, was the exact amount of the abundance that God provided. My greatest joy in doing something for someone is that they never find out where the gift came from. As long as God gets the glory, I’m okay with that. He is the One responsible after all.

I was still under a mountain of debt, but that mountain was shrinking. God is so good. I have learned a lot from this experience and it took a whole lot longer than 90 days to see God working and to realize His blessings. The “floodgates” haven’t opened up and I certainly do have room for more blessings, but God will take care of that in His own time.

My heart and my attitude have changed in regards to tithing. I get paid every two weeks, and it happens electronically. So I have set up reminders on my Outlook calendar for each of those days. On payday, I log onto the Northview website, and pay my tithe electronically. It is the first thing I do on payday. Ten percent from the “first fruits”. I budget the rest of the month from there. There is gas in the truck, food in the fridge, and every once in a while I can afford to go play a round of golf.

And that mountain of debt? This time next month, with the exception of the mortgage, I will be debt free. One more payment to go. I can hardly wait to see what opportunity He presents to me then.

God is so good.

I’ve never been irresponsible with money. I’ve always disliked spending it, especially on myself. So frivolous spending and poor money management was not the problem (my truck is 13 years old and was paid off 11 years ago). What I needed was an attitude adjustment and a heart transplant. And that fear I mentioned earlier, has now turned to joy.
God is good – all the time!  And for Re:Imagine - my pledge is twice the amount I gave to "The Next Chapter".  God made that possible too.

Since God has proven Himself to be faithful, true to His Word, and that He will meet my every need, I asked Him to allow me to win the lottery to prove to Him that all that money will not change me.

Have you ever heard what sounds like uncontrollable laughter from heaven?

Yeah. It is a lot like that.