I’m Not My Past

When we lose someone, it hurts, but generally, the happy memories outweigh the bad. The ache subsides as a new normal is established, with the fond memories occasionally arising. I wish I had the luxury of fond memories. With the completion of the first half of my book, Ronin’s Journey that documents the journey of grief along with the steps I took to try to heal, coupled with the Grief Share program, it stays in the forefront of my mind. At least I get to talk to others about it every Saturday evening.

It does not take much for my mind to go to dark places, like the comment made ‘taking things a day at a time’, and I remember at least four unexpected deaths. A joke at work about fireworks as earplugs sparks memories I do not wish to revisit. I cannot watch a video, or look at a picture of my godson; the memories that brings are not happy ones. Instead, I see horror, and when we returned to our former home where he died, it had been renovated; as I walked through, the heavy atmosphere was still present. I did not see what it looked like that Good Friday; I was taken back to that hot July day. It always happens there, the memory of a yard full of cops and emergency personnel.

I have been ripped apart before, in between, and since by guilt and hatred. Hurting people have a tendency to hurt other people, some lash out occasionally, some just want to maliciously share the pain they feel. Inner wounds that were healing, having the scabs picked off, and the pain renewed; or made to feel guilty about doing good for others or trying to heal. That in tandem with time at my personal Hell on Earth, I fell into a depressive spiral. I felt like the tax collector from Luke 18, “He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”

Watching the testimonies at the Good Friday service did not faze me. The dinner date with my wife was not pleasant as she tried to make me feel better. The next day at the church’s bridge event while working the food drive booth, knowing it was going to feed thousands of kids, I sat wondering why I was even alive. I reached out to a friend at Grief Share for her thoughts. She said I have to protect myself, my avoidance of the place was not wrong, and I am reminded that people grieve differently. If something sends you into a spiral every time, stay away, do not repeat it. Do not go around those who send you to the bad places in your head. If they truly cared, they would understand and not hurt you again.

After the Easter service, I felt a little better, working through it on the First Samuel 12:24 blog here, but the ache remained. I went through my study Bible looking for guidance and comfort. Psalm 34:22 and Psalm 71: 19-24 were the comfort that I found. Matthew 11: 28-30 reminded me that I am not in it alone. Colossians 1: 21-23 reminded me that I am reconciled, without blemish, and free from accusation. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 reminded me of what love actually is. The Apostle Paul is a good example of someone who made a 180 degree turn, in Philippians 3: 13-14, he wrote that he was forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. He acknowledged his guilt in 1 Timothy 1: 12-17, and moved past it to be very effective in his ministry.

If someone cannot let go of our past, sometimes we have to leave them there until they are ready to rejoin the present. My Lessons from Mark post reminded me of that, where I went through Mark 6 in the Message Bible paraphrase. Two songs come to mind, What I’ve Overcome by Fireflight, and I Won’t Go Back by William McDowell; got to hang on that.

Red Letter Application

A while back, I was in a conflict with those I considered friends. It hurt, and I was a little angry, and was tempted to do anonymous internet sniping. Except now, I do not operate by solely what I want. So I investigated, made peace, and said as much in a private group.

This led to the necessary conversation to clear the air. No one was blameless; both of us were wounded by the other. At the same time, we had a new person start who had just moved here, and he needed help. I say this because it parallels my studies of Jesus’s teaching in Luke 6, among other verses, so much.

First, looking at the conflict that bubbled up to the surface with my friends and I. At the outset, Proverbs 15:18 counsels for a cool head (A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute), and Luke 6:31 (Treat others the same way you want them to treat you) reminded me of what I would want, which is to be understood. Luke 6: 41-42 (Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye) teaches me to see what responsibility I bore, if any, which I did after all. Even before we had the heart-to-heart, in Luke 6:36-38 (Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return) Jesus told me the proper outcome. The relationship is not the same as before, but it is patched up.

In the second situation, the new person arrived at work not knowing what to expect, so he did not bring any food. He was worried he would not have a place to put it. I told him to pick out whatever he wanted from the machine at work (Matthew 24:34-40) so he would not be hungry. After some conversation, I learned he lived in the same city I do. He asked if I could give him a ride back and forth until he was paid (Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back). It was not inconvenient, I thought, while applying in the affirmative. He offered to pay for the food and gas money, which I turned down (If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you?).

It was summed up nicely when Dr. Alton Garrison spoke one Sunday night at church about how people cannot really tell the difference between believers and nonbelievers. How, until recently, he realized there is more than knowing Christianity’s doctrines and using the Bible as a guidebook for living. However, there is one more area, dealing with people like Jesus did. He did not condone wrongdoing; however, he still treated people like they matter, from the adulterous woman to hated tax collectors. It reminded me of the Ragamuffin Gospel. It also brings these verses to mind:

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. Luke 6:46-48

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” James 1:22

I have tried it my way; His way has been working out better.


Something To Believe In?

I have been watching friends who are feeling lost because they put their faith in other people. The issue is people are human and fallible. When they do not meet expectations, then what? Two years ago, I would have said that is why you have to be self-reliant, forge your own code, and live by that.

Except, we are also human and fallible; because of that, instead of being let down you have another problem. When you are the author of your moral/ethical code, the one that holds you accountable is biased towards his or her own self-preservation. That person holding you accountable is…you. We are amazing at rationalizing and justifying our actions. When others call us on it, we challenge them, because who are they to judge me? What standard are they using? Is it fair for them to do it? What authority do they have?

Something to think about.


Slow but Steady

This assessment snuck up on me, honestly. I have been disciplined with my eating according to the Time Restricted Diet which naturally cut my calories to over a thousand less a week. It was a little hard at first with my growling stomach arguing with my willpower. What helped is that weekends are free, so long I don’t raid a dessert bar at a buffet. Gives me something to look forward to. It took awhile for me to notice the weight to fall and I’m hoping that’s because its mainly fat while I keep the protein up so I don’t waste much muscle.

As far as training goes I changed over to a daily Rite Of Passage type program. 4 days a week I press the 53lb kettlebell, then swing it for a 100 reps and then carry the 70lb around or my pair of 53s. I think it may be a little much for me, I’m not recovering well. So I will dial back the swings to 50 a day. Not sure if I’ll just use the 53, the 70, or alternate on different days.

Either way, here’s what it’s done for body comp. In two months we’ll see if it worked to get my press strength up and maintained my conditioning.

Body Composition (inches)

Body Part                      Before                  After                   -/+

Neck                               14.5                14.5              0

Shoulders             44.5                  45               +0.5

Chest                      37.5                   37.5                      0

Waist                             34.0                        33.5         -0.5

Biceps                    12.8              12.8                         0

Forearms                   11.2            11.1                                     -0.1

Thighs                         22.8                 22.0                          -0.8

Calves                          13.8                   13.5                          -.30

Weight                  158.8lbs          156.4        -2.4lbs

Body Fat %                18.1%                17.1%         -1.0%

Lean Body Mass    130.1lbs            129.7         -0.4lbs

I lost most of the gains and I can only blame my poor choice of diet. The Time-Restricted Plus plan is supposed to be sustainable so we’ll see.


It’s Okay To Question

Four interesting conversations have made me very happy I have dug into Christianity rather than just accepting it at face value. Geek that I am, for one reason, and because I have smart friends that ask lots of questions about issues is the reason I jumped into apologetics. According to 1 Peter 3: 15-16, Christians are all supposed to be ‘ready to give a reason for the hope that we have’ in Jesus. How do you face different belief systems and questions without understanding the details of what you believe? How do you use abductive reasoning to test what they believe, what you believe, and accept where the most evidence points?

By following your curiosity, questions, other’s questions, and beliefs to find the answers. I came across this when I was preparing for a gun show to promote Wicked Jester when two ladies walked up while I was loading the truck. After a moment’s conversation, they began questioning me about church and witnessing to me. I wondered if they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. I got the answer quickly when they handed me a card with their web address and street address. They were Mormons; a group I did not even know were in the state honestly. I turned down any further talk because I did not know what to say.

Days later, I was perusing their site, looking at their doctrine, objections, questions, and what they base it on. If they come back, I can now ask them questions from a base of knowledge. I had to do it again when my wife asked me why Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays. I took her through their website and looked at their doctrinal beliefs to find the answer in the FAQ. She asked me which was better-our church, or theirs; I told her it was a matter of truth, not preference. Then I showed the context of the verses they referenced along with related verses as evidence for my case.

It can be something as simple as answering a doctrinal question like the one my sister asked me about the Trinity. I used an analogy C.S. Lewis made comparing water’s three forms. On the other hand, it can be something as complicated as the challenge that Jesus is a combination of ancient savior myths. Can your faith withstand that? Not long ago, mine could not, until I researched, weighed the evidence, and came to a reasonable conclusion. I am not done learning yet; I still dig and learn, and I will conclude with links to some of the resources I use.

Cold-Case Christianity

Please Convince Me

Come To Reason

Reasons To Believe

Got Questions?

Poached Egg

Wintery Knight

Reasonable Faith