Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 16

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 16

See Part 1 here.

See Part 2 here.

See Part 3 here.

See Part 4 here.

See Part 5 here.

See Part 6 here.

See Part 7 here.

See Part 8 here.

See Part 9 here.

See Part 10 here.

See Part 11 here.

See Part 12 here.

See Part 13 here.

See Part 14 here.

See Part 15 here.

Praise  and Doubt

I was on a high the day after Mom was taken to the hospital.  My work actually has a weekly lunchtime Bible study group. I had the chance to tell my coworkers things weren’t quite that bad. We studied the book of Romans. I’d also been looking for more fellowship in my life.  A coworker of mine goes to a different church, but his men’s group meets on a day that fits my schedule, so I rushed home from work to change and head to that.

It was a blast. I’m told that’s not a normal men’s group, but man was it fun.  It was a praise session with music, testimony, and a guest speaker. I sang my heart  out and listened about how one needs to be open to letting God work through them.  It was so much fun and so needed.

What I didn’t know is that my sister and brother in law had been trying to call me.  My phone never rang. I never got any messages. I went to bed, and I went to work the next morning still feeling like things were great. I knew the MRI was scheduled and should have been done, but I didn’t get any news. I didn’t want to push, so I waited.

At about the middle of my morning the next day, I saw a text from my sister.

“Did I do something wrong?”

I had no idea what she was talking about.  “No, why on Earth would you wonder that?”

Not having any clue what was going on, I waited for an explanation, but received nothing.  When I sat down to lunch, I knew I had a  bit more time, so I sent another text.

“Still not sure why you think I would think you did something wrong.”

“I tried calling,” she replied. “You didn’t answer. I tried texting. No reply. At least not up until now. Matt, I’m not in a good place right now. I’m getting some rest, and then I gotta spend time with my kids. It has just been an emotional roller coaster, and I’m full of saying all the wrong things or the right things but at the wrong time. So I’m again going to take a nape, wake up, spend time with kids, and hope for a better day than it has be the last couple.”

I was baffled.  I explained to her that I never got a call from either her or her husband. I didn’t have a missed call notification or anything.  This is still a mystery, but I’ll hand my phone to whoever wants to see it.

Knowing things were clearly not going well, I called.

This is where things get complicated. My sister said that the MRI didn’t go well. The surgeon had told the family that the tumor had grown. It was too large on which to operate.  They were talking about other options, and my sister wasn’t sure if another round of anything was what Mom would want.  You can imagine how others might feel at a time like that.

I explained that we’re a family, and what we need to do most is focus on thinking about what Mom needs. She wasn’t sure. She was worried what to do. She was worried how the rest of the family was reacting.

During the conversation, I kept my composure. I wanted to be supportive and listen.  This has become my new focus at any point in dealing with my family.  Listen, and be supportive.

The second I hung up, the tears came.  I fell to my knees crying, but I knew what the right thing to do was.

When we suffer, we praise God.

I folded my hands in prayer and quoted Job 1:21, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

I felt Job was a very appropriate piece of scripture to turn to. But I still couldn’t do much more than cry, so I went to another verse, Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

I didn’t quote either verbatim.  With Jeremiah, I wasn’t even thinking of the right book. I thought I was quoting Isaiah until I looked it up again.  I was stabbing the Sword of the Spirit into my doubt and fear.

None of that changed the fact that I felt it was time to go home.

Let me be clear on something. I’ve told my family this, and I feel the same in my heart. The only member of the family that everyone loves is my mother.   She’s the only one I guarantee every single member loves without question or reservation.

Everyone involved is doing the best they can based on the information they have and how they perceive it.  The fact is, I know that’s true. But what I knew in that moment was my Mom wasn’t in great shape. My sister was worried, and with good reason.  The guy who performed the first surgery on my mother said things looked bad. I think the reason I’m able to listen and be supportive is because that’s all I have to worry about. I don’t have any power in this situation, so all I can do is collect information and offer an ear when it’s needed.

The very co-worker and friend with whom I went to the men’s group, Keith, was there when I got the call and fell to tears. He waited for me to finish, and then offered me a prayer as well. I can’t express what that means to me.  I was ready to do whatever was needed, but I wasn’t sure what the right thing to do was, so I  went to the command chaplain.

We talked for a while, and he said the best idea was to get over there if for no other reason than to learn first-hand what was going on.

It’s what I wanted to do anyway, so I was happy to hear that advice. The problem was I was in the middle of an iteration of class.  I went to talk to the chief in charge of our class.   He wasn’t sure why I hadn’t already left. I talked to each member of the team I work with and a few other coworkers.

Readers, I can’t express to you how supportive they were. They offered hugs and kind words. They offered to drive me to the airport. They put together a plan that would let me get back home and do whatever I could.

I drove home and bought the ticket. I didn’t want to be a distraction, but I also didn’t want to be a surprise. I asked Elise, a coworker of mine whom I consider a confidant and a sort of Christian adviser. She thinks a lot like I do, and since we talk a lot, I wanted her opinion.

She advised me to call.  The distraction my pending visit might be wasn’t that big a deal.  I agreed. My family need to know I was coming to support them.  I’m still not being completely truthful yet, so I have to explain the rest of the process.

I called Elise to see if I should call my brother-in-law (and best friend). I didn’t want him or my sister working to figure out how to pick me up around their schedule and whatever was going to happen with Mom. Since I thought I’d be staying there, I asked Elise about calling my brother.

I called him. He explained what he knew. I made sure he knew I was coming, but that I’d figure out how to get from the airport to his house.

I then asked him if I should tell everyone.  Again, I didn’t want my arrival to be a bother. He encouraged me to tell everyone else, so I sent a quick text.  Somewhere in there, I found out that Mom was about to be released and taken all the way to Yuma.

I called my sister to figure out when she was driving to Yuma, and we worked out the trip down, but now there was the issue on where to stay.  Do we stay at the in-laws (my best friend’s family) or with Dad.  I knew I’d be there eventually, but I wouldn’t get to Yuma until 1 a.m., and that’s just a stupid time to get anywhere, especially when there’s a lot of emotional stuff going on.

I called my Dad next. I let him know I was coming. We talked a bit more, and I could already see the friction in the situation. My sister’s concerns that Mom might not want another round of treatment were opposite my Dad’s belief that we weren’t there yet, and that this next round of treatment was the right plan.

Once again, there is not right or wrong in this scenario. The bigger problem is when people start picking sides. I’ve told my father and sister this, but I had this serious actual thought in my head where he and my sister (Mom’s powers of attorney) start this giant legal battle over this decision.  Both have since assured me that’s not the case, and I wasn’t exactly in my most rational state, but I was still horrified that a family that wasn’t that united to begin with was about to shatter to a point that couldn’t be healed.

The fact that they’ve assured me we won’t end up in some nightmarish legal battle doesn’t eliminate the general fear I had that our family’s already fragile state was near a breaking point. My plan: Stick to the plan! Listen! Be supportive!

Jay, Elise’s husband and a friend of mine in his own right, took me to the airport.  We talked bout the right thing to do.  Rather, we talked about what he knew to do. Pray, and read the scripture.  I didn’t have a clue how to support anyone, especially when there were still (in my mind) two very distinct sides.  My sister didn’t want to casually let Mom go any more than my dad wanted to put his wife through any necessary pain.  I knew that then, and I know that now.

So I got to the airport and thought to ask my chaplain to send some verses my way to ponder what’s going on.

He sent:

Romans 8:30-39, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Philippians 4:11-19, Job 1 and 2, 2 Corinthians 4, Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, Psalm 33:20 (which I’d already read and loved), and Matthew 11:28-29.

I immediately started highlighting them.  I read each over and over again. I have other verses in my Bible highlighted, and I added them to the routine.  Somehow, James 1:5-6 fell in front of me.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

It continues in verse 7-8, “That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

I realized something while reading that. I was feeling doubt when I shouldn’t. I’d prayed to God to take care of my Mom, and he will.  The issue I felt was my responsibility was to to take care of my family.  They needed support. I felt in that moment that God was calling me to go home, not to worry about my mom, but instead to keep my family united.

It was still an incredibly intimidating task.

 


 

Questions and Revelations

What are the other verses?

I hope you ask yourself this. If you did, I’m glad. Let me share all of those verses with you because they helped me, and I hope they’re of help to you when you face something like this.

Job 1 and 2 are chapters. They’re powerful. I took the most comfort from the very verse I quoted (badly) when I called my sister.  I’m not comfortable posting entire chapters of the Bible here, but I’d recommend the book of Job to any who feels they’ve suffered. Often when I feel I’m suffering, I think of Job and Christ. My entire family and livelihood haven’t been taken, and I’m certainly not being crucified. However bad my situation is, it’s not that bad.

Psalm 33:20-22: “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.”

If that verse looks familiar, it’s because I read it a few days prior and mentioned it in the previous segment of this testimony. I think when a certain verse keeps popping up, the person encountering it should pay particular attention. It reminds me to trust in God. I don’t know his plan. I don’t know how things will go, but I know God will provide. I’ve put my hope in Him.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2: Most of you probably are already familiar with the words even if you don’t know their real origin. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.”

I might not get what I want out of this situation, but all things happen for my good, and they happen when they’re supposed to happen. This is what I took from that verse.

Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and  humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Romans 8:30-39: “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all the things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

While comforting in that time because it reminds me that God and Jesus love us no matter what, that verse is also affirming for my salvation, a thing which some Christians unfortunately believe can be lost.  If you are saved (and you should take a hard look at that), you’re saved. Nothing will take that salvation from you.

2 Corinthians 4 is another entire chapter.

2 Corinthians 12:9:  “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

And THAT verse is what I turn to when I set myself to a task (like that with my family) I don’t feel I’m suited for.  God equips us for our tasks in life. He provides what we need to do his will. His grace is all we need.

Why is keeping your family together such a daunting task in your mind?

That will be the subject of my next testimony. Short version, we haven’t been united in a very long time.

If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog.  I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.

Thanks for reading

Matt

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I’m Making Preparations to Develop the Audio Version of Caught!

I’m Making Preparations to Develop the Audio Version of Caught!

caught-front-coverGreetings all,

In some ways, this post is a tad lazy. If I’m being honest, I’m still recovering from my trip across the country.  Also, other social media issues have put me in a frame of mind where I feel I have to be careful, so this announcement serves that purpose.  It let’s me talk about some good news. It also helps me get word out and build momentum.

That said, I’m happy to announce that I’ve begin listening to auditions for narrators to produce the audio version of Caught.

If you’re a narrator (ACX or otherwise) and you’re interested in a 50/50 royalty share contract, please feel free to send me an audition.

This project has taken longer to get set up and done than I’d like, but it feels good to get things rolling.

I opened auditions a while back (June 4), but right about there is when life got a bit overwhelming. So I’ll probably keep auditions open for another two weeks (June 29), so I can better evaluate them and select the right person for the job.

I’m happy to get that done! I’m nearly done with the Beta Draft of Stealing Freedom, and Sara sent me the final edits on Repressed (with indications that it’s been well developed). That means a lot of my projected release dates are still right on schedule.

Keep stopping by for updates on this project and others.  Until then, have a happy weekend!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Announcing the May Book Cover of the Month!

Announcing the May Book Cover of the Month!

Hello everyone,

We’ve just wrapped up another month. This month was a pretty close month! I’m glad June is a 30-day month because that means we might see another highly-contested bracket.  There weren’t a ton of votes, but it was a close contest.

We had 3,235 votes this month.

It was a three-horse race the entire time, but one book managed to get seven more voters than the rest.

The May Book Cover of the Month is…

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Clara’s Diary by Angelique S. Anderson! If you’re curious about how I felt about the book, check out the Facebook post that I posted when this book first landed on the bracket, here.

Let’s look at the stats!

Lenders received 227 total votes.

The Flipside by Jake Bible fell just eight votes short in the finals, and A Guiding Light by Susan Copperfield fell just four votes shy in the Final Four. The good news is (remember that 30-day month I mentioned?) both covers get another chance to win the title in the June bracket.

But for now, let’s look at this month’s winner!

Amazon:

(START BLURB)

In a tale of monstrous proportions, with a flash of steampunk gadgetry, experience the impossible. After leaving the police force and striking out on his own, Detective Desmond still struggles to come to terms with the death of his daughter six years later. Then disaster decides to come knocking again. This time, a young Octilune woman is found dead. As a species of half-octopus, half-human, Lizbeth Patinson’s death is a tragedy. Raging against the two injustices, Detective Desmond does everything in his power to find the murderer. When evidence points to him, he has twenty-four hours to prove his innocence. Is Detective Desmond really guilty of murdering two young women in cold blood? Or will he find the evidence needed to exonerate himself and finally find the closure he’s been looking for? Get ready to swim for your life.

(END BLURB)

I’ve added Clara’s Diary to my TBR. (For those who are new to the deal, I buy the Book Cover of the Month to read and review in the future. I buy all the winning covers. I’ve already bought, AprilMarchFebruaryJanuaryDecember’s book.


MAY_Cover_Collage
Here’re Angelique’s Facebook page. Give it a like if you’re curious about her and her work.

I’ll try to find out who did that cover. Truth is interviews are a bit hard to arrange on my end these days.  I’ll try to get back on track, but things are looking a bit busy lately (in a less good way at the moment).

The June Book Cover of the Month is coming along, and that contest will launch July 1.

I will continue to identify and select covers for each day from Amazon’s New Release section for fantasy and science fiction. If you follow and like my Facebook page, you can see what covers will make the bracket.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 15

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 15

See Part 1 here.

See Part 2 here.

See Part 3 here.

See Part 4 here.

See Part 5 here.

See Part 6 here.

See Part 7 here.

See Part 8 here.

See Part 9 here.

See Part 10 here.

See Part 11 here.

See Part 12 here.

See Part 13 here.

See Part 14 here.

Comatose

I was about halfway through my work day when I realized I had a text from my sister telling me to call when I can.

I did so, hoping it was good news; it wasn’t.

She told me they were airlifting my mother to Phoenix. She was essentially comatose. We didn’t speak long because she was on her way to the hospital.  She asked my brother-in-law to keep me in the loop.  I told her I loved her.

After I hung up, I knelt down and prayed.

My thoughts taunted me. She was supposed to be better. The treatment was over. Things were supposed to be looking up.

Honestly, even then I knew how presumptuous the thoughts were.

I may not be perfect. I’m horrifically flawed and shamefully hypocritical more often than not. But I know now the right thing to do at all times: Praise God.

We’re all to happy to pray when we get what we want, and that’s good. But people tend to think of God like some sky-dwelling genie.  He isn’t. Our heavenly father is our sovereign Lord. He’s loving, and he gives endlessly, but endlessly doesn’t necessarily denote “without judgment” or, more importantly, “without regard for our well-being.” People lose site of that.

After a few days, I learned some of the details, and I feel like I should share that. Please note, this is a retelling of a retelling, but the essential facts are verified by those who were there.

My family has two dogs. Killian and Lucky.  Why two? Well, Killian is a handful, so my parents decided to get a second dog in the hopes that a playmate and sibling would help calm Killian down.  That trick did more for my family than calm down an overly-playful dog.

On the day in question, Lucky, who has a habit of standing vigil around my mom, noticed something wasn’t right. He came out and stared down my dad. After a moment, Lucky went back into my mother’s room only to come right back out.

That got my dad’s attention.  Because this dog got my dad’s attention, my father found my mom and got her to the hospital.  Dad since told me that, had that not happened, it would have been at least an hour before he knew what was going on.

I have an affinity for dogs.  That affinity is only stronger after hearing that story.

At that moment though, I didn’t know the details of what happened, and, more importantly, I didn’t know how my mother was.

I spoke with my boss, who so kindly let me go home to track what was happening. I spoke with a few coworkers who’ve been with me from the beginning.  If I’m being honest, my coworkers are all acting like a bunch of superheroes during this time. I sent my girlfriend a text letting her know what was going on.  Then I went home.

I was numb. I was tired. I couldn’t find the command chaplain before I left, so I was also spiritually drained.

So what do you do when you don’t know what to do? You pray, and you read scripture.  I was tempted to try and keep my day normal. I didn’t want to seem to be trying to B.S. God like some scolded child who just wants to look like he learned his lesson, but I knew God would know my heart.

I started by reading the Bible. I’m in Psalms now, and as I read, I found more and more scripture that gave me more and more strength.

Psalm 40:16 “But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, ‘The Lord is Great!'”

Psalm 46:1-3 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

Psalm 57:1 “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”

I read like a man dying of thirst handed a river. I must have read 20 chapters (though I confess the Psalm chapters are very short).

My weariness started to take a hold of me. I was hungry, but I didn’t want to stop.

That’s when I jumped on the computer and purchased the streaming version of The Bible T.V. series.  I watched that while I ate. I switched back and forth, making sure every moment I could stay awake was centered on reading the scripture, praying, and focusing on God.

Eventually, (and this was still pretty early) I was too tired to do much.  I sent my brother-in-law a text letting him know I was going to go to sleep.  He’s three hours away from me, so the odds of me getting news at a normal hour were unlikely.

I prayed. I prayed knowing others were praying. I don’t think I know how many prayed for us that night.  I hope more of you pray for us.

I read even more of the Bible, highlighting verses that gave me courage and hope.  Then I closed my eyes.

Less than 20 minutes after I told my brother I was resting, I got a text back.

“Holding pattern for now,” he said.

My mom had been having some difficulties on occasion. We weren’t quite sure what was happening, but we knew steroids were helping.  When she was on them, she was more lucid and easier to understand. When they took her off them or tried to cut down the dosage, she’d take a turn for the worse.

If any of you are wondering the obvious question, I was too, but I’m not a doctor, and I don’t have enough information to explain anything.  But I wondered.  I felt anger, but I also felt joy because as soon as they started giving her the medication, she started regaining mobility and coming out of that terrifying state.

It was a night of prayer and Bible study. God’s grace allowed us to regain a bit of footing. The doctors decided to do my mother’s all important MRI one day sooner.

I was honestly overjoyed. I went to work the next day talking bout how it worked out, and it did.

But the MRI would deal another blow.

 

 


 

Questions and Revelations

Why those verses?

I’m still not sure how much I read and highlighted. It felt like more than I showed you, and it gave me a chance to share some of those verses on my other social media platforms. Those are just the ones I found in the neighborhood I knew to look.  When I started this journey, before this tragedy began, I was reading about a chapter a night. That amount has increased dramatically.

In just the last segment I explained how much reading the Bible helps, and it does. It gives comfort. It gives courage. It reminds me that everything will work out. It might not work out the way I wanted, but it will work out for our ultimate good.

Did it all work out?

The only honest answer I can give is I don’t know. I’ll talk about the fallout from that MRI in the next segment. I felt this moment was the right moment to end on because I felt like I was on a high that whole day. To help readers better understand that moment and those that followed, I feel it’s best to relay them as I experienced them.

Why this turn in my mom’s health?

I don’t and can’t pretend to know God’s will or his plan. I have my feelings on the matter, but I’m trusting my heart in combination with the scripture and some discussion with my religious mentors (so to speak).

I do feel it was a chance for me to display my faith.  When we suffer, when we’re tempted, or when we’re in pain, we demonstrate our faith and trust in God by enduring and praising him. It’s not the same as not feeling sad.  I was so stunned I went to autopilot, but I’m immensely proud of what that automatic function did. I didn’t turn to sin. I did consider working like it was any other day, but it felt right putting all of my focus on God.

I’m still asking myself if that shouldn’t be how I handle every day. There’s a distinction between “living for God” and “reading or watching the Bible all day.”  Don’t get me wrong! Reading the Bible all day is a fantastic use of a day. But all my study of the Bible makes it clear that, while we’re supposed to live a life to glorify God, that doesn’t mean we should hold up in the house and just read chapter after chapter.  We have things to do! God has a plan and directions for us all. The most important of which is to testify. Hence this testimony.

If we’re following the basic tenets of God’s will as established in scripture (which I’ll explain in due time), his larger or more detailed plan will become more clear to us. At this moment, I’m leading toward this thought: Live for God. Make sure everything you do is done to glorify him. Again, as a saved Christian trying to live as I should, my life should change to model myself as closely to Jesus as is humanly possible. What I do, the minutia of it, is less important if I’m doing it for God. One should fill his spirit with scripture. One should do much more than that as well. At that moment, I was spiritually drained, so I opted to fill my spirit back up with the scripture. I stabbed my Sword of the Spirt into my doubt and fear and watched as it eliminated those targets, at least for a day.

If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog.  I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.

Thanks for reading

Matt

800 Followers! Shout Out to Those Who Helped Me Get Here

800 Followers! Shout Out to Those Who Helped Me Get Here

Greetings all,

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All stock imagery from Pixabay.

I’m still happy to report the blog is going at a fairly steady rate, and it’s all thanks to you! I’m honored to see more and more people take an interest in my thoughts and words.

As is usual when I hit a benchmark like this, I’d like to pay it forward by giving a shoutout to my five most-recent followers (as I type this).

 

Vibe a Little: This is a page that combines imagery with some prose/poetry. It has a very Instagram feel to it, but it’s great for quick fixes for those who want some creative fuel for their day.

The Geek Astronaut: Thiago (awesome name by the way!) blogs about mostly nerd stuff. You can pop by his page to see posts on Anime (and the like), books, TV shows, and stuff about his life. It’s eclectic in a lot of good ways. You might not be able to track what he’ll post about, but he’s consistently putting out content, and it’s entertaining.

The Working Writer: I haven’t dug into this page yet because it’s essentially a course. It’s designed as a writing-for-profit site that offers a free course on how to do just that. I’m interested, but I confess I haven’t had a chance to look at it, so I can’t offer testimony about how it works and the advice it gives. Fair warning: It makes you register before showing you any content.  That puts some people off, so I thought it was far to at least tell you that was a thing.

Laura Bon: Laura is a christian author, which is cool as we have that in common.  I haven’t read any of her books as yet, but her blog posts Bible verses and prose, and that’s alway since. It’s good to see fellowship on the blogverse.

What Irin Reads: This is a pretty new review site. They only have one post (that I can see), but I’m sure if you give the site some follows, that content will start surging. The review on the page is fairly detailed without being too long, so once those reviews start populating, they’re worth a read.

There were other bloggers, but their pages aren’t linking up. I’m not sure if it’s a hyperlink issue or if the sites are down, but they do exist and I will look into their pages once I get to a place where I can work a little more deliberately.

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I want to thank these five bloggers and all the others who’ve decided to keep some sort of track of my antics. I can’t tell you what a blessing you are. I hope my blog is engaging. Please always feel welcome to comment or ask questions as much as you like.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

 

Book Review: Jon Archer: A Comedy by J.B. Taylor

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Cover image of Jon Archer was taken from it’s Amazon buy page.

Spoiler Free Summary:  In Jon Archer: A Comedy by J.B. Taylor, Jon is a man trying to get home to sleep when he ends up on a most unusual train (among other things). He runs into a talking goat, a British-speaking spider, and a space man. In this chuckle-worthy, ridiculous story, the eclectic cast of characters works together so they can each find their way home.

Character: This isn’t the sort of story you read for deep character arc. Jon isn’t an emotional guy. He’s just a poor bastard who gets thrown in a blender of circumstance. His reactions to the ridiculousness of the situation is one of the main things I found funny.

Exposition: Surprisingly for a story this short (I think it was about an hour), there is some exposition front-loaded into the story. The narrator (I listen to this on audible) uses the opportunity to let his tone of voice deliver the humor. He doesn’t break the fourth wall, but he does make sure the reader knows right up front that this story is pure fun.  Some of the timing is a bit off (the timing of the jokes), but after the first scene, things take off in a hurry.

Worldbuilding: I have to admit, this didn’t make any sense. I don’t think it was supposed to though. Readers of this story (or listeners) need to just sit down, and be ready to enjoy some nonsensical fun.

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Image of Mr. Taylor taken from his Amazon author page.

Dialogue: This is my favorite part of the story.  That talking goat is freaking hilarious! I sort of wish I could have watched this for dinner theater just for this part. I don’t think it’s near the level of Abbott and Costello, but this story has that sort of vibe.

Description:  When I initially thought of this, I didn’t really give it much thought, but then I considered how vivid this story is in my mind even after nearly two months. I can describe several scenes. This, to me, indicates perfect description. I wouldn’t expect any readers to see it right away, but any story in which I can mentally picture scenes has good description in my book.

Overall:  This is a short read with several laugh-out-loud moments. It’s complete nonsense, but in a good way. It feels like a tangent portion of a Family Guy episode. If you have a quick drive planned, and you like some silly laughs, try out this story.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 14

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 14

See Part 1 here.

See Part 2 here.

See Part 3 here.

See Part 4 here.

See Part 5 here.

See Part 6 here.

See Part 7 here.

See Part 8 here.

See Part 9 here.

See Part 10 here.

See Part 11 here.

See Part 12 here.

See Part 13 here.

Discouragement

 

Job 28: 28: “And he said to the human race, ‘The fear of the Lord– that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.'”

I hope those who read this journey understand my goal. I want to be a better Christian. I want to be more sanctified with each day.

I recently finished reading the book of Job, and that passage struck me.

The first part makes perfect sense. How could it not be wise to fear our God who is sovereign over all of us. Fear his wrath.

But how well do I understand?

My most powerful temptation is one I’ve struggled with my whole life, and, thanks be to God, I’m improved in that area.  In this, I show my understanding by turning from that sin. I fear saying so because the last time I felt I had a handle on my lust I got battered and fell to temptation.

Even if this sin is one I’ve finally turned from completely, I’m sometimes devastated over how much more sin is in my life.

In order to better process my testimony today, I searched for “How does the Bible define sin?”

I found this webpage from the United Church of God’s Beyond Today.  I’m unfamiliar with this, but it referenced several Bible verses, and I feel more confidence when a church bases it’s sermon on comprehensive Bible study.

The first frustration is the seemingly (important adverb) vague definition of sin.  “All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.” 1 John 5:17.

I’ve read Deuteronomy, and that’s a quite comprehensive list of God’s laws, including the ten commandments.  As I read the Bible, I’m taking note of the books I feel are important to me to study.  Job, 1 John, Romans, and Deuteronomy are up there.

When I look at all the wrong in my life, even in comparison to how far I’ve come, I can feel such discouragement.

That discouragement, according to mutliple books from John MacArthur (Saved Without A Doubt is the one that most comes to mind), is a powerful weapon of Satan.

“You’re never going to be perfect!”

“Look at you! You’ve worked this hard just to overcome this one thing, and you still have this much other filth in your life!”

I’m resentful. I’m lustful. I’m prideful. I’m lazy (my friends would dispute this, but consider please that I only, and I mean only, do what I want). I’m judgmental.

All of those are sins. To think how much I’ve grown because I’m so much less lustful I am when compared to how lustful I was.

I feel weighed down by that discouragement at the moment. I pray more than I ever have.

“You still don’t have a mindset of permanent prayer.”

I make more of an effort to be understanding and compassionate.

“You still fly off the handle when you hear something you consider wrong.  You still judge.”

I don’t know about you, but this tool, this single whisper is something I wonder sometimes.

“If you’re never going to be good enough, why not just give up?”

To give it context, I was raised near a church I’m not of the opinion bases it’s beliefs on the Bible. One well-respected member of the church would stop me on my way home every day and tell me in great detail how destined for damnation I was. He even went once so far as to say he was “concerned” for me because of the company I kept.  That company? The man who is now my brother in law. I stated what a kind man my now-brother was, and he immediately replied with, “So Native Americans go to Heaven now?”

Can you imagine how devastating that was to my journey? What an effective tool it was to think this hateful, clearly-racist man was a respected representative of God.

I’m currently reading the Bible. There are many reasons why people would be concerned for the company one keeps.  Those are hot-button reasons alone. The point needed to be made here is that I have yet to find any scripture that summarily condemns any one race to Hell.

First off, the Bible is quite clear on the only requirement for salvation:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17.

There are ways to evaluate and have assurance in your salvation, and absence of sin in your life isn’t such a way.

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him.” 1 John 5:13-16.

One must truly believe in Jesus to be saved.  The next part is the trick though, and this is where discouragement comes in.

“We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.” 1 John 5:18-20

A saved person’s life changes. He becomes more holy. Some call this the process of sanctification.

I need to remind you I’m not regarded as an expert in the Bible. I haven’t even finished reading it yet, and I promise you I don’t understand a percent (not one) of what I read. I have to study.

What I think I understand through bible and reference to Mr. MacArthur’s books is that it’s a fallacy to think a saved person will never sin again. The point is, you’re life is changing, and it never stops changing.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” 1 John 3:2-4

We’ll never be fully sanctified and without sin until Jesus returns. What saved people do, however, is purify themselves. The cleanse sin from their lives each day.

Where does the discouragement come from? For me, it’s the thought that I could erase a sin a day from my life and still have a multitude of sins.

I try to target sin.  I try to say, “This is the sin I’ll stop.”

I go a week or a month avoiding it. I might even go that long without ever thinking about it. However, I can’t confess I don’t do any of it anymore.

There are things I haven’t done for some time. There are things I haven’t done for quite a long time. But we sin with our thoughts, and I still think about sin.

This is where my discouragement begins.

Readers, my prayer for you, and what I hope you pray for me, is that you don’t allow your discouragement to become an excuse to give up. Neither should you treat sin as an inevitable opponent. I discussed this in Part 11.

The trick is to be confident in your salvation and diligent in your efforts to change your life. I still have such a long way to go. That list above is a real list. Those are my real sins. I don’t wake up in the morning and say, “I think I’ll be lazy today.”  I just look at my day and realize how lazy I’ve been. My condo is a mess.  My car is in worse shape. I haven’t worked out in two weeks.

Be better.

That’s the option. Our efforts to have permanent change in our lives should be the goal. If we are truly saved, we’re saved. It’s permanent. One effective way to know we’re saved (and there are others) is that our life is changing. My life is changing. I can’t let the fact that my life isn’t “changed,” past tense, trick me into doubting it will.  I can’t let how much more I have to change cause me to want to stop trying to change.

When I dwell on my sins, I hear myself thinking, “Now you don’t deserve to have your mother healed. Now you don’t deserve to marry the woman you’re dating. Now you don’t deserve to see your students succeed or your friends comforted.”

“Fear of the Lord, that is wisdom.”

Yet I lack the understanding to shun evil. Perhaps I have the understanding to know I should shun evil. I do shun some evil, but that’s not the same.

My weapon against this discouragement is the sword of the Spirit (see Ephesians 6:10-18).

The sword of the Spirit is defined in that verse as the word of God.

My current discouragement is that I still sin too much. So today, the verse I look to is 2 Corinthians 4:8-10. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struct down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”

Sure, I have a  was to go, but I need to keep going.

“Do you not know that in a race, all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24. (NOTE: More than one person may attain salvation. What I take from this is running is what matters.  Never stopping. Never trying.)

I will face trials and receive blessings.  I’ve received quite a few of late (a good review at work. Students all passed their last test. My home. My girlfriend (pretty much a blessing every day).

I just can’t get caught looking at how far I have to go any more than I can stop thinking I’ve come far enough.

 


 

Questions and Revelations

Do the verses help?

When I’m smart enough to look for them. Every time I look for scripture on a subject, I feel better. I feel more resolve. I feel more certainty that I know what to do because I went to the bible to find out what that is.

Sometimes I put the sword of the Spirit down, and that’s a mistake for me. The Bible implies by sentence structure that there are parts of the armor you never take off and parts that you occasionally pick up. At this point in my growth, I sort of feel the need to wear the whole thing.

You still think your mom’s health rests on your sin?

No, my mom’s health rests on God’s will. When I sin, I’m not doing a very good job of showing my faith and trust in him though, am I?   I show my faith in him by obeying. I don’t do so based on the belief that “I’ll get what I want.” That’s not really how it works. We show our faith by enduring trials and resisting temptation.  Each failure to resist, I think, is a discredit to God. It hurts your standing. This is compounded when you fail to ask for forgiveness and repent (knock it off). So if I’m not staying true to my faith and trusting in him, wouldn’t it be reasonable to think he’d be less inclined to answer my prayer?

Let’s be clear at this point. This story isn’t the story on my “deal with God.” It’s not a demonstration of what a great Heavenly Walmart manager God is. This isn’t an exchange. There is no exchange. Get saved, or be forsaken. I am saved. I will be saved regardless of my mom’s health.  I’m not trying to be a better Christian because I think that will save my mom. I pray God will do that, but it’s not a transaction. God is glorified in all that he does. He will be worthy of praise if he saves my mom, and he will be equally worthy of praise if he allows my mom to perish. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” Jeremiah 29:11.  This ordeal humbled me. It yanked me closer to God more quickly than I was walking at the time. To pretend God will give me what I want simply because I’ve given him this lip service would be a contradiction of the very point of this testimony.  I pray for my mom’s help every day, and I ask you all to do the same for me. However, my mom’s health is not the condition on which my Christianity hinges. If it were, I’d already be lost.

If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog.  I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.

Thanks for reading

Matt