Visits From A Man Named Nobody 51

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 51

T1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 // PT 43 // PT 44 // PT 45 // PT 46 // PT 47 // PT 48 // PT 49 // PT 50 //

“That’s a different problem, but repenting before God is only the highest form of repentance. You sought forgiveness from Stacy, which, apparently, she gave, at least to some degree.”

The car continued along the freeway as Paul considered what his mother said. Was that what he was after? He didn’t think so. “I wasn’t after forgiveness, Mom.”

“You were probably trying to be punished because you know what you did was wrong.” Her already normally soft voice was whisper quiet. She was sad about something. It was probably because Paul wanted punishment.

“I think people should pay for what they do,” Paul said. “I think they should get what they deserve.”

“I sincerely hope not,” his mother replied. “I want to give mercy, and I want to receive mercy. I know exactly what I deserve, and that’s why mercy is so wonderful.”

“You deserve to be happy!” The comment came out in a sort of muttered growl.

“And I don’t deserve to be punished for letting your father do what he did to us?” Paul’s head jerked at the question, which came out much more like an accusation.

“You were the victim!”

“And yet I let him do as much to you.”

Paul shut his eyes and took a deep breath. He hadn’t forgotten how he’d treated her as a child. He did whatever he wanted and expected her to let him. Then he got angry at her for giving him exactly what he wanted. It never made any sense. It only got better when he and Jordan became friends. 

“That’s not the same,” Paul said.

“It can’t be both ways, Paul. We either all get everything we deserve, or we all need mercy. But I’m of the opinion that if everyone got exactly what they deserve, we’d all be in a great deal of agony. And before you make some crass extreme counterargument, I acknowledge that some people are far more evil than others, but that’s not my point.”

“There is no one who is good,” Paul said.

“That’s,” she paused in shock. “That’s exactly right. Have you been reading the Bible?”

He’d never even considered telling her before this moment. It never came up. “I read the whole thing around the time he was arrested.” Paul refused to speak his name, and he’d die a million times over before he acknowledged that man as his father. 

Not that it worked. He was literally just like him, and he deserved exactly what that man got. 

A memory flashed in Paul’s mind. It was the night of Nobody’s first visit. The bastard had passed out drunk, and a bottle had tipped over. Paul set it right to be positive the alcoholic wouldn’t trip and hurt himself.

“Paul, are you there?” He’d been years away in the past and hadn’t heard his mother.

“Sorry,” he said. “I zoned out for a second.”

“I was asking why you read the Bible then?” 

That answer would lead to a lot of other questions. Paul had eluded to Nobody once or twice, but he’d never told the whole story. As he thought, he figured he should have lied to his mother, saying he’d read the Bible after he got close to Bill, but he couldn’t bring himself to lie to his mother or about Bill.

“I was looking for answers.” That was at least a part of the truth. “I didn’t find any. I read the whole thing. I think I’ve read it two or three times, but I don’t believe any of it.”

“Because of what happened to Bill.” She said it as gently as she could given her tone, but talking about Bill was always a way to get Paul angry. 

“Yes.” Maybe by being curt, she’d know to change the subject.

“We can’t accept just part of the Word,” she emphasized the capital. “It’s all true. It’s true that he’s sovereign. It’s true that he’s loving. It’s true that he’s the righteous judge, and it’s true that he calls us when it’s our time. We don’t get to pick when, and, to be honest, I don’t know that we’d ever accept the explanation even if he bothered to give it to us.”

“That part is for certain,” Paul muttered. 

“I’m going to ask about this girl now to shift the subject.”

Paul laughed. She could have just done it.

“I’m not doing it because I’m afraid or unwilling to debate or discuss this with you,” she explained. “I doing it because I’m trying to be patient. You’ve been patient, hearing what I’ve had to say. I think any more on this subject would just be an argument neither of us wants.”

“Yeah,” Paul admitted.

“I imagine Stacy is willing to allow you this chance to change,” his mother said. 

“But why? If I’m capable of doing what I did tonight, what else am I capable of?” And there it was. The last part of his question came out in whine of agony. He was a monster. He should be locked up before he hurt anyone. He wouldn’t be sorry if a bolt of lightning struck him down.  He needed to be punished. He needed to be stopped before he became that man.

“We’re all capable of horrible things, Paul,” his mother said. He couldn’t know for certain without activating the holographic feature of his PID, but he thought he heard a smile in her voice. “But you’re every bit as capable of becoming a kind, loving, patient man. If she’s ever willing to talk to you, maybe ask her why she was so willing to give you such precious gift as her own body. Why was she willing to be your girlfriend? I imagine it’s because she saw the man you could be, the other man you could be. I just wish you’d focus on becoming that man instead of avoiding the other.”

Paul glanced out the window as he ran a hand down his face to dry his tears. He caught the exit to his school from the corner of his eye, but he needed to admit something to his mother. “I’m so afraid of being him.”

“But if you focus on him, so that’s your target,” she said. “You have so many better options to focus on.” 

“Bill is the only better option I have, maybe Jordan or his dad,” Paul said. “I don’t know about so many other options.”

“I do,” his mother replied. “You’ve read the Bible. You have Enoch and Noah, Moses and David, the apostles and, most importantly, Jesus.”

“I thought you were changing the subject.” Paul muttered.

“I did, for an entire minute.” She sounded pleased at her quip. “And before you argue about it for the sake of arguing, go back and look at just one of those people. Would it really be so bad to be like them?”

Paul opened his mouth to say, “yes,” but that lie wouldn’t form on his lips either.

“Then there’s Paul,” his mother said. “Now there’s a case I think you could study. You could ask yourself why he called himself the foremost sinner, and yet he was still chosen to be an apostle to the Gentiles.”

Paul didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t either start an argument or get more Bible references. His contemplative moment turned into a period of silence.

“I’ll leave you to think on it now, but I hope you will,” his mother said. “We didn’t name you after the apostle, but you seem to focus on the punishments people deserved. It would do you some good to see the value of what mercy can do.”

“Ok,” Paul said.

“Thank you.”

Wait? Did she take that as a promise to look into it? “Mom —”

“I’m sure you’re near the school now, and you should see if Stacy is willing to talk to you,” his mother said.

“Mom, I —”

“I’ll talk to you later. I love you always, my son.”

She hung up. That was a dirty trick! She hung up before he could explain he was only acknowledging that he’d heard her. He shook his head. He didn’t actually promise her anything, and she knew it. He wasn’t obligated to study any of that stuff.

The car indeed pulled off the exit and started to pull around to one of the campus’s entrances. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 30

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 30

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 //

“I’m Bill Tayro,” Bill said. “I’m courting Paul’s mother, and he’s told me you’ve been speaking with him.”

“I’ve been trying to save his soul,” Mr. Dorny said. 

“Evangelism exists to lead people to Christ, who is the only one who can save anyone,” Bill said. 

Mr. Dorny smiled, but it didn’t have any warmth. It was a picturesque definition of condescension. “What would an adulterous man know about salvation?” 

Paul felt his body tense, but Bill’s hand fell onto his shoulder. Paul looked at the man, who had a truly contemplative face.

“You’re accusing me of adultery?” Bill said it like a question, but he didn’t sound defensive or angry.

“You’ve confessed already,” Mr. Dorny said. “You’re dating a woman, doing who knows what with her.”

“She’s divorced,” Bill said. How did he keep that calm?

“Divorce is a sin,” Mr. Dorny said. “To have relations or even look at a person’s wife in lust is a sin.”

“I’m not sure your comment aligns well with Matthew Chapter 5 clearly enough,” Bill said. “Would you like to open the word together and look more closely?”

Wait. Paul thought. Did he seriously just offer to open the Bible and read it together?

“I’ve no interest in debating scripture with a clear unbeliever,” Mr. Dorney said.

“But you’ll use half-truths to harass a child to a point to where he’s afraid to even walk by your house?” Bill asked. 

Mr. Dorney’s eyebrows furrowed. “I’d have anyone not of Christ fear my presence.”

“I thought you said you were trying to save him?” Bill asked.

“I am.” Mr. Dorney’s tone grew louder.

“Have you tried sharing the gospel?” Bill asked. 

“No unrepentant sinner is ready for the gospel!” Mr. Dorney had started shouting.

“Why are you angry?” Bill asked. “If your goal is to evangelize to this young man, simply offer him the complete gospel.”

“He won’t even admit his sin!” Mr. Dorny stabbed a finger in Paul’s direction. 

Paul again tried to step forward, but Bill gently pulled his shoulder back. 

“What you’re doing is harassing a young boy,” Bill said. “You’re countenance is fallen, Geneses 4:6. You’re not acting with kindness, patience, or love, Colossians 3:12-13. Neither are you treating this outsider with graciousness seasoned with salt, Colossians 4:6.”

“You dare quote scripture to me!” Mr. Dorny shouted. Now he seemed ready to hit someone.

“Are you unwilling to discuss scripture?” Bill asked. “How is it you intend to help any souls find Christ if you’re only willing to use his word to condemn?”

Through the whole exchange, Bill never wavered. He wore the same smile that was gentle, not condescending. His tone was patient and kind. 

Paul hadn’t seen anyone use or understand the Bible this way, no one except …

Paul looked at Bill. Could he be? That didn’t make sense. Bill didn’t even know Paul’s mom when Paul was a kid. But they spoke so similarly. 

“You false teacher!” Mr. Dorney said. “You’ll be put to death for your sin!”

“I’m not certain whether or not you’ve just threatened my well being.” Bill sounded like he was reading a particularly complex book. “But you’re quoting Deuteronomy 18:20 as if you know I’m speaking against one of God’s commandments. I don’t believe you’ve tested my spirit in accordance to 1 John 4:1-6. If you had, you would have remembered that I began this conversation acknowledging that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, John 14:6. He came in the flesh from God, and only those who come to him can find salvation.”

Mr. Dorny’s face turned red. “You blasphemer!”

“I think I’ve heard enough shouting.” The more Mr. Dorney shouted, the stronger Bill looked just keeping his tone and posture under control. “I’m not of the opinion you are worried about anything other than passing judgement, which isn’t anything like evangelism. So here’s how this is going to go. I’ve approached you personally in accordance with Matthew 18:15. Paul has witnessed this exchange. You’ve refused to repent. You’ve shown no desire to be reconciled to a brother.”

“You’re no brother of mine!” Mr. Dorney said. He sounded like he was trying not to laugh or shout, so the sound came out like some strange sort of cough. 

“Very well,” Bill said. “But I truly pray you search the scripture and reflect on this exchange. I pray that your eyes will be opened, and you’ll see you’re acting far more like Saul the oppressor rather than Paul the evangelist.”

It was weird for Paul to hear his name so many times and know that Bill was talking about an apostle who supposedly lived thousands of years ago.

Bill stepped behind him to put a second hand on both Paul’s shoulders. “This young man will be using this road to get home. You will not harass or approach him. If you do, the police will be notified. More importantly, I hope you’ll leave this young man to walk the path God has chosen. He’s a child, one of those to whom belong the Kingdom of Heaven, Matthew 19:14.”

Mr. Dorney sneered. “Fine! Go enjoy your flesh and adultery. You’ll burn in Hell, and I’ll be happy to see it.”

“Would you be Lazarus standing with  Abraham? I’d be far more concerned about the plank in my eye.” Bill turned and started to walk back to the house. 

Mr. Dorney shouted a lot more as they walked away, but Bill didn’t appear to pay any attention.

Book Review: The Gospel According to Paul by John MacArthur

Book Review: The Gospel According to Paul by John MacArthur

The cover to this image was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

At the time I bought The Gospel According to Paul, I was particularly enamored by that apostle (he is called one though he was untimely born and isn’t one of the 12). I still love his epistles and his story; I only give that information to explain why I bought that book.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve read it (Sept. 7, 2018). I don’t honestly remember too much. I was perhaps being unfair because I wanted the same fulfillment I get from reading one of Paul’s epistles, and it’s pretty unfair to expect that. I do know that it covers some of the constants in Paul’s writings.

The Gospel belongs to God. I assume the clarification here has something to do with Paul’s use of “my gospel.” He does this the same way us Navy folks say “my ship” or “my command.” We’re taught in the Navy to take ownership. This is to build a person to care or defend things like they’re his own. MacArthur clears that up.

Then there is that thing Paul does so well, which is (and this is my paraphrase here) the summary of how and why we are saved. Faith over works. The death and resurrection of Christ is our sole hope for salvation.

I’m positive there was more, but this study just didn’t hold me the way others from MacArthur do. I could read 12 Ordinary Men 100 times and still be satisfied. Perhaps part of the reason this story doesn’t resonate with me is I’d studied Paul’s works a lot before reading it, so the material just wasn’t particularly enlightening. Please know that I don’t mean this to imply I know everything about Paul and the Gospel. That’s not my intent at all. What I mean is that I was pretty familiar with the terms and concepts MacArthur covered, so I didn’t get that really cool jolt a person gets when particularly difficult passages or concepts finally click.

Image of Dr. MacArthur taken from his web site for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

I’d recommend this to anyone not familiar with the Biblical explanation of salvation. This would also be particularly interesting if you’re curious about Paul, but another reason this didn’t meet my expectations is that I truly wanted to study the man  more. If anyone is aware of a good, historically-based, biography on Paul is, I’d be interested in reading it.

None of this is a nock on the book or MacArthur. I just had to note what I thought it was (a biography of Paul with narratives that demonstrate his representation of the Gospel) with what it actually was (a simple study of how Paul taught the Gospel.)

It’s still an interesting story and a great addition to MacArthur’s bibliography.

Thanks for reading,


Book Review: The Book on Leadership by John MacArthur

Book Review: The Book on Leadership by John MacArthur

(NOTE: Why two MacArthur books in a row? It was just next on the list. You can go to my Goodreads page to see what’s coming up. I’m honestly happy to have quite a back-log of reviews coming, but (outside of special circumstances) I read books in the order I have them on my TBR (my Christian books are read based on when I finish the previous book) and I review them in the same order they appear on my “Read” bookshelf.

The cover for this book was taken form its Amazon page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

The Book on Leadership by John MacArthur was a book I chose because I’m heavily invested in leadership.  As a Sailor, I truly wanted to see others succeed. As an instructor, I wanted it all the more. Great leaders are honestly rare. I’m not laying claim to that title because leaders are proven worthy by the growth and development of those they lead. I have seen some amazing leaders, and I’ve seen people I didn’t think were effective leaders at all. This book gave me the chance to look at leadership through a biblical perspective.

After reading Twelve Ordinary Men (TOM) and the Bible as a whole, I was a bit surprised at the passages MacArthur chose to look at. I expected Jesus or maybe Peter. Instead, MacArthur looks at two passages featuring Paul.  I don’t know MacArthur personally, but if I had to guess, I’d assume he did this because through TOM we already saw Christ’s leadership and Peter’s natural leadership traits. Paul was the new area to investigates.

Image of John MacArthur taken from his website for review purposes.

I can’t exactly remember how many leadership traits MacArthur covers (which means perhaps it’s time to read this again), but I know he covers them in numerical order. A lot of the traits he discusses are accompanied by Biblical examples of how Paul demonstrated those traits, which I found helpful.

A number of the traits he covers are traits I had already sought out. Some surprised me (though again, it’s been so long I can’t recall them).  But the valuable part of this book was establishing good leadership traits and observing them applied through the Apostle Paul. The memory that sticks out for me the most was how Paul handles what most would consider their “I told you so,” moment. This is a moment I’ve been guilty of several times  in my life.

If I were still enlisted, I’d give a copy of this book to any of my Sailors who became petty officers. I’d also give copies to chiefs.  It’s just full of applicable, actionable guidance for people who want to be leaders.

Thanks for reading,


Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 30 (The final part)

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 30 (The final part)

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.

See Part 16 here.

See Part 17 here.

See Part 18 here.

See Part 19 here.

See Part 20 here.

See Part 21 here.

See Part 22 here.

See Part 23 here.

See Part 24 here.

See Part 25 here.

See part 26 here.

See part 27 here.

See Part 28 here.

See Part 29 here.

A Changing Life

As I type this, it’s been nearly two months since my mother died.

I think the first week back at work was the hardest. I ran into a number of people who only wanted me to know they were there for me, but the hard part was the number of reminders. “How are you doing?” (You know, ’cause your mom died).  “How are you holding up?” (You know, ’cause you’re mom died).  I was stuck in this weird place where I was trying to show my appreciation for their concern while balancing the desire to explain to them that the questions were just more constant reminders. I mention it now only because I’m trying to explain my mindset at that time. I have so many people who love me so much. They want to be sure I’m OK and know they are there for me.  I’ll always love them for that, but it was a struggle at that point.

It’s been nine Fridays since my mother died. I use to call her just to talk and see how things were. My first Friday back at work, I caught myself picking up the phone. It was Friday. I’ve always talked about what a creature of habit I am. If something becomes a part of my routine, it’s trained into me like an athlete.

Whenever we lose someone we truly love, the simple fact is we’re never going to be the same. This is because love is sacrifice. We train our bodies to behave a certain way around our loved ones. We deny our instincts to the point to where we change our habits. Maybe you stopped smoking because your husband or wife didn’t like it. Maybe you started working out to shape your body for that girlfriend or boyfriend. Maybe you stopped biting your nails because it annoyed a friend. Those changes are sacrifices we make. Sacrifice is the greatest show of love anyone can offer. God sacrificed his only son for us, and Jesus willingly obeyed, sacrificing himself for us. This was so that the price for our sins could be paid, which would grant us a way to be with them.

For us mere mortals, that sacrifice becomes most apparent when the one for whom we’ve sacrificed is no longer there. So we have this choice to make. The temptation is to let go of those sacrifices. Some see it even as freedom after a time. But if we let go of those sacrifices, I’m of the opinion that we also then let go of the person we were, thus changing from that person who loved us.

Anyone can sacrifice for someone for a short time. Even I can clean my condo if I know I’m having a visitor. Any guy courting any woman can put the toilet seat down the first time he visits his girlfriend’s house. But it’s only sacrifice if we truly give it up. And it’s only sacrifice if we let it go even after we lose the reason for which we’ve sacrificed it. Otherwise the sacrifice was only tolerance. Tolerance isn’t the wonderful mindset I think people make it out to be. The word tolerate means to allow the existence or practice of something one doesn’t necessarily agree with, without interference. Merriam Webster adds this short alternative, “to put up with.” But if we only tolerate, the more we’re forced to tolerate, the more we want to resent. Resentment then leads to frustration, which leads to anger. I’ve even seen that anger build into genuine hatred.

No, readers, I feel that tolerance is only a delay tactic that ultimately leads to even more hostility. Sacrifice yourself for those you love, or don’t. You have that right to choose. But if you only tolerate, you’re setting up that relationship for utter failure.

So now I’m looking at my life, and I find it odd sometimes.  I can’t say my life is completely different. At this point, things are running just about how they used to run. The differences are in the little things, and those little things (when they come), hit hard.

Now for the part some might not like to hear.

Did the death matter?

That sound’s like a cold question doesn’t it? But we always talk about how “we’ll never be the same” or “this death had such an impact on my life.”

But if you go right back to the life you had after a nice “show” of remorse at a funeral, did it really matter? If two weeks after that death you’re right back to who you were, did the death matter?  Looking at my life, I would say no. It doesn’t remove the emotions. My point is that if I go right back to the man I was before my mom got sick, her life, her suffering, and her death become meaningless, and I refuse to disgrace her in that way.

I choose to show my endless love, a love not bound by existence, by changing because of that love. I want to be better because in doing those things, I prove to myself that the lessons my mother taught me matter.

Wasn’t it the same for the Apostles after Christ died? Shouldn’t it be the same for all who are saved? The Apostles mourned. They had the honor of seeing Christ risen, but he didn’t stay with them in the flesh. I have to think they missed him after he ascended. I can’t think that Peter was perfect after the ascension. I wonder if he was ever tempted. I think he was to a degree. In Galatians 2, Peter pulled away from a meal with gentiles because they wouldn’t be circumcised.  Paul rebuked him.

But there were other displays where Peter showed he’d changed for having known Christ. Peter, for those who are unfamiliar with scripture, is (in my opinion) the greatest example of change. Greater even than Paul.

I suppose this tangent is coming.

You see, Peter’s given name is Simon. Jesus called him Peter as a sort of nickname. That nickname was a form of positive encouragement for Peter to act like the man Jesus wanted him to be.  Yes, Paul did terrible things, and then stopped, but the terrible things he did, he did out of misguided zeal. He thought Jesus wasn’t resurrected. He thought the Apostles were wrong. When Jesus revealed himself and called Paul to be an Apostle, yes he changed his actions, but that zealous heart and manic drive to do what he believed was God’s will was still the core of his personality (Acts).  Paul changed his actions. Peter changed his ways.

Both were great men, and Paul is more of a favorite of mine (personally) than Peter. (Andrew, who I’m the least like, is my favorite because I’d like to be more like him so that I could then be more like Christ.)

We therefore change who we are for the people we love, and I am changed for having known my mother and, through this trial, better known Jesus. Before my mom got sick, I watched sermons on my lap top and read the Bible. But I was stagnate. The more I studied and the more I fed my spirit, the more I came to understand Jesus. It also helped me understand my mom and the example she provided.

Love is sacrifice.

I can’t imagine the number of things Mom wanted to do in life from selling her house and taking trips to I don’t know what else. But she constantly denied herself things I know she wanted simply to provide for those she loved.

Christ humbled himself, then allowed himself to be punished for our sins just so that we could be saved by his blood.

So who are we then if we continue to be who we were? (Romans 7)

This is the question that drives me every day.

I loved my mom. No, that’s wrong. Her death does not mean the end of my love. That’s stupid. If that love is gone my remorse and desire to change should be. I could consider myself free from the willing sacrifices I made for her because she’s not on Earth any more. I don’t have to get along with my sisters because she’s not here to be saddened by it. Her mortal death would make me free from her rules. But I still love her. Her presence on this Earth doesn’t remove that love, so I’ll honor her memory because I still love her now.

This is how we should act for Christ, if indeed we love him too.

Christ wasn’t there to rebuke Peter, playfully calling him Simon as a gentle reminder of the man he used to be. But Peter still remained the man Christ had helped him become.

I believe (because my mother had proclaimed Jesus her savior when I was a child and had been baptized) Mom is in Heaven with Jesus.

Jesus certainly knows what I’m up to. I’m not sure what scripture says about those who’ve left this world or not, but I still like the idea of mom watching from above.

So let me be changed. Let the death of my mom and, more importantly, the death of Jesus Christ change me. Let me be the man that honors my love for them. Let me let go of the man I was. Let that show my love, and let that be what gives meaning to my mother’s death.

Can I claim to be changed? No.  Foolish, selfish, and (if I may quote Paul) wretched man that I am, I still act far more like the man I was than the man I want to be (Romans 7). But I will claim to be changing. This evolution of my body to align with my spirt isn’t going as quickly as I’d like. I constantly ask myself if I’m any better, especially days when I find myself resentful at work or even with one of my siblings. That’s the old me. I shouldn’t be that man anymore. Am I really any different?

Yes. At the very least I now instantly realize I’m not acting the right way and re-focus my thoughts to be in line with how I’m supposed to act.

There are changes in my life I do recognize. I fear to lay claim to them because I have this odd habit. Every time I proclaim, “I’ve changed!” I amazingly do the very thing I so proudly claimed to have stopped. It’s silly how it goes. “I don’t cause anymore!” “What the #### are you doing!?” “I’m not so prideful anymore!” he said proudly.

So please simply accept this claim that I’ve greatly reduced the number of sins in my life from “too many to count per day” to “I’m sometimes discouraged by how many I count.” But this is a blessing. When God reveals our sins to us, we have the chance to feel remorse, repent and change. I think I need a bit of humbling realization here and there. To me it shows that I’m changing. I’d rather not keep seeing the exact same sin.  I’m struggling most with my pride and selfishness at the moment.

The point is, I’m working toward being better every day, and I wasn’t doing that before Mom died. I was content. I was satisfied with my state as it is.

The greatest change I’ve seen, the one I feel is the best tribute to the memory of my mother, is that I’m trying again. I’m trying to be better.

I’m sure there will be those who say, “See, doesn’t work.  This guy prayed and testified and trusted God, and his mom still died.”

News flash.  My mom was always going to die. She could have been hit by a bus or struck by lightning.

That person might argue, “But she died of cancer, and you had faith God would heal her.”

He did. He healed her so well she’s in Heaven with him. And when his son returns to earth, all those who were saved will return also, in perfect, sinless, cancer-free bodies. I just have to keep my faith and be patient. Sure, I have to be far more patient than I wanted to be, but how much patience has God needed just to see me reach this still wholly unacceptable state I’m in now?

If I were to have stopped this testimony the moment my mother died, did I ever believe in the first place?

But by this loss, I’m granted the wonderful opportunity to proclaim my faith (which He has given me) remains because my faith in him is not based on what he does for me any more than my love for my mother was based on her presence on this Earth.

And there, again, is another example of God’s unknowable judgements and inscrutable ways (Romans 11:33). If God had granted my supplication, sure I would have been happy. I’d have testified. I’d have sung in joy and praise of his name. But then what lesson do I have to teach the world?

Pray to God and he’ll give you want you want?

That’s not the lesson. And how many people would have been lost for the misconception that faith and trust in God will get you what you want rather than what you need.

Instead, the lesson I am blessed to teach is that faith and trust in God remain. Even if we don’t receive those things for which we ask, we always get what we need. The things we receive are always for our good. My love and praise of him is no more based on what he does for me (in giving what I want when I want) than my salvation is based on what I do for him (Romans 1-3).

Faith is the lesson. Faith in God. Faith in love. Faith that my mother and I will indeed be reunited. Faith that no matter what, my salvation is assured because of God’s love and grace and for no other reason.

I didn’t want my mom to die any more than Job wanted to lose all he had (Job 1). But the Lord gives, and he takes (Job 1:21). It is his sovereign right.

I used to think it was like a kid playing with a cat and a string. Yanking away the string just as the cat snatches it.  Horrible isn’t it?

But the thing is, I’ve come to understand that he gave them to us to begin with. They were never really ours. Instead, we receive (by His grace) these wonderful gifts, but any mortal gift is temporary. Nothing we gain here on Earth can come with us after we die. Even atheists will admit this.

So rather than lament what God’s taken, I praise Him because I had them to begin with, because I’m going to lose them sooner or later. My own mortality testifies to this. I wasn’t ready. I miss her, and it’s not sinful at all to morn her death.

But, I have now an even greater gift in that I’m changing. My relationship with God is closer. I have a better understanding of salvation. I have a greater awareness of my sin so I can turn from it (even if it’s with great struggle and effort).

This lesson is far more valuable than the selfish one I originally started working from.

Yes, my life is missing something for the lack of my mom’s presence in it, but I have so much more because she was in it to begin with.

Yes, my heart is sad because someone I love is gone, but it’s so much more filled because God’s love has been poured into me through the Holy Spirit who has been given to me (Romans 5:5).

I pray for you reader. I pray you’ve been inspired by this testimony. I pray your faith is encouraged or that God has worked through this memoir to call you to him. I pray this gives you comfort if you face a similar challenge in your life. I pray you don’t make the mistakes I made when I was facing this trial.

Mostly, I pray you be filled with love. I pray you remember that love is sacrifice. I pray you sacrifice the person you were for God first, and those you love. Husbands, I pray you love your wives as Jesus loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). Let love be the way in which you live your life. May you have love in abundance from those around you, but may you first receive the love of God Almighty whose love for you was demonstrated by the most difficult sacrifice one could ever make. Amen!

Thanks for reading


Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 12

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 12

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.


With my mom back in her home, I’m happy that things are starting to gain a sense of routine. Routine is something I cherish. It keeps life moving. It helps everything feel like it’s all OK.

It even feels a bit normal. I called home. My mom was more interested in my relationship with my girlfriend than seemingly anything else. That’s a strength my mom has always had. Whatever is going on in life, she wants to know we’re OK. If anyone were to ask why I feel my mom is the best, I’d reply that it’s because my happiness is her priority. She and the family are working to get the house ready to sell, and the first thing she asked when I called is if I need any new clothes.

It’s startling to be honest.  I sort of struggle with that. I try to show she’s raised me right by not needing her, and she’ll never stop wanting to provide for me.  It’s one of the cornerstones of love.

What I want to be happy is for this to be over. I’m mentally exhausted at work. I’m exhausted with the pace I’ve been turing out stories. And this concern for my mom is always right there in the back of my mind.

So today, I speak about patience. I don’t feel I’m bad or sinful for expressing my desire for this trial to be over. However, I do realize that my purpose is to preserver.  God wants us to stand strong through adversity. Doing so shows God we trust him and have faith in him.

I had a bit of a high-and-low moment at work last Friday. One the high side, one of my friends watched me teach.

“I don’t know how you keep bringing that much passion every day.”

I replied, “Are you ready for the answer?”

He nodded.

“When you know you’re doing what God wants, it’s easy.”  As true as that is, I was, again, pretty arrogant.  My point was that we should always evaluate what we’re doing. If we’re suffering, there’s a reason and purpose.  My argument was that sometimes suffering shows us we’re not doing what God wants.

Less than an hour later I vented (it was venting, but I shouted, loudly) to my friend and team lead about an issue that came up.  Someone wasn’t aware of a change we had to make. That person didn’t know why the change was made. He went to talk to our mutual boss about it.  When you have some 30-something (at least) instructors working with more than 120 students in four different iterations of the same course, things are bound to fall through the cracks. My anger and frustration took the wheel, which means I turned from God in that moment, hours after I said it’s easy to do what God wants.

The fact is, it’s not easy to do what God wants.  The reward, the joy I feel when I know I’m doing what He wants is priceless. That doesn’t mean there won’t be trials, and I failed that test. I failed that test less than an hour after I talked about keeping one’s mind on serving God.  This is because I lack a skill that’s critical to being a good christian: Patience.

Romans 12:12: “Be Joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

I’m not often patient in any manner. Now, in this portion of my mom’s treatment, all there is to do is wait. At work, when things took an unexpected turn, all I needed to do was wait.  I didn’t.  This is something I need to practice and demonstrate in my life.

There’s a phrase I’m currently studying in some christian circles. “Let go, and let God.”  I’m not honestly one who believes that if I just sit idly praising God, things will just fall in my lap.  At the very least I’m not so foolish as to think I can work outside of God’s will. I’ve mentioned before that one has to work toward a goal and then wait for God to enact His will in His time.  But that patience has to become a regular part of my life.

Romans 8:24-25: “For in this hope, we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Everything that happens, not matter how horrible it may seem at the moment, is for our own good. For those who wish to dispute this, I feel compelled to note the words “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

This sort of puts a sharp, unsympathetic modifier on things. This verse clarifies that God works specifically for those who love him and those who’ve been called.

Some, like Paul may suffer so that they might hear God’s call.

So, to create context, let’s establish some necessary assumptions.

  1. Those who don’t love God may or may not suffer, but their acts, though permitted by God, are not for the good of those individuals unless that good is intended to bring those people to hear God’s call and come to love him, which is the greatest good there can be.
  2. The ultimate good is a life alongside Jesus when he returns to Earth.
  3. Glory is promised to those who love and honor God, but that Glory is defined as the love of God. Some people consider glory to translate to “what I want.”

That third aspect of context is the one that really gets some people. I’ve spoken frequently about things I want, but each of those desires must be secondary to loving and honoring God. That’s the glory. If one recognizes that as the definition, then one can understand a major question of religion.

“If God loves us, why does he let bad things happen?”

Paul lost everything. He was imprisoned and later executed for loving and following God, but he maintained faith and conviction because he understood his ultimate glory was already guaranteed.

Romans 8:38-39: “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.”

At this point in this journey I find myself “wanting.” I want to get married. I want to be better at my job. I want to be a best seller. And, I want my mom to be cancer free.

I feel confident that most who read this wouldn’t blame me for any of these desires. The hammer meets the nail when one realizes those are all worldly desires. God may or may not choose to allow any of those things to happen. I’d obviously praise God for each of those things if they happened just as I praised God by telling my coworker I have passion when I teach because I believe that’s what he wants me to do.  But what do you do when you don’t get what you want?

What was your motivation for following God? Readers, if you follow God because you believe he’s the ultimate  “Godfather” giving you things in exchange for what you give, I’m compelled to tell you to pray. Pray for understanding and wisdom. You don’t follow God because of the earthly things you might get. You follow him because you love him and fear him.

So if I’m denied every single one of those earthly desires, what I should and will do is praise him. Praise him and testify that this, like all things, is ultimately for my good. I might not see it. I might not understand it. It might be a test, a test I’ve failed a lot in recent days.

I have a dissagrement at work, and off I go, shouting and yelling because I’m afraid.  This demonstrates no faith in God and no respect of this will.

My girlfriend’s divorce isn’t final, and I fail to control my mind and body, ultimately seeking out fornication to satisfy my fleshly desires.

My mom has a few turns in her treatment, and I balk when my sister calls for help (see Part 7).

Why should God bless me if I keep turning from him every time my life is going well when measured by earthly desires and accomplishments?

Is that who I really am? I am I that hypocritical? Am I one of those who responded with, “Only just let me” when Jesus says, “follow me.”  See the Gospels.

This is my repentance. It’s hard to be christian. It’s hard to follow God because you have to always follow him. I’m as faithful in prayer as anyone I know. I’m great at rejoicing in hope.

Now, in this portion, where I must wait, and I’m sad and hurting because I want my mother to be okay, I must be patient.

Pray for me in this readers. Pray for me that I might learn to be as calm and happy in my trials as I am in my joys.



Questions and Revelations

What happened at work?

Honestly, nothing. There were things I was very afraid could or might happen. But it was a hole lot of wasted anger and frustration over nothing. This amplifies my shame, readers. Things have gotten blown out of proportion in my life and in my workplace. I won’t assert they are more or less than any business or school, but I have to be better than I am in how I respond to them, even if they go result in my persecution or suffering.   In this case, it was all fine by the time I left that day, but I think I learned more from this instance than I ever have. I fear the next time something like this comes, but I hope that I’m ready for it.

What do you mean “bad things happen for my good”?

Just what I said. Listen, I sometimes get frustrated at people or religious books that proclaim bad things happen for good reasons just as I get frustrated at those who smile and say to perceiver or not want worldly things when they seem to have an awful lot of worldly things.  That’s jealousy, plain and simple. I’m not pretending to know your pain. But here’s some of mine:

I come from a family created through rape and brutalized by molestation.

I’ve seen children of those I love given away for adoption.

I’ve seen a child burned (not killed, but badly burned).

I’ve seen parents of those I love die.

I’ve seen dreams of people I love crumble.

I’ve told young men and women who wanted nothing more that to be storytellers for the Navy that they couldn’t do that.

It hurt. I wept. Most times I have to let a student go, I weep.

I have nightmares about this.

I’m not comparing my suffering to yours. But I have suffered, and I will suffer more. They were horrible. They were sad. Some of those things took me decades to come to terms with.

How was any of that for my good? For starters, I exist. I’m alive. Ester’s rape was a horrible thing. The molestation in my family wasn’t any better. But here I am, a man at the end of a long line of tragedy, a faulted, flawed, sinful man, but one who understands God loves him, and forgives him these sins.

Here I am, a man who feels like he had to fight through years of abuse and heartbreak, and now I’m about to become a part of a family with three boys, who might just need exactly that kind of knowledge, so that I can help them through their parents’ divorce. Is that how I want things to happen? No! But I’m better for it. I’m more prepared for future, harder trials because of it.

It’s easy for non-believers to point at the bad in the world and wail, “What sort of God would allow this?”

My response is a God who knows what’s to come. A God who’s calling others to action. A God who loves us enough to prepare us. Yes, he tests us. He allowed Satan to wipe out Job’s family. Job’s my favorite story. I don’t know that I could fill his example, but he suffered that so that he could be an example.

Jesus: God sent his only son to earth to die for our sins. Oddly, I’ve never heard anyone argue about that. I’ve never heard any non-believer say, “What father would ever sacrifice his son for anything?”

First off, Jesus also chose to die for our sins. He loved us so much he willingly died, obeying his father’s will and paying for all our sins.  How much do you imagine either actually enjoyed that?

I’m not saying don’t be sad. I’m not saying look to tragedy with a smile.  I’m simply stating my firm belief that as a child of God, everything that happens to me is for my own good.

Do you look forward to the next test?

Oh there’s no way that’s not coming. Even Peter was tested three times just as he denied Christ three times. Honestly, I don’t look forward to any of my trials or tests. Jesus didn’t skip to the cross and smile as they nailed him to it. He was, however, far more benevolent and honorable as he endured those things. So must I. No. I don’t look forward to it. But I do long to show God I can endure. That means I have to be put in a position to endure though doesn’t it?

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