Book Review: 12 Ordinary Men by John MacArthur

Book Review: 12 Ordinary Men by John MacArthur
Image taken from Amazon for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

12 Ordinary Men by John MacArthur is a book that looks at the original 12 Apostles. I’ve already read this book twice, and I intend to read it again at some point.

What this book does is help the reader see just how human the Apostles were. They were chosen by God, and developed into the foundations of the Christian church, but they were just men. Not only that, they weren’t from a high station.

I appreciated the person-by-person structure of the book. I was honestly most impressed with Andrew, Peter’s younger brother. Why? Because all Andrew did was introduce people to Jesus.  While I wish I had more in common with Andrew, I see more of myself in Peter and John.

Like them, I’m aggressive. I’m task oriented. I’m driven. I have ambition. I value truth over most things. These aren’t inherently sinful traits, but they can lead one to stumble if no one is there to temper those traits into positive leadership.

I’m comforted in that while I see that I need to develop certain skills and bring back others, they are traits that could be useful to my Savior if I seek to serve Him more.

If any are wondering, this book even takes a look at Judas. It’s as comprehensive as it can be. It uses some church history writings to fill in some gaps, but the primary source of reference for the information is, of course, the Bible.

This image taken from MacArthur’s web site for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

I’d recommend this book to any people in leadership. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to see personal growth. Seeing a detailed character study allowed me to see parts of myself and truly contemplate how I’m acting. This is probably my favorite book by MacArthur to date.

By looking at how Jesus developed his Apostles, we also get a unique view of Him, and that’s always a plus.

I’m honestly a big fan of this particular book. Any Christian looking to evaluate their walk with Christ would do well to read this.

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 21

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 21

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.

Roller Coaster

The first of the new treatments was done, and it was supposed to be two weeks before the next treatment.

Mom got to go home to Yuma a few days later. That time gave a bit of a pleasant rhythm to my life. Those at work were so supportive as I updated them on how things went. The timing of everything put me on a shorter week, and I appreciated that since it gave me time to recover from all the flying.

I called Mom that next Friday. She was alert, talkative and concerned most with how things were going with my girlfriend. That got me to thinking.

The old treatments were usually followed closely by a hospital visit of some kind.  This time was different. Three days had gone by, and nothing seemed to be going wrong.

Another week passed, and each time I spoke with my sister (we don’t talk every day, but we talked a few times), I emphasized that the fact that Mom wasn’t having any complaints was reason for optimism. I certainly thought it was.

Another week went by pretty much the same as before.  I called Mom.  Things seemed to be looking up, and I told my dad the same thing I told my sister.

I’m actually a pragmatic person.  If you were to accuse me of being pessimistic, I don’t know that I could convince you I’m not. What I never want to do, however, is have false hope.

God is the only real hope. Trust in Him and His will is all people need. I believe this whole heartedly. I’m not so perfect as to claim I always remember this.  I fail sometimes, letting the problem create worry when I should have trust.

What happened next was something that made me feel guilty because for all my talk about how she’s made it through a round of treatment without side effects, only days before her second scheduled treatment, Mom started feeling pain.

Then she got angry.

Mom has made it pretty clear how she feels about hospitals. The steroids aren’t helping her mood any, and the overlap became most obvious through this new challenge.

I honestly don’t remember what caused me to call my dad. I think it was a social media post from a family member; I’m just not sure. Regardless, I called my Dad.

“You’re mom’s been something else,” he said.  That roughly translates into a comment that Mom was acting out.

She was in pain. She didn’t want to eat. At some point in this, someone mentioned going to the hospital, and Mom got even more angry.

She flat did not want to go anywhere near a hospital, but she was very clearly in pain. He called a few doctors, and they developed a plan that would get her, “straight in to see someone.”

That’s not how it went at all. My sister headed down to help in any way she could. It was an all out effort to convince or coerce Mom to get treatment.

It didn’t go well.

Mom became enraged. She was mad at everyone. That promise to get her straight in to see anyone resulted in days–literal days–of waiting, during which Mom only got more angry.

Then there’s the person I think of as “New Doctor.” New Doctor was supposed to look at my Mom’s gall stone issue and figure out the cause of this pain.

As Mom continued acting out and getting angry every time they’d take her somewhere. You see, they’d take her down to do a procedure or test, then they’d say, “we’re not doing it.”

On her best day, my Mom wouldn’t have liked that. This wasn’t her best day or even week.

Then comes New Doctor, who felt compelled to tell members of my family that we need to just come to terms with fact that “the tumor has taken over” and “your Mom is already gone.”

This isn’t a member of the cancer team.  This was, as far as I know, literally the doctor who caught this case where they were searching to find out what was causing Mom pain.

New Doctor continues to promote the “realistic” outlook on my mom.

I’m not going to get into how I felt, but in a family already damaged with news and somewhat conflicting information, I felt it was unprofessional and frankly unethical that some doctor in Yuma felt at liberty to comment on a patient who’s file he hadn’t seen.  Why? Well, apparently he’d recently lost loved ones to brain cancer.

I can absolutely sympathize with his feelings. That doesn’t make his conduct professional, and his case with his family isn’t a standard for how any other case should go.

My sister was distraught, and my dad had, had it. He basically used phone calls to wrangle the Phoenix doctors and the Yuma doctors together.

Meanwhile, at least three days had passed with no one actually doing anything. Turns out, we had to wait to get our mother’s body to a place where it could handle the tests and procedures the Yuma doctors wanted to do.  That explains it, but that explanation came days after this started.

By that point, Mom had started to physically resist. I wasn’t there. I must acknowledge that my information comes from my family, but apparently the only time they saw nurses was when they wanted to yell at my family for being short with my mom.

“Don’t you know she’s dying,” one nurse told my sister.

By this point, Dad and my sister worked out some sort of rotation to ensure at least one of them would be in the hospital.

The date of the second treatment came and went because they couldn’t do another treatment if my mom was feeling pain or not physically well.

That left my family with little support, an outraged woman fighting cancer, and the closest doctor just wanted us to “accept this was happening.”

I wish New Doctor had worked as hard to actually find the new issue as he did to try and insert his non-medically-based opinion into my family’s thought process.

To be clear, I’m not stating he’s not a doctor, but he’s not an oncologist. He was the doctor called to handled a digestive or gall-bladder issue. This leads me to feel it’s completely unprofessional to give any sort of advice or direction regarding a case he wasn’t studying and hadn’t been involved with until this point.

Unprofessional conduct and perhaps well-meaning but absolutely hurtful comments were the only interruptions to what I think ended up being about three days of waiting to actually do anything productive.

All after my mom was promised she’d be in and out.


Questions and Revelations


What’s being done about New Doctor?

I don’t have all the details. My father intended to file a report through the official channels. I’m not sure if it happened or not.

A year ago, This blog would have been formatted very differently. I would have gotten that doctor’s name. I would have posted these events on the hospital’s web page, social media and any other format I could.

I would have been vengeful.

But that’s not the correct response.

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing,” 1 Peter 3:9.

“Do not say, ‘I will avenge this evil!’ Wait on the Lord, and He will deliver you,” Proverbs 20:22.

“When they heaped abuse on Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats, but entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly,” 1 Peter 2:23.

I like reading those passages in that order. It feels like it brings everything full circle.

So with that I ask that you not seek to judge or lash out against New Doctor. Yes, I’m informing you of what happened. I did this not so you could help me gang up on and lash out against a man who I honestly believe meant well.  Rather, I had to help you see how much these actions hurt my heart, so that you could see that what I seek isn’t vengeance, but peace.

Not long ago, I would have wanted retaliation. I would have wanted hundreds of comments on how “wrong” this is.

But if we focus, if I focus, on the wrongs done to us, it only serves to deflect our own wrongs, and this is a serious issue in the world today.

We want others to be more wrong than us. We want this more than we want to be right ourselves. We’d rather rationalize our own sinful desires by making them seem comparatively smaller than those of others. We want to speak about “this” sin with wrath and anger, but we have little-to-no desire to look at the sin in our own lives.

So if I feel like someone sins against me or hurts me, it’s is my Christian duty to forgive.

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” Matthew 6:14.

I wouldn’t begrudge my father reporting something. If we respond with love, that love will be known.

So reporting action that needs to be corrected is fine if correcting the action is the goal.

So please don’t bombard this post with comments about “how you would” or “New Doctor should (insert unpleasant life event).”

Rather read this and consider a transgression you recently suffered. Maybe your neighbor stole your lawnmower. Maybe a loved one forgot something important.  Maybe your boss yelled at you unjustly.

Fill the world with love. Endure suffering. Forgive. I’m not directing you or anyone to sign up to be abused without cause.  I’m simply hoping you understand that when  you do suffer, you focus on God, forgiveness, grace and mercy, so that even if the one hurting you continues, God Himself will grant those things to you.

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


Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 18

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 18

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.

The Birthday


In my rush to get home and see what I could do to help, I neglected to look at the calendar.  Even if I had, I must admit I’m horrible with birthdays.  I remember Saleah’s birthday and my little sister’s birthday. Outside of those individuals, I can’t keep those dates straight.  It’s just not a strength of mine.  I usually remember the month of the birthday.  I’d reach a new month, and awkwardly try and recall which relative (or relatives) of mine was born in that month.  Social media has been a huge help in that regard.

Turns out, my best friend and sister took me to visit my mom, and that stay would mean my brother-in-law wouldn’t be able to spend his son’s birthday with The Boy (my nickname for my nephew).

I felt a bit guilty, but they didn’t seem to mind so much.  However, this birthday created opportunities for our family to live and work together.

My first night staying with my parents, I was playing solitaire. Cards have always been the thing my family does together.  My mother taught me, and her mother, whom we lost not too long ago, taught her. It’s a family tradition I intend to continue (also, I’m crazy good at cards). Mom’s illness shook that. Her ability to read and understand information is different at best. So while I played solitaire she remarked that she was sad she couldn’t play.

I don’t do well with words like “can’t.”

So I offered to play a game of cards with her.  She said she was worried she wouldn’t be able to, so I suggested we play War.  It’s a simple enough game that I thought shouldn’t have been overwhelming to her.

We sat down, shuffled the cards, and got to playing.  It was hard.  But I wasn’t sad because she struggled with playing a simple kids game.  I was happy.  Why? The answer is the reason she was struggling.

Years ago, the game of choice went from Rummy, to a game called Hand and Foot. I’m not honestly sure how obscure or not that game is. I don’t know a lot of people who play it, and I won’t explain the rules.

While I kept trying to play War with my mom, she kept trying to play Hand and Foot. Matching cards instead of finding cards of higher value. As soon as I noticed it, I decided to switch things up.  We played a game of Hand and Foot.

It felt a bit like back when my family taught me how to play. Here I was teaching the woman who taught me how to play the exact same game.  Only, it was more of a refresher course. Gentle reminders and some leading questions helped her get through the game, which she won for the record.  I didn’t willingly let her win, but neither was I making an effort to win myself.  Like always, I tend to play the game simply to get time with her, and this time was no different.

From then on, Mom would watch me play Solitaire. I’d let her help and ask her questions, taking comfort in how well she was retaining the information. We did this while watching some of her favorite shows (Cancer, age, and illness will do no injury to my mother’s love for Murder She Wrote).

That simple activity really soothed my heart and gave me confidence. No, it wasn’t the same, but it was close.

During one game of solitaire, my mother expressed her desire to make sure The Boy had presents for his birthday. My mom’s always shown her love through gifts.  She even tried to talk to me about what to get me for my birthday, an event I try very hard not to live with any ceremony.

No amount of reminders that she’d already sent gifts to Phoenix could dissuade my mom from buying more presents.  I think some members of my family thought she’d forgotten she’d sent the gifts, and that might be true.  However, my mom was fully aware that the presents she did buy were on the way to Phoenix, and The Boy was here in Yuma.  This was unacceptable.

So me and my two most immediate siblings headed out to set up a party.  The party was an event that made me immensely proud of the family. All the siblings in the area stopped by. My cousin and her kids were there. My aunts stopped by. Through the whole day was Mom, talking to everyone, and making sure The Boy had a good birthday. The most dramatic moment was the candles.

My friends will tell you that I have the strangest sort of bad luck with birthday candles, one of many reasons I’m just not fond of my birthday. So I lit The Boy’s candles and started singing Happy Birthday.  However, the super-powered ceiling fan made putting the candles in front of the boy a bit of a challenge.

Mom wanted to help blow the candles out. Some of us weren’t sure what was going on.  Mom was trying to get up. They were trying to stop her and ask what she wanted. She kept trying to handle the emergency of blown out candles without a wish.

Things cooled off as soon as I rotated the cake to her and got the candles blown out by human breath rather than a fan.

The sadness was in the reason for the conflict. Mom has trouble explaining things.  It’s at its worst when she’s trying to take action she feels is urgent. We try to understand what she’s up to, but she’s driven to handle it. She gets mad. Her emotions are on edge. She used to be the shot-caller in the family.  She never had to explain what she was doing or justify her efforts. In our desire to make sure she’s safe, she’s frustrated at how little she’s allowed to do.

Candle-related drama aside, the party was a huge success.  The Boy got a call from his dad. The kids had a great time. And my siblings and I put our energy into being happy aunts and uncles. I was proud. It was a good day absent of bickering or grumbling.

I don’t want to present this picture of a bunch of us constantly yelling like some bad early ’90s comedy about a dead billionaire and his greedy relatives. We’re not nearly like that. The thing is, there are very clear hot buttons and hot issues with each of us, and when one family member hits one of those buttons, we bicker. I’m not certain these arguments are unique to our family or even uncommon.  Those little spats combined with some of the underlining tension our family history has gone through cause greater tension than necessary.  On that day, there wasn’t any of that.  At least I didn’t feel any.

The family headed out, and I bought a plane ticket thinking Mom’s treatment wasn’t going to be for another week.

What I thought was that I’d go to Phoenix to relax for a day before flying back to Maryland, but I still had a little bit more to do.

Questions and Revelations

What are the hot-buttons? 

It’s depends on which one of us we’re talking about. The identification of those hot-button issues are less significant than the focus on what we should do as family members.  This friction seems perpetual. It simply shifts. My sisters take the brunt of it. I’m not without fault or blame. Our fear of those hot-buttons can make any of us feel like we’re walking on egg shells to keep someone else from getting angry, but that only causes resentment. I don’t feel any of that was present that day.

I’m trying to worry less about the cause and focus more on the solution. Listen. Be respectful. I’m horribly inconsistent on this.  I’m currently studying the apostles. I find myself affiliating far more with the traits of Peter and John than I do of Andrew, whom I aspire to be more like. They weren’t bad. They simply had admirable traits that weren’t honed or tempered.  I am absolutely a man without temperament.

I’m absolute in my thinking, resolute in my actions, reliant on truth (as I see it), uncompromising in my beliefs, and passionate in my defense.

If you’re asking, “Why is that a bad thing,” it’s because you’ve never been on the opposite side of an issue from me. This passion without temperance is an issue I find myself trying to resolve. I have friends who said they’ve seen a change, but that change is how I don’t always react with that passion.  I’d like my passion to come through in my effort and ethic, not in how I respond to others.  I want to respond to issues with more love and understanding. I won’t ever compromise the truth. (Oh how like John I am in that regard.  For the record, that’s not a good thing.) However, I’d like to make sure that what I do and how I handle conflict is more with love than righteous indignation. I’ve already provided at least one example in an earlier segment of this story.

Perhaps I’ve grown and improved, but I have a long way to go. Until then, I’ll be less effective in being a peacemaker if I can’t get my own opinion or desires out of the way.

Why don’t you celebrate your birthday? 

I really try not to, but some who love me make that difficult.  I don’t get angry about it. The fact is, my birthday has had an awkward trend of drama and issues.  This has made me afraid that every time I try to celebrate my birthday, some sort of drama erupts.  This is less likely when we just let the day go by.

The other reason is that I noticed a lot of people acting like their birthday is something the world should celebrate.  I have no issue celebrating birthdays in general. But I’d noticed some were pretty self-entitled about it. “It’s my birthday, gimme something.”

I was like that too. I was also very spoiled. Birthdays and Christmases  were guarantees. I expected the newest video game system and coolest new toy.  After a while, I sort of figured it was pretty selfish. I don’t think it’s selfish to celebrate a birthday or have a party.  What I think was selfish was the expectation that everyone who even heard of it being my birthday must respond with the most lavish present one could afford.

So I decided to make my birthday insignificant.  I don’t share it willingly. I try to keep the date itself secret.

The final reason is connected to those above.  If the only time I see you or talk to you is on my birthday, why are we talking? Does that one day and one present somehow make up for the other 364 days you were nowhere? We can’t reasonably be in everyone’s lives every day, but if people don’t care enough to send a message or say hello on occasion, the celebration of the birthday feels, to me, like pretense. It feels like a small token demonstration, when what we should do is love and support the people we claim to love as often as we can.  Again, you can’t do it every day, but on occasion.

I’d rather be loved and supported by three people my whole life than have 100 people attend one birthday and then never so much as say, “Hey, saw you’re photos on social media, happy for you.”

I don’t expect anyone to follow this same belief. I simply thought you’d wonder why I don’t celebrate 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


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