Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 5

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 5

See Part 1 here.

See Part 2 here.

See Part 3 here.

See Part 4 here.

Temptation

I wish I could tell you I intended for this particular part of the story to fall on Easter Sunday, but honestly, I’m not planning very much. On the day Jesus rose from the dead, three days after he died on the cross for our sins, I felt it was important to clarify something.

I promised God I’d worship him. I promised him I’d testify. I wasn’t foolish enough to say I’d stop sinning. I can tell you how afraid I was. I told my brother at some point during the events I’ve already discussed, “I’m afraid to do anything. I’m afraid I’ll mess up, and God will punish me.”

That fear is still current even as I type this weeks later. The two greatest temptations were that of rage (I feel wrath would be an overdramatic word) and lust. While I tried to keep my calm and professionalism, I went into my command chaplain’s office one day because I’d realized I was gripping my podium, ready to literally (I’m using that word correctly) throw it across the room. I can’t even remember what happened at this point. Even as I reminded myself that whatever the student did was normal, I had to admit that I was angry. I was furious. I spoke to a few friends, and even considered asking about removing myself from the class. I realized I wanted to fight someone. I’m not being metaphorical. I honestly, truly, wanted someone to give me a reason to get into a fight. To help you see the perspective, I want you to understand that I’ve always felt physical violence was the most disgusting thing ever. If we can’t reach a point where words and calm discussion can’t resolve simple matters, we’re animals. For me, feeling that desire, honestly wanting to do that, was a warning flag for me.

So I went to my chaplain. The fact is I felt powerless, and I wanted a fight I could win (or at least could fight). I talked to him about it.

“Peter put away your sword,” he said.

That quote is given in both John 18:11 and Matthew 26:52. Most of the time, I talk to chaplain already knowing I’m wrong. I’m just looking for guidance on how to fix myself. I already had a few plans in place. My team knew what was going on and where my head was, and they have a good feel for me. It’s been weeks since that day, and while my temper has been tested, I haven’t so much as shouted. This is because of an extreme amount of prayer and a team of great people who know when to tell me to take a walk. At one point, one coworker even brought me my favorite feel-good food, a cookie with hot chocolate.  The point is, I felt those desires. Sure, it’s great I didn’t act on them (well…didn’t I?  See below); but we sin with our minds every bit as much as we sin with our body.  I struggle with this so much. On my best day, I think about sin a lot. Remember folks, sin is a much broader term than we’d like it to be. Being judgmental is a sin. Pride is a sin. I’m not (nor have I ever been) walking around plotting Darth Weechus levels of evil, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think things I know I shouldn’t.

At some point in this part of the story, my girlfriend was texting me. On my best day, I think texting is stupid. Texts annoy me. At that point, I was waiting for a call regarding my mom’s condition and well being. I was actually also in the process of typing the first part of this very story. She invited me over to hang out with her friends.

What I felt was temptation. I didn’t want to go hang out with her friends (I knew they lived near her). I wanted to go over there and bury my sadness and rage in lust. It felt like a test, which isn’t something I handle well.  I frankly called her and lectured her for a solid hour or so. I did that. Sure, I asked questions and let her give her side, but I didn’t listen. I had already (in my mind, and in my mind only) figured out what her angle was.

By that point, I felt like I was the rope in the world’s most competitive tug of war. It was a challenging time for my students. My girlfriend and I were already fighting our natural desire to be intimate. Oh, and my mom was sick. So I handled it poorly. We talked. I still handled that poorly. Then, after I had a few days to think, pray and talk to the chaplain, I got to the place I needed to be. My fears and emotions are as valid as anyone’s. The way I articulated and addressed the miscommunication was simply wrong on every level.  I apologized, and my girlfriend and I have since done an outstanding job of talking before things become too emotional to handle. We worked out a better plan, and I was honest.  It’s hard to be around her without wanting to have sex with her. This would be hard in any situation. In this instance, the temptation is that much stronger because it would feel good to lose myself in lust to forget my fear.

All I’d have to do is forget the fact that I told God I trusted him to handle this.

My number one head-scratcher in the world of faith is the idea of our salvation.

The easy math:

Believe and accept that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins, and I’m in. Most people  I know do a great job with those deadly sins and such. Me, I was single for 38 years. I struggled with lust before I had a girlfriend. Before I met her, I’d been out with another woman who I’d actually had sex with. Before I met my girlfriend, I’d think every night. “All I have to do is ask.”  That might not literally be true, but I felt confident if I asked, it would happen.

Now I have someone who wants me every bit as much as I want her, but the fact is if we’re together before we get married, we’re sinning. I’m not going to stone anyone who had sex. (Remember above how I said I’d had sex only a few months before meeting the wonderful woman I’m with now? I’d had sex before that too.) I’m just saying I knew it was wrong when I did it, and I didn’t want to be wrong anymore.

That’s not accurate. I absolutely want to be wrong. And that’s where the struggle is.

The question: Does salvation remove temptation?

That day, the chaplain gave me a lot of comfort by telling me that’s not true. It’s hard to believe. You see, my boss is the most devout man I’ve ever known. I’ve seen people do down-right wrong things to or around him (work related).  The guy is unflappably calm. Now the chances might be he’s just way (waaaaaaaaaaaay) better at controlling his emotions than I am. I am, for the record, the worst at doing that. I need space. I need time to “feel.” I can find my professionalism, but I’d rather stop shoving it in a drawer until I need it.

I want to be the same way with my faith. My new quote (I like those) is that, “I wish the decision to do the right thing eliminated the temptation to do the wrong thing.”

It doesn’t. What’s also proven true though is every time I remind myself that God is working with me, it gets easier. The less I’m focused on God, the more likely I am to handle things the way I used to. So I have some more quotes (I told you I like them).

“Orient on God.” During a sermon, my girlfriend’s pastor said when you turn to God, you, by default, turn from sin. It’s like orienting on North.  I turned that phrase into something I can bark at myself when I need. I say it about every three times I think of my girlfriend. I don’t think it’s unusual for a man to desire the woman he’s with. I do think it’s lustful. I’m honestly not sure what the rule is once we’re married (if it’s God’s will that such an event happens), but we’ll be married, so I’m confident thinking about us doing things married folk are allowed to do will be less wrong if not okay.  I also focus on the other things that are great about her. I think about her endless optimism and her child-like desire to be helpful. These are reasons why I feel the way I feel about her. I want her for those reasons, and the fact that she’s hot. That’s not love; it’s lust.  So when I catch myself thinking about “taking her” rather than being with her for all the other reasons she’s wonderful, I order myself to orient on God. I might have to say that some 20-30 times a day for a number of reasons. I’m mad about work. A student was particularly uncooperative. The order helps me, and maybe it’ll help you.

I think of it like turning to God when I want to turn to sin.

“God’s will in God’s time.” This is what I say when my famous impatience get’s unruly. When I want work to run smoothly, and someone walks in and plops a hefty dose of extra work in my lap.  I think of it when my mom has a bad day at the doctor. My impatience is all about my desire for God to bless me right now. That’s not how he works.

My fear is that someone has been reading this and wondering at how Christian I’ve been. I wanted to be blunt and honest about just how hard it has been. I was tempted every day before my mom got sick. Those temptations are honestly stronger now. Orienting my thoughts on God and remembering that all things come at His will in His time helps me control it, but I’ve broken. I’ve broken a few times in several regards. While my girlfriend and I still haven’t been together, that doesn’t mean I’ve been pure. Also, remember that we sin with our thoughts. Sure, I turned away from that sin (thinking of her) back to God, but that also means I turned from God (even if only for an instant) to sin. I’ll be judged for that. I’ll be held accountable.

Good Friday is when we remember Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He stands at God’s right hand to advocate on our behalf. Those who believe in him aren’t judged. God disregards their sin. (At least as I understand it from sermons I’ve attended. I’d like to be notified if I’m wrong about this.)

That brings me back to that struggle I mentioned above.

Truth: The decision to do the right thing does not eliminate the desire to do the wrong thing.

Truth: We were, are, and will be sinners our whole lives. Jesus is the one and only perfect person ever.

Question: Does that mean I can sin as much as I want because I know Jesus died for those sins?

Answer: By no means. Romans 6:2.

Yes, I’ll break. I have broken. The task is to fight. Every day, I want to wake up closer to God, even if it’s only fraction of a millimeter closer. Those thoughts of mine come unbidden.

I mentioned that to God. Part of that is a result of learned thinking.  So now I have to learn to fight the addiction of sin as a concept, a drug. That’s something I’ll struggle with for a long time. Even after (if) I’m married. My temper is still there. I’m not a violent temper guy. I mean it when I say I think physical violence is disgusting. But man can I say some hurtful things. What I’m thinking and how judgmental I’m being when I have those thoughts are still sins.

So me and my two verbal reset buttons will continue to be good companions for the rest of my life. Because if I start sinning just because I believe Jesus died for those sins, even if it worked that way (it doesn’t), I’m basically sinning and chucking at Christ’s own crucifixion. In my mind, every time I sin, no matter how great or small, I hang him back up on that cross. Please note, that’s not accurate in reality or doctrine, it’s just how I feel. He only had to die the one time for my sins. But how many times have I had to remember that after I sinned? I’m human, and I acknowledge the fact that I’m a sinner. I just want to be less so.

As time goes on, I still struggle with this. I feel it every minute of every day, and sometimes I snap in some regard. I don’t throw podiums or shout (well, I shout but never  at a specific person). This is hard. I feel like every single moment of my life is this epic struggle for not just my soul but my mom’s well being. I don’t think it’s accurate to say God will take my mom if I sin. I’m honestly not sure about that, but I feel like that’s the case. To make it worse, I’m telling you all frankly I have sinned.

Do you understand that? Forget (for an instant) that I feel like sinning puts Christ back on the cross. I even fear that doing so actually puts my mom’s life at risk. I’ve had some people tell me that’s not the case. I don’t honestly know what The Bible says in this regard. Regardless, I still did it.

So I wake up some days feeling just so guilt-ridden. I pray for forgiveness. But mostly I pray for more strength. What I honestly want is less temptation. There are some shows I used to watch on NETFLIX. I don’t watch them. TV doesn’t make me sin, but it sure makes me want to. I don’t put myself in too many compromising positions. My girlfriend and I have actual exit strategies because I know if I make it anywhere near her car, I’m going to lose control. (Not like some sort of monster. But we want to have sex.) So we know that any opportunity to have sex is basically the decision to have sex.

Watch out for those fake tests. I do. Before I call a sibling I might be mad at, I talk to someone. I get information. I make sure I take the time to sort out my feelings and gain a sense of grace before I unleash my temper and sharp judgmental opinions on someone I love.

I’m not perfect. I’m not sitting here free of sin and blame patiently waiting for my mom to be rid of this cancer. I’m fighting. I’m fighting every moment to resit that temptation. Even imagining the cost (whether that price is biblically accurate or not), I give in. But then I have to move on. I have to try harder and be better.

The more I’ve done it, the easier it’s gotten. Those first weeks I was saying my little verbal resets about three or four times an hour (I actually counted one day). Now, I feel a smidgen of pride when a lustful or judgmental thought pops into my head. I’m shocked, humiliated and ashamed of the thought. I orient on God and move on. (Some days I still need those orders a lot more than others).   The pride comes from how long it’s been since I’ve even thought about it.

I just didn’t want people thinking this trail has gone on without evidence of my unworthiness. The simple fact is I’m unworthy. But I still believe my efforts and work with Jesus will lead to the miracle of my mom’s health. David sinned in (I think it was) 2 Samuel. David was held accountable, but God didn’t abandon him.

Goodness I think every book in the Old Testament is essentially a rerun of the Israelites turning from God, getting punished and then welcomed back. I’m in 2 Kings now, and God has taken kings and tribe members back over and over again. The only thing more constant than his sovereignty is his forgiveness for those who repent.

I just wish I didn’t have to repent so much.

 


 

Questions and Revelations

You hate violence? You were in the military?

Yes, and as a Sailor, I protected my country from those who wanted to inflict violence upon it. We protected. Sometimes we went on the offensive, but only with information and reason to believe our country was in danger. Also, I never hit, punched, shouted at or killed anyone. In my 10 years of service, I only had to raise my rifle in combat one time (for about three seconds). I’m grateful I never had to pull the trigger or even aim at a person. Would I have? Yes, because we were in a bad place looking for bad people who we already knew wanted to hurt us. Don’t mistake violence and protection. At least not as I see them. We in the military protect our country. We don’t just bomb people because they didn’t do their homework before a global meeting.

What kind of sin are we talking about?

I think about my boss and Christian friends here a lot. They seem so perfect to me. So one day, I sat down with a few of them and simply spoke candidly about my my temptations and my struggles.

There are people who walk to work (not my work, I say with pride) and brag about that girl they met or that place they went last night.

Why can’t we even talk in the most private areas about the sins against which we’re struggling?

Half my struggle comes from the shame I feel at even acknowledging my temptation. I’m not just ashamed at the desire. I’m ashamed because a good number of people I know (and even those I love) would think it’s ridiculous to feel ashamed for wanting to have sex with my girlfriend.

For the record, I’m not going to publicly itemize my current list of sinful desires and feelings.  I can click on the “Fantasy” search bar on my blog to look for a review on a book and find all sorts of other types of “fantasy” information, but where does one go to talk openly about their actual temptations in order to fight them?

It isn’t any church I’ve been too. It isn’t anywhere I know of. Then I just asked someone. I sat down with two of the finest Christians I know and asked them to hear me out. They offered to double date with my girlfriend and me. They offered an open ear when I wanted to work through my anger and judgement. I almost always feel I know the right thing to do, and those who disagree are wrong, even if in a well-meaning way.  It’s worse because I usually find a number of people agree with my thoughts.  That’s true. I’m very logical. I’m logical and rational to a sinful degree. Logic and reason don’t make me right.

I think we Christians need a “safe space.” I said above it’s no church I’ve been to, but I’ve seen some pretty bad churches, and I’ve never felt safe in one since my mother divorced my bio-dad. So your church might have one. Everyone needs it. We need someone to speak to frankly. I’m having lustful thoughts. I’m having judgmental thoughts. Pray with me. Help me turn from this sin.

It’s so unfortunate we live in a world where it’s socially acceptable to talk and laugh about sins we commit, but no the moment someone says, “Hey, I’m trying to avoid this,” they’re met with mockery or judgement.

My advice for those listeners? Don’t mock a person. Don’t challenge them. If someone says, “I’m trying to be less judgmental,” don’t reply with, “That jerk is wrong, and you’re fine pointing it out.”  Maybe open The Bible and look up passages that relate. If you’re not a person of faith, you can still help anyone struggling with sin. You can listen. You can offer to distract them. I have one friend who distracts me with talk about books.  I don’t think he’s religious at all (we haven’t spoken about it at length). I think my coworkers are just amazing examples of how to help.

How much better is it?

I have good days and bad. I go on some win streaks I think are impressive. Before my girlfriend, and before my mom got sick, I struggled against sin, but I almost always lost. I think my own soul wasn’t worth enough in my own eyes. I’m like that. I don’t actually care too much about myself in some ways. (I promise I make up for it with selfishness in other ways.) But I typically think others are more important than I am. I didn’t (and maybe I still don’t) think enough of the worth of my soul. But my mom’s well being? That’s worth anything to me. I have slumps too. But those friends I mentioned above are critical then. I hope you feel how I feel one day. This security knowing I can turn to someone. I can say, “Hey, I’m thinking of sinning,” and not only will they not judge or condemn me, but they’ll also do their best to help me orient on God.

You said you sinned, do you honestly worry that sin might cost your mom her health?

Dude, God wiped out entire bloodlines for sin. 2 Kings is pretty much a literal record of, “That guy sinned in God’s eyes, so his family was wiped off the face of the earth.”  The overzealous people I refer to as Bible-thumpers love pointing out those sections of The Bible. But I’m actively reading that book right now. Those sinners are willfully, without remorse or contrition, sinning and worshiping other gods. If you read the rest of it, while all who sin were punished (and they were), the punishments for those who repent and show remorse are far different than the others.

I talk about David and how he got a man killed so David could have his wife. He took her, she became pregnant. God said that baby would die, and it happened. God didn’t stop that from happening. David showed remorse. He did everything he could to act right after the sin, but it didn’t stop the punishment God said would come. However, that same woman bore David another child. I’m not saying, “Don’t worry, they made another.” I’m simply pointing out that David was still given blessings even after being punished.

Why should anyone follow a God who’d kill a baby just to punish someone?

Well, I struggle with a direct answer. First, God didn’t pop down and smite the baby. The baby just died (I think I remember it had gotten sick).  There are things I’m still trying to work out. One thing though: Dude, David killed a man just so he could have sex with the guy’s wife. Some may argue, kill David. I’m not in any way going to pretend to know God’s will or plan. What I do know though is that David did a lot of things afterward that helped establish Israel, and his children had a lot more to do. What could that child have done? Anything. It was a baby, and I don’t want any baby to die, born or not if we’re speaking on the record. I can’t tell you why you should do anything. What I can say with confidence is that God punishes sin, but he still forgives and grants blessings to those who show remorse. I’m honestly terrified every time I catch myself fantasizing about my girlfriend. One time, my sister called. If I’m being honest, I was in the middle of a particularly vivid and long lasting fantasy. I saw that call and nearly had a heart attack. (As I type this, My mom is still well for those who might be worried at this point).  It doesn’t stop me. That fear, keeps me in line a lot more than the desire for blessings do.

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

Thanks for reading

Matt

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 4

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 4

See Part 1 here.

See Part 2 here.

See Part 3 here.

Cancer

I’ve always been a man obsessed with the plan. I’ve always been hateful of change. The reason for this is the simple fact that nobody changes what they’re doing for a good reason.

So when my little sister sent me a text to tell me Mom wasn’t heading home, I knew something was off. I called my older sister to see why Mom was staying at her house in Phoenix instead of going home as planned.

“It’s cancer,” she said.

They needed to do more tests and see what was going on, but they new it was cancer.

I talked with my older sister. (I have several of those. I’m speaking most specifically about my next oldest sister.) Then I got a hold of my dad, the man who’d already lost a brother and a mother to that same monster. I really hate cancer. I’m going to go on the record as saying it’s bad.

My dad is Superman. He’s calm, cool and collected. He always knows what to do. He always knows how to handle a situation. I can’t say I’ve ever actually heard or seem him cry, but that phone call was the fourth time I’ve ever heard his voice crack, and I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do when Superman himself is struggling. He held it together.

“It’s just another bump in the road,” he told me, repeating what he’d told my mom. Like I said: Superman.

I got a hold of my brother (that older sister’s husband).  In a matter of hours, they made room in their house, got everything set up and made sure my mom would be comfortable. They didn’t even blink. All they did was focus on making their home comfortable and inviting. My brother and I stayed positive. We both still felt (and feel) that everything would work out.

I, unfortunately, was having this conversation over the phone while standing in an H & R Block waiting for an appointment. I didn’t care. When I hung up after that last phone call, I got down on my knees, put my elbows on a chair, and prayed.

“Heavenly father thank you and praise you for how generous and strong my family is being. I’m scared now, and it’s hard to fight through that fear to remember I’ve surrender this problem to you. Lord I’m reminding myself that there is no problem you can’t solve. There’s not disease you can’t heal.”

I don’t know if anyone watched. I didn’t pray out loud. I whispered the words, reminding myself that God has a pretty good habit of healing sicknesses. He’s even brought people back from the dead (I can count five right off the top of my head).

They didn’t have a lot more information, and I was too shell shocked to do much more with it. All I wanted was to do my crummy taxes. All of these events happened over the course of about four days, and each of those days dealt a new blow. Adding that to the list of what now seem pathetically hilarious other issues just felt like a new test.

So I reminded myself: The more afraid I feel, the more I’m hit, the more I’ll praise God, the more I’ll trust him.

It was hard to do it, but I did, and a week later, I’d see some of the results of that trust.

 


 

Questions and Revelations

How hard was it to pray in public like that?

Not hard at all. I wasn’t thinking about my pride or what people would think. I thought, “Hey, I’m in a pretty big pile of doubt right now, and I made a promise to God.”  I honestly wasn’t the least bit concerned with what others thought. I was honestly more concerned with how I’d react if anyone felt like challenging my freedom of religion at that exact moment.

A brief tangent: I gave real thought to the question of if people would react to my praying as I typed this post. Here’s the thing: Why is it okay to march and protest in anger, but a guy can’t pray in public without making folks uncomfortable? I could have written a sign, started shouting, and I probably would have had ten or twenty people out there shouting with me.

Why are we more willing to show our outrage at life than we are to show our faith in God?  I don’t have the answer to this question, I’m honestly asking you, the reader. Those who follow my blog know exactly how much I love the First Amendment. But that reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

But how often do people take what they want from that, and then use it against itself? One possible reason people get uncomfortable? Probably those using religion to speak out against things. The Bible is pretty clear on things that offend God. I’ve seen protests on a few of them. I listen to people speak out and talk about how people who do X are doomed to go to Hell. Funny thing is, I’ve never seen a protest against lying. That is an actual Commandment, but no one is out there shouting or warning people they’ll go to hell for it.

My theory on why: Everybody lies. It’s awful hard to shout out and condemn people for the things they do themselves. It’s awful easy to talk about the sins only some people do, the ones statistical minorities take part in. But that judgment and hate is pretty hard to muster up. Then, all of the sudden, we want to talk about God’s grace and forgiveness because those people, those who only commit the sins everyone else commits are somehow more deserving of God’s grace and forgiveness than those other, more egregious sinners.  I just read about David. God loved him. God made him king over all Israel. Then David murdered a man just to sleep with the man’s wife. Why will you never see me using God’s judgement as a platform for my protest? Because all sinners are deserving of God’s sovereignty, and I’d rather not draw more attention to myself.

Sin is sin people. This creates an argument that divides from God. Some who read this will think I’m wrong because people should warn about sin. Some will argue I’m right to call others out.  I’m not trying to create another fight. But I’d rather proclaim God. Praise him publicly and worship him. All sinners deserve his sovereignty, I get that. But I’ll leave it to God to judge. I’m going to love my neighbors and praise my God. Does that make me ignorant to the things The Bible says is wrong? Does it make me disagree with the stances of some of those protestors? No, but it just starts a fight.  Those fights are the very things that divide when what I want us to do is unite.

I don’t intend to pray publicly every single day. I just don’t feel any shame over doing it when I feel it’s appropriate: Grace, hearing my mom has cancer, and before the 49ers play.

Did anyone say anything?

Nope. I’m certain I was obviously shaken and upset. I play poker well, but that’s about the only time in life where I don’t over-express my feelings. I didn’t break down and cry, but I wanted to. However, I was clearly emotional. Blessings in disguise? That day, the tax folks were really backed up. They were worried I’d be pissed they wouldn’t help me at the appointed time. If I’m being honest, had I not received that phone call, I would have been. I would have probably barked and grunted about how people should do the things they’d said they’d do when they said they’d do them. I have a tendency to do that. But that delay (I think it was like three hours), was just enough time for me to call my loved ones, figure out what was happening, get my emotions under control, and even grab so food. Had they been ready for me, I’d have gotten that news right in the middle of the appointment.

Did you still really believe God would fix this?

I did and I do. As I type this, I’ve just finished reading 2 Kings 4.  God, through one of the prophets (I can’t spell these names), brought a child back from the dead. To be honest, I’m seeing a ton of miracles in both the Old and New Testaments. I knew about Lazarus and Jesus, but God actually brought at least a handful of people back to life.  The hard part for some might be believing he’d do so today, but why wouldn’t he? Now, does that mean he will? Like I said, I believe, but it’s his call. I’m just testifying as I swore to Him I would.

What kind of Caner is it?

I’m not sure at the moment. My dad helped me understand a bit when I called him a week later (which I’ll talk about in a few weeks). I’m trying to get details and learn more, mostly because I want to find out exactly which type of cancer I’m going to go after first in what’s become a personal vendetta against the disease. My intention is to use the proceeds of any sales of this memoir to fight that specific form of cancer.

Did you actually go through with the tax appointment? 

Why wouldn’t I? If I trust God, then I should just live my life and handle my responsibilities, shouldn’t I? I’m of the opinion that had I freaked out and gone home and moped, that would be the literal opposite of trusting God. I was sad. I sent a quick message to a core group of friends who I knew would check up on me. I needed a few to get my mind together. I didn’t want to do anything. I wanted to go home, get in bed, and stay there until this was all over. The problem is, that wouldn’t have been me showing God I trust him.

I still refused (and still refuse) to be like those early Israelites who complained and shouted, “why did we do this” every time things got difficult. It didn’t work for them, so I have reason to believe it wouldn’t work for me.  I continue to believe. I made up a few new catch phrases and took further measures to obey God’s will. I’m still convinced that is the way to save my mom. He’ll take care of her. That miracle (worked through people just as he’s done in several examples in The Bible), will happen; and this testimony will chronicle that miracle.

I get that you acted like you trusted God, but did you really just shrug and move on with your day?

I bet I look like that to a lot of people. The thing is I’ve always been able to compartmentalize. But I break eventually. I’ve broken five or six times I can think about just as I type this. Each time, however, I refocus and work harder to feed my faith and trust in God. Yes, I worry. I absolutely let that fear bring me to anger (which I’ll talk about next week, but I can only do so much. My plan was that if I kept acting and doing as I should, I’d gain confidence and peace as I went. Not to spoil any of the future posts, but it’s working. The more I trust, the less I worry. The more I trust, the more things start to happen in all the best ways.
If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog.  I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 3

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 3

See Part 1 here.

See Part 2 here.

The Surgery and the Call

 

I made an effort to keep the night of the surgery as normal as possible. I went to trivia, my friends supported me by not asking questions or putting me in position to think too much.

I went home, said my prayers, read my chapter in The Bible and went to sleep.  At some point, I got a text saying she was in recovery. She’d be out for a while, but they’d know how things went when she woke up.

I’m not big on waiting. I wasn’t patient when I joined the Navy, and ten years of being a Sailor wiped out whatever remaining patience I had.  There wasn’t much to do but wait.

I went back to sleep and woke without word.

I went to work and started my day and didn’t hear anything. My family was plenty busy supporting my mom, and I understood that, but it didn’t keep me from getting frustrated.

Eventually, I got word that she’d woken up and passed the first string of memory tests.  This information is a bit shaky as I was hearing from a few different family members. The trick was, the doctors needed to work with my mom. In addition to that, they needed to do tests on the part of the tumor they took out.

The next bit of good news turned out to be that the tumor was isolated, meaning, as I understand it, it didn’t travel from anywhere or to anywhere.

The plan evolved into mom recovering and then going home. My mom and I have a lot in common. The relevant trait now is our desire for comfort and familiarity. I could imagine just how much better my mom would feel while being home.

I’m not sure if it was one or two days that passed, but I waited. I knew exactly how many people loved my mom and wanted news or to talk to her, so I wanted to wait to make sure I wasn’t just adding to the list of phone calls or to the pressure my family was already under.

As it happens, I had the chance to call her on Friday, the same day I usually call my mom to see how things are, the same day I’d last called her and felt frustrated at how distracted she was. I honestly still feel a bit guilty about that.

When I called, I could hear a few of my siblings talking to her. My dad was around. I’d already texted him to make sure that it was a good time.

I’m not going to try and type the actual conversation. For one, that was more than a few weeks ago. Also, what matters more is simply how jarring the conversation was.

My mom is articulate. She and I talk about books and movies all the time. She’s usually quick with a joke, and there’s always an awareness about her.

That’s not how she was when I talked to her. I knew she’d just literally gotten out of brain surgery, but hearing her fight to work with words and convey her thoughts hit me like a hammer.

What really matters is that even fresh from surgery, tired and struggling to communicate, my mom mad two things perfectly clear:

“I’m going to get through this, and I’ll be okay.”

Her strength and determination brought me to tears. She was going to spend another night at the hospital. Then she’d go home and rest while the doctors did tests and found out if the tumor was cancerous.

That was the plan, but it didn’t happen that way.

 


 

Questions and Revelations

It seems like you’re leaving a few things out.

I am. My family was under a ton of stress, and they were exhausted. Was there tension? Of course there was. But to explain those tensions and how it affected each member of my family would, I feel, invite too much opportunity for judgment or misperception. If what you want to know is we all struggled, and our nerves were wracked, well, we did, and we were.  However, in times like this it can be too easy to state one point of view, which creates a bias that’s unfair.  So, better to stick to the things that matter, the events that happened, and the fact that my mom was out of surgery and already determined to beat this, whatever it turned out to be.

 

How’d you handle the stress?

Poorly. I’m a temperamental man to begin with. I made sure my coworkers knew what was gong on. I had to ask them to more or less observe me, and let me know if I was acting unprofessional or overly angry. I promise I wanted to. I wanted to shout at every student who didn’t understand or listen. Honestly, I wanted to find something, someone, anything, anyone, and hit it as many times as I could until I felt better.  I didn’t.

Trials are when we learn the most about ourselves. (At least, they’re one of two major times we learn about ourselves.) By that point, I knew that if one more thing happened or went wrong, I was going to flip.  I’ll explain more about that in the next segment. Here, I just want to make sure you understand that at this moment, I felt like I was close to breaking.

I wanted to make sure that no matter how bad it got, I worshiped. I mentioned about the Israelites in the last segment. They were still fresh in my mind. They complained and demanded of God. My goal at that point was to be patient and praise him.

I can’t explain how hard that is. What got me through was focusing on those Israelites. I refused to be like them. I wanted to be grateful for what miracles I’d already witnessed (a successful surgery, and my mom passing the first few cognitive tests) and trust that God would handle the rest in his time.

 

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

Thanks for reading

Matt

Writing Update: The First Draft of Repressed is Finished! A Call for Alpha Readers!

Writing Update: The First Draft of Repressed is Finished! A Call for Alpha Readers!

Greetings all,

kaitlynI’m happy to report that I finished the first official draft of Repressed. I noticed a few things that I wanted to tweak, and I always like to do a pass or two for structure and grammar, which reduced the workload later on down the line.

I’m proud of this story and how it helped me grow as an author. Mostly, I’m proud of Kaitlyn, whom I’ve been blessed to watch grow through two stories now. But there’s still some work to be done. I need some help.

For me, Alpha readers are those who address specific needs. I’m looking for plot holes and continuity errors. I’m also interested in readers who’ve already read Caught, as this is Book 1.5 in the Oneiros saga.  Please remember though, this is absolutely a YA Paranormal story. Also, this story features a character who is Muslim. I’d be very grateful to anyone of that religion if they could help me be sure I’m true to that culture, especially since this story features the need for people to be less ignorant. I wouldn’t say this story is as closely related to the region as Sojourn was, but I want to be true to it.

I posted a semi-summary for the story here.

If you’re interested, please feel free to shoot me an email. I’m asking for Alpha Readers to have this back to me by Oct. 24. I’m always grateful to those who give my work a try.

BobsGreatestMistakeIn the meantime, I have the edits for the 2nd edition of The Journals of Bob Drifter back. So I’ll be able to get that going and headed to the printer ASAP. It’s a much larger story than the others, so it’ll take some time, but it’ll be worth it to have the control I’ve lacked so far.

The edits for Bob mean The Worth of Words is going to wait a bit longer. If I’m lucky, I’ll get Bob edited before the Alpha Readers for Repressed are done. If that happens, then I should be able to take another swipe at WoW after I do the Alpha Draft of Repressed. I SWEAR, I mean stop start working on Oneiros 2 as soon as I can. My hope is to start that in a few months.

All of your support means a lot to me. Even as small as my little corner of the world is, every person who sends me an email or message means everything to me. I can only hope that I continue to provide you stories that keep you engaged.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis

Book Review:  The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis

NOTE:  As this is not fiction, I will not be reviewing it as fiction.  Rather, this is more a response and musing on this work.

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The cover of the book is used under Fair Use for the purpose of this review.

The Problem of Pain was a gift from Quintessential Editor.

I consider myself a christian, though perhaps the worst I know. So any chance to read a book that provides insight is a welcome thing in my world.

This book approaches the overarching question of, “Why does God allow pain in this world?”

I’ve given a lot of thought about how best to approach this review, and I feel that the most appropriate way is to simply state what I agreed with, what I disagreed with and what my reactions were.

Perhaps the number one reason I am concerned for my soul is that I believe and know that God exists, and I am never certain if I’m serving his will (more on that below).  A simple search of the book’s title will reveal a quote from Lewis, “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the wall of his cell.”

person-371015_960_720I will not use this book to prove my state of mind any more than I will to dispute the book’s content. I believe a man’s actions are either in line with God’s will, or contrary to it. A man may choose to go against God’s will because God granted man the power of choice. Yes, man can choose to refuse to worship, but that refusal doesn’t diminish God, it demises and condemns the man refusing. Here I feel it appropriate to mention that it is my opinion that the best way a man worship’s God is in living out his purpose. The fear comes from the line between one’s conviction in what he’s doing is God’s will vs assuming any man can actually KNOW God’s will.  This is an issue I would greatly appreicate more elaboration on.

Lewis mentioned mental pain.  I agree that mental pain is much more difficult to bear.  I have a great many memories of physical pain, but the trails which caused me the most despair and discomfort arose not from the physical injury of a limb or joint, but  from the wounds my heart has suffered. My point? I would happily surrender any sense, limb, or physical discomfort for the simple peace of knowing I belong. This does not in any way indicate my desire to encounter or deal with physical pain.  I’m so far blessed to have avoided extreme amounts of physical pain. I don’t enjoy heartburn or cuts, but those fade. I can not speak to the degree of pain suffered through some of the injuries I fear. All I can say with honesty and conviction is mental pain endures, and physical pain fades. A man can only endure so much in either fashion, but mental pain is, for me at this juncture of my life, much more challenging to bear.

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My idea of heaven is simply writing. A pen and infinite notebook would do, but I’d get a lot more done with a lap top and an infinite hard drive.

I will not transcribe Mr. Lewis’s quote on heaven, but it is the core of what I found the most encouragement in.  It is the quote for which I will always bless Corey.  Lewis spoke about the “secret signature of each soul,” and that resonated with me.  I’ve spoken a few times. I have friends who simply don’t understand why I’m willing to suffer exhaustion, sadness, disappointment and despair.  For me, writing, the process, craft and creation of writing. When I sit and write, truly create, I feel as if that is the thing for which I was made. And that brings me to my fear and where I respectfully disagree with Mr. Lewis.

May God forgive me if I’m wrong.

The premise of this book is that God speaks to us through pain. While I respect and agree with a great deal of what Mr. Lewis said, I can not in any way wrap my mind around the idea that God speaks to us in our feelings. This may be the mistake that costs me my soul, but I do so in ignorance and not defiance.

heart-742712_960_720The quote reads, “We can ignore even pleasure, but pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

For me, to believe God speaks to me in pain (especially at this point in my life) would be for me to not simply give up that for which I feel I was made, but for me to feel as though God would use pain to teach me, or pleasure to reward me. I don’t argue that God is to us as we are to animals, but I think God, in his grace and wisdom, would find more effective tools to train man than positive and negative reinforcement.  For example, I’ve done things in life in which I’ve enjoyed quite a lot of pleasure, but even I’m aware of how sinful they were. I’ve done things I knew would cause me great pain. The pain in my heart that will haunt me until the day I day, which will HURT me until the day I no longer feel anything, was done because it was right. This is my anecdotal rebuttal to the idea that God teaches me through pain.

creation-of-man-1159966_960_720What I believe in this regard is that God gave us free will, and demands obedience to His will.  What pain I suffer I do not believe is God punishing me any more than I feel that the joys I receive are rewards. The blessings and trials I receive are for me to learn and grow from. They are, in my individual opinion, not devices of training, but tools for growth. I see a distinction. As a man, I just don’t want my dogs to pee on the floor. So we spank and punish behavior to correct it. It makes sense to draw the correlation, but I feel it’s misplaced. A man just wants his dog to behave; I feel God wants man to become. Man wants animals to behave as man wishes; God wants us, I believe, to become the works of art he sees we can be. This requires more than simple training, but teaching.

As I consider the act of free will, Mr. Lewis does a great job of discussing how that self-realization led to the fall of man, I feel free will to be both the requirement of faith and the most dangerous. Here, I come to my great fear.

positives-1306282_960_720My pain, in my belief, is far more my fault than God’s displeasure with me. My choices and actions have consequences.  The religious implications of those actions are not necessarily related to the earthly ones. But I do think about it.

When my sales are lower than ever, when I’m tired and upset, I pray. I pray, not as often as I should, but I do. I pray, and I think to myself, “is this really God’s will? Am I suffering because I’m refusing to see his plan for me?”

Sometimes I feel like the dwarves from the last book of Mr. Lewis’s famous saga. God lays out all those blessings before them, and they can’t see. None can see God’s glory if they refuse to see it. Am I refusing to see what is in front of me, or am I simply running, further up, and further north, to that which I’m meant for.  I simply can not know. All I can do is what I feel God wishes for me to do.

150912-n-tk177-008At this point, I remember the most important part of myself. It is when I write, that I most feel I am doing what I’m meant to do. Writing has nothing to do with being read or selling books.

The pain I feel is in regard to my sales and reviews. The lack of earthly success and monetary gain I receive from writing. Even all of that pain is as nothing when I write.

So I leave this blog where Mr. Lewis left me at the end of this book. The feeling I get from writing is like a lock, for which I was made.  It is a world made just for me. There are other aspects that I truly don’t enjoy, but only time will tell if they are tools designed to move me where I’m meant to go or simply trials that God is giving me to show me how strong I am. I can’t know God’s will. I only know the pure, unearthly joy I receive when I write. I will not proclaim my entrance to heaven because it is not for me to judge anyone, let alone myself. All I know is, writing is the closest (and infinitely farther still) I come to feeling like I’m in heaven, and so I will continue to do so.

Thanks  for reading,

Matt