December 3, 2020

There Must Be a Reason?

Wildernessphoto © 2010 Peretz Partensky | more info (via: Wylio)By Chaplain Mike

I was reading through some of the Archives and came across a couple of paragraphs by Michael that got my attention in the context of where I am personally right now.

To be frank, the wilderness I’m in has gotten hotter, dryer, and seemingly more boundless over the past month or two. It has become more personal, and there are days I feel like I’m dying of thirst. This is not just the “post-evangelical” wilderness—vocational questions, church affiliation questions—this is full-blown “I’m painfully sun-burnt, my legs are starting to give way, and there had better be a well over that next hill or I may not make it” time of the journey.

Like most American evangelicals, I have developed certain knee-jerk, surface responses to this:

  1. When people ask, paste on a smile and say everything is fine.
  2. Keep playing the tapes of spiritual clichés in my head that assure me life is not spinning out of control, but God will turn every seemingly bad thing into something good for me.
  3. Turn up the music and hope it all goes away soon.

That all wore thin long ago, to be honest, and it is becoming less believable and helpful every day.

Ishi Wildernessphoto © 2010 Kurt Thomas Hunt | more info (via: Wylio)The one saving grace for me right now has been my work, well, at least the part of visiting people. The “business” side is a frustrating as ever, and I have to be careful about not being a complainer regarding policies and practices and budgets and so on. After all, I left the pastorate years ago! Ah, but going into folks’ homes and being there with them in conversation and prayer is as stimulating and life-giving as ever to me. There’s my oasis.

Still, one has to keep moving, and soon it’s back out into the trackless wasteland. It’s hot and dry and thirsty between oases, and I’m sure the people who sidle up next to me for a little company out here have not found me to be a pleasant sort of guy. Distant, preoccupied, sour-looking—yeah, I know I can’t cover it up for long. And you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

Well anyway, I found the following paragraphs Michael wrote a few years ago describing his response to a similar drought in his own life. I thought they were instructive. They describe the way we’ve been taught to think in certain Christian circles. Maybe another look at them today can give us something to talk about until the next oasis.

Here’s what Michael wrote:

wilderness waitingphoto © 2009 Jared Tarbell | more info (via: Wylio)You see, I’ve been trained my whole life to think like a pietistic Calvinist. There had to be a REASON for all of this. There has to be a LESSON. I get to ask WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO LEARN? So picture me spending all kinds of mental energy trying to find what was the great lesson at the core of all of this that, when I learned it, would make it all go away.

Riiiiight.

And when I ask what all this means and what I am supposed to learn, Jesus just asks questions back, or says things like “Why don’t you go down that road and see what happens. You’ll never know if you just pout.” Or “Just obey me tomorrow and we’ll find out.”

There doesn’t seem to be some resounding THEME or amazing LESSON. As Greg Boyd says, from my point of view, it just all seems to be hitting the fan. God BRINGS good out of it, but if I want to say that he caused it all (which I still do for lack of any other way to express faith and confusion simultaneously) with some CERTAIN LESSON in mind, I don’t get very far. Like he said, “Go down the road, and you’ll see what’s there.” Kind of God’s version of “When we get there, you’ll know.”

OK pilgrims, time to get personal. Time to take a look at this habit we have of minimizing the size and severity of the wilderness. What do you do when the way you’ve been taught to think is no longer sufficient to address the actual conditions?

Comments

  1. “He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with suffering..”

    Mike, I wish I had answers, but can only offer prayers. I don’t think any of us pilgrims with get to see the answers on this side of the Divide.

  2. “What do you do when the way you’ve been taught to think is no longer sufficient to address the actual conditions?”

    Step 1 – Get mad at God.
    Step 2 – Realize that that didn’t help.
    Step 3 – Cry out “I believe, help thou my unbelief.”
    Step 4 – ???

    I’ve been stuck on step three for quite a few years now.

    • What I often do for Dan’s step 4; Read more Thomas Merton. My ??? come after that.

      T

    • Tim Becker says

      Dan, you left out step 2.5 : “read lots of Bible”. Then comes the ?????

    • OK, here is the revised list so far:

      Step 1 – Get mad at God.
      Step 2 – Realize that that didn’t help.
      Step 2.5 – Read lots of Bible
      Step 3 – Cry out “I believe, help thou my unbelief.”
      Step 4 – Read more (Plug in your favorite mystic or author)
      Step 5 – ???

      If we can just find out what comes after ??? then I can write a book called “X Easy Steps to Finding Your Way Out of the Wilderness” 😉

    • Josh in FW says

      me too

  3. I reboot.

    Seriously. Sometimes situations like this confront me with faults in my faith-system that are embedded deep into the core. The only way to get rid of them is to re-install or upgrade to a new version depending on whether I lost something or I never had it.

    The awful thing is to say something like this to one who is suffering right now. You don’t tell someone who is in the dessert on his knees how he should walk; you carry him. Find someone you trust to carry you a bit or to at least be with you. I mean that Literally! do not (how evangelical) water it down to telling someone so he can think of you; you need someone with you.

    To me it has never been a question “what is the lesson or the bigger picture”, you see, I think that is just ignoring the actual issue. What makes me, me and you, you is how we each decide to act (even if we then make a mess of it) So the question I ask is: “What’s next? What to do now?” Many times I then find out that I do not need big plans or detailed answers, all I have to do is cope with the current circumstances and decide what to do right now.

    But that’s just me.

    • Erno – Yes, that is definitely part of the process. As humans I don’t think a total reinstall is possible since we need some framework to plug our experiences into. But certainly a dismantling and expansion of that framework is called for. In fact, I think that may be God’s point.

      I used to put a lot of stock in my intellect and my grasp of how it all fit together. Now I just have a faith that contains a lot of loose ends.

      • Dan – I agree that a full reinstall is probably impossible and (fortunately) not all dry spells force a replacement or adjustment of the core. Whether or not that is the intended point, when the upgrade or the replacement presents itself, we have to deal with it.

        To be honest I don’t think that it is the Lord’s point to bring us in a dessert to straighten us out. I think it is the other way around: Being a human, with a free will, I will strand in a huge mess. I can use that opportunity to do some house cleaning. I could use the mess.

  4. “What do you do when the way you’ve been taught to think is no longer sufficient to address the actual conditions?”

    1. Eat ice cream.
    2. Take a nap.
    3. Stop thinking.

    😉 maybe

    Off for the day. Have fun! (And when you figure it out, Chaplain Mike, be sure to let me and the rest of us know!)

    • Radagast says

      I love this (especially eating ice cream). Stop thinking is a good one too. When I am in a drought and I actually slow down enough to realize it, I get out one of my favorite books, The Cloud of Unknowing’ and read a chapter, which is usually telling me to sit, just be and empty my mind at least for a few minutes…

      I find prayer helps if I am not distracted. If I am distracted about something going on in life I try to get rid of the distraction or at least for a time not make it my issue. Then I go and maybe run and then eat a big bowl of speggetti or Kellogs Corn Flakes. Sometimes I just go and sit in Church in front of the tabernacle.

    • Count me in!

    • I like this too- sometimes you have to change the channel in your head and go have fun.

      I went to a conference a few weeks back by one of my favorite authors who is also a believer- he was talking through the life of Joseph. He pointed out that the life of Joseph shows us that God is perfectly okay with letting us go through difficult seasons without much explanation….then he said- Joel Osteen will tell you otherwise- but it’s not true. While I’m sure he’s not the first person to notice that theme in the life of Joseph, for whatever reason it really helped. I realized that when things are difficult- it doesn’t mean God’ angry or that I did something wrong. We just go through hard things sometimes, period.

  5. Chaplain, I’m sorry you are experiencing this!!

    I’ve very often been of the mindset that the sole reason I am still where I am is because I’m dense and slow to learn, as if Jesus were saying, “Come on Rebekah, this isn’t rocket science! Can we just move on already?” And I pray that I “get smarter” and “receive the lesson” because where I am, if I’m being honest, most days sucks the big one! I get stuck on the, “it’s all up to me, so I damn well better get it, or else”. I attended a Christian school where the 5th grade teacher told my mother I should be spanked for my grades. It turns out I had a form of dyslexia, so patience and kindness is all kinda new to me, including the Father’s!

    I come from a family of Bible readers, some deep theologians and seeing them hunched over their Bible was the norm. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing and I’m not saying there isn’t a time for that, cuz Lord knows I’ve had me some amazing time in that very position, when He shows up and speaks to me the very thing I needed to hear or was prepared to hear. But…….and it’s a big one, there are those times He is quiet, I have questions, He offers up nothing and I’ve got to step away. It’s like being in the middle of a project and you’re getting frustrated, unable to see the forest for the trees, so you have to walk away and you don’t walk away and do more of the same, you WALK AWAY! Not picking up a different translation or a classic Christian book or calling a friend and talking about it some more. Away!

    This includes, for me, yard work, it’s therapy. Don’t hate me, it’s true. Rockin’ out to some good old fashioned rock and roll because turning up the music certainly doesn’t make it all go away but it can be like water to me, maybe that’s because I wasn’t allowed it growing up. Rock and roll is the devils music you know. And I must admit he makes some really good music. That was a joke, for those of you who don’t catch sarcasm on the screen.

    • Radagast says

      …and we all know the Stones did all their best music when they were shootin heroin… another joke…

      Yup – I agree with you… sometimes we just need to give our mind a break… which is easier for us men since we try not to think too deeply anyway like….

      What is God’s will for me today….power saw yeah… gotta cut that tree down …. look girl! girl! pretty…man I got gas….oh where was I…..
      (Now I’ve given away man’s inner thinking – I’m out of the club…)

      … its why I like running and lifting and standing under a tree looking over a valley while breathing fresh air and listening to Tull/Genesis/CSN&Y real loud so I can sing (and drive everyone in earshot bonkers). Its also why I really enjoy my younger kids because they know how to play and make play fuuunnnn……

      • Radagast, you made me laugh! I’ve been married for almost 23 years (next Friday) so I already knew the inner workings of the mans mind. And you hit it on the nose! Well except for those times when the inner workings of the mans mind is………….nothing.

        “Whatchya thinkin’ ’bout?”

        “Nothing!”

        Yup…..it can be nothing.

        Us girls…..not so much! We’re always thinkin’! Ugh! Where’s the shut off valve already?????

        • cue golden retriever totally befuddled look: you guys(girlz) have a shut off valve ??????

  6. “What do you do when the way you’ve been taught to think is no longer sufficient to address the actual conditions?”

    This has come up during the past few months concerning 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.”

    A good friend of mine was arrested in January for child pornography. He was a kindergarten teacher and got caught with images on his computer, some of them his own students whom he had maneuvered into posing for him. He was every kid’s favorite teacher, a winner of a national excellence in teaching award, and had taught my own girls when they were little, nearly 20 years ago. He has been a good friend, a trusted Christian brother, and my wife and I are also great friends with his parents, who are strong believers too.

    Two weeks ago he pleaded guilty to production of child pornography and has therefore avoided a trial which would have prosecuted him on several other counts, as well as brought in the children, parents and school personnel as witnesses and in general grossed everybody out. He’s now in the slammer awaiting sentence, which is expected to be 15 years minimum in a federal prison, no parole. And the other guys in prison are very unkind to those who commit crimes against children. He has made himself into a living hell.

    [note to JoanieD: you may have read about this; it was in a town somewhat north of you.]

    When I consider all of the trouble he has caused for himself, his wife and kids, his parents, the school, the Chistian community, and every community where he has taught and been loved and trusted, my own sense of confusion seems pretty small, but the fact is this has been entirely distracting for quite a while and I’ve been having dreams about him too. And I haven’t dreamed about people since my father died seven years ago.

    What can we know? Whom can we trust? What is the nature of sin? The nature of evil? How are sin and evil distinct? What am I myself capable of? How could my friend have been so stupid, never mind sinful? I’ve made a commitment to stand by him as a friend, in an exercise of love and grace, but reading and hearing the details makes this hard. Have I been betrayed too?

    And what about Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good…”? I mentioned this to a pastor friend of mine and he said, “Do you know the real meaning of the Greek for ‘all things’? It really means ‘all things’.”

    Faith is in the things we cannot see nor understand.

    So I just have to paste on the same smiley face that Mike uses, play the cliché tape over and over, and turn up the music. Maybe it’ll all go away.

    But then there’s the resurrection thing, sketched out in Isaiah 1:18. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

    There is always hope, but what a mess in the meantime.

    • Radagast says

      Ted,

      I feel for you sir. From an unattached view its easy to label the behavior and the person evil and pass judgement as such. When someone who has been close for so long is the source what do you feel? Betrayal? denial? (but I’ve known this guy all my life – it can’t be true)… It would shake I think my ability to trust and would cause me to wonder why I didn’t see it or at least sense something where my internal warning meter might go off. I just can’t seem to put myself there… I have lots of kids… I would be wondering about that … causing me to try to recall every situation they might have been alone… and if he was my friend exclusively my wife would probably skin me alive for bad judgement and choice …. I’m praying for you Ted…

    • Ted, later this month my dad, a pastor will be visiting 2 different men who are in prisons here in Colorado for sexual assualt on a child, that he knew personally as well. It has been very tough on him and his faith to follow through.

      I will keep you in my prayers, NOT to sound cliche, as I do not throw that around loosely! Your commitment to stand by him as a friend in an exercise of love and grace is profound! Truly!!

      I just finished a book titled, “Dead Man Waking” by Peter C. Cropsey who is an ex-herion addict, ex-convict, ex….fill in the blank. He prayed the “prayer” at age 12, years after he had many wrongs done to him and before he would do many wrongs to others. In and through all of his addiction and crimes, he knew there was something deeper, something more that he wanted out of life, but he had shut down (something many of us can relate to). He got clean, he has become a minister through Calvary Chapel and ministers to addicts and criminals. Not a theological book, but it showed me that even those in the depths of sin long for something and Someone more. He has a saying, “As long as you’re breathing there is still hope. And with God all things are possible.”

      • Thanks, Rebekah, and to you, Radagast.

        I’ve seen him several times this spring and talked on the phone with him too, as he was out on bail from January to June (severely restricted, and wired with a monitor). He’s the same old guy and you’d never know anything had changed, except that he’s very aware of what he’s done and the conversations have revolved around that—and about living accommodations, transportation, his family’s future, etc. He does say that he’s relieved that this is over with and I have no reason to doubt that he’s repentant. But what a mess. Thanks for your prayers for all.

      • Finding out that my late father sexually abused my sisters has been a similar blow to my gut. Somethings just can NOT make any sense…..and this is one sin that sickens me to every molecule of my being.

    • “What do you do when the way you’ve been taught to think is no longer sufficient to address the actual conditions?”

      Chaps, I feel you.

      >>There is always hope, but what a mess in the meantime.

      You’re right Ted, and even in that I know I haven’t all the answers, even for myself. A few years back it was discovered that my assistant pastor and best-friend had been molesting my daughter for the several years previous. Much came apart, much was destroyed, I’ve been in a wilderness of sorts ever since. Yesterday I heard of a Christian/minister friend from college who has been arrested for the same offenses as my child’s predator and the evidence is apparently damning.

      When the details of my daughter’s plight came to light, the way I had been taught to think was no longer sufficient for my experience. But the way my thinking has been shaped in the last few years, because of that original deficit, has made my thinking less insufficient as I’ve considered my just-arrested friend. Hatred (alone) I once felt has progressed to contain genuine grief, sadness and compassion. I’m not proud of the things I wanted to do to my daughter’s abuser, and I have long since repented. But those things too have forced this journey of faith I live further down the road, and it seems further towards Christ.

      Much has changed. Some things are gone forever, like a good chunk of my certainty, and I miss them. At the same time, though I would change the initial events that started this desert-walk in a heartbeat, I’m not so sure I want to change all of the outcomes. There is always hope, even with the mess in the meantime.

    • Ted-

      The entire problem of evil was a contributing factor to my lost faith. Why would God knowingly allow a child to be molested? Why do Christians than proclaim this God to be Holy and pure? Why do Christians not wrestle with this problem? And what makes me sick the most….why did God knowingly allow such a crime to occur when he could have stopped it? This is the same God who loves people? WTF?!?

      The entire problem of evil leads me to question God’s existance…because I can’t comphrend why God would allow such an act to occur. Think of it in this context…if you knew someone who was molesting a child and did not report it to local law enforcement and allowed it to continue…you would also be facing criminal charges. That’s how I view God. He knows its going to happen, he allows it to happen and then Christians let God off the hook and excuse him.

      I’m sorry…I can’t worship or respect a God like that. I just can’t. Everything inside me makes me want to puke at the thought of praising a God who works like that.

      • Why do you blame God for what a man did?

        • Mary, you gotta re-read what he wrote.

        • I hold God responsible because he allows it to happen. He could stop it if he wanted. The stories that Ted, Terry, Rebekah and Pattie wrote about or referenced could have been stopped by God. Harm to a child could have been prevented. Less pain in the world would have been introduced. None of those affected would be scared, hurt, wounded. No tears would have been shed, no feeling of betrayal would exist. And none of these people would be harmed today. Why does God allow such evil to continue? Why do Christians worship such a God? I really don’t know. I feel repulsed and want to run from God in the opposite direction when I contemplate such evil. This topic really make sme feel sick and undermines so much about Christian faith.

          • Radagast says

            I was just asked that question the other day – by an older gentlemean I know at the gym (he’s 89 – at the gym no less – and asking me questions…) …

            Why does God let bad things happen? Well… I believe natural disasters are just part of the lifecycle of the world, we just happening to be living here at the time of the occurence and as HUG once said… shit happens – don’t read into it.

            Real evil like child torture, the Holicaust, Stalin’s reign of terror -that’s harder to swallow. But God gave us free will to accept or reject, to do good or do evil. We’re only here for a very short time on this planet. We’re with God for eternity. If one dies prematurley, under terrible circumstances, or bears the pain of some wrong for the time they are here, there is still eternity with God – which is where, I believe, he wants us. I have kids of my own Eagle. And I would do everything including die for them if I knew it would save them. But I also hold onto the idea that they will be with Him at some point. Just like I thank God every day for them and that they were born with all their fingers and toes dispite what I did as a youth that could have dictated otherwise. In my view I have gotten far farther in life than I probably should have and I thank God for that.

            So in a sense I don’t blame God because he gave me free will to make a choice. I at times blame man for what he has done. But then we are all flawed. Some of us are working on the flaws which trip up even the best of us. And even the most clean and polished Chritian/Buhddist/Aetheist has them too. But then I like flaws – it makes people interesting.

            But Eagle there is a difference between you and me – you spent your formative years in a part of christianity that may not have been healthy. I spent mine initially as a cultural Christian and then an agnostic. Enough cultural Christian to create a foundation to come back to. I think you will need to detox, vent and be angry for a while, maybe a long while. And maybe like me a good woman will come along and bring you back. Just don’t go back to the form of Christianity that caused the damage. OK done rambling….

          • Eagle,

            If you haven’t already made her acquaintance by reading, may I suggest Oriana Fallaci. She had the same problems about God and evil that you do, and I don’t think ever resolved them. But, from what I know about her life and writings, she is to be admired.

      • I admire Buddhism for at least having a solid explanation of why bad things happen.

        One of the things I least admire about some strands of Christianity is the concept that with a dunking in water and a prayer you gain a license to be as evil as you desire and still make it into heaven. That is a huge part of the problem of evil for me — the notion that not only does God stand by while evil is done, he sends those evildoers who had faith in him to heaven.

        • “That is a huge part of the problem of evil for me — the notion that not only does God stand by while evil is done, he sends those evildoers who had faith in him to heaven.”

          Fish, that ‘evildoer’ is you and me. Consider what you say……

          We have this idea that sin is some blemish or inherent character defect that causes us to ‘mess up’ sometimes. That is a lie. The same force that is at work in murderers and child molesters is in each of us. Some of us do a better job of not letting the really bad stuff our (at least publicly) then we sit back and shake our heads at those who really go at it with no holds barred.
          We f****d up the universe hard with our sin, and it is horribly broken. We forget that in our comfortable suburban lives committing our little ‘foibles’ ( as though there is such a thing) . And we get mad at God because He has chosen to let things play out and not be the Cosmic Policeman, thwarting every evil at our behest, but instead leaves us with a promise that He’ll work it out in the end. Alternately, we spend the other half of our time mad at God because he ‘pre-ordained’ things and we don’t like to be controlled like that.. Truly He spoke rightly of us when He said ‘We played the flute and you did not dance, and we sang a dirge and you did not weep.”
          Lord have mercy….

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Patrick, Fish was talking about the Dark Side of “Once Saved, Always Saved”.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        The entire problem of evil was a contributing factor to my lost faith. Why would God knowingly allow a child to be molested? Why do Christians than proclaim this God to be Holy and pure? Why do Christians not wrestle with this problem?

        Christians HAVE wrestled with the problem of Evil and of Surd Evil, Eagle, from the early Church Fathers to C.S.Lewis and Internet Monk. Just the Christians in your past, detached from the history of their own faith, didn’t.

        Maybe it was too hard for their “Always Victorious (TM)” Shiny Happy Clappy faith.

        Maybe they figured It’s All Gonna Burn (TM), so why bother?

        Maybe they were too tunnel-visioned on Say-the-Magic-Words Witnessing (TM).

        Maybe they were too busy Pretending they Had It Made with God.

        Whatever the reason, Eagle, they shied away from it or didn’t want to go there, and in doing so shortchanged you BAD when Surd Evil and a broken Cosmos kicked in your door.

    • Ted-

      A betrayal like this can really shake you to the core. I remember the conversation with my 8 year accountability partner who lived a double life. Shit…the things I confessed to him. He knew my deepest secrets, mess ups, etc.. When I caught on what filled me was this creeping feeling of horror. I remember the Facebook conversation followed by the telephone call where it all poured out.

      I thought it was reconciled until I began to realize that there where problems with his story. I recognized them in the same mindset of how I caught him the first time which led to some of the dishonesty to be revealed.

      I have banged my head against the wall, floor and every other surface in trying to figure out..how could this happen. Why did I trust him? I was doing what the church and my pastor was telling me to do? Who can I trust? Can I trust God? Can I trust my other evangelical friends? Can I trust my pastor?

      Everything for me went into a tail spin when that happened and it really shook me up. Today I am so weary of most Chriatians. When someone says they are a Christian, my guard goes up, red flags go up…and I’ll be much more cautious and give greater scrutiny. But it hurts…I feel so confsued, disillisuioned and in a lot of pain.

      the funny thing is that I never expected this ot ocme from the chruch. I was weary toward the world, secular individuals, and those not fundgelicals like myself. As such I never saw this coming. So I’m really sorry for what happened. If i was there in person i’d just hug you, buy you coffee (or a beer) and just listen and not say a damned thing and just listen to you.

      • Radagast says

        When someone says they are a Christian, my guard goes up, red flags go up…

        Actually I feel the same way. First of all I never got that proclamation thing…. especially since I thought everyone was (I grew up in a part of New York whether you were either Catholic or Jewish). Then I found out Christian didn’t include me – actually when I discovered this I was technically an agnostic. I was living in Virginia Beach trying to get my act together in a hurry. A bible totin youth in his early twenties knocked on my door and asked me if I had accepted God as my personal savior. When I told him I was Catholic he proceeded to tell me that his pastor said I wasn’t a Christian – that pissed me off a bit. Then he asked me if I had a bible which I said yes (I lied) and at that point he tried to shove his way in to see if it was true. Wrong thing to do to a long haired wild boy sporting a hangover. Lets just say I wasn’t very christian with him.

        When someone announces they are christian to me it usually tells me I am dealing with a non-denom christian who knows everything about the Lord. I know that may be wrong and a form of stereotyping but I’ve had so many bashings in my life I just tend to generalize. If I am in a playful mood I will respond that I am Catholic and let the rhetoric fly. If I am in a less tolerant mood I will say nothing and maybe try to engage at a scriptural level since I love scripture (in spite of what you may hear there are a few of us who read scripture regularly). But if I mention anything about Catholic the conversation vears from scripture to catholic error – groan, I don’t see this in the mainlines where I’ve had some great conversation and fellowship.

        So you see I have baggage too. And don’t get me started on all those small businesses that call themselves christian businesses

        One last thing about the word Christian – and I point this back at my own faith tradition – I have been in class on numerous occasions (I teach eigth grade CCD (Sunday School)) where a student will tell me that they, or that their parents said they weren’t christian – they’re Catholic – and I just stand there dumb-founded (before I launch off into my own mini-version of church history).

        Long winded today…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          When someone announces they are christian to me it usually tells me I am dealing with a non-denom christian who knows everything about the Lord.

          And does what God would do if God only knew What Was REALLY Going On.

          And the real kicker, Radagast?

          None of these Bible-Believing Christians (TM) would even HAVE a Bible to believe (much less elevate into the Fourth Person of the Trinity) if the bishops of Romish Popery hadn’t forcibly prevented the Shirley Mac Laines of the day from rewriting it in their image long before Kynge Jaymes ever existed.

      • Eagle, you’re asking a lot of the questions I’ve asked. As far as we know, no children were molested in this case, but that doesn’t make it any less creepy or criminal. He played the part of a wolf in sheep’s clothing for a lot of years, whether he himself was a victim of temptation and evil or not. He could have walked away or changed careers.

        I don’t know why God allows evil. I joke that it means God is a liberal, even though he’s conservative in what he expects. I’m holding to the doctrine that God is not the author of evil, but then again if he’s creator of all and sovereign over it all, your questions are perfectly valid. Keep asking them, but pray also that you reconcile with him eventually.

        Romans 3:4 Let God be true though every man be false.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        The funny thing is that I never expected this to come from the church. I was wary toward the world, secular individuals, and those not fundgelicals like myself.
        — Eagle

        And what could cause more damage and distrust than such evil coming from the church?

        “Nowhere do we tempt so successfully as at the very foot of the altar!”
        — Screwtape

        • Exactly, HUG. I’m reading a serialized pastoral drama over at Christian Monist (I’ve seen you over there too) and he’s dead on, I’m afraid.

  7. Chaplain Mike,

    At the risk of sounding harsh, and forgive me…my heart is tender…my voice, soft…

    I am not sorry for you in this wilderness. The wilderness taught me to think differently.

    I spent a long time in the wilderness, and I found that after traveling in an ever increasing Westerly direction, I had gone, well, East. When I caught myself reading the Eastern writers I had once studied lo! these many years ago in my pre-Calvinist adulthood, in a small Catholic high school, I realised the wilderness was exactly the place they had gone to seek the Living God; to commune with Him without distraction.

    Yet the World found them there… Last laugh’s on them and it’s all in God’s hands anyway, yes?

    I have learnt to covet the quiet of the desert away from the many and numerous distractions that drown out the vibrant quiet, the sheer stillness, that was once heard by the Prophet Elijah as God spoke to Him after the cacophony of His creation (earth, wind, and fire… ;D)

    God is there and he is not silent, said a famous Calvinst, Francis Schaeffer. And Schaeffer was right. God is there; He is not silent:

    There were two monks who committed a very serious sin when they went to the village to sell their wares. But they were wise enough not to let the devil trick them into discouragement and so they came back to the desert and went to the Abba to confess their sins. To ease them into their conversion, they were asked to go and live on their own for one month on bread and water, to pray and do penance. When the time was over, Abba himself came over to reunite them with the disciples. However he was very surprised because one came out grim, downcast, pale while the other was radiant, buoyant and brisk.

    “What did you meditate upon?” Abba asked.

    The sad monk answered : “I thought constantly on the punishment which I merit and the justice of God”.

    The happy monk answered : “Well, I used to remind myself constantly the mercy of God and the love which Jesus Christ had for the sinner.”

    Both of them were joyfully accepted back in the community but Abba remarked on the wisdom of the brother who kept his mind fixed on the compassion of God.

    May your time in the wilderness be blessed, Ch Mike, as you meditate on the mercy, love and compassion of God…

    Laura.

    • Radagast says

      Aahhh … Saint Anthony and the Desert Fathers… always liked that band… seriously though great stuff in those writings….

    • Good stories, but going “east” isn’t going to work for all of us. I appreciate the depth of spirituality the east offers the Church, but it seems to me ordinary Orthodox Christians aren’t that much different than us western types in terms of life and struggle.

      • Dana Ames says

        Pastor Brendan, you are right that Orthodox Christians have all the same life problems and struggles. Sometimes we don’t get through them very well, and sometimes we even scandalize ourselves and others, as has been described by several people on this thread today.

        What I have found is that in Orthodoxy there is a view of God and human beings that allows for Reality, even the crappy aspects of it, without there having to be a lesson of some sort, without us having to do something save God’s reputation… It’s really a place to rest, which comes with the interior life of Orthodoxy. That Orthodox themselves sometimes don’t find makes me sad.

        Dana

        • Forgive my skepticism, but I’ve heard this line before. The (confessional) Lutherans were the last ones to sell me on that. I’m glad that the mysticism and monastic influence of the Eastern church has resonated in your soul. In some regards it resonates in mine as well, I’m a faithful Ancient Faith Radio listener. But at the risk of sounding postmodern, what works for you won’t necessarily work for others. I know this because I’ve seen others have the same experience as you and yet end up it totally different traditions. As I look for my place, I just don’t seem to fit in the Orthodox tradition. I barely fit in here at iMonk.

          • Dana Ames says

            The monastic influence was a draw, for sure, but my turn to Orthodoxy was driven by theology. My theology underwent a profound change during the early 2000s, largely influenced by N.T. Wright. I found that, for the most part, Orthodox theology was what I already believed. That came totally out of left field; I really had no idea… I suppose I did in some sense “choose” Orthodoxy, but toward the end of my journey I felt like I was being drawn by centripetal force ever more surely into the heart of it. I found myself almost literally banging on the doors to be let in. That sense continues, although I haven’t had any visions or “woo-woo” types of “experiences” and don’t really expect to have them.

            God is good, and he meets us where we are; each of us has to do what makes the best sense to us. I hope you feel welcome at iMonk.

            Dana

      • quote: “Good stories, but going “east” isn’t going to work for all of us.”

        Why not? Worked for a l o n g time before there were any serious rifts…

        But on the other hand, yes, Pastor, you’re right. People is people…past, present, and future. Reading and truly thinking on the Life of King David sure enough disabused me that the people in the Bible were anything especially special and more so special than me. We all miss the mark; fall short. Life in The Church is about healing our souls and minds and hearts from this “sin sickness” of which we have been afflicted.

        😀

        I’ve learnt that the Orthodox don’t wander around, pulling out their hair, wringing their hands, and struggling with the Meaning of All Things (like Joni Mitchell lyrics and Jackson Pollock canvases…). We accept there is “mystery” in the created universe and we even like it that way. But where there is meaning, you can generally find someone, somewhere who has commented on it someplace in the last, oh, 200o years. I find that comforting because I don’t have to tease it out for myself.

        Then, on the third hand, Orthodoxy faith doesn’t necessarily rest in the intellectual. We don’t require the prerequisite of intellectual understanding and consent before communing. Children, intellectually handicapped, Alzheimer’s victims… all are welcome to the Table to commune with their Lord Jesus Christ! Our puny minds are subservient to our enlarged hearts; enlarged with the love of Christ who fed, clothed, visited and forgave in humility. We don’t discuss the theoretical ramifications of our actions with “if…then…: hypotheses. We just roll up our sleeves and get on with it. Maybe that’s why our Babushkas were triumphant in “keeping the faith” in the face of all that martyrdom going on just in the 20th C alone…34 millions of them, if memory serves.

        Please, Pastor…Come and See! You would be most welcome to Come and See and to ask questions and to learn what it is that causes the East to differ from the West! See what The Church has to offer besides and interesting foundational historicty in terms of ecclesiology, Christology, and sacramentality.

        And in the wilderness, no less…

        • Radagast says

          I have a deep affection for the east and when I get the chance I visit (usually at some food festival) and seek out the priest. We have a good time talking about the purgation/illumination/unity thing and things like essence and the like.

  8. A double-rainbow…WHAT DOES THIS MEEEEEEEEEEAN????!!!!

    Sorry. That was my first reaction.

    Problem number one: evangelicals are taught to avoid self-criticism. Our enemies criticize us all the time, so doing so would just provide aid and comfort to them. I was surprised to see in the recent John Michael Talbot interview referenced in last week’s weekend ramblings that his response to Keith Green’s anti-Catholic rant was to get some self-criticism. JMT was dead-on. We always want to stick that mirror in everyone else’s face, but we can’t bear to look in it ourselves.

    So, what do you do when things don’t work? Assume the problem is with you and not the system. When we feel a little chilly when we try on the emperor’s clothing, it must be that we have a metabolism problem. After all, he IS the emperor (aka pastor, tele-vangelist, child psychologist and best selling author, Contemporary Christian Music super star, political talking head, etc, etc, etc).

    The human condition is that we are always simultaneously alone while still being a part of a group. We at times need courage to stand with the group, but more often we need the courage to stand alone against the opinions or wishes of the group. Even more difficult, often we need to stand against ourselves and admit that we are the ones who are wrrrrr…wrrrr…wrrrrrrrr. This is the tightrope we walk as a protestant.

    I have found myself at odds with run-of-the-mill evangelicalism over and over, but particularly in the way I am expected to read and understand scripture. I ran into this again while preparing a bible study; after studying the passage, looking up the greek word meanings, and looking at the greater context of the passage, I then turned to a trusted commentary which interpreted something from the passage that simply wasn’t in the evidence I found. What do I do? Certainly the commentary can’t be wrong? Little ol’ me with no formal religious training understands scripture better than a big name in evangelicalism? Come on! It’s hard to convince myself let alone the fan boys of that commentator.

    • Dymb ox….one of the problems with Christinaity is that it can’t critique itself nor reform itself. It often looks at questions as challenges which threaten the faith. That is why critiquing is discouraged. It’s why no one wonders if a mega church should be built? If ministry should be done this way, etc…? The only way I think Christianity to improve is if it allows for self examination and scrutinty. Scrutiny is not always bad…sometiems it can be good. Its just that in a black and white/”us” vs “them” mindset any type of scrutiny is viewed as a threat. The Mormons operate in a similar mindset.

      • I don’t like your always/never statements. I have often found many people in our culture that don’t understand the NEED for self-critique, and this culture has absolutely infected the church. But isn’t this website proof that Christians do see a need for self-critiquing? Isn’t this website proof that bad ideas need to be called out as bad ideas?

        You are right. Many christians and many churches see no value in scrutinizing. But your blanket statements are a bit over reaching.

        • Actually Pastor Brenden I take some of that back. I didn’t think of the Internet Monk in that context. What I was thinking of it is in the mainstream non-denom setting where critique and criticism is avoided. Websites like the Internet Monk do call evangelicals on the carpet and do critique. You are right in that sense, so I take some of what I said back.

          • And I affirm that most of Evangelicalism is either too busy with life or too enthralled with ideology to take a step back and look at what they’ve created. The critical spirit has a hard time finding a home in the Evangelical world.

          • Dana Ames says

            Pastor Brendan, istm that Eagle is working through a very real grief. IM is a safe place for him to do that.

            Dana

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      A double-rainbow…WHAT DOES THIS MEEEEEEEEEEAN????!!!!

      It means Rainbow Dash was practicing her Sonic Rainboom…

  9. Thank you for posting Michael’s words. It was Michael who unknowingly guided me along the tricky path from atheism to Christianity, and now that atheism has begun to make more and more sense, it was nice to read Michael’s thoughts on one of my now-rare visits to your blog.

    • Radagast says

      Hi Nina,

      Does this mean you have begun to make the trip back? My perspective is that you always keep open the paths to other places once trodden so that you can look in and catch a glimpse – come back and visit more often!

    • I for one would love to hear you story. I went from a fundgelical more to an agnostic and am trying to work through a whole host of issues. What did you do? Could this be a guest post Chaplin Mike? 😉

      • Hi Eagle, I am not so different from you although my wilderness which has been most of my life has caused me to hang on Christ rather than leave Him. I am like lots of folks who frequent IM…trying to understand and make sense of lots of things that we have been dished. I never got p’ed at God like you apparently did. I never saw Him as the enemy. I don’t have a church for a variety of reasons but I hope to some day. I guess when it comes right down to it…without God, what do you do with your guilt?

  10. David Cornwell says

    What a scary story. The fall of of someone we know, respect, and love always brings with it such total devastation, it’s horrible to even contemplate.

    In seminary I memorized some bible verses and this has given me hope over and over again down through the years: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

    If we carry a terrible burden for the fallen person, his family, and victims, think of the horror and burden it brings to the heart of God. And so “God show is love for us…”

    • David Cornwell says

      I was writing this in response to Ted. Sorry it ended up in the wrong space.

      • Thanks, David. I knew what you were talking about, and was just about to reply. And that verse is a great comfort.

    • I’ve been listening to a series of sermons on grace and they are teaching out of Romans 5, yesterday’s sermon that I listened to (along with all of them so far) is a total game changer for me! A couple things the speaker said on that very verse David:

      1) The terms and conditions of a relationship determine the nature of that relationship.

      For instance, if someone here at IMonk was going around saying I was rude, unfriendly, and a hypocrite, what would people start to do? Steer clear of me, right? But, what if that person was wrong? They are giving the wrong information which in turns changes the relationship.

      This stuff is simple and yet incredibly profound. For me anyway.

      2) Are you settled? Has He really forgiven you?

      Someone loved me when I was helpless. There was nothing I could do. Nothing I could add. Which he gave an iilustration of a parapalegic man on an airplane whom the flight attendent sat his food down on the tray in front of him and walked away. Okay, great, he has his food, but he’s helpless to feed himself. Someone needs to help him in his helplessness. And so it was with God and Jesus on the Cross. In regards to the man in Ted’s story (and all of us, if we’re honest), God loved him when he was helpless, before he was even born, knowing full well what he would do later in his life. AND HE LOVED HIM! That messes with me, my pride and my misconception of an Almighty God who gets ticked at me because I didn’t read the Bible today. It’s scandalous and if it weren’t we’d all still be lost.

      3) This intimate relationship with his profound Lover has never been based on our goodness, our performance or our social status. So, settle the issue, this foundational issue, The Heavenly Father loves you and your sins were forgiven on the cross. Period.

      I’m chatty today. I best go now.

  11. 1. take hold of that trusty wine opener…
    2. get a chilled bottle of wine from the wine cooler…
    3. insert wine opener into cork…
    4. extract cork…
    5. pour a generous glass, swirl thoughtfully…
    6. sip slowly, deliberately…
    7. enjoy the wine…
    8. feel the urge to wax philosophic on the why’s & wherefore’s of wilderness meaning/purpose…
    9. repeat step 6…

    • Radagast says

      funny… my wife has actually been trying to get me to do this… hard for me since I associate it with my younger days of being out all night… see what inprinting can do….

      • i will absolutely & vigorously steer anyone away from consuming alcohol if it is used as a coping mechanism, or cannot be controlled, or is not medically wise, or is financially irresponsible, or one has a history of abuse associated with it…

        i used alcohol as a coping mechanism about the last 5-6 years of dealing with a very convoluted marriage situation. fortunately for me my doctor gave me a clean bill of health after i quit drinking, had a severe nervous breakdown, got medical help & Christian counseling…

        i drank way too much. was what my counselor called a functional drunk. just so i could understand what i was doing & why i was doing it. however, i also told him & my doctor that i was not going to be a teetotaller for the rest of my life…

        i happen to enjoy wine. and bourbon. a good margarita. a cold beer. but i do not consume them as a means to cope with the incongruities of life, to escape, to dull the pain or fear…

        my budget limited. my tolerance for alcohol drastically diminished. and i have no reason to drink myself into a stupor for whatever reason…

        good conversation does happen when 2 people can discuss the wilderness experience that is a common one, yet without conclusion or neat+tidy categorization. i do not like cold, sterile discussion. it has to be lively, real, passionate, venting. sometimes we repress the deeper frustrations with the Big Guy & why me & what does this frikin’ circumstance mean anyway. the old saying, “in vino veritas” (in wine there is truth) as true today as when coined back in the really old days. since i am thoughtful & reflective by nature, it also helps me getting too caught up in the introspective analysis mind loop.

        anyway, my approach is not for everyone. but i find it very, very beneficial when getting to the next oasis seems beyond my ability to attain…

        • Radagast says

          I think the good conversation you mentioned above is why my wife is prompting… probably tired of the usual male response as Rebekah quoted above –

          “Hey honey what ya thinkin'””
          …uuuhhh, Nuthin…

          • unlike the generalized typical male, i am one that always is thinking & will share it easily with anyone that really wants to know…

            yeah. and ladies, i do like to cook & busy myself in the kitchen. i do like to entertain. i have a quick wit, laugh easily, like to garden, bbq, go wine tasting…

            i whistle when i am happy & content. hum along with the music playing. i like much of life even though my previous years of life challenges had me repressing & denying the real me. it was a very unhealthy way of coping with the convoluted marriage situation i was dealing with during its last 10 years of artificiality…

            anyway, my journey of freedom has brought me to a much better place & yes, i can talk about without much prompting… 😀

          • I love you guys.

            Nothin’ weird! I’m just sayin’!

            No booze for me either! Martini’s were my choice, though it didn’t start off that way. I just don’t drink like “normal” people, whatever that is!!!

            Joseph, thanks for sharing your story here! I always appreciate what you say!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          i will absolutely & vigorously steer anyone away from consuming alcohol if it is used as a coping mechanism, or cannot be controlled, or is not medically wise, or is financially irresponsible, or one has a history of abuse associated with it…

          “Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable. Never drink when you are wretched without it, or you will be like the grey-faced gin-drinker in the slum; but drink when you would be happy without it, and you will be like the laughing peasant of Italy. Never drink because you need it, for this is rational drinking, and the way to death and hell. But drink because you do not need it, for this is irrational drinking, and the ancient health of the world.” — G.K.Chesterton

    • LOL…..step 10. find out where Joseph lives and invite oneself over with an empty glass in hand and a supportive, empathetic look on the face… (try not to look too thirsty..)

      do NOT leave just minutes after said wine is kaput..

      • yeah, the ‘thirsty’ look a giveaway. thirst & wine does not really make for enjoying its unique qualities.

        if thirsty, i will offer some chilled mineral water first, or a cold beer. wine to be appreciated when it is not distracted by hunger, or thirst, or too much adrenaline.

        but i can assure you, if any of you showed up at my doorstep, you will not leave without having been offered anything i have to drink. and if i don’t have it, we can just jump into the ol’ Tahoe & off the nearest store!

        saude! 😀

        • yummm, mineral water, beer, and wine….. I’m scheming for all three…… seriously, you are in my prayers and thoughts today: I have a brother whose 25 yr marrige went south two yrs ago, and now he has bone marrow cancer. Sometimes the hills we climb are 14-ers.

          • ouch. life is never predictable. and no, we do one a service if we try to categorize the unique set of circumstances loved ones are dealing with…

            [sigh]

            i was praying last nite about my own particular challenges. i honestly told God i could not weather another negative setback. i told Him i have cried enough tears. told Him i have come to the end of myself too many times already. told Him i don’t need another round of disappointment, failure, disruption, etc…

            i know He heard me. and there is no guarantee offered in spite of my very heartfelt plea. i want to believe it does ‘all’ work out to the good. in my life? in the lives of my boys (next generation)? to God’s glory?

            i have endured much. yet He has sustained me. the equation is not comforting though. i know what it is to fear, to close down inside, to not want to get out of bed, to wish myself dead…

            yeah. common stuff for sure. no exemption. no avoidance. i know how fragile i really am. how vulnerable. how incapable of navigating the flood that so easily will drown me…

            and yet i continue. am i crazy? at times i think i am…

          • note: should read…

            “and no, we do no one a service…”

  12. There are times when life requires a reduction of all reason to a core mentality of trust in Christ and abandonment of all else. There may be no answer for the remainder of our years under the sun until eternity, if then. We simply journey on following the light we have been given no matter how dimly that light seems to illuminate our pathway. It is like dropping into the lowest gear of a four wheel drive range rover all while creeping over unfamiliar terrain in the darkness.

  13. David Cornwell says

    Chaplain Mike, this can’t happen to you. You are the one supposed to have the answers and bring hope to the rest of us.

    At least I always felt this way when I was a pastor. I remember times when I was trying to comfort others, bring encouragement, and pray for them, I was bereft of hope for myself and could not find answers. This is one of the reasons I left the ordained ministry, gave up on being a pastor to other people, and went to work for a secular company. For a few years I had trouble even uttering a word to God, and he seemed totally absent to me. I quit attending church and reading the bible.

    But I started taking long, long walks, especially on Sunday mornings. And I truly enjoyed the place I worked. I found true friendship there, had fun with them, and laughed a lot.

    Eventually prayer found it’s way back to me. I don’t know when or where, but it did. Marge and I started attending a church of a different denomination and fell in love with the people. It seemed like home, even though it’s lack of Methodist structure seemed weird. It’s lack of theological structure seemed even more strange at times. But it seemed that Christ was there, in the people, even in the ones that seemed very strange to me.

    I don’t offer any of this as a plan for you, because even if I did it would not work. And it wasn’t a plan anyway. About the best advice I have is “hang on.” Or should that be “turn loose.” I’ve never even figured out which one it it should be.

    Now things are in a relatively good place for me. We both have more physical ailments than we’ve ever had, but we have been blessed in way I never could have imagined. Life has become something to love and enjoy once again.

    Oh– in the last 18 months or so, this site has brought me some reconciliation with that part of me that was “evangelical.” Thanks to you, Jeff, and the other writers. Thanks so much, from the bottom of my heart.

  14. Great subject for discussion. Don’t know what else I can add to the discussion, but we’ll try….

    I do believe that our times in the wilderness is for our benefit, but we may not know of the reason this side of heaven. There are times when we just need to go back to the basics:

    1) Know that God is good
    2) Know that God cares about me.

    Sometimes the only thing we can do is “suck it up” and trust that God is doing a work on me. (Rom 8:28 applies here). It also helps to have someone to talk to who isn’t going through a wilderness at the same time!

  15. Anonymous says

    Sometimes the wilderness feels like The Long Walk by Stephen King.

  16. Never trust an engineer for psychological or theological advice, but here goes anyway: Could your feelings in part be influenced by your moderation of this website? I find that constant exposure to the wide range of opinions on what we should or should not do or believe, often expressed in a well-written and convincing manner has at times caused me to seriously question my own beliefs or worse, try to win some kind of spiritual argument on this blog.

    But I have the ability to not open up this blog in my browser if I feel things are going someplace I’m not prepared to go. You on the other hand don’t have that luxury. Take a break, or at a minimum see if you can post a blog and not feel the need to read or respond to comments, even if it’s just to clarify what you said.

    Just my $0.02.

    • Ed, I wondered the same thing. There are a lot of hurting or formerly hurting people who respond on this blog and it may be that it’s overwhelming Chaplin MIke. Ed’s suggestion to take a break might be a good idea. Meanwhile, I (and no doubt many others who frequent this place) will be praying for you.

    • I would concur with this advice. I would also add, if you have a Facebook account, maybe stepping away from it for awhile if you find it triggering depression and negative emotions. While I am glad the technology is there to enable us to stay in touch with others more easily, I sometimes find myself drowning in a sea of envy when it seems like others “have it all together” so much more than I do. Looking at others’ pictures of their happy vacations, their times with friends and family, etc. can bring me down more than inspire me.

      And the blogosphere can be a depressing place if you spend too much time in it. Everyone with their opinions, letting it all hang out, getting into intense disagreements with fellow bloggers and commentors, hating on people they don’t even know. It’s one of the main reasons why I rarely post on this or any blog. I have enough drama to deal with in my regular life, I don’t need more online drama adding to the tension. And yes, all the conflicting points-of-view on an issue can make it difficult after awhile to know where I stand , rather than just parroting what others have said.

  17. This reminds me of Psalm 39:

    12 “Hear my prayer, O Lord,
    and give ear to my cry;
    hold not your peace at my tears!
    For I am a sojourner with you,
    a guest, like all my fathers.

    13 Look away from me, that I may smile again,
    before I depart and am no more!”

    I have felt the piercing cry of the Psalmist in my period of depression. I figured that if I felt that way, He surely knew about it anyway, so why not tell Him? So I prayed the most blasphemous prayers. But He never left me alone. And praise Him He didn’t.

  18. Oh, I’ve been in some sort of wilderness longer than I want to be and the disappointment is great. Sometimes I think it may be a form of purgatory. What do I do?

    Realize the stuff I was taught was a lot of BS. (Well, maybe not everything!)
    Get really angry at those past teachers and myself … and God.
    Repent.
    Accept God’s grace and the fact that it’s all a mystery.
    Put the theology books aside.
    Adopt Luther’s stance: “Be a sinner and sin boldly!”
    Cuddle with my dog.
    Watch the entire series of Twin Peaks. (Or X Files – you get the drift)
    Rinse and repeat.

  19. Especially in the information age and the social networking age, we need to take more responsibility to think for ourselves. For instance, when a social networking site (which shall remain nameless) tells me today that my account is not secure because I haven’t disclosed to them my cell phone number, it’s my job to say “bull [ooh la la]”. But with the information age comes information overload: we are expected to be more vigilent against scams, mistruths, and error from the flood of information bombarding our senses everyday. We are drawn to so-called “experts” or consultants to make sense of all this for us, so we can go back to more important things, like watching cat videos on youtube. We want to know we can trust someone, otherwise, we fall into a modern rendition of nihilism, where we have access to more information than any generation before us, but unable to discern the knowledge of good from the knowledge of evil. Technology can’t put back in the bottle the genie released during the fall.

    • It’s one thing to break free from being a mindless pawn or puppet of the collective; it is yet another, in our struggle for independence, to avoid falling into the grasps of yet another collective. That seems to be the motive operendi of most cults: you can’t trust anyone, but you can trust ME [insert maniacal laughter and sinister organ music]. It is also the fallacy corrupting a lot of Christian thinking: one group is labelled as wrong and a second group is offered as the only ultimatim. Reductionism and strawmen prevail.

  20. Chap Mike: your honesty in this post is brutally, savagely helpful. It’s pretty dry where I hang out, and most of what I hear as predictions for rain look more like sand storms to me. But I’m one he** of a hard guy to make happy.

    Some stuff that helps me.
    1)Weed out and ignore 99% or more of all cliches. Especially unhelpful to me is most of what has come out of the “men’s movement” and most of what is said about marriage. I won’t drone on about this, but it is neither helpful or loving (in my situation) to drag my wife into stuff that she doesn’t even think about. I’ve learned , over the years, what is “in bounds” and “out of bounds”. The “out of bounds” category has gotten smaller, praise GOD, but this has been and will be, an uphill climb: this is no one’s fault, we are two radically different people, long story.

    2)excercise; this is no cure all, but 15 mile bike ride helps me quite a bit, depending on who I’m riding with, and not falling into herd behavior at the restaurant/bar later.

    3) SELECTIVELY sharing SOME of my wildnerness angst with a few trusted friends. I have three, GOD help the poor soul who has none, or who has been told that this MUST be their spouse (while marrying someone who cannot handle that kind of angst)

    4) Beauty; can be found in nature, music, or just everyday life (pictures of babies and puppies help me, weird, huh ??)

    5) find and form a strategy around your “energy drains”. Situations that seem (and perhaps really are) unresolvable. Don’t get me started about my pastor. My dad is 91 and facing a change from independent living facility (he hates it) to a nursing home (his hatred will hit a new category , probably). Dont’ get stuck trying to solve the unsolvable, or not-likely-to-be-solved-this-century. Doing this while not going brainless or going Krusty the Klone is not easy. Sometimes we “care ourselves into a ditch”.

    6) work at work, do something with pride and excellence; make something better and more beautiful.

    7)be a friend to someone who has few.

    8) read IMONK and remember as bad as it is….you have company 🙂

    • i do like exercise. I love the feeling after I walk away from the gym and all the endorphins are hitting all the right nerve endings 🙂 I feel like I am floating and you can punch me, tell me I lost my job, etc.. and I’ll still be on that exercise high.

      • OK….somebody punch Eagle and report back if he’s telling the truth or not….. heehee…

    • Radagast says

      greg r – Good stuff – I concur!

      I run and lift (getting too old for the lifting part)- running with friends – my spouse just doesn’t get it – but it is a release.

      Hangin out with folks who can deal with the angst – or at least go a bit deeper is good too. Although my wife wants to be deep all the time and I can only participate in that some of the time (just not built that way and it is an effort).

      Give me trees and a nice overlook where I can toss my burdens and self-inflicted pain over the cliff and I am a happy camper.

      Make a stranger smile – I’ll add that one….

      • have to repeat the Irish poem brought to us last week from….who else….martha of the emeral isle:

        I saw a stranger yestereven,
        I put food in the eating place
        drink in the drinking place
        music in the listening place
        and in the name of the Holy Trinity,
        he blessed my house, my cattle, my dear ones,
        and a bird sang often,often,often
        goes the Christ in a stranger’s guise

        thanks (again) dear Martha
        GregR

    • greg r,

      Thanks, this is probably the best advice I have heard, and mirrors much of my own experience.

      • Thanks, Patrick; this is a great place to test things out, sometimes our words fly, sometimes not, it’s good to catch a glimpse of the trail from anuthers lense.

  21. What do I do?

    I either just throw my hands up and just allow Him to carry me, since I assume He understands.

    Or, I focus on my abiding in Him.

  22. Step 1: watch as God takes all my ways of experiencing God, all my images of who God is, all my explanations of why God does things, all my Christian accomplishments, all my religious feelings, and dumps it all out on the curb.

    Step 2: sit in the empty place left behind and wonder what the heck went wrong. For me, taking long walks in the dark is helpful at this stage, as is reading the more bizarre passages in Genesis, like: “Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him…”

    Step 3: start to recognize that there’s Something there in the empty place with me, Something that resists being named or even looked at directly, that at times seems not to be there and at other times seems immense and scary. And recognize that that unnamable Something is God.

    In the evangelical world, we’ve forgotten how big and other and incomprehensible and awe-inspiring God is. In fact, I sometimes feel like we constructed our whole evangelical world specifically to shield ourselves from ever having to encounter God that intimately and that fully. Maybe the wilderness times come as an invitation to lay aside our graven images of God and to encounter a God whom no image can contain.

    I’m told that training a horse that has never been bridled takes a lot of patience: a lot of walking _near_ the horse but never directly _toward_ it, because if you do that it will spook and run away. For me the wilderness often feels like letting that big, terrifying, unnamable God approach me, and resisting the urge to bolt back to black-and-white Christianity where everything makes sense or to give up entirely. We really can’t approach God in those times; we don’t dare to look at the One who is coming near to us – about the most we can do is stand and tremble and try not to flee as God patiently and indirectly approaches us – indirectly, because God knows better than we do that if we were to immediately meet God in all God’s alien fullness, we wouldn’t be able to bear it.

    • “In the evangelical world, we’ve forgotten how big and other and incomprehensible and awe-inspiring God is. In fact, I sometimes feel like we constructed our whole evangelical world specifically to shield ourselves from ever having to encounter God that intimately and that fully. Maybe the wilderness times come as an invitation to lay aside our graven images of God and to encounter a God whom no image can contain.”

      *bing*

      God is knowable, but only because he is self-revealing. “He’s not a tame lion.” We forget that there’s a lot going on that’s beyond our ken, and that that’s ok.

      As someone who’s worked with horses and other animals, the truth of your last pp may be deeper. In the best case you not only don’t want to spook the animal — you want to draw it unto yourself

    • That image of the horse is very helpful, Michael Z.

  23. I’m sure others have thought of this, but one problem (among many) with the “GOD is teaching me a lesson thru this…” is that it makes ME the topic of the conversation, the main part. Maybe that’s , in fact the case, but maybe it isn’t. My wife works (for now) for a large company that is re-structuring all the accounting responsibilites, cetralizing to a distant city. This “cost saving” strategy has cost them 900 million and counting. Hmmmm, maybe GOD isn’t so much teaching my wife a lesson as much as the geniuses that are “saving” this company $$$. Or maybe it’s as simple as “crap happens”.

    With multiple tens of 1000’s of people, and billions of $$$ involved, isn’t a little presumptious to think that GOD’s big agenda is showing my wife, x, y, and ZING…???

    GregR

    • duhhhh…. the missing part to the above is that the “centralizing” will cost my wife her job in one yr (more or less) unless we want to move to the distant city (which we do NOT).

  24. My curt reply would be (It’s not about you, or me or us) it is about God only so if we get feeling sort of used or used up well thats our own fault. If we can’t really leave our lives our families and our jobs to follow christs leading then we are bound to eventually find our selves hitting the wall or feling the tension between (our lives) and the lives we feel that we ought to lead.

    How did Paul address the issue of what we ought to do he broke it back down and reminded us the the very word church means the possesions of, we are slaves of our God to do with as he well pleases (we are not our own) yeah this is really tough for Americans to hear. Sorry but If we really submit to a L.O.R.D. then we are slaves and the sooner we learn to really and fully appreciate this the sooner we can relax and let our LORD care for us tend to our needs and begin to train us for his service. If I were being curt I would have replied thus…. Shalom.

  25. Wow do I relate to this. I went through a year+-long spiritual drought a while back. It was not a desert, but a plain, with crossroads converging at a way station where I had been dropped off, but never picked up by the “next ride.” An extremely difficult time, simply to be endured. I can’t think of a specific lesson attached to it, but I will say the trust that deepened in me during that time is helping me right now, as I traverse a “wilderness of uncertainty” about what the future holds next.

  26. Dana Ames says

    CM,

    I expect you have done this already, but on the off chance you haven’t I will submit this.

    What really kept me from shriveling up in the wilderness was maintaining a simple prayer rule. At first it was P. Tickle’s “Divine Hours”. Then I found the Northumbria Community, whose ethos gave me a place to be settled while I waited (for nine years) and pondered and struggled. I developed a way to wrap the NC’s prayer rule around the DH, dividing my regular personal prayer intentions between the noon and vespers hours, reading a bit of scripture in the morning but otherwise leaving morning and compline prayer as outlined in the books, simple thanksgiving and expressions of trust intermixed with scripture verses. Each “hour” of prayer lasted no more than 10-15 minutes. I released myself from having to “figure out” how to pray for people; “Lord, remember…. ” or “Lord, have mercy on….” or “Lord, help….” was enough, since God knew everything about specific situations. Very little about the problems/issues in my life magically cleared up, and yet I never felt far from water.

    I began a prayer rule on the pattern of the “prayers of the hours” without any huge hope that I could keep it; all my previous attempts at sustaining a typical self-directed once-daily “quiet time” – scripture reading, prayer and even journaling with a diary of specific prayer requests – fell apart after a few months at most. I have now been nearly 12 years with a daily prayer rule. I took this route it because a) I felt desperate; I had tried everything else non-sacramental Protestantism advised, and I was still adrift in the wilderness in general, so something “more Catholic” surely couldn’t make things worse 😉 b) Christians throughout the centuries have done it and have found it to be of value and c) I was determined not to make it a legality. The way I did it, I took something other Christians around the world were doing too, even using the same words, but tailoring it to the needs of my own life, and if I missed an “hour” I had another to look forward to and take up again later in the day, or the next day, without the need to “catch up” and “do” the hour(s) I missed. I refused to let my perfectionism get the upper hand and make me feel guilty, even if I just “didn’t feel like praying” at any particular hour, believing that God really does love me and can cope with my fatigue, bad attitudes, “lack of discipline” etc. as well as the people-centered “interruptions” in the prayer routine – which were many while my children were still at home.

    My “prayers of the hours” changed in shape and content over the years, particularly now that I’m Orthodox, but the rule remains. (I have carried over a few of the NC prayers into the current prayer rule. I can’t express how important for me the NC was; I will always have a place in my heart for the Community.) There have been spells where I could only pray very briefly once a day, but I have been at least able to pray every day. Right now, I’m steady with morning prayer and compline, and add the others as I can. The key for me was to take up the basic pattern of Christians through the ages, the prayers of the hours, and at the same time to stay far away from making it a “law” of any kind.

    Not saying it is a panacea. I have simply found it to be a help for me.

    Dana

    • Dana Ames says

      The advice about regular exercise is very good, too.

      Dana

    • Kelby Carlson says

      Pardon me if I ask for a little advice. i love the Book of COmmon Prayer and other documents that contain rules of prayer. But praying morning/evening prayer from the BCP takes me almost a half an hour, which sometimes I actually don’t have time for in my schedule or I just have a short intention span. how exactly did you condense each session into ten-fifteen minutes? This would be perfect for me, I think. What texts did you use, exactly?

      • I dunno.

        Sometimes I just say:

        “Thanks for everything, Father.

        Thanks for taking care of me and my family. Thanks for all your gracious gifts. And thank you for dying for me and forgiving all my sins.”

      • Dana Ames says

        Kelby, I started with P. Tickle’s “Divine Hours”. Prayerfully read through, each office takes about 5-10 minutes. I added this to the Northumbria Community daily prayer, found here:

        http://www.northumbriacommunity.org/pray-the-daily-office

        which also, reflectively prayed, takes about 5-10 minutes. If you’re that pressed for time, I’d advise you to choose one or the other. You could add one or two of the BCP psalm/s or other readings, if you like. “Divine Hours” is probably closer to what you’re used to, except you don’t have to deal with flipping the pages around for the proper seasonal prayers, collects, etc; all you need for each office is in one place.

        The most important thing is being as consistent as you can. Hope that helps.

        Dana

  27. Paul Davis says

    Been there, done that, still have the scars…

    Like Erno, I rebooted.

    But the only support I had for a long time was my wife, and even she didn’t fully understand where I was at, it was a dark and lonely place. I finally tossed all the garbage I was carrying, and basically started over. And let me be very clear:

    It Sucked!!!

    I got so tired of trying to find authenticity that more than once I cursed God for putting such dense people in charge of his church (I even dented the sun roof in my car, then got mad at myself for being an idiot!!!), but on the other side I learned to be more flexible in my faith. To not get caught up in piety, or trying to live like someone I’m not. That sometimes, well… poo happens!!

    And maybe there is no reason to this, maybe it just is. All those quaint little teachings and christian catch phrases don’t amount to much when real pain enters your life. I also gave up on any kind of determinism long ago, if God is the cause of what happened, then he certainly didn’t mention it to me on the way out the door of his church.

    I really hate to sound callous but….

    Consume something with alcohol.
    Do something stupid for any age.
    Read a book.
    Gripe to a friend.
    Cry about it.

    Then pick up the pieces that still make sense, and go at it again. I really don’t mean to be callous, but I can’t give you a hug (well I could but it would be a loooong drive), so all I have are imperfect words. I feel for where you are at, its the most painful thing I have ever gone through. There is light on the other side, but getting there is a mess…

    Your in my prayers, and remember for those of us Catholic… suffering is ‘da Bomb!!!’ 🙂

    -Paul-

  28. The first thing that I usually do is to find someone who is nice enough to listen and then rant my heart out like there’s no tomorrow. Nothing like ranting and screaming and getting all angry to release the pent up tension. Might as well, erupt now than later right? And then once I’ve released everything, I shut up and mull it over by myself. Alone. Usually with a pen and paper. And list down things. I dunno, but this often helps.

    Good luck and God bless you on your journey! 🙂

  29. Patricia says

    I’ve quit tuning in to neat “Christian” answers. Job’s friends are aplenty in churchianity.

    Such merely insult someone in the depths of distress, the likes of which they have never known.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      This reminded me of a poem I’d heard referred to in a couple books. I’d only heard fragments of it, but enough to find it on the Web:

      Saints and Sinners
      Anonymous

      When somebody yields to temptation
      And breaks one of man’s or God’s laws,
      We look for no good in his make-up,
      But oh! how we look for the flaws!
      No one cares about how he was tempted,
      Nor praises the battles he’s fought;
      His name becomes food for the jackals —
      For us who have never been caught.

      “He has sinned!” we shout from the house-tops,
      We forget the good deeds he has done,
      We focus on that one lost battle,
      And forget all the times he has won.
      “Come, gaze at the sinner!” we thunder,
      “And by his example be taught
      That his footsteps lead to destruction!”
      Cry we who have never been caught.

      I’m a sinner, O Lord, and I know it,
      I’m weak, I blunder, I fail.
      I’m tossed on life’s stormy ocean
      Like ships embroiled in a gale.
      I’m willing to trust in Thy mercy,
      To keep the commandments Thou’st taught,
      But deliver me, Lord, from the judgement
      Of saints who have never been caught!

  30. I eat something fattening, crawl in bed, pull the coveras over my head and take a nap. The crap is still there when I wake up, but at least I have more strength to deal with it. Maybe we get the idea from church that things are going to get better, but I don’t think God promises us they always will. I think He just promises us that He will go with us, even if our journey is long, hot and painful. Hopefully my traveling companion and I will come across a few oases.

  31. What do you do when the way you’ve been taught to think is no longer sufficient to address the actual conditions?

    Changed my thinking. This took a long time. Stopped looking for simple and ready answers and formulas. Began to appreciate the mystery of God and the smallness of my own understanding. Continuing to try to be OK with that. In the process, gaining empathy for all who struggle with faith and life. Realizing that God’s purpose has much more to do with encountering, befriending and helping other people than with buttoning down all the right answers.

    This is all difficult, lonely, messy and often unclear, but it’s much more real (and in all these things I think it reflects the humanity of the incarnation, but unpacking that theological tidbit completely would take quite some time). I know God is in it all somewhere, just not sure exactly where. And that’s OK.

  32. I’m in no position to offer advice, as theodicity (among other reasons for anger at God) is not something I have an answer for. But I do know that within Judaism, people are allowed to become angry with God. In the Old Testament, David argues with God. Jesus even asked why he was forsaken. I don’t think anger with God is a problem unless it becomes ongoing. In all loving relationships, we get angry, we fight, we make amends. And perhaps that is part of what is needed in a relation with God. Perhaps he does things that make no sense, that will never give us a lesson here on earth. And people have a right to get angry over this. It doesn’t make God any less God, but as humans, we do have negative emotions that will eventually surface in our relation with anyone.

    Continuous anger, well, that’s when you sit down and try to see why your relationship isn’t working. But feeling lost and angry? That should be allowed. If it’s not, I think that might be a horrible problem in evangelicalism.

    I started out saying I wasn’t in a position to offer advice. And as a non-Christian, perhaps I’m not. But I do hope these ideas are useful to someone out there.

  33. What do you do when the way you’ve been taught to think is no longer sufficient to address the actual conditions?

    I went through a period like this, the things that I went through were things that I were not prepared for and did not make sense with the teaching and assumptions I have made all my life. All i could do was like Michael said, go through it and trust God and hold on as hard as I can. I learned many things, things that I can not learn from reading books and I hope and pray they stay with me for good.

  34. the desert’s a very effective place to show inadequate doctrine and faulty expectations/presuppositions in stark relief.

    • of course, as in any desert, if one doesn’t quickly adjust one’s outlook to deal with reality, one becomes part of the landscape pretty quickly

  35. A Christian woman experiencing a series of difficulties in her family once told me,
    “I do understand that growth comes through pain.
    I just don’t know whether I can stand much more growth!”

    I read some place that psychological distress comes from having a false map of the world, and growth is about making a better map, which means grasping the truth better.

    Reflecting on my own darker hours, I think it’s okay to (1) abandon all of one’s expectations, (2) grieve the abandonment and helplessness, and then (3) ask God to change not the situation, but you, when and as He pleases. Repeat as necessary.

    This verse comes to mind: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24) Trouble is, what fruit emerges might not be apparent until after the death, painful thought it may be, is complete.

  36. Louis du Plessis says

    When I went through, what felt to me ,like a near bout with insanity (among other things) at university, I thought “Well, other people have it together, there must be hope” I would even just walk into Christian bookshops and think “Look at all these books , these guys have the answer, will find it someday”Learned a lot since then(sigh!)
    One thing that sometimes kept me going when I had the oppertunity, was planting vegetables , seeing them grow , caring for them and eating them.That was a while back. Think I should rest from this sight for a while , too much hurt, anger etc.Seems to sometimes pull me down into a hole, but it often explains the title of a book I read a while back:”When bad Christians happen to good people”Don’t have it anymore and may have the title not 100% correct , made quite a bit of sense to me.

  37. You do what people have always had to do. You simply keep on walking. Remember the movie Fiddler On The Roof? La Santa Teresa de Avila was reported to have said, “If this is how You treat Your friends, then it is no wonder You have so few of them.” Both the movie and Saint Teresa and the later Mother Theresa had no better answer than to keep on walking.

  38. I recently saw “Kung Fu Panda 2” and really liked it. But I had a hard time with the concept of associating peace with letting go all pain, discouragement, or sadness. I’m not really sure if this was even a very accurate representation of the Buddhist view of the subject. But Christian peace is in-spite-of, not in-absence-of, pain, suffering, discouragement, fear, etc. I don’t know how much “Let Go and Let God” is a Christian anectode. I think we can let Go of thinking we can figure everything out, and make all the pieces fall into place, and let the mysteries and unanswered questions just be. Perhaps the answer to solomon’s riddle is that some crooked things need not be straightened. Perhaps that sounds like fatalism; in contrast with the American never-die, can-do spirit, I’m sure it does. But I think what allows us to keep going is knowing that regardless of the outcome or how close we approach “success”, we are are already accepted because of the cross. The biggest question has already been answered with a big “yes”. That, too, would make the true-blooded, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps American’s skin crawl. Perhaps it sounds thereapeutic. But it comes close to defiing grace as I’ll ever come.

  39. I guess one of the first things I learned early on in my walk with God is that He is not the author of droughts. We have an enemy who is determined to keep people away from God–the ways he does it are to stir up dust storms that are designed to choke life out of us and to throw sand into our eyes. God is waiting for us to turn around and reach out for Him. Sometimes, when we’re flailing around, it takes time for God to calm us down. Once He gets us into the position where we can “hear” what He saying, He can give us the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom that changes everything.

    Here are a few strategies that I have learned to put in place when it seems like my prayers are hitting the ceiling:

    Constantly speak statements like these: God loves me. I love you, Father God, with everything I have. I choose You, Father–I choose life and blessings, and not death and cursings. Greater is He who is in me than He who is in the world., etc.

    Focus on God’s character and His promises: I’ve recently been thinking about the effect of going through the book of John and writing down every definitive statement about God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. (ex. For God so loved the world…) For someone who is struggling, this little exercise might really help.

    Make sure that the first thing I ask God for in any situation is that He gives me His knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, I constantly remind myself that I cannot rely on what I perceive with my senses. There is so much deception in this world that I do not trust anyone but God. (As far as knowing what is from God goes, I judge everything that I ponder–those thoughts from God are always positive and will never cause destruction or harm to myself or any other human being.)

    Every believer goes through those dry times because Satan is determined to keep us away from God. Listen to the reality of our situation in I Peter 5:8-10 (NASB):

    Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

    But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

    After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you in His eternal grace, will Himself perfect, confirm, strenghen, and establish you.

    We suffer because of Satan, and when we turn to God, He will move us into a position where we can hear what He is saying. Once we start hearing Him, what He says to each of us will perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish us.

    That, my friends, is the fruit of the Gospel!

  40. I heard the most amazing sermon this weekend on the ten lepers healed by Jesus, where only one (a Samaritan) returns to thank Jesus, while the other nine scamper off to the priest to be re-instated into the Jewish community. The pastor expllained that the nine were focused on the physical – being clean and no longer being outcasts – rather than the spiritual: having encountered Christ. He went on to say that we are the same. Later he went on to describe people he knew who were stricken with cancer or watching loved ones ravaged by alsheimers; but the considered themselves blessed in spite of these physical ailments and trials.

    I think this is as close as I have heard a sermon explain my understanding of Christian peace. Bad things aren’t sent to teach us something. Bad things are not blessings (as bizarre as that may sound, I have heard that taught before). Christian peace, as Paul describes best, surpasses/transcends all understanding (Phil. 4:7); it rises above the physical and transforms it.

    I think we need to tweak our understanding of what Jesus meant by the “abundant” life. It doesn’t mean more physical possessions. It means life where Satan meant there to be death. It means life that can encounter the storm without being snuffed out. It means life that can encounter the pleasures of the physical world without idolatry, exchanging hope in the eternal for the momentary and fleeting experiences.

  41. “A church that has ceased to risk sickness and even demonic influences has little power to heal and to cast out demons. Every minister who is proud of a smooth-running or gradually growing church should ask himself whether or not such a church is able to make its members aware of their sickness, and to give them the courage to accept the fact that they are healed. He should ask himself why the great creativity in all realms of man’s spiritual life keeps itself consistently outside the churches. In many expressions of our secular culture, especially in the present decades, the awareness of man’s sickness is great. Is it only because of prejudice that these people, who powerfully express the demonic bondage of man, do not look to the church or to you, the ministers, for healing and for casting out demons? Or is it because of the lack of healing power in the church, sick in its fear of sickness?” – Paul Tillich, from chapter five of “The Eternal Now”.

  42. Reading so many more contributions after I responded I would like to add another thought:
    Isn’t it interesting how we seem to name painful, rough experiences ‘reality’?

    Somehow pain, the dessert, loneliness makes us think about the core of our being. (Or at least we tend to think so)

    I am not sure that it IS reality because I do believe that joy, paradise and company are also part of reality.

    However, the hard part of reality makes us think that the pleasant part is superficial and the pleasant part makes us forget the hard part.

    Therefore the contrast is more apparent during the though season; we experience the hard part more deeply because we are aware of how good the joy was.

    I have made a big difference by seeking and experiencing the joyful periods while keeping the hard days in mind.

    That doesn’t take the bad days away but when I am having a good time I have my eyes open for others in the dessert so I might be of assistance. I am taking joy much more serious now.