Recently someone commented that the tone in my posts has changed, that I seem more at peace. Since I am in a reflective mood I'll pause and look at the past year.
Yes, I am at greater peace.
For newer readers of this blog, here's a quick review:
This blog began in April 2005. The first post was on the death of my first child and a spiritual epiphany. The events of that child’s death colors the way I view the world and that theme has popped up often. Sometimes I hurt from that old wound, but most of the time it is merely a lens that helps me to see eternity, love, loss, suffering, free will, and salvation. I am at peace with the death of that sweet child (my name sake, born on my wife's birthday). There is an ache that throbs now and then (it is doing so a little now), but it is no longer so central.
Last June my eldest son (adopted) was playing with fire and burned down a substantial portion of our church. That event dominated this past year. There has been counseling sessions (most for him, but a little for all of us), testing (psychological, I.Q.), court appearances, hints of a lawsuit, awkwardness at our church (on our part, our church family has been wonderful), and many small changes in how we operate our home and raise our children. We have learned to see our children as they are, not as we wish them to be. Hard lessons there.
There has been a number of other changes as well. Partly due to the events surrounding the fire, some from other sources. Those changes affected my thinking, my writing, my spiritual life, even my health.
There were physical challenges. My psoriasis flared up several times (it is a little rough right now). A couple of times it was so bad it hurt to hold a pencil. I threw my back out and took months to get back into shape. That was a bizarre adventure, humorous, dangerous, and full of God's grace. It was also an amusing counterpoint to some serious events. (Our Lord has a really great sense of humor.) I lost a little weight (through watching my diet and a brisk twice daily walk --great time for prayer).
There were strange events hinting at slippery things slithering through the spiritual darkness at the edges of my life, my home, my family. Most are distant now, but I remain vigilant.
I take my spiritual devotions much more seriously now. Daily prayers, weekly prayers, reading scripture, worshipping, all more frequent, more fervent.
I have a spiritual mentor with whom I meet about once a week, a man who has strengths I lack and exhorts me to be more than I have been.
I have taken to writing this blog faithfully, at least twice a week (usually Sundays and Wednesdays) and have pumped out over 70,000 words. That alone makes me feel that perhaps I can write a book, a project I am considering. This blog has been an avenue for expressing myself, and a crucible for refining and defining my thoughts.
I have incorporated art into my spiritual life using a variety of mediums (wood, canvas, canvas boards, walls, pens, pencils, charcoal, ashes, acrylic paint...): an experiment in mixing art with prayer. I have begun selling a few of those paintings, donating the money to the rebuilding fund for our church (we need $800,000 and my wife and I have pledged an amount beyond our means, trusting Him to provide).
I have begun praying for my children each night, blessing them, talking to them, really trying to understand who they are. This has drawn us together in remarkable ways. My sons, adopted from Haiti, have a lot of challenges in their lives and this constant checking on where they are at, what they are experiencing, has been very good.
Additionally we do a devotion as a family almost every evening after supper. We are working through the teen devotional book: Can you Handle the Truth? It has sparked good discussions.
I have been praying nightly for my wife. That draws us together. She knows I love her greatly, not because I tell her so (which I do frequently), but because I do things which show her how much she means to me. (No, she doesn’t read this blog.)
I have continued to meet weekly and monthly with a group of men. We pray for each other and hold each other accountable. These guys are close enough to me that if I were screwing up they would come over, grab me by the ear, sit me down, and tell me where I am, where I am going, and what I need to do about it. Because I respect and love them, I would listen. Those guys have seen my eyes mist over while talking about Willy's death, the passions of my life, the shattering of dreams, and the reassessment of my children. They have heard it all. I trust them. I love them.
Over the past year I have seen people pass on, significant events for me.
Tom Sawyer, a wise, kind, wiry missionary with a white Abe Lincoln beard, a ready laugh, and an earnest voice, went home after a lifetime dedicated to bringing the word of our Lord to Earth's far corners.
Bob Cryder, a deep voiced, intensely dedicated man who looked like he just stepped out of the fifties (you could almost hear the music) spent his life bringing many into the Shepherd’s fold. He passed on after a curious journey that took him all over the world, spending a decade in this smallish Oregon town, and briefly into the pastorship of a large California church. The night before he died... Well, I'll miss him. He was (is), extremely knowledgeable in The Word, passionate about winning souls, the Holy Land, discussing last days, and exhorting others to strive for a higher ground. That higher ground is where he now resides.
Tom Barton, a homeless man in Boise I never met, the brother of a good friend, developed a brain tumor, and just before it robbed him of his mental abilities, he accepted the Lord and found peace in this world just before slipping into the next. He was the perfect illustration of the story of the Prodigal Son (or is it the story of The Waiting Father?).
It is interesting to think of those two Toms, one living a life dedicated to the Lord, the other obedient only at the eleventh hour. They illustrate the story of the workmen: those who work all day and those who came to work at the end, all receiving the same pay, the same grace. There may be rewards in addition to salvation, rewards of the spirit, perhaps of the soul, but both Toms are a part of my eternal family now.
All these deaths, gentle Tom, dynamic Bob, tormented Tom, brought into focus the reality of an afterlife for me this year.
So... has the tone of this blog changed? I suppose it has. I write less about the book of Job because the anguish and questions explored there are not as intense for me lately as they were. I still read the book regularly, but more on an intellectual, literary level than an emotional one. Perhaps I need to return to it a little more frequently so I can justify keeping the title of this blog.
This past year has introduced me to some fascinating people through blogging. Martha Martha, Pirate, Jolly Beggar, MMM, Joe, Pia, Kitty, U2 Sermons, Jim, David, Jeff, Lorna, Felise, Paula, Judas Hate... well you can see a list of many of them over there on the right. They have prayed for me, I have prayed for them. I have found a lot of people who encourage me, love me, pray for me. That has been a significant part of this past year. The Christian circle of bloggers demonstrates yet another aspect of belonging to this spiritual family.
I am more at peace.
This will probably change, as change is the only constant in this world.
But, I am close on the heels of my shepherd.
That is all that matters.