Friday, April 28, 2006

Annual Review

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.


Tamara said...

I've loved watching how your writing has changed along with my own. Ii used to write more about the daily annoyances, how angry I was, and the problems in my marriage. I write more now about the joys and celebrations, and at times the challenges. It is amazing to see how God works.

Brenda has been on my mind, and in my prayers lately - a woman I've met only though your words, yet I feel a part of her pain, and my heart goes out to her too. Please let her know I've been praying for her, and that she finds more joy every day.

curious servant said...

I will.

And for those who asked (through comments on the previous posts), the nightmares have stopped. I believe their cause was a matter of spiritual warfare. A rather weak fent really.

A big thanks to all who left birthday wishes. It was very nice to get so many nice notes. I had a great birthday. A lot of cards, some nice gifts, some good natured joking. Ate too much Thai food and later cake and ice cream. It's funny, but I am very comfortable with being this age.

I rather like that image of the odometer I made. The 50 on that odometer looks small. On a car that would read as a brand new car! And that is how I am really, still brand new!

I bet I still have that new car smell!

bjk said...

Blogging and journaling...writing...a tangible look see where the journey has taken see where we have misstepped and see HOW BIG He

Mark D said...

Wow, what a year. So glad you have learned and grown from everything. I am glad to have found your blog and look forward to reading much more from you.

Bruce said...

It has been an interesting journey for you and your family...and I've enjoyed being a part of it (if only for a short time now). Look forward to how God deals with you in the future.

His peace.

Jada's Gigi said...

You certainly have grown over the past year and in the trials the Lord has brought you through...This is His is a rocky road but as we look back we can see how He has led us, cared for us, taught us, changed us...I often think that the ones who struggle, who have such great difficulties in life, who are brought to their knees again and again...are truly the blessed....He is after you in such a way that clearly says He will not quit, He will not let you go.

May God bless and lead you in the years to come....onward into eternity...and I'm sure you still have that new car smell. :)

curious servant said...

I don't think anyone has ever said that to me before!

Judas Hate said...

I have missed your writing. I've been in such a tizy of late, not only have I not written, I haven't been reading.

Excellent as always:-)

And I really didn't read "Humble King" until after my recent blog post. Although your first two paragraphs certainly could have been the inspiration.

Still trying to begin the "Ant" story. Everytime I try, the theme of the movie "Antz" gets in my way. I'll get around it eventually.

Keep up the good work.

Love, respect and prayers for you and yours.


Michael Pendleton said...

Have you ever seen the movie Greatest Story Ever Told? I think it's Andrew who runs up to Jesus and ask His name. Jesus tells him and he says, "Jesus, that's a good name!". Jesus laughs and says, "Come, Walk with me".

I think that is probably where you are. Walking with Him instead of at his heals.

jel said...

thanks for sharing your life with us!
and I'm glad you had a great birthday! :)
have a great weekend!

Susie Hovendick Chan said...

Happy birthday!
Very deep stuff you write about.

Felisol said...

Dear Curious Servant,
I'm so glad and flattered that you count me among your Christian friends. Reading it actually brought tears to my eyes, because I think very highly of you and have foud help and wisdom in the way you are coping with the Job tasks in your life.
I must admit, though, I'm not your league at all.
I am a "prayer" and a "reader", because that's what I need to be, for my own good. I have to load my burdens on Jesus, I feel safe to walk on, when the Lord is the shepherd at my right hand.
I am, alas, a lousy member of the church, or more accurate I am a leech. No membership at all. I give the "Tenth" where I find fitting. Mostly to the youth work where my daughter is a member.( She's a jewel. She was babtized at the age of six, because she demaned to. She has been a member of church choirs and a scout since then.)
When you talk about being obdient, humble, and all kinds of sacred servant work.. Well, that's not me.
And when I try to do something, I fall, flat on the nose on the first bump I meet.
Just now I'm feeling terrible. We were six ladies in our best fifties going away to London for a long week-end. Five were celebrating our silver jubelee friendship. The sixth, a firm non-believer, was afaraid to take the tube. We said not to worry, we are surroounded by angles. And she went along. We prayed a lot over mine and another's bad hips, and we were healed.
We prayed for the sixth's anxiety, and it all went well. We forgot her soul, and it came the a horryfieng battle where the five of us ended up as losers.
Will you all please pray for her, that evil forces must let her go, and that she may find Christ in spite of my shortcomings.
Of course I pray now, but the defeat and the resistance seem to be overwhelming.
(Excuse me for taking up so much space. You're free to delete. No offence taken.)
Thank you for being curious, searching.

Felisol said...

Very Dear Servant. Thanks for your prayer. I feel comforted and am at deep peace.

Jim said...

Thanks, CS, for the 'Annual Review.' I think writing this self reflection has helped you a lot to see where you are now, in comparison to the state you were when at the start.
You seem to have a lot of the problems either resolved or have a calmer feeling about them. I truly believe the Lord has taken a lot of your burden. That is the only explanation I can figure.

Other topic. Mrs. CS doesn't read your blog. Well, Mrs. Jim looks at mine, but not right away. She likes to keep me straight, but that is hard to do when I'm writing [that is what I call it].
Anyway, today I slipped and showed her part of a post, about her, on my 'Girls' blog that I don't think she had seen before.
She was surprised, it said "XIII. Mrs. Jim. 33 years of married happiness. The biggie part of my life! She found me 'in hiding' and stole my heart for keeps. She had better watch it though, if she tries for my kidneys or liver!"
She hasn't wanted me to change that!

Keep up the good work. I will keep up the praying for you guys, you and family and church and what The Holy Spirit knows should be prayed for.

G~ said...

Wonderful post, CS, as usual. It's awesome the journey you've started since last year!

Oh, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! Golly! Sorry I missed it!! I miss a lotsa things these days!


Ame said...

I like what Jada's Gigi said: "I often think that the ones who struggle, who have such great difficulties in life, who are brought to their knees again and again...are truly the blessed..."

While working through the sexual abuse from my parents with my therapist, who had walked many of us down this path to healing, he said, "I believe that women who have experienced this kind of abuse are very special; they develop a relationship with God that the rest of us can't."

I think that is true in many difficulties in life, especially and including loosing a child, adopting children, raising special needs children, fighting addiction, dealing with the pain of choices of others.

My Mentor who is around 70 and who has taught and mentored women for years and years has often said to me, "God trusts you, Ame; He trusts you with what is in your life." I've mulled that over and over and one day found scriptural backing for her words (though I cannot remember where.)

I believe the same can be said of you, CS; God trusts you.

I spent time last year studying the book of Job. Ch's 27-31, Job talks about all the good he did. In 32-37 Elihu stands Job up and basically says you are dust and God is Sovereign! Then in 38 God takes His turn with Job!

Job 40:8 makes me shudder, God says, "Would you discredit My justice? Would you condemn Me to justify yourself?" Tough stuff!

After God finishes, Job says in 42:5, "My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You."

Satan gained permission from God to attack Job. God put boundaries on Satan which he obeyed. And in the end Job speaks those words!

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

I think that now you SEE God. God has purified your heart, and you have let Him. You are not fighting God anymore; you have relaxed into Him. I believe that getting to this place requires great struggle and great discipline and intentional effort - it did with Job - but there's nothing like knowing God is Sovereign and SEEING His truth; nothing like it :)

see-through faith said...

I love your story and that you've shared it with us

be blessed

Paula said...

Happy Belated Birthday! Sorry I've been away so long. It's been a struggle in my marriage lately. I think I'll follow your example and begin praying more for my Husband (it's an honest shame I don't pray more for him). I remember from where you came, you drew me in with your honest words and excellent writing. I feel honored that you mentioned me on the list of bloggers (another reason I should continue the blogging aspect of my faith walk). Thanks for your constant support and online friendship. Pray for me and I'll pray for you. Praise God for the place you are in your life right now.

Christopher said...

As it seems to be for you, I too am grateful for the community of bloggers. Community is good and a place to think aloud and bounce one’s heart “ramblings” or echoes is also healthy. Thanks again for sharing your spiritual and personal thoughts, moments, and epiphanies. And thanks for chiming in to other blogs and hearing the hearts of others.

MMM said...

And right behind you, following on His heels, am I. :)


Becky said...

Being at His heels--it's what this journey is all about.

I am sorry to hear about your son.

Seeker said...

And, what a year it has been!
Thanks for the recap.

Fred said...

CS...what a touching, yet sometimes raw, post. You've endured more pain than most of us will face, yet you continue to post words of encouragement.

And, sorry I missed your birthday. Hope it was a great one.

You are an inspiration.

jollybeggar said...

CS- good to do inventory, isn't it?

sadly, i think that too often we chronicle the movement of the hand of God in retrospect rather than following hard after his glory cloud by day and his pillar of fire by night. still... to not take stock of his moving is to be thankless. as you offer your thanksgivings, you continue to open doorways for others to sample of the goodness of God vicariously. keep telling his story, keep celebrating his glory.

thanks for counting me among your friends. i count you among mine.

ame- i scooped the 'captivating' book for my wife and i to read together. that's for the recommend!

here's one that touched my heart: hannah hurnard's 'hind's feet on high places' which is an allegory chronicling the journey of an autobiographical character named 'much afraid' to freedom.

thank God for christian counsellors and, more importantly, thank God for his Holy Spirit who moves through them...

~m2~ said...

i would like to thank you for counting me among your friends, as well. i have been enriched by your faith and strengthened by your prayers. you have a heart for God like i have witnessed in no other and i am blessed that you continue to write.

~peace be on you, will~

Anonymous said...

Very nice site! kubota wheels and tires Giorgio armani handbag