Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Memories from music

Saw a link on Facebook to a Metallica song. It had been a long time since I heard it so I clicked on the link. It opened a door. A door to memories long hidden and put away, memories of a life long gone, a life left behind, a life I have no interest in living again, but I am living it in the memories. The sound of the bike, the feel of the wind, bars, fights, guns, knives, blood, drinking till I could not stand, trying to find a vein with a needle but they are all used up, fear, anger, hate, what I thought was love, prisons, so many prisons. How grateful I am to be alive. How grateful I am for God’s mercies. How grateful I am to be free. How grateful I am to be reborn, to leave the past behind but have it as a tool to help others find freedom, to be able to relate, to understand. Not much I haven’t seen or done but who I was is not who I am and I am grateful for that. Forgetting what lies behind I press on for the goal ahead, to the life God has in store, the eternal future. Thank you Lord.

It’s amazing what a song can do. There is great power in music. As I worked to recover after the coma, as I wandered lost with amnesia trying to remember who I was the occasional song I heard on TV, in a bar, or wherever I was, would sometimes flood my mind with memories. This is a valuable tool for those with Alzheimer’s to help them find themselves for a few moments. Just thought I’d post these ramblings as I prepare to write in the book that is long overdue, the book that will never reveal all of who I was but will give some tantalizing glimpses. The song Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits just came on my headphones. Memories of wars, of those who had your back in the midst of death, of a trust deeper than family. Gotta go. 

I pray for God to use me, to use my life, my experience to bring life to others.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Why did Jesus die?

Good morning friends. I am blessed to have 2 days off and nothing scheduled for Saturday. Lord help me get things done and help me understand what is important for you and what is not, to prioritize my days. There is always so much that needs doing. One of the problems I struggle with from the brain injury is the ability to prioritize and keep on task. A moment’s distraction and all plans are forgotten as I focus on whatever distracted me. I hope to visit Geneva and help her exercise and learn to walk. I hope and need to visit the jail. Haven’t been there in a week. There may be new people to tell of God’s love and some of those I’ve been ministering and teaching may now be gone, but if not they have been hungry to learn more of God. I give all these men my phone number but it is rare when any call me.

One of the things God has laid on my heart is to write down how I have learned to explain God’s plan of salvation and share it with you. I didn’t grow up in church, in fact God wasn’t mentioned at home. I was sent to a camp thing and on Sunday they asked “Are you protestant or Catholic?”. I didn’t have a clue what those words meant, it was like a foreign language to me. They sent me I think with the catholic group and I watched totally confused all kinds of rituals that didn’t make sense. When I was sent to prison in 1975, a 19 year old kid who had been ushered out of the military after Vietnam, I watched as others, who were also arriving in prison for the first time, ran to church in fear. I wondered about this God stuff. What if there was a God? Well, if there is a God it would be wise to find out so after a year in prison I decided to see what this was about.

Much of the Christian faith didn’t make any sense to me. Why would God send His Son to die a horrible death? Why would God have a Son? Why is there a hell? What kind of God puts people in hell? I had people try to explain it and do the whole Romans road thing but it didn’t click until it was said in a way I could comprehend.

Imagine a clean white sheet, perfect, pure, not a spot or even a wrinkle on it. This is a picture of who God is. In the garden of Eden God would come down and walk and talk with Adam and Eve every day. It was like “Hey guys! What’s up? You want to name some more animals today?” During this time of creation God said “You can do anything you want, anything except one thing. The only rule is you cannot eat of that tree I put in the middle of the garden. If you do that then you will die”. Now I’m in prison. I understand well that if you break the law there is a penalty. So far this is making sense but why death for eating fruit? Isn’t that a little harsh?

The guy reminded me of the clean white sheet that symbolized God. He said “You can’t take mud and throw it on the sheet. The second you do it is no longer pure.” I understood that I was far from being clean, it was clear to me that I was in no way pure. When Adam and Eve purposely chose to do what they knew was wrong they became tainted. Death is the separation from Life. God is Life and the source of all life. With their sin (there is that word people don’t like) they had to be removed from the garden of Eden and the presence of God. But even then God provided for them. They didn’t drop dead but they no longer enjoyed that personal face to face relationship with God.

So far I am following what was being said. But what about this thing about God’s Son coming to earth to die such a horrible death? Why would Jesus leave heaven, where He was making worlds with just His words, and be born here on earth as a human baby, having to have His diapers changed, learn to talk, and walk, and grow up like the rest of us and…die?

“Imagine” the man said, “That when that judge slammed his gavel on his bench and said “I sentence you to ten years in prison” someone said “Judge, I love this man so much I would like to do his time for him, go to prison and pay the penalty for what he did”. “Wouldn’t that be great?”. That is what Jesus did for you and for the whole world. Instead of you dying He died. Because God loves you so much He gave His only son, and His son loves you so much He came down and died, so that you and I can be washed clean, made pure, and thus have that fellowship with God.

The only requirement is that we truly believe. Believe not only that Jesus died for our sins but that He is God’s son and thus God. Believe to the point we choose to bow down and make Him Lord and accept His love for us. It is a total surrender folks, a “I’m not in charge anymore but will let God be in charge” decision. You can’t keep purposely, intentionally, continually, doing what you absolutely know is wrong without even trying to stop, for to do so is to spit in the face of God and trample under your feet the blood Jesus shed. That’s not how it works.

Today’s scripture is John 3

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."

Friday, March 18, 2016

Lost access to this blog

It took forever to learn how to access this blog because Google tied things up when the consolidated everything we had together. Lord willing I'll be able to renew my posting. Life has been difficult but that is nothing new. Lots of frustration. People can be a pain and I continue to not understand why they act the way they do. That is especially true for the ones who say they are Christians but don't do what Christ said to do. I have a day off mowing lawns and hope to catch up on stuff. Pray for us please.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Finally. Will I get back on track?

1/3/15 Saturday
            First journal entry for the year. We have had a 4 day long streak of ice and freezing that this area is certainly not used to. We are grateful to God that we have been blessed with plenty of firewood this year, through part time work with a tree trimmer. Kept a fire going for 4 days as that is our source of heat other than a small space heater in the bedroom. While many in the area have lost power due to the ice buildup on power lines and breaking tree branches we have been fortunate out here in the country to have not lost power. Losing power happens out here often and I was blessed to be able to purchase a generator about a year ago so we are prepared for that.

            Every time I write in this journal I talk about how I don’t write in the journal. LOL. Not really funny. It’s an indication of my lack of self-discipline or perhaps a sign that I stay distracted. I don’t know but I need to get better as this is my memory also, a record of what happens I can go back to. And there has been much that has happened. It has been a busy and eventful year. 

1/23/15 Friday
            How frustrating it is to always see what I haven’t completed. Started the entry for this journal you can see above twenty days ago and never finished. Did I get distracted? Did something come up? I don’t know, but I know this is sadly typical. I know they taught me that this is a common issue for those with traumatic brain injuries at the Brain Injury Institute in St. Louise but that doesn’t make me feel any better. Then it almost seems like I say this as an excuse, a justification for me not accomplishing what I set out to do. What do others think of me when they see how little I do? I’ve had folks come to the farm and watched as they were dismayed at the messes, at all the piles of things started and not finished. I know it frustrates my wife greatly but she doesn’t say anything. My joke about it, that I am the smartest dumb person or the dumbest smart person you will ever meet. Which one depends on the moment you meet me, isn’t really funny. Not when it’s a reality you live and can’t seem to do much about. I’ve accomplished much in the past despite the TBI but I always had help. They call TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) the unseen illness because there are no outward visible evidences of it. Folks talk with me and can tell I’m no dummy so they can’t comprehend why I don’t follow through. How can I explain it? How can I help folks understand without getting all this “Oh, you poor man, I feel sorry for you” crap I hate. There are some I work with who are always trying to protect me from the pain I live with. While I appreciate the consideration I don’t like being coddled. This “Why don’t you go pick up the twigs while we pick up the heavy limbs” makes me feel like I’m some kind of child who is not up to doing men’s work. So what do I want? I work to overcome difficulties, to get things done despite them, so trust me to say “I can’t handle that” when I know it’s more than I can do and let me carry my fair share of the work.

            I can do great things, with a little help. My issue is staying on task, not getting distracted, and being able to make the judgment call of what is important to do first. Our brains are incredibly complex, with many parts needing to cooperate with other parts to make good decisions. I’ve been around many people who have survived serious brain injuries, and no two of them are the same in the problems they must overcome. There is often a disconnect with some realities and it is difficult to help some see where their thinking is wrong. I’m betting I am the same way. I’ve seen some who are fixed on their concept, so assured they are right that any attempt to correct an error is seen as a great affront. There is a stubbornness that is hard to overcome. However on the other side of that coin are great ideas that are beyond some people’s ability to accept. A Rabbi once said that the foundation of every successful man is built with the bricks those who doubted them threw.

            I am sitting here drinking a warm cup of hot chocolate I made with the remains of this morning’s coffee. When we woke up the house was once again cold, as it usually is in this weather. I raked the coals left from the large overnight logs I put on to burn as long as possible, up and threw on some wood to get a fire going again. I went out and started Cherie’s car and scraped the ice off the windows so it would be nice and warm for her when she left for work. I didn’t think to sweep off the 3 inches of snow from the hood and roof so Cherie got a broom and did that. The roads were nasty and Cherie called to let me know there are all kinds of wrecks on the interstate so I would not choose that path when I went to work. Then Butch called to say they would not be doing tree and lawn work today because it was too much of a mess.

Thus I am able to spend some time writing this and hopefully some other things I need to write. There is so much. I have a letter to one of my brothers in Christ I started writing in January of last year that needs to be finished. Just another example of things I have not finished. There are bible studies started and not finished and the two books that are on my heart to write. I wanted to write about our year last year, a summary of what happened, something I could send out to friends and family with pictures, but that did not even get started. When I go out and work, whether it is tree or lawn jobs, or installing the floor for Geneva, by the time I get home I’m done for. The pain level is often way high and on top of that there is the fatigue.

This is another part of TBI that is hard for some to comprehend. It is clearly documented by many studies and recognized by those who work with TBI survivors, but hard for others to understand. When I had my three companies I would work seventy to eighty hours a week and still go to the bars and play. No doubt, looking back now, I was stupid and burning the candle at both ends, but the point is I had an energy level that no longer exists now. Sure I’m older now and I know that plays a part but this fatigue is different. When I first got back with Cherie, three years after waking from the coma, I would conk out around noon every day. Simply run out of steam and could fall asleep sitting in a chair. It was necessary for me to take a two or three hour nap in the middle of every day. This wasn’t a physical tiredness but a mental one.

Now, fourteen years later, I have much greater endurance but I still wear out both physically and mentally. I am jealous of those who can get so much accomplished, who have the energy level I once had, but that’s just the way it is. This is where God has put me. I pray for greater energy and wisdom all the time. Pain I just ignore until I can’t. But I am grateful for the life I have and realize it is only through the mercy and grace of God that I am able to breath. The difficulties I must overcome are all the results of the decisions I made earlier, of the sins I pursued. There is one rule of the universe we can’t avoid, a biblical truth that is unavoidable, we all reap what we sow.

How grateful I am to have this time to write. In my imagination I think I can say something important, something that will help someone improve their life. My hope is that these words are words of life, that give hope, not taking it away. One of my frustrations is seeing so much need but finding so little time or resources to help with those needs. I find myself doing odd jobs to try and pay the bills and at the end of the day being so worn out that nothing else happens.

But now I have a short window of opportunity, and what have I done with it so far? It looks like I complained, just vented my frustrations. Great. So much for saying something important. But there is still time so here is one of the things that has been on my mind.

In a conversation with a generous friend he mentioned the difficulty with doing business with friends and people we know from church. We talked about how folks often avoid this and how it is a commonly accepted belief that it is not wise to do business or work with family or those we are close to. I agreed with this man but it got me to thinking. What does the Bible say about this? I thought there were some proverbs that addressed the issue of doing business with friends so just went and read the entire book of proverbs. There was advice regarding guaranteeing or becoming surety for loans and advice against working with fools, greedy, or dishonest people but I didn’t find anything about hiring friends or family. Now I read proverbs quickly and might have missed something but what I did find in proverbs was lots of wisdom regarding helping others, especially those who are not doing as well as you are. There were also some very pointed words regarding greed and taking advantage of others, especially the poor. Also God’s heart is revealed in Deuteronomy and other parts of Moses’ writings and especially with the words of Jesus. All through there it is clear we are to help those who are our neighbors and family in the sense of the family of God, fellow believers. Jesus not only said to give to anyone who asks of you but also said that if someone takes advantage of you to let them and forgive them. The worlds wisdom says to avoid doing business with those close because it will cause divisions and discord, and frankly I have done just that thinking it is the smart thing to do.

What this really boils down to is it is a matter of faith. Do you really believe God and His promises? If we avoid helping someone because of fear that something bad will happen or they will take advantage of us then we are not really trusting in God, who said that all such sacrifices will be rewarded, both here on earth and in heaven. I know of some who in the name of this “wisdom” won’t help someone in need but often it is just an excuse they use because they really don’t want to be bothered and have other things they would rather do. Proverbs addresses that also and so does Jesus, the son of God and the one who will judge us on that last day. What will be judged? We will be judged on our works, what we do or don’t do, and on our words, what we say both publicly and in private. How do our works line up with our words? Lots of people say all the right things but what we do reveals what we truly believe in our hearts.
Gee, I can’t believe it is already 12:44. What will I do with the rest of this day? The snow is already gone and there is some tree work I need to finish up for a friend. I think I’ll fix a meatloaf sandwich with what is in the fridge and do some praying as I decide what to do. Do I keep writing and finish things I started or do I go to work and finish the job I started. That will help pay some bills though the income tax bill we have from when I worked at A-1 is thousands of dollars and we have a long way to go on that. I need to fire up the tractor and start preparing to farm this spring. Would love to get several trailer loads of mulch while it is free, because that would be a huge help creating grow areas for melons. Would like to get some more telephone poles. There is so much to do and so little of me to do it. What I really would prefer is to spend time studying the bible and teaching others the way of God, to tell of the freedom God offers through Jesus and the gift of eternal life available to us all. That is the most valuable thing I can do, more valuable than all the money in the world. It is where my heart is but we have to eat and pay bills.  

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Nothing easy

7/31/14 Thursday
            In my busyness I forgot about this blog again. Had an email from the newspaper that showed someone had accessed an old post and a picture of Rascal when he was a puppy. They track who accesses things because our blog has a link from the papers website. Going back and reading the old posts from 2007 revealed how far I have come regarding the brain injury. At that time I was still having seizures and struggled to understand things or people. I still struggle to understand people and probably always will. What bothers me the most is how many wear their “I’m a Christian” label but seem to not understand what that means. So many have their “God in a box”, a box that fits who they want God to be and allows them to live any way they choose, justifying all the hypocrisy. They choose a god in the box that requires no personal sacrifice and little personal discipline, one that makes them happy and allows them to despise or ignore everything outside of their comfort zone.

            The seizures have been gone for years now. Praise God for that. It was sad to see Rascal as a little puppy right after we got him and Trixie, because he is gone now. The cancer that took him was a horrible experience but we loved him the best we could, making his last months as joyous as possible. We still miss him and so does his sister, Trixie. She hasn’t been the same since. But this is life. There is no life without death and often death brings life. As a follower of Christ I died to my old way of living and all the things that held me bound, but now I am set free, born again, and have a new life to live, one that hopefully shines a light in the darkness that surrounds us.

            Things are going slowly here. Nothing is easy and there are always problems to overcome. The Oasis project is a struggle. Now that I am no longer with A-1 we don’t have a source of income. I hoped to sell trucks we bought at auction but failed to take into account that people can go to a dealer and get financing. Had a few potential buyers ask if I would take payments and I did not want to get into that zoo because if they missed payments I would have to repo or go to court. So despite having good trucks at great prices we haven’t sold any. Someone broke the glass out of the driver’s door of the 2004 F150 we had at the Oasis store on the interstate. They rummaged through the glove compartment and did not take anything.

            So we sit on a potential gold mine with the Oasis store but are having a hard time buying food or gas for the vehicles. It is frustrating. Some have helped us a little with personal needs but the help I really need is to create a business of some kind. We are working with Midland College on a business plan. That is going slow because I still have a hard time organizing and following through on things. Had a friend suggest I get on disability because, to use his words “You are really disabled”. That disturbed me a lot. I sent him an email explaining that if I ever declared myself disabled that would close the door for any kind of a future so would not do so. He did not respond or answer my phone call. That too bothers me, how some of my brothers and sisters in Christ distance themselves because we are in need.

            That’s it for now. Lots to do. We had a rare rain last night so I must get some diesel fuel for the tractor and move dirt while it is wet. Once it dries it becomes hard as a rock. Will work on the cabin spaces at the store and must disc here on the farm. As always I will try to update this blog more often, but history shows I haven’t been good at that.