Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The narrow hard path

It was a windy day yesterday, with the sand blowing into my eyes and teeth.

10/26/10 Tuesday
Good morning world. It sure blew hard yesterday with wind gusts in the fifty plus mile an hour bracket. It’s actually been a pretty mild year this year when it comes to the wind blowing, with not nearly as many sand storms as I’ve seen in the past. I had a pile of tumbleweeds I’d pulled up that was over seven foot high and probably fifteen feet across that I’d planned on burning. It all blew away, just a bare spot on the ground now with many of them now resting on fences and against anything else that would stop them. I’ll gather them up again today from the various corners they now reside, and if the wind is not bad burn them. Of course the wind brought in more tumbleweeds from the surrounding areas.

We brought Midnight in last night and put him in a portable kennel to sleep in. This is the start of cage, or kennel, training for him. He didn’t whine as much as I feared and settled down fairly well. The first thing I did this morning was put a coat on and upon releasing him from the kennel take him outside to do his business. As soon as he did I rewarded him with pets and “Good boy’s”. Ben and Gretchen were our outside dogs and not allowed indoors, and thus provided protection for us, warning of any intruders and chasing coyote’s away. This was a valuable and needed service for a country farm but it sure hurt when some ass shot them both and we don’t want to go through that again so will train Midnight so he can come in at night. But he sure is a stinky dog with regular gaseous emanations that curl the hair on my nose. I certainly hope that will settle down as he gets used to the food we feed him.

We leave for the Lynaugh prison Thursday, just three days away. Linda will take care of the animals for the four days we will be ministering down there, letting them out in the morning on her way to work and then again in the evening on her way home. That’s a big help for us. We’ve been preparing for this for some time and God is providing our needs. When we filled out all the financial information for the Veterans Administration and the veterans rep added it all up he looked at me quizzically saying “It costs you three thousand more dollars more to live than you make in a year!”. I told him that we know and “God provides” for us. We live frugally, wasting nothing, and it is a testimony of the love and provision of God, who takes care of our needs. (Not our wants but our needs) The enemy works hard to stop that and has used those easily manipulated and every other tool at his disposal to cause harm wherever he can but in the end God rules. We pray for those whom are unwitting tools in the devils hand against us. It’s sad that so many who do the devils work are in the church or wear the “Christian” label but this is what Jesus said would happen in these last days.

Mathew 7:13 "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. 21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

In Mathew 24 and 25 Jesus talks more of these last days. I encourage you to read this and ponder it. In both Mathew 25 and the scripture above He describes those who refer to Him as Lord, Lord, and are doing wonderful churchy things like prophesying, healing the sick, and casting out demons (Things that we actually seldom see in today’s churches) so it’s clear that they think they are saved. But the reality comes when Jesus says “Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness, I never knew you”. What a shock this will be for those who are self deceived, those who have bought into a false gospel and choose the easy path. The term “Lawlessness” shows up many times referring to those who are lost, for instance in the parable of the wheat and tares found in Mathew 13. God has rules, and He expects us to follow them. The concept of grace being a sort of “get out of jail free” card is a lie, a false doctrine that has entrenched itself in the church. Like it or not Jesus said “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it”. So tell me, do you really believe? Understand that the demons believe and tremble for they know their destiny but there are many in the church who play church but when it comes down to it are more concerned about what people think than what God knows about their heart. How I long to wake people up, to shake them and say “Open your eyes, look at yourself”, but they reject that, firm in their confidence but confident in a deception.

There was one who told me “Just a couple of years ago you were telling me how you doubted, how you questioned the existence of God”. Instead of rejoicing at the miracle of how God has restored my faith he railed against me, despising me in his heart as Michal, Saul’s daughter, despised King David when he danced before the Lord as the ark of the covenant was restored to the City of David. Do I know he despised me in his heart? No, I don’t, I just know the fruit of his actions and his clear choice to reject instead of reconcile. I had reached out to this man as I sought the Lord I’d once known and served, reached out to receive of his knowledge and announced relationship with God, but he kept me at arms length. I fear for him and pray daily that he returns to his first love, to the ways of God instead of the ways of man.

There is much in my heart these days, an urgency for the days are short and there are hard times coming for us all. Meantime there is much work to do on this farm and much I need to write.

I’ve been out working on planting the tree we bought to place where Ben and Gretchen are buried. Doing so brings up all the sorrow and anger connected to their being shot so once again I forgave whomever did it. I wonder if it was random or if it was someone who knows us and did it on purpose. I know it doesn’t do any good to think on these things but that doesn’t stop me. However the bible says to take every thought captive, basically to practice controlling what you allow your mind to dwell on so I will work to do that, despite the difficulty of it. Philippians 4:4 is one of my favorite verses in the bible as it is a basic tenant on how we should conduct our daily lives. It says “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice.”

Cherie called and reminded me to come in and eat, thus I’m here writing, after I ate some beans and blackeyed peas that were in the fridge.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mixing the holy with the profane

10/24/10 Sunday
Yesterday was a good day but ended kind of strangely. We had a tiredness, almost an exhaustion, that came over us strongly. We got home from visiting with the widow before 5:00. I opened the laptop to work on the writing I need to do but found myself drifting off to sleep so turned on the TV. Even then I kept falling asleep till Cherie called me for dinner. Getting up I found that walking was even difficult. Eating dinner and drinking the coffee Cherie fixed still did not revive us. We had planned on attending a get together with the Sunday school class from First Baptist of Midland but decided not to based on this exhaustion. I regret that, really wanted to honor those who love us so much there. I wonder if this was some kind of spiritual attack. It was odd, very different from what we normally experience. Last night was rough for us both, with Cherie having a hard time sleeping and me fighting off all kinds of thoughts along with a definitely strange dream. In the dream I found myself checking into a cheap old fleabag hotel. I went to my room and put my single suitcase in it and went back to the lobby. A woman sat next to me and when I looked at her she/he/it had a definite five o’clock shadow. The person struck up a conversation with me and wanted go to the hotel room with me. I evidently declined for the next scene in the dream I am trying to find the room alone, but can’t. The key had several numbers on it and it wasn’t clear which was for my room. The numbers kept changing as I looked at it and wandered the halls looking for my room. That’s it, I woke up to find it was five or so in the morning.

I lay there thinking about things. Steve and Janie are often on my mind so I prayed for them again. I pray for them several times each day, and the Holy Spirit keeps bringing them to the fore of my thoughts. Much has been revealed to me there. Then I got up, got dressed, and went outside to pray some more so as to not disturb Cherie. It was chilly for sure so I didn’t stay out there too long, but did get some praying done. I had all three dogs out there with me for company and always enjoy their presence.

This morning I watched once again a program presented by a denomination where the pastor has been teaching on that denomination’s doctrines and their biblical justifications for those beliefs. I don’t agree with all of their beliefs but watch to learn, to understand better why they do or don’t do different things. It was disturbing to see the teacher’s inflexibility and how slim his justifications were for the beliefs. Part of the problem I see has to do with how they pretty much discount the old testament and base everything on their interpretation of the new testament. This is nothing new and in fact is a problem that dates back to the earliest days of the church, when hatred of the Jews and everything Jewish was espoused by some. With that evolved what is now called “Replacement Theology” and is an error that is rampant and widely accepted in many quarters.

8:23 PM – Just got back from church about a half hour ago. We meet on Sunday evenings to pray for this country and the upcoming elections. I was asked to find some scriptures and give a short talk before we prayed. Had a bunch of stuff picked out a week or two ago but something else came to mind for today. I talked about Daniel, who was taken to Babylon along with much of the nation of Israel when they were conquered by Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel was there for seventy plus years and had outlived many kings. My reading was in Daniel chapter nine when he prayed for Israel and repented for the sins they’d committed that led to their captivity in the first place. Like Israel had this country has followed a path of corruption. Good is called bad and bad is now called good. My point was that we need to pray like Daniel and repent for all the wrong being done, even if it’s not us doing it. I read Psalm 33.10 and Isaiah 58 as well. Isaiah talks about the kind fast that is acceptable to the Lord. Isaiah 58:6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

My point is that we, as Christians, need to start acting like Christians are supposed to. No more cheap talk, action. It’s a disgrace to see people talking all about God and then spending their time drinking and running to the casino’s. They are mixing the holy with the profane and do so proudly with loud justification for it. Hypocrites. Total hypocrites. So we need to start the kind of sacrifice the Lord desires, not all the bowing and praying that it talks about just before the scripture I posted here, but the sacrifice of giving when it’s not comfortable and might actually cost you something. Really helping others in need and not doing so to impress someone with how good you are. By doing this our prayers are received by God, it improves the reception so to speak.

I’ve got some stuff to work on for Kairos so that’s all for today.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Which side of the fence?

10/23/10 Saturday
Saturday is the day that was, and is, the original Sabbath day. It is still recognized as such in Judaism, and in some Christian circles. One of the ten commandments is to “remember the Sabbath, keep it holy”. This has long been a source of contention in the church, that is which day to keep holy or for that matter whether we need to keep any day holy. It can be a complex issue that creates lots of controversy, with different people strongly presenting and defending their beliefs regarding it. I know that Saturday, the seventh day of the week, is the Sabbath mentioned, the “Day of rest” in the creation story. I also know that in Acts 20.7 and 1 Corinthians 16.2 there is a clear indication of the early church meeting together on the “First day of the week” though there is no clear declaration regarding this practice. It is also clear that Paul and others did observe the Sabbath and attended the synagogue on a regular basis. Ultimately this comes down to the Law versus Grace debate that I will write on later. With the rise of the Hebrew Roots movement comes many questions and a disturbance of the comfortable status quo many have maintained. It’s the “We’ve always done it this way” mentality that always comes with the traditions of men. Ultimately what’s important is the truth, what’s important is the question “What does God desire of us?”.

For me, today is Saturday. Every day should be seen as the day the Lord has made and every day we should all live to honor our creator with our thoughts and the words that come out of our mouths. I will spend much of today studying the bible and working on the letters and lessons I need to prepare. Plus I am proceeding on the books I am writing. There are things that need doing on the farm but I’ve neglected so much while working on the farm that I must make time to focus on them.

The widow has a hairline fracture in her hip. She just learned of it when she went to the doctor yesterday and that explains the pain she’d been having. We will go visit her later today. The doctor told her she could not work in the yard and needs to stay in bed as much as possible. I had been planning on doing some more work in her yard, putting out more of the lava rock but that may be put on hold now. Cherie is in town doing laundry so when she’d done I’ll meet her over at the widow’s house. I’ll take out garbage and perhaps we’ll fix some food for her, just see what I can find do help out with.

I can’t believe it’s already 11:00. Time sure is flying. Y’all have a good day. Pray. Pray for this country and pray for the many who are lukewarm in their Christianity, that they choose which side of the fence they will walk on instead of living a life of compromise.

We just got back from the widow’s. It’s almost 5:00 now. It’s amazing how such a simple thing as visiting can tire you out. She’s in a lot of pain and finally found a way of half sitting and half laying down that doesn’t hurt too bad. She’d forgotten about an appointment to get her dogs bathed so had taken them in for that this morning. We pressed her to let us pick them up and buy some dog food they needed and she finally agreed to that. Mrs. G. likes to take care of herself and I certainly understand that attitude because it’s a problem I have. She signed a blank check we could use to pay for the bath and dog food. We picked up her two Pomeranians at pet smart along with a bag of dog food. They have a deal that finds homes for dogs every Saturday and we looked at the dogs from a distance, remembering the puppies that Ben and Gretchen had that we found homes for here as well as the many stray dogs that had been dropped off. Some of the dogs were older than usual and included a very friendly German Shepherd. We forced ourselves to keep moving past them all and went to the checkout counter.

Mrs. G. asked if I thought her car ran rough. “Not that I can tell” I told her but reminded her that after driving my truck everything seemed gentle. The check engine light was on and I thought that perhaps the brakes were a little noisy so Monday I’ll take her car in to get checked.

It’s hard to believe that we leave for Kairos in just five days. There is lots to do before then so I need to stay focused.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I need to find a balance

10/20/10 Wednesday
Good morning, gentle readers. (Presuming all our readers are gentle) We got off to an early start today, getting up and moving by 5:00. I woke up around 4:30 and debated getting up to pray, but opted to stay under the warm covers, so contemplated on recent events in our life and things of the Lord. Cherie woke up and we decided to get up and moving so she fired up the coffee pot, a vital part of our morning routine. I got dressed and went out to pray, something I do a lot more of lately. It was chilly for sure but there is a peace that I find outdoors in the early hours before the sun comes up and at evening when it’s going down, so it’s a good time to reach out to God.

Midnight is still kept outside most of the time but we do allow him to come in some. We block him in the veranda area at night to prevent the possibility of him wandering at night, like Ben and Gretchen did. We let him spend the night indoors once and he left a “present” for us that Cherie stepped in when she got up that morning, so that ended that. We’ll start crate training him so that this won’t be an issue. After losing Ben and Gretchen we are more protective and have no desire to lose another pet so Midnight will get to come inside more often. He doesn’t go after the cats, a good sign.

Every morning our pets come to us for some loving. Rascal is eager to jump on the bed, where he lays his head on my arm for pets, and if I don’t he paws me to demand them. Trixie jumps on the bed as well and Carman Kitty usually crawls on my chest, where he purrs loudly as he nuzzles my chin with his head. Gracie runs into the bathroom with me, where she meows incessantly, demanding her share of pets and love. Midnight is still figuring things out so hasn’t developed routines, but he does come running when I go outside and walks with me closely, often positioning himself between my legs when I stop.

Such is our morning routine. It is good to minister to our pets this way, to give them the love they crave, for in the process we receive as much as we give. It’s a medically proven fact that those who have pets to love have greatly reduced stress levels with related health benefits of lower blood pressure and heart disease. I just know there is a comfort in loving our animals, who love back with no strings attached, forgiving wrongs done to them with gladness. If only those who go by the name “Christian” could love like that, could love as Jesus commanded, for it would change the world. Oh, I know there are many who do, in deed, practice this selfless love, but they are few and far between. I have no room to talk either, and understand that there is great room for improvement in my life, but at least I realize and recognize this so that’s the first requirement for change.
The Christmas corn is faring well so far.

Today I must focus on writing. There are 50 letters I need to write for the Kairos Prison ministry week we will be participating in at the end of this month. Then there are some bible studies that have been put on a back burner for to long. These things have been neglected due to all the work that must be done on the farm. By the time I come in, usually when it gets dark, I’m worn and there’s no energy left for writing or studies. Somewhere in this I need to find a balance. The business plan and other needs have long been lost in the daily shuffles of what has to be done. When Mwambi was here he prayed that I would get the help I need without knowing anything about us.

So I’ll go out and take care of some basic stuff around the garden, stuff that is required to do. Then I’ll come in and…avoid the distraction of the internet and write.

It’s noon, well 11:49 but that’s close enough. I’ve been out hoeing weeds all morning and it doesn’t seem like I’ve got much done. That’s ok because I know I’ve worked hard and done the best I could so there’s no point in kicking myself about it. As I worked I thought on the troubles a brother has at the church he pastors. There has been exposure of sin there and it involves someone well known and I presume respected. With the exposure there are ripple effects that I’ve seen all to often. People are talking, no gossiping. I am sure they are taking sides, some don’t believe it has happened and some don’t think it should be revealed. What I know is that spiritually this is an opportunity the devil will, and is, taking advantage of. A little nudge here, a little poke there, a poison word said in one place bears fruit elsewhere as weak minds are manipulated to achieve as much disruption and discord as possible. This is how Satan works and this environment is his playground. So I pray for my brother, pray that others in that church recognize the danger and band together to practice the spiritual warfare we are all called to perform. Pray with me, y’all who pray, that this settle out to show the love and forgiveness of God and in the end the church will be stronger for it.

I have garlic to plant and desire to plant ginger as well. We bought garlic to plant but need to find some ginger root in order to get it started before winter. As I write this I’m remembering that ginger doesn’t do well in the winter and perhaps should be planted in pots that can be brought in. I need to go read up on it again as my memory is not always reliable. Garlic I know for sure is good to plant in the fall. I sure wish I had more time and some manpower to help do this. There is a sacrifice I make to do things like the Kairos ministry and other stuff, but I will trust that God will reward that.

Speaking of sacrifice, I must neglect my farm now and spend the rest of the day writing and getting things ready for the Kairos week that is just eight days away. There is a good chance of rain tomorrow, so there are many things I should be doing to prepare for that but such is the nature of sacrifice. It costs you something.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Will check on the widow

This morning's sunrise.

10/19/10 Tuesday
Dinner with Bishop Mwambi went well. He didn’t talk a whole lot, was rather quiet, but that doesn’t surprise me. Neither Cherie nor I are social creatures adept at making conversation so I’m sure he found us to be quiet as well. Oh, there was plenty of conversation, so don’t get me wrong. We talked about the spread of Islam in Africa, as well as this country, and discussed the prevalence of witchcraft and Satanism in Africa and how those who practice that directly attack him. I explained that this kind of stuff is practiced here in the US as well but generally is not as open nor accepted as it is in some cultures in Africa, however it is increasing in prevalence and popularity.

Yep, the grilled was fired up. I think this was only the second time I fired it up this year. Just haven't had the occasion to do it and on our budget steaks are a luxury we seldom indulge in.

Sam was with us as well. In fact he contributed greatly to the dinner, helping me the day before pick and shell blackeyed peas and he also bought some steak and watermelon. The watermelon is in the fridge and as is often the case, because it was out of sight we forgot all about it so it’s still in the fridge. Sam is an accomplished guitarist who has played with some of the great names in blues and jazz. The Bishop is also a lover of music and jazz so they talked a lot about that, naming albums and musicians that were all unfamiliar to me. One of these days I would love to hear Sam play.

Today I will focus on weeds I think. I did get the lawnmower with the grass catcher running again. It needed the pull rope replaced. Perhaps I’ll fire it up today, we’ll play that by ear. This afternoon I need to visit the widow’s house in Midland. Someone broke in last week and she’d like me to insure it’s secure now. We suspect the person who entered the property is her grandson who had been staying there and, because he refused to help or follow simple rules was asked to leave. Whoever came in evidently had a key as there is no damage from a break in. She can’t afford to have the locks changed so will brace the doors from the inside. I’ll check on that this afternoon.
If you look carefully you can see the beginnings of a rainbow that showed up right when I put steaks on the grill. There were a few drops of rain but as is often the case most of the storm avoided the farm.

That’s it for now. There’s lots on my mind, as there always is. I’m still praying for the couple who turned on us and choose to be oblivious to themselves, and will continue to do so till they return to where they should have never left.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It is well with my soul

10/18/10 Monday
Good morning readers. It’s the start of another week and as always there is a big list of things to do. Next week we head down to Fort Stockton where we will spend four days ministering at the prison there. Saturday was the last of the training days Cherie and I have attended to prepare for this. We covet your prayers during the four day we will be there. It is exciting to me that my wife and I will be doing this together and this is an amazing testimony to the power of God to change and restore life.

We had bishop Alexander Mwami ministering at our church Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. He oversees hundreds of churches in South Africa as well as around the world, along with an orphanage, college for training missionaries, (800 missionaries trained and sent out so far) along with television and radio outreaches. There is no question that the power of God moves through him and we were blessed to receive from the bishop. Tonight Cherie and I will have him over for dinner and will be firing up the grill. If anyone wants to stop in and meet him you are welcome to do so. Email me at bobcarver2@yahoo.com if you need directions on how to get here. We’re planning on eating around 6:30.

Part of what I learned from his teaching is the power of our words and the need to speak positively. He called it “speaking God’s language” and gave many scriptural examples of it. The most striking was the widow that Elijah, the prophet, stayed with. Her son had died and when she went to meet the prophet he asked “How goes it with you”. Her reply, despite the fact that her son lay dead back home was “It is well”. Because of her faith and trust Elijah went and raised the son from the dead. It is often hard to speak positively when all around you looks bleak and it seems that good runs from you but this is an exercise in faith. We’ve had friends turn on us and reject us, we’ve had our money seized by the government, and many other things happen, but I will say “It is well”, for I know God is with us and His hand has been on our life. So everything bad that happens is ultimately to the glory of God for when it is all overcome all will know that God is God and nothing formed against us will in the end prevail.

There’s work to do so that’s all for now.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Judge not ???

10/15/10 Friday
It’s an unsettled morning. There are concerns about our finances, and with that questions of the wisdom of us both going to the three day Kairos event at Ft. Stockton. What do we do with the dogs and cats? We can’t afford to board them and boarding them would require they get shots. The whole VA seizing our checks thing is hitting us hard and will continue to do so into next year. All of this because some bureaucrat in Toledo didn’t fill out the right form or do their job.

Everything is a fight, an uphill battle against unseen forces that disrupt relationships and cause problems everywhere we go. This morning I read Colossians 3:1 to Cherie. It says to set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. That’s hard to do when earthly things threaten to overwhelm you. I encouraged her that we need to make the sacrifice of going to Fort Stockton as through it we would be serving the Lord together.

I sometimes wonder why we always have to struggle, when others seem to have it so easy. There are some who preach and believe that the ones who struggle have problems because they are not right with God, while the ones who prosper do so because they are right with God. With that comes a sense of superiority, a pride that says “I’m better than you are”. But I read that “All who live Godly in Christ Jesus SHALL suffer persecution” and when I review the lives of the apostles I find Paul writing this; “10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.” (1 Corinthians 4) Who can argue that Paul was not a man of God? Of course he was, yet his life wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. I tell Cherie that we face such opposition because God has great plans for us. There have been moments when the thought crossed my mind that if that were true it would be easier to not serve God, the temptation to take the easy road. But I can’t do that, for I know the end of the easy road is not pleasant and final.

It seems that every morning turns into a bible study. When I went to look up the “we are in rags” reference I did what I always do, read the context of the scripture. I do this because it is unwise to pick out sentences from the scripture to make a point. This is how many make the bible say what they want it to and thus perpetuate error. In reading this area of Corinthians I find an interesting revelation on “Judgment” so lets take a moment to explore it.

“Judge not, lest you be judged” is the scripture known by more who don’t believe in, or follow, God than any other. It’s quickly quoted and thrown up whenever there is any indication that a questionable activity is brought up. This has been thrown at me recently by some we’ve had trouble with. This is found in Mathew 7:1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” And it’s important to note the complete statement. The way we judge others will be a part of our judgment when it comes down to that day. Understand that all will be judged, Christian and non Christian alike and the idea that Christians will stand before God without any accountability for the life they lead is a deceiving lie, and a dangerous one to believe. There will be a separation of the sheep and goats and then there are those who will be given places of honor and various rewards based on their deeds. Sure, we are saved by faith, not by works, but time and again the bible says we will be judged on our deeds. Like James said “Show me your faith without works and I’ll show you my faith by my works. Faith without works is dead”.

1 Corinthians 3 expounds a little on this when it says “10 But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

Speaking of laying foundations let me explain what Paul is addressing when he wrote this. There was great division in the Corinthian church, as there is in all of Christianity today so Paul certainly desired to create unity and combat this. The division was based on personalities and it appears that different factions were following different individuals. There is always a danger in looking at a person in that doing so often means you’ve taken your eyes off of Christ. I know great public speakers who have the power to mesmerize their audiences and in doing so create a loyalty that sometimes belies common sense. With that power comes pride and with pride comes a fall. It’s a pattern that has been repeated throughout the history of man. That doesn’t mean all powerful speakers are bad. Many indeed are servants of Christ and do a great work but one must always examine things and keep their eyes on the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ.

So understanding what Paul is addressing let’s go on. In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul writes “2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”

This judgment is one of esteem, whether one person is better than the other. Paul makes clear that it is the Lord who makes this judgment and of course we all know we will face it. One important point to make is a central theme found throughout the bible, both old and new testament. That is that everything done in darkness will be brought to light, there are no secrets when it comes to that, and the core of all judgment is the motive of the heart. I say again what I’ve said so many times before, it’s not what you do, it’s why you do it.

This type of judgment is clearly dealt with by James, the brother of Jesus. In chapter two we read;
1 My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?

James says “Have you not become judges with evil thoughts?” How we have seen, and felt this attitude, this sense of “we’re better than you are”. Understand that pride is at the core of all sin, all evil. Any thought of your personal superiority over someone else has pride at its root and pride opens a door for deception. Here enters in two more core principles of our faith. First is Jesus’ command that we love our neighbor as our self. In order to do that you must hold that neighbor to be just as good as you, or perhaps even better than you. Think about it, love them as you love your self. This principle is throughout the word of God and admittedly isn’t easy to practice. It requires a humbling of yourself and the ability to recognize your tendency to judge. This kind of self examination is a daily practice we should all do, for without it we will continue is sin and in dishonoring our Lord. Jesus, who is since the beginning of time, who is God, came to earth and humbled Himself. He washed the disciple’s feet, and let men whip, beat, spit on Him, mock Him, and kill Him, for us, so that we, whom He loves, might have eternal life.

And thus He practiced the principle of love and also the second principle. It is expressed in many ways, The first shall be last and the last first, the rich poor and the poor rich, the exalted will be humbled and the humble exalted, the foolish wise and the wise foolish, and the least shall be the greatest. Jesus said "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions ; and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 "But many who are first will be last, and the last, first."

So who are we to judge someone as being less than we? Such is a dangerous thing to do. When that man came by the farm yesterday I saw him for what he was, a man in need, and did the best I could to help him. I am not any better than he is despite owning a house and having a truck to drive. I’ve walked in his shoes, wandering the streets not knowing where my next meal would come from with only the clothes on my back as my possession. Jesus died for him just as much as He died for me, and you.

We take heart in James’ words found in the first chapter of his letter “9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position ; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass ; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed ; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.” While our life is a struggle we keep our eye on the goal and take comfort in these principles.

Now here comes the flip side on judgment. In the next chapter of 1 Corinthians we find this 5:1 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife. 2 You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. 3 For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

In chapter 4 Paul said don’t judge anyone before the “Day” (referring to the day of judgment) and here he says that he has judged this man already. Is this a contradiction? Nope, not at all for it is a different kind of judgment. Jesus said to “Judge not” and later that we must “Judge with a righteous judgment”. All of us must make judgments every day throughout our day. We must determine if something is right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy, and so on. For the case of the man with his father’s wife it’s a pretty clear cut picture that something is wrong. We are required to make these judgments. Paul’s statement to “Turn this one over to Satan” sounds pretty harsh but in reality it’s a plea of sorts to save his soul. Like Jesus said in Mathew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

I’ve got to go meet my wife so will finish this later.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

To break a hard heart

10/14/10 Thursday
I love the cool nights and mornings. Normally that would mean that both Cherie and I sleep better but such was not the case last night. Cherie had gone to see her Chiropractor yesterday to get adjusted after falling down a few days ago. He said “Whatever you’re doing, quit” after looking at her back. I told Cherie that I agreed with him so she needed to quit falling down. She feels better this morning but her hip pain from the fall kept up most of the night. I had unsettling dreams that, from their random nature, were a result of being restless and not enjoying a deep sleep.

When I checked statcounter (my tracking software program that tells me who visits, when, and what they looked at) last night I was astounded to see 459 visitors to the blog. Wow, that’s a record for sure. Looking at the details more closely I found that someone in Toledo, using a browser I’m not familiar with called Chrome, has downloaded over 400 pages of the blog. Curious to be sure. If I wanted to make the extra effort I could chase down the IP address and narrow down who it is, or at least what company they came from if it was on a company computer. I really don’t have the time. There are many times I wonder about my visitors but unless they are doing something threatening of unsavory I’m not that worried about it. I get some anonymous comments that I could easily do that with as the exact time they comment is recorded so that makes it easy but it hasn’t been that important to me. There are too many things I need to do every day and I seldom finish my tasks as it is so don’t need to get distracted chasing ghosts.

At church we have a guest in from Africa. His name is Mwambi, and he is a bishop overseeing churches and ministries throughout south Africa. He’ll be here till Sunday or Monday, not sure exactly, and will start services and ministering at the church Friday through Sunday. Our church is named Hosanna and it’s right at the main Stanton exit off of interstate 20 and 137, on the north side. Of course everyone is welcome to come. I apologize for not knowing the exact times. I’ll presume they start at 7:00 pm but presuming is seldom a good thing to do. It was all announced but little details like times and names are the kind of things I forget easiest. (I checked, it is at 7:00 all three days

“This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice in it and be glad” is how I choose to start this day. That’s a scripture somewhere in the bible that I’ll look up later, but I don’t know where it is at the moment. It is a good declaration to make, a good attitude to start the day with. Things might be tough, money might be extremely tight (especially after the VA seized our check), people we love may abuse and reject us, someone has shot two of our dogs, and things look bleak for the future, but this is the day the Lord has made and I WILL rejoice in it and be glad. No matter how bad it seems I know there is a world of people who are in much worse shape, who are going through trials that would make me quiver, who do not have food to eat or a warm safe place to sleep, so I am blessed and have no room to complain. My life is a gift and my God has a plan for me, so in that I will trust. There are those who lay in wait to disrupt our life and desire we not succeed, and there are those who unknowingly are the tools of our enemy, who’s pride and anger are inflamed against us. Having a form of godliness yet they deny Him by their actions. The truth is not in them or it is quenched by their pride. We pray for them.

This morning I fast regarding that. Interestingly he called me a prophet and when I replied that I make no claim of being a prophet his response was that I write like one. I do know things on occasion, there are revelations I receive that end up being true, but that doesn’t make me a prophet. All true Christians have the Holy Spirit residing within and through that God will do some wondrous things. I can recognize the spirits that operate in the lives of some, and I sometimes know what God will do in His attempt to get their attention. This I know, that a rebellious child of God will be disciplined, and I fear for some we know, for the error of their way will be made known. What will it take to break through a hard heart?

The scripture for today is this, found in Hebrews 12:6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 "Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. 14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Always work to do. Love this cooler weather. Bye now.

11:24 – Been out clearing weeds, and praying. There’s been a lot of praying lately. Something has changed, something is in the air, and with it comes this urgency to reach out to God. I started to have chest pains so came in to take a couple of aspirin like I always do when this happens. They always go away when I do. Haven’t eaten yet because I felt I should fast this morning. They say that fasting helps you break through to God. Jesus, when asked by His disciples why they had difficulty casting out a demon, told them “This kinds comes out only through prayer and fasting”, or something like that. The Bible says that we can find God when we seek Him with all our heart. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

I do seek the Lord, I do long for His touch on my life. In all our trials and troubles it is God to whom we turn, God who is our deliverer. One of my prayers is “Where is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph? Where are the wonders I read about in the bible?”. It’s not a prayer of doubt but a prayer of longing in this world. I know there are hard times coming, and I know they are just around the corner. The false prophets say “Peace and security” when the truth is there will be calamity. They pronounce “Prosperity” but their riches will vanish away. The fountains of their supply will dry up and they will be confused, wondering what happened. It is then, I pray, that they will repent of their wicked ways and return to the Lord.

Heard a voice call as I was out in the back chopping weeds. It was a thin Mexican man who crouched down as the dogs ran barking towards him. I called the dogs back to me and walked over to him. He asked in broken English if I had some water. He carried a stick and small bag so it was apparent he was traveling on foot. I gave him two bottles of water and asked if he was hungry. He said he was so I went to the kitchen and opened the fridge to see what we had to offer. There were two pieces of chicken that Cherie had brought home from work so I got one out for him and grabbed the other for myself. We sat on the veranda as we ate and he asked if I was married, had children, and what the truck was for. I explained that the truck used to be a cable company truck that I got a good deal on but that it only had two gears that worked now. Asking where he was from didn’t get me a clear answer but he mentioned a city where his nephew had sold some dogs at. Asked where he was going and couldn’t understand the answer, Farmville or something like that. He asked which way Lubbock was so that gave me an idea of where he was heading. Had to get the mail anyway so I gave him a ride to 137 and showed him which direction to go. Dropped him off where our church, Hosanna, is so I pointed that out and said “That’s my church”. He asked “What day is it?” so I said “Thursday”. I had grabbed two more bottles of water for him and asked if he needed any money. He kinda said “yes” so I gave him the three dollar bills that were all I had in the wallet. Told him I would pray for him and dropped him off. Hope he’s ok, and hope he knows God. I’ve lived on the streets more than once so know how it is.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I am free

This morning's sunrise

10/13/10 Wednesday
Another day. Every day I wake up is a gift, no matter what difficulties we face. There is so much I want to do that I don’t have time to write. There is also so much I want to write. The book of the miracle of my life needs to be worked on. That might be two books as just the restoration of our marriage and subsequent move to West Texas is a book in and of itself. There is so much we’ve experienced since moving here. Good, Bad, Ugly, and Beautiful things have happened. Wonderful people and terrible hypocrisy paint a picture of the battles we all face and what I see here locally is a mirror of what is happening throughout the world.

It’s the classic good versus evil with all the intricacies of the personal battles we face inside. Those battles involve the self deceptions caused by pride, self righteousness, greed, lust for things, the desire to impress others create an image that isn’t the truth. Against that is the desire to please God, to be pure and good, to love those who are hard to love, to be a Christian in truth, not just in outward appearance.
The corn is doing well. Just hope we beat the freeze

We live in a age where good has become evil and what was evil is now called good and to resist that and maintain a standard of true righteousness means you are now looked on with disdain, bearing the label of a religious kook. There has crept into the church a poison, a corruption of all that is called “Holy”. With it comes an acceptance of sin, a doctrine of grace that says you can do what you want and not worry about consequences. It’s those who practice that which they know God does not approve of who are the quickest to say “Judge Not”, switching attention off of their life and onto anyone who dares point out what is wrong. Now the one who bears a standard of righteousness is the bad guy and the one who lives carnally the victim of their “excessive religiosity”.

Acceptance and tolerance of evil is quickly becoming the law of the land, where expressing your opinion can land you in jail. That acceptance and tolerance thing is a tool being used by Islamist against us to allow them further footholds as they continue to encroach into our society. The irony is that Islam does not accept nor tolerate anything that does not bow to it or conform to the Sharia law they desire to impose on the world. While I might not think much of certain activities or life styles, and desire to maintain a standard of morality in my life, I have no compunction to impose that on anyone.
(Click to enlarge) I carved this in St Louise, after the wreck. Read it and you will see the creed I live by still to this day

My desire is to show by my life that Jesus Christ died to set me free of all that once enslaved me and that He truly loves you and the rest of the world. I’m far from perfect and make many mistakes, the difference is that I acknowledge my mistakes and work to correct them. Difference? “Why did I write it that way” I’m asking myself as I review what I just said. I guess that would refer to those who do not acknowledge doing any wrong or just fluff over it. When you don’t, or refuse to, recognize errors in your life, and choose to continue doing what you know is wrong, then your heart hardens and soon you become unable to even see yourself or your sin. When you head down this road you seek others who are also on the same road, that way it becomes a happy company of people all heading down the broad and easy way to destruction. In the process you find and develop doctrines and belief systems that help you justify and rationalize your life, you make what is wrong right, not only for you but for the crowd of company you keep.

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. There is power in confession. This way the secret sin you hid away comes to the light and is exposed. Thus it is no longer a “secret sin”. This principle is so powerful you find it in AA and other programs where the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. James follows that statement with this one a few lines down “19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

I know that I’ve become preachy lately. If that offends you I’m sorry, not for telling what I believe is the truth but for offending. Maybe I’m not sorry. As you can tell I think as I write. I guess I don’t want to offend or drive people away but at the same time if the truth offends you then the problem is yours, not mine. To close I’ll quote these words of Jesus. I quote them all the time because in their simplicity is great truth. It’s found in John chapter 3, a few lines down from the well known John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”. A few lines down Jesus says this 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

I’ve lived a hard life, I’ve seen and done things that are beyond what some of you can imagine. I’ve been rich, I’ve been poor, I’ve been enslaved to drugs, drinking, lusts of the flesh, I've gone to prison, and now I’m free of all of it, and have been forgiven. I don’t have the money and possessions I once did, and I no longer have the acclaim of being a successful businessman, but I have more now than I did then, I have life. All that I lost, all that I destroyed through the decisions I made has been restored through the grace and love of God. I was dead, yet now I live.
The big wonder, my wife. After twenty years separation we were miraculously reunited when ABC featured me on Toledo TV. I was wandering lost, homeless on the streets with my memory gone, when they asked the public for help, calling me "Toledo's John Doe". What a wonder that is still to me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A city set on a hill...

Sunday's sunset

10/12/10 Tuesday
It’s been an interesting day so far. Started this morning with scripture reading out of Isaiah 56 through 58. It amazes me how relevant something written thousands of years ago is today. There was great sadness in both Cherie and I as we saw the life and actions of a couple we know described in this area of the bible. If we didn’t care for them we wouldn’t be sad, but we care and love despite how they have treated us, and want only the best for them. The best does not mean success or money, it means a humble spirit before the Lord and submitting to His will, for without that all the money and fame in the world is only an empty promise that will never bring true satisfaction.

After that I prayed with Cherie to send her off to work and then loaded up Midnight for his trip to the vet. It’s time now for his official initiation into the family. That would be shots and castration. I’ll be picking him up at 4:00 or so. The vet said he has some Great Dane in his genes, but I was happy to hear her say that he wouldn’t be growing much more than he is now, other than filling out some. Trixie sometimes walks right underneath Him. It’s funny to watch.

On the way to the vet my phone rang. It was the widow calling and she was flustered as she explained what was going on. Seems that at 5:30 in the morning she got a knock on the door. The guy asked her if the dog out in the middle of Loop 250 was hers. The dog was a huge golden Great Dane that was barking and playing as cars honked their horns and avoided him. Mrs. G went out there with the guy and when she called the dog he came straight to her. They managed to get the huge beast into Mrs. G’s back yard. She called the phone number on the tag that was on the dogs collar. The guy who answered was in Oklahoma and said the dog belonged to his sister in-law. He promised to call her and have her call Mrs. G. By the time she called me there had been no response so Mrs. G said “This dog has knocked me down twice. What do I do?” I let her know that I was just heading into Midland and when I got Midnight dropped off at the vets I would come over.
This is where I was working on the widow's garden area. Cleared all the weeds out and started putting down this weed barrier cloth in preparation for the lava rock. Worked all day on it and afterwords we all had dinner together.

When I got there I found the Great Dane was definitely full grown. Those suckers are huge. But he was friendly and wanted to play. I looked at the dog tag and found three phone numbers on it. One had an area code that started with a 9 and probably went to the Oklahoma resident and one was for an animal hospital. I called that one and gave the lady who answered the ID number on the tag. She looked it up and told me the dogs name, along with the name and address of the listed owner. The third number I called next and come to find out it was the listed owners work. The lady said she would call her and have her contact me about the dog. It wasn’t long before my phone rang and I talked to the lady. She only lived a block away so I put a leash on RJ (the dogs name) and let him pull me up there. You don’t walk a Great Dane, they walk you and you hang on desperately to the leash so it doesn’t escape. The lady had come out and was waiting for us. She was happy and grateful and explained how the dog knows how to open the gate if her kids don’t put something in the latch.

The finished job. As her funds allow I will continue this process for her whole lawn.

Ok, Great, We’ve done our good deed for the day, right? A few moments ago I got a voice mail from Mrs. G. Seems that the person in Oklahoma, the sister in-law, called Mrs. G. The Great Dane had been stolen from her so she is going to call the police. The lady I returned the dog to told me that they had just moved there from Oklahoma and sure seemed nice. Who knows what’s going on, I just hope the rightful owner gets their dog back.

After all of that I went to the Texas VA rep and we worked on the mess that exists with the VA. He made several calls and checked computer records, trying to figure out what was going on. Seems that the rep before him hadn’t done his job and some of our forms we filled out and he was supposed to send in don’t appear to have been received. So we filled out more forms and he sent them in. Next I will go to the congressman’s office. He called there and identified who in his office I’m to see. I have to write a statement and gather copies of all the records before I go so will need to make that important so it actually gets done. If you read the “book” I posted yesterday you will have seen, towards the end, the part about “poor initiative”. This has been one of my biggest downfalls. I have a world of unfinished projects, things started but never finished, and it’s a huge source of frustration for me. I’m not lazy, I work hard all the time, often till I’m unable to work any more, but I don’t get so many things done that need to get done. This is where I could use some help, where I need to organize and have written schedules, along with reminders to do things.

I’ll pick Midnight up in about an hour. There’s so much to do and so far today I’ve gotten nothing done. There’s a lot of activity at the old store we had hoped to open up as a farmer’s market. Someone’s cleaning lots of stuff out. It brings great sadness to see this, yet another dream we had hoped for that has passed us by because of the animosity and back biting talk of those who would love to see us fail. But we will trust in God, that He will bring good out of evil.

So it’s time to go. I’ve noticed that our readership on the blog is higher than it’s ever been. That’s amazing to me. I learned that someone, who desires to prevent others from reading what’s been happening recently, has been contacting them to plant poisonous seeds and encourage them to not follow the blog. That’s ok, the truth will always come out. I live my life like a city set on a hill for all the world to see. I do that to be honest, even about my faults, and know that in the process a light will shine, showing the wonders of God in our lives. None of us are perfect and all of us do things wrong. The difference is some run and hide from the light so that deeds might be hidden and some run to the light that their deeds might be forgiven. I’d rather live in a way that there is nothing to hide than not.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I'm hiding behind my brain injury???

10/11/10 Monday
The start of another week. I was up at 4:30 with much on my mind. Finally talked with the guy we’ve had issues with, yesterday. It was good to at least have conversation but it brought little resolution, at least not for Cherie and I. He’s upset that I dared to talk about it in my blog. The blog is a journal of the major happenings in our life and what they did was major. He asked that I no longer mention their names, so I won’t. I’ll write all the details in my private journal so there’s a record of it. At least I learned that he read the emails I sent, that was a surprise as I figured he would just delete them as soon as he saw who it was from. What bothers me about this is the aloofness they maintain. “We repented and forgave you so have moved on” was the statement made. Evidently they are unconcerned that they have left in their wake hurt and brokenness and have no desire to take responsibility for that or to even attempt at repairing the damage. I would at least like an apology to my wife, for her pain is the deepest. When I mentioned that the response was “She’ll just have to walk through that herself”. It must be nice, to wave a magic wand and absolve yourself from all responsibility for your words and actions and carry on life as if nothing happened. I make mistakes all the time and work hard to correct them, to make right what was wrong. To me, that’s part of the definition of what it means to be a man, and a Christian. We will give an account for every word we speak and things we do. Part of that covers how we try to repair the damage we’ve done, a big part of it.

Today will be busy. I plan on visiting the widow and doing some work around her house to help her out. Her health is better now as the stomach flu has run it’s course. Depression is an issue she is battling, one I’m very familiar with. I’ll pick some tomatoes and peas to take to her. Don’t know if she likes okra but I’ll take some of that as well.

While in town I’ll stop by the Texas VA reps office and see if he’s working on Columbus day. Doubt he is but you never know. We need to deal with that mess as it’s already hurt us bad and there’s no telling what they will do next.

Saturday we attended the Teen Challenge fundraiser banquet. It’s good to hear the power of God to change lives and free people from the ravages of drugs and alcohol, along with the damage done to many in their youth. Some of them had gone through all kinds of 12 step programs and rehab with no success but through the power of God and the Teen Challenge program were set free. I was surprised at how many people we met there that we know. I guess that means we’re running in the right circles.

A comment was made to me about this sudden spirituality in my life. The comment came with a kind of disdain attached to it, an implication that this wasn’t real or was a put on. “Just two years ago you were telling me about your struggle to believe that God existed” he said. In that conversation was the accusation that I was “Hiding behind my brain injury”, thrown out not once but several times. I guess that’s part of his process of justification and rationalization and somehow makes him feel better. I don’t hide behind it or use it as an excuse that allows me to say or do things, it’s a reality that I deal with daily. With it comes not just the slowdowns, that sometimes take out whole days, but the pain, paralysis on the right side, and emotional control issues. Anger, depression, frustration, and a reduced ability to process information are all facts of my daily life that I must deal with and work to overcome. Do I “hide” behind it? No, I talk about it in an attempt to get understanding not just for me but for the millions of others in this country who have had strokes and Traumatic Brain Injuries. (I’ve had both)

This “Sudden spirituality” isn’t sudden. It’s part of the miracle of my life, the restoration of things back to the way they were in 1981, when I fell out of that tree, broke my neck and back, and suffered an undiagnosed Traumatic brain injury. I was an ordained minister then, helped build a church, ministered to people on the streets and in institutions. One of the amazing things about waking up from the coma in December 2001 was that while I couldn’t remember how old I was or many other things, I could remember scriptures, lots of them. This loss of faith isn’t unusual with brain injuries, in fact there is much written about it. Part of that is because the Amygdala is often damaged due to it’s location near the brain stem. It's name is latin for almond which relates to its shape. It helps in storing and classifying emotionally charged memories. It plays a large role in producing our emotions, especially fear. It's been found to trigger responses to strong emotion such as sweaty palms, freezing, increased heart-beat/respiration and stress hormone release. It is also been identified as the portion of the brain that is most active during religious experiences.

I guess I’ll go into a quick treatise on the brain here, in an attempt to help some understand the complexity of the brain and problems that come with an injury. When you look at me, or many others with TBI, you can’t tell there’s something wrong. Therefore we are judged on the basis that we are like everyone else with little, or no consideration of the fact that our brains have been damaged, and thus effect our behavior. I tell people this and it seems to just go through one ear and out the other. One of the most important things to do with a brain injury survivor is to talk with them. Just talk, reason, try to understand where they are coming from. Isn’t that what Christians are supposed to do anyway? Love your neighbor as yourself?

This information is from the Center For Neuro Skills, (CNS) an organization with offices in California and Dallas, Texas that is dedicated to the rehabilitation of traumatic brain injury survivors. Their website is http://www.neuroskills.com, and I’d like to encourage you to visit and learn more about TBI and us, the survivors. Some of this information refers to a “mild” Traumatic Brain Injury. Mine has been classified as severe, therefore the miracle of my being alive and able to operate at the level I do is even more amazing. What throws people off is that I retain some of my former Mensa level intelligence. They seem to think that if you have a brain injury you should be stupid. I can be, for sure. I do a lot of stupid things and forget if I took my medication minutes after I did but am still smarter than many others.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can significantly affect many cognitive, physical, and psychological skills. Physical deficit can include ambulation, balance, coordination, fine motor skills, strength, and endurance. Cognitive deficits of language and communication, information processing, memory, and perceptual skills are common. Psychological status is also often altered. Adjustment to disability issues are frequently encountered by people with TBI.

Brain injury can occur in many ways. Traumatic brain injuries typically result from accidents in which the head strikes an object. This is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. However, other brain injuries, such as those caused by insufficient oxygen, poisoning, or infection, can cause similar deficits.
Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) is characterized by one or more of the following symptoms: a brief loss of consciousness, loss of memory immediately before or after the injury, any alteration in mental state at the time of the accident, or focal neurological deficits. In many MTBI cases, the person seems fine on the surface, yet continues to endure chronic functional problems. Some people suffer long-term effects of MTBI, known as postconcussion syndrome (PCS). Persons suffering from PCS can experience significant changes in cognition and personality.

Most traumatic brain injuries result in widespread damage to the brain because the brain ricochets inside the skull during the impact of an accident. Diffuse axonal injury (Figure 1) occurs when the nerve cells are torn from one another. Localized damage also occurs when the brain bounces against the skull. The brain stem, frontal lobe, and temporal lobes are particularly vulnerable to this because of their location near bony protrusions.

The brain stem is located at the base of the brain. Aside from regulating basic arousal and regulatory functions, the brain stem is involved in attention and short-term memory. Trauma to this area can lead to disorientation, frustration, and anger. The limbic system, higher up in the brain than the brain stem, helps regulate emotions. Connected to the limbic system are the temporal lobes which are involved in many cognitive skills such as memory and language. Damage to the temporal lobes, or seizures in this area, have been associated with a number of behavioral disorders. The frontal lobe is almost always injured due to its large size and its location near the front of the cranium. The frontal lobe is involved in many cognitive functions and is considered our emotional and personality control center. Damage to this area can result in decreased judgement and increased impulsivity.

CEREBRAL CORTEX Frontal Lobe: Most anterior, right under the forehead. (Of the ten percent of my brain that is gone, no longer exists, much of it was from this part of my brain)

How we know what we are doing within our environment (Consciousness). How we initiate activity in response to our environment. Judgments we make about what occurs in our daily activities. Controls our emotional response. Controls our expressive language. Assigns meaning to the words we choose. Involves word associations.

• Memory for habits and motor activities.
Observed Problems:

• Loss of simple movement of various body parts (Paralysis). Inability to plan a sequence of complex movements needed to complete multi-stepped tasks, such as making coffee (Sequencing). Loss of spontaneity in interacting with others. Loss of flexibility in thinking. Persistence of a single thought (Perseveration). Inability to focus on task (Attending). Mood changes (Emotionally Labile). Changes in social behavior. Changes in personality. Difficulty with problem solving.

• Inablility to express language (Broca's Aphasia).

Note; “Changes in social behavior” is a big deal. It’s been nine, going on ten, years since my last TBI (I’ve had three that can be confirmed, plus a stroke) and I’ve relearned many social skills, but have a long way to go. This next section describes very much my life since I woke up. Many of these problems I’ve overcome but it is always a battle.

What to Expect after TBI
By Tom Novack, PhD

Presented at the Recovery after TBI Conference, Sept, 1999
In this edited transcript, Dr. Novack references data from the Injury Control Research Center (ICRC) study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control, UAB ICRC, and the UAB Traumatic Brain Injury Model System projects.
Cognitive Difficulties after TBI

The cognitive difficulties experienced by people after traumatic brain injury (TBI), often have more impact on their recovery and outcome than their physical limitations. Most people with traumatic brain injury, even those that are severe in degree, are ambulating after their trauma. Within a year, 90% of them are getting around independently and able to care for themselves. It is however, the cognitive difficulties and behavioral problems that have the most significant impact in terms of one independence.

TBI has a generalized effect, that is the entire brain is affected to some extent. This is different from what occurs with a stroke, where a specific hemisphere or section of the brain is affected. An individual may have aphasia because they have a left hemisphere stroke or significant neglect because they have a right hemisphere stroke. With head injury there are not, for the most part, patterns of significant deficits in some areas with intact abilities in other areas. Every ability, in a lot of cases, is affected.

It helps to think of cognitive abilities as a hierarchy, beginning with very basic skills and then moving on to more complex ones.

• Arousal or alertness is first in the hierarchy. This is the foundation for everything else. An individual first must be aroused in order to do anything cognitively or behaviorally.

• Sensory and motor skills are next. One must be able to sense the world in order to operate in it and manage one's life. Sensing means having the use of one's senses, including vision, hearing, and touch. While few head injuries cause blindness, they can cause double vision or perceptual problems, making it difficult to interpret visual material. With regard to hearing, an individual very rarely becomes deaf as a result of a head injury. However, there may be problems in discerning discreet sounds or in processing auditory material fast enough to be able to keep up. Motor ability involves manipulating one's environment with one's hands, particularly performing basic skills.

• Attention and concentration are at the next level. These skills involve selecting what is important in the environment, as well as shifting one's attention to what is important. It may be easy to pick out what is important, but one must also be able to maintain attention and focus. Then as changes occur, one must be able to shift attention. All of these components of attention can be disrupted by a brain injury.

• Language skills or the ability to communicate with the world follow in the hierarchy. It's very rare that someone with a TBI loses all language abilities such that they cannot comprehend or express themselves. Language skill problems after TBI are more subtle. An individual may be able to express himself in a basic way, but be unable to explain complex things in a logical fashion. One of the more subtle problems that may exist involves word-finding skills. The individual cannot quickly access words from memory. When talking, they tend to talk around the topic. It is difficult for them to "hit the nail on the head". It can be very frustrating finding that correct word.

• Spatial and constructional abilities are at the next level and involve spatial activities, such as drawing or building things and judging distances. This requires visual perception as well as being able to take a mental image and apply it in the environment through motor output. A complex series of events has to take place for this to occur.

• Memory abilities come next. Individuals with traumatic brain injury, even severe injury, often have relatively good recall of events that occurred prior to their trauma. There may be gaps for a week or a month before the injury, but this usually fills in over time. All of that information is already in the memory banks. The head injury does not take that away. It may interfere somewhat with the ability to retrieve some information but it does not erase the existing memory.

The problem faced by people with TBI is with encoding and retrieving new information. Memory for new information is usually the most severe deficit experienced by people with traumatic brain injury. There are several reasons why memory for new information is difficult for people with TBI.

A major factor is the neurochemical cascade that takes place as a result of the TBI that effects the hippocampal areas of the brain, which are essential to memory encoding. In addition, disrupted executive skills may have a significant impact on memory functioning. As a result the individual may not be able to attend to information, organize information for encoding, or appropriately scan memory to retrieve information.

Think of the brain as a very organized filing cabinet. Each drawer is labeled and all the files are arranged and labeled. To locate information you open the correct drawer and locate the right file. With a head injury, it is like the filing cabinet has been turned upside down and all of the files are in the wrong place and so it is hard to organize things again.

• Reasoning skills or the ability to solve problems are at the next level in the hierarchy. First one has to know that there is a problem. Individuals with head injury often do not recognize the need for a solution or they tend to be inflexible. They may come up with one strategy but if that does not work, they cannot think of an alternative. They will stick with that same strategy even though it's not working. The basic "if - then" reasoning that most people use, does not occur for these individuals.

• Intellectual abilities follow. Here we see a combination of many different skills that combine reasoning, memory, spatial skills, etc.

• Academic abilities are at the final level, combining many different skills. For someone who has been through a reasonable educational program, it's rare to lose academic abilities following a TBI. Injured people can usually still read, write, and do math because those are ingrained skills; they're already in the memory banks to the point that the skills are almost automatic. The problem academically is that the individual is not able to add to these skills after the injury because of the memory and reasoning difficulties.

Behavioral/Emotional Difficulties
Behavioral and emotional difficulties cannot be separated from the cognitive difficulties that accompany TBI. Ninety-nine times out of 100 when there is a behavioral problem it is tied to a cognitive problem.

• Restlessness and agitation are common problems, particularly early in recovery. At that point of recovery, people with TBI have significant problems with attention. Restlessness is a normal reaction for a person who cannot pay attention or is easily distracted. The same thing applies with reasoning. When an individual cannot reason effectively enough to accomplish a goal, they tend to be restless and thus more agitated.

• Emotional lability and irritability exhibited by the individual with the head injury are frequently described by family. To understand what is happening, think about it in terms of executive (reasoning) skills as a gating mechanism. These gates keep behavior in control. A lot of what the frontal lobes of the brain do is inhibit actions that are not consistent with our goals. They keep you from doing things that you should not do. For example 3 year old children, whose frontal lobes are not fully activated, do whatever comes to mind, sometimes to their detriment.

When you have a significant brain injury that involves the frontal areas, the gating mechanism can be knocked askew such that the person cannot inhibit behavior as well as prior to the injury. The individual is not reasoning effectively and cannot figure out what to do in a situation to solve a problem. To get the attention needed or to generate a response they may get angry or exhibit other inappropriate behavior. The gates that kept behavior in control are knocked askew and things come out that used to be kept in.

• Confabulation is another behavior problem. A patient may tell staff they were at the Talladega races last weekend when actually they have been in the hospital for the past 2 months. The person is not lying; instead their memory is playing tricks on them. They are not able to organize their memory and therefore cannot retrieve information accurately. This person may have been to Talladega, but in the distant past. Their organizational process, called "time-tagging", of their memories is often disrupted and hence their inaccurate recall.

• Diminished insight on the part of people with TBI is a frequent complaint among caregivers. Self-awareness is a very unique skill of adults. As adults we are able to step outside of ourselves and look at our performance and abilities. This involves being able to process information at a very high level, requiring attention, memory and reasoning abilities. Often a person with severe head injury does not have a very good understanding of their deficits or the impact of those deficits on daily life. They will deny cognitive difficulties that are obvious to others or feel they can engage in activities, such as driving, even while acknowledging significant problems.

• Impulsivity/socially inappropriate behavior results from both diminished reasoning and lack of inhibition. Both have a lot to do with frontal area functioning and the gating mechanism that has already been described. Many families describe the person with the head injury as saying hurtful things and that they are insensitive and blunt. They say things that come into mind without due consideration of the situation. It can be a subtle problem or it can sometimes be severe. The injured person is not able to reason that "If I say this, then something undesirable is going to happen." The appropriate inhibition is not there.

• Poor initiative can be confused with depression. Frontal area injury can affect the ability to plan and to organize. This results in a person not initiating activity. They will sit quietly and contentedly. If directed to do something, they will do it. But they will not go any further than that. The if/then reasoning skills are not present. In addition, attention problems may prevent the individual with TBI from focusing on something long enough to be able to carry through with a plan.

• Lack of emotional response is demonstrated by a lack of initiative and a flattened affect. The individual does not smile or show any emotional response to things going on in the environment. An example is an adult with TBI who was told by his mother that he cannot drive anymore. His reaction was to put his keys on the dresser and walk out without exhibiting any reaction or emotional response. Most adults would react differently. The emotional response is just not there.

• Paranoia or blaming of others for negative events is a natural tendency when individuals do not reason effectively. This can be compounded for individuals having traumatic brain injury because they are not reasoning well enough to know the logical explanation for what is happening. They automatically assume that someone else is doing something to them and project blame automatically. If you are not able to reason through things, you assume that somebody is doing something to you. When the person is not able to remember something that they did, they blame someone else.

• Depression is a common problem for individuals after head injury. The issue is how much of it is organic, related to the brain injury itself, versus reactive to the situation. Fortunately, in either case, the condition is usually responsive to medication and counseling. The danger is that depression can compound the problems that already exist by decreasing activity levels and undermining the expression of skills possessed by the injured person.

• Anxiety occurs, in part, because of reasoning difficulties. The inability to comprehend a situation or anticipate what is going to happen leads to anxiety. Three situations in particular seem to generate anxiety among people with TBI: 1- Riding in a vehicle in heavy traffic, 2- Being in crowds and 3- Being around small children.

That’s enough of that. My hope is the person who said I hide behind my TBI will read this, and perhaps understand his ignorance and the total lack of understanding and tolerance he has displayed, all the while talking about God.