Wrestling With God ~ One Way or Another

I have been captured by the phrase “Wrestling with God!” I realized I have been doing this one way or another for most of my adult life! It was the theme of the Old Testament lesson this past Sunday from Genesis 32, as Jacob wrestled with the man—the angel—the Pre-Incarnate Christ—THE MAN!!!  Jacob became “Israel” as he prevailed.

 

There seems to be a right way and wrong way of wrestling with God, a positive and a negative approach.  What I would call ‘the negative approach’ reminds me of the antics and sensationalism of “Wrestle Mania” where all the participants should have either been dead or quadriplegics decades ago if we are to believe their wrestling moves are authentic. This Hollywood performance was my first understanding of wrestling, living just a few houses away from my grandma and grandpa in Fargo, North Dakota during the first six years of my life. It’s a memory wrestled from my past that I had forgotten.  I smile when I think of my beautiful, sensitive grandma—the wife of a Lutheran Pastor—being “reeled in hook, line and sinker” into the fantastic world of Vern Gagne, the masked Dr. X and Mr. M, Mad Dog Vacchon, Larry “The Ax” Henning, and too many more to mention.

It was not until high school, when I became friends with the great wrestling brothers Dave and Dan Kranstover—along with the amazing one armed Steve Connell psyching out his opponents—that I realized the positive and true nature of wrestling; one that I later observed at a higher level in the summer Olympics. Two kinds of wrestling: one for glitz and glory, glorifying the participant, the other for personal growth and competition, surrendering the wrestler to the challenge of the match.

Such are the ‘both sides now’ of my wrestling with God. You can go your own way—go your own way—as ones limited strength is soon depleted with no reserves left but to wallow in self-pity and blame. This was Jacobs’s fearful plight, having deceived his father Isaac with his mother’s help, stealing the birthright of his first born twin brother Esau—a wound still festering after twenty years. He was now left alone to encounter his brother in the wilderness, fearing he would be destroyed. It was there, as so often happens to us, paralyzed by fears and doubt and our pasts, that God intervenes. But His intervention is not always immediate nor without intense struggle. I am reminded of Neo, the Messianic figure in The Matrix, who in order to meet with the Oracle had to fight her bodyguard. After an intense struggle Neo asks why that was necessary and the response was that you do not know someone until you fight (wrestle) with them. The word ‘wrestle’ is more helpful in this context, with the goal of transformation rather than destruction.  

Right or wrong wrestling? Jacob’s salvation or destruction? And what about the world’s salvation?  From  Judah, one of Jacob’s twelve sons, came “The Lion of Judah”—The Messiah! After wrestling all night with Jacob, the Lord could have overcome him at any time, as evidenced in the dislocation of his hip, but Jacob needed to persevere, wrestling with God, not letting go until he received a blessing—until he was changed!

The Lord asked Jacob his name, hearkening back to when his old and blind father Isaac asked him his name and this deceiver said “Esau”. It reminded me of the grieved Simon Peter who denied his Lord three times and Jesus’ post resurrection appearance asking him three times, “Peter do you love me?”

I believe Jacob’s blessing began with the strength to wrestle through the night, being change in the process. God’s grace is sufficient. When we are weak, He is strong. This same BEING said to the Apostle Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul’s response was “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Jacob prevailed and he was given a new name and a new being.

 

 

It’s easy to simply know this story, to talk the talk, to preach a good sermon, but I know that people would rather see a sermon than hear one any day. Upon leaving worship I sometime say to the worshipers and to myself: “The sermon is only half done, the other half is when it is lived out!” . . .  Honestly, what can I say??? I can say that my times of negative wrestling are diminishing. That on my better days I can say with the Baptist, “I must decrease and He must increase.” The great blessing and miracle is that even on the days I choose to increase myself—in my own wrestle~mania—even then I am being changed, as I know and believe too much.

Even as Abraham wrestled deeply with God when asked to sacrifice his own son, God intervened! What Abraham was asked to do, God has done….offering  his only Son…….for us. 

   abraham4

Metamorphosis ~ Is REAL Change Possible???

metamorphosis colored word

       Years ago I was asked to be a mission festival speaker at a Lutheran Church up north. They wanted me to speak about the Prison Ministry we had done for over a decade at the St. Cloud Reformatory. I entitled my talk F.A.C.E., named after the first names of regular inmates whose lives had been changed over the years. I concluded my sharing in front of a large group of church members by saying that the word F.A.C.E not only referred to prisoners but also to the face of Christ that shined through them and changed me.

       I asked for any questions or comments and one member stood up and said, “My brother works as a guard in a prison and says that inmates never really change.” My response to him, after just spending 45 minutes sharing many of the miraculous changes I had witnessed, was, “Well, your comment tells me a lot more about your belief in change than anything else.” I wished I could have told him of an inmate a few years later who after being in our study group for a number of months declared to all of us that after he served his time in St. Cloud, he was going back to Kansas and confess to another offence for which he was never caught and do the time for that crime.  And he did, as the chaplain shared with me!

       So, IS REAL CHANGE POSSIBLE???? The simple answer is, “If your life has been changed, then yes.” If not, perhaps no. If you do not move among walking miracles on a regular basis, you may miss the mystery of ‘metamorphosis’.

flamingo to person

Metamorphosis ~ (met·a·mor·pho·sis)  A change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means.

butterfly stages

       There’s a lot of truth to the phrase “People would rather SEE a sermon than HEAR one any day.” I experienced both this past Sunday. The first was me giving the sermon on ‘transformation’ while the second was dramatically witnessing that process lived out in front of me on stage  at the award winning Musical Phenomena “Les Miserables” at the Orpheum Theatre  in downtown Minneapolis. As many know and love, there is an amazing juxtaposition of the two main characters, Jean Valjean and Javert ~ the pursued and the pursuer. The prisoner on the run and the General tracking him down. The one whose life is changed by the grace of another and the other who ends his life unable to receive that same life-changing grace. 

jean valhean prisoner

Jean Valjean ~ Prisoner 24601

javert        The life-changing moment for the prisoner Jean Val jean is a beyond- understanding-act-of-mercy from a bishop at the monastery where this prisoner on the run is given sanctuary when no one else would accept him. Even with this kindness, Val jean seems powerless over not stealing the expensive silver candlesticks on the altar before running away in the middle of the night, only to be summarily captured moments later by the law, beaten and bloodied on the pavement in front of the monastery. The bishop comes out and observing  the tragic scene before him, tells his assistant to go get the best silver still remaining on the altar. The police know they have caught this criminal both with the goods and with the lie that he was actually given the silver that he stole as a gift. Where upon the loving bishop approaches him saying, “You left so suddenly, forgetting to take the most expensive pieces of silver that we gave you.”

jean valjean with candlesticks

      One of the most important parts of our years of ministering to those in prison, and their ministering to us, was learning and practicing that the only reason why many of us were not sitting in their cells with them is because we didn’t get caught. And a few of those attending with us had spent time in those very same cells.  But perhaps most important was that we did not expect them to be where we wanted them to be, but accepted them right where they were ~ not unlike how we are divinely accepted ~ “The one forgiven much, can love much.” And that causes real transformation. 

forgiven much loves much

       Perhaps my favorite word in scripture and in life is “transformation,” and  the original Greek word for the same in the New Testament is “metamorphosis”. Outside of the Gospels where this word is used for the Transfiguration of Christ on the mountain top, it is only used two other places in the entire Bible:

Romans 12:2:  “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed (metamorphousthe) by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

2 Corinthians 3:18:  “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed (metamorphoumetha) into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 

beautiful blue butterfly

 

       Sooooooooo, whats the use of these many words???

       Because the walking wounded CAN become the wounded healers. Because ALL OF US ARE WALKING MIRACLES!!! Because our worst days can become our BEST days! Truly!  We can believe by grace as a gift given us, or we can run away from those ‘God-Moments” and even allow them to drive us to despair. Running towards, or running away. I am so thankful that God (however you understand “God”) is loving and deeply compassionate; a “Hound of Heaven” and “Shepherd of the Sheep” who always seeks us out and lovingly pulls us back to that life-changing embrace, engulfed in the LIGHT! 

jesus welcoming into heaven

light coming down Yes, there is REAL change, true Metamorphosis!

http://blogs.berkeley.edu/2013/01/02/les-mis-why-do-we-idealize-jean-valjean-and-act-like-javert/

 

 

 

 

The Stuff We Stay Alive For . . . Helping Us Be More Fully Conscious!

 

zen stones

 

My favorite quote from the movie “Dead Poets Society” keeps resurfacing in a variety of life situations and helpful applications:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. So medicine, law, business, engineering… these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love… these are what we stay alive for.”  ? N.H. KleinbaumDead Poets Society

I’m a growing writer and don’t think of myself as a poet…..but there are times when I have such a strong, overpowering feeling that is difficult to convey in prose alone. There needs to be a combination of just the right words that go beyond the mundane, like colors of paint and musical notes, touching the heart, absorbing it’s truth in the only way livable. To me, that’s poetry. Perhaps that’s why song writers often do their best work during deep losses/depression in their lives, finding just the right combination which opens the healing floodgates—for themselves and us!

But don’t take my many words for it, here’s a great iTunes App I found just last night advertising on my Facebook page:

poetry App

 

Even if you have the slightest interest in poetry, its a BEAUTIFUL app that not only gives you a number of favorite classical poems, but is user friendly, even allowing the writing and audible recording of ones own poems. And best of all…..IT’S FREE! 

Again, don’t take my words for the POWER of poetry, here are some delicacies of my favorite poet, RUMI:

best rumi painting

 

rumi 1

 

 

rumi 2

 

 

 

rumi 3

 

 

rumi 4

 

rumi 5 field out there

 

….AND TO SAY THIS TRUTH IN ANOTHER GRAPHIC:

rumi 6 repeat field out there

 

 

And a few more below to peruse that illustrate to me the very truths that I have held dear for years, being pounded into my mind and heart through losses, accidents, joys,  sadness and sorrow—healing balm for a growing and more fully awakened heart and life!

Enjoy…..and Keep Shining even more brightly as you apply ‘the stuff we stay alive for!”

~ Ken.

 

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” 
Rumi

 

“What you seek is seeking you.” 
Rumi

 

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” 
Rumi

 

“You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?” 
Rumi

 

“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.” 
Rumi

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”
Rumi

 

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” 
Rumi

 

“Knock, And He’ll open the door
Vanish, And He’ll make you shine like the sun
Fall, And He’ll raise you to the heavens
Become nothing, And He’ll turn you into everything.” 
Rumi

 

“Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” 
Rumi

My Friend Jim . . .

 

Tattle,James

 

     My good friend Jim of 20 years died just a few months ago on March 9th, 2013. He was an enlightening-inspiration to me ~ always upbeat, spiritual, a first class conservationist of God’s creation—a kind of Renaissance Man and always a soft spoken gentleman…..a real gentle man.  (You can read more if interested from the link at the bottom of this page).     

      For the past twenty years I would stop by his cluttered ‘junk shop’ that housed so many special treasures he collected on his thousands of walks in the woods during his life—he was always out walking, and so much more. I often say he was responsible for restoring the bluebird population in our area by building and installing dozens of bird houses along the Beaver Islands Trail. He also replanted hundreds of trees in the woods near his home and beautifully landscaped the river across the street where his little shop lay—and that’s just a tiny fraction of his outdoor generosity!

      Not only have we spent time together in the Boundary Waters, but he assisted a number of my friends in installing new windows in our 3 season porch—he was always giving, always talking about a new hiking adventure and always growing in his faith and God’s creation around him. When I wrote my book this past year, he and his shop were an inspiration one morning as I walked in and saw the new sign he had written. Here is that opening excerpt:

 

New-Old Signs In My Life
 
This morning I read a new sign that Jim, an amazing elderly friend, had written and was displaying over his workbench:
 
Jesus, help me get to know your voice so that I can stay in the safety of your fold. Thank you for your unfailing and faithful love. 
 
I liked that, but I liked the one below it even better:
 
Whatever you are doing, find God in it.
Our resources for devotions are as varied as
our imaginations.
     This past week I went back to Jim’s shop for the first time since his death….it was like he never left. As I walked into the crowded, magical space, this same sign, in his own handwriting, was waiting to greet me, welcoming me back. I was moved, and brought it home to that same porch Jim worked on, displaying it in the center of my ‘altar’ area.  It is a treasure! Today I took this picture:
3 season porch pic
       For the past twenty years, I could drop by anytime to visit Jim in his shop, and when he wasn’t there, I’d leave a note, and for years he responded. That old clip board was still on his work table, loaded with our notes back and forth . . . It reminded me of a verse in Revelation that is so fitting for Jim:
       Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” (Rev. 14:13)
       Blessed is Jim….he is resting from his labors…finally HOME. Blessed am I for knowing him, as his deeds have followed, deeply touching my life and the lives of so many others. 
       Having almost finished reading the near death experience of Dr. Eben Alexander in his book Proof of Heaven I have no doubt that Jim is fully free,  taking his greatest hikes, encountering the most incredible vistas!
     Dear Jim, I will not say goodbye, but I will say ‘Aufwiedersehen’ ~ “I will see you again!” 
Your friend in time….and beyond….
~ Ken. 
 

_______________

 

“WHERE IS GOD IN ALL THIS SUFFERING?????”


IN THE MIDST OF ALL OUR SUFFERING, there are sermon series and college campus fellowship gatherings…..trying to understand it all………

WHERE IS GOD WHEN THE PIECES DON'T FIT......

WHERE IS GOD 1 BLOOD STAIN

 

As almost always happens when I take the time to pray and seek daily reflections for strength and understanding in the midst of life’s tragedies, the ‘answer’ is right there, all around me, in the midst of everything. 

Today is the week anniversary from the carnage, blood and suffering of the Boston Marathon explosions, as well as a few days removed from the incredible death and maiming of so many in West, Texas, almost overlooked in the light/darkness of Boston. But then it gets closer to home, as a former church member shared with me a book after worship this past Sunday regarding the brutal killings of her sister and her children years ago. And I will be attending the releasing of balloons this Wednesday honoring the memory of beautiful Carolee Sjodin. “forever 17.” Along with this, my sister in law shared this morning on Facebook her sadness attending the suicide funeral of one of her former high school students…….

“Where is God in all this suffering?????”

WHERE IS GOD SIMPLE LETTERING

 

……..So I turn to today’s reading, April 22nd, in Mark Nepo’s “The Book of Awakening ~ Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the life You Have”. Mark spoke directly to all of my wonderings by sharing the inner healing in his own life of near death and transformation. He writes:

Book of AwakeningApril 22 ~ It Is Enough

If you can’t see what you’re looking for, see what’s there.

One of the most difficult things for us to accept is that beneath all our dreams and disappointments, we live and breathe in abundance.  It is hard when in pain to believe that all we ever need is before us, around us, within us. And yet it is true. 

Like leafless trees waiting for morning, something as great and as constant as the Earth holds us up and turns us ever so slowly toward the light.  Our task is only to be rooted and patient.  

Never was this more painfully true for me than during the aftermath of my first chemo treatment. I was in a Holiday Inn at five in the morning after twenty-four hours of vomiting every twenty minutes.  I was slumped on the floor, holding the space of a rib that had been removed three weeks earlier.  And my wife–in anger, in panic, in desperation–called out, “Where is God?”  And from some unknown place in me, through my pale slouched form, I uttered, “Here . . . right here.”

The presence of God has never eliminated pain, only made it more bearable…..Mysterious as it is–no matter our pain or excitement, our drama or circumstance—all that we could hope for is here. We lack nothing…..”

Having it ALL!Psalm 23:1 comes to mind, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall lack nothing!” He prepares for me a table in the presence of my enemies, anoints my head with oil, helps me lay down in peace with His presence, and gives me the hope that not only is He with me now but I will dwell with Him forever!  He’s there to carry me on some days and help me to carry others on many more . . . 

Mark Nepo and his wife, in the midst of their death, dying, and depression, react much as did Job and his wife in  her pain, yelling out to her husband, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” Jobs amazing answer was  “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” (Job 2:9-10)

job and wife

In his pain and depression Job cursed himself and the day he was born, but he stayed open to the ongoing healing power of God in his life and could triumphantly shout, or whisper, the words we sing on Easter morning:

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet[ in my flesh I will see God;  I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 25:17-19

WHERE IS GOD IN ALL THIS SUFFERING????”

He’s right here, in the midst of it all, helping us bear it because He bore it on the cross. In the midst of senseless killing, murder, and violent acts we are right to question and cry and yell out . . .where is god now = VIOLENT SHOOTING

. . . but our God is there . . . is here . . . helping us not only bear the pain, but to be transformed by it . 

Sharing the Gifts . . .


I just sold a tea pot at my shared gallery space ~REVAMP~ in downtown St. Cloud, MN.    I gave my card with this website with the gift, and it made me realize it’s been a long time since I posted any created pottery pieces here ~ A sharing of the gifts, of writing, art, spirituality, and more . . . Each of us inspires and brings out the gifts of the other when we share our God-given-gifts
…..Love & Light……..Ken.

Stoneware Tea Pot

There is a great conversation/debate/discussion about “What is Art?” In this discussion the differences between “art” and “craft” surfaces. Is a craftsman an artist? Is an artist a craftsman? If a piece of art is utilitarian does that make it less a work of art? Can a piece be fully ‘functional’ in everyday usage and still be art? I love the idea that perhaps the ‘best’ art can be the most utilitarian, i.e. a Japanese teacup created by a Master / Living Treasure that feels and performs as beautiful as it is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. I have a number of art pieces, like beautiful platters that can be hung on the wall as a painting would, or taken down and used to serve food at a gathering.

IMG_8562

 

And does functionality NOT make a creative piece a work of art? Or is a creative work only art when it is purely decorative and not utilitarian? Many of my pieces are ‘functional’ for daily use, many others are decorative, whimsical, or whatever it ‘becomes’ in the creative process. As one phrase goes, “I do not have to ‘prostitute’ myself by only making functional pottery” (dishes, plates, casseroles, etc.), great ‘bread and butter’ pieces, though only part of what I am inspired to create.

IMG_8320

 

 

IMG_8319

 . . . So be it . . . ’nuff said . . . Let the creative juices flow and let the domestic needs and desires acquire and flourish. “Its alllllll good”, as beauty truly is ‘in the eyes of the beholder’.

Closing this post with some Artistic Bread and Butter Country Art.

IMG_8658

 

Love & Light!   ~ Ken. 

Broken, Held, Healed

      Lao Tsu's comment about being deeply loved

“Broken (Surrendered), Held (Loved), Healed (Completed).” I can just hear the responses to this title: ‘What do you mean “Broken”??? Do you think I’m broken, or need to be “Held” or “Healed”??? YES!!!!!! We all do!

       This title carries multiple meanings as we survive and thrive in the trenches of daily living. It implies both a physical and a spiritual application. The former is our body, mind, and emotions in response to major crises: an accident, disease, unjust offence, and you can add your own personal trauma.  All of us have or will go through such brokenness— it’s the way of all flesh. We take the worst along with the best of what life has to offer, and develop healthy ways of recovery.  The heart of this healing is spiritual transformation.

 

light shining out of cracked meditating woman sculpture

 

 

       The spiritual application is where “broken” becomes “surrendered,” “held” becomes “loved,” and “healed” becomes “completed.”  Whatever we call it—strong will, wanting to do our own thing, not wanting to depend on anyone else, captain of our own ship—we are like wild horses—it’s human nature.  Sailing our fragile ship in rough waters often gets us ship wrecked! The LIGHT-house is there warning us, but we avoid it, thinking we know better. Then surfaces that over used phrase Dr. Phil often says to the consternation of his dysfunctional guests: “How’s that working for you???” Perhaps true spiritual growth arises when we no longer have to wear bit and bridle in order to know which way to go.

       Surrender is often the last resort, usually when we are on our backs, looking up. It came to me with blood flowing down my face, knocked out and lying unconscious in a ditch. I was awakened by flashing ambulance lights, while my beautiful motorcycle was strewn about hell’s half acres! “Surrender,” is one of the “S-words” in the outward spiritual disciplines, joining “submission,” “solitude,” and “simplicity.” It’s the first step in true, deep, lasting healing. It’s being HELD. It’s willing to be held; it knows that the one set of footprints are definitely not ours.

     light shining through cracks in door

 

 

        We all long to be held, cradled in the protective arms of the One who has all power and all love. This longing may be the core need of our being, implanted when we are born, ignited when we are born again, and eternalized when we are finally Home. We can look for love in all the wrong places, hoping to find such an embrace. How ironic that the loving Father waits for his wander-lusting-children to return home, naked and destitute, realizing that loving embrace has always been there, waiting.

 

difficulties not to destroy but bring out potential

 

 

       As with physical healing, we can also heal spiritually. That God-shaped- vacuum inside our being can be filled, and we can be complete—reaping a harvest of peace and serenity. Does that sound easy or too simple??? As in recovery, it’s a simple program but it is not easy—it demands our death, the daily killing of our self-destructive, prideful natures.  As the Notre Dame priest declared in the movie Rudy, “I know two things: There is a God; and I am not Him!”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer echoes the same as he writes in his classic The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”  This is not suicide by our own hand; it is a gracious intervention, placing us on full Life-support.

       This is God’s grace—our Higher Power’s surgery meets us as we lay dying in the intensive care units of our own making. We can be healed. We can feel complete, like we belong, like we are finally home—at least a preview of coming attractions.  

 

mosaic broken heart

Our Last Day On Earth (Book Excerpt 12)

 

4764846022_197fb4c917_m

What if I knew this was my last day on earth? Our retired neighbors lost the largest and most beautiful of all their trees in their front yard last week due to heavy rain

miscellaneous 003

and eighty-to-one hundred-mph straight winds. In the midst of his cleanup I yelled across the street, “Are you going to plant another tree?” He called out in quiet futility, “What good would that do? I won’t be here to enjoy it.” I could not help but walk slowly toward him and say, “Martin Luther was asked what he would do if he knew this was his last day on earth. He responded by saying, ‘I’d go out and plant a tree.'” My neighbor just shook his head and kept splitting wood from the fallen tree he had personally planted over forty years ago when he built his house.

IMG_1187

I have used this end-of-our-world question in teaching spiritual truths to students over the years: “What would you do today if this was your last day on earth?” Many of them say things like: “I would tell people how much I love them”; “I’d pray a lot”; “I’d forgive anyone I could think of.” One woman said, “I’d write down all the things I do, because after I’m gone my husband would not have a clue.” My obvious response after all the sharing was, “Well, you don’t know if this is our last day or not, so why wouldn’t you attempt to do all things you just shared?” Is it because we don’t want to deal with this very real reality? I believe the phrase: ‘Until we begin to deal with our own deaths, we cannot begin to truly live.'”

 

On January 24, 1988, my father-in-law was teaching his wife’s Sunday-school class in northern Minnesota. He asked the young students, “If you were to die today, do you think you would go to heaven?” He went on to share how he felt strongly that he would, because of his faith in God and in God‘s promises to him.

Dad late 70's

That afternoon, in the middle of a winter storm, my father-in-law went out to check the roads for his family who had called him as they drove home from Wisconsin. A snowplow ran into him and he died in seven minutes from internal bleeding.

Ft. Snelling (1st year)

 

This past winter, as I shoveled the sometimes beautiful and often brutal snow from my driveway, this question had a way of surfacing. If I knew this was my last day to live, would I be shoveling this snow? Probably not, but it was a good thought—I’d like to be advanced enough in life to have the calm and peace of being present, enjoying shoveling snow for the last time on Earth. Perhaps some of you are thinking, “What a blessing to shovel snow for the last time!” But I think I’d know where I’d be—with all my siblings, family and loved ones, talking, praying, laughing, hugging, maybe even eating those better-than-sex homemade bars and cakes that are as decadent as they are addictive, not worrying about calories, extra pounds, or bad cholesterol.

 

About fifteen years ago, our neighbor Dave was diagnosed with cancer and was told he had only a year to live. It was tragic. He was only forty years old, had a loving wife named Karla, was athletic and strong and worked as the physical education teacher at a local junior high school. But Dave was amazing and his faith and zest for life were even more so. While he was still coherent and his spirits high, he invited a number of us in the neighborhood to his home just to say goodbye—to talk about life and things he loved and how he appreciated us all. We bought three six-foot evergreen trees and planted them in Dave and Karla’s back yard.

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Dave died that spring, but I often think of him as I walk the golf course and look over at the three evergreen trees we planted, now standing over twenty feet high. How good it was to tell him how much we loved him before he died, when he could fully receive it. Why does it sometimes take a funeral to get us to share our heartfelt words?

 

I know that for many people, the depths of recovery have been a death and a resurrection—living their days like their last! I pray for myself that my Higher Power can help me do a better job of that.

The Prodigal Son / The Loving Father ~ Book Excerpt ~ 11

Coming to his senses

Coming to his senses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prodigal Son (b) Rembrandt's  Return of the Prodigal Son 1662 The Prodigal Son (1) Pompeo Batoni (1773)

 

 

Home Coming!

Home Coming!

The Prodigal Son / The Loving Father

With one of my usernames on a recovery blog site being “prodigal returned,” I cannot not comment on today’s Twenty-Four Hours A Day reflection. Yes, I have squandered my Father’s resources, indulged in “riotous living” and ended up sleeping with the pigs, longing to go home, not even worthy to be called a son, but just wanting a place to call home. Certainly one of my favorite sections in Scripture is this portion in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15. This solid-gold chapter includes three “lost but found” parables about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.

One of the most difficult things we will ever do in recovery, and in life, is to humble ourselves, push away our pride, and deal with our resentments by making amends. The only way we can truly do that is to remember where we have come from. We can forgive another and ask for forgiveness because we have been forgiven.

Thankfully, and grace-fully, these words are not so much about the lost son as about the loving father, who welcomed his ragged, smelly son home after watching and waiting for him for so long. It was right that he should celebrate and have a huge feast because his son, who was spiritually dead, is now alive! He was lost and is now found! It doesn’t matter that his son’s self-righteous older brother hated him and could not understand such unconditional love.

In 12-Step language, we could say that the older brother still has not completed Step 1, as he is failing to realize his own life is unmanageable and out of control through his prejudice and self-righteousness. He cannot move on to Steps 2 and 3 and come to know a God who loves him no matter what he‘s done or where he‘s been sleeping. The loving father understands, forgives, heals, and welcomes his resurrected son home.

 AA Thought for the Day

The Prodigal Son “took his journey into a far country and wasted his substance with riotous living.” That’s what we alcoholics do. We waste our substance with riotous living. “When he came to himself, he said: “I will arise and go to my father.” That’s what you do in AA. You come to yourself. Your alcoholic self is not your real self. Your sane, sober, respectable self is your real self. That’s why we alcoholics are so happy in AA.

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 Have I come to myself? 

 

Think About Such Things . . .

"The always juggled heart between fire and ice . . ."

“The always juggled heart between fire and ice . . .”

The apostle Paul has a powerful and practical verse in Philippians 4:8-9b:  

 Finally, brothers and sisters, 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………And the God of peace will be with you.

escorting leah at her wedding

Walking my daughter Leah down the isle at her wedding!

This post is simply a combination of things to “think on” such as beautiful photos, phrases, and thoughts. In such a world of violence and non-stop inundation by the media, we need to think on things that empower and inspire us as well. And, there is a blessing attached in this verse to such thinking, meditating, and reflecting: “….the God of peace will be with you.” 

Blessings on your ‘thinking’………..Ken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our granddaughter Nora Jean (12-8-10)

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Holy Land Pilgrimage. In front of the Treasury Building with Joan on camels in Petra, Jordan.

Holy Land Pilgrimage. In front of the Treasury Building with Joan on camels in Petra, Jordan. (2006)

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6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)

6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
(2 Corinthians 4:6-7)