I wrote this almost 6 months ago and sat on it. I wanted to make sure that I was not just letting emotional lightning scorch the keys and then publish a vain and wayward post. As I have had my coffee with Jesus over the last several months, I still feel the same way… even though some things have changed. So…
Jealous may not be the word I am looking for, or even the best word to describe what I am feeling, but what I feel seems to feel a lot like jealousy.
And why wouldn’t I be jealous?
I have seen Dan struggle, think, sacrifice, and work like a mule in order to become a pharmacist. (I still don’t see how it is all that hard though, I mean, you’re just counting pills and calling people’s names right? Just Kidding!) I have seen Dan persevere through some mentally and emotionally grueling days and I rejoiced with him and his family when he landed a job. Albeit a LONG commute each day from home and not quite the environment that he had hoped for, but a job none the less.
When we made our detour trip through Washington en route to Japan, Dan picked us up from SeaTac. He told me about this great opportunity that, more or less, just fell in his lap. As Dan was telling me the ins and outs of what was going on, I was getting super excited for him. I felt as though he was scared of committing to this new opportunity. Did I mention that Dan is a calm, quiet, gentle man? Though I was busting at the seams with excitement for him, I tried to temper that and merely encourage him to take the offer, or at least meet with whoever he needed to meet with to see if things really were going to be as good as they sounded. Were it my decision, I would have jumped at it in a heartbeat.
My family stayed with Dan and his family while in town and used his home and backyard as a defacto base of operations. We had many MANY late LATE nights with some of the people we were involved with before we left the Great State of Washington.
Dan sat with me every night that I was there. His house became a revolving door of men, one at a time, or married couples, coming in and going out almost constantly in order to spend time with me or my wife and I (and sometimes just my wife) and Dan was by my side for almost every bit of it. These people would share with us the joys and sorrows, the victories and struggles of their lives over the last year or so and would look to Jessica and I for advice, counsel, and encouragement… which we were STOKED to give. (Something in me just comes magnificently alive when I get to function in this role) I would listen and would engage, all the while noticing that Dan would have his fingers running at mach 3 through the pages of his Bible. At one point it seemed like he had 13 fingers holding 15 different passages of scripture in queue. Dan would say nothing… or almost nothing… most of the time. When he would speak up, I would be blown away by the depth of his wisdom and insight. Every. Single. Time.
When Dan and I would talk after all of the visitors had left, I would be amazed at how concerned Dan would seem. These meetings were adventurous bouts of spiritual and emotional grappling which fuel my fire and leave me refreshed and encouraged at the end of the night. Did y’all catch that? These long hours and stressful, delicate conversations leave me refreshed and encouraged. These meetings are things that I pursue and run after, engaging every chance I get with little hesitation. Like jumping out of the car and running down a wilderness trail with reckless abandon. Dan seemed to view these meetings with… um… well… with what seemed like a bit more maturity. He seemed to be, at the same time, intimidated and confident, simultaneously academic and studious while being deeply burdened and frankly concerned.
This seems to have rabbit trailed from why I am jealous of a pharmacist to simply being a tribute to my Bro-mantic feelings for Dan. I digress.
Why am I jealous of this man? He has been deeply blessed in a very real, tangible, public way. That is what fuels my jealousy. This is such a problem for me. I see Dan’s life and I see the principles and themes present therein and I immediately think that if I apply these to my life, then I too will be blessed in a truly deep, tangible, and public way. If I make the right sacrifices, if I work hard enough, if I study long enough, if I persevere and endure the hardships, then one day I too will be as blessed a man as Dan.
How ridiculous is that?!?!
While Dan did work and sacrifice, he was not blessed because of these things, he was blessed because he was a man of integrity who spent time in the word and on his knees before God. Every conversation that Dan sat in on while I was there was, for him, an exercise in blowing through the scriptures finding dozens of references that applied to EVERY topic we were discussing. That cannot be faked. That cannot be developed in a matter of weeks or even months. That is the evidence of a man who knows the cannon of Scripture. Likewise no amount of hard work alone will result in the kind of blessing in my life that Dan is seeing in his… that is a result of falling broken and contrite, scared and alone at the mercy of Jesus.
And one more thing… why am I chasing His public, tangible blessing with such fervor when what I should be chasing is simply intimacy with Christ?
And if that wasn’t enough, why do I feel so moved and motivated to see such a blessing in my life… as though being healthy, having such great relationships with my wife and kids isn’t enough?
I know. I can be so shallow sometimes.
Dan, if you are reading this, I am proud of you (and I feel a lot like a little boy saying that to an adult).
Truly I am.
I sent this to Dan in order to get his perspective and permission to post this. I sent it to him almost 6 months ago and the following paragraphs are an excerpt from his response. I hope y’all can hear the depth of this mans heart. I have a deep yearning to sit again with this man and his bride by a fire.
When I was reading what you wrote I was really thinking, “I had no idea he thought that way.” I honestly did not know you understood why I am who I am and the beatings required to walk this road.
Things that are true: When I was at [Grocery Store] as a pharmacist, I was taken emotionally and mentally to my very limit. I would have lines of people who had come to speak to me; a couple that had just lost their first child at the very end of pregnancy, a man just diagnosed with a brain tumor, a woman who had just been raped, a mother with 3 children who just found out she had 3 months to live, an old man whose wife of over 50 years had just passed. All of these one after another after another. It wears on you. I do struggle, I feel burdened, intimidated, concerned and find it hard to keep up in conversation with quick thinning people. I do try to be calm and gentle. I want to be mature, studious, wise, insightful, quick-thinking, and easily able to navigate scripture to the exact reference. It is very true that I feel very blessed. God has provided a new pharmacy with an owner who expects me to be in prayer. My wife is a blessing to me and all those she comes into contact with. She is a far better pharmacist than I am and yet she has sacrificed a career which she loves to serve our family and God. My oldest son as a teenager is thinking about others and praying that he and his friends would delight in reading the Bible and loves time together as a family. My younger 2 children have confessed that they are children of God. God has richly blessed us beyond what I could have planned out. Not one of these things is because of me, they are in spite of me.
He says “In spite of me.”
Funny thing is… a few months after he sent me his response, he told me that the new pharmacy job dried up and life again was looking difficult in front of him. His question to me…
And my answer…
Yes, Dan, I am. Why wouldn’t I be?
… and again, Jealous may not be the best word to describe it anway!
Discipleship, faith, family, leadership, Mentorship, purpose, values
I am in a position right now between the Navy and my family which is pretty rough. I am handling it pretty well, but it is awfully hard. As I have told my story to a couple friends, I have heard the response,
“You are a better man than me”
I usually dismiss that phrase because I know it just isn’t true. These guys are men of character, men who would respond very similarly to how I am responding were they in my shoes.
My kids, on the other hand, really are “better” than me. I hope they stay that way.
Because I did not make it through the school I was in, I fall at the bottom of the Navy’s priority scale for selecting orders. As it turns out, the only set of orders that I am allowed to have right now are to a foreign country. I’m not upset about that. Jessica and I have wanted to take the family overseas for years. Herein lies the problem. Because the family is so large, we may have to be separated for 2 years. The orders I am taking will allow me to bring my family with me, but there are other restrictions which can cause my family to be left behind and, at this moment, there is a very real chance that they will not join me.
Can you understand the sadness, fear, turmoil, and agony which I am swirling in? It is hard stuff to say the least.
I knew I needed to tell my kids. It isn’t fair to them to have them going to the appointments and screenings and for them to feel the tension in Jessica and I and to have no idea what is going on. We have always spoken to our kids as though they are capable of understanding the life which swirls around them, and this is no exception.
I sat with my older 2 and explained to them that I may be going overseas and they will probably have to stay here. Neither of them cried. They got quiet, but didn’t even seem to get sad. I explained it again… That I AM going overseas for 2 years and they ARE NOT going with me… for 2 years… separated… without me. Again, no great emotion came out of them. I asked them,
“Are you sad at all that your dad will be gone for 2 years?”
Daughter – We are sad…
Son – Yeah… but we don’t know for sure if we will be apart or not
Daughter – … but we can trust God
Whose kids are these?
Surely not mine! Surely not the offspring of a man who walks with such uncertainty and fear upon his shoulders. Surely not the son and daughter of a man who agonizes every detail of a plan in order to ensure the best possible outcome. Surely not the kids of a man who can talk about God, Christianity, Faith, and Trust but falls hopelessly short when his back is up against a wall.
My kids are more mature than I am.
This little conversation we had, coupled with a Vacation Bible School song that they love (You Can Trust God) and play on their stereo over and over again, as well as other conversations I have had in the midst of this decision has me really pondering the goodness of God.
The congregation my wife came from regularly participates in a call and response during their Sunday morning worship. The pastor says, “God is good” and the people say “All the time”. Then the Pastor says “All the time” and the folks say “God is good”. I believe this to be true. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.
But I am not a blind Christian, I don’t just check off the boxes without thinking (or feeling) about the stuff I am agreeing with and forming as a part of who I am. This is one of those moments.
I can continue to walk around under this painful cloud feeling like I am under a storm and over a barrel because I don’t know whether or not I will be separated from my family for 2 years. This is what I am doing right now. It essentially says that I do NOT believe God is good… or rather, I do NOT believe God is good ALL the time. Most of the time maybe.. A lot of the time for sure… But all the time? Do I really believe that? My thoughts and feelings right now say no.
Now y’all hold on a minute before you send me encouraging and correctional emails and messages. I know what the right answer is… and that is the point. I could swallow what I am feeling and hide it from the world (which I did for SOOO LONG) and I can give the right answer and nobody in the world would know that a Man of God has a hard time grasping the full implications of the God he follows.
Here are the hard questions in my heart. If I am separated from my family for a period of 2 years, where is God’s goodness in that? Where is God’s goodness when it comes to my kids growing and struggling with identity/purpose/value troubles and my wife is left alone to encourage them? Where is His goodness in this? For that matter, where was His goodness when Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Jim Elliot, Ed McCauley, and Pete Fleming were killed on Palm Beach leaving their wives and kids behind? Does God’s goodness address my desire for comfort or the feelings of security at all?
I am reminded of a verse in Romans that says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”
Where is God’s goodness in the death of His Son? In the temporal perspective… I’m not seeing the goodness. With an eternal perspective, the goodness of God is realized in the redemption of mankind. In the temporal perspective, there wasn’t much good about the previously mentioned 5 men dying on a beach, but within a generation or 2 the rampant murdering and revenge killing of an entire tribe of people came to an end.
On the one hand I want to reject the idea of God’s enduring, timeless goodness in exchange for my own temporal comfort and pleasure. But I know the way that seems right in my heart will lead me to my death. I know the other hand leads down a painful road which, for some, has held certain death, but it ends with redemptive healing in the lives of others for generations to come.
I should be more careful with what I hope for… what I pray for. Though I have asked many times that God would grant me influence in the lives of men so that His kingdom will advance through my labor to many cultures for generations to come, I do not want to take the road necessary for Him to use me to that end.
I want my family to go with me. I have tears in my eyes as I finish up this post because of the pain which I feel when thinking of being separated from them.
I fear that my family will not be able to join me.
And I am resolved to bear my true character in the face of adversity with hope, trusting that the temporal pain to be experienced by my family will surely result in the realization of a theme of Scripture and Christianity…
God is good
All the time
All the time
God is Good
Just Thinking, My Story
despair, emotional security, faith, family, fatherhood, hopeless, insecurity, kids, leadership, sacrifice
I was frustrated.
I was angry.
I was moving away from Washington State. I had developed some really intimate relationships with some of the men I met up there and had started meeting with them at least once a week. I was spending close to 8 hours per man each week praying for them, studying with them, counseling them, challenging them… shepherding them.
I had prayed for a long time that God would send a replacement for me or that He would develop one of them to step in and start shepherding that little flock in my place after I left.
It didn’t happen.
A couple weeks before we left Washington, I heard that another fella who is a part of the same ministry team that I am a part of was moving into the area. I was excited to say the least. I then found out that he had no plans of connecting with our little posse… he had no plans to lead it, to shepherd it, or to even meet with it.
In my frustration, I called the head guy for our team and expressed to him my frustration. The team leader’s response was pretty simple…
This man will be working a very specific and demanding job while
in Washington and simply does not have the capacity right now to
be involved. I’m sorry.
I was dumbfounded.
He doesn’t have the capacity?
What a poor excuse!
The team leader tried to explain to me that not everybody is capable of the same amount of stress, or relational tenacity, or multitasking agility. It was so hard for me to understand. I kept thinking that if I could do it, while being a husband, a father of 4, and a Sailor, surely this fella could do it.
Fast forward a year and a half. A long, painful, cold, and dark year and a half.
I have been in school for a long time. I was dropped from my original class and placed in the class behind me… akin to repeating the 3rd grade. While going to school, I had a handful of “distractors” stack up in my personal life. To name a few, and just a few, my grandpa passed away last Thanksgiving, my brother had a tumor removed, was diagnosed with cancer, and started chemo, we went through an eviction proceeding following a long period of no income on our rental home in NC, and have been the recipients of a lawsuit threat from an employee of a real estate company.
It all finally stacked up against me. Between the rough relationships in my extended family and me feeling like I have a responsibility to mend them, the loss my family has suffered, the strained (but healing) relationships between my wife and I (and my kids and I), and the lack of local friends (because I was too busy with school, there are good people here who care about me)… I cracked.
I would sit before my open books, read the same line a hundred times, and be consumed with thoughts that I was neglecting my family. I would close my books and go see my family but my heart wasn’t there. I would hear in the back of my mind that I was wasting the taxpayers dollar, that my family is doing just fine and that I need to do what I have been chosen to do… study and do well in school so that I can go forward and do great things on behalf of the US Navy. This cycle continued until I started to feel simply paralyzed.
I would sit in front of my books and just stare at them.
I would stand in my yard with my kids playing around me and just stare at them.
I went in to take a test a couple weeks ago and failed it. I needed a 75 and I earned a 74. A weak 74 at that… tons of guessing!
This test fail triggered an academic investigation. I told the investigating board all of what was going on in my home life.
The end result?
I have been dismissed from training.
Not for a lack of trying. Not for a lack of intellectual ability. Not for a lack of time management or failure to prioritize. But for a lack of capacity.
I had in my head that being capable of succeeding was directly related to my ability to perform when the time came. I now understand that life isn’t just about performing when the time comes. There is a lot of life that happens behind the scenes, when the curtain is down and the seats are empty.
I do not live in a vacuum and I cannot continue to ask my family to wait for me. As life has gotten a little thicker, a little more tricky, I have come to understand that I do not have the capacity to do what I wanted.
I am okay with this.
I am becoming very happy with this.
I was frustrated and angry before because I had no concept of somebody knowing where the edges of their envelope existed and choosing to stay within those boundaries. I am sorry for the way that I reacted to that situation (and I will get in touch with the parties involved in order to communicate that).
I now know what it feels like to be stretched beyond my capacity and I see the damage that that causes to me and my family. I also now recognize what it feels like to approach the limit of my capabilities.
I had a friend in Washington, a man I met with from time to time who coached me as a husband, a father, and a young shepherd. He would tell me often that I needed to learn to say no. He would tell me that he was afraid that I did not know where my boundaries were and that I was on a crash course for taking on more than I should and potentially causing great harm to myself and my family.
Rob, if you are reading this, you were right! I was on that train. I was not over committed in Washington, but I quickly ran out of space out here. By the grace of GodI did not cause great harm to me or my family.
I have learned what my limits are and , more importantnly what ifeels like to reach them.
I found my max capacity and I managed to get off that train before it wrecked my life.
Thank you to all the friends and family who have supported us, encouraged us, and prayed for us as we walked through this part of our journey.
Life Updates, My Story
confusion, Discipleship, faith, family
My wife and I have endured much together. I love her deeply. (You hear that babe, I said I love you, and I said it in “public”) All kidding aside…
We have been very fortunate to have friends who have loved us and helped us along the way. I have really been cancerous to my marriage in the past. Now that we are moving on through the stages of life, we have friends who are walking some of the same roads with the same pot-holes we walked before. Some of these friends turn to Jessica and I for advice. Talk about scary!! You want marriage advice from us??!!! Have we met?!!!
Porn was a pretty major part of my life and, in a lot of ways, is still a major part of my life. Though I have separated myself from the poison, we are still dealing with the effects of it in my life, as well as some of the more subtle things that drove my passion for it.
A young wife, who had just had a baby, sent us a letter last summer. Her husband has been taking steps to separate himself from this destructive habit. He asked her to check his phone, knowing that she would discover that he had been watching Porn. She lost it. She absolutely blew up. A few days later she sent a letter to Jessica and I and we sent emails, Facebook messages, and texts with the two of them for a couple weeks.
I had many talks with “Jack” and still communicate with him when I can.
What follows is a letter that Jessica sent to “Jill.” We got permission from Jack and Jill to let us post this on here after changing the names.
We do not blame Jill, or any other Jills out there, for her husbands interaction with Porn. That is in no way, shape, or form, her fault. That is Jacks… and Jack MUST deal with it. BUT… Jill’s ownership of her reactions to Jack can really set the tone for how they move through some of this stuff… or at least it did for us. I owe whatever victory I have had in the arena of Sexual purity to Jesus and to my wife as He demonstrated His love and His healing nature through her.
I am so very proud of my wife.
We post this email, just 1 in a long set of messages, to hopefully encourage any other “Jills” out there who are dealing with a weak/wounded/lost “Jack”:
I’m sorry it took me a couple of days to respond. I was going to respond last night but my internet connection wouldn’t load anything and then we had to go to bed.
First off, let me assure you, Jill, that this is not your fault and that Jack’s temptation toward or fall into porn is NOT about you, nor is it a reflection of you. I know that is hard for you to believe, and you know that I know all-to-well the insecurities that come with a post-baby body and that I know the lies that will flood your mind and heart that your imperfections are what drives Jack away. Let me tell you that is one of the ways in which Satan will defeat you and drive a wedge between the two of you. And that is all it is…pure lies. Strangely enough, God has wired our husbands to be intensely attracted to us and desiring of us even with all the changes our bodies go through. When Jack tells you that you’re beautiful or sexy, BELIEVE HIM!
That being said, all that Michael said is true, the more you approach him, the more free and willing you are with him, not only the more connection and intimacy you will have, but it helps him so much to fight the temptation to look at porn. It is much easier to click a few links on a computer than it is to think about approaching a wife who isn’t enthusiastic or is so tired or busy with household chores and children that she might reject or not notice his advances. I don’t know where you are on this. This is simply my experience and my knowledge based on discussions Michael and I have had.
I will go back and address some specific things in your message in a minute, but another thought off the top of my head… the passcodes and locks on the computer are like putting a bandaid over a gushing wound. They are a temporary fix for a deeper problem. Don’t get me wrong, I think taking any step to help Jack avoid falling prey to porn is good, but you’re only treating the symptom and not getting to the root of the problem itself, so do NOT think if passcodes are in place, that everything will be good. It won’t. The temptation and ‘need’ are still there…the temptation will likely always be there, although the severity of it may lessen as you deal with the problem.
The need for and the security that he finds in porn is a result of something else, wounds as Michael called them. Jack might not even know what those are himself. Those wounds will not heal without finding someone to walk through them with him… another man who is deeply committed to God, who is willing to love Jack and invest time and energy discipling him and uprooting the trash and cleaning out the wounds, who can communicate truth to him on an intimate heart level…not simply praying for him and sending him Bible verses. These help, but he needs more, and this is where true biblical church comes into play. This will also help Jack become the spiritual leader that you so need and crave. How can he be a spiritual leader when no one is there to show him how?
And the lady who is mentoring you should be teaching you how to be a Godly wife and mother and probing the emotions and thoughts you have regarding all of this. She should be turning you to the truths in God’s word, helping you remain grounded in your identity as a precious princess of the King in the midst of the raging storm inside of you. Encouraging you to love and respect your husband even when you can’t see how that’s possible. One of the biggest things I was told by two different godly women when we went through all that we did last year was that I HAVE to respect him. It is commanded of me by God (Ephesians 5). I know this is hard right now, but you have to respect Jack.
This should be a daily prayer of yours… not simply that God would protect Jack and help him stand against temptation and that God would make him a spiritual leader for your family, but that God would show you how to love and respect your husband today (every day), that He would guard your heart against the lies of Satan, that He would heal the wounds in both of you and bring you into greater intimacy and spiritual unity. If you do not pray through these things and ask God to change your heart, you will continue to suffer in pain and isolation from Jack.
Along these same lines, if you react out of pain, anger, and bitterness every time Jack confesses his falls to you, he will stop confessing them. He will either tell you nothing or he will lie (For the record, if you’re reading this, Jack, the lies make it so much more painful than just simply telling the truth to begin with. Trust me, as hard or humiliating as it is, up front honesty goes a long way toward healing the rift and moving past it).
Neither one of you can fight this alone, and you cannot fight this together if you let your pain drive your responses. When Jack asked you to check the history on his phone, that was a big step for him. He is inviting you into the battle with him. When you found the website and got angry and upset, it was more destructive than if you had been able to talk about it with him and forgive him for it. He is now not only fighting against porn, but he is also fighting not to hurt you. He doesn’t want to hurt you so he lies, which then hurts you more, which then shames and defeats him, which leaves him in need of healing again, which he can’t get from you because he just hurt you so badly….it’s a vicious cycle.
Forgiveness….that’s a big topic. Let me encourage you, Jill, to do a thorough study of the bible on the topic of forgiveness. Try to answer these questions…What is true forgiveness? Does a person have to apologize or change their offending behavior in order for you to forgive? What does forgiveness look like as it is lived out (in an association, friendship, brotherhood, marriage, whatever – use examples if you feel you need to)? You hear “forgive and forget”…what does that mean and what is your opinion of this term? Is forgiveness different from mercy and if so, how? What does mercy look like as it is lived out? Feel free to add any other questions or thoughts. I had to study this many years ago…I had no idea how to forgive for such deep and ongoing pain.
As far as dealing with deployment, everyone around him is gonna have a computer or phone so it would be super easy for him to borrow someone else’s to skype. That could go two ways…either he is less likely to look at porn because it’s not his device and he doesn’t want to be caught, or it could be easier to look since it’s someone else’s device and there’s no telling what’s already on it. Most units offer opportunities for communication on public use equipment…maybe not as reliable or free or frequent, but an option to look into. Frequent honest communication between the two of you, in love, no topic off limits, is a big deal. Your responses, Jill, as I mentioned earlier, will have a huge impact on this.
Having someone (mentor that I mentioned earlier) who will continue to pursue Jack as much as possible during deployment is another factor. Jack finding a guy or two to meet with and study the bible and pray on a frequent regular basis there, not like leading a bible study, but walking alongside each other and encouraging and challenging one another.
And, if you can do so without them being discovered by someone else, send him naked pictures of yourself to look at when he wants a little something. I was super uncomfortable taking them at first, but I set the timer on my camera (do NOT have someone else take them) and sent them anyway, and he really appreciated that. It gave him a release without falling into sin. You could also have Jack direct you and take pictures of you before he leaves.
Moving on to your feelings of not being loved or cherished and being overworked and unappreciated…welcome to motherhood and marriage. Not to make light of it, but I believe that every single woman struggles with this at some point. I think it comes down to just three things… laziness, miscommunication/misunderstanding, and the enemy’s lies.
It is entirely possible that Jack has simply become lazy in his interaction with you, not being deliberate in showing you love and appreciation. It is also highly likely that your feelings are being exacerbated by the feelings that have resulted from the pornography problem. Try to separate your feelings on the pornography from the rest of Jack and your interaction with him and see what you have left. The rest of it, you communicate to him, but you do so in a non-confrontational, non-condemning manner.
Here’s the thing…men and women think and communicate very differently. I, for probably years, struggled with this attitude…”Why can’t he get up and get his own drink? Why does he sit there on the computer when he sees me struggling to cook dinner and juggle kids and get the house cleaned up all at once? How can he ask me to do one more thing with everything on my plate? He doesn’t see anything I do! He doesn’t appreciate any of it!” Ten years into our marriage and four kids later, I learned through a professional counseling session that the whole time he was sitting there thinking, “Why on earth is she trying to do everything on her own? Why doesn’t she ask for help? She wants things done her way and she doesn’t want me to be a part of her world. I am just a pawn in her game of family and house.” All I had to do was ask, and it solved that problem for both of us…communication.
Asking for his help doesn’t mean you are his mother, or that you’re inferior for asking, or that he’s uncaring for not offering. Sure, it would be nice if our husbands just jumped in and did everything, but in all honesty, they’re not too sure just what we want or need from them a lot of time in regards to the baby needs or managing the household. And being that y’all haven’t been married that long and are new to the parenting thing, there’s gonna be a lot that he simply won’t see. And it’s not for lack of caring, it’s simply obliviousness or in some instances I’m sure, laziness or immaturity.
You have to communicate, and you cannot do it in an accusatory manner. Simply tell him that you need to discuss some needs and desires with him, and then lay it out in black and white. Giving him specific ways in which he can help you with Baby or the house, as well as specific things you would like for him to do in order for you to feel loved and cherished will be more helpful than just giving him a light-hearted or vague ‘I need more help and I need to feel more loved by you.’ There are even many times now when I will tell Michael, “Hey, I did this today and I want you to notice it,” or “Hey, look at this…you have to be excited about this for me! ” Then it doesn’t go unnoticed simply because what are significant things to me may not be so significant to him, and I won’t be disappointed when I get no reaction.
And don’t let the enemy slip in and cause bitterness or resentment when Jack doesn’t meet your expectations. He is human, and he will fail you. It’s just a part of being the imperfect sinners we are. Know and trust that Jack loves and cherishes you deeply, and dwell on the things you see that show you that…like the fact that he willingly met with the youth pastor, attended those meetings, and asked you to check his phone. Like how he loves on Baby or even does simple things to take care of you by taking out the trash or something like that.
If he doesn’t seem to notice your feelings, then you’ll just have to make the first step and start sharing with him. If you want a hug, ask for it. We cannot expect someone else to know what we need or want at any given time, specifically when we are wired so differently (different personalities, values, love languages, needs, priorities…). Communication…it has to be a priority.
So anyway, I wrote this mostly to Jill since you are the one who wrote us. Michael, if there is any error in my words, please let me know. Jill and Jack, we are an open book and always open for questions, discussions, etc. Feel free to respond with your thoughts, feelings, etc. on here. And please give us a call any time. My schedule is very open right now, and even if Michael is in school, he will be glad to return a call if you leave a message or text. If you want to take a vacation to the east coast sometime, our doors are always open to you and we would love to see y’all!! We love you both very very much!
I will be praying for you both. When is the next deployment?
On a side note, we are doing great as well. Michael’s class is mind-numbing and intense, but he’s a genius so he’s doing well. I am loving some downtime and finally getting the house in order and looking forward to fun times with the kids for the rest of the summer. They are all doing well, starting to make friends, and enjoying the freedom of being done with school for the year! Looking forward to hearing back from you!
Just Thinking, My Story
Addiction, Bondage, despair, faith, family, Freedom, Porn, shame, values
What exactly is Family?
I have a deep bond with blood relatives. They are family.
I have blood relatives that I have no bond or association with at all, neither good or bad. They are family.
I have blood relatives that I have no bond or association with at all and,
should the opportunity arise, I’ll put a fist in their eye. will more than likely never have a relationship with them. They are family.
We all understand this category of family. It is the basic mathematical expression of essentially a legal relationship.
I have a friend who has extended grace to me when I did not deserve it, listened to me when I was venting or ranting, and has made trips to come see me just to hang out. He is currently letting me store some of my furniture in his garage. He is family.
I have a friend who just got married. He lived with me for a little while and we spent several years nurturing our relationship. He asked me to perform the ceremony, but I was unable to get the time off from work. He is family.
My wife and I decided to call one of the grooms-men during the reception and have him put us on speaker phone, then hold the phone next to a microphone so that we could give our well wishes and toast to the couple. When the folks who were attending the reception heard my voice over the sound system, the place erupted with shouts and cheers. These people are family.
It takes 10 entries, but dictionary.com eventually gets down to:
a group of people who are generally not blood relations but who share common attitudes, interests, or goals and, frequently, live together
Key phrases here… generally not blood related… sharing common attitudes, interests, or goals…
Jesus was sitting around one day teaching a bunch of folks. As the day started to come to an end, His mom and brothers came to get him to bring him home. I guess it was family supper night at Team Josheph’s table. Jesus looks at the messenger and says,
“Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
Jesus seems to pretty clearly give us his definition of family. It seems as though he is saying that family is not so much those who share a last name, a historic lineage, or genealogy. Family, to Jesus, were those people who “do the will of the Father in heaven.”
Those people who live for the same goals, sacrifice for the same reasons, commit their time and resources to the same tasks, rejoice and celebrate in the same victories… those people are family.
I am so very lucky to have blood relatives that live, sacrifice, commit to, and rejoice over the same things that I do. These people are family of the most intimate kind. Such sweet minutes and hours of talking and connecting on an almost unspeakable level. I love these folks so much.
I am so immensely blessed to have non blood relatives in my life that live, sacrifice, commit to, and rejoice over the same things that I do. These people are family too. These people are closer to me, have a deeper bond with me, than blood relatives who do not value or engage in things similar to those in which I am engaged.
I have felt guilty for this at times. Having spent some time having coffee with Jesus before my little world starts to stir, I no longer feel guilty for having people who are more “family” to me than my blood relatives.
To all of you who have shed tears with us, for us, or because of us, who have laughed with us, been afraid for us and with us, endured the loss (and potential loss) of life with us, who have celebrated the victory over addiction and new life with us, who have let us live with you and argue with you, who have spent days upon days in the wilderness with me, who have let me be in the way in your environments while you worked and I “helped”, who have prayed with us and for us, who have encouraged us and been encouraged by us, who know Christ and live to make Him known…
Thank you for being my family.
Relationships with relatives can be difficult. I understand this well.
Life with family is rejuvenating and encouraging.
Please feel free to delineate the relationships in your life according to relatives and family, and understand that blood lines are not the lines of demarcation for these groups.
brothers, church, faith, family
Why questions can be hard questions to answer.
As I kept looking at what was going on in my life, I started to feel an awareness that I had not yet known. I had been doing all of these Christian things, leading other believers, and submitting to Jesus for years. I talked about this life being a spiritual war and I talked about Angels and Demons. I had not spent any time thinking about the implications of this ideology.
It was almost as though I talked about these things like a peace time military talks about war. There are great examples and references to war. There is an intimate understanding of war and the stuff that goes along with it. There is no knowledge of the taste, smell, and sound of war.
I continued to sit and think.
This is why I believe Jesus allowed my life to spiral out of control like He did.
Jesus says at one point that the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few. He commands His disciples to pray unto the Lord of the harvest to thrust out laborers. I am a laborer. I want to be a leader of laborers. Jesus knows that His Kingdom advances. In that language, the language of an advancing Kingdom, there are strong implications. There is a King. There is a Kingdom. The Kingdom advances into new territory. This territory must be held by an enemy. Jesus wants men who labor to be prepared to lead other laborers into a hard environment as He advances against His enemies.
These leaders need to be seasoned. I remember the calm and peace that would come over me when I knew that the team leaders in my platoon were seasoned combat veterans. They were intimate with the hardships, tactics, logistics, and mission of the war in which we were engaged. They knew the pain of loss and the exuberant joy of mission success. They knew the sting of missing family and the innate passion to get back home. I knew that they had felt everything I was going through, had the same fears, had the same misgivings. I also knew that they had found a way to survive and that built a lot of trust.
I think this is what Jesus was looking for in Peter. He knew He was going to thrust Peter to the front line of the advancing kingdom and he wanted Peter to lead well and fight hard. It worked too. Peter was sifted. He was broken to a point of abandoning Jesus, abandoning his only friends, and running away from what he had come to believe. He made his exit and went back to fishing.
After a short conversation with Jesus, Peter felt encouraged, took up the task, and left his nets for the last time.
I endured such despair. I quit the mission. I told everybody around me to move on.
As I started putting these pieces in place, I got in touch with a friend named Mike. Mike had helped me walk through some hard times in the past, so I trusted him. He got me in touch with a group of counsellors in Colorado and, for 2 weeks, I got some help. We talked about my family history, my marriage, combat, and ministry.
After these trips I felt like a new man. I felt grace in my life like I had never felt before. I felt as though Jesus really had chosen me to lead. I felt a deep peace in the midst of the parts still falling down around me.
I firmly believe that Jesus has invited me to labor with Him for the long haul. I believe that Jesus has asked me to lead others as they labor with Him. I believe Jesus has chosen for me to fulfill a specific role in the Kingdom. I believe He let me struggle and flounder in order to season me.
I believe I met Jesus.
Before this encounter He was the most significant character in a story. He was the point upon which an entire religion pivots. He was something to study and talk about. He was what Christians try so hard to represent well.
After this encounter I became a significant part of His story. He is no longer the point upon which my religion pivots, He is my friend, my encourager, and coach. I do not study and talk about Him, I spend my time with Him in study and conversation. I do not have to try to represent Him well.
I simply have to follow Him and tell the truth about who He is, what He has done, and represent my story with integrity… even the ugly and hard bits.
And what about the things in which I had been misled, or misguided, or misunderstood? Well… I’m still working on those. I have taken a step back from a lot of the dogma which I used to believe. I have taken a step toward simply knowing Jesus.
I can already see a massive change in my life because of this new paradigm. My political views have changed a lot. The way I grade whether or not a ministry is successful has changed. I have become very sensitive to the hippy, liberal, college age critics of Christianity. I hear them saying things that have now started resonating deep within me. I no longer feel as though their rhetoric is an attack on me or the Church. It is a passionate plea for me to be like Jesus, as I get to know Him, instead of the dogma that goes along with Christianity.
Hopefully this demonstrates the difference…
Before this ordeal I spent a lot of time thinking about the points of Theology which were presented by Jesus in His various discourses. I completely missed His heart.
Jesus reads a scroll at one point in His life that says,
The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,
because He has anointed Me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent Me
to proclaim freedom to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
He finished reading this and sat down making the point that this passage is talking about Him.
I have found myself being deeply moved to see captives set free. I spend more time trying to figure out how to free slaves than I spend strengthening the points of an argument.
Jesus escalated force to beast mode in order to set me free.
I am no longer motivated to argue the points of Christianity.
I am excited to sacrifice my desires in order to see grace, love, and freedom come to those who are oppressed and enslaved.
I guess you could say that I am no longer so concerned about representing the religion of Christianity…
I just want to be like Jesus.
So here I am… Standing on the beach having just broken through the jungle. I guess it is time to learn how to swim or fly above the waves!
faith, Freedom, joy, purpose
(Click here for the beginning of the story)
I saw an image of Sarah standing around a corner when God told Abraham that he would be a father.
I thought about me wearing a wedding ring and coming home to a wife after work.
Jessica and I had started sending emails back and forth. It was a lot fun. We talked about what we wanted out of the future, our plans, our dreams, and the things we enjoyed. As time went on, we started talking about the things in our pasts, our missed opportunities, goals we let go of, and the stuff we have to do but that we really don’t like at all.
At some point she asked me about my faith and made some kind of comment about how she wished that she was more like me in that area. That made me feel good, and instead of telling her the truth, I jumped at the opportunity to lead.
The truth was that I really was not mature in what I believed. The truth was that the only time I really spent reading my Bible or Praying was when I was at the Bible Study on base. The truth was that, other than the Bible Study, I spent maybe 1 day a week reading my Bible and 2 mornings praying at best. The truth was that I was probably just as immature as she was.
The truth is she was carried away by my dashing good looks, winning personality, and could not resist a man in uniform.
The truth is… I had no idea how to respond.
But I knew what the guys who were influencing me were doing. They were reading a passage of the Bible with me, and then asking questions. Easy Day!!
So in addition to our standard email traffic, Jessica and I started studying scripture from 500 miles apart. I had no idea what I was actually teaching and had no vision for where I was leading, but it felt good, was fun, and brought me a little bit of joy.
After a couple months of this, I was sitting at my computer when I got this ridiculously crazy thought.
“Mike… It’s time for you to get married.”
I laughed about that. Like a whirlwind I saw in my mind as though a movie were playing before me, a woman in a long white toga style dress, carrying a jug of water and a bunch of grapes, jump back behind a wall as she heard the men talking. “What did he just say? Did he say I was going to have a baby? Funny…” I guess when God communicates something, He does not particularly enjoy being discounted and then laughed at.
It felt like a glass of ice water running down my back as I contemplated the connection between that old story and what was happening in my life. The implication was pretty overwhelming.
Did God realize to whom he was speaking? I was a committed bachelor to the rapture. I was not going to be slowed down by some woman. I was going to live a wild and dangerous life, free from the burden of having to provide for and please a woman. I just knew that my future had a lot of travel, a lot of living cheap, train hopping, hitch hiking, running from danger, eating questionable food, kind of elements in it. Things that do not mix so well with a wife, and lets not even start talking about kids.
For me to get married would mean a complete loss, a total sacrifice of who I was and what I wanted out of life.
This all moved so fast I was left in a bit of a daze. I left my barracks room and went for a walk. That walk ranks among the most sobering walks I have taken. While cruising down the jogging path along the water’s edge and between the command buildings, I presented what I believed to be a pretty iron clad reason why this was all a bunch of garbage that I had made up in my own little head.
I didn’t have a girlfriend.
I didn’t have any girl friends.
I didn’t have any girls who I felt would ever want to be my friend.
I had precious few friends…
So I said,
“If this is God telling me that it is time to get married, then who should I marry?”
Before I could really finish the thought, I immediately thought of 5 different girls. I wanted to dismiss that too but remembered how I felt when I laughed after the first experience in this developing conversation.
This cannot be. This is not how it works. There is a man for a woman and a woman for a man, but not many possible matches for a woman or a man. There is just the one out there. I know this to be true because of my extensive background in the dogma and philosophy of Disney and chick flicks… and the Bible… right?
Wrong. I will not hijack my own post in order to start a treatise on the will of God, but suffice it to say that this conversation began a really great foray into that topic.
I had a lot of assumptions but no direction and no way to test any of these assumptions. I was assuming that it was God speaking to me, that He wanted me to be married, and that He was giving me a choice between these 5 ladies. I felt like I had nothing really at stake yet, so my bets were still safe.
“God… if this is really you speaking with me… and this is really how this is supposed to go… then I choose Jessica. If you really are telling me it is time to be married and I can pick between any of these women, then I choose her. If all that I have just said to You is true and accurate, then I ask You to affirm this decision by blessing the relationship and making it crystal clear that we are to be married.”
I figured if I was going to play a hand with God I might as well go all in.
I made my way back to my barracks room, got something to eat, and then went to hang out with the couple guys that I usually spent time with.
I told nobody about this conversation.
Nothing changed in my life. It was like every other time that I thought I had communicated with God. Big, exciting, encounter and then left waiting and watching… and watching…
… and then I saw my life changing right before me.
(The final part of this story is here)
adventure, dating, expectations and assumptions, faith, prayer
I talk about this one a lot.
I have been very fortunate to have been allowed the access and involvement in the lives of people with the purpose of influencing them to greater maturity. I have spent a lot more time working with guys than I have girls so this may not be completely accurate for the the lady folks out there, but it seems to be quite accurate for the dudes.
So I said to the tool,
“What kind of tool are you?”
“Are you a screw driver, a shovel, or an axe?”
“Easy question,” said the tool, “I’m an axe!”
“Awesome… how do you know?”
“Because I have this handle and my blade is sharp.”
“I enjoy cutting down the weeds and scrub brush in the ditches…”
“I like when my blade is sharp… that is when everything is right in the world.”
No… I have not ever actually wandered into my garage and selected a tool at random and started a conversation, though I have gotten frustrated enough that I have rebuked my tools for not working as I think they should. This conversation seems to fit the standard pattern that a lot of my conversations with younger (and some not so younger) guys tend to go. I am essentially asking them, “Who are you?” The answers I usually get is, “I am this, because I have evaluated the things I enjoy and the things I value, and that has led me to believe that this is who I am.”
This is not a bad thing. Introspection coupled with some good observation skills and a little bit of counsel or advice can really help a man define precisely who he is. Although this is not a “bad” evaluation method, I find it to be a bit flawed. I would rather start with an identity, and then use this kind of evaluation to bring a bit more clarity, detail, or understanding to that identity.
Why do I think there is a flaw?
Because I have lost count of the men who tell me who they are, and yet live defeated, unfulfilled, frustrated lives of simmering anger and a frozen, stifled resignation to accept the status quo. They rage within because of the frustration, some of them even going to great lengths to straighten out what is crooked, and often there is no deeper fulfilment, no longer lasting joy, no resonating peace within their lives. If so many of the men whom I have spoken with have defined their identity in the above manner and yet come to this same end result, then there must be a flaw in the equation.
“An axe, you say?”
“You derive great joy and pleasure from cutting the scrub brush and weeds in the ditch, but what about the firewood?”
“Yeah… about firewood… I’m more of a ditch weed kind of axe.”
“You do not cut wood?”
“Nope… I’ve had a bad experience in the past… really hurts.”
“Have you ever considered that maybe you are not an axe?”
“Maybe your starting premise was wrong?”
At this point it gets kind of grimy. When I look a man in his eyes and start to imply that he has no idea who he is, I feel as though I am potentially releasing a raging bull hopped up on coke and looking for a fight. I’m always scared when I broach this part of the conversation.
Our identity seems to be defined for us when we are young. Whether this is done by people that we love, or people that we have to be with, it is defined for us. We go through life viewing everything around us, including our own thoughts, values, priorities, actions, desires, etc., through the lens of our identity. If I tell a man that he does not know who he is, then I am pulling a card, a bottom card, from his house of cards… his whole world might collapse. Lucky for me, I am not too convincing the first time I start talking about this kind of stuff!
“What if you are not an axe at all… What if you are shovel”
“Shovels have sharp blades…
and do pretty well at cutting the weeds…
and scrub brush in the ditch…
but they really come alive when they get to dig…”
I get to ask questions!! I love asking questions. I never know what is about to get uncovered. I am not trying to cause trouble for these guys, I want to see them free. So I ask questions that will hopefully get them to start thinking the “why” questions for their life. I want to introduce doubt into the equation. Even if who they think they are really is who they are, a little doubt and questioning goes a long way in shoring up their confidence in who they are. At the worst I get to help them embark upon a seekers journey… and sometimes I get to help them figure out who they are.
After establishing an identity, I like to talk about purpose. The trick is that this is where these conversations usually start. A man will tell me that he feels so frustrated because he is doing everything that he knows to do, is doing good things, things of value, and yet he is frustrated. He just wants to make his little mark on the world but feels as though for all his work, he is still waiting to work where he feels he fits. This is a question about purpose, but I cannot encourage a shovel to keep on beating his head into trees in an axe world. So we go back to identity and figure out we are a shovel. Most of the men I have had these talks with have a hard time understanding that identity drives purpose. They seem to instinctively think that purpose drives identity. “I am good at this, and it is what I do, so it must be who I am.” Sorry bro… no.
“Is a shovel a shovel because it digs, or does it dig because it is a shovel?”
So after working out identity, purpose kind of starts to fall into place.
After purpose starts to fall into place, values start to fall into place.
If we judge our purpose and then derive our identity from that, then we have determined who we are. If we are the ones who define our identity, then our values are really quite arbitrary.
So where does identity come from?
I believe it comes from Jesus. In the book of Ephesians, I read a line that says, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father in Heaven, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” There are a couple other passages which talk about Jesus giving us a new name or knowing our name. I understand that my name is the label of my identity.
So I spend time reading scripture with the these guys and sitting at the feet of Jesus. I encourage them to forget about trying to figure out what to do with their lives, and instead give this a shot and try to figure out who they are.
It has not worked %100 of the time, but it has worked a lot more than it has failed.
As a matter of fact, one of the guys I meet regularly with right now started meeting with me because of one of these conversations. He was adamant that identity does not matter! Purpose… what is my purpose? He trusted me and decided to play my little game… and in the last 6 months this dude has figured out 2 things…
1. A shovel is not a shovel because it digs, it digs because it is a shovel.
2. He is not a shovel.
So this is what I say…
Identity drives Purpose, Purpose drives Values. Looking for the source of identity within tends to be inaccurate. Looking for the source of identity external seems to produce slightly better results.
If you do not know who you are, send me a message. I would love to help you start looking for the source of your identity.
faith, identity, purpose, value
** Disclaimer** or warning… or whatever you want to call it… I have been told that this post has caused difficulty for some readers to sleep… it looks like the scary noises I heard still have the ability to scare folks, so do not read this before bed, or having just finished fish tacos, or if you are particularly sensitive to scary stories…
And she laughed at us for saying that.
I loved her though. I felt like she was a distant step-mom in a way. Her son and I had been roommates for years… and years. We lived in Okinawa together, we deployed together, we did pretty much everything together. I would tell people he was not home while he hid in the bathroom, and he may have done the same for me.
We did a lot of growing up together… and because of each other.
So when his family would come up to North Carolina to visit, it was just natural that I would tag along. He spent Thanksgiving with my folks, I took my wife to spend a week with his family in South Texas even though he wasn’t going to be home. We were family. This guy is my brother… not as in, “He is close to me like a brother”… this dude is my brother. We don’t talk very often because he lives in a state that might as well be a different country from me and our jobs keep us ridiculously busy, but such is life.
So there we were… (the way every legit story begins)
Hanging out with his family, sitting on a screened in porch at a little cottage on a quaint lake in coastal North Carolina on a warm summer evening. So peaceful. Crickets chirping in the background, the animals bedding down, and that warm breeze coming across the lake. Everything felt right in the world. We were just sitting there talking as the night closed in around us and the last tendrils of conversation were working their way out as we started to settle down for the night. The tea glasses were mostly ice in the bottom and the last cigarette was smoldering out.
And then we jumped…
His mom started laughing at us, and then attributed our action to our combat experiences. We looked at each other and said, almost in unison, “Scary Noises.”
And she laughed at us a little more.
I understand. I laughed too. We had both deployed, we had both engaged the enemy, we had both treated casualties, and yet we were spooked by scary noises.
I also understand what noises my brother and I had heard before.
We were both very spiritual and pretty disciplined with our individual faith. His was not mine. Mine was not his. Somehow we forged a bond in spite of our religious differences. I really have no idea how.
I do not believe in Ghosts. I’m not sure what he believed. I am not entirely sure how to explain some of the things we heard. Sometimes it was just little stuff.
Coins falling in the hallway but nobody outside.
A girl talking and then calling for help in the laundry room… with nobody there.
We heard a cat stuck in the air ducts one night and decided to rescue that thing because it was keeping us awake. We could hear it out in the hallway, and followed the sound to the laundry room, and then it went quiet.
One night in particular, we stayed up talking and laughing until sleeping was kind of pointless. We both had to work the next morning and we were going to have to go about our tasks on a fewer than 4 hours sleep. I feel a little embarrassed to say it, but we kept giggling and then laughing and then trying to stop and go to sleep. Then one of us would say a word or make a sound and the other one would lose it again. Just like a couple little kids who share a bedroom and have to have their mom chastise them for not sleeping. Finally we let our fatigue get the best of us and we knew it was time to call it a night.
“Good Night Bro”
And then the conversation got started
From the foot of his bed I heard a voice, clear as can be, speaking calmly and deliberately in a language I had never heard. The voice started, spoke a few lines, and then stopped.
I was shaking…
And then another voice, very similar, answered in the same fashion, but this time from the foot of my bed.
I considered throwing up.
The voice from his bed responded, and then from my bed, and back and forth. The voice from the foot of his bed became more and more agitated each time until I genuinely thought my life was in danger. A response came from the foot of my bed that sounded curt, as though it was finished with this conversation and was invoking it’s authority or superiority. Then from the foot of his bed this voice was furious, made an outburst, and then silence.
I could not breathe. I could not cry. I could not scream. I would have urinated 2 days worth if I could have mustered the courage.
I just laid there.
I have never been that afraid in my life. Not on any of my deployments. Never.
I wanted to know that this was not in my head, but I did not want to wake up my brother because he needed to sleep for his shift the next morning.
As I lay there in my fear stricken turmoil, I heard the shakiest, fear drenched voice I have ever heard come from him.
“Did you hear that?”
That was all I needed. Like lightning I was out of my bed, had the lights turned on, and was in the hallway…
I don’t know what he thinks that was.
Quite frankly I do not care.
Sometimes I think my life would be a lot less complicated if I were not a Christian. Sometimes I think it would be easy for me to reason away my faith in Christ or the Bible since I have never seen anything tangible or concrete to affirm my beliefs.
But I cannot shake those voices. My hair stands up on my arms to this day when I think about that.
If I accept that we both heard this, that it was not a shared delusion, then I have to accept that there is a world beyond the one which I can see. Two plays on the same stage.
My search for answers to define and explain what I heard in that room that night has caused me to evaluate my spirituality and the way in which I practice.
That happened close to 11 years ago but I still remember it and feel it like it was yesterday.
That’s why we jump when we hear scary noises.
angels, brothers, demons, faith, fear, ghosts, spirits, voices