Category Archives: stimple

Broad Path

trvlLiving a disciplined and decent life is often cast as being a life of torture, living on the precipice, and terribly difficult. I think not.

A God-fearing person who wraps himself with good, partakes of that which is honorable, and surrounds himself with God-fearing people doesn’t have to worry about being constantly tempted, tested, and teased.

Consider that if one decides to live next door to a sewer plant, every day has the high possibility of smelling really bad. On the other hand, if one willingly and purposefully lives next to a rolling, mountain stream that is surrounded by fields of wildflowers, every day has the high possibility of being quite rosy.

No, I’m not suggesting we delude and deceive ourselves. Living and being is hard work and takes much effort. But I say bosh on the idea that being a person of faith is grueling. Wrap up in good things, depend on good people, spend time considering good ideas, be involved in good activities, and learn to have a good attitude – it all leads to a rather broad, safe, and comfortable walk and way of life.

This world offers up much good that we can enjoy and draw strength from. So what kind of music do you enjoy? Does it encourage and make you feel better? Do you stay in touch with people who encourage and make you a better person? Do you read content that strengthens? Do you work with an attitude of thanks?

Being a person of faith is highly satisfying.

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Almost (MN)

Almost Lake Wobegon (MN). But who knows? North of St. Cloud. I’ve been listening to ‘The News From Lake Wobegon’ podcasts all the way across MN via State Route 10E to St. Cloud from Fargo, ND. Alas, approaching I94-E near Minneapolis…

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Pierre (SD)

SD State Capitol and memorials. Very beautiful place. SD citizens should be proud.

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Dinner (WA)

At ’13 Coins’ in Seattle, WA. Trying the seafood and big, green olives.

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Is 53 8

ethiopian-eunuch-and-philipThen Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:30-39 NIV)

It was not about a football touchdown in the last seconds of the championship game, a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning at the World Series, an Academy Award for Best Actor, a Powerball lottery win, or getting to dance with the prettiest girl. It wasn’t about who was voted Happiest Person of the Graduating Class, best return year on an investment, or having the winning fantasy baseball team. In fact, it had nothing to do with winning, being the best, being the happiest, being the most well adjusted, being the most successful, or being the best educated. It wasn’t anything about showing up to work regularly for 20 years straight, being able to run marathons, getting straight A’s in school, or being the easiest to get along with.

I’m not doing very well here – it had nothing to do at all with what we usually assume is success. It had nothing to do with being the biggest, tallest, fastest, meanest, prettiest, smallest, or anything like that. When Philip told the man in the chariot about Jesus he began by telling the man that Jesus – and this comes straight out of Isaiah 53 – was rejected, humiliated, spat upon, besmirched, and murdered as a villain. What a way to begin telling someone about someone else. But this is what Philip did when he began telling the eunuch about Jesus.

And it’s because this is the story of Jesus. I don’t mean to be repetitive but the story of Jesus is not about being successful, powerful, and awesome. It is, instead, about Jesus becoming nothing, insignificant, and outright hated and reviled by others. I want to wrap this up with some observations.

1. To be king one must be a slave.

2. To become great one must fail.

3. To be powerful is to be humble.

4. Love those who hate you.

5. A known name is a name forgotten.

6. Joy comes from suffering.

7. It’s not here and now – it’s forever.

8. To be remembered requires that I be forgotten.

9. To be honored means to sit at the far end of the table.

10. To ask God is to listen for God.

11. Glory comes from being last.

12. Being filled means to be emptied first.

13. To climb is to fall.

14. To win is to lose.

15. To live is to die.

There is absolutely nothing in this life – relationships, institutions, accomplishments – that will ever matter a whit if we are not able to willingly give it all up in order to become vessels filled with Jesus. The best marriages, the most wonderful children, the best salaries and investments, the most reliable relationships, and the best preaching and teaching will not matter at all in eternity if I have not completely emptied me of myself and then let Jesus fill me up with him.

Are you searching for Jesus? Then look for brokenness. There. There you will find him. That’s where Jesus lives. And thrives.

He will be happy to see you.

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triste ambulant – day 20

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“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4

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I have one more week of GriefShare – next Wed night will be my last evening with people that I have been meeting with for about four months.  I will miss them.  I’m sure some of us will want to stay in touch but now that we have finished up the formal part of the program, it will be different for all of us on future Wed nights.

(By the way, new GriefShare sessions are beginning again in a month or so in the local area.  GriefShare is for anyone who has lost a loved one – spouse, parent, sibling, child, friend.  I recommend this for people who have lost a loved one and who need a safe place to grieve and talk with empathetic people about your loss.  See here to find locations and times convenient for you to meet.  The cost is free.)

We are better, generally, I think.  Maybe it’s all the time that has passed since the ten of us started this walk together.  Or what we have learned together.  Or what we have heard from each other – we discovered that we aren’t alone walking down this path.  Or maybe our confidence has been built up just a little bit by seeing each other get slightly better week to week.  I don’t know exactly what it is that has brought us to where we are but I do know that we are now better equipped to deal with our losses, we are now better prepared for those occasions when we get ambushed by our emotions, and we have a better sense of who and where we are in life now that we are alone.

The final sessions have something to do with a review of what we have been talking about and experiencing since our losses and since we began meeting together months back.  For our final sessions we are basically looking at twenty ‘lessons learned’ that we can carry with us for our own strength and resolve and, also, to help others when they find themselves in the same situations that we are currently in.

Let me know if you would like to discuss the twenty items – they are good and they can make you dig deep into who you are and what you believe.

What is kind of neat – and I assure you I didn’t look ahead and cheat – is that the #1 item to be considered when experiencing loss like we have experienced is that – wait for it – God is sovereign!

I was actually taken aback when we discovered and then discussed this #1 topic this evening.  My meager writings this month were meant to have to do with my take on the mystery and sovereignty of God – something that people who have lost dear ones need to seriously consider and think deeply about.  It doesn’t matter if we know exactly what happened to the one we lost, if we know what could have been done to prevent the loss, or if we were to somehow be able to replay the loss and start over – it doesn’t matter.  Fact is – our loved one is gone and there is mystery to that and we can either be frustrated and angry over not having any answers or we can decide – it must be intentional – that there is a God of order who has a much bigger and broader view of existence than we will ever have as mere people.  

I suppose it gets down pretty much to this – losing a loved one can make me feel belligerently angry or it can make me feel comfortably calm.  Regardless of how I opt to react to my loss, , however, I am still subject to the mysterious and eternal order of God and his universe.  

Psalms 31:14-15 reads, “But I trust in you, Lord. I say, ‘You are my God.  My times are in your hands…’”

Yes, grief and joy can coexist – because I chose it and because God allows it.

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triste ambulant – day 21

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“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4

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I spent some of today with a special family who recently lost their mother, Mary.  Today was the funeral.  In meeting Mary a number of years ago, I was touched by her kindness, compassion, and willingness to listen.  One memory I will treasure is the time when I was able to visit with Mary a few weeks back – she was in the middle of her physical therapy exercises.  She had recently suffered a stroke or something.  Anyway, she saw me and said hello.  Mary knew I had lost Regina and had sent me a card or two even when she was sick.   Mary looked at me between a ‘phew’ and an ‘ouch’.  She said, in her kind but probing way, “How are you, Fred?”  I told her I wasn’t doing very well.  She said, “It isn’t easy.  But keep moving.”  Then she kept doing her exercises.  

I don’t know.  It was pretty simple advice, obviously.  But coming from Mary made it special for me.  I guess I felt that if Mary had been able to do it then I should be able to do it.  Just keep moving, she said.

Mary was 80 years young when cancer finally took her away from all of us last week.  John,  her husband, preceded her by about 9 years – Mary had said several times recently that she was ready to go.  I think she was honest – not crazy or out of control.  She was just ready to go.  And she looked forward to what was coming next.

Mary was a lady of faith in God.  And I understand that many spend sometimes their entire lives figuring out how to exercise our faith properly – what it should look like and what is right and what is wrong and on and on.  I understand.

But when it gets down to it, I believe and am truly thankful and unburdened to know that – regardless of how right or wrong we may think we are getting things – God will shower mercy and grace on those who have exercised an honest love of and for others all in the name of God.  And today, I found comfort in knowing that God is just and good and will protect and care for faithful servants.  Mary was one of God’s faithful servants, I believe.  I believe God is caring for her right now – she is healed from her nasty cancer.

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It wasn’t easy today.  I wasn’t sure how things would go but I wanted to be with daughter Anne and her family.  I am glad that I was able to find the courage to do what I needed and wanted to do – grieve for Mary with her family.

Yes, I thought about me lots and Regina and the pain and hurt and loss – but several times I intentionally tried to push it away.  I wanted today to be about Mary and her family.  It all hurt pretty bad, for sure.

Following the service and graveside ceremony, we went to a special place near the homestead and had a delicious meal together.  We talked old times, good times, funny times.  We remembered stories, wondered about things, and laughed.  We passed and shared our food – it was a country cookin kind of place – around the table.  Carrots, green beans, roast beef, chicken, mashed potatoes.  We fellowshipped well for several hours.  Anne said it was just how Mary would have wanted it for her family and friends.

Thank you, Mary.  I will try to keep moving.

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triste ambulant – day 22

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“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4

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Today has been a harder day for me. I won’t spend a lot of your time this evening saying a whole lot – it just isn’t in me. I hope you have had a good day, however.

I spent most of the day sitting in the shadows of events and situations that I don’t have much or any control over. Some is work related and some is simply personal.

I’m thinking of Leah and her whole family who lost their Mawmaw several days ago. I’m sorry and I hurt for you. Truly.

I’m thinking of Karita in Iowa. She is with her mother – her mother made it through open heart surgery a few days ago. I’m thankful.

Being in the car driving today in winter weather reminded me of the time that many of us went to New Jersey for the funeral after Karen lost Lorne back around Christmas in – I think – 2004. Lorne had been sick for a long time and Karen had taken care of him all during his time. (Karen and I talk often – I’m trying to learn from her on how to cope.)

It was good to see Donna yesterday with a smile – albeit through the pain of her replaced hip. I think she will be ok but it will take a lot of patience and therapy and perseverance. She seems to be getting better each day but it will be a long row to hoe.

There are others who are sending out emails requesting prayers – these good people are desperate for health and patience and total healing. I am thankful that this is all in God’s hands.

I am in Frackville, PA this evening. I’m glad to be up here in order to be with friends during a sad time – Anne’s special mom passed away last week and the funeral is on Tues morning. It will be a moving day tomorrow for family, friends, and me. I am thankful that I had a safe trip coming up here – this part of PA is a nice place and I have always enjoyed being here. Prayers for Anne and her family.

Most of the trip up was cloudy, rainy, misty, cold, dark, and very foggy. I ran with my fog lamps for quite some time on I81 in order to cut down on the glare in the fog. Traffic moved not much over 50 mph for some of the trip. But at least it was some quiet time – which I enjoyed.

So, anyway, to finish the day off – I found a place near my hotel for dinner and went in to get something warm and filling. I’m still a bit awkward eating alone in a restaurant only because I feel uncomfortable just sitting at a table staring at people – all of whom are also casting glances at me. Weird. So, I read the menu intently or fiddle with my iPhone and wish the meal would hurry up and get served.

It’s not as bad as it sounds but eating out – for me – has become a quiet event that is now mostly about getting fed. The routine social and sharing aspect is gone now without Regina. I usually eat out by myself solely because I need to eat – it is very utilitarian. (But I enjoy eating with you, of course.)

The nice waitress took good care of me. She was busy with several tables but she took the time to make sure my meal was what I had desired and that I was satisfied with its taste. Thanks.

Then I crumbled.

She had kindly said, “Do you need anything?”

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triste ambulant – day 23

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“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4

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From where I sit, it seems to me that it is all about perspective.

If it is all about me pleasing me – all about me! – then slowly slowly my world will begin to crumble.  Fact is, I don’t have lots to contribute to – me!  Nothing new.  Nothing challenging.  And very little that will stay good, decent, and honest.  This selfish approach ends up being a dark rabbit hole.  And I certainly won’t be healthy and happy.

If it is all about you pleasing me – still all about me! – then I find myself being manipulated, becoming co-dependent, and we generally get into a real mess that will take – possibly – professional help and meds to unsort.  And I still won’t be healthy and happy.  

A long time ago, Regina and I went to see the play Wait Until Dark.  What a great play – and story.  Anyway, the entire play is from the perspective of the audience.  We see the con men, the schemes, and the plots.  Suzy, however, can’t.  She is the protagonist – and she is blind.  She can’t see anything that the audience is seeing.  We feel sorry for her – we want to call out to her and tell her that she is being manipulated and abused.

What is cool, however, is that we begin to learn that Suzy – though blind – is also very wise and smart.  She catches on pretty quick to the schemes of the con artists around her.  And the climax of the story is when the entire venue goes dark.  No one can see anything – the con men, the cops, the audience – anyone.  The entire theater is dark.  

Now who has the upper hand?  All the audience is experiencing are sounds – nothing can be seen – from up on the stage.  And, of course, the bad guys can’t see anything either in the make-believe world of Suzy’s living room.   But Suzy doesn’t need to see to know her way around her staged living room – the very living room that Suzy has memorized and learned to live in as a blind person.  And in the end, her perspective is what gives her the edge over her antagonists.

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What a great story about perspective.  And what a great way to be reminded that, perhaps, I need to consider things from a different perspective.  Maybe I need to crawl up the other side of the canyon and take in the view.  Maybe I should walk in someone else’s shoes for a bit.  Maybe holding on to my way of viewing things can be unhealthy – there might be other ways to see the situation.

Ever use binoculars?  Normally, you are looking through the ‘ocular’ end.  Now, turn them around and look through the other way – look into the ‘objective lense’ end.  What do you see?  A very different perspective, isn’t it?  

I know – for me – I am having to broaden my perspectives.  I’ve wanted to look at things up close and understand them – looking through the binoculars the normal way.  But what I feel I am being driven towards is a need to be looking through binoculars the round about way – the long view.  The big view.  The very broad view.

The “how wide and long and high and deep” God view.  (Ephesians 3:18)

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triste ambulant – day 24

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“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4

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Life doesn’t let up, does it?  That’s one thing I have learned in the past few months – no one and nothing slows down to let the wounded take some healing time.

  • A good friend was in a fairly serious car accident Fri night.  Everyone is ok but pretty banged up.  Car is totaled.
  • The mother of a good friend died a few days ago.  It had been somewhat expected but death is never welcome.  Grieving and mourning now begins.
  • Received a letter today for Regina advising that she needs to be taking Coumadin – “our records indicate that you may benefit significantly by taking this medication.”
  • A good friend – who I have depended on for many years – finally was picked up for a new job by another organization at a different location.  She will be leaving in two weeks.  Good for her, of course, but what now?
  • Yet another co-worker – who I also have depended on for about 15 years – was offered a tentative position at another agency.  He will be leaving.  Good for him, too, but this will change how we do things in the coming months.
  • Our matriarch here fell and broke her hip late last week.  She convulsed while doctors were attempting to get her stabilized.  Fortunately, she was able to be settled down later by doctors and was able to get her new hip.  She was transferred to a rehab hospital Fri.  Many long days and months ahead for her, sadly.  (And she is very concerned about Abby, her precious little black dog.)
  • What do I believe?  How come they are mad at me?  How come no one feels my hurt?  I disagree with you.  Why do they talk about me?  What are they thinking about me?  Stay out of my business.  I’m going to do this on my own by myself, if need be.  You cheated me.  You took away what was important to me and it’s your fault.  You should be ashamed of what you did.  Well, they hurt me, too.  I’m leaving…
  • Flu and sickness is rampant.  Several co-workers have been out for days.  Nick and Lilly have both been struck down with severe tummy aches and yechy sickness.      
You get what I am saying, of course.  The same, no doubt, is what you deal with.  Of course, the sunny-side types will advise that we need to be thankful, appreciate what is good, feel blessed for what is going on that is positive around us, turn lemons into lemonade, and generally attempt to pull through with a smile.  Thanks.  I think strategically, this is good advice.  But tactically, when something hurts – it hurts!  This has been my experience.  

No matter how much ‘feel good’ syrup is given and no matter what the long-term prognosis is – “It will get better in time” – the immediate hurt is sharp and painful.  It’s like the few moments of cringing pain after accidentally whacking your finger with a hammer – it hurts really bad.  Yes, it goes away but for a few minutes it is good to be able to sit, hold your finger really tight, cry a few tears, and feel bad for yourself.  

I really, really think that long-term healing can come only to those who are willing and able and who give themselves permission to feel the cutting sharpness of loss in the short-term.  Ironically, to properly grieve takes – I believe – discipline, courage, and desire.  Grief should not be brought on exclusively by fear and desperation for self but, rather, by the realization that someone or something very special has been lost.  It is easy to turn grief into chronic selfishness instead of intentional selflessness – it becomes all about me instead of being about the one or thing I’ve lost.  

And how can we learn and prepare to grieve?

1. Talk about it – lots!
2. Prepare for it.
3. Feel it.
4. Make time for it.
5. Embrace it when it comes.
6. Take it like healing medicine.
7. Prioritize it over other “noise” in life.
8. Give yourself permission to grieve.
9. Don’t be ashamed.
10. Don’t rush it.
11. See grief not as an end but as a beginning.
12. Pray through it and about it.
13. Don’t rely on “feel good” words too much – this is going to hurt!
14. Find others who can empathize.
15. Journal.
16. Read about grief and grief management – secular and Scriptural.
17. Don’t be obsessed – but be focused.
18. Stay healthy – depend on a doctor for assistance.
19. Take care of routine business – find a routine.
20. Get rest and sleep.

Extra Credit: Believe it will get better.

I have advised several people this week to avoid the panic and hustle-bustle of life and take the time and have the will to grieve well.  I think it is good advice.

It’s what I have been told, and I feel like the healing is about to commence.
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