Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Voice of the Spirit

Though not apparent to me when I wrote this late Saturday evening--the day of this miracle--I have come to realize that I left out perhaps the most remarkable component of this experience. 

I began the day depressed. 

It had been coming gradually and I was aware of it coming even days before. 

But somehow this day was different. Though not an overwhelming depression as I have experienced many times before, it had me concerned because I knew that it had the power to take over my day and lead to misery as has happened so many times in the past. 

Early enough in the day I realized I had a choice. I knew that I could choose to seek its cause--something negative I was again believing about myself--or focus on the here and now. Through therapy I have come to understand that seeking to uncover the source of the depression is a good thing. So that particular choice is not bad. However, when compared with my other choice--to actively spend my time and attention on my girls--the last full day I would have with them for a couple weeks--the proper choice was clear.

I chose to ignore the depression and to live. And this perfect day was God's gift to me. 

My girls and I went to Target today to enjoy some shopping time and use a $50 gift card given to us for Christmas by a kind woman at church. I had an amazing experience while there and afterward. 

As we arrived at the store I felt prompted that each of the three of us should pick out something we each wanted. So I told my girls and off we headed to the toy section.

After the girls picked out the items that they wanted and I had picked out some light bulbs that we needed, we headed to the checkout. On the way to the checkout I felt prompted to go back and get a movie that I had seen and that I've wanted for awhile. I wasn’t sure if it was my own internal voice speaking or the voice of the Spirit, but because it felt the same as the voice I’d been following for awhile now, I decided to trust that it was the Spirit.

So I sent Mia, my oldest, to go back and get the movie, while Bethie and I waited close to the front. As the cashier rang up the total I had hoped that somehow some of the items would prove to be on sale and that the total would be $50--the amount on the gift card. It wasn't. The total amount came to $15 more than what was on the gift card. 

However, as I checked my wallet, I found that I had the exact amount needed in cash so that I didn’t have to use my debit card. I had not wanted to debit my checking account more than was necessary, especially for something as unnecessary as a dvd.

Immediately after picking up the bag the thought “Merry Christmas. I love you,” came into my mind. That made me feel good, yet I still had a lingering question as to whether or not it was from Heaven or was I just talking to myself again, justifying what I knew was a good family movie that the girls and I would watch together time and again.

I did believe. But I didn’t know. And this was a big deal for me because for the past couple months I had been diligently listening, seeking to hear, then immediately follow every prompting I received from the Lord. 

As I drove I began to pray and ask Heavenly Father how could I know if these promptings that I received in my mind were from Him and not my own voice and desires. What I wanted--even yearned for--was to have the accompanying feeling of peace in my heart in addition to the whisperings in my mind. So I prayed as I drove.

I received my answer in an unmistakable way.

It began in the parking lot as we walked to the car. Mia spoke about a particular song she had stuck in her mind. It was an obscure song from the 80s I doubt is hardly ever played on the radio. I don’t remember if she asked if I knew it or if she simply told me that that was the song in her head at the moment.

But it just so happened that a year or more ago I had downloaded the album that that particular song was from onto my phone. Wanting to be ever the cool dad I pulled up the song and began playing it as we pulled out of the parking lot.

As the music played I began to ask Heavenly Father my question, “Is it really you or is it just my own voice through all these promptings I’ve been following and how can I know?

I immediately began to receive encouraging thoughts in my mind:

“Hang in there, Chris. You just keep trusting.”

“How do I know it is you?” I asked.

“Look at how far you’ve come. It’s not you. You just keep believing. You're on the right road, the right path. Don’t you give up. Don’t you ever give up!!!”

As tears filled my eyes, I scrolled through the songs on the album that was playing and picked one that sounded good. It was called "I Honestly Love You." Though the words in the context of the song have a different meaning I felt that God wanted me to know right then that He loved me. That that was the message He most wanted me to see and feel at that moment. I was loved.

I played it two or three times, but it was the final time I played it when I heard something more. Something much much more.

At this point we had just arrived home and were sitting under the carport. Except for the soft music playing all was quiet. I turned to look at my girls. They were both asleep.

I soaked up the image. There was Bethie, her arms peacefully embracing her large new stuffed animal. Mia’s head leaned gently against the door, her face completely content and her new toy in her lap or near to it. For a moment time stood still. I stared at my beautiful girls for a long time before turning back around. All was perfect just then. Everything was exactly as it was should be.

And then it got better.

From the car speaker I heard the words, “This is pure and simple. And you should realize that it's coming from my heart and not my head.”

It took a second for it to sink in. But then I knew. Father was telling me that it was Him. It was all Him.

He was telling me that not only had it been Him earlier at the store. But it had also been Him throughout the days, weeks, and months leading up to today. It had not been my own thoughts I was following. It had been Him all along.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Sometimes Even His Burden Seems Hard

This post I wrote a few days ago and have for some reason felt hesitant to share. Perhaps it's because it seemed to be more directed at me and my selfishness and less toward God and His blessings toward me. After letting it marinate these last few days, however, and rereading it, I've changed my mind. I believe it shines a greater light on Heavenly Father's goodness and grace because it shows a stark contrast between the selfish, worldly me, and the person I am trying to become through him. The following scripture from the Book of Mormon embodies what I strive for, yet fall short of every day.

Mosiah 3:19
"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father."

I have an aching back. My hands and arms hurt. I've lost my former life. My wife is gone. I have no plan for the future. I have two girls--two beautiful girls who are my life and I am supposed to care for them. Supposed to take care of their needs. I wake up at five in the morning because I don't trust myself. I read the Book of Mormon and am following the life of Christ in the New Testament because I don't trust myself. And then I pray for the same reason. 

I am an overweight 45-year-old man who has changed a few things. Not because I am capable. I am not. I have gained the six pounds back--six pounds that I'd lost in the last three months. I forget to brush Bethie's hair some mornings before school. Okay, I admit, that one sounds minor to me.

I don't know where I'm going in life. I really don't. 

There's a doctor I want to see with limited hours who I believe can help me if I but remember to call on the day that he's in. I've forgotten to call him for the last five or six weeks--until today. Finally, I remembered. But when I called this evening I was told by a machine that the office was closed. I was wrong about the hours.

This is all about me. These are the ways I fail every day. All the time.  These are the reasons I don't trust myself.

I don't have enough time to do all that I need to every day even though I never watch sports anymore, rarely waste time on the internet, and only watch TV when me and the girls cuddle up to a movie on the couch. That, or like tonight begin to watch an uplifting movie only because I have a need to lay on my prickly acupressure mat for a half hour and I might as well be uplifted if I guess at the right movie.

I don't even trust myself to write because I love it so much I fear doing anything that will lead to selfishness. Wow. That sentence right there really makes me sound crazy. The truth is I live in a spiritual bubble, mostly doing only things I find uplifting and wholesome. 

I don't do the radio except on rare occasions because I'm afraid of losing the Spirit. It's true. About the most worldly music I play these days is a scratched up John Denver cd that's in the slot in my car. And thanks to the awful Carbondale roads and my low quality car cd player the cd sounds worse than it actually is.

I'm living my life like it's tethered to the Lord by a single strand of thread in a windstorm that may, at any moment, be torn or let go if I forget and look the other way.

As I write this I think that it must sound like I'm a spiritual freak. Or that that is what I'm trying to be. I honestly don't know and don't think of it that way. 

The truth is--yeah, and I'm tired of analyzing all my feelings and seeking to understand what it all means. But I need to so...

I don't trust myself right now. Not for nothing. I've got a track record for causing myself and others lots of suffering when I do things with my own pleasure in mind. There's lots of selfishness that has been burned out of me and much more still to go. 

My motivation therefore is to trust in the Savior because He has never failed me. Ever. The times in the past when it felt like He failed me were actually times when I acted on the belief that He failed me which served only to cause suffering. Because of me, not Him. I have broken myself against this principle too many times for me to count.

It's called shrinking. I have spent most of my life shrinking, giving up, quitting. Refusing to get back up right away after failing at something. Then, as if that was proof God was not helping me, He got the blame. My weakness coupled with Satan's brilliance = too many regrets. 

So I've just stopped trusting myself. That's the reason I do what I do. That's the reason I read the scriptures, attend church, pray, attend the temple. I'm keeping my spiritual 'i's dotted, 't's crossed.

I think most people would say it another way: that they trust in God.  

I don't know why I feel more honest saying it the other way. Maybe it's because it reminds me that there's a reason I trust Him. I'm too scared not to. 

The burden in trusting Him has been so much lighter. 

But it's still a burden. That lighter burden--His burden--is the reason I am writing tonight.

It is still difficult. For it means that I don't make plans the same way I used to. It means that I allow myself to not know so many things.

Take for example my decision to quit my last job before obtaining another one. Typically not wise to do so, but this decision felt right and in line with what He wanted me to do. But still it was a hard decision, and burdensome.

A lot of anxiety resulted from that decision--especially as the days passed and I was burning through my savings. Lots of fear of not knowing. That was the main thing. When I quit my job I didn't even know if I'd be serving tables or massaging, holding down one full-time gig, or three part-time puzzle pieces. There was so much not knowing going on for so long it was very hard. 

I suppose that's really what is bothering me right now. It's the not-knowing. There's just a whole lot of stuff about everything that happens to be important to me that I just do not know: the future of my young daughters. Elisa's future. My career aspirations. Financial servitude or mastery. And so on.

And of course I'm not exceptional here. Life is this way for all of us. I think I've just been granted a little more recent opportunity through my trial to have my false sense of security thrown to the dogs. And they've sure had at it.

My hands are up, white flag waving. I am crying uncle. 

So now I have been gifted the opportunity to trust in God. 

I am grateful for this blessing. For even though the things I don't know are overwhelming, they remind me of my weakness and the requirement that I have to turn to God. And I know that He hasn't failed me yet. 

So tomorrow I'll take another step. I'll see if He gets me through the day, or just the next moment. 

And while I do believe He will see me through the next thing, big or small, I don't know that He will. That's why it's scary. 

But the alternative is far scarier. I can no longer afford to trust myself. So my goal is to remember my weakness. And to also remember that God has yet to fail me.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Book Through Which My Blessings Flow

If I was asked what was the one thing I did that had the greatest effect on my life since blessings began to flow unabated, I would say it all began with an earnest commitment to read daily from the pages of the Book of Mormon. 

More than any other change I've made, feasting daily from the Book of Mormon, I am convinced, has caused my eyes to be opened, my heart to be softened, and unceasing blessings of comfort and divine guidance to flow into my life.

Interestingly I don't even remember when I began a sincere study of the Book of Mormon. I can't even remember what month I started reading it. Yet I know that it was not long after that that I began to feel its power weaving itself throughout the fabric of my life.

It is safe to say that I have never before felt anything close to how I feel now. I have never before been blessed to be a witness to so many miracles. My heart has never before felt as it does now. I have tried for many years in vain to soften my heart and to feel a close personal bond with Jesus Christ. 

Until now, there has perhaps never been a time when I did not feel forced to learn life's lessons the hard way. It was not due to a lack of effort. More than once I have concluded that the most appropriate epitaph that could be written on my tombstone if I died at that point would be something like: "Chris died. He tried." 

As pathetic as that sounds, that was still exactly how I felt most of the time. I have always given myself credit for trying. It's just I never could catch a break. At least that's what I believed. If gold stars were given out for most effort expended in one's life, I would win, hands down. I really thought this.

My martyr complex was deep. I'm sure I still don't fully grasp it. Even now there is probably still some hiding deep within me I haven't shined the light on yet.

This is partly why I am so utterly blown away that I am mostly not like this anymore. The "acted upon" Chris has been mostly replaced by the "act on" Chris. 

It bewilders me because it is so unlike me. Sure, I have my moments. But I have been blessed with a much greater ability to get back up after falling down, shake off the dirt, and get back on the saddle of life. 

I realize that it is so unlike me because it is not me doing it. It is my Savior who has engineered this new ability in me. 

I used to internally roll my eyes when I heard religious people speak like this at church. They would engage in hyperbolic sentimentalism, or at least I thought. They would often tear up when speaking of the Savior and His goodness. So I would just ignore their sentiments, acknowledge their niceness, and conclude they were naive and didn't hold a license to live in the real world. The hard world. Where I lived. 

Now I'm one of them. I can hardly hold back the tears when I think of Him. I am at a loss when I ponder the blessings He has given me. And those blessings really are from Him. I want to tell the world--including going back in time and tell my old doubting self--No, see. It is not feigned humility. These are not just flowery words that sound good to make me feel good. These are actual true words that I know are true because I have lived them. 

These words of mine have come through a refining fire that I am still struggling to endure every day. They are words borne from experience of actually trusting in the Lord Himself. I have been blessed with the ability to do what He has asked me to do. And because I have trusted in Him, He has simply kept His promise to bless me. And wow. It actually works. Trusting Him actually brings blessings into overflow mode. The cup runneth over-type.

And so I find myself becoming someone that I used to look down upon. I pity the former me who tried so hard to see, but just wasn't ready.

There is so much I am still not ready for. There are days I still feel depressed. My depression and anxiety may have been healed, but there are still evil (negative) thoughts and beliefs I too easily fall prey to. I hope I am not over-confident. I still doubt. I still battle more fears than I want to admit.

But the blessings are real. They have changed me. He has changed me.

And while I cannot remember precisely when it all began to happen, there is one thing I know:  

I began to see more clearly God's blessings and plan for me when I began to earnestly read the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon is the Word of God

I have read from the pages of the Book of Mormon all my life to one degree or another. From my childhood on, this book has always been available to me. The time and effort I have spent throughout the years reading and studying this book have waxed and waned. But for a long time--with occasional exception--like the rest of my efforts toward self-improvement, my sincere study of the Book of Mormon has been inconsistent and sporadic, sprinkled with short bursts of rewarded effort.

I believe I must have been sufficiently humbled when I began again from the beginning, determined to read all the way through to the end. For ultimately, I read all the way from beginning to end within just a couple months. 

What I have found most striking about the experience of reading the Book of Mormon daily is not some specific experience I had while reading. It is that all aspects of my life were enhanced. 

What I have been given to know as truth is this: 

Reading and pondering the Book of Mormon daily has opened a channel from heaven from which great blessings have flowed.

Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, my daily study of the Book of Mormon has enhanced all aspects of my life. It is like putting on a pair of glasses that brings everything else into clearer focus. 

It has provided me with the necessary spark that I have long needed in order to put my house in order. 
 "...feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do."
                                                                   --2 Nephi 32: 3

Not long before his passing, LDS President Thomas S. Monson recently said this of the Book of Mormon:

"I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives."

I know that these are true words. I know that my life would be far different had I not chosen to incorporate the Book of Mormon and its teachings into my life. Since I began my serious study of this book I have been blessed to be able to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, overcome much doubt and fear, and have received heaven's help in my life. 

The blessing this book has been to me is incalculable. This book has changed my life beyond measure and will change the life of every person who sincerely receives it.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Has My ADD Been Healed?

Only as I finished writing this is it dawning on me that my ADD has been largely healed--and will remain so upon the condition that I rely on His grace. For,  

"...if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." 

--ETHER 12:27 

I had a wonderful day at the temple two days ago. Had only planned on being there for a couple hours. After a couple promptings, however, it turned into a full day of worship. While tired from fasting and service, it was a day of peace and my heart overflowed with gratitude. 

I awoke yesterday morning to some loneliness at having no companion with me to share this experience. In my scripture studies I read Matthew 7:7-8 (...ask and it shall be given you). 

I felt prompted to ask about my prospects for a future companion. 

He replied by telling me that, though less than ideal, I was still married and to not ask more about this topic until I was no longer married. 

What a loving rebuke! Even as I prayed, part of me hoped for this kind of non-answer. There is so much work I have to do on myself right now that I know it would do me no good to speculate on what my future holds. He knows how much I can handle and will not allow me to see too far into the future. 

He knows that I cannot handle too much distraction. 

I cannot believe I have lived all my life being so easily distracted by so many outside pushings and pullings. Many things always tugging me this way and that. If you have ADD and understand the difficulty of sitting still, focusing on one thing at a time, then you get what I'm talking about. What an impossibility!

Only it's not.

Since I've been going through this spiritual rebirth, it is as though blinders have been put outside my eyes. When I walk into my empty house from a long day at work, I no longer see bills, messes to clean up, things that need to be fixed, questions about what to prepare for tomorrow. In short, I no longer feel harangued by a thousand little--and some big--things to take care of. 

I see One Thing. It might be to prepare dinner. Or wash the dishes. Whatever it is, it is always One Thing. When that One Thing is complete, there will be another One Thing. He knows I can handle One Thing at a time. So it's as if He funnels it all into a bottleneck, where I take up that One Thing. Then onto the next.

Each thing on my to-do list is standing in line and must take its turn. They may have entered my life, but they are now required to take a number and wait. The tail is no longer wagging the dog. Mostly. I'm okay with mostly.

It sounds odd as I write this. How can you force your troubles to stand in line and take their turn? I don't know how He does it, but I think of the term quickening. It is a gospel word I do not understand well. I just now searched and found that it means to change a person so that he can be in the presence of God. 

This is not what I mean. I've always thought of the word quickening to mean not one unnecessary thought.

To use an analogy, good writing is considered tight, focused, without any useless or unnecessary words. I love good writing. Who doesn't? 

My thoughts have become like good writing. There are so fewer useless, unnecessary thoughts it amazes me.

As I imagine this, it is so powerful. I know that it does not come from me. It is yet one more gift. I have received so many gifts I am humbled.

And these gifts are so individual, so very practical. They collectively tell me that God knows me and He loves me and wants me to be happy. 

What is He doing in your life right now that shows you He knows you, loves you, and wants you to be happy?

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Letter From God

On the night of November 19, 2017 I could not sleep. I lay awake, my mind racing for hours, thoughts tumbling over each other, refusing to be caught. 

I had a lot to think about. My life was in flux. Within two weeks I would be leaving a secure job, great friends, looking for work, finding a new place to live, working out child custody specifics with a separated spouse, continuing my grief journey, and a slew of other future unknowns. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement.

Though blessings had been abundant in this new tumultuous life, each day brought new hills to climb and more pain to endure. It seemed that for every blessing received, a new trial emerged. 

And yet, the Lord blessed me with a time of rest after my depression was healed. How grateful I am in hindsight for that eight-week rest. No doubt He knew of the trial that lay ahead.

Anxiety comes from fear. I didn't know that before. When my wife asked for a divorce I tumbled from the mountain-high perch I'd stood on for eight glorious weeks and fell back to earth full of fear.

I can't remember the order of all the emotions that coursed through me and when. They are a jumbled mess in my mind. There was grief, shock, hopelessness, anger, sadness, fear, and more.

As I remember these emotions and the stress of them all, I am full of gratitude because of how I'd been prepared. Had my depression, a very hard, yet different and separate experience than these new emotions, still existed, I am afraid for the blow it would have caused.

Still, my fall was hard. And so much of it was the result of fear.

I was very afraid for my girls, ages ten and four. What would their lives become like? How would they deal with the grief? For now, all they knew was that Daddy had moved for work. How would they respond to the shock that I would not be moving back in with them to be a together family like before? I hated the answers I conjured up when I faced these questions.

I was afraid for my wife. I was afraid for her and the decisions she was making. So many I didn't agree with. It is hard to rein in the wandering mind when it walks down dark alleys and dead ends that seem so real.

And I was afraid for myself. I had just returned to work full-time seven months earlier. What opportunities awaited when I returned to be closer to my children? I had moved two hours away for a good job. Would I be able to find another one in the stagnant local economy I was moving back to?

And there was no more safety net. From having another person to lean on for comfort, stability, and security--someone to fall back on and take the lead when you have to. No more. That was especially hard for me because I had leaned on my wife far too much during our marriage, becoming dependent on her in many ways. I now had to unlearn this and stand on my own two feet, afraid to fall.

These scary thoughts and others coursed through my mind for hours that night until I prayed for help.

In my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints, not just the lay minister speaks from the pulpit. He assigns a topic to willing members who will then give a talk. Earlier in the day at church a friend of mine had given a talk on gratitude. He had no way of knowing the profound effect his talk would have on me. It has changed the course of my life.

Among other things related to the topic of gratitude which he spoke on, he spoke of keeping a book of remembrance. A book of remembrance is a journal or record of important events in one's life that is to be given to one's posterity.

When I heard my friend mention this I had a peaceful feeling inside and immediately knew I was supposed to begin keeping such a record.

Laying there that night after I gave a simple plea for help, that still, small voice whispered for me to turn on the light and get out my notebook and pen and begin my record. 

From the beginning of keeping this record, I have been inspired to record the blessings I've received, including spiritual promptings, answers to prayers, and treasured memories with my girls and other family members.

On few occasions--usually when in need--I've also been gifted with a treasure from God in the form of a letter. This is the spirit of revelation and my hand serves only as scribe as the Spirit dictates.

Such was my first entry that restless, sleepless night. I feel prompted to share a portion of that letter here:


I have set this whole thing up for you. I have provided--am providing--you with a tremendous opportunity for growth. I have been with you every step of the way, pouring out relief, comfort and love to you. Seek to see the blessings I have already blessed you with. This letter is an example. Here are but a few others: the talk on gratitude today... Gratitude is key in your situation because you feel desperate or alone, causing much anxiety. 

I love you and have been with you from the beginning--through all the angels who have helped and are helping you. Brother "Michaels" and his companion visited you today, providing comfort and hope. You received comfort through the blessing they gave regarding your children. Your children will be a very active part of your life. You also received more instructions today, very specific ones: Keep a book of remembrance, immerse yourself in the scriptures--even when grieving, as you will find meaning and purpose for your life. I am saving you money: you have a place to stay now for as long as you need it (until you find your new home). Truly, this is from me.

Today in church you were asked by five different people how you were doing. You were encouraged by three others. You got an appointment to look at a house tomorrow, $ in the bank, more to come. You get great advice from your friend in terms of shutting off your grief. And how about those hugs, huh? Surprised you, I know. You've got these comfort blessings. Countless others are praying for you. Trust me--it's countless. 

Physical: Look at your faithfulness in changing your diet. I'm helping you here, too. You're doing well with this--even lost a notch on your belt. Keep eating healthy natural foods. 

As for your spiritual: Here is where you've really been thriving--great work! (I was blessed with much encouragement and reassured of things I'm doing which were pleasing to the Lord.)

And how about that cognitive therapy? I tried before but you just weren't ready--that's okay. And yeah, you can say it would've been nice had you been ready before--but it's okay. Everything happens for a reason. And I have an infinite amount of backup plans for you and each of my children. 

You must look daily at the details of your life. I am in them. I have been leading you along since your birth. I'm limited by your eyes. By what you are willing to accept. The hardest part of my job is withholding blessings because you're not ready. Be ready!! Be ready by looking, by remembering, by being grateful. Continue this letter. It will continue on through eternity if you let it. 

Oh, and your hands? You need to ask me about that. Do not delay. I'll help you get that taken care of. I'm a fixer--a healer. You can't lose with me on your side. And guess what? I'm on your side. You just need to keep asking. And keep recording. 

There's also the car--like how I did that? Tender mercy, that one. (This was in reference to a car I had wanted to sell, but instead crashed and totaled, obtaining far more money than I would have by selling it.) Set you up rent-free for eight months in Evansville, too. Count your blessings, son! I'm here for you. And you already see your separation needed to happen. 

Instructions: Remember me. Be grateful for everything. Reach out to others and ask for help--you need help and others need to help. This is how the gospel works in a community of saints. "You lift me, I'll lift thee, and we'll ascend together." Spend time--quality time--with each of your daughters. They crave it. Read scriptures and pray with them. They need your example and thrive with you in their lives. You are a good father. Repent when you mess up--it's a joyful process, repentance is. Keep writing this letter. It is how you will remember all I am doing for you. It will give you confidence and help you trust in me. Lean on the divorce group for comfort and advice. So many people there need you, too. Share your wisdom with them.

You fear stopping writing. It's okay. Get more sleep now. Remember to write tomorrow about what I've done for you during the day. I'll be here. I'm always here.

There is a difference in a life when one feels tossed about like a wave on the ocean during a severe storm and in the life of one who feels guided and directed, brought to the place where one is now, as if by divine design. I began the night feeling like the former. And ended it feeling like the latter.

I recently taught a lesson at church that was based upon a talk given by one of the leaders of my church. It is called "By Divine Design," and echoes this beautiful truth. It is powerful and I believe worth a listen.

I know that the life I am living is a life of divine design. It is a precious gift from a loving Heavenly Father who has taken my hand and is leading me along through each day.

This powerful hymn, "How Firm A Foundation," sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, almost reaches the joyful expression in my heart, particularly the 3rd verse.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

My "Ocean Journey" Has Begun

The Walt Disney movie Finding Nemo is about a clown fish who goes halfway around the world in search of his son. In one of the scenes an ocean current carries the father and a friend to his desired destination in search of his son. All he has to do is swim into the current and it takes him there. To be sure, it is far away. But once he's aboard the steady stream of warm water, that's it. With patience, like magic and almost without effort, he arrives.

For some reason this scene keeps replaying over and over in my mind. I haven't watched the movie in a long time. But for the last few weeks it has, without effort, replayed itself in my mind again and again. 

But there is a variation to this scene when I see it in my mind's eye. In it, I am there in the ocean with the current flowing just within my reach. Sometimes it is behind me. Other times, beside or in front of me. But the significant difference is that it is ever present before me. No matter where in the ocean I may be at any given moment, the current is always accessible. I am never so far that I cannot reach it. It is simply always there.

Yet the effort to enter its flow is mine to make. I cannot accidentally swim into it or enter therein by chance. Only by consciously choosing to enter may I do so.

What if life is really like this? What if there really is such a warm, safe place that once entered into, will take us, seeming without effort, to where we want to go? 

I admit I have guile. For I know that such a path actually does exist. I do not question it like I used to. For I have been led to this path.

Before finding it though I have spent all my adult life swimming a line parallel to this ocean current, in search of it, occasionally entering it and being carried along by it's graceful flow, until it spits me out during some turn, some zig or zag. 

At least that's how I see it. But I know in reality it's me who has left the current, again and again, often swimming into, then out of, its warm embrace.

It's the guidance I've been searching for for almost as long as I can remember.

Have you ever known a person who has it all together? A person for whom life comes easy? Someone who knows what he wants and seemingly without effort obtains it? Such a person doesn't equivocate or vacillate. People like this are decisive and full of self-confidence. They are quick to laugh, or when appropriate, to cry. They just seem well put together. Some of these, I believe, are being carried by the current toward their destination. These people are full of energy and light and they light the way for others.

I have never been that person. I learn my lessons the hard way. Not because I want to. I just do. It seems to be my chosen lot. At least until now.

I don't think I've ever sleepwalked in my life. But I have been sleepwalking through life. My eyes have been closed to things around me. Then suddenly a wall appears before me. Bam! I feel it before I see it. Story of my life.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not fishing for pity. I use to. But not anymore. 

After all, I have known for a long time I've been a sleepwalker. But I have also known there had to be a better way. I knew there was a better way! I just couldn't find it.

But not for a lack of searching. 

Being a book person, I have looked for a better way along the shelves of many new and used book stores wherever I've lived or traveled. I could spend hours at a time looking for that one book that would give me internal peace, only to leave empty-handed and feeling empty inside.

Or I would leave with a handful of books, only to never read them. 

But I have searched in many books for answers to the questions of life. I have read many self-help books over the years, trying to fill the emptiness in my soul. It never would be filled through those books, though.

I have also filled many journal pages. They were never about the happenings and memories of the day. Instead, those pages were filled with a desperate hunger, a searching quest for an end to the internal strife I suffered for years.

One such question I pondered on paper was, "Am I stupid?" It makes me cringe thinking about it now. I spent days on this one, possibly weeks, furiously writing out all the evidence for and against, checking against this known fact and that one, ultimately coming to a happy conclusion. I was healed! 

At least until a short while later--probably a few hours--when once again, my mood sunk. 

And so it went with other self-inflicted labels. Off they came, one by one, until I could find no more. And though I did experience some healing, there was always something that remained. 

Except for my wife. She would not remain. And who could blame her? I was too busy trying to fill the hole in my soul to be too concerned with her.

Ditto my second wife. 

But I've digressed.

I'm no longer sleepwalking though life. My eyes have been opened. I have entered the warm embrace of the ocean current again. And I know how to stay inside its safe confines now.

It began with this painful opportunity.

Then the hole in my soul was healed.

I was given little choice, really. It's hard to stay sleepwalking for long when you are handed your life back by your wife, who in effect says, "Uh-uh. Yeah, that life I had with you? I don't think I can stomach it anymore." (These are my words, my interpretation of her actions. She would be mortified at the thought of saying something this hurtful.)

So here I am. I've been awakened, blessed to be carried by the ocean current to a new destination. A grand destination I cannot imagine.

I know there will be times when I will exit the safe hold of the current. That's life and I'm human. But I also know that through God's grace that same pathway will always be in reach. 

Every post I publish I do so with ambivalence. The challenge for me is to not focus on myself. How to accomplish such a thing when I am including such personal details I really don't know. I can only trust the grace of God that I may accomplish this. For I know that as I trust myself I fail. And as I trust in Him I succeed. 

*His pure love is the destination. His word is the ocean current. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Ask And Ye Shall Receive

I wrote the following this morning while sitting at the edge of Little Grassy Lake.

Just about two miles from my home out in the country, I am sitting atop a frozen log at the water's edge of a quiet lake. It is hard to write in 30 degree weather. But it is peaceful here. I hope to make this a habit--bicycling here as I have done this morning. 

When I arrived there was a man readying his boat for the water. I would have preferred he not have been here. I came for solitude and quiet. 

The cars driving by on the nearby road are also disruptive. And my backside is cold as I sit on the uneven log, my ankles crossed to support the most comfortable position my legs could find. 

But there is beauty all around. The lake is picturesque, the edge crusted with long ice crystals which appear as shards of glass randomly strewn over and under each other, overlaying the clear brown ankle-deep water. Mere feet beyond the icy edge, the sunlit surface shimmers from a gentle breeze I barely feel on my face. Now it is quiet, until a far away bird caws.

Not an hour ago I sat in my warm bed and opened my old ugly red-plastic-coated laptop. Because I am weak and do not trust myself I said a quick prayer: "Father, should I write?"

Had I not asked and listened, I would not have felt the whispered reply, "Go for a bike ride."

My breath catches as I now write this because I am so grateful for His merciful answer. In the past, I would not have asked, knowing that I might receive an inconvenient answer. After all, I wanted to write. Even now I remember hesitating before asking this question. 

Slowly, day by day, even moment by moment, I am learning that if I trust in the Lord and ask of Him, then follow His gentle instruction, I receive far more than what I could have wrought myself. Instead of remaining in my room, I've been blessed to be able to exercise--a habit I'm trying to develop. And the scenery is beautiful. All is still, as if asleep. Except for the geese, slapping the water, now the air, as they take flight against the quiet, their horns piercing the calm.

I use to scoff at nature-types who spoke adoringly of the outdoors. I have always been an indoor-dweller, reading and writing from within the comfort of my four walls, exploring the realm of the mind. Who knew there was so much more out here?

This is my third time visiting this lake since Chris 3.0 (my transformed life). When I came last week I lay with outstretched legs and arms upon the small nearby pier for a long time, floating on the water, eyes taking in the bright blue sky.

My pier at Little Grassy Lake

The world around me expanded and I felt small. I thought of the scripture where Moses said, "Now for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed." Though my context is different and far less glorious from what Moses beheld, I can nonetheless agree that man is nothing when compared to the glory of God. 

My problems seem to diminish when I come here. It is as though God is saying to me, "Who are you and your so-called big problems? You are but a speck upon my creations. Take a look around and see what I've done. Stop being so self-centered and get with the program--My program--and learn of me. I'll make a whole lot more out of you than you can ever imagine."

And to think, right now I could still be writing from my bed. 

I couldn't resist a return visit this evening.