The Hunt

This winter we have an open season on ducks of only 30 days, and a daily bag limit of 4 ducks. If we look around, we will find that some men bought guns, ammunition, licenses, duck stamps, hunting clothes, boots, and rented boats and hired guides. Many of them had time for only one or two hunts. It is beyond reason to believe that these men went to all this trouble and expense for the pleasure of merely killing four or eight ducks. We must remember, too, that some of them killed no ducks at all. Evidently there is something to hunting that is beyond the mere killing of game.

Although we cannot separate individuals into classes, we often do it for convenience. We will divide hunters into three classes. The first goes out to find and kill game, and no more. This type we call the “pot-hunter.” He kills merely to eat. We are not interested in him here. The second goes into the woods or fields to find, not game, but themselves. The town or city man who loves the country is out of this type. They find city life artificial and go out in the country to get in tune with nature. They call it “getting back to nature.” A day in the woods often does them a lot of good. Their kind are usually more interested in things than ideas…nature lovers. It is the third class of hunter in whom we are interested. The name hunter does not fit them very well. These are the seekers.

Some of us have a feeling that wild things live in a world of their own, on a plane of consciousness that is entirely different from ours. We would like to stand for a while on this plane, to feel as a squirrel feels. But it may be impossible. We are wild things no more. We are tame, domesticated, civilized, far from the nature of wild things. Just as the druggist, if he doesn’t change clothes , carries the aura of the drug store around with him, so we feel that the squirrel is never far separated from his plane of consciousness. If we could get close to him physically, possibly we would find ourselves on his mental plane. But wild things are difficult to get near to. So we shoot them. And their consciousness ends with their life , the “thing” we hoped to capture in capturing them escapes us. Just what is it that we seek?

Have you ever heard the call of wild geese, passing far up, before daylight of a cool fall morning? It is a sound that is thrilling to many people. They feel, for a time, that they would like to be geese, flying with these others. (No cracks, please.) There is about these geese an air of mystery. They come from far off places and are on their way to points unknown to us. The thought of unknown places is always a lure to our imagination. For we feel in one of these unknown places might be found that which we seek.

This Crazy Life

Sometimes I feel like this crawfish, wandering too far from the ditch into the dangers of asphalt and vehicle tires. But like this crawfish I put up my claws and face the world with feeble threats. I boldly face that which could easily destroy me, perhaps a little too boldly.

Life hurts. It’s full of dangers and very real attacks. Anything can plow into us and knock us down. Pretty much every one of us has suffered this year. Some of us have been completely knocked down, some are still standing, but barely.

Sometimes we are blessed enough to have a hand reach out, pick us up, and put us back in the safety of the water. We might pinch at it, we might struggle, but eventually we find ourselves at peace. We can breathe again and settle into safety.

Don’t resist those helps.

Life is too crazy and too dangerous to resist the help and care of others. Even if they don’t solve our problems, they can give us comfort through them. Never underestimate the power of companionship or simple kindness from the hands and mouth of another.

Some Musings on Fear and Pain

Everyone has fear.

I had tons of fear, it leaked out of me. I allowed it to run rampant in my thoughts and actions. My life became a blur of awful. What happens when your life becomes a blur of awful? The lives of everyone around you become blurs of awful. Soon you start making your fears a reality.

You see, fear is typically irrational. You latch onto the idea that something catastrophic will happen and then you let it run your thoughts. From your thoughts come your feelings, and from those feelings are born actions. We act on the irrational.

Some fears are rational: death, losing someone else to death… actually, that’s about it. Death is the only certainty in life, therefore it’s perfectly rational to fear it, for most of us. For Christians, not so much, but that’s another topic.

This fear of death can manifest in both rational and irrational fears. We fear out of self-preservation, which is rational, but most things we fear won’t ultimately kill us. Sure, they may be painful, but pain itself doesn’t kill. There is a fine line between rational and irrational though, and sometimes we take some pretty stupid risks because we don’t categorize correctly. And what may be a rational fear for some, like rock climbing the face of Half Dome if you’re an untrained couch potato with literally no experience, may be completely irrational for someone else, like a trained and experienced rock climber. It would be absurd for that person to refuse to climb what is probably easy for him.

But as I said, most of the circumstances we fear won’t kill us. Most things we fear won’t even come close to killing us. Why do we fear those things?

Why do we fear our feelings? Why do we fear rejection? Or losing material things? Why do we fear taking chances? The words of others? None of these things can kill us.

Ultimately, we fear pain. We are comfort loving creatures and pain is what we seek to avoid the most. Even our fear of death is largely tied to the pain of it. We all want to die peacefully in our sleep, not in some horrible drawn out pain. But pain doesn’t kill us.

Depending on what we do with it, pain can injure us or it can strengthen us. Our goal should be the latter. What we think about pain ultimately determines what we do with it. If we think negatively of it, and begin to fear it, we will act in ways that weaken us. We get hurt and think “I’ll never do that again.” and instead of learning how to work through the pain and become stronger we give in to fear and become weaker for it.

If we think of pain as an opportunity to learn and be strengthened we fear it less. Sure, we hate it when we are in it, but we are less likely to cower the next time it comes or avoid it all together and miss out on some of the best things in life. This applies to both physical and emotional pain, accepting both can be a tremendous step towards growth.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a cliché, but it’s a true one. However, it’s only true if you let it be. Sometimes we let the things that hurt us damage us and hold us back. We allow the hurt to create fear in us. We fear that we will be hurt again. We then allow this fear to drive our actions and end up getting hurt. Our fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Often the process of creating this self-fulfilling prophecy is subconscious. No one wants to be locked up in fear. But our brains are cautious creations. Our brains want to keep us from pain, and will do anything to keep us safe, even things which make absolutely no rational sense. This is where anxiety disorders, PTSD, dissociative disorders, and other such trauma illnesses come from. Our brains would rather function in disarray than allow us to get hurt. Ironically, this disarray ends up hurting us more in the long run.

Outside of those particular disorders, which require professional and often spiritual help to overcome, our fears are in our control. We can turn them around. We can use them to our advantage just like any other negative emotion in life. Fight your fears, face them, you might just find yourself stronger the next time they attack.

Subdued


The silence suffocates

Quiet chokes.

My thoughts are all that fill this void.

The darkness consumes

Lying here

The demons overjoyed.

I can hear my breathing

May it cease.

My heart to stop in equal time.

The beating bloodline

Louder still

The lonely pantomime.

Kill now this silence please

Fill it up.

My ears brimmed with happy noises.

The laughing children

Lovely wife

The finest of voices.

Bring them all back to me

My loved ones.

My home be filled with noise renewed.

The chaos glad

Playful muse

The empty heart subdued.

War

That moment of peace
That calm in the storm
When you think of the release
And the racing thoughts form.

Bombardment out of the air
Twisted wicked in your mind
Seemingly out of nowhere
True thoughts left behind.

Urging you onward
To carry through.
Filling you with the wrong word
“Do what you must do.”

Call upon the angels
Cry out to God above
He’ll rescue you from this painful
Moment with His love.

Doubled down the attack
Dark forces reconvene
Throwing you off track
With thoughts in between
Darkness and light
The wrong and the right
Confusion settles in
Temptation within
Deep the battle rages
Into the night.

“No one will miss you
You’re being dramatic.”
“That is not true.”
In between is static.
The battle is erratic.
“You’re not strong enough
Life’s too rough”
Thoughts are automatic.

“Be still”
You hear
Breaking your will
And killing your fear.
Chaos ensues
Evil hates to lose.
Raging darker deeper
Evil is a sleeper
Who gets worse towards the end
Willing to send
The darkest thoughts ever deeper
Down you descend.

“Be still”
You hear again
“This is not My will”
You feel insane
These voices in your head
The battlefield not red
With blood
Only strewn with broken dreams.

You wake up
Unstable as hell
Tears erupt
Shaking a hallow shell
Of a man who once was standing
Long before he fell.
Finding your Foundation
You rise
Stronger for the next invitation
The demons will devise.

Paul’s Contentment

“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11b-13

A few months ago a sermon on these verses whacked me over my head.

Contentment eluded me for my entire life. I had spent years familiar with these verses but never finding the meaning. Here was someone (Paul) saying he had learned to be content in every circumstance.

Wait. What? How? How was Paul content when he was low, hungry, and in need? Was he bluffing?

I could understand his contentment in plenty. I was frequently quite settled when things were going well, but when times were hard I freaked out, often disastrously.

What was Paul’s secret?

We often hear that last verse quoted as though it were some kind of good luck charm. But “I can do all things” isn’t pertaining to some feat of strength or passing a test. In context it’s so much more.

The secret to Paul’s contentment was his faith in Christ. Instead of depending on his ever changing circumstances for his peace he depended on the solid foundation of Jesus. Jesus never changes. There is no fluctuation in the love of Christ, unlike the other things we put our faith in.

A lifetime doesn’t seem to be enough to grasp this concept. Even though I tried to be content in Christ as all good Christians should be, I didn’t see my idols. For many years I was plagued by anxiety because this or that wasn’t right in my life. I experienced long periods of want. Instead of trusting God and being content, I allowed these periods to devour me. Anxiety and fear ran my life.

Only recently did I discover that I made idols out of so many things. And everything failed me one way or another. Instead of rightly seeing the things I had and desired to have as gifts from God, I made them into demands. When I didn’t get my demands, I became a poster child of discontent. This discontentment then proceeded to destroy many of those good gifts.

It took losing the most important thing in my life (my biggest idol) to show me the power of my idols. It took months of floundering and grasping for that idol to wake me up. I had depended on something temporal, something delicate. When it broke and went away, it almost broke me.

I was drowning but those verses hit me like a lifebouy. Paul depended on Christ, and Paul made it through excruciating suffering. Not only was I made aware that what I had lost was an idol, but I realized that all of those things which had driven my anxiety were idols as well: financial security, steady employment, well behaved kids, a clean house, sex, intimacy, friendships, my pride, etc. All of these things had failed me at times and because I had depended on them I was always left staggering.

Christ never fails. He never gives up on me. He never stops loving me. Even when I run towards my idols He always pulls me back into the fold. When I lean on Him I am never left staggering. It took going through hell to teach me this, but when I started to grasp it I felt a peace like I never have before.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t hurt or have days of discouragement and discontent. I am still going through this trial. I am still suffering. At times I feel like a train is sitting on my chest. It’s hell. I still want to restore what was lost (it is a good thing in and of itself, when properly esteemed). But I am content. Christ is sovereign, God is working for my good and His glory. I don’t have to flail or kick against His Providence because I know it is perfect.

When I am lonely or struggling with thoughts of suicide (I am ashamed to even admit this) or wasting away in pain I can call on Him and He restores peace to my soul. I can read His word and find comfort in His promises, as well as instruction on how to handle difficult people and circumstances. I can know that no matter what happens to me I am secure in my salvation. I may suffer and even die, but my eternity is secure.

Perhaps “I can do all things” means “I can endure all things”. No matter what God gives or takes away in His Providence, we can be sure that if we (like Paul) rest in Him we will endure. If we call on Him when in trial or despair we can find real comfort. When we obey His law and trust in His word we can handle any circumstance that comes our way.

That is true contentment.

Idols

Idols fall one by one.

Purged by a loving God.

Ripped from my heart

Like a barbed hook.

I see them sitting

On the shelf of my heart

Demanding sacrifice

Wanting my soul

With every look.

I am consumed

Taken

And eaten alive.

Shoveled into the mouths

Of those which cannot speak

Or hear my screams.

Never satisfied

They offer no mercy

Feasting endlessly

On my bones.

I am blind

I see but a few

In darkness they reside

Churned ceaselessly

From my heart inside.

Some grotesque

Some veiled in beauty

Large and small

All with one goal:

To destroy me.

Hour by hour

I require delivery

Safety

A shield

A Savior from the wretched mouths

Of these wicked beasts

Of my own making.

Little gods

Insatiable

Built in my heart

Pernicious

Obstinate

Devouring my time

My thoughts

My energy,

Replacing what is good

With the less than

And the outright evil.

Balance

Skidding, sliding, turning, nothing sensible at all.

How do we keep from falling?

We’ve got balance in our heads, liquid in our ears, and a trillion tiny sensors in our bodies.

Yet we tumble at times.

Finite.

Creatures.

Limited by physics, time, and space.

Awful are the days spent listing, turning, spiraling through unknown waves.

Suspense.

Drama.

What does tomorrow hold? No one knows.

But we hope.

Wait.

Pray.

It will be a better day than today.

If only we can find our balance.

Within our heads, ears, and bodies.

As uncooperative as they may be,

At times,

Hindered by nature,

And our unbalanced thoughts.

Tumult and Chaos

Tumult and Chaos,

Textures and noise,

Overwhelmed with the beauty

Found in the disasters

Of life.

No peace

But still calm

Sitting in the drowning

Stress of days

Spent wandering.

Tumult and chaos,

Textures and noise,

Overwhelmed but still standing

Walking on the edge

Of life.

All for naught

Or is it?

Surely time in a crucible

Can’t turn us out

Worse than before.

Tumult and Chaos,

Textures and noise.

Overwhelmed but listening

For the small voice

Of Christ.

All photos taken with a Canon D5500 with the “Night Vision” setting and resized with Picsart.

The Trimming of the Vine



“‘Rid me, good Lord, of every diverting thing.’
What prodigal waste it appears to be, to see scattered on the floor the bright green leaves, and the bare stem, bleeding in a hundred places from the sharp steel.
But with a tried and trusted husbandman, there is not a random stroke in it at all; nothing cut away which would not have been loss to keep, and gain to lose.”

-Amy Carmichael, quoted in Sinclair Ferguson’s “Maturity”.

We often get angry with God for taking away the things that we love. But why?Because losing things sucks, whether it be money, people, or health. When we grow attached to things (or people) we often get tangled up in unhealthy affections for them. When they are ripped away we feel disoriented. We feel as though a part of us has been removed.

But God knows exactly what He is doing. As the quote above states, nothing is random. God knows what we need, and when He takes away, it’s for our growth. Like I said in my last post, pain is inevitable. Pain leads to growth, and sometimes the loss of someone or something is the most painful thing we can experience. There is almost an exponential correlation between the amount of pain and the amount of growth potential.

This doesn’t mean that we go seeking pain, or that pain isn’t painful. We shouldn’t deliberately cut things off that God wouldn’t. Nor should we masochisticly relish in our pain. But we should see that our most painful moments and circumstances carry in them the promise of great fruit.

When God takes away He knows that it would have been a loss for us to keep whatever it was He took. He also knows that we will gain from losing it. For perspective, I like to invert the lyric of “When I Survey the Wonderous Cross” to say “My richest loss I count but gain.” Every loss is a gain, even if not immediately perceived.

Every branch that does bear fruit He prunes that it may bear more fruit. – John 15:2

Fruit takes time to grow, and even more time to ripen. It’s easy to grow impatient in our world of instant gratification. We want results now! But to God a thousand years is like a day. His timing almost never matches our desired speed. We must wait for fruit. We must endure the suffering of loss before we see the gain.

We may be tempted to despair when we see the leaves of the vine of our life scattered on the ground. We may have invested decades of our life in something, just to watch it get cut away. But we must remember that the vine isn’t dead. Just because it was trimmed doesn’t mean it is gone. In fact, we are assured the trimming will produce more fruit. In one way, shape, or form, the trimmed branch will regrow into something healthier and more productive.

But again, this takes time. Sometimes the first fruit of a loss is patience. If we can get past the initial pain, we can find a calm place to wait for the next fruit, whatever that may be. God’s trimmings result in multiple fruits.

Be patient, sufferers. It’s worth it.