Building a Life Worth Living: Gloriously lost in the Dessert

Recently, like the last two day recently, my future in the military has been decided; I am to be medically retired on the 25th of July.  To be honest, up to this point I had become, once again, quite complacent.  Then as the shadow of reality crept overhead, it sank in “I’ve got to figure out what I’m going to do!”  Notice here that I said “what”; however, this isn’t the what do I want to be when I grow up, incidentally I still don’t have an answer to that question, or the what school to go to or what degree to pursue or so on and so forth.  As previously stated, I’m a “Doer” a man in motion, plans within plans within plans.  Fallback options if the first few fail or I simply get bored.  This “What” is more life-altering than those; this “What” means finally stopping running away from God (like I could anyway) and taking a leap of faith.
To be very honest, I toyed with the idea of pursing my passion for the culinary arts, there was the idea of turning my photography and videography into a career, and even the thought of simply running….running and never stopping going somewhere where I could be secluded and alone with my misery.
But God, those have to be two of my most favorite words in all of scripture.  They form the framework for every situation, circumstance or bad choice I’ve made in my own life.  Each time myself or my choices or others have meant to destroy me, those words ring out, BUT GOD!
But I digress.  In a recent post I quoted the Psalmist in chapter 51:7-17; and too be honest I only used it because it speaks of how The Father Views a broken and contrite heart….but as I read those words again, I began to weap. 
THE ENTIRE PASSAGE WAS WRITTEN FOR ME< TO ME< ABOUT ME!!!!  Never before has a piece of scripture reached out right into my life and quite plainly and loudly TOLD me exactly what I need and what I need to do.  Check this out:
Psalm 51:7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; was me and I will be whiter than snow.
Who among us hasn’t or doesn’t feel that we’ve “done it this time”, “God will never reach into this muddy mess I’ve drug his name through this time.”  “I’ve simply gone to far.”  Whom among you hasn’t SCREAMED AT GOD in desperation to FIX our situation!  CLEANSE ME OH LORD!!!!
Psalm 51:8; Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.”
For me my days are plagued by depression and I long for Joy and Peace and Gladness…a reason to rejoice.  I feel “Crushed” as the passage says….
Oh, it’s getting good now….its at this point my ears perked up and my spirit really began listening…..
V.9 “Hide your face from y sins and blot out all my iniquity.  (Morgan’s translation  Lord, please forgive all this crap I’ve done AGAIN and lets pretend like it never happened….just don’t let me do it again!)
v.10 Create in my a PURE heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit from me.
For me this means, free me from all my selfish ambitions – my desire to “be the man”, to be important, to be “Somebody” and create the kind of sticktoitness that it will take following the Hard road….Like PAUL!
V.11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 
Despite all I’ve done, please don’t leave me lord!
V.12 Restore to me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
This WILLING SPIRIT is an attitude and and outlook.  The attitude is that it’s all because of Jesus and he deserves all of me because it’s all because He shed his blood that I’m even able to draw breath, that I’m not cast out of the father’s sight, that I am beloved of the KING.  To always remember that it is for Him that I live and I will go and do where He is and what He is doing – regardless……
V.13 THEN I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. 
(Just like was done for me….this is my calling….to go to the marginalized and let them know they are not alone, there are those of us who’ve been there.  And God does not hate them, regardless of what they’ve been told.  Whether Gay or Lesbian, Muslim, Hindu, black or white, young or old, homeless or rich, Junkie or quarterback….WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.  GOD IS LOVE! 
I could most certainly go on and on and on with this passage, but that wasn’t so much the point of this entry…although it is the best part.
Nope, this entry is to simply say…HERE AM I, SEND ME!

Building A Life Worth Living: Restoration and Renewal

Restoration; noun, the act of restoring, renewal, revival or re-establishment; a return of something to a former, original, normal or unimpaired condition.

What a magnificent concept; Renewal – to make something New AGAIN!

My journey through the valley of despair as it were, is still quite ongoing and still monumentally difficult and often very painful.  Each day something new arises to remind me that i am broken.

BUT THAT’S THE KEY!   How can a person ever hope to be restored, not only wto what our life once looked like, but restored to the Life God has intended for us to be living if what they have built their life into isn’t first stripped away..

Depression and consequences of choices made often seem to build on one another creating a sort of Inner Perfect Storm.  There’s always this black cloud following me from the moment I arise each morning until I finally drift to sleep each night.  each day I awaken with the ever-present sadness that has plagued my life as of late.  Trying to find a way out of the chaos and a path to the end of my pain is most all I ever think about.  Perhaps, i’m unhappy, uncontent and without peace because I’m not living the life God has planned for me.  Which brings mye full-circle to the state of being broken.  To most of my peers, colleagues family and friends, this means there is something wrong with me,that must be repaired or set right.  I can get back to being “Morgan”, but the more I gaze into the heart of the Father the more I begin to see myself through his eyes and from his vantage point.  It’s hard, change always is.  It’s rough and real change, the kind that transforms something most would simply discard into something new and old, beautiful and weathered, and something that is once again useful. 

Through therapy I’ve learned a lot of skills that allow me to cope with the different challenges I face.  It’s a new fight each day.  Sometimes I win, not always, but the ratio of wins to losses is increasing all the time.  But, in times of “high” stress, not the debilitating kind, but the times where I must turn my mind, I stumbled across my new hobby woodworking.

This is where I find some beautiful inspiration.  I love the idea of taking things like old wood from a barn or old-style paned glass windows and turning these things into furniture.  It involves restoration and renewal; two sides of the same coin, but each important.

Restoration takes things most would consider to have served its purpose and is no longer useful and putting in time, energy and a lot of work to breathe new life into once was considered “Dead”.  Restoration begins by striping away all the former finish to reveal the unblemished surface beneath.  This process is always abrasive and takes a lot of work; yet is arguably the most important step on the road to renewal.  If you don’t get all the old off, the new will not hold.

The Psalmist speaks of how god views “broken” people in Psalms 51:7-17

 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
   wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
   let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
   and blot out all my iniquity.
 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
   or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
   so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
   you who are God my Savior,
   and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
   and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
   you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is<sup class="footnote" value="[b]”> a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart
   you, God, will not despise”

What is astonishing to me is that we all continue chasing after our own desires.  Many of us struggle to grab hold of a dream that doesn’t turn out to be a nightmare; or we find ourselves shipwrecked when our dreams come true, yet they were nothing like what we imagined.  Certain were we, that THIS life was what we wanted, what would make us happy, whole, complete and what we would die for; yet, instead it almost kills us.  It is exhausting trudging through life always thinking, “If I could just get that job or that house or that car or whatever we imagine up for ourselves, then everything would be ok.”  Only to discover that even if those things are achieved and those things are achieved and those dreams realized – they simply aren’t enough.  We find ourselves still searching for something more; something to fill the emptiness we feel deep within.  Its exactly this point that led me to my current state of brokenness.  Dreams seized and promptly self-shattered.

So, I find myself scattered into pieces; struggling, straining to figure out how to put myself back together.  But what if…

What if God doesn’t want me put back together?  What if God wants to take those random bits of me and restore the person whom He created and called to His service.  to take what once was filthy, old and ugly and turn it into something bold and beautiful.

To be continued….

Building A Life Worth Living: A Fresh Perspective

It is ironic how the thing that we often view as the “worst possible” circumstance or outcome or situation we may find ourselves becomes the thing from which the greatest milestones are made.

I very recently came to the point in which I couldn’t promise even myself that I wouldn’t take actions to harm myself.  For me, looking into the future is a dismal exercise; yet, it is the future that I most always look toward and plan for.  More often than not I see nothing but emptiness, darkness, a vast nothing that is more than overwhelming.  Other times I see a pitiful existence that is one of isolation and loneliness.   And then, like brilliant rays of sunlight breaking through the clouds, I get a glimpse of the life that God has laid out for me; a life worth living.

Which brings me to it; the event that allowed me the “time” and “place” to be in a position to look at my situation and affliction through the Father’s Eyes.  On friday of this week I had another attempt on my life.  This time I was resolute; determined to make this one the last attempt and first Success.  It seems God had other plans.  Somehow, I managed to gain enough composure and rational thought to call my therapist as I was on my way to the hospital.  I was driving myself to the E.R.  She was concerned about the cut on my wrist and whether the bleeding was severe.  I assured her it wasn’t.  After many hours and tests and doctors and blood work and recounting what I’ve been struggling for the millionth time; it was decided that I be admitted to the inpatient psychiatry ward of Tripler Army Medical Center. The outcome was that i FINALLY received adequate psychiatry care and proper meds that actually help.

The turning point for me though was not the docs or the meds, it was when the chaplain came to run one of the group sessions.  This chaplain however, was an islamic Chaplain.  He decided to speak on the topic of forgiveness.  AWESOME!  Then he asked two questions; the first, whom does forgiveness serve and second, am I worthy of forgiveness.   And here is where our thinking diverged.  His claim was that forgiveness serves the receiver and that we are born ‘noble human beings’ and ARE worthy of forgiveness.  Ok…the forgiveness serves the reciever i can sort of go with that as an explanation, but that leaves out one of the most important, in my opinion, in all of scripture…and that is to every truly experience anything in life you must first give it away.  The greatest example is John 3:16; for God so LOVED the world that He GAVE his only begotten son….”  True Forgiveness; that which keeps no record and holds no grudge….TRUE forgiveness is FOR the GIVER.  If frees the giver from all the negative aspects of being wounded carry…fear, anger, depression, etc.  I turn to the story of Joseph for the greatest example of a man whom had every reason to hold a grudge and been justified in doing so, yet, chose to look at the course of his life as necessary for the salvation of his whole family.

“You intended to harm me, but God meant it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

But as for you, ye thought evil against me,…. That must be said and owned, that their intentions were bad; they thought to have contradicted his dreams, and made them of none effect, to have token away his life, or however to have made him a slave all his days: but God meant it unto good; he designed good should come by it, and he brought good out of it: this shows that this action, which was sinful in itself, fell under the decree of God, or was the object of it, and that there was a concourse of providence in it; not that God was the author of sin, which neither his decree about it, nor the concourse of providence with the action as such supposes; he leaving the sinner wholly to his own will in it, and having no concern in the ataxy or disorder of it, but in the issue, through his infinite wisdom, causes it to work for good, as follows:to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive; the nation of the Egyptians and the neighbouring nations, as the Canaanites and others, and particularly his father’s family: thus the sin of the Jews in crucifying Christ, which, notwithstanding the determinate counsel of God, they most freely performed, was what wrought about the greatest good, the salvation of men.

So, while forgiveness, real, genuine forgiveness will have transitory effects which will flow to the receiver; it is FOR the Giver.  It frees them up to go about doing the business of the father and get what needs to be done accomplished.

There is so much more to it than that simple explanation.  I highly recommend reading the book “Total Forgiveness” by Pastor R.T. Kendell.

Now, as to the issue of the worthiness of Forgiveness.  To claim that one is automatically worthy for forgiveness is entirely ludicrous.  The very idea of forgiveness implies that there is a NEED to be forgiven, which further implies that an act, thought, word or even emotion fundamentally caused another or oneself harm.  But, all this is in regards to choices we are faced with.  Worthiness of forgiveness for “original sin”, if you want to call it that, is another thing all together.   To be forgiven for a STATE of BEING is another animal all together.  We are not WORTHY for a perfect, righteous and Holy God to pardon us for going and doing the one thing He told us not to do; in my mind I call that betrayal and disobedience.   i didn’t commit the crime but still suffer the affects of that decision.  And, I am not worthy for God Almighty to take on flesh and suffer and die as payment for my sin.  That is what makes forgiveness such a beautiful thing.  God did not allow His son to die for us, He allowed Christ to die for himself.  Jesus didn’t die FOR us, He did so FOR God.

Building a Life Worth Living – Shame: A Mind Killer

The loss of it is like the sky spread over everything…Pride.

Not the kind that church-goers will tell you your full of when your opinion differs from theirs and they’ve no valid argument to rebut the ideas you’ve proposed.  I’ve been there too.  No, I’m talking about a general sense of being.  My “Condition” renders me utterly helpless in the oddest and silliest situations.  And I’m as a child lost in crowd…frozen and full of fear.  I’ve been halfheartedly reading through C.S. Lewis’ “A Grief Observed”.  The following passages are of his observation and describe more perfectly, more pointedly and more eloquently than any meager attempt I might endeavor…

“I almost prefer the moments of agony.  These are at least clean and honest.  But the bath of self-pity, the wallow, the loathesome sticky-sweet pleasure of indulgin it – that disgusts me…

And no one ever told me of the laziness of grief.  Except at my job-where the machine seems to run on much as usual.  I loathe the slightest effort.  Not only writing, but reading a letter is too much.  Even Shaving.  What does it matter now whether my cheek is rough or smooth?  They say an unhappy man wants distractions – something to take him out of himself.  Only as a dog-tired man wants an extra blanket on a cold night; he’d rather lie there shivering than get up and find one.  it’s easy to see why the lonely become untidy, finally, dirty and disgusting.”

I sometimes think that shame, senseless shame, does as much toward preventing good acts and straightforward happiness as ay of our vices can do.

Are these jottings morbid?  I once read the sentence “I lay awake all night with toothache thinking about toothache and about lying awake.  That’s true to life.  Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow of reflection; the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer.  I not only live each day in endless grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.  Do these notes merely aggravate that side of it?

An odd byproduct of my loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet.  At work, at the club, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll say something about it or not.  I hate it if they do, and if they don’t”

There is no way to put it plainer and harsher than that.  The Dilectic here is that while much of what was just read isn’t true – meaning, i’m not an embarrassment to everyone I meet for example, the emotion of it is there none-the-less, so while it may not BE true it still FEELS true and is therefore all the more real.  Now, before anyone out there tries to shove that “the Joy of the Lord is your strength” crap down my throat.  I KNOW!  I read too!  And it’s nice sounding, but when you get to where I’m at, when you can’t see how you’ll make it through another day, you don’t want to hear that.  Instead, I turn to Moses, Job, PAUL, and the Lord Jesus himself, whom were ALL depressed to the point of DEATH, meaning suicidal.  So, don’t tell me christians don’t feel this way and don’t tell me everything’s going to be OK.  You don’t know that.  But, I’ll hold on, I’ll follow him, I’ll endure whatever cross I must bare because HE DESERVES THE REWARD FOR HIS SUFFERING!  Christ didn’t come and die for my comfort.  So health, wealth and prosperity pushers, RE-READ your Bible IN CONTEXT, especially those words in red.

And that is my rant for today…you’re welcome!

Building a Life Worth Living: Jornada del Muerto

I absolutely love this saying.  It means “dead man’s journey” or “Journey of Death.”
there’s a hollowness to living life solely for your own sake and your own happiness.  This is exactly what Paul was writing to the Romans about.  Losing your life to find it.  Now, I’ve heard many a hellfire and brimstone, good ole southern baptist preacher lay it down whilst preaching through Romans, but I always cringe a little at how wide and far they miss the heart of the matter – they just don’t get it.  For example,  this past week I was in a conversation concerning the military and the repeal of DADT, and how that fit in with my “Christianity”.    One of the people started quoting Romans 1 as a means to condemn homosexuality and “prove” that gays and lesbians were bound and destined for hell, the funny thing is, they turned to me expecting me to agree with them.    You see, what people fail to realize is the POINT paul was making.  We’ve become so wrapped up in “NOT DOING this or dressing like that or talking like him or …you get the idea”  We get so focused on our lists of things that we can’t do now that we are christians.  Wait what?  You there are things we absolutely can’t do as christians……NOPE!  Yeah, you heard me right, that’s why it’s called Grace.  You are FREE to do what you wish.  Here is where we come to the concept Paul was trying to convey.  Yes, you are free to chase after what you wish…to do what you want, God, knows what will satisfy you and what will bind you in chains.  If we are honest, its most often the things WE WANT that end up making us slaves.  I speak from the voice of weathered experience in that arena.
Romans 1:28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Now, just previous to this Paul spoke about men and women giving way to unnatural lusts. and here he puts that on the same level as people whom disobey their parents.  He’s saying, we are all Sinners, all of us filthy, depraved and wicked apart from the knowledge and love and grace and mercy of Christ Jesus.  Yes, we are free as christians, but what will you do with that freedom?
This is where I begin my journey of death.  I have known for quite sometime, years in fact, that I was called to the ministry; however, like I have always done when faced with a seemingly difficult path, to took the easy way out.  As an extremist, i do nothing half-way… I take everything to the absolute edge of reason and more often than not, jump off the edge into madness.  I arrogantly reasoned that I KNEW BETTER THAN GOD what my life could, would and should look like; so he let me have exactly what I had envisioned and all the consequences of the choices that i made.  THIS IS THE MOST LOVING THING he has ever done for me, apart from the WONDER OF THE CROSS!  I have learned more through my failings in running my own life and building this castle on the sand than I could ever have done had I always taken the RIGHT PATH.  There is almost no person, experience, group, place, hardship, pain, fear, etc., etc., that i cannot only sympathize with, but relate to because I myself have experienced it.  An, as HE has always done, he shows me in very real and very amazing ways, that held up against the way Jesus said we should live, the way I’m living mine becomes quite trivial and meaningless and His way looks intoxicating.
Dying…this idea has been on the forefront of my mind since my return from Iraq.  Most often not in a good way.  I’m not afraid of death, it doesn’t scare me or make me nervous.  In many ways it is comforting.  Crazy?  Not really.  When you think about it, it is by Death that we have Life.  Christ’s sacrifice of his own life for ours made it possible to for us to reconnect to him.  And, just as Paul said, “for me to live IS christ, and to die is gain.”  you can take this apart and look at it from several perspectives; first, the literal…for the Christian whose life is meant to mimic that of our Savior, which means bringing hope and LIFE to a broken and hurting world, living life means being Christ to the world and, when we die, we are simply relocating.
Then we can look at it in a much harder way.  Living for Christ, as Christ, through Christ and in Christ…knowing that whatever you do and wherever you go, he goes and does with you – cause that’s what He said he would do.  That’s when no matter how far we (I) run from Him, when I turn around, he’s right there with me…THINK ABOUT THAT THE NEXT TIME YOUR ALONE.  It’s the DYING part here that’s the hardest.  Dying to oneself is never easy and it certainly isn’t pleasant.  “Crucify the flesh DAILY, take up your Cross, and follow me.”  The Saviour is asking you to embark upon a journey, one that will be wrought with pain and suffering and hardship, one in which you will be reviled and hated and considered quite insane and one that is more fulfilling, more satisfying, more glorious and wonderful than you could ever possibly imagine.  Are you ready for the Jornada del muerta?