Thursday, September 29, 2005

Nothing Good Ever Happens to Our Family...

That's what a couple of my kids have been saying. I have an idea that their pain is more intense than I think.

But something wonderful DID happen to our family. Our car was saved. I did have the money I needed to make the payment to keep the repossession away, but the check hadn't cleared the bank. Even that check was a wonderful gift from my cousin.

But it looked like all would be for nought. It would be too late. But a working acquaintance heard of my crisis through Connie, and offered a $300 bridge loan. If you prayed, God answered.


I'm becoming a mantra to the kids ... Something WONDERFUL happened to our family even if nothing else EVER happened. My kids. Five incredible human beings that humble me.

Yes, we all brag on our kids, but mine are more special. They really are. It's not just that they are the best kids in every aspect, but they are ... wonderful.

OK, others' kids might be just as wonderful... it's just that I doubt it.

Nothing good ever happens? God has blessed me beyond measure.


Monday, September 26, 2005


Wow, I'm exhausted. We're all exhausted. The kids are feeling what I'm feeling. They're even articulating it some.

We missed each other while I was gone. We had a nice weekend. Some of the stress released. My cousin blessed me with an incredibly generous financial gift that lifts the corner of the pressure.

We all felt the pressure lift up.

And now we feel it press back down. We feel a new week start.

I've spent a little quiet time with each kid tonight. We're all feeling so worn out. We're all tired of a house that is worn and desperately needs a cash infusion. The older ones who remember Seattle from a visit a few years back asked if we could move... then said, maybe they don't want to leave friends.

We all want out of this.

But out is through, or at least it seems to be. We are all crying to you, God. We're all so tired. We need YOUR HAND. MOVE O MY GOD! ARISE, let the world see you care for us, your children. Let us see you stand for the right and care for children.

... Let this Dad stand strong. My soul wants to faint. I'm so close to fainting. Hold me.


Saturday, September 24, 2005

Time for an Ellipsis ... ... ...

I've missed posting here. I didn't mean to slow down but time on the road will do that.

The road. The West. *sigh*. Time for an ellipsis ...

We had yet another team meeting out west. Out west being, specifically, San Jose. I've been intending for a long time to check out my parents' will. With money at such a high need right now, I looked into getting it sent to me. The cost to do that, to get the last will and testament of the dead, is between 30 and 100 dollars a person.

It made more sense to let Cisco foot the bill to get me to San Jose, then use frequent flyer miles and hotel reward points left over from the days I DID travel last year (when I didn't have the kids for an awful 3.5 months).

So... the quick answer is, they DID disinherit me. They said they would if I ever married, and they did. Disinherited me for marrying someone that shared the same personality disorder that Mom and Sis had. Time for an ellipsis...

But ... To be in Seattle. I've been back now 5 times in 14 years, nearly 4 years since the last time. Never has it seemed so much like home. I ached seeing the places I grew up. Places that were key in my early marriage, my college life. Places filled with pain, but also filled with hopes now dashed.

I'm back. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make the divorce over, the financial crisis over, the kids well protected, our lives free to move on. Tonight I've been talking to a friend about that over and over and over and over and ... well, you get the idea.

Kurt Kaiser, the fellow who wrote the classic "Pass It On"

"It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around will warm up to it's glowing"
and who wrote "Oh How He Loves You and Me"

"Oh how He loves you and me. Oh how He loves you and me. He gave His life, what more could He give..."
also wrote a song "Thou Shalt Not Go Down but Through".

Sometimes Google fails me. I just tried to Google that, and it came up empty. It wasn't nearly as well known a song as the others. But I met Mr. Kaiser once and asked him about the song during a music conference. He said the song came from the time when he had a heart attack and thought he wasn't going to make it through rehab. He was surprised I knew the song. It was included in a songbook I had and I used to (badly) pound out the song on the piano. I think I MAY have heard a recording of it on some better-forgotten gospel album.

But the song was worth remembering... something like,

"When thou walkest through the water, thou shalt not go down but through."

Right now, I'd like this all to be over. I want God to end this. ENOUGH! It's been 20 years of nearly constant financial drain. Twenty years of nearly constant emotional drain. More, really, but that's what I count.


I've been reading John Eldredge, "Wild at Heart". God IS taking me into my wounded places. I feel as though I have no options, nowhere to turn. Just like I used to feel around my dad. Like there were no places I could go that were MY choices... Like I had no power, no way to make positive impacts on MY OWN LIFE.

*sigh* *ellipsis* ... ...

But. GOD IS ABLE!!!! TO DO ABUNDANTLY MORE THAN WE ASK OR THINK. DO I have even the SLIGHTEST IDEA of what He's forming in me?

So ... I loved the West, but I love the people I've formed relationships here. I'm frustrated waiting and feeling pain.

But I love God. I love Jesus. I love my kids. We're gonna be ok.




Monday, September 12, 2005

Divorce vs Cancer...

"... But would you divorce your wife if she had incurable cancer? If she was horribly disfigured? Then how can you be divorcing her now?"

That's the question that absolutely stymied me for at least 2 years. I discovered my wife had an almost certainly untreatable (but for the grace of God) "mental disorder". (I put that in quotes because I'm still very uncomfortable with the line between will and disease.) Now that I knew this, how could I divorce her? Wouldn't the right thing be to stay? To put up with any discomfort?

Yet I am divorcing. So how can I *POSSIBLY* justify it?

I left for one single reason, although now I believe there are two reasons that come into play. The single reason was the safety and welfare of my children.

As she descended into illness, her "snaps" ("Watch her eyes, Dad, that's the clue," my eldest told me.) her breaks from reality became so much more common. The screaming. The yelling.

I was punching bag number one. My eldest was punching bag number two. My fourth of five was punching bag number three.

Initially "punching" was exclusively verbal. But don't for a minute think that's a little thing. "You're worthless. I know any children you ever bear will die. You'll never be a decent wife or mother. You have no value as a human being."

OK, bad enough. How about this? "I've been dreaming of killing you. Now I know exactly how I'd do it!"

I was in Tokyo on business. I was just starting for the day, in front of a room I was to address for the rest of the week. I got a frantic IM. "Dad, she keeps coming after me. She won't stop. I'm scared."

She went on to describe being pushed to the ground and sat on. A pillow being forced over her face and held down. Then the cold icy words, "This is just like I dreamed it would be."

My kiddo fought back and screamed enough to embarass her.

But here's what kills me. I wasn't sure I should believe the report. Wow is denial strong. I'd seen behaviors close to that.

It took two more years. It took a headlock and repeated blows to the head, me pulling on the other side to try to get her off the kid. It took all that and I still wasn't going to do anything. Then SHE went to the police and said *I* had been abusing her. That *I* had been beating HER. She didn't file a report, but called me, taunting that she had.

That did it. I was like a dead-man awakened.

The rest is history. Kinda. Long, tortured history.

It took two more years for me to give up hope... And realize that "If any man wishes to leave his wife he must give her a bill of divorcement."

I had to go back to the Old Testament and lean on that. I came to the point before God where to protect what He had given me, I had to take steps I wasn't sure He was in favor of (I am now, but that's another story).

The man with one talent buried it, knowing that his master (a picture of God) was exacting. A few "friends" have told me that I should have buried my head, ignored the beating, the murderous actions. That there was NO room for divorce.

I took a risk.


Saturday, September 10, 2005

We rest on thee...

Finlandia. I mentioned it before, and the hymn, "Be still my soul." Great hymn.

Funny though, as I spoke of it, and remembered it, I was actually thinking of another. Thank goodness for Google:

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.

Yes, in Thy Name, O Captain of salvation!
In Thy dear Name, all other names above;
Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation,
Our Prince of glory and our King of love.
Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation,
Our Prince of glory and our King of love.

We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,
And needing more each day Thy grace to know:
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,
“We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.”
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,
“We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.”

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.

"... Through gates of pearly splendor." No matter which of these two wonderful hymns (and they make great topical bookends), whenever I hear Finlandia I think of Jim Elliott.

Does anyone still remember or still talk of the Curaray River? Of Palm Beach? Of the five that died there?

"Through Gates of Splendor was nearly required reading in my Christian experience. But it wasn't a waste. It introduced me to Jim Elliott and to Elisabeth Elliott (whose writings I commend to the reader as one of the two best contemporary Christian authors in my opinion) and the other 4 members of "Operation: Auca".

I saturated myself for a time in the writing around this event, known in my day as the Auca Massacre. Their writings, especially those of Jim Elliott moved me, made me aware of a deep longing to be God's man:

He makes] His ministers a flame of fire. Am I ignitable? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of 'other things.' Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be aflame. But flame is transient, often short-lived. Canst thou bear this my soul—short life? In me there dwells the spirit of the Great Short-Lived, whose zeal for God's house consumed Him.

He is no fool who gives what he cannot kep to gain what he cannot lose.

O God, save me from a life of barrenness, following a formal pattern of ethics, and give instead that vital contact of soul with Thy divine life that fruit may be produced, and Life-abundant living-may be known again as the final proof for Christ’s message and work.

I often wonder what became of the man that I wanted to be or thought I would become. I think there is something that happens, though, to those of us who live longer lives. We look for inspiriation to these men of God who burned out quickly. We look at ourselves, who struggle and feel we have no testimony, no punch to our lives as God's men. It seems we aren't doing the job.

But that is, I believe, just the romanticism of what happened to those 4 men. It wasn't romantic to them as spears were shoved into them. They were thrust violently into Jesus' presence. Did it seem for a moment, did they in that moment share the sense of fruitlessness that I sometimes (often..) feel?

Or were they that qualitatively different from me?

In a way yes. They rooted out before God the things that held them back. I still falter on the airplane seat simply saying, "Jesus loves you." Not always, but sometimes.

God, spare ME from a life of uselessness. But just as much, spare me from a life wasted wishing I were someone else, in someone elses' discipleship walk.


Friday, September 09, 2005

Anatomy of a Divorce

No ellipsises (how the heck DO you pluralize that? :)) this time. No sighs at the end. Just a wealth of different emotions.

My attorney's para-legal called today. Said my estranged wife's attorney had called. Reported I'd refused to pay the interim weekly money that the court ordered, and that I'd said I'd no longer pay it.

All untrue.

The court DID order me to pay last summer, when I got the kids back after nearly 4 months of difficulty for me and hell for them.

I want to whine here and talk about how unfair it is. How I pay all expenses for house and kids and STILL must pony up 650 a month ... OK, I DID just whine. But enough.

Still, I don't have it. I'm in collections on every debt I have because of that money and attorney fees. I'm out. Tapped dry. The pressure is immense.

So I said I couldn't pay today because I can't. And it gets reported as "He says he'll never pay again."

I'm tired of lies.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

... Be still my soul ...

Here at Panera and feeling none too well... I've got a sinus infection (whine whine), had it for 2 weeks. The first antibiotic didn't do the trick. The second has some question about allergic reaction, so it's just been getting worse while I wait for pharmacy and doc to figure it out.

That background is so you will understand that I'm emotional. Being sickie always makes me kinda maudlin. But it also is a time I can cue in to those places I need to on the sadder side of things.

Been flipping through orchestral music this afternoon. Turned to Sibelius. Loved playing his stuff in high school and college. I was listening to the Second Symphony (titled "Tempest"). You can hear the storm over the fjords. Was thinking of it as a soundtrack to the destruction in NOLA.

Then I turned to Finlandia. It's hit me so hard.

There's a hymn associated with the chorale in Finlandia. While the melody plays, I'm reading these words:

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, be leaving, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

Guys in the CCNH worship band, I urge you to do something with this one... and I promise you, it will take me to the ground in tears.

Seems I do a lot of that lately. Dissolve into tears.

Sitting here in Panera, I feel it well up. They know me here as the smiling cheerful face. What are they going to do when they see me dissolve into sobs?

.... Next post from the 6th Floor at SNHMC ...


On the Border...

Ask my kids where I want to go out to eat, they'll tell you in a flash ... It's not Panera (though I'm there now, LOVE the wireless!). It's On the Border.

Ok, yes I love Mexican food. The best in a healthy (um, yeah) diet.

But the irony is that I've spent the better part of my life "on the border".

Have you ever had a friend that hurt themselves with cutting or half-hearted suicide attempts? Who seemed to delight in taking THEIR fault and somehow transferring it to you... so all was YOUR fault? Who flew into blistering rages, their eyes glazing over and seeming to lose touch with reality? Seemingly willing to do ANYTHING when in a rage to lash out and hurt? Nursing and cherishing perceived wrongs almost as though they were trophies?

If you have ever had a friend (most generally a woman) who was like that, you've lived as I have for almost all of my life.

The syndrome has a name. To those who have lived it it's name is horror, confusion. Some call it living in Oz.

But to therapists it's called Borderline Personality Disorder. BPD for short.

Where's the border and what's the disorder? All that in due time.

I first became aware of BPD when my now-estranged wife decided I had it. It was the perfect explanation at that time for the wrongs she "perceived" in me.

Anxious to somehow "fix" the mess our marriage and family had become, I attempted to own the latest diagnosis made over me.

As an aside, I must relay what my oldest kiddo and I used to call "The Oprah Syndrome". Oprah was on at 4pm I believe. I'd call home and talk to my daughter and ask what was on Oprah. It was self-defense. Because if some deviant male was on, I was in for a rough time when I got home... a new diagnosis of my deficient character.

So this diagnosis was not a new thing, just a new "wrapper" for that accusation that I was an unfit human being. If I could somehow muster a "fix" to this horrible wrong that I was, we would be living in harmony.

I spent a lot of time on the site . There were small pieces here and there that kinda sorta sounded like me, but it just didn't fit. I had an ability at that time to be able to spend 3 or 4 weeks wrestling with a "diagnosis" and eventually owning it. It almost made me crazy.

The worst part was that because I didn't REALLY fit the diagnosis, I couldn't STAY in the diagnosis. That "convinced repentant" state was required for our marriage to function. But I'd slip up and act normally and not like a sick person trying to get well.

(If you've stuck with me, this may be getting confusing. I'll keep posting these for a while to further explain all this, so it may get clear eventually. I hope.)

At the same time I was in therapy. I'd gone in for therapy because of my wife. She was continually "harming" herself in front of the kids. There was plenty I DID need to work on, and I knew it, but primarily I needed to know how to cope with this. With kids who themselves (at 3 and 4 years old) were saying they "wanted to kill themselves like Mommy".

The day in 2001 that she played like she was going to jump out of a moving car on the F E Everett Turnpike was the day I started looking for a therapist in earnest.

Thank God I found a good one. He not only dealt with me over the long term, but he convinced her to come in and begin a course of treatment for depression (the only diagnosis we had at that time).

My therapist continually sanity checked (for the first time in my life) the outrageous behavior I was living with (more on that later). I'd lived with stuff like this since I can remember, in my own family, and now in my marriage. This hardly seemed outrageous.

But he told me again and again that her behavior was as extreme as it gets. He used the word "psychotic".

As I described her behavior, he started thinking perhaps Bi-polar characteristics were in play. She responded to anti-depressants by becoming far more violent. He suggested Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but as I studied, it just didn't quite fit (close though).

When I suggested the Borderline diagnosis she had made of me, he started chuckling, then apologized and said, "Of course!". Turns out a key trait of the "disorder" is "splitting". Transferring the blackness in their own souls to others so they don't have to own it. She actually found her own diagnosis, then pushed it onto me.

It's a horror to live with. It's impossible to live with if it's full blown. I am the cause of any ill she feels. She is the cause of any good I have or feel. It's like living with a constant ego-suck. If I'm ok, I won't be for long, because she feeds on that. If she's cruddy, she won't be for long, because she vomits that out onto me and our kids (a couple in particular).

I'll stop this overlong post for now, but ask the reader to reflect on this passage from the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. Chapter 12:

4 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
On the Border. Not a nice place to live. No love there, no matter what promises were given. A lousy place to be a kid.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Sometimes it's better not to try so hard...

I've been scanning through some of these blogs, just randomly.

... I see the tendency I find I'm struggling with. A desire to be relevant. Meaningful. And in my case, spiritually incisive.

I just erased 2/3 of a blog because... Because it's just SO easy to try to sound SO profound, and wind up flailing.

Seems to me that sometimes a funny story or a joke, or a single word may be better than a strained attempt to be spiritual... so...

  • How do we know there'll be Presbyterians (insert your favorite-to-pick-on-denomination here) in heaven? Because the Bible says "The dead in Christ shall rise first!"
  • So... it must be remembered, we came to CCNH because somebody measured their home windows wrong and my boiler broke and my kids were throwing a fit that day and I needed to get out! Don't tell ME God doesn't have a sense of humor!
  • Who were the smallest men in the Bible? The disciples that slept on their watch.
  • Did you know that God invented baseball? We saw it Sunday in Genesis 1... "In the big inning."
  • Yup, there was tennis too... "Moses served in Pharaoh's court."
  • Uh huh, and motorcycles! "The roar of Joshua's triumph was heard throughout the land!"
Shall I stop now?


Ideas that seemed good at the time...

I came up with what I thought was a very clever rule for my girls (one college, one early high school). They could go out with anybody as long as the boy came with me on Wednesday nights.

Wednesday nights... in another blog I'll relate how different all this is for me, what's happened in the last 5 years. But suffice to say that these days on Wednesday nights I meet a group of friends. At a karate dojo.

We put on full gear, head hands and feet, mouth and (ahem) other stuff.... and we deliberately aim at each other. It's all in good fun, kicking and punching, but it gets pretty heated.

So I figured having any boy come down and see me spar (not terribly impressive) but see my FRIENDS spar (QUITE impressive)... well, I figured it would begin to put a proper fear and respect in them.


So my eldest daughter, through quite a chain of coincidences, begins corresponding with one of my senseis. I'm late 40s, I'm one of the old guys, and pretty late to be starting out. He's 21. They started dating.

He is a master at kicking my ... butt, face, tummy, back of my head, you name it, he's kicked it.

I lose that little game :).


Monday, September 05, 2005

Kid Stuff...

Long day. Another long day on top of a long day.

I love these quiet night times. Of course it's too late. It's always too late!

At night I bring the laptop up to my two youngest's room. I sit there (loving wireless), surfing, thinking, answering questions, listening to music (loving streamed music).

Right now it's Chris Rice. Oooops, made a mistake tonight. Funky jazz isn't quite relaxing. "Daddy, I don't know why I can't go to sleep."

Ooops, made another mistake. Country isn't quite relaxing. Gotta love JoDee Messina though!

Daddy, we're poor.

How funny perspective is. They know how tight things are right now... That we're living without cable (GASP!). I keep telling them how MUCH we have. Lights. Heat and cool. We just had a killer veggy soup for dinner made almost entirely with veggies from our garden.

How blessed we are!

Our tummies are full. Our hearts are full. Our heads are cradled.

Sometimes I'm so grateful for this lean time. It shows more than the fat times just how wealthy we are.

Why I love the ellipsis...

What the heck is an ellipsis?

Wikipedia sez: (No, wikipedia is NOT a wiccan book of incantations! It's an online freeby encyclopedia just so there's NO question and I don't get banned by Christian schools around the country.)

Ellipsis Έλλειψις (plural: ellipses ελλείψεις, Greek for omission) in linguistics refers to any omitted part of speech that is understood, i.e. the omission is intentional. Analogously, in printing and writing, the term refers to the row of three dots (…) or asterisks (* * *) indicating such an intentional omission. This punctuation mark is also called a suspension point or simply dot-dot-dot.

An example is, “She went to … school.” In this sentence, “…” might represent the word “elementary,” or the word “no.” The use of ellipses can either mislead or clarify, and the reader must rely on the good intentions of the writer who uses it. Omission without indication by an ellipsis is always considered misleading.

An ellipsis can also be used to indicate a pause in speech or be used at the end of a sentence to indicate a trailing off into silence.

The biggest reason I love this quote is that it uses Greek characters! I KNEW there was a reason for a year's study of Greek! It's that feeling you get every 10 years or so when you actually USE the stuff you studied in college!

I use the ellipsis a lot... But not to omit... Rather in the latter sense... To indicate at the end of a sentece a trailing off into silence...

I guess I trail off into silence a lot. I don't think I trailed off into silence much when I was in my teens, or twenties. I'll bet I started using ellipses (hmmm, is that the plural?) in my 30s.

In your teens and twenties, you don't trail off into silence much... Leastways I didn't. You're too self-assured. You KNOW what you are saying. You KNOW you have an audience. You KNOW your audience is just waiting with bated breath to discover your every muttering. Why, as brilliant as your ideas are, it's a wonder you can pause to catch your breath!

Maybe that was just MY teens and twenties. Maybe the harsh realities of life hit others sooner than they hit me.

But I KNOW I trail off into silence more now by a quantum measure than I did in those days.

It seems so often that the thought starts light and becomes too heavy to carry any longer... That the certainty of the statement is more about confidence than surety... More a private matter than the trumpets and fanfares of a period.

It's a funny thing that I am more confident today of God's love than I ever was in my days of the period.

That when I say "His arms are upholding me", today I feel confidence where yesterday felt merely truth.

Truth occupies a place in the head. The steady stripping away of pride and hope in my OWN self and power has moved "truth" to a deep realization in the heart

Time and again I've seen Him work. Seen Him strip me naked of even what passed for belief. And then, lying in an utter heap of ... of shattered dreams, broken heart, tortured pride and pitiful self effort...

I see HIM. I see HIS WORK.

And all I can do at the end is look up in wonder with the sad, chastened, joyful, ecstatic ...



Thursday, September 01, 2005

Glimpses of a life in question -- He's not a tame lion

Well this isn't the life I planned.

I'm 47, divorcing, I'm a single dad.

I was the one who wrote the seminary position papers that divorce was never allowed for anything except terminal marital unfaithfulness. How different things look when life is lived.

I struggle at work, trying to survive in a confused and confusing realm, where position and prestige trump work and creativity. I work so far out of my realm of excellence I keep forgetting that once I was a contender.

Dazed and battered, I keep trying to follow Jesus. Sometimes He seems so far off.

I'm going to try to keep some record here of this time. I'll be as transparent as is prudent. Mostly this is for me, because I love to write and writing is like an exhausting workout. Something changes in the process.