A single year

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February 5, 1988
My expectations were not met today. Maybe I did not have them high enough, perhaps they were too high. In either case the hopes I had for this day were not realized.
My wife and I are out of money. We refuse to go out and get just any kind of a job. You know a $3.50 per hour make do job. First of all it wouldn't pay the rent and utilities on the small apartment we have. The most important reason is that we, my wife and I, are clinging with what is left in our being to the belief that we are ministers. We believe God has called us to be his full time workers. We know it is hard to find a job that will support us even minimally within our church. We are committed to trying.
It seems we are ill prepared paper wise for any quote decent position anywhere. That includes the church. For one thing we are too old for the church. Kids fresh out of college are more preferred than middle aged people who have lived their faith but do not possess the right paper-because we spent most of our life as self employed retailers, the open market has few if any jobs for us.
The best thing we do is work for ourselves. We are good at things that include personal contact with people. We are good at caring about and loving people. We are not good at letting things happen. We are just plain awful at seeing a problem and letting it lie.
I do not like doing income taxes but through the years I have developed the know-how and a talent for getting the information from people that is necessary to fill our their tax forms accurately. For $50 we have advertised in a free paper that prints 80,000 copies a week. Four weeks cost us a total of $50. It is a nice ad and is business card size. The ad came out yesterday. Usually the first two days after an ad comes out are the busiest. So for this week we have received one call and the appointment was cancelled. This is the only thing we can do to make money to pay our rent and utilities and it is not happening. We do not have the money to advertise elsewhere.
We can do nothing but wait and hope.
If we were trying to do a terrible thing and we were prevented from doing that thing, we would be grateful. Is this a terrible thing we are trying to do? We are trying to make enough money to support ourselves. Our car has 170,000 miles on it and needs in order: a clutch, new brakes, shocks, a new or rebuilt rear end, a wheel bushing and more. We are trying to raise enough money to buy a $1500 used car. We are trying to raise enough money to pay our rent. What is it owe are doing so terrible?
I charge less than other tax preparers and I do a good job.
Lord, you can see it would be easy for my wife and me to give up and yet you did see that today instead of giving in to depression, you know what we did. That's right Lord. You heard us together praying to you, begging you not to turn us loose. Whatever you want to do with us, it is fine, Lord. Even now as we clearly are confused about what you want us to do, we are very clear about our desire to be used by you and to serve you.
So hear we are Lord. We are tired once more and we are scared. We are worried and we are sick. We do not know about today much less tomorrow. So what's the bottom line?
It is still the same thing. Hear we are, Lord. We belong to you and we are yours. What ever it is you are doing with us right now, no matter how desperate and hard it is on us, it's ok. We know you are our God. We believe in you and we know of your love. We can not give up. If it is in your plans for us, please help us. Please know how hard things are right now and how hard we are trying to be what we think you want us to be. Don't turn us loose. Squeeze us tight, Lord, with your love.
You have heard our lamentations, Lord. As with Hanna of old, please answer us. We love you and we accept your love for us.

February 6, 1 988
What am I supposed to write about this day? The answer is of course, nothing. You see, I am not supposed to write about anything any day ever. This is something I do because I think it is what my God wants me to do. I do it to show my love and my respect for my God.
So I write today.
I write I lost my temper and screamed and yelled at my wife who next to my God I love most of all in this world. I write I screamed and yelled and almost gave up on the love of my God. And you know what, there was not a huge disaster today to cause all this. I did all that because for a while I lost sight of who I am. I fell into a hole that was waiting to swallow me up. It came so very close to doing that. I let it. I seemed to have no control over who I was or what I was doing. I just wanted to strike out to hit back to get even, and at who, my God, my wife.
I love my God and I made a mistake today. I almost allowed myself to give up. You know that I have written and I believe that a person can do nothing ever under any circumstance to cause God not to love that person. God in person told me very clear that God loved me. I like you am very precious to God. These are not just idle words to me. They are the truth I live by. Today I was willing to believe that all I believe in was a lie.
I say this happened because I wanted so much to better my wife and children's lives. The truth I think is I wanted to better my life. I have been praying and saying to God that all I wanted was for God to do with me what God wanted to do. It didn't matter so long as God did not turn me loose. Today when God refused to turn me loose and was doing with me what God must want to do with me, I got so frustrated and angry I let loose in an uncontrolled stupid manner. I still have not recovered.
My wife says she has. My wife says she still loves me. My wife says she understands. I understand. I have not recovered. I understand and I know why I was so frustrated and still I can not accept.
Gob's love came pouring out to me and I prayed and tried to say I am sorry and I made a solemn vow to not let this happen again and I mean it. Yet I am still angry, at myself. How could I lose my temper at someone who loves me? How could I loose my trust, even for one second, in the God I believe in and serve? What kind of man am I?
The answer probably is I am just a man. The human part of me handled as much as it could and exploded. The God part of me rescued me before it went too far. The human part of me thinks it went on way too far. The God part of me urges me to forgive myself and get on with being who I really am.
I heard a man say to pray to sod, not bargain with him. Maybe I had been bargaining and when I thought I had kept my bargain and God did not keep his bargain as I thought he would or should, I could not handle it'.
Let me be most clear! This is no bargain! I am my God's servant. What ever God does with me is fine! I will do what my God wants me to do. No matter what. Now God, no bargains, but please do not give up on me. Do not turn me loose. Hang on to me God. I love you and I know you love me. No excuses, I just screwed up for a while today. I'm sorry as you know. But God, I am still here. I am still trying. I am still determined to do your will. So carry on God, whether I'm ready or not.
February 7, 1988
Everything is relative. When my father was an Air Force sergeant in 1963, he was provided housing and utilities on the base he lived. He also was paid $310 per month on which he bought food for himself, his wife and his five children. He also managed to give his two teenagers a monthly allowance.
Today I managed to earn $180 in about five hours preparing two income tax returns. That amounted to about $36 per hour.
My oldest daughter, Gigi, graduated last may from a catholic college with over 120 credit hours earned. At $160 per credit hour, her education cost about $19,200 plus room and board of about $15,000 over the four year period. She still owes about $12,500 for that education.
The first car my wife and I bought was a 1965 mustang we purchased used in June of 1966. It cost us $2195. We purchased a custom van new in 1985 for over $16750.
So what does this all mean? Well, let's take a new car. Our neighbors bought a four year old compact car for $4300. They could have bought a brand new 1988 car for $5000. Now mind you they would have had to look hard and bargain and accepted a car with perhaps no air conditioning but it would have been new.
My nineteen year old daughter has attended two years of public college and is only in debt $1,400. True the schools she has attended are not very prestigious or private, but, she is getting an education.
I think sometimes we are more preoccupied with what our appearances are than what is really important. We care more about what we think someone will think about us, than what we think about ourselves.
It seems to me that who and what we are is more important than who and what someone thinks we are.
It seems to me that at some point in our life we must decide exactly who and what we are. We have to decide just what is really important-maybe we should do that soon. Perhaps even right now!

February 8, 1988
Have you ever noticed how much the weather affects how you feel? Today was a dark, drizzly day. Now I have reason to be depressed but I have been fighting depression and not giving into it. No matter how hard I tried to keep busy, to stay active, to feel alive, I just could not completely bring it off. The cool dark dampness of a wet yet not rainy day kept permeating my being and closing off my spirit.
Now had today been bright clear and sunny, perhaps it would not have mattered. Maybe the only reason the weather affects our being is because we think it does. Certainly I would find it difficult to justify saying the weather came and imposed a state of mind on me. On the other hand, since I already was in a down depressed way, maybe the darkness of the day simply added on to my depression.
Had the day been bright clear and sunny, perhaps, I could have grasped on to the beauty of such a day and its beauty would have lifted me at least for the moment from my doldrums. I think it is a possibility.
Certainly I did not look for any natural beauty in the weather of this day. The darkness and dampness inhibited any desire on my part to find anything good about anything. Instead of encouraging me to look for goodness, the day seemed to enforce my doldrums being.
Now since I can not see how the weather can actually cause these feelings, I tend to say that the feelings must come from within my soul. Had I wanted to find good in the weather, I know I could have. Sitting here it occurs to me how much I prefer a cool wet day like today over a steamy hot summer day. But it is only now after the day is almost gone that I even consider what is good and pleasant about this day.
Sometimes I think we want to feel depressed. Sometimes I think we allow ourselves to become depressed. I think we do this sometimes, in order to allow someone to reach out to us and bring us out of our depression. Depression can be a way of reaching out for help. Now understand I did not say depression was the only way or the right way. I just think that in dwelling in depression we are allowing ourselves to be suffocated. In looking for nothing good in the weather, even being aware it was a quote miserable day outside, I was willing to allow my depression to continue. That is not good or healthy.
So what should we do about depression? First and most important recognize that depression is real. Understand that there are valid and real reasons to feel depressed. You can not handle depression until we acknowledge that we are depressed. Stay busy. Make work if you have none. Find something to do. Get out. Go to a movie, (a comedy not a drama}, find someone happy to be around. Finally if you just can not shake depression, seek professional help.
Above all else ask God to give you the strength to survive.
You know, when you can not find anything to be happy about, when you feel unloved, when there is no one physically present to love you, a person can feel very lost. It is at this time you are most vulnerable. It is also at this time that we simply need to remind us that the one who created us is still with us and above all else, loves us. God will not abandon you or me. In God's love for us is a strength that is so powerful and unlimited that we can conquer anything. It is in God's love that depression can be coped with.
So in closing I would like to describe the day once more to you. For a February day it was delightfully warm. Here in Florida, a delightful damp day like today is a most gentle reminder of winter. Without imposing the frigidness of a northern winter day, this day served to remind me of the pleasant weather conditions my family and I have enjoyed this winter in Florida.

February 9, 1988
My wife and I attended the first night of a "life in the spirit" seminar. "Life in the spirit" is learning about the reality of God's ever present love in your life. It last for seven weeks. For those seven weeks people come together in community to do nothing except praise their God and in their praising of God feel hiss love among them in a special way through his holy spirit. There is not only praise, glorious music, and sharing but also a definite teaching. Tonight's beginning teaching was on God's ever present love.
The speaker talked about Job and the God Job seemed to know. He said that the God that looked down on Job and conversed with the devil about Job seemed to be a God that was kind of mean. This God would say to the devil, "Job is a good man. Do anything you (the devil) want to, to Job. It doesn't matter because Job will not turn away from me." The devil proceeded to take poor Job apart. I mean the devil would do something terrible to Job, and, Job would not turn away from God. God would say, "see, Mr. devil, I told you he would not falter. Do something else to Job." Sure enough the devil did something else to Job.
Now the speaker went on to say that the God he knew, and the God that created us from love, and the God who sent us his son become flesh, was not anything like that. I thought I had examined Job from almost every angle. I was wrong. I never considered the story as I just told it. After listening to this speaker, my wife was a little upset. She quickly pointed out to me she had not considered the story of Job in this particular light either.
It seems to me there is more than just a little merit however, in this teaching. The speaker was not taking away from Job's unending faith in a loving creator God. Indeed just the opposite. Job believed in 14 loving and just God. Job's complete faith is the story of Job.
This speaker pointed out that Jesus was a real human, just like you and 1. Jesus knew what pain, humiliation, agony of every kind was. Jesus came close to giving up and yet had faith enough not to. It is exactly because Jesus was a human with all the pain of humanity that he, Jesus, God, could never be like the God talking with the devil in the story of Job. The basic reason is love. Jesus loves us enough to become one of us and share in every way our pain. No God that loves you and I that much could ever be mean to us.
For me it even goes deeper yet. I believe the essence of our creator God is love. I believe another word for God is love. I also know that bows love is so awesome and powerful and unending and limitless that all creation is an explosion of this love. This love dwells within each of us from the moment of our life creation (conception), forever. This is my God. This is your God and this is the God of the speaker this night.
This is not the God who was described in the book of Job.

February 10, 1988
J was explaining to a man today my understanding of a particular story in the bible. He listened and then said,-this sounds like an autobiography." I thought for a moment and then concurred. I guess what I was saying is that we, you and I, come to faith through our own experience. I could relate to this particular story by applying the situation to my own life. By doing this, the meaning of the story became very clear for me. It became so clear, I was able to explain it clearly to someone else.
I know when we read the bible, there is a tendency on our part to not understand. It becomes very easy for us to simply take the words as they are written, quite literally. I question if that is the way that God meant us to use the bible.
It seems to me that the Holy Spirit came and dwelled in scripture writers and imparted in them a part of a story. In turn, these writers, affected by the world of their time, sat down and tried to put into words their understanding of what God had asked them to write.
Unfortunately the last of the original scripture writers died over a thousand years ago. The world they lived in was so vastly different than the world the bible is now serving. I can not help but think that these same writers would believe that God would inspire a whole new group of scripture writers that could relate the same word of God to the present world.
For whatever reason, we seem to be scared that anyone might be able to write scripture in today's world. I have never understood why scripture seemed to cease being written. Why did God suddenly stop speaking? Was there not one person that God could still talk to? Is there not one person on this earth that could be inspired by the Holy Spirit to write scripture? A more pertinent question might be, would any of us recognize a modern day writer of scripture? I think not. Too bad. Too bad because I know that God has not stopped speaking. I know that God is still talking and I know that someone is writing scripture even at this moment. I also know that this scripture will never in this present day be accepted as scripture. I would not be surprised, however, if three hundred years from now, the world looks back on this time and finds the word of God in written form written in this age.
I am not saying the bible as we know it is to be displaced. I am saying that the bible is a living thing. I believe it is quite possible that new books of the bible are being written right now. I believe these new books are just as important as the "old" books of the bible are. I believe these new books are the word of God.
I also think that just as the writers of old were affected by the world they lived in, so will the writers of today's "gospels" be affected. Just as the people of yesteryear could easily relate to what was in written word, the people of tomorrow will also relate easily to what is being written today. In the future the people will read what is written today and find a way to relate to it in their world. In that world new writers of scripture will come forth and write new scripture for the people of their tomorrow. I really think that is how the bible worms. God's word is alive in us as it was alive in the scripture writers of yesterday. As our understanding of God and his word grows, there will be new revelations from God to man. Man will write these new understandings down and the bible will grow.
You know of course I could be wrong.
I treasure the bible. I have grown to love what is written. The more I come to understand and love the bible, the more I am sure there is yet more to be written.

February 11, 1988
The following is a conversation I had this day with my God.
I thought I heard my God this day,

John, he said, patience my friend, patience,

Slow down and do and be what it is you're trying to be, you've given control of your life to me,

So let me worry about your needs and your family, don't you think I will provide what you need,

Lord, I am ashamed to admit I have been frantic with worry, it seems this giving up control even to you, is really hard, I never thought anything could be so difficult, I am just trying to do and be what I heard you ask me,

Yet Lord, sometimes it seems as though you just aren't there, sometimes it seems as though no one is there, and Lord, my family has needs; I feel their need . I feel their need much more than they feel their need, my concerns and stressful being is our biggest problem, I really am ashamed Lord, you know that I know better, I know who you are and I know of your deep love for me, why then can I just not get on with it and let you be, of course it's easy to blame my humanity,

John, stop putting blame and looking for fault, I your Lord have chosen you for a special task, you have finally started to do what I have asked, you can rest assured, I your God am with you!

February 12, 1988
Twenty three years ago this day a promise was made, two young and unafraid people vowed to live as one. No doubt they had no idea what they were doing, no question their only concern was for each other, the bond that was formed that day and has grown each and every day since, has become strong with love, part of it's strength is determination not to fail, most of it's strength came because of what both shared, this special sharing would not allow them to fail, it is a special sharing that is available to all, yet, often it is the last place a young couple looks, twenty three years ago this young couple was selfish, self centered, know it all and still, even without knowing it, what they shared saved them, it saved them from divorce and much worse.
It saves them even now that they are pulling together, it gives them strength when they can find no tomorrow, I will say this that it has cost them great effort, it is free to all and cost each a different amount, you see what they shared was a strong lasting love. This love came dwelled upon them and was accepted by them, what it cost them was their selfishness.
What it asked of them was they share with all they met this love that lived in them and when they grew up, they gave of themselves all they had of this love, and because of this far reaching love and its effects. They are ready to live their bond another twenty three years.

February 13, 1988
It is necessary to live a certain pain before you can understand that pain? Do you have to be cold, hungry, jobless and penniless before you can understand what it is that you are understanding? Would you have to have some kind of physical pain that is excruciating before you can understand the pain Jesus had being nailed to a cross for you and I? If it is true you must experience pain before you can really understand it, then is it also true for love?
I said I believe it is true. I don't know. I'm not sure any one of us really knows.
When I had enough money to take my wife and children on a two week vacation every Christmas I could not understand how a person could live as I now do. When we were spending $125 a night at the Disney World Contemporary Hotel, along with $50-$60 dinners every night not to say anything about the admission cost to Disney world and any spending money we might have spent, I would have said it was impossible for a family to live for a week much less a whole month on what we spent then in a single day. Yet it is possible. We survived this last month on less than $650. The very last time we visited Disney world a little over four years ago, we spent $135 for a room, $25 for breakfast, $25 for lunch, for dinner, around $125 for admission, $120 for a special show, and a little over $100 on gifts etc. Not counting what it cost us to travel to get there and to get back we spent around $600 that day. I admit that it was not our ordinary vacation day but we still spent" the money.
More than that I used to think that I would never have to take money or food from anyone. I would always be able to provide for my family. Now I have accepted food and money and been very grateful for the generosity of God's people. Am I less a man than I once was? I suppose there are those that would think I am. Sometimes when I am feeling depressed I think so. But for sure I have a new and different understanding of the value of money. Even if we suddenly come into money, even if we have more than we could ever need or use, I don't think I could ever use money so indifferently again. I know what it means to hurt and I have felt the hurt that so many of God's people feel. It is a hurt based on fear. It is the fear of losing your self worth. It is the fear of not being able to take care of your family's basic needs. It is the reality of not being able to get a job. It is the reality of being hungry and seeing your family hungry. It is the reality of being around and with others who are looked down on by their fellow man as less than equal because they don't have. There can be no doubt that who I am today comes directly out of my life experience.
In my case, yes, I had to first hand find this out. I read about it and I heard about it and it made no difference. I was indifferent to the needs and hurts of others. No longer is that true. I honestly think that I would never have come to my present understanding of people had not my life changed so dramatically.
The strange thing is that although there are times of deep depression and anger and much worry, I like what I am and what I am becoming. I think I am on my way to being a Christian. I wasn't before.
It seems to me that yes you must first hand experience hurt, pain, rejection, and scorn before you can really understand what they mean. Yet if you really experience these things you will be changed and once changed you find yourself continually changing and growing. It is a most painful journey and there are times when I wish I could retreat and find my way back to where I once was. That is the human part of me, the physical part of me. The God part of me soon rejects those feelings and lifts me up and strengthens me so I can continue this journey.
You see the most important part of this journey is that everything I do, say, think, and feel includes God. God has become central to my life. That is a major change in my life.
One of the most special things I have learned on this journey is that God became man and endured the physical pain and humiliation of rejection and crucifixion so that God, Jesus, would know first hand the pain and suffering of God's people. God understands my hurt. God knows my depression. God feels my anger. Why? How? God suffered everything I suffer or endure first hand.
I remember when we first began this journey and had stopped at a rest area in Iowa. A couple had put a notice up in the restrooms asking for help. They were out of money and stranded. We had $11,000 on us but gave them nothing because we could not, and did not really want to understand their need. Recently we had $15.75 total and a neighbor needed $5. There was no hesitation, of course we gave it to her and reassured her not to worry about paying it back. Quite a different attitude.
It is easy to say you understand. It is easy to want to understand. It takes some courage to try to understand. I just don't think you can understand until you have some related experience. I know, you don't have to be raped to hate and despise the act of rape. But I think only someone who has endured rape really understands the humiliation, terror, and other horror that goes along with being raped.
I know. Some things you don't ever want to find out about first hand. There are some important things though that all of us need to know. These things have to do with the self worth of every human being. This learning is one of the things that must be learned and understood from first hand experience.

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