Fighting Dragons

challenges and encouragments from daily Christian living in a fallen world

A time to act

‘T would be prudent indeed yes wise of me to find an empty stage and be the supple sage I was once but long since abandoned

‘neath warm canons of lights making spangled sights before the weary souls coming out in droves to escape their beleaguered  lives

Spinning reels of laughter like a master craftsman making peace with life’s sweet masterpiece of tragedy and comedy through a war of words and songs

All to the gain of those who remain ‘til the final curtain call which thunders down alike the fall rendering null the sweet escape

‘fore turning back to face their ratty race they declare their adoration and their ovation rains upon the stage moving the players to bow once more

Ah to ride the rake and trip the trap and prep the props and learn the lines one… by one… by one

To tell the prince goodnight and call plagues upon pickled herrings.  To gallantly gallop alongside Sancho and cry God for Harry for England and St George!

Oh to tread the hallowed ground once more.

Perhaps it is time.

Perhaps.

Powerless

here i go I’m fallin down again

thought I’d finally drawn a line in the sand

but I was wrong

yeah i was wrong

I know my hope should rest in the Lord

when I don’t wana face the pain I find in the world

but I’d rather be numb

yeah I wana be numb

numb to the sadness anger and fear

numb to the hurt left unattended for years

numb to the gladness guilt and the shame

numb to the loneliness that strikes like a plague

 

there I go I’m drinkin poison again

feedin the lion who will kill when He can

I’m so dumb

And I’m still numb

numb to the sadness anger and fear

numb to the hurt left unattended for years

numb to the gladness guilt and the shame

numb to the loneliness that strikes like a plague

 

I’m powerless

all I wana do is break down and cry

I’m powerless

tears won’t come no matter how hard I try

I’m powerless

God resurrect the voice I’ve buried inside

I’m powerless

Teach me to feel again

 

The Trail

Every day I walk the trail. My hike begins when my feet leave my bed and it ends when my head is laid down at night. The trail varies in pitch and difficulty. Some sections are well worn and present little in the way of obstacles, while others are strewn with hazards that dog my every step. Along one side of the trail is the sheer face of the mountain up which I climb toward the precious prize which God has promised me. Opposite lies what the old timers call, “the ditch”. It is a sheer drop off the side of the mountain.

When I first began to hike the trail, instinct kept me close to the side with the mountain’s face. A stubbed toe or hapless stumble would send me flinging toward solid rock. I’d stretch wide and embrace the earth just to reassure myself I had not careened off the far edge into oblivion. After some years hiking this way it came to be that rocks no longer seemed to stub me, boulders no longer seemed to slow me, ice no longer seemed to slip me and I looked less and less to the mountain’s side of the trail. Comfort bred complacency.

With my feet finding no challenge in their steps, they gave my eyes free range to wander. Wander my eyes did and oh the pleasurable sights that they beheld: soaring birds, stars at twilight and rainbows after storms. Such sights were a welcomed escape from the monotony of focusing intently on the trail ahead. I quickly learned, however the importance of studying the trail. I was marveling at the way a hawk seems to hover effortlessly when it has caught an updraft just right, when suddenly my left foot kept dropping well after the point I expected it to contact terra firma. I toppled sideways as I realized, with horror, that as I’d walked and watched the hawk, I’d drifted aimlessly to the side with the sheer drop and right off its edge.

I clawed for earth for what seemed like minutes until I crashed down upon my side. Feeling as though I’d been socked right in the gullet, I gasped in mouthfuls of air. Suddenly firm, strong hands gripped me about my shoulders and stood me up on my feet. Still gasping, I managed a measly, “Thanks”.

“You’re lucky that’s all you got; the wind knocked out of you! Now don’t go over the edge again or you’ll hurt yourself or worse,” said a strange shrewd man who, without another word, bounded off down the trail.

I thought, “He’s quite right I ought to be more careful”. And I was for a spell. Yet, as it was, I inevitably found myself distracted again by the pleasurable sights on the other side of the trail away from the tedious mountain’s face. Consequently falling became a bit of a habit. I could go for a while, sometimes weeks, without a spill but eventually, fatefully, I would succumb to the irresistible pull of what laid beyond the edge and it would draw me witlessly into the abyss. Bumps became bruises, bruises became gashes. Every fall landed me farther back on the trail and I had to retread countless miles. In this manner falls were agitating but not enough so as to deter me from granting my eyes license to wander yet again. Until, that is, my first major fall.

Like all the others it came upon me suddenly and without warning. One moment I was striding along and the next I was careening downward. Only this time I didn’t fall a bit, I plunged and landed not on the trail but on a boulder in the trail.  I can’t be certain what all broke but the sound my body made when it contacted solid stone was sickening. Quickly, my mind abandoned consciousness and I knew not the world.

How long I was out, I can’t be sure. When I awoke I dragged myself off the boulder and to the mountain’s face. There my first excruciating recovery journey began. As I remained helplessly on the side of the trail, many hikers came upon me.  Some dressed my wounds, some fed me, some passed by without so much as a glance and some stayed at my side for days. The message anyone who spoke to me delivered: “Be more careful”.

Yes of course, that was it. I had been reckless and stupid. With a bit more focus and self discipline I would study the trail ahead and resist the temptations that lurked beyond the edge. Healed, humbled and acutely aware of the danger a fall could present, I set out with a renewed resolve never to fall again. I made it thirteen months. In a moment of utter insanity thirteen months of disciplined hiking went out the window.

I had come upon another hiker and as we shared a similar pace and both rather liked the notion of company we agreed to buddy up for a spell. At first it was a okay, as we walked close together in order to share discussions. As we became increasingly comfortable with silence I found my buddy’s eyes wandering perilously and I cautioned him against his wanderlust lest he go over the edge as I had done. He assured me he had no desire to see I or he go over the edge, yet insisted one could enjoy the view without real fear of danger. “Just don’t walk off the bloody cliff man,” he said casually. I thought, it really is pretty obvious where the edge is. Surely I could sneak a peek at the grand scenery without being drawn too close. After all I’d gone thirteen months watching nothing but dirt pass beneath my feet and sky pass overhead. I deserved a bit of treat didn’t I? So I let my eyes drift aloft and around and oh the sublime scene they beheld. A storm was roaring about an adjacent mountain. Great bolts of lightning danced within the thunderhead. It was delicious to my deprived senses. I was in a moment, intoxicated. Intoxicated so much so that I never noticed the trail bending, my feet maintaining course or my friend’s moment too late cry of, “watch it!” that was the last thing I knew before I was bewildered and falling.

My crash pad this time was not even the trail, but a precipice jutting out from the mountain’s face. I knew if the source of the agony I felt wasn’t enough to end me I would simply starve to death as no one would see me here. Wincing and whimpering piteously I mustered no resistance to the darkness that enveloped me. I welcomed the end, believing anything up to and including death was better than to exist in such misery. I had fallen. I was an idiot. I deserved to be destroyed.

Such were the thoughts that occupied my tormented mind as I awaited death. Agony was interrupted abruptly when a man appeared literally out of the sky. Certain I was experiencing a hallucination and further convinced of my impending demise, I was reluctant to respond to the soothing voice which greeted me, “Hello there! You’ve had quite a fall. Don’t try to move just yet. Let’s have a look at you”.

So this is it, I thought. One is greeted by angels when one dies.

As if reading my mind the man assured me, “You may think you’re seeing things. You’re heads taken a fine lick. No worries. We’ll have you out of here in a jiffy”. After poking and prodding a bit and talking quietly to himself as he harnessed me, he disappeared into the sky once more. With a start I found myself lifted upward. My senses, that had long since dissipated, rushed back announcing their arrival with searing pain and the realization that I was not indeed perished. The minutes it took to hoist me felt like days and were not without discomfort, yet when I was hauled over a ledge and found myself lying on the trail once more I felt intense relief. With what little strength I could muster I managed the words, “Who are you?”

“Ah sorry I suppose I was a bit distracted down there and forgot to introduce myself. Call me Silas”.

Tearfully, I thanked him.

“No worries man. Falling is part of the journey”.

“Ha, I laughed sardonically. I doubt you’ve fallen quite that far”.

“Don’t fool yourself, he said. Everyone falls. Now some folks after they fall keep doing as they’ve done before and find themselves in the same fix again. But there’s a better way to walk the trail for those willing to learn. There now I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get you comfortable and see to dressing your wounds”.

“Why are you doing all this?” I muttered through pained gasps as he sat me upright against the mountain’s face.

“Because someone once did the same for me” he replied with a kind reassuring smile.

So began my first season with a true traveling companion on that life changing stretch of the trail. Days passed and I slowly healed. Silas helped to pass the time by telling me his story, eerily similar to mine, fraught with falls, well meaning travelers who offered admonitions void of guidance, ambivalent passers-by apathetic to his fate and finally the pivotal event that changed the way he walked the trail. He described the day a man had found him in much the same shape he’d discovered me and rather than offering the weary advice we both had heard countless times, “Don’t fall anymore”, taught him how to walk a new way. That new way, which Silas practiced and preached, was odd. “It began, he said, with acknowledging that I want to fall”.

“But I don’t want to fall” I protested.

“You don’t want the pain that accompanies the fall. Rest assured you want to go over the edge. Why else do keep longing and looking for what lies in the ditch?”

It seemed absurd and felt unnatural to say, but something within me proclaimed peace when I finally said it. “I want to fall”.

“There now, Silas declared, if you start each day stating that simple fact you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to resist the allure of all that lies beyond the edge.”

Healing progressed slowly. As I practiced admitting powerlessness over my lust for the things in the ditch, Silas shared the other steps he took to walk the trail well, just as they’d been taught to him. Soon I was walking again. As we walked together Silas would ask me what I was feeling, what I was thinking, what I was thinking about doing. Initially I was horrified to admit that even as we walked I often fantasized about the soothing sights I’d enjoyed so many times when I walked alone. Yet, I discovered that when I made these troubling confessions, the very nature of which were insane, I became acutely aware that I did not wish to follow my desires over the edge. The more honestly and intimately I described my desires the more real the danger they posed appeared and the greater my will to resist them grew. Likewise, Silas took time each day to share his thoughts, feelings and desires. In this way, we traveled together each helping the other to walk well.

One day I broke from a spell of self reflection, another of Silas’ steps toward walking well, and said, “It must be comforting knowing you’ll never fall again”.

Silas stopped mid stride. He appeared startled, even angry, then breathed slowly and regained his gentle countenance. “The moment you believe you cannot fall, rest assured you will”. His words were firm, yet spoken in love not condemnation. “If we are on the trail, we are never more than a couple of steps from the ditch. Until the day we stand on the summit, we will experience falls. I fall. But if we walk alongside a brother, there will always be someone to lift us up again.”

A precious few years I was blessed to journey along Silas’ side. He shared his wisdom, made good his promise to haul me out of the ditch and taught me to haul him out when even he succumbed to insanity. Together we walked well; until one day our walk was interrupted by weak cries from beyond the edge. Side by side we inched over and peered down. Some distance below a man was strewn upon a lower section of trail clearly hurt from a recent fall. I stepped back awaiting Silas’ instructions to set safety and watch as he descended to perform the rescue. I was shocked when instead Silas opened his pack, produced another set of rescue gear and handed it to me.

“You’ll be needing this” he said.

“But, aren’t you going to help me?”

“I have for a season. Now it’s your turn to help another. It’s the final and most important step.”

“Are you coming down with me?”

“You’ll catch up. Or I’ll find a new traveling companion for this stretch of the trail. I won’t go it alone”.

With that Silas stepped back, set safety and watched as I slipped over the edge and into the ditch. As my feet found solid ground my spirit was apprehensive. I couldn’t keep myself out of the ditch, how in the world could I help another man I wondered. No sooner had the thought appeared than it was chased away by the muffled moaning of the fallen man. I asked if I could give him and hand and he nodded feebly. After checking him over carefully I was relieved to find he was far more scared than hurt. “Here let’s get you away from the ditch and up against the face here”.

“What ditch?” the man replied.

“I’ll explain that later, for now why don’t we fix up something to eat? I’m hungry and by the looks of it you’ve been here a while”.

“I’d like that. Say man, who are you?”

“Call me Silas”.

THE LION

Once there lived a man. Nothing was particularly extraordinary about this man. He lived in an ordinary house, had an ordinary job, ordinary kids, and ordinary wife, an ordinary life. Yet one day, something extraordinary happened. The man was home; his wife shopping and the children at school. So it was that the man found himself with nothing to command his attention and he became, of a sudden, acutely aware of a noise outside: purring. A neighborhood cat was making the rounds. Well, minutes passed and the man busied himself being idle. Again he heard a sound, but this time it was more than a purr. Curious, he peered through the front door peep and he nearly shouted at what he saw. There upon his front step was no less than a baby lion. At once dismayed and even a bit frightened, his mind rushed as he considered what to do. Whom should he call: the police, animal control, the zoo? His heart quickened as he heard the purr again.

“Perhaps the beast is hungry”, he thought. “I ought to bring it in while we wait for professionals to arrive.” At that thought he suddenly began to tremble. A knot formed in his stomach. Something in all this was very, very wrong. “Am I mad, bringing a lion into my home?” And yet, the thought once there could not be so easily dismissed. As he stood and listened to purr after purr he became steadily convinced, he would bring the lion in. He would feed it.

Inside the beast walked round the living room sniffing and looking this way and that, ignoring the bowl of milk the man placed on the floor. Finally, the adorable creature slid up against the man’s leg and cooed ever so softly. Reaching down and stroking its back the man said gently, “Hello there little beast, not so ferocious as they make you out to be eh?” The lion cub looked the man dead in the eyes. Amidst all the downy wrinkles the cub’s eyes appeared at once black; impossibly black and sinister. A lump materialized in the man’s throat. The moment passed. Released from the beast’s gaze, the man uttered sheepishly, “You know I shall have to call and have you picked up. This is no place for a beast such as you. Your place is the zoo or a refuge or some such”.

At that moment the impossible occurred, the beast spoke. “You mustn’t send me off if you don’t want to. You could keep me you know. And I’d be yours and yours alone.  Just imagine, whenever you’re alone you’d have me to keep you company. Doesn’t that sound nice then, to never be alone?”

Feeling something between adrenaline and abject horror, the man sank to his knees and shook. A power such as he’d never known before took hold of him. Every firing thought fleeting through his head screamed, “Call, turn it over, get it out”!

“Look here, says the man, you can’t stay. I’ve got a wife and kids you see. She won’t stand for having a beast such as you in the house. They surely can’t be safe around a lion!”

Ever so gently, the beast replied, “They won’t have to know. I can stick to the shadows. I won’t show myself unless I am called or unless I am very, very hungry”.

As the lion spoke an uneasy calm passed over the man’s heart. Despite all faculties of reason, all the thoughts firing across his mind, in an instant the man knew; he would keep the beast.

Life was marvelous. No more did the man sit idle in the rare event he found himself at home alone. He had merely to call and the lion cub appeared. Each time the man would put out milk for the lion and each time the milk would go untouched. Initially, this seemed odd, but the man quickly came to find that so long as his attention was focused on his new companion, the lion went away seemingly satiated. And the man was all too happy to focus on the beast for its soft flesh felt so good, it’s longing stare seemed so loving and its sweet cooing soothed so well. If, however, the man became distracted, the lion’s gentle purr would change to an almost imperceptible growl. It was a subtle change, and any man unfamiliar with the beast might have fled in fear, but to our well acquainted man it was merely enough to shift his focus back where the beast desired. Granting the beast his eager gaze, the man would sit and stare until, with a start, he would hear the lock turn on the door and in a panic cast the beast back into the shadows. In this way their routine carried on; all the while remaining hidden from the man’s wife, children and friends. Oh he considered telling his friends, but each time he was about to, something held him back. “They wouldn’t understand”, he thought. “They’d likely think me a fool or worse”. No, he reasoned, best not to tell anyone.

Out of this benign routine troubles slowly emerged. At first the issue was time. While initially the man only considered his new friend when he happened to find himself alone at home, eventually the man found his thoughts drifting to the beast throughout the day. Next momentary thoughts turned to fully fledged day dreams. He no longer got to see his pet, he had to see his pet. One by one age old habits were altered in order to create more time at home alone. On Tuesdays he rushed his work to get off early and gain a couple of hours before the children arrived from school and his wife returned from spin class. If the family was headed to eat or a show he would often pretend to feel ill in order that he might remain at home alone. Once he even bought his wife and her best friend a weekend getaway and arranged for the children to stay at the grandparents under the guise of a gift to his wife all the while relishing the fact that he had won two entire days of uninterrupted time with his pet. It was never enough. The more time he spent with his lion, the more time he wanted with his lion.

At least that is, until the first bite. It was, at the time, so shocking the man had difficulty grasping what had happened. By this point the lion no longer resembled a cub so much as a newly shaved king of the jungle. The frame was growing but the mane not yet fully developed. They had been sitting as usual, the man lost in the abyss of the beast’s obsidian eyes, when at once the man started up. He remembered having assured his wife that he would mop the kitchen before she returned. Not wanting to draw her attention to such a simple request going unaccomplished, the man, without a word to the beast, stood and meant to make for the kitchen. At that moment the lion snapped. As lighting appears and is instantaneously invisible again the lion was still crouching on the floor. Not invisible was the brilliant blood dripping from the man’s fingertips. In his hand matching holes decorated his top and palm. Pain, piercing pain dropped the man cursing onto the floor. In that moment the man sat staring in disbelief at what lie before him: a lion. As though awakened from a stupor, his mind whirled and raced desperately to retrace the steps that led to this horrific moment. Finally the man stammered, “You, you bit me”. To which the lion simply starred in reply. “Well I’m through with you, you beast! Right now I’m going to do what I ought to have done in the first place, I’m calling animal control”. At that the lion leaned forward and caressed the man’s hand with its tongue. The soothing warmth abated the pain somewhat. While the lion licked his wounds, the man’s eyes met the beast’s and the pain began to fade; displaced by the euphoria to be found only in the lion’s imprisoning eyes. Like countless times before the man lost track of time itself and was awakened from his pleasure stupor only by the sound of the front door swinging open to reveal his wife. To her horror, she found the man sitting on the floor holding a bloody hand, creating a bloody mess beside a kitchen floor that had not been mopped. But that was not all, she could swear she had seen something else in the room just as her eyes lit upon it.

“What on earth has happened?” she asked.

“Oh dearest I’ve had a simple accident is all. I’m sorry about the floor love I’ll clean it just as soon as I’m bandaged”, the man stammered as he rose to his feet and began fumbling toward the cabinet full of first aid supplies.

“But what happened? I mean I saw something in here with you what was it?”

“Afraid you’re mistaken dearest it’s been just me here”.

“Now come, don’t lie to me. I know there was something. And just look at that hand, why that’s a nasty bite you’ve got. Have you brought in a stray?”

So she had seen the beast. The man’s mind raced. What ought he to do? Confess? Call it out and let her see for herself? Mightn’t it be time to end this suddenly dangerous game he’d been playing? But, no sooner had these thoughts dashed across his consciousness than a larger, more powerful thought pushed them aside: she must not know. For if she knew, all the moments of private pleasure would come to an end and as the man’s lust for pleasure had eroded his faculties of reason he thought to himself; surely the moments of private pleasure were more than worth the pain of a little bite.

“Oh you’ve caught me dearest”.

Better she believe that it were a stray dog than know the truth.

“He was on the lawn miserable and hungry and I just couldn’t leave him. How was I to know he’d turn out to be a vicious beast?”

“Well look here, I’ve got to go pick up the children and when I get back I expect the stray to be gone and the floors to be clean.”

With that she turned and was out the door. The lion was safe.

Time passed and the man and his lion drifted comfortably back into their old routine. Life was almost perfect again: almost. Almost, and not completely, because where once the man would have finished a session with his beast and simply basked in euphoria, he had begun to feel off. Something unsettled his stomach. Sometimes during their sessions his head would throb- not enough to overpower the pleasure but enough to momentarily catch the man’s attention. At night he experienced trouble getting to sleep and would argue with himself over whether it were wise to keep this secret from his wife. Honestly he knew he oughtn’t to lie to her. But, he simply couldn’t bear the thought of giving up the beast. For he knew she would insist it be sent away. “And why”, thought the man. “Its not as though the beast ever comes around her or the children. It’s not hurting them or anyone else for that matter. Why should it have to go away? Besides I rather like the beast. And as I’m a good husband, a good father, a good man don’t I deserve a little something for me every now and again eh? And it’s not as though I intend to keep it forever anyhow. I’ll give it up eventually. Eventually.” In this way the man would stifle the questioning voice inside his head, bury his guilt and justify keeping his secret a while longer.

Such was the way of the man’s world until one fateful day the world came crashing down around him. Sitting transfixed in the lion’s hypnotic stare, the man was too stupefied to notice his wife at the window. He did, however, notice when she barged shouting through the front door.

“What the hell is this? She demanded. Are you out of your mind having a lion in our house? Where, how, we’ve got to call the police or something!”

“Wait! He wailed. You don’t understand. It’s not what it appears. It’s a nice beast really. You just don’t know. I’m sorry love I ought to have told you only I didn’t think you’d understand.”

“Have you lost your senses then? Well here’s what’s what; I’m taking the children and we will not be returning until that evil creature is gone. I love you, but you know this is madness and I won’t condone it.”

The man watched helplessly as his dearest packed bags for her and for his children. He said not a word for he knew she was in the right. When at last she disappeared out the door and down the lane he resolved himself to what he had to do. He had to turn the beast in. He had to end the madness. Boldly he strode across the living room and took his phone. In seconds he had animal control pulled up and then the number dialed. Prepared at last to sever ties with this wicked albatross, he felt a peace he had not known in ages. Suddenly all he knew was pain, then nothing.

When the man came to, he at first struggled to apprehend the sight before him. There was blood; a lot of blood. His pet lion was on the floor merely staring at him. Two mangled lumps lie before and to the side of the beast. In one startling realization it all became terrifyingly clear: the beast had taken his legs. At that the man began to scream incessantly: screams of agony, screams of horror, screams of regret. His screams were soon interrupted by a pounding on the front door. The voice of his neighbor cried out, “Hello, what’s the matter in there?”

In his increasing delirium the man turned to the believable falsehood which had seemingly saved him once before, “I’ve been bitten by a dog please help!”

Much of what followed is shrouded in haze. Apparently the beast disappeared before his neighbor came in, as the neighbor made no mention of a lion. Weeks later as he regained strength in the hospital recovery room, the man gathered that his story of having been attacked by a stray dog was generally accepted. The wounds were vicious but not out of the question for a bully or some other large breed. After assuring the doctors his days of trying to help strange animals were behind him, the how surrounding his wounds went unquestioned. In private his wife expressed her disgust that he continued with his feeble lies, but was content to let it rest believing that at last the man had truly turned the beast out for good.

Now it happened that one day the man was visited by an old friend. After exchanging pleasantries the man’s friend leaned in over the hospital bed and asked intently, “How are you doing?”

“Well, the man responded jovially, there’s no infection and the specialist says the molds for the prosthetics came out dandy so despite my new condition I feel rather okay”.

“That’s not what I mean. I mean how have you been doing recently? You see friend, I don’t actually believe that a dog did this to you.”

A lump jumped into the man’s throat and a wave of panic washed over his heart. Surely he can’t know about the lion, the man thought. He’s not been round the house in ages; why, it’s impossible.

“I’m afraid I don’t follow you”, the man said.

His friend leaned back and sighed. “You know, we’ve known one another a long time. And I happen to love you very much. So much in fact that I’m not willing to sit and watch you destroy yourself. You may lie to doctors, God help you, you may lie to your wife but I’ll not let you lie to me”.

The man’s mind churned. Could his friend really know what he had been doing all this time? Could he tell him? Impossible. His friend would think him mad.

“You’d think me mad if I told you”, the man exclaimed.

“Try me”.

Sweating, squirming, wrestling with nothing less than a savage beast inside his very soul the man blurted out, “It was a lion! I found it on my door step some time ago and I meant only to keep it for a while but it was so good to me you see. When no one else was around, at the end of pissy days, after fights with the Mrs, the lion made me feel better.” And the instant the words had escaped his lips it was as though an anvil had been lifted from the man’s chest. He sat, not expectantly. For what could he expect? He’d just said he’d kept a lion hidden in his home and it made him feel good. His friend would certainly think him mad. But no matter, he knew a peace in that moment he had not known since the beast first entered his life.

The man’s friend didn’t hesitate, “Ah yes I know this beast. I’ve had to kill it twice myself”.

“Kill it?”

“Yes, that’s the only way to be rid of it. Consider what it is. It’s a wild creature. You don’t tame something like that. You can’t quell its appetite. And sooner or later it will devour you. This time it was legs, perhaps next time it will only be a hand or an arm but eventually it will destroy you entirely. All that you love, all that you have will be gone. It’s not worth all that now is it?”

“But I can’t kill it”. The man’s head sank and pitiful tears began to wet his cheeks.

“I know you can’t friend, but – we – can. By God’s grace you are not destroyed and by God’s strength we can overcome even a lion”. The man’s friend leaned over him and prayed. They wept together.

It was a Tuesday. The wife had spin and the children were still at school. The man’s friend wheeled him up the walk and paused at the door long enough to look him in the eyes and give a reassuring nod. They entered the house and took their positions, the man on the living room floor and his friend frozen, club in hand, in a corner.

“Beast I’m back! Come see me”, the man called.

Out of the shadows the beast appeared and bounded to the man, eagerly placing his head in the man’s lap ready to receive his loving eyes once more. From the corner, the man’s friend strode quickly, club held high and his aim proved true. With an audible “crack!” the blow left the lion lying limp upon the floor. The man’s friend dragged the beast outside and produced from inside his blazer a large caliber pistol which he handed to the man. The man looked horrified.

“I, I can’t shoot it”.

“You must, his friend replied. I can help up to a point and I can be with you in all things but this thing you must do yourself. I cannot kill the beast for you”.

Wincing, the man cocked the pistol, placed it between the beast’s eyes and with a muffled cry, fired. The beast was dead. Its grip on the man’s mind and heart severed; at last.

A picture of the dead beast was enough to earn his wife’s embrace when she arrived home. He told her everything. How he’d meant to have it picked up the day it appeared on their doorstep, all the times he considered telling her, how he could not for the life of him grasp how it all happened the way it did.

“You are a fool, she said. But you are my fool. And I love you”.

The man did not magically cease to desire his long time companion. Out of nowhere he would find himself gripped by a desperate desire to see the lion if only once more. When these episodes came, the man turned to his friend who, as he had said, always walked with him. They prayed together on the phone. Over coffee they would discuss the reality that at various times they both longed for their lions. Sometimes the man would look down to where his feet once resided beneath his stubs. In his heart he expressed gratitude to God that he had not lost more of himself. In this way he came to live. One day at a time ever aware of the power the beast might yet wield over him.

In this manner life continued for many seasons. Until one day, the man found himself at home alone with nothing in particular commanding his attention and he became, of a sudden, acutely aware of a noise outside: purring. A neighborhood cat was making the rounds. Well, minutes passed and the man busied himself being idle. Again he heard a sound, but this time it was more than a purr. Curious, he wheeled himself to the door, opened it a crack and peered out. He nearly shouted at what he saw. There upon his front step was no less than a baby lion. At once dismayed and even a bit frightened, his mind rushed as he recalled in vivid detail the sordid affair which lead to his chair bound state. His breath quickened and he found himself almost gasping. He closed the door. He thought, “I must call my friend immediately”. As he turned to retrieve his phone the soft purr came again. Like a siren’s song it lifted him from his chair and carried him back to those pleasant days sitting on the floor lost in onyx eyes that brought wave after wave of euphoric pleasure. Turning back to the door the man said to himself, “Well I ought to at least bring the poor creature in out of the cold while we wait. No sense in being a brute. It is after all still a cub”. The man opened the door and from his wheelchair reached down past his stubs and took the lion cub in his arms. Inside he cradled the beast in his arms, looked into its black eyes and thought, “I ought to call my friend”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GinormaToby

So I make a lot of jokes about Ginormatoby
And a few of you have asked to see pictures.
So I thought to cap off the year I’d finally share:

I decided to type this out because if I told you the story it would all be a bunch of jokes. And while the pictures are funny now (yes even to me), I think the story matters.

By God’s grace I was born in Tennessee. However, from age 4 to 9 I lived in Kentucky and each summer my family would pack up and move to Camp Roy C. Manchester. I had 500 acres of woods and 5 miles of lakeshore to explore every day. For those five formative years life was idyllic.

Then we moved to Ohio.

I hated my new school and missed camp. Everyday I begged my dad to take us back.
When I realized that he couldn’t I rejected him and rejected God. I vented my anger through violence and rage directed toward my sisters and much of the rest of the world.

The difference a year makes:
fat toby 1 year

The only place I found comfort was the kitchen…

And so ginormatoby was born:
fat toby 15 and angry

And he got fatter and fatter…
fat toby 16

fat toby homecoming

So fat he could eat his sisters
fat toby with sisters

During middle school it was not unusual for me to consume 4 liters of soft drink in a day. I could eat an entire large peperoni pizza myself.
By age 14 I had high blood pressure, chronic migraines, and nosebleeds (often in my sleep).
My mother would try to encourage me to change my lifestyle; aware of the long term damage I was causing.
My parents spent hundreds of dollars they didn’t have on exercise equipment. I would use it for a couple of weeks and then stop.
I was convinced that I was always going to be fat. So I focused my attention on being fat and funny and finding whatever pleasure in life a fat person could.

Then God in his infinite mercy delivered me from the dark recesses of the universe known as Ohio. I returned to Tennessee at age 17 weighing 262 lbs:
fat toby tennessee

When I got back to Tennessee God did 2 amazing things:
my dad gave me a book called Body for Life that changed my entire outlook on weight loss.
At my new school I got a teacher named Chief Darby. He was a retired CMSgt in the USAF. He was the first adult believer to speak into my life.

Chief celebrated who I was, held me accountable to high standards and believed in me in such a way that I became completely confident that what he asserted about my worth and value must be true.

And so God’s transformative work in my body began. I quit soft drinks cold turkey. Instead of devouring chips I ate 2 whole pineapples a week. The first twenty pounds disappeared in a month, then another 30 were gone by 6 months. Suddenly I could run without destroying my knees. By the time I arrived at college my physical change had rendered me unrecognizable to my Ohio friends. Yet what was more dramatic than the physical change was the altered condition of my heart which God had rescued from the depths of depression and rage. In April of my freshman year of college, I accepted Christ as my Lord and savior.

With Christ at the helm, I began the slow and difficult process of changing my daily habits and striving toward a healthy body, mind and spirit. This process continues today.

The difference Christ makes:
fat toby tennessee (2)

toby mountain top

Dear Annabelle,

I sent your mother on a vacation to rest before bringing your sibling into this world. Caring for you, carrying a little one and keeping our home would leave anyone weary. For this reason we find ourselves together for a week. Having such time together reminds me how little I truly see you.

At times you hardly seem real. Yet, I find that when I am with you I am overwhelmed. There are so many things that I want for you. So many things that I fear for you. So many things that I hope for you. So many things that I believe for you. If I could replicate the love I express and act upon when I am with you toward all people, truly I would love my fellow man as Christ instructed.

Seeing you now as you discover the world is a tremendous delight. Like a spectator engrossed in the richest of films, I am transfixed as you investigate the common objects of every day life. How can it be that nothing about you is mundane or boring. Your laughter is the most genuine expression and moves me greatly.

There is much that is dark and deceiving in this world. Daily, I am forced to reconcile what is right, good and true against the lies of the world. You strengthen and inspire me. You remind me what is real and worth striving for.

A day will come when pulling every magazine off a table no longer entertains you for hours. When you will grapple with responsibilities, disappointments, confusion and fear. I pray that God blesses you with a child to remind you that life was once so simple and shall be again when we are with reunited with Him in heaven.

Dear Annabelle,

Oh sweet Annabelle to me all your dreams pray tell

whisper them in my ear

don’t be afraid to find your fears that’s where the truth lies

and oh sweet Annabelle what mysteries your eyes befell

please flash them my way

what do they see anyway an old world found anew

and as they wander as you wonder at the things found all around

I’ll be watching waiting hopefully to become your favorite find.

Dear Annabelle,

I was not anxious until they wheeled your mother away. Sitting on a bench beside the elevator I watched as doors closed blocking her from my view. In that moment I felt farther from her than at any point in our young marriage. Beyond those doors was a void where I had no influence. All I could do was sit on that bench and talk to God. I asked him to protect her and bring you safely into this world. Minutes later, I was invited into the operating room. Seated beside your mother, I held her hand as the doctor narrated the miracle unfolding on the other side of a simple curtain. After what seemed like mere moments the steady hum of medical equipment was drowned out by your muffled cries. You were held above the curtain for us to see and like that you were part of our world.

Nurses cleaned you as I snapped pictures and your mother gazed longingly from her operating table. Her eyes pined for you and I followed the nurses’ every move anticipating the moment they would place you in my arms. Once you were clean they placed you on your mother’s chest. After a couple of pictures they whisked you away again. A nurse asked if I would like to carry you to the nursery one floor below. As quickly as I could blurt out my enthusiastic, “yes” you were in my arms. I stepped into the hallway and the nurse removed my scrubs. At the first step I looked down and you looked up. Our eyes met and everything around me faded to background noise. The nurse asked me questions while we walked. I tried to answer and started multiple sentences but all I could muster were insignificant words and sweet tears. Staring at you through clouded eyes I felt for the first time some inkling of what God must feel for us. All I could do was love you. No other action was imaginable or even possible. I knew nothing about who you were, what you were like or what you would do in life and yet I was absolutely certain I was nothing less than completely devoted to you. I saw with great clarity an illustration of God’s grace which only hours before was an obscure truth I held to be true but struggled to understand day by day.

What a treasure that He would give you to me. As you lie now, helpless in a bundle of blankets with no power to care for yourself, my heart and mind fill with hope for the life that lies ahead of you. I pray that you will discover God’s love for you and entrust your life to Him. I pray that you will grow strong in faith and lead a life that brings glory to His name. I pray that you will gain wisdom and act with prudence that you may experience life’s blessings and avoid the pitfalls of sin that abound in this fallen world. I pray that you will know the love of an upright man who runs his race well and honors God with his words and deeds. I pray that I will wear the beard of a grandfather and live to see you filled with the joy I have felt today. Above all else I wish upon you the wholeness of the love of Christ which is the greatest thing you can ever know.

I love you my sweet Annabelle and thank God that He made so generous a gift as you.

Videos up and running…

Check out the video review on the Sawyer 4 in 1 Water Filtration System located in the widget bar on the right hand side of the blog.

Encore…

A break in the weather and a day off from work means I have the opportunity to revisit my planned final adventure that was abandoned due to inclement weather some weeks ago. Tomorrow afternoon I will venture down the Duck River, putting in at Halls Mill and paddling 16 miles to Henry Horton State Park. The trip will take me down a river I have not paddled and will require improvising a campsite on an island or gravel bar somewhere down river. With so many aspects of the trip left to the mercy of the river, this will truly be another foray into the unknown.