The Gentle Giant

Standing over 6 feet tall, the man could have been mistaken for the childhood Green Giant hero of the Television Age.  He let his hair grow long, beard get kind of scruffy, and middle section pudge just enough to make his bear hug just right.  The children squealed when he growled and chased them back up the basement stairs when he had enough of their antics and needed to get back to work in that mysterious and yet wonderful business within those concrete walls.  More on that story another time.

The man was as conflicted as any could be in this life.  I’ll call him the Gentle Giant or GG for short.  My knowledge of him is pieced together from some vague memories, his hand-written journal, a few newspaper clippings, internet searches, and the stories from family members. Call it a great tragedy or perhaps work of satire as he never reached his full potential in this world.  Lord knows, he tried.

GG grew up in the blue collar suburbs of Detroit, Michigan as the son of an auto mechanic and never-quite-satisfied mother.  His dad let his mother rule the household including harsh discipline for the boys of the family.  Beatings, torture, destruction of their few prized possessions, restriction of food, verbal abuse, and lying about it all to suspicious outsiders comprised his private hell.  She destroyed his model airplanes, locked him in the closet, and made him sit at the meal table all day and all night as abusive punishment for just being alive.  The next generation (grandchildren) would be treated differently as would the girly middle child; the oldest brother would turn gay and befriend his mother and father in a strange twist of survival-perhaps-denial until he died of AIDS in his forties.   The baby of the family barely made it out alive when the older siblings were no longer around to protect him.  GG, the second oldest of the four children, had finally found his way to break free.

GG made a plan to marry the first woman who would accept his hand in marriage.  It took a few years after high school to find a suitable mate who was willing to marry him, perhaps in an attempt to escape her own abusive and alcoholic father.  They quickly had 3 children and a relationship burdened by his physical abuse of the mother.  The oldest took an overdose of her mother’s thyroid medication requiring having her stomach pumped at only 3 years old; the middle child developed a life-long inferiority complex from being told by his dad that he resembled his mother’s family more than his.  And this was only the beginning of things that went wrong in that household.  By the time the five of them had moved from the trailer park to their new home, GG was having periodic psychiatric breakdowns.  Experts have determined later that these were likely the psychotic breaks of paranoid schizophrenia.

GG struggled with the adult responsibilities of work, raising a family, relating to his wife, and managing the internal chaos of his mental illness.  He came into the realities of adulthood with too much brokenness to overcome; he was a brilliant inventor and draftsman yet could not control his own mind to ever find true happiness or success.  GG defied the counselling offered and declined the psychiatric medication newly developed that could help control his thought disorder.  He took an extended leave of absence from work and, instead of getting well, used the time to build a business in the unfinished basement of their home.  It became wildly successful in the hobby world of the 1960’s. How his employer never found out is another mystery.

Unfortunately the same ingenuity that brought him initial success 1) as a non-degreed draftsman for a major automaker and 2) in the home business, did not work when he applied it to his mental illness.  He experimented in psycho-cybernetics, hand writing analysis, the occult, various activities of the hippie crowd, drinking alcohol, and more.   Eventually he left town on his motorcycle with some blonde chick for California with all the profits from the business . . .  The children saw his father come and go in a myriad of painful and confusing scenes over the next few years until finally their parents divorced. Their dad lived in another suburb across town thereafter but the holiday visits and false hopes for things to be right never fully materialized.  Eventually GG left town for good and had no direct contact with his family for the next 27 years.

GG sent threatening letters to his mother for several decades, perhaps wrestling with her years of abusing him and what to do with it.  Sadly he hurt his own children as well in other ways. Over the years, the oldest daughter had witnessed satanic rituals, was abused by some women in the course of some psychedelic mayhem at his house across town during a visitation weekend, and was then tortured herself by GG in an attempt to help her “forget” what had happened to her.  The middle child witnessed his father’s domestic abuse of his mother and personal self-degradation as his father used mind control techniques on him in a misguided attempt to try and help his son.  The taped messages he recorded ended up having an opposite effect!  And the spirited youngest boy got as far as he could in life then, as a young adult, tried to find his dad who had left the family when he was barely past kindergarten. His dad’s letter of rejection was found by loved ones in his wallet after the young man died of alcoholism.  The surviving family grieved deeply.

GG’s experimentation with mind control techniques inadvertently opened himself up to the demonic realm.  The darkness in his eyes reflected this in particularly frightening scenes recounted by his children.  Knowing this, understanding his abusive upbringing and resulting mental illness then their own coming to faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, has helped the two surviving siblings forgive their father.  They have found peace with their past and with their dad. The man was simply lost.  He had no idea the dark world he had incited nor the abuse he ended up carrying from one generation to the next.  It took the daughter in particular, many decades to understand this and break free from the trauma and demonic influences.  How that happened is yet another story.  The miracle of overcoming such hell gives testimony to the incredible power of the gospel through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thirty years after the oldest sibling last saw her father and two months before he died, she got to meet with him at his retirement/trailer park in Florida.  They had slowly developed a new relationship by phone before he eventually agreed to a visit in person. The Gentle Giant was frail yet charmingly engaging.  He told her tender stories of her days as a little girl and of how proud he was of her.  He told her that he loved her and by the time of their visit had shared how he had to leave their family to protect them from further harm.  More psychological breakdowns had occurred over the years.  His isolation from family and most of society became part of how he managed his illness in addition to long sabbaticals from work. He jointly held over 27 patents with a major manufacturer of automotive parts and would say that was why they “put up with him” and his leaves of absence.  The woman would see how creative her father was in crafting his life with the fragments he had been given . . . how incredibly her Heavenly Father would sustain her own life until those sweet moments of reconcilliation with her dad could bring closure, bring healing, bring some sweetness too.

Our earthly fathers have incredible importance in how we turn out in our lives.  They are the first authority figures in our lives who initially influence how we relate to our heavenly Father who is exceedingly greater and perfect;  ways that our earthly father can never be.  A loving relationship with both are critical for grounding us in this life on earth.  Even in the absence of a good dad the yearning of our hearts can lead us to the One Who will never leave us, never forsake us.  I do pray that in this story you will see how the “seeking” of one young girl as she became one older woman led her to overcome the failings of her father by filling those empty and hurting places with the unfailing love of Jesus Christ.  Graciously she did get to feel at last, the love of her real father before he died.  Not everyone will have this kind of opportunity; others will experience it their entire lives.  Regardless, we all can be whole no matter what darkness has fallen on our journey through this life.

I understand these experiences very well nurtured with truth from the Words of our Lord in His scripture and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Further, the Gentle Giant in each of us can be transformed from sorrow to joy if we but believe in His holy name, Jesus Christ. Healing and fullness of life will follow us all of our days into eternity.  I love that.  Oh Heavenly Father, I thank you for this story and for Your story of redemption too.  May you speak to the heart of the Gentle Reader who finds these words this day, filling him or her with your goodness. Bring them into the best of relationships found only with You.  Bring hope beyond what we all can see.  For your glory I pray in Jesus’ name I pray, amen.  JJ

 

Some Passion for You

Passion stems from the Latin work pati, meaning “to suffer.” The stem pass comes from the word passive meaning “capable of suffering.” Pass was coined in the early 16th century to denote “the suffering of Christ on the cross.” English also acquired the word through the Old French word passion meaning “strength of feeling.” This has been transferred in our modern times to denote sexual attraction and anger.  (From this website.)

I was watching an interview of actor Jim Caviezel who portrayed Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s movie Passion of the Christ.  Jim has a powerful testimony of the physical trauma he endured during the making of that film.  The movie came out in 2004 when I was in the beginning stages of divorce after my former spouse left me.  I was devastated.  Also within that year my grandmother and youngest brother had died, I lost my home, I had to change churches to begin the healing process (distancing me from my support system), my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent a serious surgery out of State, I lost my job, and had to store my things in 5 places while I began the first of what would become 5 moves of residence.  One of these was after a condo fire which displaced me into a temporary apartment with only the clothes on my back for a time.  Talk about suffering!  Still this was nothing compared to what my Lord had suffered on the cross for my salvation.  But I tell you, I simply could not watch that movie during that time in my life.  I was too traumatized.  It would just be too painful on too many levels.

This week marks the 5-year anniversary of when I first started having wretched seizure attack episodes on a daily basis.  I had gotten sick with a biotoxin illness for 6 months before then when an “alternative” treatment modality triggered the onset of seizures.  (These continued today although gratefully the pattern is changing some again and this could become a good thing.)  The suffering with these often violent convulsions has been tremendous.  Never would I have imagined such a terrible, terrible illness.  (See them here.)  Even the tumultuous years around 2004 do not compare to what I have endured more recently.  Even those who agonized with me during the various aspects of the stress 13 years ago do not compare to what my beloved husband Steve has endured with me during this illness.  Suffering of this magnitude brings hell to earth for a part of every day.

There are other periods of time that I would characterize as suffering:  the incidents of abuse in my childhood.  Some were sexual, others physical beatings, and several involved satanic rituals.  All were profoundly damaging and required years of help, love, and the healing grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ to overcome.  The abuse kept my mind, body, and emotions trapped in various ways for decades affecting my ability to function as an adult woman.  Somehow I did find my way out when I found Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; eventually the pain, the “suffering” largely went away.  Self-destructive habits and negative thought processes faded.  Forgiveness and healing took its place.  I became more whole, interestingly surging even now to a new level of peace as the seizure attacks lessen.  Suffering from abuse no longer troubles my spirit.

The Lord doesn’t waste anything in His plan for our lives.  After 2006, I got to experience a magnificent restoration from the “years the locusts had eaten.”  (Joel 2:25) For example, the insurance settlement from the condo fire (where I was renting an apartment) ended up paying for beautiful décor in a condo of my own where I could rebuild my life as a single woman.  Flash forward to more recently and I wrote here of the blessings that have come despite enduring a serious illness including meeting all of you through this blog!  And all that childhood sorrow gave me a compassion for others that has served me well caring for others for decades as an occupational therapist.  Despite my suffering, I am grateful that my Heavenly Father and Husband has allowed me to see His hand, His plan that has masterfully created goodness from the suffering He ultimately allowed for His glory.  I now believe it was all for my good too.

unyru paper, collage, art, wall, Romans 8:38, Jermiah 29:11 Christian, artist

Collage art wall mural in the hallway of my condo with a self portrait too.

And what about the more contemporary definition the word “passion?”  The connotation of emotional, physical, sexual energy?  Let’s just say there is much in my life now to be passionate about in having a wonderful husband (my “intended beloved”) who loves the Lord and me too.  Then there’s my love of growing things in the garden (from my mom) that has kept me moving forward on my worst of days in addition to my best of days.  I love digging in the dirt!  Perhaps most importantly is my passion to champion the calling of the Holy Spirit when He compels me to:  serve someone, encourage someone, love someone, share the hope found in Jesus Christ with someone.  When I hear the call of the Holy Spirit moving me in a particular direction, I move forward with a razor-sharp focus that consumes whatever energy and resources are available to me at that moment.  Whether it is in the middle of the night making my husband’s lunch for work the next day or baking cookies (despite a terrific headache) for that service dude who is having a really, really bad day.  Me and my Lord getter done!

This I have come to know:  that if the Lord calls, He empowers us to respond.  That is what passion is all about, good or bad.  And guess what?  He made the suffering, all of it, good for us on Easter morning.  How about if we keep this in mind the next time he calls?

JJ

Like a Life and Death Decision

 

Monet Japanese bridge at giverny

Japanese Bridge at Giverny by Monet

 

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.  Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

To receive salvation granted by grace is our greatest opportunity in this life.  In accepting this invitation, we will know Who holds our future in highest regard and security.  We will then enjoy the freedom to live our lives as God designed, as God intended.  Our lives will be meaningful!  He gave us so much goodness to enjoy in our lifetimes:  enough to encourage us when things are not so good or down right evil.  Through it all, with Him, we can live without fear and are never truly alone.  We can live life with abandon!  We can love fully and receive the fullness of love from others especially from our Creator.  Indeed His gracious gifts mean even more than “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!”

I believe in saving grace and it came despite horrific trials.  Many trials.  Years of trials.  A lifetime of trials.  Hey, while my life has not been easy it has not been all bad either.  I am grateful for much blessing and my eternal security in Christ Jesus.  It is because of the trials that I no longer fear the worst possible outcome:  death itself.  I have faced death many times.  For example, on my own could I ever be free in my spirit after witnessing attempted murder?  Abandonment?  Poverty?  Abuse?  Physical pain?  Agonizing seizure attacks for years?  The answer to all of these is YES I CAN.  I can be free and yes I am free in Christ Jesus.  With His amazing grace I am also free of the fear of death.  With that out of the way, I have a new sense of LIFE and I am exceedingly grateful for it!

Lately I have considered launching a new business.   As I pondered the best and worst-case scenarios of starting my own company, a question arose about life and death that is stirring my soul.

What if a customer someday dies because of a flaw in my product or services?

O.k. so you might not be the type who “starts with the end in mind” yet this is where my mind goes more often than I care to admit.  In other words, what if either the products of my company or something related to my design or advice are to blame for the loss of life of another human being?  That person would be someone’s son or daughter; someone’s mother or father, sister or brother could be gone forever!  Someone dying because of me directly or indirectly would be tragic.  I would be devastated!  Surely my family and employees would be affected too.  We might lose the business that we worked so hard to create.  Our grief could make it difficult to recover emotionally in the years thereafter.  How could our lives go on with the guilt, the pain, the horror, the shame?

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There is another, hidden layer to my character that relates to this subject of life and death.  It’s a part of me that I have never really understood until now.  A handwriting analyst in the 1960’s nailed it down for me when I was a girl struggling to find my way through childhood.  Everything in my life at that time had to be just so and if it was not, I was very vocal about it!  Imagine a 6-year old kid criticizing the way her teacher was reading a book to her first grade class!  After all, Mrs. C was not doing it the way that Mrs. B read books in my kindergarten class and that was not right.  I understand that I was sent to the coat closet for such offenses more than once!

I have come to understand that the ability to be flexible, spontaneous, open to new things including CHANGE, comes from an inner sense of security.  If at an early age we are 1) affirmed in ourselves, our abilities, 2) believe that the world around us is relatively safe, and 3) there is love and affection to comfort us (from a parent or heavenly Father), then we can deal with the imperfections of life.  If any of those three elements are missing then our ability to live outside our comfort zone flounders.  We will strive for things to be “black and white” when much of life is simply “gray.”  Letting go of control and dealing with the ambiguities of life is easier with the character qualities also known as gifts of the Holy Spirit:  patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  Further, the gifts of peace, love, and joy will follow for the mature believer in Jesus Christ who can live in the world just as it is.  A controlling person is told to somehow, “grow up and smell the roses.”  I have found that this is impossible without the work of the Holy Spirit dwelling within me.  Who knows what growing up means anyways?

At one time, deep in my character I did not care about the things that I should.  For me in the past, having a severely controlling nature went beyond my birth order as the oldest in both of my parent’s families!  (Bossy sister?  Yeah, I heard that one more than I care to admit.)  There was a disconnect that went deeper.  At the core of my character I knew that I could harbor hate, malice, distrust, anger, jealousy, and much more ugliness than I care to disclose.  Somewhere in my unrepentant gut was a self -centeredness that put myself above all others in such a sick way that I might not care if another human being got harmed around me.  This is a horrible quality to have.  This is the consequence of woundedness.  This is the result of growing up without the safety and security needed to fully bond to the human race.  This also made me feel profoundly alone.

At it’s core, I believe that my disconnectedness ultimately did not come from me.  I believe that this kind of strife comes from our sin nature that is part of the human condition; I just got a boost in the wrong direction in the form of a largely unhappy childhood.  What I would do with all of that was up to me when I was introduced to the plan of salvation through our redeemer Jesus Christ.  We are all born with the propensity to sin until truly loved and trained away from it.  Just watch a 2-year old rip a toy out of the hand of a younger sibling!  Yes, even a darling 2-year old has a sin nature!

Jesus came to earth to re-connect us to our heavenly Father by washing away our sins with His grace.  Those who believe in His work on the cross receive forgiveness, a new nature, and the spiritual gifts noted above.  Unshakeable peace, love, joy and more come into our lives.  Jesus came and through our walk with the Holy Spirit we become freed from the character flaws of our sin nature.  This process continues until the day of our death.  And deep within our character we can heal and deal with all that is not quite right with our world, growing to become the man or woman He intended for us to be.  We can be whole.  As we do so, we can fully love one another, forgive those who trespass against us and live victoriously beyond our temptations.  We can be free to receive much goodness, do many good things.

When someone passes away, a person with a right heart grieves the loss.  Jesus showed us this tender quality when His friend Lazarus died and at the cross.  I know that my heart is more full now than ever before as evidenced by my ability to recognize and feel grief when someone dear leaves this life.  I feel very sad.  I also feel more compassion now than ever before as a result of healing from the losses in my own life.  So while I am aware of the character flaw I once carried of depersonalization, I know that the Lord is filling the ugliness of my sin nature with His perfect love.  I know that He loves me more than anyone else can ever love me.  I feel His love directly and through the people His has placed in my life today.  I feel more connected to the other wonderful sojourners in my life than ever before and it is good.

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If I start a new company and there is a tragic loss of life or injury for any reason, I trust that the Lord will go before me to guide my thoughts, my heart, my actions, my speech.  I pray that between now and that day, should it ever come, that He will grow me in His character so that I may fully love that grieving family or person.  Lord help me to do what I can to make things right should a tragedy come to pass.  Thank you for breaking the bondage of my past.  Most importantly today, help me to design products, services, and educational materials that preserve long and happy lives for others I may serve.  May my future customers and employees see Your touch of grace upon my life as it shines through the company I believe you are entrusting to me.  May I hold everything gratefully, responsibly, and lightly:  ready to carry it or let it go as You desire.  You are most important to me, my dear Jesus.  You saved me from sin and death for such a time as this . . .

Gentle Reader:  shall we start a two step solution together that makes life easier for everyone?  Hmmmm.  My mother was a gifted writer and my father was an amazing inventor.  I have learned much from their skills and abilities.  Ah yes, I see a Business Plan coming together.

Step 1:  Make a decision.

Step 2:  Do it!

Alright.  I’m in!  Witness the birth of Two Step Solutions.  Now let’s go!  :J

Julie Horney MS, OTR/L