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A True Tale on a Bit of Redemption During 13 Months in a Wilderness of Physical, Emotional & Spiritual Carnage
James Lowe - Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host James Lowe - Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host
Salina, KS
Saturday, January 6, 2018

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

This is a story from a recurring guest on James Lowe's Radio Show, and it Just Happened and It is All True...

A True Tale on a Bit of Redemption During 13 Months in a Wilderness of Physical, Emotional & Spiritual Carnage & Becoming Michael Joseph Butler

The key part of this story begins on the morning of November 4, 2015, when I looked in the mirror and saw the Face of Perdition staring back at me. For years my health had been going downhill from a poor diet, stress, no exercise, consumption of adult beverages and total isolation from others despite living with others. I had allowed others to set the terms of my existence and then it got to a point where it seemed better just to complete the destruction of myself by myself. Events had spiraled away from a variety of factors, most of my own making, and it was time for me to go away forever.

For over a year my liver had been going downhill; the pain so bad at times I couldn't move for long periods or was frozen in place waiting for the pain to subside. This of course meant that the kidneys were going downhill and the immune system was starting to collapse.

Then on Nov. 4, 2015 I woke up and my entire six-foot, 230-pound bloated, diseased body was covered with psoriasis sores; from head to foot, just about everywhere. The immune system was giving up as psoriasis is an auto-immune disease that, once it gets hold, is difficult to shake. In that moment of fear and disgust the decision was made to change everything, my end was not going to come the next day, but it was going to be ignominious and painful. By now I was alone as the wife and kids were gone so I began drinking, guzzling really, Dandelion Root Tea, a super liver cleanser, taking saunas and running a bit. Things stabilized to a certain degree and I moved up near the children right before Christmas, so I could work and be near them, however, this proved a good and bad solution as I just worked and was not really doing them or me any good, plus nothing was being done to improve my health.

These young kids were seeing me as this horrid thing and that couldn't stand anymore. Undoubtedly my major organs were severely damaged, but after a couple of months the psoriasis sores had mostly cleared except on my bloated face. Still over 225-pounds, I was in danger and not improving, just lumping about.

I left and moved to a beach community in April 2016; in May I joined a gym that had a nice outdoor pool and I worked and rested to regain some semblance of my health. Working and resting, resting and working helped; then in June I began to swim a bit here and there and so it became a daily routine of resting, working and swimming in bits and pieces, my swim technique was highly sub-optimal so that didn't help. Slowly, during the summer, things began to get a bit better.

By the end of the summer, I began to feel the swimming take hold a little more and my body responded; if a muscle got pulled or tweaked it healed rapidly and small injuries began to clear up. By September 2016, I had determined to not see the children till I was totally healed, changed the name of my company, decided that everything from before Nov. 4, 2015 was dead to me and I cut ties with everyone, purposely hurting some, that were part of the "painful past" I would do this alone; I hadn't consulted any doctors because I didn't need to be told what was wrong; no doctors, no meds, no friends, no family, just me alone; soon I would not be alone? But I had broken my body and lost my soul, what hope could I have in anything?

I didn't blame anyone; this was my fault because I let others determine the nature of my existence with my mistakes and advice from well-meaning people, which my gut told was wrong but which I took, compounding issues across the board. Part of the solution was keep my own counsel, that way if I made a decision and it turned out bad, so be it; no more taking advice from others when my gut told me otherwise; no more getting pushed around; no more complacency; no more kissing ass; no more patience; no more small talk…come what may, for the time being a coarser and harder soul emerged as a shell because, as I turned 59, my string looked like it had been played out and I had no time for anything but focusing ahead…and, by not blaming others, everything that happened henceforth was mine and mine alone, no one else's. During this time, I decided I would declare a new birthday for myself and considered a name change, the former was done but the latter seemed like a stupid idea, little did I know how that would turn out?

However, having that said that, there is the issue of a Reckoning made for one's sins; I had betrayed those closest to me and could I ever hope for any type of Redemption? Was my betrayal to the family, past and present, so unpardonable that I was slated to get the Fredo Corleone treatment and find myself rowed out the middle to the middle of a lake for payment in full? I didn't know and still don't know? I could only take care of the pebble in the shoe at each moment in time and Pray for guidance towards some measure of forgiveness.

When the Miracles Started

On October 12, 2016, at approximately 6:00 am while sleeping, I had a dream that would change everything. In the dream a beautiful Guardian Angel came to me with a message in the form of a cryptic question. We were walking together across a busy boulevard when she said to me, "How did it feel when you got It?" The implication in the question was that I knew what she was talking about, but of course I didn't, and I responded in a puzzled manner, "Got what?" Again, she answered like I already knew and said matter-of-factly, "The Youth!" In moments I woke up and the exchange was burned in my brain and soul, but what it was or meant was impossible to know?

As was my custom, I would take walks late at night to clear my head and get some body movement going. Well, this exchange kept tugging at my mind and rolling around in my head like a hamster on a wheel, was it just a meaningless nothing? It was so vivid in my mind and the only part remembered out of so many dreams, and it kept banging away on my forehead like an incessant hammer.  

Then, on the second night of walking the words came out of my mouth as if shoved out thru the back of my brain, for they were completely out of character and something I wouldn't conceive of, but nonetheless they did and once they exited my mouth I felt compelled to keep repeating them for clarity: "You will burn yourself to the ground or I will crush you!, You will burn yourself to the ground or I will crush you!" I was stunned at such a prospect, so all I could say was, "Yes, Lord" It was clear, a Gift was being proffered but it had a price and a dire threat; you will do this thing or be swept from the board. I came to the conclusion, seeing as my gut instinct was in charge, that it was the Good Lord telling me in no uncertain terms, "WIN or DIE, your choice dumbass?"

What to do?

On October 17, 2016, five days after The Dream and three days after The Terms, I went to the beach and began to "burn myself down" I parked 1.3 miles from the beach, walked 30-minutes to the beach, and proceeded to run two-miles barefoot in the soft sand. It was the most elemental form of burndown, I couldn't run on cement because of knee and ankle pain from years of basketball and running in the soft sand forced everything to work harder. The gym was out of the question and swimming wouldn't do it, so I turned to that most basic of exercises; the solitary warrior fighting for his life in a battle against his Fallen Nature and the Sand, Wind, Rain & Sun.

For the first 10 days it was two and then two-and-a-half miles, then on the 11th day I went five-miles and it took over 90-minutes and the whole process was brutal and taking a toll; my low back was numb at the end of every run, every part of my body hurt and ached for relief. At the end of the first five-mile run, after limping back to the car, I could hardly think or even converse; it was like my brain had been sucked out of my skull. I went to the gym and immediately collapsed by the pool for two hours.

I didn't realize I had gone five miles that October 27th day, really a watershed day for this tale. Under the impression it was about three miles, based on an assessment from a lifeguard, I kept at it every day thereafter…walk briskly 1.3-miles to the beach, run five-miles, limp slowly back 1.3-miles, collapse for two hours, then walk or limp at night for maybe a mile or so. By the 14th day the whole thing was getting rather scary, but I was under pain of death and dare not stop; every night I hurt so badly, my feet were shredded with painful blood blisters, torn skin and broken toenails that would soon disappear; my whole body hurt, as if I had been shoved in to a clothes dryer and bounced around for a while. The right knee was especially painful from an old injury, but none of that mattered anymore…

…and every night I would say "Dear Lord, I can't go tomorrow," and every morning I would wake up and be healed enough to go and went, and this painful process continued for 40-Days and Nights…After about the 16th day I figured out it was five-miles and was relieved and proud, because now I knew why I had to collapse afterwards and couldn't believe I was running five-miles in the soft sand. The memory and feeling of hitting the 100-mile mark on November 13, 2016, Day 28 with 2 days of rest, is still vivid in my mind as I couldn't believe the process was still moving forward.

A realization of just how far my body had fallen away from any semblance of good health or physical condition drove me to keep grinding away to some unknown goal in some unknown future? In retrospect, I had entered a form of physical and spiritual boot camp, however, a move towards "dropping on request" was, in my present state, akin walking off a pier with cement shoes. Abusing my body, mind and soul to the edge of destruction was obviously going to make this prescription for Healing Written from the Beyond a tough one to fill.  

I covered 145-miles by running 35 out of 40 days and the pattern just described took place every night, proclaiming tomorrow was impossible and being able to go again and again and again. I would wake up, test my legs and say, "Ok Lord, time to go again" I had gotten thin rubber Sand Sox but it only helped slightly as my feet were fit to be declared an official "federal disaster area" I popped the blisters with paper clips, slathered the open wounds with antibiotic cream and bandaged them up for the next go around, but by the end of the run the dirty sand was embedded inside the raw skin and needed a soaking for cleaning and tending to again. After walking at night, the socks were generally blood stained from leaking blood blisters…

…It was "My 40-Days in a Wilderness of Pain and Uncertainty" and the mandate to "Burn Yourself to the Ground" had started; the trainers at the gym told me I was psychotic and would break, the fitness geeks who heard what I was doing, as I soaked my wounds in the jacuzzi, said I was nuts and would break, but I knew better and would not listen to the naysayers, would not take advice that went against my gut instinct and belief that the Good Lord Had Given Me a Gift  and that nothing less than creating physical, emotional and spiritual carnage would satisfy Him enough for me to continue forward and, hopefully, survive to live again!

I don't how I knew this, I just knew it without really having to think about it; I just saw it without having to look for it. Walking at night, or limping at night, I would often say again and again, "Yes, Lord, I will do what is required of me," or Pray for Him to Give me the Strength and Fortitude to Continue.  

On the 41st day, November 26, 2016, I could go no more; the body was spent, and the energy meter was blinking red. However, a passage thru a veil towards the next level was breached, a foundation in mind and body set in a manner which revealed an ability to absorb continual blows of painful torment which may get worse as the stakes increased towards Final Jeopardy? A small, yet significant change made as the Rubicon had been crossed to signal there was no turning back. I kept thinking about The Dream: "How Did You Feel When You Got It?, Got What?, The Youth" And The Terms, "You Will Burn Yourself to the Ground or I Will Crush You" It was only a beginning.

About soft sand running: The beach in question had little foot traffic and lifeguard, municipal trucks and sifters were always running around to create flat, deepened tracks or wide swaths of smooth surfaces for running. This is vital because ankles and knees are less likely to turn and twist and thus tweak muscles, ligaments or cartilage. The search for fresh truck tracks or other paths of flat surface was never ending. Not only are calves, thighs, hips, low-back and feet getting challenged, but the upper back and shoulders are involved as the motion of swinging the arms for momentum is in the picture. Essentially each run day was 90-minutes of five 18-minute miles that continually forced everything involved to break down and rebuild. 

In early December 2016 the rains came to Southern California like they hadn't for ten years; the result no running because the beaches were destroyed from high-surf and the sand was too hard, but the Heavens Opening Up offered an opportunity. It was cold and rainy for over two-months and the pool at the gym was empty most of the time. I picked up some lessons from local swim jocks and proceeded to swim, swim, swim and swim more, even in the pouring rain, even when the pool was a temporary bone chilling 68-degrees, even when sick with a nasty flu virus that lasted five weeks. If I wasn't meant to break from the 40-Days in the Wilderness of Pain and Uncertainty, then I was determined to risk it all knowing I would not break from anything else, WIN or DIE, your choice dumbass!

The freestyle swim technique is the easiest to learn but the hardest to master, so during that time I concentrated on mastering it and by mid-February 2017, four-months into the process, my mind and body had evolved as the back and shoulder muscles got stronger from swimming over 1,000 laps in those ten weeks. However, I was what trainers call "skinny fat" Having shed 12-pounds or so I had added a bit of decent muscle foundation, but running and swimming won't burn lots of fat and no strength or intense cardio training meant no muscle toning to burn more fat; fit muscle burns fat just staying still. I started at minus-500 and was doing what was at my disposal, and it was working Praise the Lord. The mindset of determination became ingrained and a belief this was a Gift from God grew daily.

On February 23, the running five-miles in the soft sand began again; but this time it would be four days on, three days off to heal up and swim. And this time swimming, anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes, was an everyday part of the scheme while still walking at night and saying, "Yes Lord, please help me Lord" or "I've been to The Promised Land Reverend, and I've seen the Light of God in my eyes, and they're both beautiful, testify"  

Each running day was nearly 10-miles of locomotion; 1.3-miles walking to and from beach, five-miles running and a mile or more walking at night. My feet got torn to shreds again and the ripping toenails got worse while those awful blood blisters came back with a vengeance; again, my body hurt all over and the painful right knee had to be protected along with many pangs of doubt which had to be overridden by Faith and Belief in The Mission as Transmitted.

This time I did 140-miles running 28 out of 47 days and it was all pain on top of pain on top of pain; more like emotional and physical carnage interlaced with spiritual healing. Was this payment for sins against My Family and God in form of pain and suffering? Confession wasn't going to cut the mustard this time; it appeared the Reckoning, as it unfolded and continued, meant my sins were being Burnt and Purged Away in comprehensive corporeal torment to dress down and rebuild a Fallen Soul who must pay dearly for hurting those closest.

How often the images of my children flashed thru my mind during those lonely hours pumping through the burning sand, how often I felt sick in my heart at hurting them, but I couldn't return until the time was right, and I was given Permission to Return. Or maybe I would never be given Permission from Him to see them again?   

For over two years I had kept my head mostly shaved or close to it; I decided it was time to grow my hair back and it came in really soft, like when I was a teenager, totally opposite of the broom like hair which had existed on my head for decades. And another weird and rather scary development took place around this time; all my body hair vanished, everywhere; arms, legs, chest, etc. I was freaked out, what was going on? Was it part of an illness? I resembled one of those bizarre hairless cats and it disturbed me to no end. However, I couldn't dwell on it too much at the time.

And the psoriasis sores and red blotches on my face persisted, they wouldn't clear up and this worried me. Then I remembered a story I read by the great Second World War GI correspondent Ernie Pyle about a British reporter he knew who, after recovering in hospital from malaria, ended up with the Allied troops in North Africa prepping for the invasion of Sicily in 1943. When this man showed up he was a skeletal wreck, so he laid down in the hot African sands, baking in the sun for weeks on end just resting and letting the sun heal his body. And it worked. I sun baked my face till it got burned rather nicely, then I peeled off multiple layers of skin, like a movie mask, and with it the psoriasis sores and blotches came off and didn't return. Thanks Ernie, I remember reading in his column that the British reporter met his end during the invasion of Normandy in 1944, as did Ernie Pyle on an island just off Okinawa in 1945.  

On April 10th I pulled a right calf-muscle, it hurt bad and it took me over an hour to slowly limp back. This ended the second block of running and the totals were as follows; from October 17th to April 10th it was 315-miles running in the soft sand; two intense 140 and 145-mile boot camp style blocks with five-mile days spread out in between. A wall was broken thru at about the 280-mile mark; rather than running slump shouldered with head looking down, which had been the case from day one, I started running with head up, shoulders square and back straight while moving powerfully through the soft sand; not running faster just stronger and more efficiently. Swimming had added strength to the back and shoulders and this was helping, plus I wasn't collapsing after running anymore and that was a relief.

Becoming Michael Joseph Butler

From the beginning of running in October, a young girl at the club kept me suppled in band aids and antibiotic cream from the club's first aid kit; when she saw me limping by the front desk she knew what was required and was sweet about it. Carina Gill is her name and she knew my birth name because I paid her club dues on a few occasions and for months the first aid parade went on and on. Well, on March 7, 2017 at 9:30 pm, as I was sitting near the front desk resting and putting on my shoes, Carina got this interesting smile on her face and asked, "Are you Michael?" I replied, like a mumbling Jimmy Stewart, "no, no, no, my name is Brad," and didn't think much of the exchange.

Walking later that night, it was like getting hit in the forehead with a baseball bat, "Oh My, Yes, I am Michael, that is the Baptism name given to me by God!" I stopped in my tracks and declared, "Lord Have Mercy, how could this be?" From that moment on I reversed my previous decision regarding the name change and decided my new name was Michael, well I hadn't decided the matter and that knowing yet not knowing smile of Carina's on that night is burned in my brain and soul.

Carina knew me, and she didn't ask are you Bill, Jimmy or Fred? Carina Gill picked, or had it placed in her mind, the one name that would make total sense and matter the most, the one given to me when I was Baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church. Was this validation for months of grinding? Was this a message from God that He was Pleased? Well, you tell me!

I told a good friend that my new name was Michael, he advised me against doing such a thing and then I knew it was absolutely the right thing to do. I would not listen to him but do what gut instinct was signaling from such a curious occurrence at this most opportune time.   

I took the middle name of Joseph because, while documenting a True Life in God Holy Land Pilgrimage with 700 Christians in September 2013, I had gotten a private tour with TLIG Founder Vassula Ryden, whose book Heaven is Real, But So Is Hell I helped promote, of St. Joseph's Tomb in Nazareth. Four-stories below a French Convent School and one block from the Cathedral of the Annunciation, this Tomb was only discovered about 150 years ago, hidden for nearly 2,000 years, and after my visit a British archeologist determined this place is probably where The Lord Jesus Christ was raised as a child because it was Joseph's home and workshop.

I became Michael Joseph Butler on March 7, 2017, five months after The Dream and The Terms and in the midst of the pain of being born Anew.

More Running & Re-Discovery of My Real Birthday

During the month of healing the right calf muscle, during which time I worked out on the Elliptical machines and swam, I managed a few run days and hit the 350-mile mark on May 26th, a nice milestone but with a sore hamstring I needed to heal up before continuous running might commence.  

On June 20th the five-miles running in the soft sand began again and this time I did 130-miles running 26 out of 48 days and it ended on August 6th, when my right knee became severely inflamed from an IT Band strain after I tried to play Walter Payton in real deep sand. I didn't know it at the time, but this ligament runs from the hip to the outside of the knee and it became inflamed at the knee, which swelled up like grapefruit. This is key to a later part of the story. I was just short of 500-miles but decided to round up because running in the soft sand on the beaches involves zigging and zagging and not running in a straight line, so I am sure the 500-mile mark was met and surpassed. At the time I didn't know the days of soft sand running, for the time being, were at an end.  

Again, it was the pattern of running four straight days on and then three days off to heal. Swimming, sometimes twice a day, was in the mix and providing a terrific aspect to the whole picture. By now my freestyle technique had become refined and I moved smoothly and powerfully thru the water, and with the proper form the lateral back and shoulder muscles got fully engaged. This was a terrific feeling and some members inquired where by expertise derived from, that felt good and got a Tiger Woods fist pump.     

This final boot camp block of running really showed how strong I had become; it was a whole new world of strength and movement, I had truly burned myself to the ground and was emerging physically, emotionally, spiritually as a different individual. I began to say and do things I would never have considered previously, to my benefit and detriment. All of it came from a conviction to be strong and not get pushed around that was being inculcated as part of my personality, put there through the welter of pain and sacrifice and borne from Faith that my Lord and Savior hadn't saved me from Perdition to take crap from anyone. I would say, "I didn't come back from the dead to take your garbage, goodbye"

A note about running gait analysis: When the running first started the Sand Sox, which generally lasted about 60-miles or so, would split along the bottom right or left edges. However, as time went on and the muscles changed they began to split in the middle, a rather interesting development

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