From belief to doubt to love part 1

From belief, to doubt to love part 2

I care deeply about people and want them to feel loved. One of my principle ways of doing this is thoughtful intentional listening and probing questions to help them open up. My goal was always to console past hurts and pains.

I had many experiences pouring time and energy into others in this way. I was always happy and joyous about the opportunity and saw the blessings and the fruit. It was a signature part of who I was and how I loved people. Then I met Eric.

Eric had previously been known to be a very happy go lucky energetic individual. Everyone on campus knew who he was. We had very opposite upbringings. He was raised mostly by a single mother from divorced parents just above poverty. I was raised by two married parents in a middle class home. However, we always respected each others point of view and enjoyed our conversations that stretched our previous beliefs. I was looking forward to my year with him as a roommate.

Unfortunately, the happy bubbly individual I had known went through an identity crisis and began wallowing in all of his childhood daddy and family issues. I was happy to help despite my own identity crisis where I was terrified of who I would become and that our conversations were rarely conducive to my sleep cycle.

He believed that he was a sham on the outside pretending to always happy. Now he was going to live in each moment honestly. He wanted so bad to have some sort of female affection. And many things like that. On several occasions I gave up what turned out to be a whole letter grade in order to spend time listening and sympathizing with him. Worth it.

I was falling into my own pit of depression, but still I made it a point to share in his life. A girl he had been good friends with had written him a letter saying he was sexy. Most of the conversation I do not remember, but this, “You know what she said, she thought I was sexy. Sexy? Me?” He was rather overweight. “She has a boyfriend and yet she has been my friend and encouraged me. She wrote me a note. The only bit of encouragement I have had all semester. No one else has tried to be a part of my life or encourage me or understands what I am going through.”

Of course not. Especially not the guy sitting across from you two hours past his bedtime who was in the middle of spiraling towards thoughts of suicide. Nope no one.

It was at that moment that I realized… People suck. People will suck you dry of all of your energy. Then, in return. They just sit there and do nothing. No growth. No life change. No progress. Just a black hole sucking up all of the attention.

My identity was wrapped up in my ability to help effect a positive change in others. I had always been able to be some sort of a blessings in others lives, regardless of how small. And now someone who I thought was going to be a close friend threw out all of my loving efforts. My care was rejected and the seed of doubt was planted. If they can just throw away all of the care and attention, why bother?

Developing from belief, to doubt, to love

The next several postings describe my journey from love to doubt and back again. I started off principally and without effort believing in people and my ability to love them towards that which is good. Various experiences broke down my faith people and my belief that my life makes a difference.

This has some bearing on an argument that I had been having with my sister and my mother for some weeks now. According to them there is a specific point in time when someone comes to a self-realization. A moment when they become self-aware of who they are. This point marks when they are an adult and able to make wise decisions and frankly, in a place to choose a spouse and significant life choices. My position has been that one is always continuously changing and growing. The moment when you believe you have arrived you have no longer arrived.

However, looking back I do see a distinct change in my beliefs that is a better mark of maturity. I observed and believed that my actions, feelings, beliefs, and entirety of life effects those around me. From something as simple as frowning or smiling in public, to larger items such as telling the truth verses lying. The mark of our life is how we respond to God’s love.

I am still developing towards that. The temptation is to view the mark of my life as how much good change I can effect in others. This is a falsehood for whether or not there is a good effect in someone else the good action I choose is before God.

Teach Those in the Church to Serve Outside the Church

I have almost always been involved in some sort of church service or activity. As a small child I attended Sunday school. When I was in college I helped with a small youth group, and after graduation I taught high school and Jr. High. During the week I brought all of my bible college education to the bible studies I attended and attempted as much as possible to help share what I had learned. When I stopped teaching high school and Jr. High I began teaching a young adults bible study.

In total it was three to four years of being involved (with some gaps) directly in church ministry where I got to see the Lord work and people grow in their understanding of God. Then I got promoted to a full time position at UPS. The work hours have since prevented me from being very involved in any sort of small church ministry. Made worse I stayed in hotels at least two hours away for work during the week making attending the same bible study as my home church impossible.

I feel the pull and the desire to see the work of the Lord in the people of God. I love seeing the growth and sharing the truth of God with others. But at times that has turned into an idolization. Serving in church was a standard by which I judged my life. Since I was not directly involved I judged my life inadequate. Lacking. “God what would you have me do?” I would constantly ask. If my actions weren’t directly connected to his body where organizational growth and change was visible, I had problems seeing the value in my actions.

The idolization of being involved in church as the ideal work of the Lord is unhealthy and wrong. Do we need to be involved in “church” yes. We need to have deep close caring relationships with brothers and sisters in the Lord. It is a biblical expectation. The church is supposed to support and lift each other up, bear one another’s burdens and love each other deeply. However, judging my contribution to the Lord’s work based upon my involvement in church is false and unhelpful.

“Lord what shall I do?”

“Feed my sheep” is always the reply. Been that way for years. I always thought that meant his sheep in the structure of the modern church. Ironically now that I am still and listen, the pull I have on my heart is to teach those in the church how to serve God outside of the church.

The Lord is seeking to redeem all aspects of our lives. Our work, our play, our words and even our social media. I want to be one that shows the church (that is all my brothers and sisters that profess faith in Christ) how we are to redeem our lives before God. Now I often become overly technical and analyze every little deed and word, and I will write to that end. However, it is also true that to an extent we must commit our ways to the Lord and let him work in our lives. Enjoying his creation is just as important as carefully choosing how we live.

Tuesday will be blogs on redeeming every part of our lives.

My Broken Crown: Pride

In my crown I have found another large crack. Pride.

I have always thought myself humble. Even though I am loud and will quickly express my opinions, I am generally (at least believe I am) quick to change them when I am presented with sufficient evidence to the contrary. I act confidently (in most areas… except relationships… then I cower) in what I believe is true because that is all I have to go off of. When I turn out to be wrong; thank goodness for grace.

Although I perceive that I do not think that highly of myself in the present; I often do not understand when people compliment me. When I think about myself in the past I am arrogant.

I am one that is prone to regret, guilt, and a rehearsal of what could have been. Whenever I think back on my mistakes, sin or just choices, I always think, “I knew better” “I should have known better” “that isn’t like me” or “It is just because I didn’t try” and “I knew what to do, I just didn’t care”

Under this is the presupposition that I am better than my choices. Rather than giving myself grace because I am flawed, I prove my arrogance by believing that I was better… and just made a slip up. I could not come to believe that I am dishonest. My arrogance could not except such a flaw. “I was caught up in such and such” “It is because of this” or “I deserve more patience” What I should have done was admit: This is where I am at. These are my flaws. I may be 24 years old but I still have not grown up to such and such a level of maturity.

It is only when I can accept the truth of my flaws being who I am (not some restrained version of a better me that needs release from society, family, or the like) that I can then accept grace in a way that allows for growth. Without this truth, grace leaves open the door for laziness and licentiousness.

I have made many mistakes as of late. I have a lot of growing up to do. I have been humbled by those younger than me who are more honest, have more follow through, are better time managers, love others better, and show wisdom far beyond what I have been able.

My crown is not one of someone who has arrived. I talk about how I could do this or that if only I cared to. No, regardless of reasons who I am is who I am. So I present that my crown is that of a child slowly waking up to the world. Embarrassed, crawling, I sit up and spin the propeller on top and say, here I am, this is me: thank goodness for grace because I am still growing.

My Broken Crown: Confession of Dishontesty

I am probably most proud of my first post on broken crowns. I love the imagery. So I choose to continue it here.

We all live as though walking through a room dimly lit. Regardless of how much we try we will never be able to see our external, internal, and the spiritual world perfectly clearly. In this room we wear our crowns with an only partial understanding as to what they are. I perceived mine to be shining, and with gems in place. Several scratches and dents, but on the whole perfectly wearable. My fault, I believed, was that I did not always wear it. That is to say I know many things that I ought to do, but simply do not do them.

I was approached by two lights that revealed to me the true state of the world, and my crown I proudly wear.

I am deceitful and lie. Four times now I have lied directly to my family. Countless other times I lead them to believe that which is not true. I tell one version of a story to one group of friends and edit that story for another. The person who I present is ever changing and morphing beyond just situational wisdom. The person I present myself to be does not exist.

Even more with the men that I profess hold me accountable I partition different faults to each. I speak of this sin to this man, and this other one to this. In doing so I prevent any of them knowing just how wretched I am.

When I finally have seen my crown in the light it is not polished, it is dented and malformed and the gems are but shards of glass. I sided with satan and wore a deceivers headpiece.

There truly is only one light that reveals to us the state of our crowns. He is Jesus. He does choose to allow his light to be reflected off of those whose crowns have been tempered, fixed, and shined. I met one of these individuals with a crown shined in honesty. I stubbornly would not bring my tarnished crown to be repaired. Instead I continued to hide behind the covers and fake paint applied to it. By the time I finally came to admit my crown is in need of repair, my dear reflector of the light had gone.

It pained me to see my sister post a meme, “A real man will be honest no matter how painful the truth is. A coward hides behind lies and deceit” It was painful. But pain sparks growth.

So I humbly speak as one that must become worthy of trust. In order to see myself repaired and made whole I must do the very thing I avoided. That is with complete honesty present myself to others and to God. It is only in my last counseling appointment that I was able to speak out and say all of the wrongs I had done, and I pay him to listen to me. The journey is slow and tiresome. Lord have mercy.

Thankfully Christ has a plan for my crown and myself who wears it. This plan included realizations as to who I am, who I am not, that my life affects those around me, that I must speak the truth, that close loving relationships require vulnerability and complete honesty.

 

Living in the Noise

Previously I wrote about the danger of busyness. I hope it was impressed upon you that busyness can become an idol. However, there are times when we really are just justifiably busy. Similarly, there are times when we just get lost in the never ending options of how to spend our time. We can fill our time with more work or play or badminton, bad kittens, remote controlled cars, television, cat videos, and almost anything you can imagine.

The never ending options is more than just options of doing, it is also options of relating. our One can spend time with family, friends, significant others or acquaintances through in person encounters, telephone, texting, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, or any other medium.

The question I see is, how do we serve God in the middle of all of the noise? One answer is to simply remove a lot of the noise. I support anyone who wishes to do this act. I find it helpful and refreshing to remove oneself from our current isolation in ‘social’ media or remove activities to ease the stress on our life. It is a healthy practice to replace the cyber with the real communication.

However, there are also those that have no desire to depart from such activities. And as I am a firm believer that we should serve God wherever we are at, that means there must be a solution for how we are to serve God in the middle of the noise. In my current situation I am afraid that I am justifiably busy with a more than full time job and a master’s program.

I can go all week from waking, work, gym, homework to bed without a single ‘ministry’ receiving my time or energy. So I ask, God, what shall I do? Currently I travel for work so do not have a home church to serve in. Most all of my friend are just as busy themselves and so finding time to regularly communicate is a difficult process.

I have not landed on a satisfactory answer at all. However, I have come to realize a few little pieces by watching the world around me and asking God for wisdom. In recent personal situations I ask repeatedly, “God, please help me respond and work through this with grace” granted I have failed more than I have seen grace work. But, I can still focus on responding how Christ would with patience, kindness, self control and humility among others.

In my professional life, there is a disease of gossip and negativity at work. I can live counter to this with encouragement in Christ. So though most of the hours of my day I cannot directly account for or tie to a specific heavenly focus and affect, I can humbly walk knowing that God has a way for me to present my life as a sacrifice to Him.

 

Busyness

In modern America there is a fascination with being busy. Individuals will take on work, hobbies, sports, church, and try to have relationships all at the same time. Even those who are not over achievers and try to at least appear and sound busy. It is bragging rights to say that you worked fifty hours a week are in school and still have time to iron your clothes.

But what are we as Christians supposed to do in this culture? Where do we put Christ? Is he part of our bragging rights of reading our Scripture every morning as part of a routine? Attending church services and bible studies. Helping with a kids service and still attending other services in an effort to be busy for Jesus seems to be common for the Spiritually dedicated.

Jesus took time to leave the crowds and pray. He listened to the Father and spent alone time with Him often. Not on a schedule or routine but on a basis of relationship.

One side affect of all of this busyness is that we schedule God to just one part of our day. We have a morning prayer time or bible reading. We have church on Sunday and bible study on Tuesday. This is far from the faith of relationship that we claim to profess. It is kind of hard to swallow that we are willing to die for Christ and plan him into specific parts of our lives.

I posit this response. That regardless if we are busy or not that in addition to any sort of scheduled time, for I will not deny the importance of planning time with those who are important to us, that we should also practice a daily listening and attentiveness to the working of the Holy Spirit. We should definitely set aside time with no schedule. A prayer time with no end date such as the evening before you can sleep in or before a day with no plans. But also, that we should slow down or stringent busy faith and just start allowing Jesus to work in every part of our lives. From the calendar to the rush out the door for work.

When we do this then we may begin to fill our time with more important things. For me, the leading that Christ has given me is to write. So I write this past my planned bed time (my new planning on goals I will speak of later) not to be busy but to carefully do what I feel the Spirit calling me to do.

Free

I recently took a trip to the store. It was really weird. I left my phone at home. It was really nice.

There was no concern of a friend calling me needing help. There was no, “pressure” to stay connected. There was no nervous checking of my phone for updates or notifications. I was actually present and attentive to my immediate surroundings. The breeze was slight, the sun was setting. I noted the smell of the asphalt and trash in the parking lot.

I highly recommend taking the time to spend time away from electronics. Enjoy the actual physical world in front of you. Not just the representation of it in pixels, or the physical plastic, metal and glass object we call our phones. They seriously aren’t that interesting.

A Girl Named Sue

                Today I met a girl I have decided to call Sue. I was at the store and as I stood in line I overheard the checkout person say in a hushed voice, “Yes, it is a customer. She has been doing it for a while.” Shortly after he said this, I saw who the culprit was, and what her silent mission was. She was very frumpy looking. Sandals, baggy pants and an equally baggy shirt. Her greying hair had been sloppily put into a bun. She wore giant coke bottle glasses, leaned forward just a little and her bottom lip jutted out. It was immediately apparent she was not a member of mensa. Without a meeting her officially I have called her Sue.

                She leaned in towards my isle as I quickly stepped back to allow her access to her determined stare. The magazine rack. She grabbed several, and the hobbled off to the next isle. A minutes passes, and she quickly leaned over and looked into our isle. Apparently whatever she was doing was very important as she let out an expletive, left one magazine, took to, and then moved on to another isle.

                In short, she was moving magazines around for some unknown mission. Possibly given to her by the voices in her head. Or maybe she would say it was her coffee cup.

                On the way out though, a familiar phrase popped into my head, “We are all more alike than we are different.” I wonder if she likes classical music as much as I do. Maybe she would dance with her magazines, or her coffee cup to the sweet serenade of Chopin or Bach. Or maybe she is like my sister and detests classical. She might like dubstep. She may get down on the floor dancing like there is no tomorrow in some dance that must be from its own separate cultural disposition.

                I share this because the longer I am alive the more I run into people who are freaked out, depressed, or in some way ‘out of their minds,’ ‘at their wits end’ and feel as though no one else is in their boat with them. They feel alone. I find myself here often. With my incessant occupation to give meaning to everything I often feel alone. But, but I cannot do that. I cannot allow myself to think this way. Not only is it selfish to think that I am so special so as to think that no human in my vicinity has been through what I have been through, but it is false. We are more alike than different. We are all more alike than Sue than we are different.

Stories of a Broken World

                I had particularly good morning (which for me starts at 3 AM) made toasty by my overly affective heater and filled with contemplation on the way to work. I passed a billboard for the California Lotto. The stakes over 100 million dollars.

Later that evening, past my bed time of 7 PM I was on my way home from an event and decided to stop and buy two lotto tickets. I had debated whether or not to stop for about five minutes beforehand in my head. I needed to get to bed. I don’t plan on winning, but the excitement of waiting to see if any numbers line up is worth the occasional pocket change to me, and apparently losing a few minutes of sleep as well.

                I had a nice interchange with the cashier who has worked at that particular corner store for close to 10 years or more. “I am paying my, ‘I am not good at math’ tax to the state.” I quipped and smiled. I returned to and started my car, my obnoxiously bright HID lights slowly warmed up. A young homeless looking couple was huddled between a Redbox and an ice machine and lifted up a cardboard sign to shield their eyes. The sign red, “Please help me shelter my wife”

                I thought to myself, “I need to get to bed, I have to be up early and need to make sure I am awake as not to endanger my possible promotion. Besides, I don’t have cash on me.” The juxtaposition losing a few minutes of sleep and the last of my small change, and then justifying not helping based upon money and time horrified me—the whole way home.

                It is choices like these that show me how far my frozen heart has fallen. I am thankful I even noticed, and noticing is the first step. But oh how many shattered pieces has my heart become? It is my goal to piece it back together broken shard by broken shard, and then to thaw it out.

                But I am fighting the mental fight against something unreal. Television, Hollywood, the news, and a few unfortunate events have taught me, “why bother?” There are no guarantees that one, or many acts of kindness will make a difference. There is only a tiny flicker of a light holding on to, because it is right. I hope it warms up like the lights of my car, so it is something piercing and causes the pains of life to shield themselves.