Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Lessons to be learned

It's amazing the expectations we create...of ourselves, others, the life that's around us. Either we expect others to meet our standards, understand us and the ways that we work, expect people to never meet our standards. We always have to have a reason, an explanation, a justification, a validation for whatever we do or whoever we are. "Know thyself." Fucking up is, more often than not, inexcusable when it affects other people. But when it happens to us, we're to accept it as a part of life (if it's even acknowledged by that other person). Let's face it, we all do it at some point or another. Either we mess up and hope that people will understand and let go of our mistakes, or someone else screws up and they expect us to let go and forget about it.

The person I was a year ago and the person I am today are different, the same, and related in some way that I don't even understand and can't really begin to explain. I wasn't perfect then, I'm certainly not perfect now. I can give you the reasons today for the things that I've done in the past, but that doesn't mean that I still think it's the right thing to do. There's a lot of shit I know in this world, and while I put up a confident front, don't think I know everything and don't be fooled into thinking that I think I know everything. All my life I've heard "Be the best you can be." All my life I've only heard "Be the best." In trying to be the best, I've always tried to be perfect, especially in my relationships with people. More often then not, in some way or another I fuck them up. I open aspects of my life to people that are sensitive, then I get scared and either retract all together what I've said or I never talk about it again, thus ignoring that it ever was discussed.

Over-compensating. I think that's what it is that leads wise people to fuck up big time. I'm by no means boasting when I say I'm not an idiot. Lacking in common sense, too frequently sometimes. But I'm not stupid, and I have the psychological assessments to prove it, thanks to my church. I'm not sure why I present myself this way or act this way, because when I look at it from a logical standpoint it makes no sense. I often feel that I need to be all things to all people. Not in some dramatic way, but in a realistic way. The perfect friend, the perfect youth leader, the perfect residential counselor. I think it's pretty much because I feel inferior to other people, and therefore feel that I need to overcompensate.

I look at the people around me and see the good things in their lives. Not in a materialistic way, but their qualities. Geniuses, magnetic personalities, good looking people, wise people, compassionate people. The list goes on and on. Then I look at myself and say "There are good things about me, too." Only I have to dig through all my glaring faults to find something that's "ok" about me. Good looks? Nope. Muscles? Uh, not really. Brains? There's something up there, but what really?

So what's all this got to do with the title of this entry? I guess it's that life is a big classroom. Only when we leave life do we "graduate." By that I mean that I expect that I'll be learning about myself and the world around me until the day I die. Each day is an opportunity to grow, to change from who we were to who we could someday become. Hopefully all for the best. Yeah, I'm a little depressed, but I'm also angry, sad, happy, confused, tired, at peace, comforted, and hopeful. Most important to me right now is the "hopeful." I'm hopeful that I'll learn from my experiences in life and take them to heart. I'm hopeful that when future situations arise where I want to make others comfortable at the expense of my own, that I won't enter into "flight" mode. Rather, enter into "fight" mode. Not fight with them, but fight for who I am and maintain true to the person that I am, regardless of my own feelings. Whether I'm gay, straight, or something in between. Whether I know it, don't know it, or have only a vague clue about it. Whether I like it, hate it, or have only a passing interest in something. Life's not black and white, so why should people be? At the same time, respecting the dignity of others. We shouldn't be who we are at the expense of other people, but just be who we are. Period.

Note: I understand that this rambles for the most part, but it's nearly 3 am. Just so you know.

All God's abundance be with you,

Monday, July 03, 2006

Too busy, too exhausted...

That's how I feel. I thought that things were going to loosen up this summer. I thought I'd be spending most of my time outside of work being able to hang out with friends, CPA-ers, relaxing, preparing to move to Virginia in T-minus 5 weeks. But apparently that's not the case. I'm getting lost in commitments, things that need to be done, and feeling burnt out. The faith thing's doing alright. I still love Jesus, still desire to walk by His side. But as far as everything else goes, I don't have the energy. Maybe it's the heat of the summer sapping it all or maybe I'm just looking forward to moving onto the next stage in my life, hoping that this is what God is calling me to do at this point.

Speaking of which, I'll be honest with you guys. I'm a little nervous about moving to Virginia. Ok, maybe "scared shitless" is a better way to describe it. I know all of 2 people there, and am going to be studying some pretty tough stuff. I have a lot that I have to live up to, even if it's all just in my head. I feel as though I need to prove to myself, my future classmates, the school, and everyone else that this is where I belong. And I have no idea how to do it other than by just going down there and doing the best I can. For me, this is uncharted waters. I'm going to be flying by the seat of my pants, hoping that I'm doing the right thing.

I don't know if you guys ever go through times like this, where you're heading into a great abyss, an unknown, a potential black hole, but that's how I feel. I have no clue what lies beyond the current horizon. I have an idea of what it might be like, but I won't truly know until I'm in up to my knees. I feel uncertain, nervous, scared, doubtful, unworthy. I feel like I need to vomit a whole lot of crap out of my system, but all I'm doing is dry heaving instead. I need a whole lot of help from Jesus. If this is God's desire for me, then things will work out better than I can imagine. It's all very humbling.

I guess I don't really have any words of wisdom or inspiring stories to share today. I think I just needed to vent this. Maybe you can relate to some of the things that I'm feeling. Or maybe you just think I'm an ass by now. Either way, keep me in your prayers. I'd really appreciate that.

God's love to you all,

Friday, June 09, 2006

Me, You, Life, and Relationships

"A pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself." - A.W. Tozer

I was online just a few minutes ago looking for some meaningful quotes from Christian authors and theologians and the above quote from Tozer was listed under the catagory "Character". I thought to myself, "Holy shit. How many of us live too often as a pharisee and too infrequently as a true 'spiritual man?' What about me?"

I'm not writing this with the intention of raggin' on the rest of the world, but rather confirming my own need to look in the mirror and accept the truth that there are times that I'm harder on others than I am on myself. Because of the way I am, I have to explore this idea. The last thing I want to be identified as is a hypocrate or as someone who hurts others. If there are times that I've been harsh on someone, I apologize and seek your forgiveness.

This quote also serves as a reminder to me that life is a journey for each one of us. We each arrive at points of growth in varying stages of our lives. I often look around at the people in my life and see that some are well ahead of me, or well behind me, or standing almost right next to me. To accept God for the great being that God is, I have to be able to accept that God works in each person differently for His and their own purpose and reasons. If a person appears to further along in thier journey than I am, then that's how God has led them. None of us should get hung up on where someone else is in their life, or how successful someone is, or how well they've achieved their goals. We all should just be focused on how we're doing at achieving our own goals. Hopefully we're making these attempts with an unselfish heart.

Relationships, I think, are different. To be in an intimate relationship, I believe two people need to be in the same area of their journeys. That doesn't necessarily mean that they both have to be successful business people, or both be students. A woman's goal may be to marry a man and raise their children as a homemaker. If she finds a man who's thinking the same thing, that's awesome. However, if a man meets a woman and he doesn't want kids, but she does, then that's a recipe for disaster.

None of us really stop our journeys until our deaths. We're constantly moving on the path of life. If we connect at an intimate level with someone who's at a different place, it too often leads to frustration, anger, confusion, and disappointment for both people. Some people may have some overtly negative traits that makes them undesireble to be in a relationship with, but that's not the only reason that someone shouldn't be in a relationship with a particular person. We're all built in such ways that we become one with our life partner to journey through life with that person and to share each other's experiences with an intimate level of care and concern. I believe in strict monogamy, but I don't know that there's just one person out there for each of us over the course of our entire lifetime. I think people come in and out of our lives for whatever reasons.

So, to end my ranting, my advice to you (and something that I'm going to try to keep in mind) is this: if you're in the beginning stages of a relationship or if you've been in one for some time, take time for you and your special someone to look at yourselves individually and as a couple. Compare things, see where each person is at and what your lives are like. We don't have to be at the exact same point in life as our significant other, but we should be close. If not, it might be better for each person to go their separate ways.

I hope all this makes sense. If not, don't hesitate to drop me a line.

God's peace,

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Let us pause for a moment of honesty...

So I just visited VTS (Virginia Theological Seminary) this past weekend for an interview. I spent the day with a couple of good friends who are students there and their peers. Needless to say, I was quite overwhelmed by being surrounded by a punch of preists to be. The spiritual knowledge they have acquired amazes me. And makes me jealous.

In all honesty, though, I'm feeling kinda low. I think it's because I see the world passing me by, and it really feels like I can't grab onto it and keep up. I see my friends moving forward in what God has called them to do, and I feel like I'm just not.

I dunno...that's all I've got. I know God loves me, and that His Will for his life will be done...somehow. I'm just not feeling it right now.

Anyway, keep me in your prayers. I just need God to show me what's going on.

God's love, peace, and joy,

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Follow-Up to "Heading Out on a Call"

I returned today from my journey down to Louisiana. We wound up not going to New Orleans. We expected that we wouldn’t be able to get into the downtown area shortly after we began to discuss the idea. Instead, we decided to head to Louisiana let God direct us to where we were needed. Rather, that was my decision. Kyle just wanted to go down and see where we would wind up.

The night before we were to head out, I did some estimating of what the gas costs would be. I averaged $3.50 per gallon of regular unleaded. The trip was going to be almost 1200 miles one way and take roughly 18 hours. I guessed that the gas would wind up costing us over $450, at least.

As the trip began, I spouted out a few prayers: gas would cost less than we had anticipated and last us longer than hoped for (since our finances were thin), the 6 or 7 construction zones we would be passing through would be as inactive as possible, and that the Holy Spirit would lead us to a place to minister and stay overnight.

Let me share with you how the Lord answered my prayers.

We began our trip in southern PA. Here, the gas prices had already climbed to $3.39 per gallon of regular unleaded fuel. The highest price once we left PA was $3.19. The average cost of gas on our trip was $2.59(ish). Of the 6 or 7 construction zones we passed through, only 1 was active. It only slowed us down from 80 mph to 75mph.

Now here’s the cool part. We drove down with no set destination, no contacts, and no idea what we’d be doing (as I said). Well, we arrived in Louisiana, just across its boarder with Mississippi, and had to stop for gas. As I went in to pay, Kyle chatted outside with a lady who was filling up a 30 gallon drum and asked her where we should go. She said if we really wanted to help people, the lakefront was the place to go. The lakefront is directly across the bay from New Orleans. So that’s where we headed. We exited the highway and as we were driving, saw a sign for an Episcopal church. We headed to the church, only to find it closed with no one around. We decided to head into the nearest town to try to find a phone book, which should give a name and number of the rector in its yellow pages. This brought us to the lakefront. We parked the car and got out. I stood on the lakefront, trying to see New Orleans, while Kyle wandered around to check out some of the damage.

As I was standing there, a woman in a blue mini-van, named Stephanie, pulled up and got out. I suddenly felt an urge to go talk to her, but repressed it, thinking it was impulse. Despite my hesitancy, she approached me and struck up a conversation. I told her our story and she said that she works in a local school and last school year had a student teacher whose step-father was an Episcopal priest who’s church is in New Orleans, but has a home outside N.O. in the town of Abita Springs. She volunteered to take us to his house, and that maybe he would be able to guide us from there.

Twenty minutes later we arrived in Abita Springs and were introduced to Fr. Bill Terry, rector of St. Anna’s Episcopal Church. St. Anna’s is located in the poorest section of New Orleans. Fr. Bill didn’t hesitate to take us in, invite us to dinner, offered to provide us the use of his home while we were in Louisiana, and promised to take us to the local town hall to find us work. True to his word, the very next day he found us an opportunity to help out in Covington High School, Covington, LA, where the Red Cross had set up a “Special Needs” station where they were aiding Katrina victims who had medical needs. We were put in the kitchen and it didn’t take long for us to get plugged in to the needs of the community. In addition to cooking and cleaning dishes, we spent a lot of time with some of the victims, listening to their stories and often, just giving them a new ear to talk to.

My prayers, and I know many others’, are extending out to God on your behalf, victims of Katrina. May your days be filled with hope, and your nights be filled with peace.

God’s blessings to all…victims, relief workers, and those who care for both,

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Heading Out on a Call

So now I am without a full time job or regular hours. I had planned on taking classes full time this semester, but that is not what God is calling me to do. I've known this for several years, but instead chose to take the easy road towards God's call for my life.

I chose last week to drop my classes, work off some debt, and apply to a solid Christian college or university for next fall. Unfortunately, several weeks ago, back when I was still planning on attending college this semester, I told my employer that I wouldn't be working full time this semester and now my position has been filled. So now I have all week with nothing scheduled in stone.

My friend Kyle took this week off from work (starting Tuesday, actually) to drive out to California. However, his plans fell through. Now there are two of us without anything to do for the next week.

Kyle wandered up to me late last week and told me about his empty week coming up. He then followed this up by commenting on how we ought to drive down to New Orleans. With gas prices now approaching $3.50 a gallon for regular, I was incredibly hesitant. However, I brought the scenario before God for several days and each time, I felt a stronger urge to follow through with this plan.

Neither Kyle or I have very much money, so there's the question of where the gas money is going to come from. I'm the only one with a car and Kyle can't drive stick shift, so that leaves me to drive all 1180 miles.

However, I feel strongly that God is calling us to do this. I don't believe in coincidences. As Jon Bon Jovi said, we'll be "livin' on a prayer."

Hopefully, I'll be able to use my wireless internet card in order to post updates during our time in New Orleans, but if not I will write them down and post them daily when I get back.

Keep everyone that's involved in disaster relief in your prayers: victims and resuers.

God's blessings,

Friday, September 02, 2005

A Teenager, an Oil Change, and a Lesson from God

It never ceases to amaze me how much we can learn from God, if only we allow ourselves to be open to His messages. We can learn so much in even the simplest of things in life.

On Tuesday, I made arrangements to teach a 17 year old boy from my youth group how to change the oil in his car. It's a fairly simple process, but it's a skill a person can use for a life-time.

I arrived at his house around 4:30 in the afternoon and began the process by putting his car up on his jack. Next I drug him under the car with me and showed him where the oil filter and oil pan are located. I explained that first, the bolt in the oil pan should come off to drain the oil out, then remove the filter and replace it. So, after making sure that I told him which way to turn the wrench to take off the bolt, I let him begin.

He sat under the car for a good 5 minutes trying to turn that bolt, but it just wasn't giving. So I gave it a whirl. After a few exhaustive minutes and finding that the bolt was almost completely stripped, I suddenly realized that I had told to turn the wrong way and was, in fact, turning the wrong way myself. I was utterly embarrassed, but we shared a good laugh. I now had to come up with a creative way to get this bolt off because, if for no other reason, it so damaged that it needed to be replaced.

So I grabbed a nearby socket wrench and found an attachment that was slightly smaller than the bolt. Next, I grabbed a hammer. I then proceded to hammer the attachment onto the stripped bolt. After a couple of tries, I was able to get the attachment to pick up enough of a grip to turn the bolt and allow the oil to flow forth from the underside of his car. The bolt and the attachment, however, were a lost cause. They were now one object, and I'm sure that neither of them are going to be the same after this mess.

In an only half-joking manner, I turned to him and said, "You know, there's a lesson about God in this." Doubtful but laughing, he looked at me and said, "Oh yeah? What's that?" After thinking for a second I responded with "Turning a bolt the wrong way is like turning away from God. We're stripped of all that defines us as a creation of God. That bolt will never be a good bolt again. It's going to have rounded edges for the rest of it's existance. And not only that, but now needs the extra help of that attachment if it's ever going to properly. That attachment is for the bolt what Jesus is for us. We screw up all of the time, but Jesus comes into our lives over and over again and does what He needs to do to make us into what God has created us to be. If the bolt is going to work again, that attachment is going to need to stay on there. And likewise, if we are going to live the life that God has called us to live we need to keep Jesus at our sides for help."

Half-joking and spontaneous, but so incredibly true. I wish I could be this profound all of the time, but in actuality I realize that it's a profoundness that only God can grant when He chooses. It's nothing I have done or can do. It's solely what God can do and say through me.

That's the lesson...take it as you will.

May God grant you a joyful day full of His teachings,