Monday, June 30, 2014

Trying to Find God's Will

I need to find the will of God.

I know, I know.  The Scriptures are filled with it:  Be ye holy, for I am holy; do not commit adultery; love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; love your neighbor as yourself.  I get it.  The will of God (MacArthur would call this the revealed will of God) is littered throughout the Bible.

I am looking for something bigger.

I find myself in the position of being able to predict (within two to four years) the fact that I will have to make another choice - perhaps "have to" does not cover it, I will be forced to.  A clock has started ticking, a clock that I am certain will go off within that time period.  When it does, I am going to to (more than likely) be in the position of needing to either make a significant move or make a significant change in my life.

So what is that change meant to be?  That is my question.

Once upon a time I thought I knew the will of God for my life. I thought I was meant to serve in the teaching ministry of the church, but that was proven not to be so.  Then I thought it was to serve in the church in the capacity of an elder, or even a deacon - again, proven not to be so.  For a while I even thought it was to serve on a worship team - but that also was only proven to be for a little while. So whatever it was, clearly I either missed it - or did not do it.

And now I see another great turning.

I need to know - because otherwise I feel like I am just flailing around in the dark, hoping to find a direction when I know a choice is coming up.

And I do not want to miss the correct choice again.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Vintage Chick: Chapter One

Friends - There will be no post this morning.  Instead, I request that you go and read my friend Buttercup's post from yesterday.  It is so searingly honest, so passionately written, so moving, that it is well worth your time.  I really wish I could write like that.

Chapter One

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Home Made

I like things - mostly food and drink - that I make myself.

Oh, not just prepare myself.  Make myself.  Like as in brewing or cheesemaking or growing the garden and then consuming.

I realized this last night as I pulled three jalapenos off of the pepper plant they were growing on and placed them on the counter.  I like that feeling.  Or the feeling that I got after I put my two cans of beets up that I grew in my garden and processed.  Or considering the cheese that I will have to wax before I go on vacation, to preserve it for when I get back.

I have tried to transfer this to other potential handmade activities but always seem to derive the most enjoyment from this.  Partially, I suppose, because I like to eat and drink.   But I wonder if partially that food and drink is such a practical thing.  It feeds the body - and if made by one's self, it feeds the self as well.

I will admit that my imagination is always fired by the idea of doing something handmade, like blacksmithing or woodworking (two things that I do not do), but it is most fired by consideration of other ways I can make food and drink.

Perhaps here lies a potential clue in what I should be looking to do?

Hard to say at the moment of course - my area of operation is small and my time is limited.  But there is little that thrills my heart more than being out working in the garden or preparing something in the kitchen, something that I know I will be the direct recipient of.

There is nothing more tasty than food provided and prepared by yourself.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


I realized yesterday that I miss having a shared thing.

As long as I can remember, I have had a shared thing, something that I worked on or did with someone else in which both were actively involved in the event towards something else.  Playing outdoors, role playing, band, drama, The Firm (and its 52 predecessors), worship team, teaching - for well over 35 years I have had activities in my life that have been shared with at least one other person (or in some cases, 100).

But surely you have activities, you may ask?  You seem to be busy.  And I am.  I have many things that I do - and that I enjoy doing.  The difficulty is that they are projects that are essentially individual in nature.  Even those that I do in a group - Iaijutsu, Highland Athletics - are performed in the context of an individual. And the others - cheese or mead or writing - are all completely within the context of one person - me - doing the activity.

Why does this matter?  Because having a shared activity means that one has someone to share the activity with - the interests, the growth, the doing of it.  One has someone to bounce information and knowledge off of, someone who can directly appreciate the failures and successes that one meets.  A shared activity means the drudgery becomes a little lighter and the victories become a little lighter.

But most of all it means a shared soul - that in at least on aspect of one's life, one gets to share a sliver of someone else's soul, their inner most being.  Because true love of a subject and sharing it is really the act of opening up one's inner self - one's deepest interests and desires - to someone else.  When we truly share an activity with another, we can let our guards down in a way that is both intimate and enchanting.

Not so with regular life, of course.  Too often regular life becomes a series of events in which we bounce off others like marbles in a bag, each of our lives impacting another as we chase our own goals, sometimes almost immune to the impact that we have on others and too busy in what we are doing and pursuing to move beyond our hard outer shell.  It is only in sharing activities with others, having a project or goal or unifying theme outside of ourselves, that hardness of our outer selves can soften.

And this is what I have realized I am missing.

Monday, June 23, 2014

De-Consuming Myself

I had to de-consume myself last night.

As I lay there in bed last night, I carefully took all of the fantasy lives I have accumulated, all of the little secret things I have placed here and there in my mind, those things that I cling to into the dark moments of my soul, placed them into small boats on the river of my consciousness, and sent them sailing downstream over the horizon of my wakefulness.

Why?  I came under a heavy burden of realization yesterday, the realization that my life had become exclusively about me - and not about God and others at all.

Everything I seemed to do always seemed to somehow be done to further my own wants or desires - or best case, was done with double motives in mind, both my own and someone else's.  That is a great move if the idea is to make yourself look better and further your own ends.  It is a miserable move if you are called to serve others and glorify God - and seek His holiness and righteousness.

Why?  Because everything becomes consumed with you, what it does for you, how it makes you feel.  Individuals become caricatures of themselves in your dreams as the center of attention is you - never others.
"Seek you first His Kingdom and His Righteousness" said Christ.  "Be ye holy, for I am holy" said God - yet in seeking my own best interests I seek neither God nor holiness but rather my own comfort and satisfaction and reward.

And so I loaded everything up last night and sent it downstream.

After the last one drifted over the edge of my consciousness, there was a mingling of solitude and panic.  The solitude was simply from the emptiness of having everything and everyone moved on.  The panic came myself:  "Who is going to look after you?  What if seeking God's holiness and Kingdom and the best interests of others leaves you with no fulfillment at all?"

The correct answer is, of course, that God will provide.  The actual answer, the one I could give myself, was not nearly that full of faith but was much more of "Then that is the way that it is".

The water of my consciousness is smooth and calm now, with scarcely a ripple across it.  One can almost hear the sound of loons as they prepare for their evening flight across the purple sky, anticipating the stars which I could have never seen if I continued to look down - and at myself.

Friday, June 20, 2014


Clouds beneath the moon:
My secrets are hidden as
obstructed moonlight.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Run Down Memory Lane

Running this morning for some reason put me into the mind of The Firm.  I suddenly realized it was a little over 10 years ago that I decided to stop everything I was doing - had done for the previous 8 years - and try something new.

I remember the night so clearly that Himself and I walked around and around the track at our local middle school as we did almost every night, talking and dreaming about the plans we would have and what we would do.  I remember that precise moment where He said that the time to choose was now:  I was either with Him or He would move on without me, now hard feelings.  And I remember in that night being swept away by the hopefulness and dreams of what could be, if I was only willing to dream hard enough.

But dreams, as it turns out, are not enough to make something happen on their own.

The money I used to fund it is long gone, as is the house we bought in hopes that we would become accustomed to that lifestyle (sold at a loss, prevented us from buying another for five years).  Every single thing associated with The Firm after I walked away has gone as well, with only a single thing - a handcrafted short sword I bought with my first real estate check - as a reminder that I worked in Real Estate at all.  We indirectly ended up halfway from where I grew up as a result.  Of those great and mighty dreams, not a shred remains.

And those fears of being left behind?  I cannot say that they have all come true, but what I can say is that the relationship which created that need has long since traveled on.  I am sure we track each other out the corner of our eyes, as you would any acquaintance of old - but the old special relationship, the sort of "best life friend" portion went long ago.

And so the thing that seemed to matter so much, that I was willing to bet my livelihood and the life of my family on, came to naught.  The (let us be honest) admiration I secretly craved, the dream I shared, has become moonbeams and ash in a sense Himself did move on to different things and I am essentially in the same place that I was 10 years ago.

The lingering questions remain:  Was it truly worth it?  Or does where you are now tell you that all that valued was valued incorrectly?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Realizing The Hand of God

Sometimes you have a quick view into the inner workings of God, how sometimes things you wonder why they happened reveal themselves.  It occurred (as it occasionally does) this week - and the realization of it took my breath away.

It was another one of those social media fishing expeditions that I am prone to wander off on from time to time when I get to wondering about people and where their lives went - a little looking here, a little looking there, and suddenly I find a trove of what has gone on in the lives of others since we parted.

In this case it was one of those moments where one suddenly realizes "Oh, that is why that happened" - a separation which occurred when two lives ended up taking very different paths.  "That is why that happened" you say to yourself, perhaps after years of wondering why events occurred:  was it something that you did?  Something that you said?  Should you have fought harder for it, made more attempts?

It is sobering - and indeed more than a little frightening - to see God's hand moving in those moments, to realize that He is active in one's life in ways that one would not consider.  Problems or issues were headed off years before that could even consciously exist (not that this is meant in anything like a superiority complex - I am not better than anyone else in these matters; surely has God has preserved others from me as well).

It heartens me to know that God is paying that kind of attention, that He is (through no merit of my own) looking out for myself in ways I do not even yet know issues of yet.

"A man's steps are ordered by the LORD; how then can man understand his way?" - Proverbs 20:24

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Failure of Subject

So today is yet another one of those days when the cursor is just sitting there at me blinking, wondering if I am going to write anything.
I hate it, of course.  There it sits blinking on and off, black and white, the visible/invisible line between myself and my writing.  Although it is really not between me and my writing at all.  It is not as if the cursor is the thing that prevents me from finding my inner muse, it is myself.

There are mornings like this, of course, where the brain has nothing to offer and creativity flicker has taken leave and gone to where such creative things go for the winter.  I wish I knew where it went - it is not as if I had have plenty on my mind or other things that needed writing about.  But for some reason, all of this has disappeared at the very moment I need it to use, leaving me with only a bit of a headache and a blinking cursor.

It happens, of course.  I just need to reconcile myself to this, let it go as I would let a bad throw go, and start over tomorrow, confident that a new thought will present itself for consideration.

But in the back of my mind I still wonder:  where did it go?  Because if I could only find that place and recapture it, how wonderful would that be?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Just Run

Putting aside time
and ignoring the distance,
I become the wind.

This morning I just ran.

I put aside the timer.  I put aside the distance counting.  I just went out and ran this morning.

Why?  Because I realized this morning that I starting to flag in my running - and that is not a good thing.  I need to keep up with it, get better at it, continue to do it, when in fact all I am finding is that my enthusiasm is waning a little more every day.

As pondered this in the morning as I prepared to run I realized that part of the issue was that it was become a regimented activity for me:  get ready at a certain time, run the course I always run, look at my time and enter it, and carry on.  No sense of fun there.  No sense of seeing something different or getting better at something.  Just day in, day out, mechanical running.

That is not a good development.

In order to have the desire to become more skilled at anything, one must have some level of fun involved with the thing:  one has to want to do it.  One has to have some level of "Hey, I enjoy this" and sometimes just do it for the sheer pleasure of doing it.  Without that, the activity will simply become a duty - and duties, as well know, will be cast off as soon as we no longer have to do them.

So I just ran.

I will enter a distance of course and some kind of time, but that is it.  I will not check to see my splits or averages.  I will just glory in the fact that after an evening of pounding rain I arose and saw the clouds and sun - and just ran.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bella The Great

Bella the Great is sitting on my lap as I type this.

Her emergence from her cage has been extraordinary.  We have had her since 2007, a mini-lop purchased for a 4-H project that never really took off, and in all of that time she never wanted to get out of her cage.  We began keeping the cage door open because it was inconvenient in the morning - and she did nothing.  In fact, she fought whenever someone would have to remove her from the cage for its cleaning.  She never wanted to be held and only pet on her terms, when she came up to the cage door.

Until about 3 weeks ago, when she just spontaneously jumped out of the cage and started running around.

Now she has become almost a tyrant in her quest for freedom.  Every morning, as soon as she sees the light go on, she starts gnawing at the cage door (it is closed now, of course), demanding to be let out.  When it opens she immediately hops out and begins hopping about.  She seems to have a circuit:  first the family room in which she is in, then out to the living room to hop around the perimeter before she plops down on the tile or carpet by the entry way.

When I come to sit down in my chair she will hop over and look up; sometimes she tries to climb my leg for attention, sometimes she just hops up in the chair and makes that sort of sound only a rabbit can make.  She sometimes just sits there demanding to be pet; at other times she makes a quick circuit over my lap to the other side and then hops back down and carries along her way.  Just now, she hopped up, sat to my side as I pet her, gave me a couple of bunny kisses (Rabbit for "I Love You") and then hopped back down on her business.

This is an unlooked for gift, something that I had expected after years of having her and trying to convince her that we did not really seek to harm her but wanted to love her.  Suddenly, it seems, those years of trying have finally paid off, and we are beneficiary of the love of a happy rabbit.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


The Moment arrives:
greater than confronting them
is to surpass them.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Shielding Ourselves From Others

How often I fail.

Sometimes it feels as it my personal life is just a series of failures as I sort of lurch from disaster to disaster.  You would not know this from looking on the outside, of course: you would just see me with my usual demeanor, laughing and carrying on as I try to get this thing accomplished or that thing done.  But inside it so often feels that there is a battlefield of choices and ideas going on, and too often I feel I am on the wrong side of them.

It makes me wonder what life would be like if the contents of our minds and hearts were as audible and visible as the expressions on our faces.  What would people think?  How the illusions we have of each other would be ripped away in the reality of how we actually go about our daily lives?

It gives me pause as to why God never gave us the gift of telepathy.  You would think that this would be an excellent thing - mind to mind instant contact in a way that would enable people to to truly know each other.  Instead we kind of wander through words and thoughts and actions, hoping that we both express what we are trying to express and not reveal the rest of it.  Perhaps the lack of telepathy is an outcome of The Fall, a privilege that we are now denied.  Or perhaps it is simply a protection God put into place to protect us from having to regularly engage others in an overwhelming assault of our selves.

I have often said - and believe - that a truly successful personal life would be the one in which my outer and inner selves are the same.   I sometimes wonder if that is really possible, if in fact the outer self helps to buffer others from what is truly going on inside of us.

To protect others from our own demons.  And shield us from our own failures.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Rotten Habits

Today in my morning pages (the three pages in my journal I am trying to write every morning) one of the questions from The Artist's Way" I had to consider was "What are three rotten habits - obvious and subtle - that you have?  What is the payoff from them?"  Wow, I thought to myself - that is going to be fairly hard to come up with - not so much that I do not have them but rather that I will not be able to find a theme amongst the three of each.

I was wrong.

Three obvious rotten habits:

1)  Spending time surfing the Internet reading instead of doing something productive.
2)  Letting myself that this will take so long to do that I put off doing them.
3)  Putting off tomorrow what I could do today.

Payoff:  I do not actually have to take action on anything and by not taking action, I cannot fail.

Three subtle rotten habits:

1)  Not speaking up when I should.
2)  Not defending my position when I should.
3)  Being flippant when I should be serious.

Payoff:  People will never think ill of me or my opinions or criticize me.

In looking at these in a printed form, I see a trend.  In both cases, I end up trying to not do or say anything, because I am worried about failing (by action or opinion).  I find that interesting in that I knew that my fear of failure and criticism was high - but not that high.

What to do?  The first three are relatively easy to consider:  act.   Time your Internet.  Instead of thinking about what doing something, do it.  And do it as soon as you realize it, not tomorrow.

The other three are more difficult because they involve self image, not action.  How does I overcome the need to be liked - or rather, the incessant need in my case?  How does I stand one's ground intellectually?  And how does I accept that flippant is not always the way to be?

What are your rotten habits?  And what payoff do you get?

Friday, June 06, 2014

Best Day of My Life

One of the advantages of being slightly behind the popular culture scene is that you find things that are relatively recent but have had enough time that the bad material has settled out.  Such is the song "Best Day of My Life" by American Authors.  I have been somewhat surprised by my reaction to it, one of delight.  Why?

1)  I love the message of the song.  What would life be like if every morning we woke up and said "This is going to be the best day of my life?"  Every day?
2)  It has a banjo.  That moves it to the top of the list.  Nothing wrong with banjos.

The best line of the song?  "But all the possibilities, no limits just epiphanies".

The lyrics:

I had a dream so big and loud
I jumped so high I touched the clouds

I stretched my hands out to the sky
We danced with monsters through the night

I'm never gonna look back, woah
I'm never gonna give it up, noo
Please don't wake me now

This is gonna be the best day of my life
My li-i-i-i-i-ii-ife
This is gonna be the best day of my life
My li-i-i-i-i-ii-ife

I howled at the moon with friends
And then the sun came crashing in

But all the possibilities
No limits just epiphanies

I'm never gonna look back, woah
I'm never gonna give it up, noo
Just don't wake me now

This is gonna be the best day of my life
My li-i-i-i-i-ii-ife
This is gonna be the best day of my life
My li-i-i-i-i-ii-ife

I hear it calling outside my window
I feel it in my soul
The stars were burning so bright
The sun was out 'til midnight
I say we lose control

This is gonna be the best day of my life
My li-i-i-i-i-ii-ife
This is gonna be the best day of my life
My li-i-i-i-i-ii-ife

This is gonna be, this is gonna be, this is gonna be
The best day of my life
Everything is looking up
Everybody up now

This is gonna be the best day of my l-ii-fe
My li-i-i-i-i-ii-ife

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Running in Summer

A vast damp salty sheet
wraps me; I become the cloud
that brings the moisture.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Finding Courage

Finding courage can be a very difficult thing.

Finding courage is quite easy when it is just for a moment or the nature of the situation is such that is something truly noble.  Then one can find one's fear consumed in the moment or overcome with the greatness of the task at hand.  In these times courage is at hand like a trusted sword, easily available to draw out and engage.

But courage can be very difficult to find in the daily grind of life, when there is no great event that calls it forth or a truly noble task.  Instead, it seems that courage can be required for the simple task of living day to day or facing down the demons of the quiet spaces within our own souls.

It happened to me last night, driving back from class.  I suddenly just found myself overwhelmed - almost to tears.  Concerning what I do not know that I could tell you - certainly nothing had happened in class to garner this kind of reaction.  But there I was, feeling suddenly bereft and alone and wandering, to the point that disconnected from my where and when I stopped at a green light, looking two lights down to the red one I saw in the distance.

It takes a sort of courage at those moments to, the sort of courage to pull one's self back away from the brink and continue to move forward into life.  It does not feel like courage, of course:  we often associate courage with great feelings of power and fearlessness, while this kind of courage feels like I am just dragging myself out of a pit to stumble forward.  But it is a sort of courage none the less - perhaps even more critical than the first sort of courage I wrote about.

For the first sort of courage there is often a sense that the outcome is not necessarily relevant - one could conceivable die or lose a job or even simply be yelled at, but it is subsumed in the overwhelming sense of rightness and doing right and greatness of heart.  However the second sort of courage is based not on the moment but on the outcome if one does not take action of courage - the depression that one will slip into, the despair that one will find on the morrow, the emptiness of one's own soul unless the courage is engaged and the sense of defeat is overcome with the thought of "One Day More".

It is the unrecognized sort of courage of course, and hardly the sort of thing any movies will be made of. But that moment of finding courage can become the most important exercise of all - because unlike the courage of the moment, the courage of endurance is habit learned like any other and if faithfully practiced even in the darkest of moments can become a life of courage:  not the necessarily the courage of greatness but the courage of pushing forward in the midst of a life which may so often feel like it is collapsing upon itself.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The Great Quarterly Meeting

Today is the Great Quarterly Meeting.

I remember the first time I had to give one of these.  It was back in 2009, shortly after we had moved.  I had no idea what I was actually going to have to do.  Given guidance and a presentation, I sat and spoke quietly and sweated profusely and got through the meeting.  As I recall, I had a fairly high level of terror due to the other people who were present in the room with me - one does not often spend 1.5 hours with virtually all the senior management of a company.

That was 18 meetings ago.  Today will be meeting number 19.  Do I have the same sense of terror that I did?  Not the same sense of terror per se, but certainly a sense of terror as I approach this one as well.

Why?  Senior staff can make me nervous.  In a sense I am a consumer of their moods and the issues going on in their worlds.  For example, they can be very attentive - or very disengaged, depending on what is happening around them.  They can move past points that I thought would be critical to discuss - and then spend a great deal of time on something I would not have predicted.  And always in the back of my head is the primal fear of being called out for being wrong or incompetent.

Perhaps this is really the source of my fear for these meetings:  not that the meeting or information itself is wrong or without value but that I am perceived as being wrong or incorrect.  It is that sinking feeling that one gets when in the slide that flashed up on the screen one realizes the spelling error or data error that escaped notice every other time that this document was reviewed.  That every secret belief I have of my inability and my lack of knowledge will be put front and center for everyone to see.

I have tried to combat this.  I have reviewed and re-reviewed the presentation.  I know the data backwards and forwards.  And yet, every time I think of doing this, I get a little bit fearful.  Because buried beneath this collection of living is a small boy who, somewhere he cannot even fully remember, felt like he was unprepared and got attacked for it.

The meeting will come and go as they always do; the boy, however, remains in the center of my soul, waiting to be answered.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Sins of Our Own Choosing

We all choose our personal sins.

Not precisely by choice, mind you.  We all seem to have predispositions to certain ones.  But there are very few of us that can seem to pack all potential sins into one package.  And even within that, we tend to have a certain core of sins that we are most likely to fall into or spend most of our time battling.

Interestingly (but perhaps not surprisingly), these tend to be the sins that we do not speak out about.  Sure, we can protest something like immorality or excessive greed but we just as soon tend to not focus on the sins that perhaps we practice ourselves:  gluttony or gossip or covetousness.  In fact, it can often be amazing to what lengths we will go to justify our own sins while still crying out the phrase "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at Hand" - we will say something like "Well, it is not that I am coveting that car that my friend has, it is just that I really think it is nice and should be something I work towards" while we ignore the fact that the car is on our minds 24 hours a day, filling our thoughts and our aspirations.

We do not fool anyone, of course - especially the world, which has keen antennae for hypocrisy.  Put aside the failings of those that cry out against things and then are found to participate in them:  just the simple fact that we as Christians portray ourselves to be against sin - but not the sins we like - is enough to destroy our ability to carry a witness forward.  To this extent the old phrase is true, "I am okay with Christ - it is His followers that bother me."

We walk a fine line as Christians, moving between the fact that we are saved but not yet yet completely glorified.  As a result, we find ourselves in the position of crying out against sin even as we ourselves continue to battle the sin in our lives. But it is one thing to call out against sin in general, while it is another to call out our own sin first while also presenting the Gospel, that all have fallen short of the glory of God (yes, even those of us that are presenting it) and all of us sin - but that there is a way of hope and redemption.

We mistake our roles sometimes:  we are not to be traffic officers  on the road of life,  pulling people over when they exceed the law.  Instead, we are to be construction workers and roadside assistance, guiding people around areas where the road is weak or being repaired and fixing their cars when they have a problem and are on the side of the road.  The first implies that we are the law. The second implies that we are not the the law but merely helping them to get where they need to go:  the road is not ours, the laws are not ours - we use the road and obey the laws as they do.  There is no superiority, only assistance and guidance as we all travel the road together.

But to accomplish this - any of this - it takes a simple admission from us:  sin is sin. No matter what sin it is.  Even if it is the sin of our own choosing.