Monday, November 9, 2009
Hmm. That was a stupid question. Mostly I was looking for something to open this post with.
I'm going to write about a few things that have been on my mind lately. This is going to be a little disjointed, but I don't really care much about organization at 2:19 in the morning.
In art, chiaroscuro shading is a method used to differentiate light from darkness.
Would light be as beautiful or welcome if we were constantly bathed in it? I'm going to leave that one open.
Scripture says that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope. Why do we hate God for giving us the very thing we need to continue to live and grow? Because it hurts.
Surgery hurts too.
And another thing: Why do we look to Heaven as our panacea and despise earthly life? In doing that, don't we despise God Himself?
Don't get me wrong. I have high hopes for Heaven. That's not a bad thing.
What's bad is when we miss the things God has for us in the here and now because we're too busy wishing we were already at the end of the road.
I have a thought that may be radical for some of you. It's radical to me too. A large part of me revolts at it. But a larger part of me thinks it's true.
Suffering is beautiful. It isn't beautiful in and of itself, and it certainly isn't beautiful by most earthly standards, but it is beautiful. If we could see things from God's perspective, if we could see how everything works out, we might be able to understand exactly how. As it is, the human race has a bad case of tunnel vision.
I don't know if I can describe to you exactly what I mean by calling suffering beautiful, but I'm about to try. I've already used the chiaroscuro analogy, and I think that makes a lot of sense. God reveals Himself through suffering, if we bother to look.
I also think of life as a tapestry. Everything, both "good" and "bad" is interwoven together with precision to make something complete and beautiful in the end. We can't see it because we're part of the tapestry, but God can. Everything fits together, "works together for good."
I'm barely scratching the surface of what I mean, unfortunately.
All that to say: give praise to God when you go through trials, when you suffer seemingly without cause, when you don't know the answers. Learn to say with Job: "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. May the name of the Lord be praised."
I'm not writing this as someone who has reached the apex, who has somehow arrived at perfection in this area. I'm writing this as someone who continues to struggle with understanding his own suffering. If any of these thoughts are useful and good, it is not because they come from me.
Um...the end. For now.
Monday, August 17, 2009
It's beautiful here, all except for the heat, which has been rendered delightfully impotent by our condo's magnificent cooling system. I've been watching lightning flicker through the sky for the past several hours from the balcony/porch. We're on the 12th floor, so it's all quite breathtaking.
And yet, despite this beauty, there is one thing on my mind, one thing that edges out all others.
Why do Floridians have red turning arrows? Seriously, it doesn't make any sense. Why have an arrow at all? And yet, there it is, staring at me like some insolent practical joke, some gigantic mixed message. The arrow points in the direction I wish to go, but it is red, which signifies that I am not permitted to go in that direction.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Inevitably, I happen to be seated in front of one of three fan archetypes: the hoodlum, the drunk, and the uber-fan,.
The hoodlum is the kid who probably doesn't actually want to be there, and is taking out his mischievous energy on me via the bag of popcorn in his hand that never seems to grow any emptier.
The drunk is the guy who probably just came for the beer. Never mind that there are less expensive ways to do it, this guy is determined to leave the game completely plastered. Unfortunately, he is also determined to slosh his fifth beer all over the person directly in front of him, which happens to be me. Add to this the annoying habit of yelling random and mostly incoherent syllables in my left ear.
The uber-fan is similar to the drunk, only minus the beer, plus several lifetimes worth of sports statistics, and an obsessive knowledge of players' names and sleep habits, with all of this information spewing forth like a geyser to the nearest listener, willing or not.
2. Astronomical Food Prices
Seriously, the only reason I ever really go to games is the food. That's sad, because I could buy a small moon with the amount of money I pay for said food. Well, probably not, but I could still get this really cool blender.
I feel sorry for these people. Their entire purpose in life is to do stupid things for the moderate and often non-existent amusement of the audience.
4. Self Esteem Issues
This is a problem especially when I watch minor league sports. The following usually runs through my head at least once during a given game: "If you have to be that coordinated to play in this league, how does anyone attain the godlike skill required to go pro?" I mean, not that I've ever been interested in playing sports professionally. It just brings to mind my paucity of hand-eye coordination.
5. Hard, Fast Moving Objects
Every spectator sport I know of involves hard, fast moving objects. People die from these things. Watch this movie.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
One of the book's points struck me the other day. It was something I hadn't really ever thought about before, though it may be fairly obvious to some of you.
How many excuses do we make on a given day? How many times to we say "Well, I'm just not gifted in that way," or "I could never do this because (insert reason here)."
I've made a lot of them. I didn't try as hard as I should have in my math classes because I said, "I'm not a math person." I haven't had anything major published yet because I keep telling myself that no one wants to read what I have to say.
Sometimes I don't work out when I say I'm going to, because I'm "just too tired."
The list goes on.
Those excuses build up a thick wall that often keeps us from ever attempting the things we aspire to or know we must accomplish. They should be dismantled.
What if we fail? What if we really can't do what we've convinced ourselves we can't?
That's another excuse. No failure is complete. Each time we fail and get back up, we grow "muscle." If we never allow for the possibility of failure, we never get better in the areas we need to grow in.
If this message resonates with you, you can find the book here: http://www.therebelution.com/dohardthings/
I highly recommend it.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
There's been a strange sense of foreboding, like a vicious surprise is waiting just around the corner.
I certainly hope not, but if it comes, I pray I'll have the strength to face it with dignity.
Of course, I could be completely off-base. I know enough not to fully trust my feelings. Still, this foreboding has me nervous and a little moody. To the outside world, I just look tired, but there's definitely a deeper reason behind my malaise than a simple lack of sleep.
Lord, please have mercy.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Where have all the good characters gone?
By good, I don't mean well-constructed. There are plenty of those. I mean good as in "good vs. evil."
It seems to me that the modern era has, to a great degree, left the idea of goodness in the dust. It is viewed as a cliche, because today's audiences have been jaded into thinking that such goodness is not actually attainable.
Gone is the true hero, the character who does what is right, who overcomes evil both within himself and without. He has been replaced by the antihero, the bad boy who embraces his flaws and strives for an end that justifies the often nefarious means by which he achieves it. That is a great shame.
Antiheroes are interesting, don't get me wrong. I must admit to myself that I have often been fascinated by their complex motivations and intriguing personality flaws. The draw of the antihero is, of course, relatability. In the antihero we recognize parts of ourselves, and that is an asset to any storyteller.
But there is a certain quality a white knight possesses that an antihero does not, a purity that the audience should long to aspire to. That quality is in short supply today. Instead, we have V, Wolverine, and Sam & Dean Winchester. Well-constructed characters all. Works of art, even. But only "good" in the sense that they are protagonists.
Allow me to clarify something at this juncture. When I speak of the white knight, I do not speak of a character that is completely, perfectly good. This extreme is responsible for the categorization of the white knight as a cliche. I speak of a character that, while flawed, is cognizant of his flaws and actively pursues the right thing. I can't think of many who fit that description.
The time has long passed for some new, real heroes to enter the scene. Guess I'd better start writing, huh?
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Why am I still here? I raise myself from the prison floor and pace across the moss-covered stones. The prison door is blatantly open, and there are no guards. Why do I not run?
There is a reason. It exists, and I know what it is. I do not want to speak it for fear that I will understand myself and be disgusted.
Instead, I remain here, crying out for someone to save me while ignoring the liberty I have already been granted.
What is that? Some trick of the light at the window? As I think it, I know exactly what it is. The visitor returns. He has come to me many times in this place. It was he, after all, who made the chains and shackles disappear.
"Still here, I see," he says. There is no sarcasm or condescension in his voice.
"I do not know," I say. I am lying, because I do know.
"Suite yourself. The world outside is much better, you know. How long has it been since you saw the least bit of blue sky?"
I do not remember, so it must be a very long time. I say so.
"That's a great shame," he says. There is a genuine sadness in his eyes that shows he means exactly what he says. "You know you can leave anytime you want. The chains are gone, like I promised."
I shake my head. "No, I cannot leave. They will kill me." I know full well as I say this that what I say is not the case. He knows it too.
He approaches me. I move back slightly. He has never hurt me, but I refuse to take the chance. "The reason why you can't leave," he says "is that you keep lying to yourself."
"That's not true," I say.
I do see.
He looks around at the few possessions I have in this place. I have arranged them to make myself as comfortable as I can be while I'm here. The guards at least allow me that, and I am thankful.
"You've made yourself quite a little home here," he says quietly. Then, without warning, he begins to pick up my possessions, throwing article by article against the wall. My bowl, the one I always eat from, breaks into a thousand shards. Everything else is broken too, because if it doesn't break the first time he throws it again and again until it does. My heart is beating very fast, and I'm beginning to sweat.
When he is done, he comes for me. He picks me up by my throat and pushes me against the wall. I try to escape his grasp, but my wasted strength is no match for a carpenter's.
"Look at me," he says. I am finding it very difficult to breathe, but I look at him anyway.
"You've identified yourself as a prisoner for so long that you don't know what freedom is anymore. That's exactly what the enemy wants. He's been using psychological warfare this whole time to make you think this is where you want to be, even though in your deepest heart you know where you belong."
He sets me down. "I have healed you and given you freedom. Whether or not you take it is your choice. I'll be waiting at the foot of the hill outside the prison. Leave these things and come follow me."
He leaves just as quickly as he came.
I look at my wrists and ankles where the shackles used to be. Nothing left there but mist and darkness now.
Why am I still here?
Saturday, May 9, 2009
I like to consider myself a fairly tolerant person. The little things (obnoxious laughter, hair in the sink, tennis balls in the shower) have never really bothered me that much.
Most of my friends would agree that, all around, I’m really easy to get along with.
Despite my generally tolerant milieu, there’s one thing that really sets my hair on fire: relativism, disbelief in the existence of absolute truth. I hate it. As someone who likes to debate, it drives me completely bananas.
The first is that arguments with relativists become relatively unsatisfying within the first three minutes, because any evidence you submit to the discussion that happens not to fit with your opponent’s belief system immediately falls under the category of “Things to Disregard and Never Think about Again.” Consider the following completely accurate interchange.
Me: Well, according to Dr. Gorriblenschevic, a distinguished theologian in the field of Phlegothomoniatry, jergals actually can dorminate. You see, if the...
Straw Man (or woman): Well, I’m glad that belief works for you!
Even writing about this is causing me internal stress.
The second reason is that arguments with relativists inevitably end with my opponent having no idea exactly how right I am. Unacceptable.
Where does this infernal attitude come from, and how can we stop it?
The current relativistic philosophical climate is the direct byproduct of an unlikely conspiracy between snack food companies, television networks, and politicians.
Studies have shown that the amount of relativistic thinking an individual shows is directly proportional to the amount of time he or she spends sitting on couches. \
Couch-sitting, as we all know, is conducive to snack-eating and television-watching, and vise versa. It’s a vicious cycle. The more an individual eats, watches television, and sits on couches, the lazier he or she becomes. Eventually, forming cogent arguments becomes distasteful, even impossible. The snack food companies and television networks encourage these behaviors via subliminal advertising, knowing full well the philosophical poverty they are creating.
The efforts of these two corporate segments were subsidized in the past by a secret task force in
The task force is no longer in existence, due to recent budget cuts. President Obama recently issued a statement communicating his opinion that it was fiscally irresponsible to use taxpayer money to fund such efforts when there were so many failed businesses left to bail out.
Despite the current recession, the snack food companies and television networks have continued to implement their insidious plans.
There are two ways to stem the tide of moral and intellectual relativism. First, boycott couches, televisions, and snack foods. Try armchairs, books, and rutabagas. They have far less corruptive power. One book in particular, the Bible, has been shown to have curious truth-increasing properties.
The second method is a bit more controversial. If you have relativistic friends, lie to them all the time, especially about important things, like whether or not your pet komodo dragon bites. What they lose in limbs they’ll more than make up in a greater appreciation for the truth of absolute truth.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I met someone today. He was an older gentleman, a friend's grandfather. We went to visit him in the hospital. Even in his weakened state, I could see the strength that typified his generation.
Of course, not all from among his number were so strong. Still, I found myself comparing my generation to his, and finding ours lacking.
We're soft, used to all our petty comforts: our TVs, comfy couches, and milk that comes carefully prepackaged so we don't remember how it got there. Sometimes I tell myself that it would be nice to leave civilization for a while, just for the challenge. Think about it! Foraging, hunting, living simply...I'm starting to think the Amish had the right idea.
I exaggerate of course, but only slightly.
I don't really know what it takes to be that strong. Probably another World War or a major hardship like the Great Depression, unfortunate as either may sound. In any case, if I were to attain only half of the discipline, fortitude, and self-sacrifice owned by the man on that hospital bed, I would count myself more than fortunate.
Writing these words, I sink back down into the cush of my armchair, shaking my head at the world's sad state. It's all going to pot, really.
Cush, by the way, is not a word sanctioned by any dictionary unless it refers to the Kingdom of Cush, which I believe is supposed to have been somewhere in Africa.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
"But how," you may ask, "are you continuing to write brilliantly on your brilliantly brilliant blog of brilliancy?" (the word "brilliant" looks really weird after you type it several times in succession...)
"Because," I reply, "by consuming my brain, the mucus has achieved sentience and is now controlling my every thought and action."
Yes, it's true, ladies and germs. I have a cold.
(insert cheesy horror music here)
Monday, April 6, 2009
I've found a band that I cannot stop listening to. The Fleet Foxes, based out of Seattle, have invaded my brain with their musical awesomeness. I think I'm going to let them keep it. No use fighting for real estate I'm not really using.
Seriously, this is a folk band worth checking out. Beautiful and haunting three and four part harmonies, lyrics that manage to be nearly inscrutable and amazingly down-to-earth at the same time, and a singer with a really cool beard. What more could you ask for?
The singing is by no means pitch-perfect, but it's nearly so, and has a wondrous raw quality that much of today's electronically assisted music lacks. As near as I can tell, their tracks are recorded with all of their original charm intact (the little noises that let you know the music was recorded in an actual studio by actual human beings), cutting a few sizeable chinks in the normally present musical fourth wall between recorded artist and audience.
Anyway, now that I've provided the Foxes with some free advertising, onto other things.
I've started writing songs again. It feels really good to let the ideas flow a little, since I've been storing up some pretty strong emotions for a while. I tell ya, those things'll rot your brain if you keep 'em there long enough.
No, wait, I didn't mean it like that! Please, come back! If you leave, I'll start writing songs like this...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1BdQcJ2ZYY&fmt=18
Friday, March 20, 2009
Every time I leave a math classroom, it feels like Thor tried to play croquet with my head, and my mouth gets all dry and cottony. I'd call it a "math hangover," but such a phrase would presuppose that something enjoyable occurred before the nasty aftereffects.
I think the reason why I dislike math so much is that it forces my thought processes to conform to a rigid set of rules, which is not normally how they operate. Said processes do their best to beat down and destroy these rules, which explains the headache.
One of these days, they're all going to revolt and destroy even the most rudimentary knowledge of mathematics I possess, like workers rising up against an evil overseer...
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen, plain as dog poop in winter: math foments communism.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Not long after that stunning revelation, He spoke again, this time through my mother, telling me that my self-focus was pulling me down into despair, and that I needed to start putting the interests of others before my own.
Thank you, God: Destroyer and Rebuilder.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
It'll drive a man crazy
It'll break a man's faith
It's enough to make him wonder
If he's ever been sane
When he's bleating for comfort
From thy staff and thy rod
And the heavens' only answer
Is the silence of God
It'll shake a man's timbers
When he loses his heart
When he has to remember
What broke him apart
This yoke may be easy
But this burden is not
When the crying fields are frozen
By the silence of God
And if a man has got to listen
To the voices of the mob
Who are reeling in the throes
Of all the happiness they've got
When they tell you all their troubles
Have been nailed up to that cross
But what about the times when even
Followers get lost
Cause we all get lost sometimes
There's a statue of Jesus
On a monastery knoll
In the hills of Kentucky
All quiet and cold
And He's kneeling in the garden
As silent as a stone
All His friends are sleeping
And He's weeping all alone
And the man of all sorrows
He never forgot
What sorrow is carried
By the souls that He bought
So when the questions dissolve
Into the silence of God
The aching may remain
But the breaking does not
The aching may remain
But the breaking does not
In the holy, lonesome echo
Of the silence of God
Friday, March 13, 2009
Here it comes
The same old thing again and again
Throwing me down over the edge
But there's no power left in this old shell
Fill me with You
All I am is nothing
Floating dust upon the wind
I can't resist this feeling
Desire haunts me to the end
Here I am so empty
I've got nothing left to lose
So fill me
Fill me with You
Bringing back the shame and the guilt
Thought I'd left
Them all behind so long long ago
But there's no power left in this old shell
Fill me with You
All I wanted was to do the right things
At the right times
Instead I turned from truth
And followed after Satan's lies
Crucify my flesh and make me one with You
Fill me with You
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Just kidding, of course.
I laugh when people do/say stupid things.
I laugh when people make puns.
I laugh at non-sequiturs.
I laugh at absurd situations (real or imagined, but real ones are funnier).
I laugh at the strange things that animals do.
I laugh (and groan) at scatological humor. Heck, the word "poop" is funny simply by virtue of its construction. I dare you to say the word poop loudly and distinctly without at least smiling. If you can do it you're a better (and more mature) person than me.
I laugh at lolcats. Yes, it's true. And I CAN has cheezburger.
I laugh at funny words (like poop, or snorkel), especially when I haven't had an adequate amount of sleep, oxygen, or both.
Sometimes, I laugh at the knowledge of how absolutely and completely screwed I am in a given situation. In some circles, they have a term used to describe this behavior: nervous breakdown. Really, I've never understood the stigma.
There are some things I will not laugh at, no matter how hard you try to make me. They are as follows:
Dead baby jokes: There is no word in the English language powerful enough to describe how much "no" I would like to express at this juncture.
Holocaust jokes: I'm all for a little gallows humor, but joking about mass slaughter (unless the joke is aimed at telemarketers, virus programmers, or democrats) crosses the line, in my opinion.
Jokes that involve racial slurs or stereotypes: I don't think they're funny, and don't appreciate people who do. I also don't appreciate when people from the particular ethnic group represented in a given joke think the joke's funny.
I'm sure there are others, but right now I can't really think of any. Next up comes the category of things that I probably shouldn't laugh at but do:
Sexual references: I don't know why I find them funny. I really, really don't. It would make things much easier if I didn't. But I do. I laugh and blush simultaneously.
I wonder what I look like when I blush. No one ever tells me anything awkward while I'm looking in a mirror, dangit. Ever make weird faces at yourself in a mirror? I used to do that a lot as a kid. Explains my range of facial expressions today, come to think of it. Hmm.
Oh yeah, sexual references.
Yeah, that's definitely a habit I'm trying to kick. It's really difficult though, especially since most people I know think they're funny too. I just feel so...soiled.
I think I'll take a shower.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Being single at TUFW seems more and more like being single on Noah's Ark. Just let me off the boat now...please? I'd rather "drown" (figuratively speaking, of course) than spend the rest of my life minus a companion.
I know I should learn to content myself with my current condition. I know that God has a plan for me, and that everything will come in His timing. However, it's becoming increasingly difficult to keep these phrases from sounding like platitudes used to comfort those who will never find what they're looking for.
Overly pessimistic? Perhaps. It's just the mood I'm in at this ungodly hour of the morning. I'll probably snap out of it as soon as breakfast rolls around. Until then, I'll run with the catharsis.
What was I saying? Oh yeah.
It's not as if I'm not interested in anyone. There are a number of young ladies here that I admire and respect, and whose company I enjoy.
There are several questions that hold me fast. First, "Are you willing to make another mistake and ruin a friendship?" Second, "What makes you think any of them would be interested?" Third, "Are you ready?"
The first one weighs heavily. Thankfully, I'm on fairly good terms with everyone I've dated. Still, things aren't the same between us, and though I've learned from my mistakes, I still regret them. I just don't want to hurt anyone else, or be hurt in return.
The second one weighs less heavily. I've always feared rejection in some form or another. I'm a little more confident these days than I have been in the past, but it would still suck enormously to set my hopes on someone who couldn't and shouldn't reciprocate my feelings.
The third one is the heaviest of all. I don't want anything to stand in the way of what God wants to do in my life. I really don't. It's better for me and for my future spouse that He continue unobstructed.
After reflection, I've come up with the following:
On the one hand, God's answer seems clear: "Stay back, watch, wait. Learn to follow Me, and when you are ready, I will bring an Eve to your Adam."
On the other, I really don't feel like waiting.
I guess it's not really about what I feel like, is it?
Lord, send me the one who completes me, but in your timing. I submit my will to yours, no matter how anxious I am to have what's meant for me. Amen.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
It would be easy just to ignore my faults and continue on blithely into adulthood. After all, my friends accept me for who I am, warts included. And who's to say that I'll ever improve? Maybe I'm meant to struggle this way for the rest of my life. Maybe I'll never find an answer.
So often the one whose opinion I seek the least is the one whose opinion matters the most. Hopefully, you know the one I'm talking about. If you don't, you should. I can't tell you how many times He's cut through (metaphorically speaking) the fog in front of me when I most needed to see.
Recently, I went through I time of severe doubt, depression, and general self-hatred. Naturally, I sought earthly sources of comfort to bandage the wounds I'd opened in my soul. Naturally, none of them worked for any sustained period of time, but that didn't stop me from returning to those sources of comfort over and over in search of what was right in front of me.
"Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'" (Mark 8:34)
Carry a cross? Really? That's not what I signed up for. I thought that was your job.
"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13)
Wait, now you want me to work? Sorry Lord, I'm a Protestant. Saved by grace through faith, remember?
But that's not even the real kicker.
"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)
Okay, now you're just spouting nonsense. You can't possibly expect that kind of thing.
"Someone told him, 'Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.' He replied, 'My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice." (Luke 8:20-21)
Everything I needed to know had already been given to me in written form. What's more, I had read what had been given to me. All that remained was to shoulder my cross. But how? Paul had the same quandary.
"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." (Romans 7:15)
Here was the crux of my problem: I had been focusing too much on how helpless I was, and too little on what kind of help I had. I was by no means alone in this battle against my flesh.
"I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)
"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." (II Timothy 1:7)
I should note here that I'm not trying to encourage a doctrine of salvation through works. I fully believe that we are saved through the grace of God, and that works are simply a sign of saving faith. Neither am I trying to encourage legalism. I'm just trying to point out through my own experience how many of us have forgotten the power we've been given to do what is right.
"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'" (Luke 14:28-30)
Jesus has made it clear that following Him is not easy, that discipleship costs something. We must never forget that we have been brought from darkness into light, and that we have been made sons and daughters of God, instead of slaves to sin.