Saturday, August 27, 2011
I wrote my ex-girlfriend a letter earlier this month. I spent 3 hours crafting a ten-page letter in which I clearly stated the feelings I had when we broke up, and apologized for my shortcomings in our relationship. It felt good, like I finally put my thoughts about my previous relationship to rest. I sent it, and I haven't heard back, which doesn't surprise me very much actually.
I've become increasingly aware of how easy it is to let other people define, direct, and diminish you. When you pin all your hopes on one person, when you revolve everything around them and saddle them with the job of fulfilling all your dreams, you will be in for major disappointment. I'm not just talking about romance-I'm talking about friends, authority figures, anyone. Everyone will let us down sometime. It's best to not be rocked by it too badly, I'm learning.
Of course, God is always there. I'm getting to the point where, before I whine to one of my friends about something that's bugging me, I pray. I think this is good. It's best to just give God our hearts. Love other people sure, but don't be too surprised if things don't work out with them the way you may have planned! Give of yourself to people, and then when you think you can't give more-ask God for strength, and GIVE MORE. But-don't get too upset if they don't reciprocate. So things didn't work out the way you wanted with a girl you liked? You didn't get the promotion you expected? (Or what have you). Forget it and move on. There are always other things to focus on; we ALWAYS have a choice as to how we will react to disappointment in life.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, "I have never spent an unhappy day, unless by my own fault." I love this quote, because I think it illustrates well how much our problems are a matter of our own perspective, and how much power we have over how we will respond to events. I'm not saying it's easy-believe me, I know it's not. I've had times where I've simply laid on the floor and stared at the ceiling for a few hours, paralyzed by depression or anxiety, unable to get out of the emotional hole I've fallen into.
I have a feeling that this is starting to sound like some PMA, New-Age crap. Sorry, I don't mean it to be. These thoughts aren't all that profound I know, but it's what I've been realizing lately, and I decided I would share it. Hope it helps you somehow.
It's very, very easy to get trapped in a victim mentality. Oh, poor me. I was disappointed, again. And again. And again. And AGAIN. Well, I suggest that you pray about it. It might help with perspective.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Unconscious search for a kindred spirit
Magnetizes my eyes, draws me to you
The windows to your soul now confirm it
That you are the only one who will do
Faith built with intricate architecture
Wrought of an exceptional fortitude
Surely it’s one of your finest features
Refined through loneliness and solitude
Not apprehending your strength of resolve
Or the decision you made from the start
Men think you are just a puzzle to solve
And fail miserably to win your heart
Will I ask the right way? Will I know when?
If I fail, I will move forward again.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
A couple big changes are coming my way. First, I'm almost ready to receive my baccalaureate in English studies!!! I've finished all my English courses so now I'm taking a philosophy course (Religion and the Meaning of Life) and a weightlifting course to make up the four extra hours I need to graduate.
After these summer classes I plan to jump right into the Master's of Clinical Counseling program at Grace College. To do this, I have to take the GRE, and also meet other requirements for admission, such as a phone interview with the head of the department, submission of transcripts and a photo, etc.
I am registered to take the GRE on June 11. Near the end of June I will be moving to Wisconsin to live with my step-dad, Mom and stepbrother. Near the beginning of August (provided I get in) I will start online classes at Grace. The program is three years long, with the first two years online and the third residential. So, for the first two years I will live in Wisconsin, and try hard to find a good job so I can begin paying back loans.
Moving to Wisconsin has been a somewhat difficult pill for me to swallow. Lately I've been reflecting on my time here at ISU, since August 2009 to the present. I realize more and more as I interact with my friends in Cornerstone Christian Fellowship how very much I will miss them when I leave in August. I have met confidants, friends, and a mentor who have all helped me grow tremendously, more than I ever have before. The culture of community the leaders have fostered here is so inspiring; I feel that I can talk to anyone and we all get along so incredibly well. Of course there are personality differences and disagreements (we're all human after all) but I have been so incredibly blessed to be part of such an awe-inspiring community.
One of my friends started a campus group called "Stuff for the Poor" that provides shoes for the poor in Africa. His heart for the underprivileged is awesome. Another friend leads a small group with Christians, agnostics, and Jews, and facilitates discussion for the whole group. Her heart for God and others as well as her leadership ability are extremely inspiring. I've walked around the campus numerous times with one friend, sharing what's on my heart and mind and realizing that there are other men out there who fight the same battles. He has the fantastic ability to be both hilarious and deep. We've had awesome times that are unforgettable (such as renting the B-movie Assault Girls-it's not as bad as it sounds!!!) And finally, I've drawn a lot of strength and ideas on what it takes to be a godly man from my mentor. Our talks have been eye-opening, and I've really appreciated the affirmation he's given me, as well as the constant generosity he and his wife have shown in letting me stay at their house, giving me rides to homegroup events, and on and on it goes.
Bottom line: I've realized how VERY much I'm going to miss this group. As I continue to reflect though, I've realized that God has been with me in a powerful way through all of this craziness, and he's not going to let me go just because I change locations. The very day that I moved in to my apartment in Normal, God brought Rob Bergman into my path, and he introduced me to Cornerstone. Reflecting on this helps me realize that he will also provide community for me in Wisconsin, so I don't need to fret about what's ahead.
There is a dojo up there that teaches both Aikido and boxing. I've visited once before and really liked it. I hope to join provided I find a job...I would love to get back into martial arts again!
In terms of my spiritual walk, God is teaching me a lot about suffering, loneliness, as well as strength and perseverance. A verse that I have meditated on frequently is 1 Corinthians 16:13, "Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong." This verse has helped me to persevere through temptation, loneliness, stress, and every other thing that has come my way. As I seek God on a daily basis, petitioning Him for his strength and interceding for friends and situations, I'm amazed to see how much He provides for me.
God has been gracious in allowing me a new perspective on being alone. Relient K has a great line in their song "Therapy", off of the album Forget and Not Slow Down: "Loneliness and solitude are two things not to get confused, because I spend my solitude with You." Amen, God! Now that I am the sole occupant of my apartment for a time, I've finally begun to face what it means to not be surrounded by people. My typical response to being alone has been a sense of despair. However, the past few weeks have shown me that I'm truly never alone when I'm in God's presence, and that I can accomplish different things and take time to reflect and think in solitude. In other words, I can change what I used to perceive as a negative into a positive.
While the transition out of state is somewhat saddening, it's also exciting. I'm anticipating much growth and change while I'm there, and praying that God will prepare me practically, mentally, and spiritually for the challenges that lie ahead. God is good, and I know that he will provide for me.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
This year I’ve decided to focus on what I can contribute in certain areas of my life. Of course this doesn’t mean that I’ve decided to stop learning and growing, but I want there to be a healthy balance. For instance, rather than spend all of my leisure time (which I have very little of!) reading, I’ve decided to balance it out with writing. Also, in my spiritual walk I’ve been looking for ways in which I can contribute, rather than just take. I’ve decided to become a creator, rather than just a consumer.
One of the ways this new attitude has manifested itself has been a focus on intercessory prayer. My pastor back home (props to Tim Mengler, haha) suggested that I get a sign and stand out on the quad and offer to pray for people. So, I went to Hobby Lobby, purchased a piece of poster board, and wrote “FREE PRAYER” on it in huge block letters. I’ve started standing out on the quad with it, twice a week at set times, and have actually been given the opportunity to pray with people about the problems they’re having. Sure, for the most part I just get weird looks and scoffing remarks, but I feel that having the opportunity to pray for others and invite God into their lives is worth it.
Some Christians feel the need to go out on the quad and shout at people or condemn them for their sin. I personally feel that an invitation to prayer works better. If people don’t stop walking, I’m not offended. I’m not even trying to convince anyone to change their belief system, necessarily. I’m just responding to a call from God and (hopefully) filling a need in a world of broken, hurting people who need divine intervention.
I didn’t write this to promote myself, because 1) I didn’t even come up with the idea directly and 2) if I didn’t invite God to direct the effort I would never be able to do it. It can be awkward and a little intimidating to stand out there (hence the title of this post). I just wanted to let you know what God has been up to in my life so far this year, and maybe spark some discussion on how God has been leading you to approach your walk with Him differently in 2011. I’d love to hear about any evangelistic opportunities or cool “God moments” you may have had. God Bless, and have a great week!
Saturday, January 15, 2011
January 1, 2011
New Year Resolutions
NEW YEAR GOALS 2011
Each of these New Year Goals encompass things that I plan to accomplish this year, as all New Year Goals do. The difference with these, I hope, will be the measurable, time-sensitive goals I will attach to these goals. I haven’t decided yet if the goals will be included in a separate document, or as an addendum to this. Here are the goals themselves:
1. DEVOTIONALS. Put devotionals before everything else in my morning (except showering, which is essential to waking me up). This includes reading, working out, doing homework, entertaining myself, and especially surfing the internet.
2. PRAYER. Make prayer as natural as breathing. When I’m faced with problems or quandaries, or given opportunities to be thankful, I want prayer to be my first response. This necessitates a careful study of prayer, and knowledge of the different forms of prayer (intercessory and healing, for example).
3. PUTTING GOD FIRST. I want to turn to God first with my problems, especially before I turn to three other substitute comforts already identified: A) music, B) social media (virtual connection to others-Facebook, email, ect.) and C) friendships with women.
4. PRIORITIES. I want to prioritize better this year, and put first things first. That means asking myself three questions: 1. What is required of me? 2. What gives me the greatest return? 3. What gives me the greatest reward? I want to build a habit of doing what is required before my leisure time, but also switch up my routine occasionally to avoid boredom and slavery to a system.
5. HOMEWORK. I will realize that doing extracurricular activities (exercise, martial arts, guitar, leisure time) is contingent on accomplishing my homework, and will plan accordingly. Pay now and play later, or play now and pay later. Either way, I pay.
6. MONEY MANAGEMENT. I want to manage my money a lot better, figuring out exactly how much I make in a typical month at BK, allocating money consistently and spending frugally, and especially balancing my checkbook every night (or every other night).
7. GUITAR. I want to consistently practice guitar this semester, perhaps mapping out a lesson plan each weekend and then performing the necessary repetitions each night.
8. EXERCISE. I want to exercise every day consistently, and incorporate martial arts into my workout. This will require getting the homework for my early morning classes done the day before.
9. CREATIVITY. For too long I have been a consumer, reading other’s words and thinking their thoughts. I want to focus this year on being a creator, on writing my own words and thinking my own thoughts. To accomplish this, for every period of leisure time I spend reading an extracurricular book, the next available slot of leisure time I want to work on writing my own. This is a philosophy I want to slowly build into my life in stages, until this proper balance of consuming and creating becomes a major part of my existence.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
- To figure out how to transcend the daily grind of some of my responsibilities. I love schedules and planning, and budget my time carefully, yet I often feel like I'm fighting a losing battle and can't keep up with all my homework. It is hard to be able to get it all done, even when I've scheduled every hour of the day.
- To chill and not take myself and my life so seriously sometimes. I feel often that I’m in a constant battle; on a good day it’s a battle to get everything done and take as much from my day as possible, on a bad day it’s a battle against wrong behaviors and thoughts. So much of life seems to be war. I just need to let God take my burdens, rather than turning to other outlets to numb my stress.
- To process anger and disappointment in a healthy and normal way. Nine times out of ten if I’m really angry about something, I listen to Korn to get that anger out. I mean, how the heck am I supposed to be totally angry in God’s presence? Do I just go somewhere and yell or what? I know David was completely honest with God, and even expressed very violent and dark wishes concerning the fate of his enemies to God. I’ve been wondering how to do that. I’m just beginning to learn what it is to really open up to people again, and learn to risk disappointment. I feel that part of me is closed off to others; I keep part of myself back in case they don’t come through. I want to know what it means to risk emotional attachment, and I think I’m just coming to that point.
- To have godly, edifying friendships with women and not be awkward around them. When I have romantic feelings for a girl and she doesn’t reciprocate, I need to be understanding. I should never let having or not having a girlfriend determine my identity, because only Christ can do that. So, I need to have the emotional backbone to just be friends, but I would also like the vulnerability of heart to open up to a woman who would reciprocate. It’s a paradox.
- To be emotionally honest about how I’m feeling; both with myself and others.
- To press into God more than I ever have before; for comfort, for solace, for companionship, for understanding, for strength, for joy.
- To completely leave the past behind, and move on to the future that God has for me.
- To discard old ways of coping, looking at things-a complete paradigm shift.
- To find freedom from the old ways of doing things.
- To be reborn, centered, confident, unafraid, regenerated.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Recently I have been contemplating the nature of true manhood. I feel that in the past month or so God has put it on my heart to grow as a man, to study manhood, to mature in certain areas. I’ve been made painfully aware of manly qualities I lack.
One of my favorite examples of true manhood (apart from actual men in my life) is the film Braveheart. For those who don’t know, this film chronicles William Wallace’s liberation of Scotland from England’s tyrannical occupation. Even though I’ve watched it 5,128 times, every time I watch it I feel edified as a man. It’s helped me to identify important traits of manhood that I wish to implement in my life, and even shed light on what the journey to being a man looks like. I hope sharing some of these observations will cause you to give serious thought to what makes a man a man. I’ll also be borrowing many concepts from John Eldredge’s books Fathered by God and Wild at Heart, which have also greatly shaped my journey into manhood.
When we first meet Wallace in the film, he is a young boy living in the Scottish highlands. Like many boys, he has a passion for adventure and roughhousing, and he also has a father who loves him deeply and sets for his son a great example of manhood. However, this idyllic scene is tragically shattered when Wallace’s father and brother are brutally killed in battle.
The boy’s life seems to be crashing down around him; as he stands at his father’s grave, watching shovelful of dirt after shovelful of dirt cast onto the stiff corpse, the harsh realities of life strike his heart. At this moment, the future of the protector of Scotland is uncertain. The man who would’ve been his guide into manhood has perished. Will he give into the numbness that floods his heart, and make a subtle agreement to forever deplore the theft of his childhood?
It’s at this moment that a very young girl named Murron, also present at the funeral, notices his immense grief and attempts to comfort him. She gives him a touching gift and then abruptly leaves. Wallace is very moved by this gesture. Immediately on the heels of this act, however, comes Wallace’s Uncle Argyle, now his guardian in the wake of his father’s death. While Wallace cherishes Murron’s gift, at this point it is Argyle, not Murron, who contributes the most to young Wallace’s development.
I think this is important, specifically as it relates to a man’s relationship to a woman. In order to become a man, the young boy needed to be mentored by his Uncle. Argyle evidently shows Wallace how to become a great man, for the next time we see him, he has grown into a strong warrior. He moves with an obvious strength and confidence, confidence that could have only been gained in this time of trials and testing, proving his competence to himself. It is the humble self-assurance emanating from his eyes, the strength evident in his bearing that draws Murron, his childhood sweetheart, to him. I really can’t say it any better than Eldredge does:
“The masculine journey takes a man away from the woman so that he might return to her. He goes to find his strength; he returns to offer it” (Wild at Heart, 187).
Wallace is only able to properly pursue, marry, and care for Murron because he has already discovered the strength within himself, apart from her. His self-confidence and identity are not determined by the woman in his life; he knows his quality and it shows.
Modern society tells us men that being a man equals having a girlfriend. Although loving a woman correctly is certainly part of being a man, having a girlfriend doesn’t make one a man. I now realize how I continually asked my previous girlfriend, implicitly, to affirm me as a man. This question of manhood is something a woman is not meant to answer, and it is a prerequisite to a successful relationship that the man answers this question for himself before pursuing a woman.
Wallace demonstrates how a man should treat a woman in how he pursues Murron. He has deep conversations with her, listens to her, and gives her gifts that prove he considers her. In this, I would argue that he largely puts her concerns before his own.
Other than the way he treats his woman, Scotland’s protector exemplifies many other qualities essential to great masculinity, such as bravery and a refusal to live according to the status quo. Throughout the film, as Scotland’s greedy nobles squabble amongst themselves for the best position and attempt to negotiate their freedom with the king of England, Wallace remains resolute in his defiance of tyranny. He believes so unshakably in his purpose that he refuses to use the power and influence he possesses to advance his position, knowing that this would be to the detriment of his people. He tells the pampered nobles, “There’s a difference between us. You think the people of this country exist to provide you with position. I think your position exists to provide those people with freedom. And I go to make sure that they have it.” He asks Robert the Bruce, “What does it mean to be noble? You’re title gives you claim to the throne of our country, but men don’t follow titles; they follow courage. If you would just lead them to freedom-they’d follow you, and so would I.” He inspires his men in the famous “Braveheart speech” scene, where he casts the vision for the entire country’s need for freedom from oppression. In many ways the film’s portrayal of Wallace reminds me of the biblical portrait of Nehemiah.
Here we see man’s need for a cause to defend, or as Eldredge puts it, a battle to fight. God hard-wired us to serve and protect, and we need to seek Him and his heart for the specific causes he’s put in our lives to fight for!
I’m not saying that we need to walk around with claymores strapped across our backs or grow Scottish warrior mullets; but I do think it is immensely important that we realize our God-given warrior instinct to serve and protect others.
Of course, oftentimes we are not faced with a literal, physical battle; our battlefield is the heart and mind of humanity. We want to fight Satan and the deception he uses to enslave so many of the people around us, and bring people into the knowledge of God.
A major obstacle to fulfilling this objective is the passivity perpetuated by the overtly materialistic and nihilistic American culture we live in. I love my country, but am saddened to see how our culture prioritizes. We get so bogged down in busyness and so insulated by our individual desires we fail to reach out to others.
We need to transcend the inverted priorities the world tells us to adopt, and “abstain from sinful desires, which war against our soul.” We’re to “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us” (1 Peter 2:11-12). This applies to women as well.
Too often I think we try to conform to the pattern of the world around us and fit in, in an attempt to be “relevant.” While I personally don’t think standing in a crowd and preaching a message of hellfire and brimstone to random strangers is an effective method of evangelism, we still need to be in the world and not of it. The world around us is weary of a steady diet of entertainment and relativism; many people consistently search for a truth that will satisfy in a way none of the other societal fixes ever can. Let’s be loving and patient towards them but at the same time refuse to compromise our message. Let’s show them what true obedience to and trust in Christ looks like.
God Bless you as you strive to continually conform to Christ!