About Me

I'm somewhat introverted, I'm a voracious reader, and I love a good conversation. My interests and activities can be found on the right side of the page. My life goal is to use the gifts and talents God has bestowed on me to glorify Him and benefit others.

Monday, December 29, 2008

"I Try To Show the Schemers How Pathetic Their Attempts To Control Things Really Are."

So says The Joker in last summer's #1 blockbuster The Dark Knight.
Even amidst many of the profound statements on morality and the human condition permeating the film, this one line really stood out to me. Personally, it really struck home with me.

See, since the unfortunate events surrounding the past year of my life, I've really made a serious effort to control things in my life, to be a "schemer." ;-)-

When everything falls apart, the natural human tendency seems to gravitate towards control. Whatever little corner of our lives that we can preserve, whatever sense of normalcy that we can perpetuate, we hold onto that like a dog holds on to a bone.

So, I've been trying to control as much of my future as possible. This applies to many areas of my life, but most noticeably, to me anyway, to my relationship with my girlfriend.

Yesterday it was like the scales dropped off my eyes and I saw how neurotic I was acting. I would perceive things that could cause future disagreements, and I would try to attack it then and there, to nip it in the bud so it wouldn't become a problem later on.

This isn't necessarily bad; it's good and advisable to look towards the future and plan ahead. A scene from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace comes to mind: the apprentice Obi-Wan tells his Master Qui-Gon, "Master Yoda says I should be mindful of the future," and Qui-Gon responds, "But not at the expense of the moment." (I know, some of you out there are probably laughing at my nerdiness, but what can I say? Movies make awesome parallels) This is so true!

My predicament was that I was focusing so much on preventing future problems, that that in itself became a problem!!! It's similar to when a hypochondriac worries so much about getting sick that he actually makes himself sick.

So, where am I going with all this? We can't go through life worrying about the future all the time..."Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

So, in conclusion, I am striving to put this verse into practice and let go of the reins. Vanessa and I had a really good talk about this yesterday and I felt that a lot of misconceptions were cleared up. Please pray that I will relinquish my neurotic control and trust God, knowing that if I "Commit to the Lord whatever I do, my plans will succeed." And that, of course, God has the ultimate blueprint to all life.

God Bless.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

At The Convergence Of My Conflicting Desires, I Discover Who I Am...And Who I'm Becoming.

This post will be more brutally honest than most. Since writing is the medium through which I express myself best, I've decided to type out my present circumstances, my thoughts on those circumstances, as well as all the conflicting desires and situations that I feel myself torn between.

Think of it as you would cleaning your room, where you lay everything out on the floor and decide whether it should be kept, replaced, or discarded.

In the past eight months or so, many changes have occurred in my life. My Dad left and my Mom is getting remarried, my ideas for a career have changed, my friends seem different than they once were, my brother moved out. Also, on a more positive note, I've found a terrific church body that has helped me grow in knowledge and closeness to God in leaps and bounds.

This dramatic transformation in such a short span of time has shown me things about myself I hadn't previously perceived. I've recognized buried fears, identified new strengths, and gained fresh perspective.

In regards to the fears, I've realized that I have an almost irrational fear of small arguments, of conflicts that could potentially snowball into bigger rifts. I see this as one of the primary factors that destroyed my parents' marriage, and so I take painstaking measures to ensure that this won't happen in the relationship I have with my girlfriend Vanessa. And in the few times it has happened, I feel terrible, as if the relationship is in jeopardy, when in all probability it's just something that needs to be talked over or just dropped.

Probably stronger than anything else, I fear that because I share many temperamental similarities with my Dad, I will make the same mistakes. I love my Dad, but I keep thinking that because I follow in his footsteps in regards to personality, I will step into the same holes. I feel this intense urge to shut down and try and withdraw my emotions so that no one can get at them, and therefore won't be able to hurt me with anything they do or say. However, this would eventually be problematic in my future and present relationships; plus, it's definitely not healthy. I feel an intense longing to be close to my girlfriend and one day my future kids. Because of the relatively little involvement my Dad had in my life growing up, I want to overcompensate. I want to really be there for my kids and future wife, and know their likes and dislikes. I want to be someone they want to emulate, that they look to as a model of godliness and fatherhood. I just constantly battle the fear that I will emulate the shortcomings of my father. With God's help, I will take the strong work ethic and resilience that my Dad gave me and add to them my Christian values and ideal of strong family involvement. I'll let my wife and kids know that I'm there for them and how much I love them regularly. I also fear rejection by peers. I didn't have the best high school experience; within my circle of friends I was shy and reserved, and felt ignored to a degree. I felt that I was different from many of my peers; my hobbies, my preferences, and my temperament set me apart from many of them. I always knew I was different than most of the kids my age, but I began to develop somewhat of a complex, if that's the correct term. I'm at the point now where I resist the idea of hanging out with anybody on a one-to-one basis, unless it's my closest friend Joel or my girlfriend Vanessa. I feel that I would bore others, that they wouldn't share the same appreciation for my hobbies and interests that I do. I know this isn't necessarily true, but I battle with it constantly. I do a little better in group settings, where multiple people take the pressure off. On a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, after all my homework is done and I am free for the day, if Vanessa or Joel isn't available to hang out, I look through my phone at the long list of contacts I have listed, but rarely call. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the courage to take the initiative and hang out with other friends fails me, and I end up cleaning my room or reading or watching a movie until well into the evening.
I like people, I really do. If I am invited to a party with friends, I will usually go. I just have a real hard time hanging out with those friends I haven't hung out with in a while. I love listening to and joking with and hanging out around all sorts of people, but at the same time I feel that my interests and hobbies would bore them. It's very complicated.

On a more positive note, on to the new strengths! Counterbalancing these excavated fears, I've discovered strengths I didn't previously recognize. For one, I've realized (and had several people confirm) that I am easy to talk to. I wouldn't have guessed that in a million years, but I guess I make people loosen up. Good news. Secondly, I've realized that God has given me a tremendous burden for others, a care for their well-being that I didn't previously know I had. Not that I'm a saint, but God blesses us all differently, and he's placed in my heart an extreme concern for the emotional well-being of others. In addition to this, he's blessed me with a new resilience and level of faith that has really helped me in these recent stressful situations. I can't claim any credit for this improvement, for Jesus "lifted me out of the pit, out of the mud and mire. He set me on rocky ground, and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth..." (Psalm 40:1-3)

I turn now to the aforementioned fresh perspective. As I grow older and my horizons slowly broaden, I come into contact with people and concepts that revolutionize my way of thinking.
Things that change the prescription in the lens through which I view the world, if you will.
Over the past year or so, the way I see things has changed somewhat dramatically.
For instance, as I progress in my spiritual journey into a closer and more complete understanding of the character of God, I've realized that he is not a God who is only interested in the big events of life, whose presence can only be felt through Bible reading and Sunday morning worship. I've come to experience for myself that He longs to be in constant communication with us, and that if we "draw near to Him, he will draw near to us," regardless of our circumstances or location. I've learned that he is infinitely powerful and desires to have us be one hundred percent satisfied in Him, and that when we extend that tiny bit of faith towards him, he will honor that and transform us in mighty ways. I know that he moves in mighty internal ways as well as in mighty external ways, as evidenced by the numerous healings I've seen within our church. I also have realized that He is a very personal God, who will speak to us directly through the Holy Spirit as well as his Word.

Aside from the church, as I read more of and talk more with people of different opinions, I come to think that everyone has something to teach us about ourselves. I can even glean insightful information from people I disagree with, when I "eat the meat and spit out the bones," so to speak. For instance, even though I disagree with Nietzsche's ideals of perspectivism and humanism, I still find the aphorism, "Sensuality often hurries the growth of love, so that the root is weak and easy to tear up," to be true. The moral of the story is that you can learn from everyone, even if you don't agree with them. At the very least, you can discover how best to not think and act. ;-)-

In conclusion, this post I think has differed significantly from many of my previous. I have attempted to lay out the recent changes, fears, and concerns in my life. Consider this not so much a plea for attention or help as a glimpse into the inner workings of my convoluted mind.

God Bless,


Friday, November 7, 2008

Componenets Of A Spiritual Fitness Test.

So, the last few weeks have been rather stressful.

First, a couple weeks ago I accidently overdosed on Codeine. I woke up in horrible pain, barely able to breathe. I contemplated calling an ambulance, but as it slowly got better I nixed that idea and went back to bed. The next morning I discovered I had accidentally overdosed. Apparently if I'd taken much more I could have died. Obviously, there is a loving God in heaven. ;-)-

Also, my brother moved out yesterday, along with two friends, into his newly purchased apartment. So, I am on the cusp of adjusting to life with just Mom and me.

Additionally, I'm worried about a few of my friends, who I haven't heard back from in a while.
With the economic crisis, it is doubtful that my Mom will be able to keep our house, where I've lived for the past 12 or so years. I don't make nearly enough money to move out on my own yet, being in school and only working part time. My Dad wants to buy the house from my Mom. That's still up in the air.

After this coming spring semester, I will graduate with an associate of arts degree. After the summer and intercession, I will also have earned my AS degree. I need to start visiting colleges. My best friend Joel and I are going to look at colleges together. We think it would be awesome if we could be roommates.

So, I have a lot revolving around the orbit of my mental cosmos. God is my strength in weakness, the everlasting hope in times of trouble. "Pray that I will continue to proclaim the gospel fearlessly, as I should."

God Bless.


Friday, September 26, 2008

"Respect Times Instruction" Is Not Commutative.

You might notice the mathematical theme running through my recent posts. Geometry class will do that to you.

Learned some really cool lessons in Composition class today. We watched the made-for-TV movie The Ron Clark Story, a film about a teacher from North Carolina who transfers to Harlem to teach ghetto kids. Clark had had great success with his fifth-grade class in NC; all of his classes graduated with above-average test scores. But when he transfers to Harlem, his world is turned on its head.

Upon arrival, he is offered a position to teach the highest-scoring class in the school, but insteads decides to teach the class that consistently scores the lowest. In contrast to the well-behaved environment he maintained at home, here he encounters a class full of juvenile delinquents, gang members, 14 year-old mothers and 5th grade gamblers who push him to his absolute limit. The turnover in teachers is alarming, and the kids actually place bets for how long he'll stay.

Seeing the vandalized classroom and noting the mocking indifference of his students, he tries to impose order. He comes up with a list of rules, foremost of which is his declaration that they shall treat each other like a family. This means that when one person suffers, they all suffer.

In one scene, the mocking and unruly ringleader of the group, Shamika, characteristically belittles his rules. Clark calmly tells her to obey or none of the kids will get to eat lunch, because when one of the family members suffer, they all suffer. So, Shamika grudgingly obeys under the pressure of her classmates. This approach works for a little while and Clark is satisfied.

But soon the kids are back to their delinquent behavior, mocking him and his rules and doing as they please. He quickly realizes that the kids (and even the principal!) don't respect him one iota.

Frustrated, a dejected Clark decides on a new method. He learns their games and interests and appeals to the desperate need in their lives for a consistent authority figure. He begins to earn their respect, and they in turn begin to open up to his instruction.

He comprehends what Benjamin Franklin wrote long ago: "If you would persuade, speak of interest, not of reason." He sees that you must win respect before you can give instruction.

You may have a fantastic set of rules for maintaining order, you might have an irrefutable argument, but these tools mean nothing if you don't first win respect. "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

People may follow your rules, but they'll do so out of necessity rather than a commitment to your values. You might have achieved the desired result, but you took the shortcut, and you'll pay for that in the long run. The person obeys only out of convenience, or fear of the consequences. You haven't imparted anything.

I see this tying into 1) family life and 2) evangelism. In your family, if you lay down the law without first securing respect, you're in for long-term problems.
Your kids may comply with your instructions when you're there to enforce them, but if they never internalize the values you're trying to plant in them, they won't take any of your teachings to heart.

Similarly, in evangelism, you may have a perfect apologetic which, according to the evidence, no one could deny, but you haven't evaluated what you're up against. The human heart, with all its emotions and intricate wiring, can often override the logical response of the brain. So, if we're to redirect evangelism to aim for the heart rather than the head, we've got to win the respect first.
Winning a person's respect is like chipping out the first shoveful of dirt from the hard soil of all their defensive arguments and rationalizations, in order to get beyond the hard exterior to the soft earth, the real heart issues that lie underneath it all.

I desire to make a change in my relationships that accomodates this goal. I want people to know me as the person who really devoted himself to God and to his friends and being an encouraging and helpful presence in their lives, giving his all for them and those around him, more than just being known as the guy who had good arguments. The former is the better legacy by far.

God Bless!


Thursday, September 25, 2008

I'm At the Junction of Practicality and Interest, Waiting for the Light to Turn Green...

This blog will probably be pretty short and to the point, a refreshing change after my previous extended discussions. (Plus, it makes the reading this look less formidable to my audience when they see variety rather than a huge block of print, doesn't it? Lol)

Anyways, like I said, I'm currently idling at a crossroad in my life, trying to decide on a career. God has gifted me with the ability to write well, to paint pictures inside peoples' minds; but He's also given me a deep and abiding interest in human psychology, in motivation and in helping others.

I know, I know: I should write for a psychology journal. ;-)- Don't think that hasn't crossed my mind.

What has also crossed my mind in the past month, however, is how much I love people. Those of you that know me are probably perplexed at this problematic paragraph and its pretentious propositions (I absolutely adore alliteration, don't you? ;-)-; perhaps I can prevent some preconceptions and present some prescriptions. Lol.

I have a love for people. Not the love that an extrovert has for people, which manifests itself in being a social and outgoing person, but the love of a friend who really, truly wants to help his peers. I stand by my friends through good times and hard times, and love to try and encourage them as best I can.

I'm also extremely interested in leadership, especially during times of war. What makes men follow some leaders and desert others? What made men like Alexander the Great or William Wallace into heroes that were able to rally their men under their banner, in good times and bad times? What made men willingly charge into battle and die with them, without ever taking a backward step? Like I said, it's all very intriguing to me.

Please pray that I would recieve direction from God as to a career choice. May He bless you abundantly over this coming weekend and may you offer yourself to him as a soldier offers himself to his commander without fear, knowing that his captain is watching out for him.
God Bless.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Is Psychology Plus Writing Congruent to a Definite Career?

So, this is my first blog in like seven months. My interest in it was rejuvenated because my cousin and friend from church both have accounts, as does my friend Liz. As you read the following posts, hopefully you will be struck by the many changes that have collaborated to alter my life in the past several months. I have undergone a transformation since my last writing, a shift in the way I see the world, in the way I percieve my friends, and in the way I approach my relationship with Jesus Christ. Happy reading...hopefully you will be inspired in your walk with God as well.

Anyways, because of time constraints, I won't bother to lay out here the entire backdrop to my recent epiphany. If you haven't heard the story already and are really curious, e-mail me for details.

Suffice it to say that I have seen the power of God at work in a big way, in a way that profoundly affected my outlook. Up until this point, I had been going through the motions of Christianity, "Honoring God with my lips, while my heart was far from Him." Though I knew of God's tremendous power as well as his incredible love, I largely kept this knowledge in my head, refusing to let it percolate down to my heart and really transform my life. In a way, it feels safer.

We can "know" about a lot of things, like the assasination of Abraham Lincoln or the boiling point of water, but these things don't compel a change in our lives. To truly "know" something in an intimate and involved way, to adhere to a set of principles or to devote yourself to an ideal, requires sacrifice and commitment.

This is the crucial step I refused to take for a couple years. God would make his presence known, would really reveal himself to me, and I would say "No, I'm quite comfortable here on the sidelines, thanks. The preview was alright, but I don't really want to sit through the feature presentation." As Neo, the conflicted hero of the Matrix Trilogy, would say "I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life." We want a manageable Deity, an inflatable God if you will, someone we can take out of our pocket and inflate on Sunday, but if He ever gets too big, we can just let the air out and put him back in his place. See, we're all really control freaks at heart. ;-)- We're like the stubbornest Dad in the world, who absolutely refuses to surrender the remote control.

So, there I was, trying to struggle through life, putting my hopes in people and things that could never satisfy me, and wondering why my life sucked so bad.

It was only when God removed absolutely every crutch that I'd been leaning on, and ripped off every band-aid superficially covering my wounds, that I comprehended my own desperate condition. Lying on the ground, incapacitated, bleeding from my wounds, I realized the utter futility of my insubordination. There's a great quote from one of my favorite generals, taken from one of my favorite books, that sums up this reasoning well:

"Not until soldiers are surrounded do they each have the determination to resist the enemy and sustain victory. When they are desperate, they put up a united defense."

-Sun Tzu, from The Art of War

and also:

"Put them in a spot where they have no place to go, and they will die before fleeing. If they are to die there, what can they not do? Warriors exert their full strength. When warriors are in great danger, then they have no fear. When there is nowhere to go they are firm, when they are deeply involved they stick to it. If they have no choice, they will fight."

-Sun Tzu, from The Art of War

To put it simply, I was completely and royally stuck. But God had accomplished his purpose in causing me to forsake my foolish pride and acknowledge my inability to control my life. As C.S. Lewis wrote, "As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on people and things; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you can't see something that is above you." This expresses my pre-brokeness view perfectly. But, several months ago, I finally took my eyes off of MY life and MY problems and MY situation, and focused on God and the life He had in store for me.

There are only two things in this life that truly matter in the long run: God and people. How you relate to both of these determines your quality of life. Once you surrender your life to God, you'll begin to notice how you start to care more and more about the things the God of the Bible cares about. Also, the things that God values and the things that the world values are polar opposites, so by association people will see definite difference in you; in the way you act and in the way you approach life. This is your best witness, your primary weapon in the war for the souls of humanity.
In closing, I would encourage each of you to stop the car, get in the passenger seat and let God drive. Hand over the reins, and rest securely in the knowledge that he has the bird's eye view that sees trouble before it even materializes, and that he "knows what is best for you at all times."
God Bless!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Truth + Relationships = Good Witness

Went to Founder's Week on Saturday to hear Josh McDowell speak.

The conference was held in an extremely opulent church constructed back in the 1800s. The impressive, expansive sanctuary had awesome acoustics, which served the well-dressed choir well, carrying every note clearly to the thousand-plus audience.
The girls were dressed in either black or red dresses, and all the guys wore tuxes. The pit orchestra was excellent as well (not that that means much coming from me, a non-musician).

While all this was impressive, the message that Josh presented reminded me that even with today's impressive seminars, church buildings and presentations, the church still boils down to one essential ingredient: "believers in our Lord Jesus Christ."

The main theme that he stressed throughout his speech was "truth in the context of relationships." He drove home the point of how we can shove the truth down people's throats, we can be right, we can win arguments, but "if we don't have love, we are nothing."

Consider this: Jesus "had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." (Isaiah 53:2) What was it that caused so many to pay attention to Jesus's witness? Was it the impressive majesty of his surroundings? Somehow I doubt the hillsides he preached on inspired the awe of some of the jaw-dropping structures of his day.
Did he employ a popular band that topped the Billboard Tablets to draw his crowds? Uh, sorry, but no.

What caused so many people to pay attention to Jesus's witness was, partly, that he went against the grain. Rather than judge people against an elitist, impossible-to-live-up-to rulebook like the other religious leaders of his day, Jesus showed his love for the individual people around him by healing them, instructing them, and, ultimately, dying for them (and us!!!)

Now don't misunderstand, seminars, bands, and church buildings can be very instrumental in winning souls and discipling people. They just shouldn't be the emphasis. After all, we live in an entertainment culture. We're bombarded by an onslaught of television, radio, and other media almost 24/7. People get tired of entertainment. They hop from one thing to another looking for REALISM. That is, truth in the context of relationships.

Aha! Now we've finally come full circle.

Iamgine what our youth groups and churches would be like if we as a church, corporately and individually, changed our focus from entertainment and programs to meaningful relationships with others around us, with God as the center.

You would see less of the "clique-ish" behavior that unfortunately characterizes many youth groups.

Rather than seeijng people take up a seat on Sunday morning and return home unfulfilled, you would see people returning home with their needs met, motivated to change the world around them, knowing that God as well as a strong group of believers has got their backs.

You would consequently see the world sit up and take notice at the paradigm shift in the church, and more and more people would see the church as a sincere group of believers, willing to stand alongside them through their troubles as well as instruct them in their Christian walk.

With this in mind, make it a point this week to get involved with the people around you in a meaningful way, sharing God's truth in the context of relationships. Realize that the best thing you can give your peers isn't cutting edge entertainment or a killer performance, but rather time well spent, devotion to the individual people that will cause the world around you to sit up and take notice of how much you care for them. Remember, there are only two things that matter in this world: God and people (and in that order!). God Bless.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Of Psalms and Homework-Inspired Horror Films (But Mostly Psalms). ;-)-

Has anybody out there been feeling really crummy lately, like hardly anybody gives a rip about ya? Unfortunately, that's been my attitude lately. But on Monday night, I picked up my Bible for the first time in a long time (at least, in a non church-related environment). I found some really cool encouragement in Psalm 73 and 77. Psalm 73 reads:

Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from the burdens common to man;
they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
in their arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possesion of the earth.
Therefore their people turn to them
and drink waters in abundance.
They say, "How can God know?
Does the Most High have knowledge?"
This is what the wicked are like-
always carefree, they increase in wealth.
Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure;
in vain I have washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been plagued;
I have been punished every morning.
If I had said, "I will speak thus,"
I would have betrayed your children.
When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
...Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
I was literally just flipping through Psalms on Monday night, and this Psalm just encouraged me so very much. It's my favorite Psalm now. ;-)- The section in bold illustrates exactly the way I've thought for the past six months or so. It's so awesome to find a passage that describes your life perfectly; it's so encouraging amidst times of trial. But you know what? I probably would never have gotten this encouragement if my amazingly incredible girlfriend Vanessa had not encouraged me to read my Bible earlier that day. This just illustrated to me how important it is for us as Christians to have like-minded friends that will encourage us in our walk with Christ and not distract us from it. Something to think about. Anyways, I just thought I'd share that with y'all, hope it encourages ya. Anyways, I g2g...there's a voice in the back of my head whispering to me : "Do your homework, or else!!!" ;-)- Like something out of a low-budget but yet still oddly freaky horror film. Weird. Maybe Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth should stop making gory slashers and produce a film based on the aftermath of students not doing their homework and watching it all pile up, until they're finally, exonerably buried alive in an ever-deepening grave of college ruled notebook paper and exams. I think the Jigsaw Killer would be far freakier if he simply assigned unrealistic, ridiculous amounts of complex homework to his victims as part of his sick, twisted games. Jason, meet your match: the homework-obsessed college professor. Lol. TTYL.
Slim Shaney