Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Change Managment

I am sitting in Starbucks with a rare treat for me, an Iced Peppermint Mocha. I am not a big Starbucks fan, that is my wife, but I needed WiFi while I am kicked out of the apartment for a few hours, and so here I am.
Yes... that is right. I got the boot. I was shooed out of my own home. Sent packing.
Well... sort of.
My wife is hosting for the first time a Women's Promise Group and it is being held in our small apartment. And, since I surprisingly not female, out I go to give them some privacy.
On the up side, I get a chance to write! And come November I am going to try and take part in NaNoWriMo, so that will be nice. But still, it's rather different. I am not used to not being home during the weeknights. I feel out of place, like I am about to turn around and find that I misplaced something.
Change can be awkward. Whether you are changing your relational status or just changing your hair style it can be un-nerving when you go through life and catch yourself acting as though you were in your former state and, woah, you changed!
At work the various IS managers have a weekly meeting called Change Management where they all discuss what changes are coming and how to... well... manage them. If Servers is going to replace some of the virtual drives, how is Database going to handle the downtime? How will Application Development be affected when Wide Area Networks team takes down the Disaster Recovery side for a day to move locations? With out a plan or an awareness of what is coming up and what has already happened we tend to not manage our changes well. This is why Pre-Marital Counseling is such a big deal! Change is coming, folks! Be ready!
In our spiritual lives change has happened. In the church we have many ways of showing that we have been changed, but not so much in the way of managing the change, of dealing with it on a very practical level. We don't have a concrete way of saying "Hey, if I know this happened, then I need to respond and adapt through X."
Sure, we have some disciplines we teach, prayer, scripture study and memorization, worship, etc. All of those are good, and I don't want to detract from them. But I think our Change Management needs to be a little more... every-moment.
"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."
Paul gives a direction here in Colossians 3. We need to stop thinking about the worldly things and seek heavenly things. In the following verses he goes into great depth about what we should avoid and what we should seek, but the basics is this: You Died, you were Resurrected, now stop living like you were dead. You changed. Get down to the nitty gritty and change the things that have acting like you haven't changed: Your thoughts. Our actions and habits all derive from our thoughts, and if we can change our thoughts we can change our actions and our lives.
One of the ways I live this out is that I choose to think about how I can serve my wife before I serve myself. This does NOT come natural to me, and often I have as an act of my will choose to take what I *want* and say "No, I love my wife and she is more important to me than my personal desires. I will serve her before I serve myself." I choose what I will think.
Something strange happened. It's become easier and easier to think of her first. It is less and less of a struggle and more and more a joy to go out of my way to serve my wife.
My life changed. I got married. I managed that change my managing my thoughts towards how I treat her. And in managing my thoughts I became successful in my new environment.
If that is the power Change Management has in just my marriage, imagine the power of changing our thoughts towards serving at church, towards work, towards the hurting family members who have spurned us, to the way we see and serve our God.
Just my thoughts as I sit here at Starbucks.
Change... maybe it's not so bad after all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Insanity in Church

I had a conversation today with a co-worker about method acting, and in describing it I noticed I still referred to my character as myself. My actor professor taught us to refer to the role we had as if we were the role, so when I was relating to my co-worker the story of a class-work scene where I played a gay man who's lover was dying of AIDs and would soon commit physician assisted suicide, I referred to my role as me. My lover was dying of AIDs. I told him of my daughter who was born and then died in the span of a few hours (A role from a monologue I did, I don't have any children yet). It was a trick we were taught because when we refer to our roles as ourselves we can portray the role with an authenticity that we could not achieve as easily otherwise. Indeed, I was the best "gay" man in the class, portraying the role better than the two actual gay men in the class. (Professors words to the class, not my own assessment.)

My coworker commented on how close to insanity method acting seems to be, since we seem to make ourselves believe something that is not truth, that I have a lover who is dying. I told him that the line is that I am in control of what I am "believing" as true in that moment in order to evoke that emotion, and that an insane person is not able to control what it is they believe is true.

Which makes it really sad when those of us who CAN control what we believe is true choose to believe something that is patently false, using evidence of the truth to reinforce the lie. Can you imagine? What if Black Americans looked at the history of the U.S.A and from their reading deduced that Black Americans should be slaves? They forfeited their rights and began to act as slaves instead of free men and woman. Why? Because in the past they were slaves. We would shout and plead and reason with them that the evil of slavery was abolished, that their rights as free and equal people have been recognized as law now, they are no longer slaves! Imagine then that our hypothetical Black Americans rejected our arguments and insisted that they are slaves. It boggles the mind!

It happens every day.

Not Black Americans, mind, but believers. We have been telling ourselves that we are something we aren't and it is keeping us bound in chains that are already unlocked.

How many times have you heard the phrase "I'm just a sinner saved by grace"? It's a very humbling phrase, is it not? Don't get too uppity on your holiness, remember, you're just a sinner saved by Grace, God gets all the credit!

Did you know that our identity is an active trait? I, currently, am a writer. I would not describe this about myself in general since I in general am not someone who writes a great deal outside of work. I would like to be a writer, someone who writes creatively for pleasure or profit, but I am not. I am a husband, I am in a state of marriage to a beautiful woman of God, and I still pursue her. I buy her flowers when I can, I tease her with kisses, I serve her where and when I can. I am a worker, I do my duties and tasks, I take out the trash, I move furniture (see serving the wife above), etc. I work on a regular basis, I am a worker.

If I take class at college, I am a student. Not just when I am in class, but also out of it. For that semester I am a student, one who is taking a focused approach to learning. When the period ends of me being enrolled in the class, my status as student is over.

Let's take this further. When I was young I was a fanatical liar. I wasn't good at it, mind you, but I lied quite a lot and got in trouble on a regular basis. Nowadays I am pretty uptight about telling the truth regardless of the cost. Am I still a liar? No. That trait is no longer an active part of my life.

Now it's gonna get awkward for some people.

I met a man who had an affair while he was married. He became an adulterer. Without going into details, it suffices to saw that it hurt his family a great deal and the aftershocks are still felt. He ended the affair and has been faithful ever since. Is he still an adulterer? That infamous line "once a cheater always a cheater," how true is it?

Let's run this one down. Is committing adultery an active trait in his life right now? To the best of our knowledge, no. He has repented, and is faithful to his wife. So by the logic presented so far, he is not an adulterer. He is a man who, at one time, committed adultery (and has since changed).

But Eric, you say, I still sin, so am I not still a sinner?

Well, let's look at this.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."

From this we can take away big facts: There was an old me, and there is a new me. In church you might hear about the "old man" and the "new man." This is what they are referring to. The problem is that we keep propping up the old man and saying that is who we are. It's not!  It's who we were. The old man "passed away." He died. He is dead. Oh, look, the new man has come! The old man didn't get back up. A new man was made in his place.

This is a really key bit here, and I wanna stay on it for a minute. The old man is dead.
'E's passed on! This old man is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker!
'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig!
'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!!

Maybe a visual will help in this. Here Brad Pitt demonstrates what Christ has done to our old man.

Yep. He dead. And to mark his death we get baptized, burying the old man and rising anew with Christ. The sinner is dead.

The saint has been created. We were sinners, saved by grace (and God still gets all the credit), and are now saints, who, on occasion, still sin. But our identity is no longer being a sinner. We are in a state of constant renewal, and this makes us saints.

Ok, Eric, we get it. But why bring it up? How does this change how we live? What is the takeaway?

Remember our self-enslaved Black Americans? They told themselves that they are still slaves, and so they act like it. When I act I create emotion in myself by telling myself a scenario as if it was true. If I tell myself that I am a sinner, guess what... I act like a sinner. But if I tell myself that I am a saint, I begin to act like a saint. If I tell myself that I am a Son of God, I begin to act like one.

Proverbs 30:21-22 tells us that the earth trembles and cannot bear up under a Slave when he becomes a King. The new creation is a royal ruler of the earth... but if we still live as the old creation, we are acting like slaves. The earth itself recognizes this false position, but we go about in our churches with our pithy words and humble attitudes spreading the lie that chains us.

Insane, isn't it?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Living debt free

Debt is a funny thing. Did you know that companies make money from buying and selling debt? Weird, right? Let me tell you how it works.
Company A loans $1000 to you at 2.5% interest. You start paying $1.25 a month to the company in order to make your obligation to them.
Company A gets tired of waiting. They offer your debt up for sale at a discount so they recoup some of the money now instead of waiting for all of the money later. This happens for a variety of reasons that I am not going to get into now.
Company B buys the debt from Company A for half of the $500. You have only made a few payments, so Company B could make back more than they spent (remember, interest...).
This is why at least two of my student loans have passed through three companies hands while I have been paying on them. Annoying.
You know what would be awesome? What if some generous person or company where to buy my debt, even at full note value, and then just write it off. Debt no longer owed. (I'm looking at you, Dave Ramsey!) Imagine the relief, feeling the weight of that debt lifting from you...
The day my wife and I no longer have to pay off debts is a day I will break down and cry. My soul will feel freer than before. Proverbs says that the debtor is slave to the lender. Most of my financial life revolves around paying bills and debts... So I would say proverbs was right.
So maybe it makes more sense now why I was nearly in tears a few minutes ago in the shower when my eyes were opened to my being debt free.
In fact my debt was purchased someone richer than even Dave Ramsey.
He wants to buy your debt to. No thus isn't some get rich quick scheme. It's just the honest truth. He wants to buy your debt and then let you know that you wont be making any payments on it. Why? He loves us. I know this because he proved it by canceling the record of debt that stood against us. With it's legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
My debt could only be paid through one death, namely mine. My wife can't pay my debt, because also had her own to pay. But Jesus, owing nothing, offered face value for all of our debts. Payment on delivery. Standing as act outside the bounds of time, he made payment for all debts at one time. I owed one death. My wife owed one death. So he paid... One death. Each contract fulfilled, my debt is paid, and I can live.
Debt free.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Arrival... A new season

I am sure hoping I will be more active this year.

A new season is coming. It's here, actually, but "here" is a process. A season is not an event, it is a period of change and transition. A time when dead things from winter come back to life, flowers blossom, cross pollination occurs, fruit grows... Spiritual Spring is coming and has come.

I have had the blessing of a loving wife who provokes my growth and gives wisdom and insight to my curious and cautious heart. And she has been down this path herself and has resources for me to explore.

One of these resources is a copy of When Heaven Invades Earth, by Bill Johnson. I'm almost done with it. After that is... Um... Piercing the Veil, I think it is called. Then Shadow Boxing.

Some much that is being revealed to me. Stuff that is really hard to put into words, but concepts that just fall into place. It's tiring, but it is good.

The bad thing is that I can spend more time reading other peoples words and ignore reading GOD'S Word. It is so easy for me to ignore spending time before the Father and searching out His ways.

In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.

The Psalmist who wrote 119 craved the Word of the Father. Earnestly he pursued the Father and so earnestly he consumed the Word. He took joy in the Word of the Testimony. Taking part of the Word was vital to the relationship he had with God.

I am not saying that reading the Word is the end-all for spiritual growth, but it is not to be neglected. I love the Father, so I love His Word. It is a by-product of my relationship with the Author.

Part of my growth is also in the giftings. Learning not just who I am in Christ, but what role I have in the Kingdom. This means opening my eyes and seeing what the Lord is placing in front of me.

I have a lot to learn. A lot to share. I look forward to sharing with you this year.

A video... cause it's been stuck in my head for over a week.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Vision.

I had a vision about a week ago. Not an "eyes glazed over, spiritually in another place" vision, just a flash of an idea in my visual cortex. A day or two later it grew into something more. A day or so after that it was almost fully formed. Last night I had the complete vision.

I am going to share my vision with you, the reader. Not because I want you to know my circumstance or my journey (speaking frankly, I don't want you to know that right now. The timing is not right) but because my vision may help you in your growth with God.

In my vision a child is dashing through a long hallway filled with doors, all of them closed. The child is eager to explore the rooms. Any room, every room, no matter the contents. He wants to get out of the hallway and explore. Each door is locked however. He dashes to and fro, jiggling knobs, trying to force the latch, peering under the door. No matter the effort, the door reveals nothing. And so he rushes to the next and repeats the process. After each door is exhausted he moves back to the beginning and tries again. Maybe one of the locks is open now? But again, the door reveals nothing.

Then I saw a man go and unlock a door and open it. But by this time the child has exhausted himself and can barely summon the energy and willpower to cross the threshold to the new experience.

I saw the same hall, the same doors, the same child. But the child was wiser. He did not rush from door to door but waited. He knew that the man would come soon and open a door. All the boy needed to do was wait. He cleaned the hallway, he made sure his appearance was in good order, he kept himself occupied, but he did not rush the process or over exert himself.

The man came, selected a door, and opened it. Joyfully, the boy entered the room.

The meaning of my vision is this: Do not try and be what are not yet. Let God make you what you will be. I know, the vision may have been clearer then those two sentences, but stay with me here.

If you believe that God has called you to (for example) be a missionary to China, don't jump on a plane to China tomorrow. (Sheet anchor here. If God tells you to jump on a plane to China Tomorrow, and you know it is God... Obey Him. This is not what I mean though.) Trying to be at the destination of your journey with out taking the journey robs the destination of any value, and actually hurts you by the time what God planned for actually catches up to you. You got out of sync with God's plan and must now deal with the consequences of your impatience.

Rather, grow in God. Do not ignore the call you have had, but know that hearing a call and meeting the call are two different things. When I hear that I need to go up to my CEO's office to work on a printer, I do not teleport to his office to do the work. I first create the ticket, if need be, and verify my info. What is the problem? Is this a problem I can currently fix? Do I have the tools I will need? Once my assessment is done I gather my tools and check my appearance. (Nothing like a note from the CEO disparaging my workplace attire...) I make sure that I am in accordance to the Handbook. Then I meet my call. I go to his office, I work the issue, and I (hopefully) resolve this issue. If I do not prepare before hand I run the risk of wasting his time, making a mess, causing frustration on his team as he cannot move forward while the "Fixer" is not able to fix things, etc.

Are you called to be a Missionary to China? Great! That is awesome! How is your walk with God right now? What fruit are you bearing right now? What seed are you planting right now? How are you right now? Don't focus on China. Focus on God... now.

Donita K. Paul wrote a lovely series of books about two young people in service to Paladin, the servant of Wulder, creator of the world. Often when the two protagonists would ask Paladin what they should do, seeing as the Pretender's schemes were causing so much trouble, Paladin would say something to the effect of "Focus on that which is right in front of you." When they did that, just that, their steps were led from where they were to where they heart was led to from the beginning. Wulder but the call in their heart, and they would pray and call on Wulder about the issue, but they put their hands to the task that was right in front of them. Even if that was simply more training.

To our hypothetical missionary, I in no way mean to downplay your call. It is a worthy and desirable thing that you are called to. But if you are applying to mission organizations and each one turns you down, and you wonder why God has called you but no one else seems to know it then consider that no one knows it because the call is right but the time is wrong. Take this time to minister to those who are right in front of you. I guarantee that there is someone there who can benefit. That person may even be you. When you and the time is ready, God will move and doors will open.

I recently heard a sermon about how some ministers in various realms try and promote themselves outside of the will of God. I.E. trying to fill a role that they may have legitimately been called to but the timing was not yet and leadership did not yet recognize the call. When the time is right and God is ready for you to meet the call, he will promote you. He will elevate you in the eyes of man. Yes, prepare for China now. Hope for China now. Pray for China now. Go when God opens the door, whenever that may be.

I pray that wisdom and discernment comes to you for what you are do to that is right in front of you. And that your heart is tender enough now to do it, and that your call is confirmed in your heart. Continue in Hope and Faith for your call, and nurture the ministry you have now.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Saving Grace

So, here is a story I am working on with help from Alex.
It is actually based on a dream she had, and we hammered out some details and decided that I should write it out.

I will put more here as I have it. It is a very rough first draft with little to now editing. Plot holes may crop up. That's fine. I will revisit and fix things later and then post a final draft at some point. My goal is to just get it out for now.

Thanks, Eric.

Saving Grace


In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
2 Samuel 11:1-5

Franklin Higgins stormed into his office and slammed the door shut with a resounding bang.

It can't be. It can't... His mind raced trying to put all of the puzzle pieces together. She had an abortion, she swore it. She left me because of it! How can this be? He paced the large office lined with bookshelves and portraits of the men he tried to model in his life.

What does she want? Can I make her go away? 

When he had first seen Mary in the crowd that morning he thought that she was someone from a conference he had vaguely recalled, and ravaged his brain for her name so that he didn't appear to be a dolt. Then he saw the boy. Some twelve years old and he had the distinctive Higgins chin and nose. That was when he made the connection to the 17 year old girl a horny and careless 19 year old him had passionately expressed undying love, only to turn away the child they had conceived. And when he rejected the child and demanded an abortion, she had left him. And, it seemed, lied about terminating the pregnancy.

Franklin stopped pacing and looked at the large framed photo of him and Dorothy from their wedding day.

No one can know. His resolve hardened in his heart. It will kill Dorothy, and we would never be able to show our faces here.

With a determined mind now he opened the beautiful stained oak door to the Crossroads Fellowship Senior Pastor's Office and went on his mission.

No one can know.

Chapter one

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
James 1:22-25

Michael inspected the work closely. He had taken a personal interest in training The New Guy and he would make sure that each job was done right before letting Jimmy move on to the next task. Michael ran a finger along the tape that covered the seam between two 4x8 sheets of half inch drywall. Smooth across the whole surface with no variation, it was one of the better jobs he had seen in his career. The kid was a natural.

"Good work," he said, clapping Jimmy on the shoulder. "Now finish the rest of the room. Mark where the electrical outlets will be and then call me. I'll take a look and give notes. We should be able to move on to tile work next week."

"Awesome!" Jimmy's smile stretched from ear to ear. "I mean, yes sir! I'll get right on it!"

"You won't be so excited next week," Michael warned. "You are gonna learn to hate laying tile. Biggest pain in the back ever. I'll take you to go get some good knee-pads, but that isn't going to save your back from complaining."

"No worries, Mr. Davenport! Mami got me a heat pad after the last roofing job." Humor sparkled in Jimmy's eyes. "She is determined to make sure I can still go out at nights and find a girl to have little Jimmy's with." Jimmy's voice took a higher pitch as he mimic'd his mother "'Tu no tiene una novia! You need to go dancing, mijo! All the ladies quiere bailar! I want babies to hold, mijo!'" He laughed. "Nothing will keep Mami from her babies, Mr. Davenport. Not even tiling."

Michael chuckled. "Good to know. Now I can work you harder and longer!"

"Oh, no sir!" Jimmy laid his hands over his heart. "I cannot work longer! I must go out dancing with the damas! Mami has decreed it!"

"Well," Michael sighed dramatically. "If Mami has decreed it, then I suppose I have to let you go on time." He shook his head. "I'll have to go find some other poor sucker... er, employee to exploit."

"Oh, gracias, senor! My future children thank you."

"Get back to work, or I may change my mind!" Michael glared mockingly as Jimmy cowered before dashing to the stack of drywall and began to tug at a sheet without moving it.

"I cannot, senor! Eet eez too much!" Jimmy's antics provoked one last laugh from Michael before the older man waved goodbye and walked out of the apartment that was under construction.

"Call me when the room is done, Jimmy!" He hollered back as he left.

"Yes sir!"

As Michael reached the south stairwell his cell vibrated in his breast pocket. He ducked a crew carrying base moulding and quickly took the stairs down to the ground floor until he could step outside and not risk one of his crew running him over accidentally. Once he was in a low traffic area he fished his cell from its pocket and looked for the notification. It was a text message from Sophia.

Got a job offer from the church. Call me when you can? 

Michael took a deep breath and offered up a quick prayer. Lord... I don't like this, but if it's what you want, let me know? Thanks. He tapped Sophia's name and then "call".

She picked up on the first ring. "Hey, sexy beast."

"Well hey there, cute thing. What's up?"

"Oh, you know... nothing much. Just a job offer. Little stuff."

"And? Is it what you were wanting?"
"It's more... by half! And I can bring James with me, so no need for a babysitter!"

"That's awesome! Did you answer yet?" He tried his best to keep dismay from his voice.

"No. I wanted to talk to you first. But... it's exciting! I've been wanting this for ages."  Sophia paused. Michael winced...she had caught on. "Are you ok with it?"

He couldn't lie to her, unfortunately. "You know me, Love. I don't like change. I like our church. I like small churches. I feel like I know more people in small churches. And... leaders of big churches just seem to get... weird. I dunno. I know it's silly. It's"

"I'm sorry, Lovey." A sigh. "Do you want me to sit on it? I have a week. We can talk about it, pray about it more. Maybe something else will come up."

Michael hung his head. She had left the education field as a revered Principal, her name tossed about on the state level as a leader in education and child development. For four months they had lived on savings and his (not inconsiderable) income while she sought out her next venture. All of it done on faith that God had called her to quit the formal education field and turn to ministry. And every church or organization she had applied to had turned her down. Too qualified, no ministry experience, not what we are looking for (aka, no women wanted).  The reasons as varied as the opportunities. Michael knew how important this was to Sophia, but he loved the small Haven Fellowship Church they had been at for four years. It was where they had met. Married. Dedicated their son. It was home. And now, it was time to move. Michael may not like it, but he believed that God called His children to move sometimes, the same as the military had called his brother to move every few years. He could accept it or he could try a path away from God's calling and more to his own liking. Only one would really bring happiness for Sophia, however.

"Call the church back. Tell them you'll do it." He took a stabilizing breath. "I'll adjust. I'm not going to stop you from answering your call."

"... thank you. I love you so much."

"I love you too, Soph."

"Do you want to go out to dinner tonight and look over the details?"

"That sounds good." Michael's eye was caught by a team leader waving at him. "I gotta go, hun. Work calls."

"Ok. Thanks again, sweetie. It means a lot to me that you're supporting me in this."

"Love, this is your ministry. Literally, now. How could I not support you?" Michael had heard so many times of teachers not being supported or helped by their spouses, but it never made sense to him. Teachers help form the minds of the next generation. It should be an honor to help prepare school supplies, lesson tools, cut outs, demonstrations and all the other things a teacher does at home that isn't "on the clock."

"I know... but still. It means the world to me. I love you. Go work, honey, and bring that sexy builder's body back to me. I have nefarious plans for you tonight." 

Michael laughed at the teasing voice. "I gotta go, hun. I love you. I'll see you when I get home."

"Bye love. Be ready for dessert before going out for dinner..." The line went dead, which was probably a good thing for Michael's presence of mind. He smiled and tucked the phone away before jogging over to the waving workman.
He would have to make sure to leave on time. He wouldn't want to miss dessert, now would he!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

There is no other way...

I enjoy writing. I really do. But I don't write that often except for work. Let's face it... writing trouble tickets for a technical support help desk is not exactly high art or fulfilling. But it does often drain me of words. I have found it to be true that when I use a certain amount of words in a day it becomes hard to use more. My brain says "Okay, I quit. I'm going to go take a nap now."

Ever since I got married in August I have been using what is left of my words with my wife. I even have stopped logging in to Gtalk after work because as much as I love my Mom and Sister (Dad is not a huge IMer.) I need those words... I need to save them for my wife. I just cannot afford to spend those words with Mom and Sister because I need to spend them on my wife.

But I also love writing. And I wonder if God is calling me to write. I was recently on a honeymoon road trip and something about the road made me think of a book I read a number of years ago and I started telling my Lovely Wife about some of the concepts and ideas... and then I started telling her about some of *my* story ideas. One of which I would like to develop. How it has many possible stories that can be told. And how God can be shown in them.

Is God calling me to write? I dunno. I am not a great writer. I look at the writers I respect (David Weber, John Ringo, David Drake, Eric Flint, and others) and I see that I am not in their league. But I also know that the only way to improve is to do. I may never reach the skill they have. But that doesn't matter.

Wifey and I (and some family friends) were talking about some stuff in Hebrews, about how Christ learned Obedience through Suffering. From their we talked about how Obedience brought Joy and Strength from God. How it did not matter the circumstance, the results, your talent, or the pain. The *only* thing that matters when God calls us to do something is *Obedience.*

Trust, and obey. There is no other way than to just trust and obey.

I heard that how many times in my life, and now I understand it.
And it sucks.

But it is true. I either trust God, and will obey Him, having faith and hope that He will support me and my wife, or I don't.

Is God calling me to write?

I don't know. I just don't. But as an exercise of faith, I am going to try. Because if He is, I am being obedient. And He will support me in that. He will grow that desire. He will give me supernatural aid in character development, in structure, in plot. He will have scenes almost write themselves (I have experienced this before...). He will be my co-author.

If I am not called to write... then it will pass.

It is really just that simple.

So moving forward, I will work on the blog as I can. But I think most of my writing efforts will be going into a series of stories about Men (and Women) of Valor. How many, how long, how often... I really don't know. I need to do some world building (and destroying... mwahahahaha) first. Some character sketches. I thing I may need to work up some Character Sheets to pin up around my PC/writing desk. Maybe a map... I dunno.

This blog will be here. I may talk about my writing, the process, the struggles, etc. I may talk about my wonderful wife. I will almost certainly talk about being a 29 year old newlywed husband.
But above all... I will write. I will trust, and obey.

Monday, August 05, 2013

The Discipline of Hope.

Desire. Desire fuels so much of our lives. We want love, money, things, friendships, and all manner of other things. We desire joy in our lives, and we pursue it through a variety of means. The Declaration of Independence calls it the "Pursuit of Happiness." All of mankind has desire.

Loss. Loss drains us of our will to continue. Loss of love, money, things, friendships, and all manner of other things. We lose on a daily basis. Our time spent on a fruitless endeavor, friendships turned sour, money spent on wasteful things, a loss of self worth from the words of another. All of mankind has felt loss.

How are we to respond to loss and desire? Desire drives us forward, loss beats us down.
After being beat down enough times, it is so very understandable that we begin to give up on our desires. On hope.

Hope is defined as the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. We may hope in any number of things, but as believers in the Christ our truest, most faithful hope is in the atonement Jesus gave us on the cross. Or, more rather, the fuller action of making us co-heirs with Him as Sons and Daughters of God. That promise of family and future, our shared inheritance, is the hope of our hearts. We strive and long for it as man in the desert longs for a single glass of water.

The denial of our desires has so often driven out our hope. How? God's promises are sound, our future is true after our very deaths, so how does loss turn into despair?

The denial of desire in our current circumstance is used to cast doubt on the veracity of God's promise. "If God loved you, why would He send you through this pain?" "If God loved you, why would he allow you to hurt?" "If God loved you, why... why... why...?" "If God loves you enough to save you, where is He?" "Where was God when...?" "Where is God now?" "Was God ever there?"

In response to the questions both from within and without we must have a discipline in the truth. We, like soldiers, must be so practiced in the arts of combat then when the Enemy begins to attack we do not doubt or freeze but we spring into action. We identify the source of the attack, and we with ferocity counter attack. We find the root cause of our pain and loss, and we cut it off. It may take days, weeks, or years to fight it back as the Enemy pours in more pain and doubt, but ever vigilant we must maintain faith and discipline for the truth of God's love. We must maintain hope. And to fight against despair, the Psalmist teaches us of the discipline of hope. To earnestly ask ourselves in the midst of trial and torment, Why are you cast down, O my soul?

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
    against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
    deliver me!
For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
    why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?
Send out your light and your truth;
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
    and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.
Psalms 42-43, ESV

We find here that the desire of the Psalmists heart has been denied, and his oppressors taunt him. He responds by seeking the Lord and His praise. His life is filled with pain and torment, to the point that his soul is feeding on the tears he weeps, and in his weeping he hears "Where is your God?" God seems absent in his life. And if God is absent, what hope does he have? Immediately after identifying the source of his pain, the psalmist goes on the counter attack. 

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Three times the Psalmist finds something that torments his heart. Lack of intimacy and closeness with God in the time of his pain, the affliction of his enemies and their words, and the feeling of rejection from He who would accept us into His refuge. All three themes are present in each chorus and each time the Psalmist speaks to his heart, reminding his soul that there is a future with God. That no matter what trials he may go through he knows that one day he will be in the presence of the Holy God and once again find the joy of giving Him praise and being in relationship with Him again.

Every day we are met in battle, seen or unseen, and desire and hope are met with loss and despair. We can choose to self medicate on satisfying our carnal desires for food, books, toys, sex, or unhealthy relationships. Or we can seek out the Holy and learn the Discipline of Hope. That no matter what dismal circumstance we find ourselves in we immediately chastise our soul for despairing and remind ourselves that once again we shall be in deep and intimate relationship with the most Holy God. To say to ourselves in a spirit of challenge and in spurring ourselves to action "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?" Why are you wallowing in self pity? Why are you sitting torn inside me, bleeding out the life of our being for a wound that is only a temporary affliction? "Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God." Get up off the ground, dust yourself off, and remember that God is our hope, God is greater then our pain, God has a deep and beautiful relationship in store for us and this transient pain in life is merely a part of the road to it. I know, even if it requires my death to be there, that I will once again enter the Most Holy Place and in fearless abandon praise the God my God. 

This is a discipline. One does not just recall this in a time of struggle, but it must be kept in our minds and hearts, binding this truth to our soul on a daily basis so that when we are attacked we are armed and defended. No soldier trains for battle the day before the war starts, but instead spends all of his duty time preparing and training. He focuses with intent on his varied duties, and that includes time on the range and in the gym and in the training rooms learning how to fight and gain victory over any enemy that he may find. When the war comes, he is not found wanting or empty, but is filled with a spirit of battle, able to serve and to handle the varied struggles the battle will bring. It is no different for you or I, and we must intensely focus our hearts on preparing ourselves, disciplining ourselves, into the service of our Lord God, the great Commander of our army. Our King has rallied us to fight and serve for His kingdom on this Earth. Our battles may be different than what we see on the news or films, but it is no less real, and the Enemy is not above assassination of our souls. And despair is a choice weapon of his ilk. They will find those who seek to follow God and fill our hearts with despair, disrupting our love affair with the Lord and filling our hearts with bitterness for the trials we face. Remember. We have a promise of co-heirship with Christ. Our inheritance and value is not in this life, but the next. This life is our tour of duty, and we cannot afford to lose our time of service to despair and loss. 

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Morning musings.

~3:30 a.m. Roll over in bed, look at time projected on ceiling, wonder why I am awake at this hour. Again. Pet the cat who wanders over to see what the fuss is about.

~4:30 a.m. Roll over in bed, look at the time, and wonder I am not asleep. Again. Kick the cat because he is attacking my feet. Again.

5:00 a.m. Cell phone alarm goes off. Reach up to window sill, silence alarm, lay in bed while trying to understand what is going on. Right. Morning. Maybe I'll call in dead?

5:04 a.m. Heave myself out of bed, stumble to the bath room (petting the cat who is laying on the corner of the bed) and start the shower. (Optional, start coffee before shower) Shower, brush teeth, wash hair, etc.

5:15 a.m. Second alarm goes off (in case the first alarm didn't get me up). Still in shower. Ignore. It silences itself.

5:20 a.m. Second alarm repeats, since it got no reply the first time. Stepping out of shower, silence alarm. Dry off. Walk to scales and weigh myself. Comb hair.

5:25 a.m. Get dressed after entering weight into

5:26 a.m. Get distracted from getting dressed by the lure of checking my webcomics and news sites.

5:30 a.m. Third alarm goes off. Silence alarm and drop phone into shirt pocket of  the dress shirt I put one while reading interwebs.

5:40 a.m. Notice time, finish getting dressed, put lunch and breakfast in bag, make sure I have phone, comb, name badge, spare cash for water if needed on walk home. Make sure FitBit is in belt clip

5:45-6:00 a.m. Turn off lights, computer, etc, finish optional coffee, walk out door and lock it. Start walking to work.

~24 minutes after leaving apt, arrive at work. (Usually 6:24 a.m.) Meet supervisor out side building as he enjoys first cup of work coffee. Talk about previous day, plan for day ahead, talk family. Chew fat.

~6:30 a.m. Put lunch in freezer at work. Start breakfast cooking.

~6:35 a.m. Sit down at desk, let food cool off. Log into PC, start loading work programs. Go get coffee and water. Come back to desk. Finish loading programs.

~6:40 a.m. Listen to morning voicemail from CEO on store sales and other noted events. Load morning websites.

6:45 a.m. Clock in, log into phone, start work.

We all have our little quirks, our habits, our patterns. Sometimes they are created because we can't stand an unstructured life, sometimes they are imposed on us by our career (military life comes to mind), and sometimes by our loved ones, children who need to be up in time for the bus in the morning.

For me, it was about survival. Not life or death, but I wanted to keep my job. My car went Kaput, and begging rides is not how I roll. (Heh... Rides... how I *roll*... get it? Ahem) I have to either walk or bike to work. The bike needs some work done on it, so I am walking. When the car first stopped on me, I didn't have a bike to use, so I was walking regardless.

I knew, without a doubt, that the ONLY way I was going to show up on time was to turn my morning into a regimented routine with a built in room for error. You may have heard the axiom "Hope for the best, plan for the worst." I've read enough military sci-fi to understand that the best thing to plan for first is your "Go-To-Hell" plan. That way, when if you are still working on other projects and plans and things suddenly go to hell, you have a plan for it. My go to hell plan is to call my boss and beg a ride if I am running really late. He knows this, and has offered rides before, so I don't feel too sorry about it. When my car was working, my go to hell plan was walking. It's a good thing I had a plan.

When I was at Multnomah, I had a 7am class. Ugh. I ended up with a similar routine in place to get me to class. I am not a morning person, but I am a routine person. If I have a routine in place, I follow it fairly well. A little too well, sometimes. One morning I stumbled into the cafeteria for breakfast and the lady there scanning meal cards looked at me and declared "You're late!" It turns out I was five minutes later than when I normally would walk in. I didn't know I was that regular, I just followed my routine. I had to. If I didn't, I wouldn't make it to class.

There are three things I want to highlight. The first two are ones that really only came to me as I was writing this.

1) What routines do we have, good or bad, in our lives? How can we remove the bad ones, and replace them with good ones? How can we use these good routines in our lives? What do bad ones or poorly built ones do to negatively impact our lives?

2) What is your "Go-To-Hell" plan?Do you have a plan for getting items of value to safety if you need to evacuate? I do. Do you have a plan to get to work if the car breaks down? I do (obviously). My co-worker just called in saying he was in a bad wreck. (He said he is ok, by the way, but prayers appreciated.) Do we have a plan to get him to work once the on site stuff is settled? Yep. At work we just did a major revision of our emergency planning for all kinds of problems. (Most begin with "grab the firebag and run like crazy.") We have a plan. Do you?

3) How many people don't have a job to plan for? How many people do not have the privilege of going to work in the morning, of earning money. How many have given up hope of a future? Americans have been accused of being lazy. And to some degree, that may be true. But one thing that has always been true is that by and large, Americans are not afraid of work. As a country, we need to work, we need to move, we need to have something to plan for. We cannot do this when we are taxed to heavily, when our employers are forced to pay higher premiums on insurance, and after being fleeced to pay for government programs for the poor, they cannot afford to hire the poor. The needy. The hungry. The ones willing to work.

The answer is not to support our poor in their poverty. It is to keep them uncomfortable in it, to let the employers have the money they need to hire more people, to let the poor lift them selves out of poverty by getting a job, even if it is minimum wage, and to plan and hope for a better future. To have a reason for a Go-To-Hell plan, because they are no longer in it. Power over poverty does not rest in the government.

It rests with the people.

These are things I think about when walking to work.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Thoughts on the nature of sin.

No big prognostications or throwing patriotism in peoples faces today. Just some meandering thoughts.

In writing a story of mine a few years back (need to finish it, dernit), I had to have one character explain the nature sin to another character. Particularly, I needed one woman, Sara, who is a Christian, to explain how she can believe in Christ, follow Him, and stand against sins like homosexuality, when she herself is attracted to women.

Chloe, the other woman in the scene, doesn't understand how Sara reconcile her natural desires and the belief in a God who would have her deny those desires. How is that a loving God?

The problem, of course, is that for Sara to adequately explain this, I have to be able to adequately explain it. Oh, joy.

In the end, I came up with a somewhat odd theory.

Some people are born with physical deformities. Some or benign, if a little odd. Dwarfism, comes to mind. Nothing wrong or bad about dwarfism, it's just not the norm. Having a sixth finger. Purple eyes. All benign, just... different.

Some are not so benign. Siamese twins, with the possible health and social consequences, autism, children born missing part or all of limbs, born with cancer already riddling their bodies, heart conditions, etc. These threaten the very lives of the ones who have them, and if they are not killed, they can still suffer tremendous hurdles in their path for the rest of their lives.

The same is true for us spiritually, I believe.

Some of us are born with benign spiritual deformities. I like puns. A lot. :D I have a hard time feeling a connection to a given place or object the way other people do. Others have a hard time relating to others emotions. Generally benign, they are the little quirks that make us unique.

And some are as dangerous as physical conditions. I have a temper that sometimes gets me in trouble. I have a innate fear that everyone at some point is out to get me, and have a very hard time trusting people because of it. There are people who have a spiritual mutation that causes them to desire things they should not. Sex outside of God's intention, premarital, extramarital, homosexual, bisexual, bestiality, etc. Some are masochists, some are anorexic, and some are suicidal.

Many of the strange ideas I have seen that I know are against the Word of God is, quite frankly, unfathomable to me. Bestiality, for one, makes me want to puke. Ditto for male homosexuality. I guess since I am attracted to woman, I can understand how a woman would be attracted to a woman. *Shrug*

But just because I don't understand the desires many people have, doesn't mean I can't recognize the source of those desires. From the time Adam and Eve sinned and God Cursed them, our spiritual mutations have been passed on the same way our genetic ones have.

Does this mean I am ok with Gays living a gay lifestyle? After all, they were born with the desire, it is a part of who they are!

Am I ok with letting an infant grow up with cancerous growths? After all, he was born with it!

We as men are blessed to be able to fight and cure many diseases. We cannot, however, cure spiritual ones. We can try and mitigate the symptoms, discipline and train ourselves to overcome them on a daily basis, but only God can cure us.

To the LGBT community who may be reading this, I am not attacking you. I am not saying you are horrible evil people who should be beaten or killed or what not. Nor am I saying you should be silenced from speaking out on your beliefs. I am simply stating my beliefs.

To the Christian community who may be reading this, my goal is this: remind ourselves that we ALL are sick. We all have mutations in our souls that only God can heal and cure. And to be honest, He may choose not to cure them. Give us strength to live with them, yes. Cure, unlikely. But before we go and launch an attack on the ones we see as sick, remember, so are we. We simply have had the blessing of knowing the loving and kindness and discipline of the Father. If we are to really serve as His hands on this earth, we need to show the same attributes to our brothers and sisters.

Do I give up one inch on saying homosexuality is wrong? No. But "Gay bashing" is not right, either.
Do I give up one inch on saying masochism is wrong? No. But attacking masochists as freaks is not right, either.

We has a Christian culture have failed to correctly identify the target of our arguments. We must strike against the idea that just because we are "born this way" it is alright to live that way. Some people are born as sociopathic killers. We don't say it's alright for them to live that way!

The counter-argument of course will be that how do we know that heterosexuality is the way to are supposed to be born. We can't just pick and choose what we like being born with, after all!

Fortunatly, we don't have to. God has done that for us. We must hold God's word as the standard. If we have a doubt on something, go to the Word in prayer. The Word, and a reliance on our Faith, is the only way we can make a change in our culture. If we try and argue on a worldly basis, we will lose. Not because what we say isn't true, but because worldly "truth" is not grounded in God's truth.

Anyway. That's my thoughts.


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