If I knew precisely what Jesus wanted me to do, would I actually do it

If I knew precisely what Jesus wanted me to do, would I actually do it? Perhaps I am really still too scared to find out. What if I met Jesus in a vision or dream, knew it was him, and he told me to leave behind my family to live in some place like Iraq trying to convert people to Christianity? Or, less dramatic, he told me to forget about seminary and pick up my family and move them to Philly’s worst neighborhoods and start a ministry there.

If I manage to work my mind into a state where I feel all warm and gushy and Jesus-y, and start getting excited about knowing and doing only holy things and not doing much thinking for myself, I am soon disappointed to find that it is likely not the case that Jesus wants me to completely give up my brain for the sake of being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is much harder to understand than the pain and disaster that comes from moving in the completely opposite direction, and only spending time with God now and then in church.

It seems like there is a terrifying learning curve for me to simply become my true self. Not my true Self as in some grand, Buddhist or New Agey sort of way–where I tap into a universal consciousness and lose my ego to all and One. I am talking about the me I was built to be before I allowed too much of the devil and a will to please others run my life.

Who knows who my friends in school would have been? I am guessing that at least by college, they wouldn’t have been the dorm gang I joined. But, beyond this, how can I possibly rectify decades of bad social training? There are no simple analogies or answers for this one. An analogy like a Honda trying to be a Corvette doesn’t cut it. Every time I try to re-ignite the “me” of social media, I am bombarded with all of the old drinking and dorm friends. They always seem to want something from me that I just can’t give them. They weren’t the ones who were being phony–or, maybe they were, but that’s hardly for me to discern. Judging from the fact that most of them seem to be little changed over the course of time, I would have to say that I was the one who was playing at being someone I was not.
Really, I’ve written about a lot of this–what I need to figure out is how to be a different sort of person than the person I have been. I need to be intensely watchful, like a hawk, of all of the bad behavior patterns rising up within me. But, how can I do this if I haven’t set out to define myself for who it is I should be? The ability to pick at myself and critique and know what ISN’T supposed to be there is endless. Yet, what of what should be there?

It is easy enough to say that I need to trust Jesus to fix those things that I am powerless to change, but I honestly don’t know how this can actually work. I have cried out to Jesus many times to heal me of some of my worst soul sickness, to help me, and I often do not feel the least bit like I have unburdened myself and will be getting help from a higher power. I have certainly spent even more time trying to figure out how to fix myself on my own without any help, but I think I’ve exhausted all of those options as well, short of flagellation of the flesh.

Oddly enough, I can somehow still manage to cobble together in my mind a plan that looks new and get excited about it, but plans like that never last.

I think that instead of having a neat, linear path of development for my whole self, that can be measured up against other people who are the same age as me, there are tiny little pieces of self that remain stunted in their growth. These pieces are smaller than even divisions around, say, the spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional, physical, etc. selves. These pieces are more like: how should I act and speak when I am in this X,Y,Z situation? What is good and right when faced with a difficult ethical or moral dilemma?

Such pieces are often like little monsters that rear their ugly heads if you try to awaken them and sort them out. You mostly repress them, put them to sleep, and come up with some sort of auto-pilot way of being that gets you by and helps you not have to deal with things like how angry you might get when someone shuts you down in a group conversation setting. The act of trying to meet and deal with many of them when you are also trying to simply live a decent life into your middle age can be like walking a tightrope on fire.

Some people will strongly urge you to not even bother with addressing those pieces of you that never grew up quite right. “Fake it until you make it,” they say, “work toward something good that draws you toward it.” This makes a lot of sense until you find yourself behaving badly because an unsuspecting coworker or friend has triggered and awakened a sleeping dog you worked so hard to keep asleep. Like anything else, there has to be balance in your approach to a thing, I suppose.

Except, I also crave some kind of radical change. I always have. I have memories of being in the fifth grade and creating highly ambitious schedules of mental and physical development for myself, where every hour of my summer was mapped out to maximize the betterment of myself. And, I have memories of repeating this kind of schedule-making into my thirties before giving up. It never works, because things always come up that you want to do or have to do that weren’t on the schedule, and the things you swore you’d force yourself to do rarely get done with any staying power unless you are being motivated by the promise of, say, a beautiful woman’s attention.

My motivation today has more to do with not ending up like my dad, who went into a kind of fat hibernation throughout his forties and fifties, ballooning up to almost 300 lbs, while smoking a lot and drinking a little. I guess my mom’s several bouts with cancer made him change for the most part. He realized he’d be dead by sixty if he kept up the non-regimen of getting fatter and fatter.

Now, I have this noticeable belly and side fat that annoys the shit out of me. I go out and run for about forty minutes, and then I don’t want to run again for a week or more. I stop drinking until life drives me crazy. I get my weight back down to about 200, and then it just kind of stays at that. When I biked and ran like crazy, I had gotten my weight down to 175, but I would be delighted with 190. Not for any other reason than just to not look like I am on my way to becoming like so many dudes I see around here in Waco, waving their enormous guts with pride like they probably waved their dicks back in high school. I sincerely believe these dudes are proud of being slightly on the obese side–a mark of having found some kind of work that doesn’t require them to get in real physical shape, even if it is some kind of manual labor. Running out in the heat, hitting the gym, that’s for women, boys and metrosexual men–says they. But, really, they just can’t face the enormous uphill battle that is involved with getting your ass in shape after 40. However, they have no problem eating like they are 20. I am getting to be a lot like them because I am comfortable in my marriage and exercise is a ferocious amount of work and pain that didn’t seem to be there when I was 20.

Good morning

Good morning. I am writing to you from a tiny place and time, a tiny body, a corruptible, mortal body. My soul craves eternal life, and my flesh craves this world of death. My flesh has craved death-making things for about as long as I can remember. I wanted to depart from the world of things, too. That was my soul talking. I think about how much I might actually remember of this life when I die.

I may remember nothing at all, except a few shining moments of beauty or vice. I would like to die to all that was old and corruptible, but there is a pull that is quite strong. Jesus, please help me.

I know that I am a nobody, but I am not so insignificant that I will be ignored when it comes time to be held accountable for my life. At this point in my life, I think I have just about reset all of the bad deeds with some good ones. I am running at about a goodness factor of 0, which may seem terrible, but it’s better than being negative and still full of evil. However, every time I try to be really good, wise and loving of the world and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I seem to rouse a demon who is every bit the opposite of my attempts at being really pious.

I’ve tried to be nice to people, and then I get mad when they aren’t nice. Of course, I can step back and think rationally that it is absurd to expect people to be nice back to you when you are nice to them. You can almost always count on them returning any meanness tit-for-tat, but niceness, not so much.

People aren’t the problem, though. Or, they have always been, and always will be a problem of sorts, but they don’t inform who I am trying to be.

I am trying to become a stripped-down person, free of any sort of baggage or proclivity toward baggage and accruing stuff. This obviously includes material possessions, but also mental thought patterns that rise up and become obsessions for days at a time. At my core, I’d like to know myself, as I am, as I was made to be by God, and act accordingly. I want to spend the rest of my life not craving after places I will never go, things I will never have, women I will never know…occupations I will never hold. I want to just be me, straight up plain and simple and free of all but a few books, papers and photos.

I open up myself and become more susceptible to distractions when I do this. My spirit hasn’t matured sufficiently to combat the whims of the flesh. I see something that might be fun to do, and I buy it. A beermaking kit and a pastamaker sit unused and unopened for years. I don’t know why I don’t get involved with such things after they are purchased. The time involved to try something new usually ends up producing a satisfaction and reward that can’t come from reading more books and writing more words.

I just feel this uneasiness every time I start to get too caught up in a subject that isn’t related to the revelation and expression of Jesus and His love. Like I’ve gotten off track and am missing the point in being here. Decades have been spent full of misery for not paying more attention to this. Nothing I’ve ever done professionally, with maybe the exception of some moments of cooking, has ever brought me any real deep satisfaction. I know that I can be content with difficult people and problems at work during periods where I am fooling myself into thinking that my job brings me deep satisfaction.

So, I surmise that I will likely be okay with such problems as they arise when I go to seminary and become a pastor. I am not expecting a perfect life in the future, but I do want to live the life that is most perfect for me as God wills it. If God wills that I never get to see lands abroad again in this life, I can accept it. However, if this isn’t His will, but I have foolishly wasted money on frivolous food and drink that could have been saved for such visits (as I have done most of my adult life), then I would not consider my life to be perfectly lived.

For me, all of this starts with (and continues to loop back to) a burning love for Jesus. This love causes me to see how impoverished of spirit I really am. I have lived too many years as a bitter soul, demanding that God give me what I deserve out of life. I have only marginally and weakly offered prayers of gratitude to Him on a regular basis for all of the blessings that have come to me in my life. But, once I reach a somewhat better state, I quickly realize that making myself and my family better off is not enough. I must help others. There is no question about it. Charity doesn’t end at my property line. Being charitable isn’t just about plopping a check in the offering plate, but having a completely different mindset–reaching out to others even when you know they might ignore you or even laugh at you or scowl at you or yell at you. Because when you do, you will stumble upon those who want to receive your charitable spirit–which may or may not come in the form of material gifts.

I have no need to keep much at all to myself. I believe the best gift I can pass on to my son isn’t a trust fund but a sense of how to learn what he needs to know to be successful in a knowledge-based economy. I am confident that L will grow up to not need much money for college–he will have the initiative to do well in school and get scholarships and do well in college to get a degree that affords him a decent paying job. If he should decide that he too doesn’t want to live for a salary, but live for a meaningful occupation that may or may not pay well, I am perfectly okay with that too, but I don’t expect him to have the same mindset as me. He is his own person. This was a lesson that was so hard to learn for me when H started to express his own likes and dislikes. He wasn’t interested in books like I was, but had an exceptionally good mind for logic and numbers.

I do believe that I can’t really become an exceptionally charitable individual in my community if I can’t be charitable with my family. If I am unable to stop my selfish will toward going off and reading a book or writing, and spend time with my family, then I will never learn to be charitable to others–or if I am freely giving of my time to my community and not my family, I will end up raising a son who is deeply alienated from me.

I woke up this morning and I had spent a night of being attacked by a myriad of thought patterns

I woke up this morning and I had spent a night of being attacked by a myriad of thought patterns that I really didn’t want to have anymore, but I have them because I invited them in once. They are like vampires.
Maybe they are vampires.
On another subject, I’ve discovered that my lazy way of being is to become an intense specialist. Everyone wants to be a big picture and a strategist, because we all innately understand that these are the leaders. The little people make cabinets and stay out of the way.
You have to really work at getting rid of your ego if you want to be a leader, but a servant first. A servant-first mentality with an ego still attached will see you become the class clown, fool or whipping boy. People will think that you are relishing your role of being their bitch.
I suppose I could also throw in the difference between being active and passive, but it is probably better to consider the difference between being awake and alert and letting life roll you over. For what it’s worth, the commandment to be sharp as a serpent and innocent as a dove rings true.
There is no avoiding the fact that if I am only half awake, I don’t have complete control over my thoughts. The thoughts come fast, and they are connected to emotions and sexual impulses. Even if I only maybe one time had a brief flash of “what would it be like to sleep with her”, in my half-wake state in the middle of the night, I can suddenly become consumed with an all-out obsession with some random woman.
I wake up fully in the morning and I know that that wasn’t me, even though I will have to repent for my sins and work harder to purge such nonsense from my brain. Maybe I am not as full-time committed to becoming a righteous man as I would like to think.
Years of having people indicate to me that who you are is mostly how you present your persona in the public sphere has left me with hypocritical tendencies—that incipient thinking that says as long as I become a righteous man in the eyes of others, I will be truly righteous.
I mean, I am not an evil man. When I sit for hours confessing and obsessing over my sins, I am recollecting times where I think I was just being a man—an average guy—but, that is no longer enough. I want to be a saint. I want to at least be a saint on my death bed at 80, if not a day before. And, I truly want to be a saint on that day, not just a saint in the eyes of others.

Negatives and positives.

This may seem obvious, but each thing can be negative or positive depending upon how it is employed. The unobvious part comes from when I spend too much time declaring a certain thing to be only negative.

Obviously, there are certain acts which are evil in any light, though they may have a wholesome, right-ordered counterpart. Sex, for example (Evil practices of it that pretty much everyone agrees are evil). Maybe less obviously, murder. There is murder of the living, which almost always is evil, but murder of the evil thoughts and unwanted behavior patterns is good. Ordinate vs. inordinate love of others, etc.

The thing I was thinking of was less grand than these, though. I was thinking about distractions. Distractions may actually be quite useful if they are employed in a conscious, controlled fashion. Waking up in the middle of the night full of sinful thoughts might be countered with the distraction of writing random thoughts or reading random things. However, the will to discipline myself to become fully capable of being conscious and controlled about it (or doing it at all) is something I haven’t developed well.

Other things might be extremely terrible, and never should have happened at all in a perfect world, but somehow, much good has managed to spring from them, though the victims of the terrible human and natural tragedies aren’t here to witness the good (as far as we know, anyway, with the possible exception that reincarnation brings them back to enjoy the flowers that bloomed from their deaths). We can think of great examples like Russian, Germany, Cambodia, etc. in the 20th Century or small ones like the deaths of immediate family members.

If H had lived, would I have bothered to maintain a dialogue with God until I finally returned to the Church? Probably not. I likely would have stayed in KC, broken up with G soon enough, and gone to law school or gotten a PhD in English. Maybe my life on the surface would have been more successful over the past fifteen years or so, but I may have never looked or thought twice about returning to Christianity.

I don’t think I would have spent that much time interacting with my parents, and I very well might have ended up a completely bitter and lost soul with only a few published articles and papers to show for it.

I think every horrible thing that has happened on the scale of history and humanity brings about great changes in how we view ourselves as human beings who treat others with decency. The majority of history (and the world today), sees us still treating each other like shit, but when something big finally happens to get people’s attention in an emotionally powerful sort of way, then people start to change.

Things to get excited about

Things to get excited about:
I am going to seminary. One day, probably in 4-5 years, I will be called to preach at a church. I will finally realize my dream of having a church and community I can be intimately involved with, full time.
I am healthy. I don’t have any major health issues. I wake up and eat what I want, even though I don’t really want to eat as much junk food and meat as I used to. But, I still eat what I want instead of worrying about some foods killing me in the very near future.
I have a healthy, happy little son. Another long-time dream has come true.
I have a wife who supports me and helps me through some of my dark nights of the soul. Her parents are not the proverbial hypercritical in-laws.
I have all of my debts paid off with money in the bank.

These are things to be grateful for. God is good to me, even though I am not especially good or even fair. I strive to be good, though. I think constantly about getting better than I was. I may not reach my goal of being mostly righteous until the day I die, but God is still with me.

I spent my first entire night alone with L, while A is in Oklahoma City. It went reasonably well, with him waking up only once before 6 AM, and then going back to sleep at 6 until 7. The dog got up when L got up at 3:30 AM, and woke L back up after I’d initially put him back to sleep.

Then, it started thundering and raining later in the morning. The baby doesn’t seem to care about this, but the animals get upset and cling to me. This creates tension and noise that probably rubs off some on L.

L seems to be fairly easily entertained by Curious George, Daniel Tiger and Sesame Street. Busy Beavers is starting to wear thin with him, and none of the other YouTube shows are quite captivating him the same way it used to.

I have to take being fully engaged with L in small doses, especially when I am with him around the clock. I know that some pediatrician would slap my wrist for babysitting him with the television so much, but I try to keep it mostly on educational shows, with the occasional Disney or Peppa Pig thrown in. We at least seem to have a working routine that doesn’t cause a lot of fuss throughout the day.

I ordered way too many books on Amazon. I probably have several hundred of those $.99 complete collections of OCR->Kindle classics from the canon of literature and philosophy, and I ordered a bunch of poetry from other countries as well as some more religious books and a few socially conscious books. I probably have an infinite number of books running in my favorites and bookmarks.

The strange thing is, I don’t seem to be any more literate or have a larger vocabulary than when I started heavily reading again a few years ago. I guess as an adult, it’s harder for things to stick.

My mind. Awareness of self.

My mind. Awareness of self. Alert of the immediate surroundings. Rain outside. No end to it. The world is green, cold and wet. I don’t care about losing my life, but I don’t want to lose my mind. I don’t want to go to sleep forever, or have my memory wiped.

Awareness of my sinful behavior and thoughts. I lust, I get angry, I drink, I lapse into a vegetative state of letting the television entertain me. I seek out a state of sleep, to no face my reality.

My reality is that I am not a terribly interesting person. I am a boring person letting an average life full of the banal, the mundane, the unexceptional. Yet, my reality is perfect. I don’t want to trade it. I don’t want to be a different person. I am where I am supposed to be to grow to the next level of being.

The cat is shitting in the litterbox. The dog is sad because I am not paying attention to her, and she is afraid of the thunder. The baby is watching inane, repetitive YouTube videos designed to teach babies stuff. He likes the repetitive, jingly, high-pitched voices and music. I have learned to accept it as part of my environment, so that I don’t have to be constantly engaged with the baby. I love the baby, but constant attention poured out onto another being is hard. It’s hard enough just to keep myself awake.

Memories try to enter my mind. A trip to Vegas with the last software company I worked for. The absurdity of the place, the artificiality of it. And then, Disneyland and Orlando. It has its appeal in very small doses. Is my immersion in books or past memories any less artificial?

The rain makes it hard to periodically pause the television and take the activities outdoors. Indoors, the baby becomes frustrated because he can’t go outside. The TV kind of distracts him.

I don’t know that L will grow up to be anything like I might have imagined him to be. He won’t be a better version of me, or a repeat of my little brother H, or a child prodigy who gets his PhD at the age of ten. He will just be L.

I don’t know what the future will be like. The future could prove to be utterly banal and similar to the past thirty years. I could very well find myself at 70 having lived a comfortable life with few problems, and see L start a family a little earlier due to the fact that he will be more well-adjusted than I was, if nothing else.

I don’t know what death will be like. I will have to learn how to talk to people about death without being trite, and yet not stray too far from Presbyterian doctrine. I can do this. However, I am certain that I don’t know–I have faith that Jesus will take care of me if I continue down the path I’ve set myself on, in spite of all my sins that still take place. Jesus is forgiving and merciful–I can keep that much as a given, right?

My heart skips a lot of beats when I drink too much strong coffee, but I felt like having strong coffee today. Tea wasn’t going to cut it. Tea will eventually cut it, I am sure. One day, I will wake up and only drink tea, juice and smoothies. No more booze or coffee. Oh, and water–I will drink more water…for my kidneys’ sake.

The cat is now drinking out of the dog’s water. She knows that this upsets the dog, but the dog is more anxious about the thunder than anything. “I’m a little teapot” is playing. I wonder if L will remember all of the words for when he has to sing the song for the first time in preschool. I hope I am at least getting him to a place where he will enjoy learning new things. That’s the problem, I think, with how/where kids are going wrong and falling behind. You don’t get very far in school if you don’t enjoy reading books. I didn’t get nearly as far as I could have, but I at least continued to love learning in a way that enabled me to remain a valuable member of the workforce. Of course, that is no longer enough.

But, my point is that you can’t do well on a test if you just go about trying to remember everything by rote. A love of reading enables reading comprehension to come naturally.

I don’t know how to get a kid to love reading, though. I’ve tried with several mentor kids now, and I don’t think any of them love reading more than they did before they met me.

Maybe it’s just something the parents have to instill inside the child very early, or it’s almost impossible to take effect later.

Running. Moving. Going. Running toward or Running Away?

Running. Moving. Going. Running toward or Running Away? Soothing music plays in the background. Trance music from another era. Washed in a sea of violins and piano. I am still alive. I may not look all that pretty, but did I ever?

There is nothing left for you to do but move forward. There is no going back. You can write that a thousand times or more and keep writing until it sticks. The past falls away, and little sticks from the past. Most of the memories are gone by now, anyway.

Be emotional, but be in control of your emotions. Complete control. Know when the audience no longer wants to hear you laugh, or cry, or rant. But, more importantly, know when they are expecting you to do all of these things, because a wooden man facing an audience starved for feeling and attention from the entertainer will turn just as quickly as an audience not getting any of the other emotions it wants.

Stop hiding. Stop being shy.

The will to make something is there. I don’t know what to create. I tried running on my own powers and didn’t get very far.

I keep forgetting that I get nowhere without Jesus. I am kind of running my car in second gear. If only the friends on Friends had known about Jesus. They probably did, but they were too sophisticated and clever to pause to seek out a relationship with Him. Most of us never made friends like Friends when we were in our twenties and thirties. We just weren’t cool and pretty enough.