Austin summer is easing its way in slowly

Austin summer is easing its way in slowly, as repeated rainshowers bring cool, muggy air to the area, and then it will be hot and dry again. The last possible train to take me back to my old career appears to have left the station. They have gone radio silent on me after three interviews. I have yet to find a church that feels like home, after the church I thought would be my home church made it clear they didn’t want me around. What I will do after leaving here is all a big mystery, and maybe that’s the right way for it to be for me.

Truth be told, I haven’t had many days down here where I’ve felt the call, the vocation, the excitement to become a pastor. If anything, I feel like all the signs pointed me in a direction to come down here, but once we got down here, the signs disappeared.

I am thinking that maybe as an adult I’ve tried for too long to be the kind of person people were expecting me to be as an adolescent and young adult–more outgoing, cheerful, friendly, talkative, responsive, engaging. And yet, most adults as they get older seem to become more like I was at the age of 12-13 onward–reserved, drawn inward, slow to respond, measured or circumspect in response, etc.

This has been a significant cause of irregular personal growth, or even stunted personal growth. At this point in my life, I care little about what other people think, and how my words are being received. I’ve discovered that no matter how clearly you try to explain your intentions and point to someone, they will pretty much end up hearing what they want to hear (and disregard the rest).

I am the tiniest speck of light. I am no bigger than a grain of sand

I am the tiniest speck of light. I am no bigger than a grain of sand. But in my smallness, I can see the vastness of where the infinite microscopic wraps around to meet the macroscopic. There is one stream that abides thusly, but there are many more. I am in this stream for now. The undertow is immense. I had a dream of surfing enormous waves, unconcerned about the undertow. When you are a tiny being of light inside the world of light, you fly about inside it as if you were swimming.

We are all tiny specks of light, and each of us has chosen our particular light source. One is the false light bearer, the other is the Lord of Light. Both appear to shine brightly from a certain point of view. You have been fooled if you have sold out your eternal birthright for the food of one day.

But, make no mistake about it–the false light bearer will try to sell you on his non-existent, illusory brand of eternity, if it’s eternity you are seeking.

I’m not saying that things were better back in ancient times

I’m not saying that things were better back in ancient times, but I’m not going to go so far as to believe that we have got it all figured out, and the ancients didn’t know squat, either. The enlightened Greeks, Chinese, Indians, Romans, Jews–whoever–were members of their elite classes within cities and nations that consisted of mostly people who were illiterate and enslaved. Perhaps the same could be said for the entire world today. Just like in ancient times, the Platos and Archimedes and Aristotles of the world couldn’t save their civilizations from corruption and collapse, it would seem that those who are most intelligent both intellectually and socio-emotionally may not save our present global civilization from destroying itself. If education is denied to even a minority of people, then it is that minority who ultimately prevent light from conquering darkness. And so it must be, that we might have to watch it all fall apart and then rebuild again from what pieces remain.

I hope it doesn’t happen this way. I hope that the ever-shrinking globe doesn’t become the one world government cashless society where all who wish to participate in the economy must receive marks on their foreheads or backs of their hands. But, I’m not enough of an optimist to cease considering the possibility that some major shift for the worse will happen either in my lifetime or my son’s lifetime. With the direction technology, exploding populations, climate change are heading, I just can’t see more than a hundred years passing before something has to give. At the very least, the U.S. will bow out as the number one superpower and hand the title over to China and perhaps share a number two or three spot with India and Russia.

What I do think was better in ancient times, for those who had the means and freedom to sit around and think and learn and write, was a simple diet, simple type of dress, and very little energy consumed. Don your toga, grab your chalks and notebooks, and go down to the Academy and read books, talk, learn and think. Write down what you learn and add to the library. And, that’s about it. You eat some grapes, figs, olives, goat cheese, honey, bread and occasionally some fish. You drink wine and water. You bathe in the sea or a public bath. You do calisthenics in the morning and walk briskly throughout the day. Why do you need anything else? Perhaps you have some body odor, but so does everyone else, and everyone has become immune to their strong natural scents.

I suppose that if I didn’t have other people and the Lord prodding me along

I suppose that if I didn’t have other people and the Lord prodding me along, I would simply curl up into a cheap cocoon and do nothing but read books, drink beer and write down whatever comes into my head. Without any sense of honor and duty and feeling bound to make good out of my life for my family and those who sacrificed much for me, I would gladly have saved up to buy the cheapest piece of land just close enough to a grocery store, with a small trailer and a shotgun to scare off any would-be intruders. And purchase a cheap used laptop at a garage sale that ran some kind of word processor. My bed would be a blow-up air mattress or a used mattress that wasn’t too stained and fouled up. My clothes would come from Goodwill, and be replaced once every twenty years. I would never cut my hair or beard. Books would come from the public library and free e-books I downloaded to a USB stick from the Internet while at the public library. Money would be spent on food, beer, electricity, and overdue library book fees. I might have a dog, but it would be a scruffy mutt who came and went as it pleased and I wouldn’t cry if it got run over or eaten up by a hawk.

I guess I’m just not built like many other humans who have to know how their sports teams are doing, and must keep current on which films will receive Oscar nominations.

The opposing forces: transform yourself and become someone new and great, find yourself at your core and be you as you were entirely meant to be.

Winds of good fortune, winds of right being, winds that seem to make sense, not necessarily winds of comfort but certainly winds that are not harsh or out to knock me down– I haven’t felt them completely at my back since childhood. Since adolescence began, the right amount of right-fitting winds at my back has never been felt. I’ve always been struggling, going against the winds before me. Sometimes out of folly, sometimes just to catch up with everyone else after a period of folly.

In my interactions with others, the good winds are never at my back. I am always pushing, pushing, trying to keep from being blown over. I relax, take it easy, just be myself, I am blown over. I push against the wind, I have modest movement forward, but never do I make great leaps and bounds.

The world seems designed to do its best to spit me out, to put me into such a state of being and state of thinking that all I want to do is drink, eat and cash out until I inevitably kill myself from too much consumption and sloth.

The man who has the good winds at his back is the one fellow I bullied mercilessly, aside from my little brother, for about a year or so when I came into adolescence. After some karma came along and bit me on the ass but good, I ceased the bullying, but I never completely recovered. I was from that moment forward, destined to be an outcast pushing against the winds that blew in favor of others. Surely I deserved much of the early bad karma, but not the life of standing on the outside looking, pushing inward, wondering why I have never been able to re-align, re-set, re-orient, and begin again someplace, in a community among new friends and connections living happily without the constant sense of existential angst that comes from feeling severed off from that which is good, right and true about humanity.

Another summer in Austin, Texas.

Another summer in Austin, Texas. What is new under the sun this year is not especially significant. It is part of the same old story, and new only as a variation on the same theme. The search is, of course, for a certain kind of truth that may or may not be the Truth, as some would have it. It is a search for more than happiness, as happiness by itself is inadequate to sustain me.

What is needed is a figure who is strong and brave enough to get past the tit-for-tat, purely selfish economic mode that the bulk of humanity lapses into in order to get through the day. Anyone, even a toddler, can return a perceived slight with some form of lashing out, some reactive type of violence. It takes an exceptionally big person to wake up in the morning and state unequivocally that they are going to take each punch squarely on the nose and return that punch with a smile and prayer of love.

It will require a superhuman to see every single human being as equally valuable, as possessing great worth and dignity, as being 100% human. Someone who laments when the littlest and weakest and most despised and forgotten of humanity goes missing. Someone who takes that soul up into their arms and gives comfort.

What is needed is a lot of comfort. More discourse of anger, hatred, violence, and smug satisfaction when the Other loses–if you are making more of that, then you are taking the easy path.

Not everyone who claims to be a Christian exemplifies Christ. Not everyone who claims to be a non-Christian has missed the mark in exemplifying Christ. Christ is, at the end of the day, a fully-realized human being at their most perfect. You will not find Christ here on earth, because no human being can exult themselves or perform many great tasks to reach the stage of Christhood of their own accord.

Christ loves all human beings equally, and says, come and see what my way is about. Christ does not say, you are more worthy than you because of your sociocultural status, and you must follow me and force others to follow me. The history of the religion that claims the name of Christ shows an inordinate number of followers who did not remotely exemplify Christ. The ones who did mostly went unrecorded in history. But, human history, and God’s accounting of human endeavor are radically different. The names and faces you call great may or may not be the same ones that God does.

I can’t stress enough how much more strength it takes not to lash out and fight back reactively, passive aggressively and instinctively. It takes infinitely more strength to be proactive in your pacifitivity then it does to to be merely passive and secretly full of violence and hatred when you are persecuted.

Being a proactive pacifist requires you to face the punches, attacks and onslaughts squarely and head-on with love, and to ultimately be offensive in your bringing of love to your enemies. You don’t wait to return love for evil. You find those who are likely to bring evil into your house and express love for them.

If you haven’t learned to be proactive in any sort of fashion, which is to say, if you are still reacting to the punches life throws at you, then you shouldn’t try to be like Christ. Be like an ordinary person of your time and place first. Be on the offense instead of always on the defense. Be the one to initiate a greeting or contact with a stranger or neighbor.

The moments when the brain is in such a state are actually few and far between.

It would even seem that as I get older, it becomes even harder to maintain a proactive approach to life. Just get up and react and try not to get into too much conflict or debt. Try to get out of life with only a few people holding grudges against you. Better to have no one in your life then have twenty friends and twenty-one enemies.

Dream last night that I was working in a place

Dream last night that I was working in a place that looked something like the cross between McDonald’s and part of my old high school. I was being graded on a point system based on how well I cleaned the area. Apparently, the last time I’d been graded, the manager had given me a grade that was too high for the work I’d done, but I also remembered another time where I’d received a lower grade than what I thought I deserved. My manager that night was MR from UW, and he was yelling that I needed to be graded harshly to make up for the last grade that was unfairly on the high side. I became incensed at him and started screaming that I had also been unfairly graded too low before as well, and couldn’t he remember that? Finally, he ended up being this talking head on a bed mocking me, and I furiously tried to knock the head off the bed. I awoke to my wife telling my to stop hitting her on the head. MR’s head had seemed like it was unusually stuck to the bed, but I had persisted in trying to knock it off the bed until I realized what I was doing in real life.

Today is Father’s Day, but I’ve been conditioned by my own father not to make too big a thing out of most holidays. We took my dad to eat at a nearby BBQ place yesterday, but I hadn’t really planned on doing it because it was Father’s Day weekend. My dad has gotten pretty slow with his walk. He turns 78 this year. This month marks the ten-year anniversary of my mom’s passing, but we don’t talk about it.

We walked up and down Pease Park trail a bit, and my son played at the playground for awhile. The dog was pretty worn out by the end of the walk she is the same age as my dad in dog years. She is mostly pretty happy and excited to go on these walks with us, though.

I’ve been feeling the pull to read more math and science books again, and start doing some type of running or working out, even though it is now in the 100s during the day here. I have a workout room on the campus where I live, but I’ve yet to become fully motivated to go and use it. Maybe this evening after my study group meets and my son is in bed, I’ll go and halfheartedly try to use a few machines.

Recently, I’ve been feeling pretty dispassionate about a lot of things that I was only very recently passionate about. I don’t feel especially strongly one way or another about whether I should stay here in school and go on to be chaplain, or leave and get back into the old career. The sense of being on a path of following Christ seems to come from some place wholly independent of worldly pursuits, and after seeing much of what is required to become a pastor, I am inclined to see most pastoral careers as being closer to other secular careers in that they make demands on the individual that specifically serve worldly institutions, systems and processes first before arriving at the place of serving the Lord.

It seems almost impossible to find one’s self in a place where one is primarily serving Christ over and above any considerations for the demands made by secular insititutions. In other words, you are going to inevitably see something attractive in the books, the organizations, the people, the title, the office–all of the trappings tied to Christian education and pastoral activity–before you get to the place where you are putting Christ first. And, this is all said and considered without even bringing family and its demands into the picture.

It can only be this way for one of two reasons. One, we are all just really weak people of the flesh, and material, visible things inevitably conquer us and help define us because we can’t maintain a tight relationship with an invisible being. Or, Christ is helping us in these directions because it is preferable to indirectly serve the Lord than to wind up serving an idol you thought was Christ but was simply a fabrication of your own imagination. Or, possibly thirdly, it could be a little of both.

There is much about humanity and human endeavor outside of the spiritual world that is extremely attractive. But, I inevitably conclude that I am missing something without the spiritual component inserted into my life. Living and engaging with humans who have abandoned God on a regular basis leaves me feeling cold, empty, and one-dimensional. However, it should be reiterated that living among humans who are overly obsessed and concerned with spiritual things at all times becomes wearying and makes me feel ungrounded and unstable. My goal is to constantly return to the primary Source that moves me, and makes me whole again, without becoming infatuated with an idolized version of it to the point that I am crazy and unbalanced. I suppose you could say that’s been my goal for over ten years, more or less, but all of my attempts to embark upon some kind of obsessively-focused career that matches my inner quest for satisfaction have been met with disappointment.

It could very well be that I am simply not made in this life to align my inner quest and mission with a particular career–that no career is going to serve to satisfy and reward me, because I am incapable of pursuing a particular career with diligence without turning it into my little god, my idol which I devote all of my time and energy to.

Therefore, it may very well be a blessing and not an unfortunate consequence of my weak flesh that I am feeling so blase about whatever particular line of work I decide to do next after leaving seminary.

Letting go … I’m going to be swallowed up, and only Christ can save me.

Letting go … I’m going to be swallowed up, and only Christ can save me. There is no learning to swim when the waters rush in. Only Jesus will make the difference. Letting go of many things I was hanging onto in my head. Luxuriating in the warm glow of retreating deep inside. The tension to grasp, to understand, to prove myself…gone. I am at peace with where I’ve landed.

The incessant need to grapple and worry with a thing until I feel like I own it. The ever-present sense of being on the cusp of something big. The will to convince myself one more time that I possess something that will make me exceptional. I just let go of all of them.

There’s no need to drink more coffee to stimulate the brain. There’s no need to drink more beer to relax the brain. The brain is in retreat, it is slumped over in an inner easy chair. It will abide. It will be happy wherever it is taken. It doesn’t need to be in the driver’s seat. It doesn’t need a career. It doesn’t need to be validated.

The brain doesn’t need to read every book, hear every song, view every painting, travel everywhere.

The brain just is.

For a time, for a spell, I am just going to relax inside this soft place. Maybe I will fall asleep. Perhaps I will be roused by someone incensed at me having allowed myself to be given over to sloth.