A New Bloody Year

Note: I’m not sure if I ever posted this. I think it may actually be a series of letters that I had planned to tack together in one blog, or maybe a series of MySpace bulletins that I strung together into one file. I’m not sure, and looking at the original document, I can see that I never finished it. Probably decided there was no point. Obviously, the mood behind it was one of great frustration. I remember the time period, and it was a troubled one. I was a week away from losing two important friendships (which thankfully both have been repaired since then) that I felt was coming. I had questions spinning around in my head about purpose, fulfillment, and whatnot. It was a season when I was trying to gain some equilibrium in my heart, mind, body, and spirit. It was also a time when I felt like I was losing people’s respect and didn’t understand why. It was just a mess of a time.

This isn’t a blog made for enjoyment. It gets harsh at points, proof that I am not perfect or always chill. But I think it also gets to a few important points that are still worth sharing, so I’m back-posting anyway. I’m posting it in its complete form, including the subject tabs that I never filled in, just because I think it should be unaltered. Not everything is bleach clean with me.

Introduction (Date: Jan. 29, 2007 / Mood: Frustrated):

I rarely journal, and when I do, it’s usually about heartbreaking stuff that I can hardly bring myself to read again. And in most cases it’s a waste of time. But I do think it’s worth it to journal when I have something to share, and I think, for this one moment in time, I have something to share.

This is partly because there’s a whole slew of you out there who have no idea what’s going on with me these days. You might’ve gotten my endless run of promotional stories when I was hyping the arrival of my third book a few months ago, which is out now, by the way—seeing as how no one has yet to buy a copy, it’s hard for me to know if the word is out—but that’s only part of the story—a very small part.

There are three pursuits that define me these days: the spiritual (the Christian journey), the economical (the freedom from the dead end market), and the relational (the quest for heterosexual courtship). I suppose you could tack on the hobbyist pursuit in there, too (the hope to become a better writer), but I think that loosely ties into all three categories in some mish-mashed kind of way.

Now, before I go on, I realize that some of you probably don’t like to get mass emails. Chances are that you get about a hundred junk letters a day, and that getting one more mass email might be enough to send you over the edge, sending you into that horrible frenzy of delete, delete. At least one of you has asked me to stop sending those stories back when I was trying to share my works with all of you, but clarified that you were okay with receiving updates about MY LIFE. Okay, well, just to clarify, this is an update on MY LIFE. If you (and I mean this to all of you, not just the one person who thought he/she had too much to read already) feel as though this is a violation against your mailbox space, then please let me know and I will promptly take you off my “People I’m Happy to Know” List. Since you’re mailbox space is clearly more important than MY LIFE, I’ll say my goodbye to you here and now, as I don’t want heartless strangers on my contacts list.

Also know that I’ll be sending this both through my email and through MySpace mail, since many of you are on one but not the other; and others still are on both, but only check your email once a month, where conversely you’re on MySpace every freakin’ day, which, quite frankly, doesn’t make any sense to me. So if you get this twice, well then that means I love you twice as much (or that I don’t think you’ll get one of them, which is more likely), and that should make you proud.

Now, having gotten the bureaucratic element out of the way, I will now give you the January 2007 update on things, which will probably sum up the last three years of my life (or thirty, I don’t know). I’ll start by discussing the spiritual things.

The Spiritual Things (Date: Jan. 30, 2007 / Mood: Solemn):

The spiritual side of life has been up and down, mostly, which is probably evident given my tone of voice—that mild dash of sarcasm that only comes out when I feel like nothing else is going on at a time when I need something else to go on. I think the heart of my struggles these days, and probably, quite honestly, for the last many years, is that I’m burned out with all the waiting I have to do to see fulfillment. Since childhood, there have been specific needs I wanted met (the first greatest need involving a personal issue that I don’t want to get into), that took far too long to reach an answer—a length that might’ve been responsible for making me into a better man, but not without also making me into a humiliated man. The challenges to follow those days of patience have been wrought with endless days of waiting for answers, some of which have been answered favorably, while others, I’m disappointed to say, have been answered with tragedy. So now, in my thirtieth year of life, I’ve learned quite well what it means to be patient, but have also learned what it means to lose strength and be shaken.

One of the greatest side-books I read in recent years, aside from the Bible, an inspirational book called Waking the Dead, reminded me that there is a spiritual war going on. Specifically, in one example, the author brings to light a tale (which he borrowed from a passage in the Bible, I seem to recall, but I don’t remember where exactly) about a man (Paul, maybe?) who prayed fervently for an answer to his dilemma, something of which he demanded come immediately, which was a big thing considering the people of those days didn’t have microwaves, and thus weren’t quite as swayed by the temptations of instant gratification, but did not receive that fulfillment for two straight weeks. When the angel delivering “the package” finally arrived, he had to apologize to Paul for being so late (I don’t know that it was Paul, but for the sake of this message, we’ll pretend it was him). The prayer was supposed to be carried out immediately, but the angel was stuck fighting demonic opposition for two straight weeks, so the answer was delayed until the smoke cleared. Pretty crazy stuff, in retrospect. So I guess the moral of this story is that as burnt-out as I am with all this waiting for answered prayers, I’m not going unheard.

And that’s something I keep failing to remember, because I’ve been falling hard into that bad habit of blaming God for ignoring me. He’s not ignoring me; it’s just that Satan and his agents are busy at work trying to thwart the delivery of those blessings I need.

Some of you may or may not know, I’ve been going to an evening study group on Wednesday nights. A few weeks ago, the current group facilitator told us about a book he was reading about prayer. In this book, the author talks about praying with specifics—like really deep specifics. For example, instead of a person who walks everywhere praying for just a car, that person should pray for specific details, like a car that runs, one that’s fuel efficient, one that can fit four people, one that doesn’t rust easily, etc. The logic here is that praying for just a car, while is technically enough, is still allowing room for Satan to intercept the basics to throw in his own twisted details, like a car that breaks down every other week (and I can tell you with experience that this is no helpful detail) for example. Keeping that in mind, I’ve been paying more attention to what I actually ask for, trying to decide if what I’m asking for is really what I want (or need), and then sealing the prayer with a request for the Spirit to “close any window and seal any crack” that I might’ve missed in my prayer that the enemy might try using against me. This is still a new thing for me, granted, and one I’m trusting will shape the way I pray, but others in the group have been praying that way and seeing positive results through it.

Of course, it would be naïve of me to think that everything I ask for is the right thing. My other great struggle is trying to understand God’s will for my life, which I’ve allowed to be the base direction of my future, whether it fits my desires or not. And that’s a tricky thing because I’m not entirely sure that my desires are in line with God’s will. It may be a case for the seemingly eternal waiting session I have to endure for certain prayers (two chief prayers of which I’ll discuss as this journal segues into other topics soon). But then I keep thinking that I wouldn’t have these desires so deep rooted if there wasn’t purpose for their fulfillment, and thus I keep waiting for the pieces to come together. So, that’s an area of my heart that still struggles. I’m sure I’m in good company with that one.

I think the greatest casualty to come from the waiting game, and the uncertainty game, and even the “spiritual battle” game, which is that thing I alluded to earlier about the angel getting tangled up with opposition, is that my trust in God to answer specific things continues to teeter. I trust His capability, mind you. He’s God, the Creator of the world, the Maker of me, and is, certainly, the One able to shape me however He wishes. But having a biological father who stole from me more than he gave, I haven’t quite gotten the hang of believing, without doubt, in God’s provision for the things I ask for. My ability to trust, while sparked, still comes peppered with little flecks of doubt. And again, it’s not in God’s ability that I struggle with—it’s His willingness. Yes, I can trust Him for the things He’s already proven Himself with (food, water, shelter, even income when poverty is looming). But the stuff that satisfies my heart (a job I’d actually like, a good woman to stand beside me, even a clearly defined purpose—like writing an essay that would change the world, or God help me, a childhood desire to rescue a maiden from a maniacal terrorist—yeah, I’m a dork), those are the areas that come with potholes. Does He have the ability to satisfy such desires? Absolutely. Will He? I’m still waiting to find out. This brings about my brooding question: if I was named after the “Weeping Prophet” (which I was, by the way), does that mean I have to share in his severe frustration, in his same place of futility? It sure feels like it sometimes. His calling was to preach to a nation who didn’t listen, and I often feel like I’m stuck doing the same stinking thing. For those of you who are familiar with my opinions about busyness drowning out relationship, you’ll know this struggle, for most of you (and America for that matter) still put busyness ahead of the people you love. And the fact that you’ll still procrastinate returning a phone call so that you can finish that client report (or whatever you do for the sake of being busy) proves it. So yeah, I put myself out there, try to be heard, and yet no one listens. That adds yet another hurtle to my quest to trust God with my prayers, for sometimes I feel like He’s not listening, or is, but doesn’t care—which brings me back to the top of this discussion, and incidentally, brings me back to that place of spiritual frustration.

I suspect those of you still reading are ready for a break, so I’ll give you this moment to pause and maybe get a drink. But please come back. I promise, it won’t take as long to read this as it’s taking me to write it; and I’m only writing because I want to be heard, not because I want to purposelessly hack away at my keyboard. I’m putting my novel (my busyness) on hold for this (my relationships). Sorry if that’s a foreign concept to you, of course, but I want to let you know what’s going on, and maybe, in some way I’ll never know, help you through your own issues.

Okay, are you well nourished now? Good, let’s continue.

The more important matter to the spiritual side of my life is not the problems with futility, but with the whole acceptance of grace.

I do not have a problem with the way God handles salvation. For a man to come to the Father, he must first go through the Son. It’s a straightforward cause, backed up with prophesy and witnesses (most of which can be read in Isaiah and the Gospels, for those of you who are completely lost on this concept). And though I have difficulty trusting Him for certain prayers (let’s call it what it is, I have a problem thinking I’m worthy of these blessings—which is more of a psychological problem wrought with qualifiers than a spiritual one, which is honestly only disrupted by demonic opposition and maybe the occasional misalignment with God’s will), I don’t have a problem trusting Him with salvation. If God didn’t love me, He wouldn’t have made me, or given me this earth to walk upon. If He didn’t want me crossing the eternal divide for that blessed chance to hang with Him on His own turf, He wouldn’t have placed all His cards on the table with the sacrifice of His perfect Son for my sake (or yours, or your mom’s, or anyone else you can think of who has two feet and a brain, or one foot and half a brain should the case apply). Sacrifice like that doesn’t come cheaply, so for me to discredit it as myth or “a nice idea” would be pretty frickin’ inconsiderate. If God told me I had to sacrifice my son (which I don’t have yet, I’m just making a point) to let him save some yahoos (strangers and friends alike) from a burning building (or a terrorist bomb, or whatever would kill them), I’d be pretty insulted if they turned around and said “screw you” at his picture in the obituaries. Likewise, I’d consider them thick in the head if they denied that he ever saved them. So, because such a sacrifice can only be attributed to love—and because there were witnesses at the cross, and later at the tomb, despite what “visual proof seekers” like to doubt—I’m inclined to trust His sacrifice, and also His ability to save me. If God didn’t love the world, we never would’ve heard the name of Jesus (a vagabond carpenter who never traveled more than fifty miles from his hometown), or continue to talk about Him two thousand years later—consecutively. Thousands of kings have walked this world, and I could only name you a handful, and that’s only after looking them up in history books. But a homeless guy? Only God could come up with that one.

Of course, I could always regard Jesus as myth, and the Bible as nothing but a collection of stories, and thus nullify the value of salvation (which would be quite depressing in the long run, because where would any of us go from here?). But then, I could also regard George Washington as myth. After all, I never met the man, nor have I met anyone who’s met him, so who’s to say he was ever here, or did what the books say he did? And what of my high school history books? How do I know they weren’t fabricated by some bored storyteller who came up with these crazy stories of American Revolution one summer afternoon in 1904—as some cruel joke to make me waste an hour of my day sitting in a classroom? Certainly, they were written under the same fundamentals as biblical history. Why shouldn’t I regard Washington as a mere myth? Oh, right—because there were witnesses of his actions. Oh, yeah—I forgot about those historical relics in all those Washington museums from his time. Just like I forgot about all those historical elements that proved the Bible as a history book, and not merely a book of myth, elements like the miracle stones that were plucked from the Red Sea and stacked on the shoreline after Moses parted it; just like the very existence of Jesus was proven through various accounts that detailed the specific elements of His day, like dated scrolls that talk about Him in the moment, or of his great miracles, the most telling one being the fact that His tomb is still empty. Yeah, I can’t regard Him as myth, nor can I accept His salvation as “a nice idea.” As much as I struggle with the fulfillment of specific joys for my emotional well being, the core of my faith still holds strong.

I got off on a tangent there, but I was trying to work my way into talking about grace. The other important lesson I’ve been absorbing this year is the principle behind grace, which is to accept the fact that Jesus came for me, died for me, and saved me out of love, not out of loan. I haven’t earned it; I received it.

Okay, that’s the foundation of the Christian faith. I can’t sit here telling you about my twenty-four years of Christianity, and somehow leave you with the idea that I’m just now getting it. No, this fundamental has been engrained in me since childhood. The trip up, and the same trip up that has snared most of us throughout our entire relational experience with God, is the very thing that has cheapened out relationship with God. And that’s the idea that works sustain our salvation.

They don’t. Even the most wretched of us can be saved. Even that pedophile that we want to shoot, as much as we disapprove of his past (or his present if the case applies), can still receive salvation if he wants it. The thing most of us struggle with, and I’ve been guilty of it for years, is thinking that one little slip-up, like saying the F-word for example, is the gateway to losing God’s love. We think to be Christian means being good. But, on the contrary, being good comes from loving God, not the other way around. There are plenty of good people who are peddling hard against the wind; likewise, there are plenty of sinners who are riding Jesus’ motorcycle into the horizon. Our actions only compliment our identity in Christ; they don’t define it. That’s essentially, the lesson I’ve been taking to heart lately. That I can say the word “damn” in anger—not that I want to, mind you—but still be saved, and still be loved. In the end, it’s my heart that matters to God, not my “perfection.” If I cut someone off in traffic deliberately, that person will want my head on a stick, but God will still keep His arms wide open, waiting for me to talk to Him, waiting for me to understand that He hasn’t condemned me for my reckless action. That’s what we Christians have spent many tireless nights forgetting, and I’m glad that some ministries are starting to step up and address that—instead of trying to convince me that I’m out of God’s will if I don’t go on a mission trip or give my ten-percent tithe that week.

Whew. That’s a lot to share.

Well, that covers to some degree the spiritual side of me lately. It’s not everything (and you’re probably glad I’m not choosing to go into everything), but it covers the more important things that I wanted to write down (and share, subsequently).

The next three areas, as I explained earlier, have been greatly affected by my trust issues regarding prayer and action, so I wanted to get the spiritual side of things written first so that the remaining areas would have a foundation to stand on, and would also open up the floor (for those interested in responding) for encouraging words that might help me figure out what I’m looking for, or if I’m on the right track in finding what I’ve been pursuing—or pointing out anything that I might’ve missed.

I also want to give you a chance to take another breather if you need it.

The Economical Things:

(talk about graduating college, going straight to Olive Garden, ping-ponging with job interests, the teaching exam and subsequent substitute nonsense, the move, the post office)

The Relational Things:

(the various heartbreaks, the various stand ups including lack of response, the loss of heart, the bad positioning, and whatever else comes to mind)

The Tacked-On Hobbyist Things:

(self-explanatory)

The Summation:

(end the stinking letter)

(talk about “Go Fish,” the battle with trust, the small group, the poor church attendance, and whatever else comes to mind)

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