The Secret God

Originally posted to MySpace on:

April 10, 2006:

For most of my life, or at least most of my Christian journey (and what is that exactly?), I heard the term “personal relationship with Christ” flung around pretty loosely. Not so loosely that it loses all resilience entirely, but loose enough that it sort of misses the mark that I’m sure it’s supposed to reach. In other words, it’s supposed to mean that…well, before I get too far ahead of myself it’s supposed to mean several things, but in the context that it’s often shared, it’s supposed to mean “having Christ in my life,” or quite simply, “I’m saved.”

Okay, fine. I can accept that. It’s a reasonable way of understanding the meaning of having that personal relationship. Sounds easy—mysterious and a little out there, but easy.

But why call it that? Why not just say that Jesus covered my sin with His blood and leave it at that? What’s this relationship thing all about? For something that’s supposed to be “personal,” it feels too much like a “standard,” a “basis,” or even a “requirement.” In the realm of salvation, these things may be true. But what does that have to do with a “relationship?”

Okay, I threw out a lot of quotation marks there, so maybe it’s time to make sense of them. Salvation is only the beginning, not the end all of the Christian life. I think a lot of people treat it as the end all, but this journal isn’t about that. It’s about that next step, that step that says, “okay, now what?” Or more specifically, the step that follows “okay, now what?”

To put things back to the opening mindset, the personal relationship I’ve been taught about in various seasons of life means just what it sounds like. It means having a personal relationship with God, with Christ, with the Spirit. It means walking, talking, and sharing life with the One who gave me life. It’s part of the Christian life that begins after salvation. Sort of like walking along the beach with a friend and talking about whatever the heck you want, but that friend being the Lord. For those who are unfamiliar with this, this probably looks incredibly like a Sunday School teaching…kinda nice, sort of, but mostly vague and unapproachable. After all, this is God. Who am I to walk along the beach with Him? What makes me so special? The thought of walking with God feels like a fairy tale, and the thought of being important to the Creator of rock stars, movie stars, sports heroes, and presidents—people who are clearly too important to hang out with me; there’s no way that I’m that special.

And yet, that’s what I’ve been taught. My whole life. Sure, there were plenty of easy Sunday School lessons in that mix, but come on, what am I supposed to get out of this “personal relationship with God”? It’s a statement wrought with such a high paradox. It’s approached with such weakness but entails such greatness. What am I supposed to do with it?

Many of us who have stood in this position, asking this very question of why this is supposed to be so powerful and amazing, and yet feels like it’s nothing particularly impressive at all (stuck in the middle of the paradox as I’ve been for so long), have more than likely spent an entire life feeling rather insignificant, and certainly underused. Likewise, those who have been introduced to God, but don’t really know the significance of being in that relationship with the Lord, probably don’t have a clue about the depth of heart and life in which they’ve been invited. The whole thing just seems devalued. Who am I? Really, who am I?

A great struggle of mine these last few years has been understanding the voice of God—is it a silent whisper, a conversation in my head, the counsel of a friend, the Bible itself? I’ve heard it described so many different ways, but have had difficulty in pinpointing how it reaches me. Sure, the Word of God is absolute, and anything spoken to me from there is truth. But, it speaks to me through stories that have applications clocking in at over two thousand years old. Sure, I can plug in yesterday’s circumstances with today’s very similar characteristics (we all still eat, drink, fight, flight, and love, so it’s not that different). But how does that help me to decide where best to live, or who to befriend, or all those little specific things that shape the daily progress of life? Yeah, I’ve been given the ability to make decisions for myself, and believe me, I make those decisions all the time (usually in the form of what I’m gonna have for lunch), but there are still some things that I’d appreciate counsel about. Counsel I would only trust coming from God. Stuff that includes those major life decisions that the Bible might not be clear about.

And therein lies the speed bump of my Christian walk. Trusting the voice of God. Yes, the voice of God is trustworthy—it is after all THE VOICE OF GOD!!!!!!!!! It’s not the Voice of Uncle Lou (who is no uncle of mine for the record, it just sounds appropriate for this discussion). The voice of God will only offer truth and what needs to be known: nothing flippant, fluffy, or farfetched. But I’ve struggled with the problem of listening to the voice I thought was God and ended up finding out later on that the “voice of truth” was rather a “voice of my own will,” and seeing as how my will wasn’t in tune to God’s will, that voice led me down a road of heartbreak.

I know some people are gonna wanna jump in here at this point and tell me that sometimes God will bring us down that road of heartbreak to build our character and ultimately bring us down a road of joy. To those I say, “hold your horses.” I know that, but it’s not the point I’m going for here. The point that I am reaching, I’m almost there, but it’s just taking me some time to set it up, so bear with me.

So far we’ve opened the door about the “personal relationship” and the “voice of God,” but how do these correlate into the Christian walk (which, by the way, has plenty of intricate details to discover; it’s not just one or two basic, yet hard to comprehend things)? Okay, to go back to the original point, I’ve never felt particularly caught by this notion of being significant to Christ. When I’m told that He loves everyone, it’s hard to believe that I could have a personal relationship with the God that wants to have a relationship with everyone. It’s like the middle child of a family of twenty trying to stand out to his parents, or the sixtieth boyfriend of an unsatisfied woman trying to be something that the other fifty-nine guys before him were not (and ultimately finding out two weeks later that the girl has to clear him out to make room for boyfriend number sixty-one). Trying to cry “Abba Father,” or “Hey Daddy” to those who don’t know what the first term means, for that much desired, much needed attention from God the Father seems like a futile attempt when, even though He somehow listens to me, He does so as He’s listening to millions of others that very same moment (and probably more if half the world wasn’t fast asleep that very moment). I can appreciate the fact that He does hear me when I call, but how is this relationship personal? Why am I supposed to feel significant when the real world physical aspect of it is like going to a birthday party where forty or more people are there for one person, and the thought of making time to be a friend to that one person is completely absurd (because there are thirty-nine others vying for that same attention and offerings of praise the same time you are). Truly, who am I to be significant in this swallowed up desire to share a personal intimacy with the Creator?

After wrestling with this concept for longer than I care to think about, God finally spoke to me the other night about it (using the voice of the conversationalist—which has been the method I’ve been most skeptical to listen to). Usually when something about the Lord strikes me in a special way, and yes, despite the tone of this journal those moments do still happen, I feel compelled to write them down and share them with whoever will listen. Sort of like what I’m doing now. Not that I expect the world to read them, or even most friends for that matter, but I still like to write down what I’ve learned so that I don’t forget about it later. Because it’s there, I sometimes feel like sharing it with those who I think would appreciate the message. I really can’t gauge other people’s moods though, so I don’t know who all spends the five minutes or so it would take to read one of my journals. But anyway, I choose to write them down, and then I move on, and then I wait for the next great revelation to set me along my path of uncertainty (and inevitable joy if one is to accept the fact that brokenness can turn to joy when placed in God’s hands).

The other night, I felt the Spirit urge me to reconsider that compelling need to write everything down (as I’m doing now…ironic in context, but I think this is a case where writing it down is appropriate). In my deep investigation for God’s will for my life (Seek ye first the Kingdom of God), I felt my spirit shaken around left and right to the point that my whole realm of complacency fell (not that I wanted it to stand anyway), and in my shattered moment I heard the Lord whisper the answer to that long sought, but hidden question: “The personal intimate relationship can be found; you just have to discover it as you discover Me.” The exact words, I don’t remember entirely, but the meaning of the context came across that way, with the emphasis added to the word “discover.”

A few years ago, a friend of mine threw a curveball at me. In one of our spiritually related conversations, he brought up the mention of a video game he had once played called Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. For those who know nothing about Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, or about video games in general, it was a game for the Nintendo 64 about a hunter who treks around a 3-D world hunting dinosaurs (as the title implies). Back in the mid-90s, the onset of 3-D gaming was still new, and despite what jaded gamers may say now, it was still cool. But, the story doesn’t end there. When he and I were discussing the use of reaching kids through media (he was a youth pastor at the time), he brought up this example the Lord once gave him while he was in the middle of playing this game. “You see the world I have before you? I gave you this world to explore it.” Just for reference, the world in the video game was savage, lush, and full of cliffs and rivers and all those majestic landscapes that make a landscape majestic. Much like our own world can be at times. Pretty mighty message for God to pull out of a Nintendo game.

God reminded me of this statement the other night in this exploration of Him and of His will. There is something to explore here, and all those nice little Sunday School messages need not apply. Yes, the personal relationship starts with salvation. Yes, it involves the long walks on the beach talking to the One I can’t even see directly (the ocean splendor is the best thing I have at my immediate disposal to even suggest that He’s there). Yes, it includes those daily prayers to get me, my friends, my family, and those random souls I don’t know but might see flicking someone off in middle of the highway, through the day. But there’s far more to go on than that. This personal relationship, or rather, this intimate relationship goes deeper than that.

Discovery seems to be a great part of that. God gave me His Word as a basis for exploration, but never stopped there. God gave me His creation (both world and people) as a means to understand His intent for exploration, but still offers more. God even gave me a chance to hear Him directly (which I’m still trying to grasp, though it’s been incredibly difficult—due primarily to my skepticism of knowing Him over the voice from my own thoughts). But these things don’t quite measure up to the one-on-one intimacy that He claims I’m supposed to have.

“There’s no need to write and share everything you learn from Me. [Close friends do not often share each other’s secrets with the world.] A wife would not tell the world of something that only she was to know of her husband. [A parent would not post his child’s most embarrassing moment on the Jumbotron at a football stadium.] Some things I share, I intend only for you to know. I may share the same things with others, but that is for them to discover on their own. It’s what makes Me personal to you. Not everything has to be a message to the world. I reveal Myself in different ways to everyone. That is what makes your relationship with Me unique. I reveal Myself to you in a way that you’ll understand.”

In a way this journal may seem like a complete violation of the very thing God has spoken to me about. The fact that I’m writing it down—the fact that I’m sharing it must mean I’m not applying the message. But, some things God does intend for me to share, and I think this may be one of them. In any case, the message helped me to discover my worth in this grand adventure with God. Sure, I may be one of millions upon millions who share in this great adventure. But the fact that the Lord can still find a way to keep my part of it unique is just another thing to add to the amazement scale He seems to display so well.

If not for that, I don’t know if I could ever fully convince myself that I’m unique in Christ, or that I’m worthy of being an intimate part of some grand adventure. I don’t know; I’m sure many of us have questioned the significance of our lives in this matter. There’s no way that I’m the only one asking this question. But, hopefully this can add some understanding to those who might share in this feeling of insignificance. Granted, I’m sure God has more for each of us to learn, but that’s something for Him to reveal to each of us in His own way. I just hope I might inspire a jumping off point for that personal deep investigation of God that I know He wants us to dive into.

A Case for Beauty

Originally posted to MySpace on:

April 2, 2006:

Referring to points made in the book, Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge:

I’m the first to admit that I don’t read as much as I’d like. It’s a shame too because there’s a lot to learn from reading. I suppose there’s a lot to learn from watching the Discovery Channel too, but the point still applies. I just don’t do enough of it. Not that I need more knowledge or anything—I barely use the knowledge I have. But it’s a shame to waste away the knowledge that I do have, or avoid the knowledge that I could have.

I think the area of advice might come into play here for a moment. “Ironic” by Alanis Morrisette has a line in the chorus (in the midst of a list of ironic things) that states, “it’s the good advice that you just didn’t take, and who would’ve thought it figured? Isn’t it ironic?” My response, of course is yes, yes it is. What almost seems miniscule in the sight of lines and stories that include spending an entire life being afraid to fly, just to have the plane crashing on the first flight, or sitting down after a hard day to drink an elegant glass of Chardonnay, just to find a freakin’ fly swimming in it (I guess wine drinkers are picky about that sort of thing), or meeting the person of your dreams and then meeting the spouse; a line about good advice seems almost cheesy. But, if that good advice can change a life, and it’s not taken, what then? Well, it sucks actually.

Good advice can come out of reading a book. Strange but true. If you read a book about finances, it’ll probably offer tips about how to invest wisely. Chances are the book wouldn’t have gotten published if the author didn’t know what he was talking about. Researchers and experts in the field typically research that stuff before it hits the shelves, so odds are high that the methods described are sound (maybe not the best—there are after all a number of books on the same subject, but still reasonable). And that would be a fine indicator that the advice given would be advice worth following. And for someone to deny the advice, and ultimately end up in the poor house, might be a good indicator that the advice should’ve been followed.

Okay, so what does all this have to do with beauty? Well, I think it has more to do with reading at the moment. Last night I read a chapter of the latest book by John Eldredge (co-authored with his wife), to which it talks about the beauty that God made into woman. It points out the subtle fact that most art down the ages portrays woman as a work of beauty, but doesn’t do the same for a man. If I were to thumb through an art book right now, I’d probably have to agree with them. For every portrait of a man out there, there are probably at least twenty-five to a hundred portraits of a woman. If I were slow on the draw, I might fail to see the truth in this.

According to the Book of Genesis (that’s in the Bible for those who are unaware), woman was created last, as the pinnacle of creation. That’s actually quite impressive, now that I think about it. This book I’m reading describes it as the crescendo to a great symphony. But it also does more—it describes woman as the image of the beauty of God. Where we (men) are supposed to be the warriors of God (and boy do I feel like I’ve fallen off the wagon in that department), women are supposed to be the romance of God—the part of God that says, “take me with you, get to know me, etc.” By the time I got to the end of this chapter (after having to stop many times to meditate on how much truth I’ve overlooked most of my life), I realized exactly what it was that I’ve missed with God. I’m so busy expecting him to be the father I no longer have, that I forget that he just wants me to investigate his glory, explore it, and take it with me. That he wants to be recognized as the source of healing beauty, and as all the other attributes that define beauty. I don’t want to go into too many details about the other points made because that would basically ruin the beauty of the words written (summaries tend to do that), but it got me to realize what I’ve been missing.

I suppose that’s one reason why I like to visit the beach so much (or rather why I go there when I really need my heart back, after wasting it on stupid things). It’s a place where I feel refreshed—where God’s natural beauty restores me. If not for that, I’d be a mental case. Thanks to work, and pettiness, and stupid gossip, and all the other things that surround me or pick at me, my will to walk into the next day steadily decreases. But, thanks to the beauty God has allowed to step before me (in this case the beach and sometimes the park), I have a chance to recharge.

So far I might not be saying anything particularly impacting. So far I’m hyping up the beauty of God without really making it real. I suppose anyone and everyone has his place, but I know there’s so much mud in the world that it’s often hard to see true beauty. I’d like to hang out in that rolling field in a mid-summer’s evening, but a train wrecked nearby, and I can see it from the hill. I’d love to sail off the coast of Hawaii, but the frequent shark attacks have turned the water red. I’d love to spend an evening hanging out with this physically attractive woman, but her chain smoking makes me sick (and her boyfriend probably wouldn’t appreciate it anyway). It seems wherever I’d like to find beauty, something’s out there trying to ruin it. Even when the burden of my heart becomes so weighted that I can’t even bring myself to the beach (because this time it just isn’t strong enough), it becomes overwhelming. In those times I have to force myself to let go of the baggage. If I can’t let go, I can’t really appreciate what I have around me. And how am I supposed to think about the beauty of God when I can’t really see God, just his creation?

That was the point in my reading when I had to stop for awhile and think about this. The beauty of God—what is that really? I’ve never seen God face-to-face, so how can I know what true beauty is, if everything in my world is only an image? Only an image? The ocean, the sunrise, the rainforest, the tiger, the zebra, the desert, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand? Only an image? Woman? Only an image? What the heck have I been ignoring? If these are only the images, then how beautiful, pray tell, is the source? If an Elven forest like Lothlorien (in the Lord of the Rings movies) is merely an image of a mind created by God (in the same way that a political cartoon is only an image), then what level of amazement comes from the source?

The thing I realized here was that everyone at the end of his or her life will see this beauty, experience this healing, be overwhelmed by this joy. And some will be invited to enter in and share with it forever. Lying down next to a crystal waterfall, the woman you love in her best sundress next to you, God smiling down at you from all around, and no one bugging you to pay your bills, or your taxes. The freedom of flying without a plane, or the freedom of racing without a speed limit. And those are just appetizers. And yet, many others won’t get that far. Many others will catch that glimpse of God for only a moment before finding out that he never knew them, and that they missed their chance—that they ignored the good advice.

In the case for salvation, I’ll admit that I’m not the best warrior in town. I’ve let friends and family come and go without ever sharing the glory of God. When I’m too busy complaining about how much I hate my job, or too busy hyping up my own works (an offshoot of pride if I’m not careful), or too busy judging someone wrongly, I fail to see the avenue in which to speak up and say, “hey, your constant partying and empty promiscuity really won’t add to your life—and you’re better than that. Why don’t you explore the true source of your joy and beauty instead?” Nope, it’s a lot easier to talk about Spider-Man (another creation from a mind created by God—beautiful and adventurous and heroic and unique).

And it’s no wonder that people are afraid to warm up to this. God is often seen as the “man upstairs” (i.e. the man who sees, but isn’t with you; the man who observes, but looks down on you). No one thinks of him as the “being who shares,” or the “being who pursues,” or if we’re referring to the feminine characteristics, the “being who captivates,” or the “being who heals,” and the list goes on. And why shouldn’t we be afraid? It’s a frightening thing to experience true beauty. On a personal note, I finally realized the reality of this last night when I thought back to a moment a year ago when I couldn’t contain the beauty in front of me. At first I saw the beauty (yes, we’re talking about a girl here, not a waterfall or anything) as something unique, but not necessarily “pretty.” Even though the prettiness was there, it wasn’t safe. It’s actually kind of hard to explain, but think of it as a lioness. Lionesses are beautiful creatures, but they scare the hell out of you when you see them face-to-face (assuming there’s no cage between you). I had the same reaction when I really stared this beauty in the eye. It was like the beauty was there and evident, but my eyes were so allured and ultimately made dizzy from the reality of beauty that I could no longer look this beauty in the eye. It actually became too much for me to handle. Sometimes it’s like that with majestic things like mountains and oceans. Sooner or later it becomes too much. I often fear God in the same way. It’s no wonder that in our sinless state, we are physically unable to behold God in our sight, and that to do so would mean death. And yet, when this life is over and we enter into the next one, we’re able to see exactly what true beauty is (and can handle it, and embrace it), and want nothing more but to experience that forever.

So, it sucks when those of us who rejected that beauty in life for the safe pleasures of money and other temporary things face this reality, because what can they do then? Beauty becomes reality for a moment, but is promptly taken away, as a thief steals away one’s priceless possessions, and can never be reclaimed. Life thereafter is a life of mud, maggots, and complete darkness. Beauty may be dangerous, but it’s nurturing. Maggots may be easy to behold, but they’ll eat your eyes out.

People will always make excuses, but deep down we all want beauty. Sooner or later we’ll be able to behold true beauty, but we have to decide on that now. Beauty wants to come with us, but we have to invite it. Beauty wants to heal us, but we have to accept it. There’s no time for screwing around—that’s something that I can see clearly. Too much time has been spent in misery. Not enough has been spent in beauty. Even if I can’t see beauty’s source at the moment, I can still see beauty’s many images, and I think that’s motivation enough to pursue beauty’s source as a prince would pursue his tower-bound maiden.

What would I really have to lose?

Anyway, there’s still more to explore and more to read. But, so far this question of beauty has inspired me to stay persistent. I might have my days where I’m just not hanging in there very well, but fortunately, beauty is also a fierce warrior that doesn’t give up or let go. If somewhere along the line I should fall (and I will because I’m just so good at it), that heroic beauty will pick me up, and say, “here, brush yourself off and get back on the horse. There’s an adventure out there waiting for you.”

Something about that comforts like being under the covers in the middle of a rainfall with a cup of hot coffee by the bed. It’s the kind of thing that increases my desire to keep moving and to be a “man in motion”—the area of art where men are best portrayed.

God, help me embrace this and move with it. I’m tired of taking this stuff for granted.

The Decline of Deep Thought

Originally posted to MySpace on:

March 31, 2006:

The funny thing as I sit here contemplating why I’m up so late yet again (after 1am), sitting at my computer desk writing some drivel that’s sure to be forgotten by Saturday, is that up until a week ago, I didn’t think I’d ever break down and set up a MySpace account. Let’s face it, fads are intimidating to me (am I doing this for me, or because it’s the “cool thing to do?”), and somehow this whole network feels like one. But at the same time I thought it was necessary. If this is another tool to communicate with friends, loved ones, and potential strangers, then why should it be a simple fad? Maybe this is the next step up in the communication ring. Maybe by signing up, I’ll actually stay current with the 21st Century (which is a hard thing for me to do considering I just bought my cell phone about fourteen months ago, and I’m still surfing the net on dial-up…primitive, I know). So, earlier this week I signed up.

But, my signing up didn’t really have anything to do with progression. It might’ve made for an interesting story (“might” being the operative word), but in the end it came down to peer pressure. A friend of mine urged me to just get it over with (and I forget why I didn’t procrastinate on it this time). So I signed up, and let my friend do all the customizing. I think I spent more time watching TV than I did paying attention to what was going onto this page. I still don’t know half of what’s been done to this thing. The most I did was to write in my info and post my picture. Genius at work.

Anyway, I wanted to post this blog because I wanted to test the waters with blog posting. Tomorrow I want to start my “News from the Panhandler Underground” series, which will essentially be a tie-in to the novel I spent three months writing and another three months editing, and will continue to edit until there’s nothing left to fix. I figure with the tediously mind-numbing experience that comes with editing a novel, I might have this thing finished sometime in the next twenty years. But, for now, I want to gather some sort of fanbase, and I thought this “fake newsletter” series might help with that.

So, that’s where I’m currently at. My mind is operating on half-capacity right now (I went to a Switchfoot concert a few hours ago, after a lengthy battle of trying to acquire the tickets for me and three other friends, and ultimately felt my energy siphon through my body and out my eyes) and now I’m worn-out and ready for bed, but not so ready for bed that I’m actually one foot in the bed. I figure if I write out these fluffy words a little more, then I’ll be thoroughly drained for the evening, and then I can fall fast asleep without any stirring, or the pestering assault of deep thoughts.

Although, judging by the quality of this post, I doubt deep thought will be much of an issue tonight.

The Birth of Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm

Originally posted to Blogspot on:

November 6, 2005:

Well, I’ve known about this blogging thing for awhile, but since I don’t journal that often, I haven’t really done much to take advantage of it. But for some reason in my half-awake state (at 1pm on a Sunday), I feel like doing something different. Maybe it’s just the fact that I still don’t have any new emails to appreciate, or that the other site I visit from time to time hasn’t had much activity in the last couple days–I can’t really blame it on boredom because I haven’t been up long enough today to blame it on boredom. But, whatever the reason, I thought I’d look up some information about setting up my own webpage (which I also have been meaning to do for the last year or so ever since I put my first book online for preview purposes), and somehow I came across this again. Probably a strange time to all of a sudden decide to take a look at how this thing works, but then I think there’s enough to think about lately that it’s worth writing it all down.

The first thing I discovered just now is that highlighting any block of text on this site while I’m typing is bad. Evidently when I press any directional key while a word or segment is highlighted, it deletes it. Good thing I know how the copy function works (Ctrl+C to copy, Ctrl+V to paste for those who are savvy enough to write a blog, but not enough to know about the copy and paste functions). So, just thought I’d mention that.

Well, now that I’m starting to wake up a bit from this caffeine shot, maybe I can start writing about some pertinent issues–at least enough to get me to the point that my sister will start bugging me for the telephone (I’m still on dial-up). Something tells me that won’t be long from now. She’s 13.

The biggest thing I’ve been thinking about lately is the issue of prioritizing. A few months ago I listed a series of projects that I would like to finish over the course of the next three years, and listed them in such a way to give old projects priority over new projects. I decided I had to do this because I just kept adding too many new things to my already extensive plate, and I just wasn’t getting anything finished. So, now that I’ve written out this planner (back in April), I’ve already finished some outstanding projects that I started way back in 2001, though there are others still on the waiting list.

So far the plan had been working out nicely, but then something happened around the third week of September. An outstanding idea came to me for a novel, and I thought it was something I had to write now, not at the end of my list. The idea was too fresh, and too important to let it sit, so I knocked everything else on the wayside and started working on this novel…about panhandlers.

Yes, I’m writing a novel about panhandlers. And it’s important. I’m not going to discuss the book itself any further because I’m only on Chapter 9, but it’s something that I can’t wait three or four years down the road to write–especially with my ten-book epic in the planning stages. Once I start working on the epic, that’ll be my writing life for the next several to many years, so I’d rather get my other stuff finished first.

But back to the priorities–the hardest thing about keeping them is knowing that new ideas keep filtering in, and somewhere along the line I have to cut the new ones off and keep whittling away at the old ones. That can get a bit unnerving when it means going back to projects that I haven’t touched in several years. Figure, the spirit behind my reasons for writing them in the first place had changed over the break period, and I’m not sure that I can go into the stories with the same heart that I originally began them with. Sure, I can finish the stories with some feeling, but after three years the risk is higher that they’ll be more objective. That doesn’t mean they’ll ultimately suck, it just means that they’ll be different than what I probably intended them to be.

But that’s all up for debate I guess.

So, what am I doing now, now that I’ve put my planner on the backburner (which I suppose defeats the purpose of having a planner)? I’m typing in all the handwritten content I wrote for my book during the massive power outage we had a couple weeks ago. Before the power went out Monday morning at 8am on October 24, I had written up to the 4th page in Chapter 6, which scaled down to book size will equal page 7. Pretty sizable accomplishment given that I just started the thing about four weeks earlier. Once the power went out, I stayed awake for three hours watching the news on a battery-powered television, and then I fell asleep about ten minutes after the eye of Wilma passed through and slammed us with the back eyewall, which kicked up our winds from about 15mph or so to more than 100mph in less than 30 seconds. For those who have never experienced that, it’s pretty cool (I’ve always imagined the Rapture to be something like that). But obviously the sudden increase plays havoc with your backyard, and the turbine on your roof will eventually fly off after the plastic bag covering it (to keep the rain out of the attic) rips apart. And that’s after you decide to bring in the stray cat who had been riding out the first half of the storm underneath the metal desk that you used to have in your bedroom before you picked up a better wooden desk with a hutch from Best Buy a little more than a year earlier, because the back side of the storm will bring in winds from the opposite direction, which would ultimately mean smacking the poor helpless feline right in the face with 100+mph winds, and no stray cat wants that, and neither did we. So we had our turbine fly off and we brought in a stray cat. But that’s derailing the point that when I woke up to the gentle cold front that followed the hurricane, and after I took my pictures of the damage (which I did after Charley and Frances last year, but not for Jeanne because I really didn’t know which damage belonged to her and which belonged to Frances), I ate a nice cold meal, read a few chapters of Douglas Adams’ s last book called The Salmon of Doubt, and then went on to write by hand on line-paper my own chapters. Over the course of a week I managed to write 55 pages stretching from the 1/3 point of Chapter 6 all the way to the 1/3 point of Chapter 9. Then last Tuesday I went to have a family dinner with friends of my mom’s, and managed to start my lengthy typing session over there, which thankfully I was able to resume in my own house the next evening when our power finally came back on. So now, after several days of hunching over my computer keyboard, I’m finally at the point that I can transcribe Chapter 9, which means I’ll be back on pace with the novel by the end of the day today. And that’s good to know because I hate having to write the same thing twice, especially when it involves nearly 20,000 words.

On another note, I just discovered that if you click an area of the page with your left mouse button after highlighting your text, you can save what you wrote. Interesting.

So, that’s the start of this blogging journey. I don’t know how often I’ll keep up with it because I don’t journal often, and I hate having to combat for the phone, but I can see why people are addicted to this, so I don’t know. Maybe next time I can talk about why I liked the new Batman movie way more than the last four. I don’t know…we’ll see what happens. I just know that I need to get a website soon so that I can showcase my books, so that people might actually want to buy them. That would be nice too.

Well, here I go back to the typing thing.


This is another journal I had written before starting a blog, so I’ll be posting it to the current timeline rather than backdating it. It’s about the things we try to get away with in our hearts, minds, and spirits, even when we know better. Again, it’s an old gem worth sharing with anyone who is looking for a challenge.

Edit: Actually, as of March 23, 2014, I’m creating a new category for journals written “Before Cafe Latte,” so this will be moved there.

Originally written on March 8, 2005:

On a Friday afternoon about a week-and-a-half ago, a guy at work discussed the chapter in Colossians about Christian living. Specifically he brought up the issue about coarse language, and the Bible’s instruction regarding its use. I was a bit surprised at first because I didn’t realize anyone at my job actually read the Bible. But after the initial shock passed about a second or two later, I started thinking about what he was saying.

I went home that night to read Colossians 3 again, since it had been so long since I read it last. The context of the chapter involved putting the old self behind us as we embrace the life Christ restored in us. This means putting away all forms of idolatry, and those ugly things that disgrace the Lord. The one verse in particular that the guy at work had brought up to another coworker was Colossians 3:8, which states (according to the New American Standard), “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.” He brought this up because the workplace is a haven for “abusive speech,” and he wanted to show that there is in fact a verse that addresses that.

Now, I walked in on the middle of this conversation, but I caught enough of it to get me thinking about some things. It seems that most of us these days take God’s grace for granted. I know my biggest weaknesses involve anger and endurance. I know other Christians who deal with slander and abusive speech. Some Christians even struggle with immorality. Some of us recognize our struggles and do what we can to fight them. Others take the grace of God for granted and continue to live life however they feel like.

I wanted to write this down in my journal because I know I struggle with complacency. When I find my endurance failing, I find myself giving up on the fight and I just cave into whatever I tried resisting. It sucks because I know Christ saved me, but I feel as though I’ve done nothing to really appreciate that. I mean, He lived thirty-three years free of sin, endured an immense amount of pain on the cross to give me an eternity worth having, and I can’t even do my part to at least try to emulate His love. In twenty-eight years of life, I managed to defile my heart with anger, lust, destructive feelings, backbiting, and worse of all, complacency many, many times—sometimes even on a daily basis, and I’m still five years short of living Jesus’ life span. And though I know He struggled with all the same temptations that I struggle with at one time or another, I don’t put up nearly as strong of a fight as He did. In the end I feel like I failed twice.

I realize that my imperfection is greatly stacked against me. I suppose one of the greatest side-effects of having partaken in the knowledge of good and evil is knowing that I’m not perfect and that my propensity to sin is just as strong as my propensity to righteousness. I find that knowing my imperfection makes it much easier to justify anger, lust, destructive feelings, etc., which in turn makes my complacency so much more damaging than anything else I struggle with. And that’s the heart of my greatest concern because complacency is the weight that can knock a Christian off his feet and hold him in that defeated position indefinitely.

I’m writing this because I don’t think I’m alone here. As I stated before, I’ve known Christians who have willingly submitted to various problems that Colossians 3 warns us about. I think bad language is the one that most Christians seem to tolerate the most—I guess because it seems the least harmless, but I still find myself asking why. Why do we think it’s okay to speak a little fouler? Why do we think it’s okay to get just a little bit angrier? Why do we think it’s okay to hold back on loving others? Why do we think it’s okay to take God’s grace for granted?

I’m not writing this to instantly fix my own issues with the things God has told us to steer clear from. I know stuff like that takes time to repair. I’m writing this because I need to draw attention to the fact that they do exist within me because if I forget they’re there, I’ll just keep taking my life for granted. I figure I take enough things for granted already, that I don’t need to take grace for granted, too. Just because the Lord forgave me doesn’t mean I have a green card to do whatever I feel like. A forgiving God doesn’t always make for a happy God, and I know that even though I can forgive a wrongdoing against me, I still get upset when it happens. I just don’t think living complacently is a responsible way to live—with or without grace.

Let this be my prayer to overcome complacency because when that’s healed, the rest will eventually fall into place.

Breaking Conditioning

Another journal that predates the beginning of Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm, this time written on:

November 17, 2004

It’s been awhile since I last posted a journal entry, but I suppose that’s largely because time constraints and lessons learned have been at odds with each other. I suppose it’s safe to say that I find more joy in writing fiction than jotting down my thoughts in this season of life. Since I’ve been trying my best to get various writing projects edited and completed this past year, other projects, including my written lessons, have been taking a back seat. But today I feel like I’ve discovered something about myself that’s worth remembering for the days, weeks, months, and years to come. Who knows? Maybe I can look back on this some day and actually feel like I’ve grown an inch or two.

First of all, I know that patience has been an ongoing struggle with me. It really doesn’t matter what I have to wait for; I just hate waiting for it. I get antsy, I get nervous, and odds usually lean in the favor of me getting stressed. It’s just something I’ve dealt with my whole life, and I don’t suppose it will ever fully go away. But that issue seems to conflict with a lot of important things in my life.

I suppose the best thing to do here is to jump right into the lesson because realistically any aspect of my life can fit into this equation.

I recently started a job waiting tables, which I’ve been curious about for awhile, but never really had the option to try until now. That’s all fine and dandy, but on the surface that doesn’t really seem like anything relevant to remember. But today I discovered something about myself (or at least found refinement in a discovery I had made some time ago), to which I think reveals my difficulty in trusting the Lord.

I need to clarify that there are some underlying things that I don’t question. The Bible says it’s true; therefore I believe it. My salvation is the primary area of my life that I just don’t question. If the Bible says I’ve been saved through Christ, then I believe it. I know that I have no power over such things as saving souls, including my own, but I believe Christ does. Because that is such a massive thing to believe, and yet so simple if I just accept it, I find it odd that I have a hard time believing Christ to take care of the lesser things—the things that I have some ability to work with on my own.

Now to get back on track, something I’ve known about myself for a little while is that I’m a conditioned individual. And this is partly to do with what I had started talking about in regards to serving tables. Essentially, I develop a mindset of things according to what repetition teaches me. Today I found myself getting in over my head with things that should have been simple because some of my customers wanted variations to items and requests that most people accept as they are. In other words, people wanted changes made to certain meals, to which I found myself in a situation where I had to correct mistakes and ultimately slow down my service to other tables because I didn’t catch my bearings long enough to process the variations.

So far I’m still being a bit vague, so I’ll try to narrow it down further. On a given day, I serve my tables through a sequential process that involves drinks, then sides, then meals. Pretty straightforward. When the restaurant is slow, I find it easy to pace myself, and my mistakes are few. However, when business picks up, I find that my pace has to speed up as well, and thus my thought process moves into autopilot. Now, there’s nothing wrong with autopilot when a customer wants his or her order to conform to the standard that both the majority and the restaurant expects. I know my routine, and I know how to get through it as painless as possible. But once the first difference is expected, that autopilot can ultimately cause a lot of problems for me.

And that’s what had happened today. When I made the first mistake of the day, I had to go back and fix it, which slowed down my pace, which my mind and body turned to flight mode, which invariably created a chain reaction of further mistakes, which slowed my pace down even more, which eventually caused me to get so far in over my head that I ended up losing tables to another server just so I could get caught up. All this because I kept myself wrapped up in a conditioned state of mind. Despite what differences the customers ordered, I still brought things out the way I’m used to bringing them. And it messed up the course of my day.

Where this relates to my spiritual life is that my faith has been shaped by condition. I find it difficult to hope for certain prayers to be answered because I’ve conditioned myself to doubt them. If I’ve been disappointed 99 out of 100 times, what’s to stop my dreams from disappointing me again? Even when I ask in prayer for something important to me, or when I work hard to get it, I find myself struggling to find good fruit in the outcome because most of the time I expect to be disappointed. It’s a pattern that began long ago, and it seems that I’ve gotten myself in over my head in this sea of doubts.

I’m writing this down because I think the key to recovering my heart is to slow down and take a new approach. At work, the key to break the condition is to slow down long enough to think about what I’m doing. I take the notes I need, I decide on how I pace myself throughout the day; there really shouldn’t be any reason for me to make brainless mistakes. If I accept the fact that there is no set standard in waiting a table, then maybe I can adopt that to even greater things. Maybe I can somehow find a way to break the conditioning and no longer expect failure in my life.

That’s the base of what I’d learned today. Obviously there’s still room to grow, but it’s helpful to have an idea on from where to launch.

Searching for Something

Another note I had written (to someone, maybe?) about spiritual matters that predates the birth of Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm. Like my other early journals I’ve posted in the last few days (from March 17-21, 2014; if you haven’t been keeping score, I’ve posted just over 40 backdated blogs in the last three days), I thought this one has a message worth thinking about if you’re reading this and are the kind of person who likes to think about things.

Originally written on March 26, 2004:

I can’t think of any news off hand to share, but I’m sure something will come about soon enough. On a spiritual note, I realized this week that I feel as though I’m searching for something that is otherwise unfulfilling. As you’re probably aware, I’ve been stressed out for the last few months because I wasn’t sure when I’d get an income again. I never lost hope that it would come, but I got tired of all the fruitless searching that I felt like I had invested in. And even though I finally got that income again, and it’s coming from a place that I’m honored to be a part of (where many jobs in the past were not as rewarding), I still feel a bit unsatisfied. In a nutshell I feel as though the things that I’m asking God to provide are ultimately not what I truly need. Of course I need a job and so on and so forth, but something else has been missing, so it’s been a struggle to figure out what it is that I need and desire. To some degree I feel as though I’m spending way too much prayer asking God for needs and desires to be met, and not really concentrating on the relationship. And the argument that follows is that God takes pleasure in any contact I make with Him, whether I’m making a request, or just using and enjoying a gift that He’s given. But something about that seems limited to me, as if I’m just using Him for my advantage. I’d rather know God in a different light, coming to Him in joy and hope, rather than in doubt and condition. It’s a lot to process in my opinion, but I’m just tired of feeling out of place or disconnected from truth. I’m also tired of my deepest conversations being based around something I’m despairing over. I’m also tired of the fact that when happiness comes about, the sensory overload distracts me away from intimate fellowship with God and I end up caving in some area of my heart, falling into despair once again. My hope is to change my thinking so that the Lord will be my strength more than my Santa Claus.

Passionate Balance

In an effort to create a more complete blogging experience on WordPress, I’ve been porting over old blogs (written before March 15, 2014) from earlier sites and exploring my old journal folder for previously unpublished gems to include here. Most of these journals were written between November 2005 and the present (including the original 16 blogs posted to the first Cafe Latte site on Blogspot). But in scouring old writings, I’ve discovered some important relics predating my earliest blogs that deserve their time in the sun. In the interest of keeping my blogging history true to the calendar, I won’t be backdating anything before November 2005, so this journal, though written a couple of years earlier, will maintain the current time stamp, though I will still categorize it as a “Cold Blog” since I wrote it before March 15, 2014.

Edit: I’ve changed my mind. I’m creating a new category called “Before Cafe Latte” for everything I’ve written before November 2005. This will go there.

The following journal, which never before had a title until now, was originally written on December 11, 2003:

A couple of weeks ago, I finally finished reading the book, Journey of Desire, by John Eldredge. I had started it shortly after moving back to Orlando in September and had been periodically reading it chapter by chapter ever since. Just like the other two Eldredge books I had read throughout the course of the last two or three years, this book challenged me to walk in the Spirit with a greater joy and attitude than I had in the past. It essentially reminded me what God created me to be—a man with passions and gifts that long to be used, not forgotten. And yet, somehow prior to the awakening, I had forgotten these things.

Now it’s too late to go into all the fine details that I’ve been rediscovering about God, Genesis, and my own personal passions, but I’d like to go back and revisit those things as the days go by and this journal increases in size. But for now I want to at least initiate the decision to keep a record of some of the things I’ve learned about myself and my walk with God, and anything really that bears a need for remembrance. Unfortunately, there is much already from the past that I would’ve liked to have remembered over the years but simply forgot them (lessons and events), but hopefully as I relearn them for the second, third, or tenth time, I’ll be quicker to jot them down so that I won’t forget in the future.

The one thing I do want to write down though before I go to bed is an illustration a friend of mine shared with me last night about a rose. Simply put, a rose is most beautiful when it’s allowed to blossom in its own way and in its own time. The person that decides not to wait for it to bloom, but rather chooses to open it by force, will ultimately tear it to pieces and will therefore cause it to lose its beauty.

I know I’ve let certain desires get the best of me, so much in fact that I’ve wrestled with obsession countless numbers of times, and often made myself crazy over circumstances that threatened my desires to bear fruit. On the relational standpoint, which most people who know me well know that it’s the area of my greatest weakness and fiercest doubts, I find my greatest battle is to accept the very thing that I desperately want, which is for love and friendship to grow in its own natural time—not through fearful manipulation or unbending scripts.

I may have to go into greater details (as a reminder to myself) tomorrow or the next day simply because I need to sleep, but to sort of get the point out in the open, I’ve been afraid of losing any existing chance of finding a woman that I would like to love because of the constant threat in my mind that other men who have no patience toward finding girlfriends and such are hovering around the very soul that I desire to know, trying to dig their own claws into her, allowing me very little chance to grow close to her over time. In retrospect it seems like an irrational fear since this thing called love bonds close friends together all the time. But I think the roots of the issue go further than that, and they certainly take root in circumstances that stretch way back to the early years of my life.

Before I get too lost in this thought, I need to remind myself that God desires me to desire Him more than anything else in existence. Granted that is in no way in easy thing to keep in my heart because so much in this world distracts me. My own desires often turn into distractions when I allow them to take control of my heart and soul to the point of obsession. And yet a passionate heart risks that, so part of the struggle I’ve had (in this area especially) is trying to find the right balance between giving God my all and paying healthy attention to whatever it is that I’m panting for. It almost seems like I can’t do both though because often times the desire feels like it’s drawing a very fine line between worshipping the Lord and serving an idol. What may look like healthy panting at first, may in fact turn around and consume me. And my worship of the Lord, on the other hand, may in effect become contrived, dutiful, and downright lukewarm. Needless to say the tears I’ve shed over the years in reference to this particular desire has left me afraid of it because for all I knew I had already given myself over to obsession.

But then comes the great contradiction. It seems that when my desire transforms into obsession, all of a sudden God is both my accuser and my only ally. The accuser part comes from this impression that I occasionally have of God as the jealous lover who purposely sabotages my dreams because I’m dealing with them too intensely, or because I want it so badly and it just can’t happen that way. On the other hand, the ally part comes into play when I realize that God is my only hope for discovering any of my dreams to come to pass and I often fall on the floor begging Him to provide what I’m asking for—the very thing that I feel he rejects and sabotages. In any case, the brokenness that comes from feeling hopeless or confused somehow brings me into the very heart of the God that desires me, so in a way it becomes highly bittersweet.

And frankly I’m not sure I like that.

The stuff that keeps me awake at night.