Tag Archives: formulas

Twenty Years

Originally posted to Blogspot on:

February 13, 2014:

This one is for the ladies, the lonely hearts, the hopefuls. This is for those, like me, who have longed for relational change but couldn’t find it. This is for those who have nevertheless impacted my heart and mind in a positive way, who have, whether inadvertently or intentionally, affected my idea of what makes a woman great. This is for the good women who have called me friend and accepted me for who I am:

The heart is something we all have year round, and something we do our best to share whenever appropriate. On one day each year, we make a big deal about showing it, about nurturing it, about enlarging it, etc. We make plans to create an environment to revel in it and to exchange extravagant gifts to validate it. We can complain that Hallmark started it for its capital gain, but let’s be honest, it never hurts to tell someone who’s special to us that he or she is special, and if we’re so consumed with life that we need a designated day to remind us why we care, and remind us that we should say something about it, well, it sucks, but at least it’s something. The important thing is that we have that one person we need that reminder for. Shows that we’re doing something right in our choices. It might be the only right choices we’re making.

For twenty years I’ve been praying for someone worthy of my heart to come along and do her part to alter my life for the better, and more interesting, and more exciting, and more fulfilling. For twenty years I’ve spent each 15th of February expecting next year to be different, and each following 14th of February wondering why it isn’t. Some have argued that I don’t try hard enough to invite that change. But I know that’s untrue. Maybe I don’t cast my net into the sea and try to catch as many fish as I can, or pick through the pile until I find the first one I like. But I do invite opportunities to get to know people when connections are made. I don’t make it impossible for a good woman to get close if there’s no reason to keep her at a distance. I certainly am not lost on doing my part to invite change. But it takes two people to make a relationship work, and I can’t invite change if I’m the only one who wants to see it happen. The fact is, I have plenty of good lady friends who know and understand me and, as a result, respect me; some are just right themselves, but for whatever reason aren’t looking for more; some, I’m sure, are networked well enough to know somebody, and anyone who knows me well knows the qualities my heart tends to gravitate toward, yet those introductions are rarely made (and the few that are made tend to peg me completely wrong). Sometimes I meet someone worthy of my attention, and I make it my priority to offer my time in getting to know her—the end result generally comes down to her not having the time, or her deciding we’re just friends, or her simply not looking to date. I have given Internet dating a try, much to my chagrin, and, well, let’s just say I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a screwdriver than go through that nightmare again. The things that should’ve helped, haven’t, and the things that I never should’ve bothered with, also haven’t. Twenty years of praying about it, meeting good women, meeting a few that I really liked, and doing my part to move things forward have yet to put me in that position where the 14th of February actually means something. There’s a point when I have to admit that I’ve done everything I can and the rest is between whoever is out there and God. Might be the symptom of praying that I would find one, just one, who would be all the difference to me and more than enough to put other interests out of mind. Maybe if I hadn’t asked for that, my story would’ve played out differently. Whatever the reason, I have most certainly taken my chances. I can’t make someone choose me.

I don’t know when the change will happen. I’ve given it to God a long time ago, even though I remind Him often that I’m still waiting. I get frustrated when I meet and start getting to know someone amazing and come to find out she’s already with someone, or I’m not her type, or we’re not actually out on a date in spite of it sure looking and feeling like one. I get more frustrated when God uses a friend or stranger to drop off a random comment designed to give me hope (like the time when I was sweeping the dining room floor at the restaurant I had worked at, feeling brokenhearted over something relational but stupid, and the random old lady in the corner of the room told me I’d make someone a great husband one day—that was basically like hearing God telling me that, and at that time I needed some kind of encouragement) when the better solution, in my mind, is to give me favor and put the woman I’ve prayed for in my life, now, today, with eyes and a heart ready for me. She’s out there, right? So where is she? What’s the hold up?

Waiting sucks because there is no magic formula for speeding up that first meeting, or making someone that catches my attention “the one,” or being in the right place at the right time or doing the right thing to ensure that conditions are perfect for that meeting to happen and that first impression to be the best impression in the history of time, space, and the Internet. No Christian living book, no self-help book, and no seminar on “the perfect whatever” has the answer because that assumes formulaic thinking, and God has proven throughout history, in the Bible, in history books, and in personal stories I’ve heard from friends and family that He introduces people (I don’t believe in random coincidence) in any way He chooses, that there is no “right” introduction, that there is no “right” path, and that no two couples have the same origin story or chapter-by-chapter development as the next. Basically, two people meet (I believe by God’s sovereign hand), and they decide what to do with that meeting. Most of the time when God introduces two people, they say hello, feel nothing, and move on to the next table. That’s valid. That relationship was never going to happen. Perhaps it could have; perhaps it would’ve been the best relationship they would ever have with another person. But they will never know because the connection wasn’t fast, hot, and intense. They move on, hoping to find the relationship that does burn them hot and bright (and fast). Ignorance is bliss.

But just because this usually happens, doesn’t mean it always happens.

The stories that people have shared with me have often left a mark on my viewpoint. I’ve come to understand that when we do things God’s way, He can arrange things however He wants. Sometimes they know in the first minute that they’ve found “the one” or at least the one they’re gonna actually choose, even if “the one” is just a term we give to validate our dream partner. One couple I know (who might be reading this) knew they had found their respective spouses within four hours of conversation, immediately lost touch with each other due to forgetting to exchange numbers (I think that was the story), were somehow reconnected a week later, and in that second meeting the man asked the woman to marry him, and her response was, “What took you so long?” Their fifth date (over eight months of long distance communication) was their wedding. Twenty years later, they are still together; I assume happily.

Another couple I have great respect for were just friends for well over a year before they realized that they were better off together than not, and made the decision to date (it helped that their relationship was prophesized over; though that is most certainly a rarity, and proof that no formula is “the way”), and spent another year or so in courtship, putting God first, etc., and now they are eighteen years and two kids into their highly successful marriage. They didn’t have to marry. For the first year and a half that they knew each other, they had no intention in dating the other. But they didn’t close it down as an option. Their openness led them to much bigger and better things.

Another couple I know had done things perfectly by the courtship model, going through the various steps and stages as outlined in some of the best relational books around. They looked great together. Fit the formula’s expectations perfectly. They got married; they had taken their steps and stages to the letter. This was the natural order, according to the books. They divorced five years later after spending most of the marriage engaged in battle. They followed the formula.

The successful ones had just embraced God’s wisdom, and trusted Him to keep them strong, and trusted each other to keep each other strong. No set outline required—just the one that their Heavenly Father had put before them with them in mind. They also kept an open heart. They understood that they were inviting imperfect people who look badly in the morning into their own hard lives. They were gonna make it work because God didn’t have to bring them together but chose to anyway.

Every story is worth telling. My favorite ones are those told from the unlikeliest or craziest situations. I look forward to telling mine once I’m allowed to write the first chapter.

I don’t have anyone to share this day designed by Hallmark and adopted into popular culture as the day to say three important words, and exchange shiny gifts, and enjoy all the benefits of having someone who cares in my life right now. And, really, that’s okay. I do want to experience this sentiment that pretty much everyone else gets to experience year after year, and I hope to experience it sooner than later, but I’ve been weaned heavily on patience throughout my life, so this game of patiently waiting and improving myself in the meantime is more of the same. However, being single doesn’t make me unable to express to my lady friends what each of them means to me. You ladies deserve to know that you’re important. Right?

Even though I’m structuring this like a blog, I’m writing much of it with the intention of cross-posting it to Facebook for my actual lady friends to see, and I’m writing this to you, the ladies, because I want you to know that I appreciate the place you either had or still have in my life. I realize that many of you have not gotten to know me well at all, and if we’ve spoken just once, I guess we can chalk this one up to what could have been. But for those who have given me the time to know you well, and those who have allowed me to show that I care, and those who have accepted me in all of my states, at my best and at my worst, and those who allowed me to reciprocate that unconditional acceptance, you have my utmost appreciation. You’ve taught me a lot about what good women are. I’ve tried my best to show you what a good man is. I don’t know if I’ve done my part well, but I can tell you that if I’ve ever cared about you, even a little, or if I’ve gone out of my way to be there for you, or listen to you, or just enjoy your friendship in whatever state it’s in, then you’ve probably done your part to prove your quality to me, and any quality of yours I’ve admired, I’ve probably put on my checklist of traits I hope to find in a wife. That’s all valuable, of course. I hope you can appreciate that. God has certainly used you to impact me for the better.

To those of you who are married, I learn a lot by how you speak of yourselves, your husbands, and your families. You encourage me when you speak highly of those you’re “stuck” with. You scare me when you criticize even the little things, but you remind me that forgiveness is powerful, and love can overlook just about anything. You remind me that marriage is two imperfect people doing the best they can to make this awkward decision they had made at one point actually work. You convince me that it’s not such an insane decision to carry out when you speak of those times that do work. Time and again I hear people regret the decision to marry. Many wish they could go back to being single. I get it. Your freedoms are false. The plans you make, you have to run by your spouse (a lot like a twelve-year-old has to run by his parents). Your friendships with the opposite sex are extremely limited, and most, if not all, fade to just a shadow of what it once was. Seems like a raw deal on the surface. But then you consider the companionship, the intimacy, the partnership, the wellspring of resources, and the fact that if you’re having a heart attack in the middle of the night, someone will know about it and get immediate help, and suddenly marriage sounds like something that everyone should have a right to invest in. Even if it’s all kinds of scary. Seeing some of you going through these ups and downs, these joys and difficulties with your spouses reminds me that, if I can handle a woman at her worst, then I have no reason to be afraid of this. Most women I know, who trust me, will at some point reveal her worst, and I’m usually tolerant of it. I think I’m emotionally ready.

Those of you who are a little older, I get a picture of what a good wife becomes. You display the same tendencies as the newer wives, but do so as veterans. Your previous stresses are no longer stressful. You’ve endured. You’ve figured out your game plan and stuck with it. You’ve become the perfect model for the next generation. You remind me that any woman I choose will go through her rough patches, but eventually she’ll be made better, and even in those darkest moments, she’s worth having close to me. Today may suck, today may really suck, but there’s still hope for healing tomorrow and hope for betterment the day after.

To those of you who are single, I want to say that I appreciate you a lot, too. As of today, not one of you has taken a chance on me, and that’s fine. You decide what you want. Doesn’t mean I can’t learn from you, or you can’t learn from me, and part of making friends, dating future spouses, or just speaking to acquaintances, is to better ourselves, our circumstances, and to understand what other people need and, if possible, help them to meet those needs. I think that’s the nature of real love—giving of ourselves to meet the needs or desires of someone else, whether we feel like it or not, not because we expect a return but because we have the capability and desire to give anyway. To those of you who let me be who I am, thank you. You’re the reason I don’t give up. You remind me that I’m still necessary.

Not everyone who was close to me once is still close to me today. Most, in fact, have faded from my life as the years ticked on. But those who ever were close, I still care about, and still wish the best for. To those of you who have drifted away, I appreciate the person each of you has helped craft me to become. Some of you have done your part to make me stronger. Some have led me to greater tolerance. Some have reminded me of the qualities I desire in a wife. Some have reminded me of the qualities I hope never to encounter again. Some of you have shown me the errors of my ways. Some of you have forgiven me of my stupidities. I’m still thankful for all of that. Time and circumstance may have caused a rift, but you still have your impression on me.

Life is a process, a journey, a mystery, a heartbreak, a hassle, a joy, and a roller coaster. If you and I were ever friends, or if we could’ve been close had we just had a little more time and better circumstances, or if we learned anything valuable from each other, just know that I’m glad that you are or were a part of my life, that you have your special place in my heart, and that on this coming day where we’re supposed to make a big deal, I may be walking alone, spending my evening eating a burger and watching Robocop, but I’ll be happy because I’ve been given a chance to know you. I hope this message is better than candies and flowers. I hope you have the story you’ve always wanted.

Twenty years of prayer, and here I am pretty darn blessed to have such amazing ladies cross my path and show me what I’ve been praying for. Thanks to each of you who are, in fact, amazing.

That Old Rusty Formula

Originally posted to MySpace on:

June 5, 2007:

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot about this new book and movie craze called The Secret. At first I thought it was a movie starring that kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun—and I really don’t know why I thought that, random brain activity I guess—but later came to find out that it was a lesson in forcing what we want through positive thinking. Interesting.

As New Agey as it may seem, and probably is, it makes a good point: positive thinking brings positive results. Fair enough. Obviously it speaks some truth, because the entire world is biting into it the way a starving man on a desert island might bite into a Big Mac. If it didn’t work, the masses would throw the book into the fire. Right?

Well, if it weren’t any surprise, the Christian community has picked up on some of its principles and applied its meaning to its own sense of faith. Admirable, I think, considering the speed at which we condemned rock music and Harry Potter for its blatant promotions of evil. Because of this idea of viewing the “Law of Attraction,” as it’s called, as a form of faith, I have to admit that the possibility of finding out more about it “attracted” me. After all, if it really does show me how to attract what I want—to essentially step up my faith a notch—then it must be a good thing. Right? Right?

A few weeks ago, my Wednesday night Bible study decided to spend a week studying it. So now, after all the hype surrounding it, I got to see what it was all about for myself. And with all the visual stunners, like that wave of some crazy force ring shooting out like a pulsar cannon from the thoughts of those who dream of big houses and sexy wives, I have to say I was impressed with the production. With all the positive thinking that obviously went into it, all I could think was that the geniuses who made this film were certainly tapping into the “Law of Attraction” when they told themselves they would be gazillionaires someday.

Jokes aside, I could understand why the Christian community jumped on board with this phenomenon. It encourages faith—I mean, it has to—the whole point of the Law of Attraction is to see yourself with the very thing you want, which to me requires a heck of a lot of faith. If a penniless nobody can say he wants to make $100,000, actually draw (in marker) the extra zeroes onto a one dollar bill so that he can see the hundred grand as reality, and then somehow sell his $.25 concept to a tabloid and call it “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” then obviously somewhere in that equation he had more than a mustard seed’s worth of faith, because we all know what became of that little $.25 idea. A hundred grand is merely chump change now.

For those who haven’t seen the video, though, I’m not gonna spoil it for you. The bottom line is that this methodology teaches us that whatever we set our minds on, that’s what becomes reality. To some degree, I can accept this. For those who really believe in their abilities, somehow they make it work. But there has to be a line.

When the video was over, I had one nagging problem: the idea of making reality of what we think about. In the video, it talks about how a man who focuses primarily on getting out of debt is still thinking about debt, and thus he’ll never get out of it (because the “universe”—New Agey term—thinks he wants the debt because he keeps thinking about it and yada yada yada). Again, I can sort of see where this might apply. But, at the same time, from a Christian standpoint, it has one fatal flaw: our relationship with God, namely.

Here’s the thing: the Christian community can accept this thing called the Law of Attraction, because it promotes faith. But where the Christian community is completely turning the deaf ear is that this form of faith rules out relationship. In other words, if I’m asking God to help me out of debt, then, according to the Law of Attraction, I am still thinking about my debt, and thus God will keep me in debt.

What?!!

The workaround, of course, comes back to positive thinking, as the creators of this video might say. “Don’t think about debt,” they say, “but think about prosperity. If you dwell on prosperity, then you’ll have prosperity.” Fine, if you say so. I’ll have prosperity.

But why should I have to say it like that?

If this Law of Attraction is a real thing that God can use to answer our prayers, then isn’t it still possible that God has complete control over how it works? If He doesn’t, then how are we supposed to be ourselves before Him if we’re too busy nitpicking over vocabulary, trying to manipulate Him into blessing us?

My understanding of the Bible, and thus, my understanding of my own existence is to have a relationship with my Heavenly Father. Shouldn’t that mean, then, that I have freedom to tell Him exactly how I feel, and trust that He’ll hear me for my heart and not for my AOL keywords? If He doesn’t hear me for what I bring before His throne, then what is the point of trusting Him with my heart?

So that’s the thing that left me unsettled as I dwelt on this theory—which could have some truth to it, as some people do make it work. But then, that brings us to another point.

First of all, I’m not going to continue this journal pretending that I know everything. I don’t. I know some things in biblical context, though there is still plenty more that I don’t have a clue about. My memory skills suck when it comes to verses and song lyrics (though I could probably still tell you the names, identities, and allegiances to every single character from the first season of the original Transformers—how sad is that?), so I’m not the grand authority of all things spiritual. Because of this, I tend to seek counsel in these matters when I turn up clueless. Sometimes I find it in Christian “rulebooks.” Lately, I’ve just been asking people that I trust to know the Spirit better than I do. After spending the last few weeks trying to figure out how the Law of Attraction coincides with God’s will, I finally asked a mentor.

Having said that, keep in mind that most everything to follow from this point on are not my own thoughts, but a redevelopment of the conversation that a friend of mine and I had about God, faith, and the direction that ministry is heading.

There’s a reason why I had this problem with the Law of Attraction as an absolute—as the video would describe it to me. It’s because it pigeonholes God’s authority in my life. It puts control into my own hands, and more or less disregards His personal will for my life. Maybe this thing does work, for some people, but does it mean it’s the right thing?

The Secret and the Christian church’s adoption of its principles as a form of faith subscribe to a key issue that controls western thought: it’s all about the marketing.

What?!!!

Never mind that God is sovereign, free to bless people His own way and in His own time—if He chooses to bless us at all. No, according to this new marketing trend, all Christians are automatically promised prosperity (remember Jeremiah 29:11—my favorite verse to be perpetually taken out of context?), and so the positive thinking trick guarantees us the desires of our hearts.

As long as we don’t think a single ill thought against it.

What?!!! That sounds a bit limiting for God, the author of the world, doesn’t it? Also gives a little too much power to the Devil, the Force, and Jedi Master Yoda, all of who, despite our fears, can’t actually read our minds. Only God has that kind of authority.

God is creative, am I right? Does He not know the desires of our hearts before we even ask? Does He not know of the best path in which to see His will fulfilled in our lives? Of course He does. So why does the Christian church throw heaps and heaps of formulas in His way?

Years ago a friend of mine told me that he would never again read another book about relationships. Why? They seemed to be pretty harmless, certainly informative, and probably the surest bet to finding “the one,” and having the best relationship possible with “the one.” So why stop reading them?

Because they’re formulaic? Because they take the adventure out of life? Because they limit God from establishing things His own way, should He choose to even make it happen? Hmm, the truth kinda takes the thunder out of “How To” books, doesn’t it?

Why are Christians disappointed when a church promises prosperity if they “get their heart right with God” just to wind up in debt, in bad relationships, or being falsely accused of murder? Didn’t God promise the desires of my heart—of prosperity—according to Jeremiah 29:11, the most out of context verse ever? I thought I was supposed to do this and that and then my dreams would come true. If only I had read my Bible more, my dreams would come true. If only I had tithed more, my dreams would come true.

If churches told us that only some of us would prosper, while the rest of us would fight the rest of our lives for the desires of our hearts just to die poor and alone with 28 cats, then would we be interested in going back? Western culture, says “hell no,” so squeaky clean Reverend Mafia Man (apparently they exist—yikes!!!) tells us that prosperity is eminent so that we keep coming back and filling the coffers. Marketing genius. Spiritual suicide.

Why does the starving Christian want to put more hope in The Secret than he does in the sovereign will of God? Marketing. Is God not good if He doesn’t fulfill the desires of man’s heart? Or is He just? Would the CEO of Starbucks love God if God told him, “All right, now it’s time to try something new; go spend the next ten years getting to know the common man while running the register at Burger King.” Or would he be fighting God on the matter, arguing about how such a move would affect his God-promised prosperity? If he argues, then why would he? Is he no longer content with the will of God? If the CEO of Starbucks didn’t rate his prosperity on the size of his limo, would he be content, then, with a rusted jalopy from 1923? Probably not. Marketing strikes again.

So why then do some people make the Law of Attraction work? If it puts a limit on God’s sovereignty, then why can some people still get what they want through positive thinking? Here’s a better question: why do the wicked prosper if prosperity is meant for “those with faith?” My theory on the wicked prospering had always been that this is the best they’ll have. For them to prosper now is like God having compassion on them in light of their destructive future. But the friend I talked to about this the other night had a better theory: prosperity, like everything else, is a gift bestowed among certain people. Just as a wicked man can paint a glorious portrait through the gift of creativity (as can a Christian with the same gift), so can a wicked man turn three dollars into a million if he has the gift of business (as can a Christian with the same gift). Not everyone will have the ability to do both (I, for example, have creativity, but my business sense is atrocious), so not everyone should expect to have both (or either, if that’s the case).

The bottom line is that Secret or no Secret, God is sovereign and He can do whatever He wants. If He wants to prosper us, then good for us. If He wants to let us die in captivity, then we should probably learn to like it. In the end, it’s unfair of us to limit our relationship with Him to certain boundaries so that the formulas of prosperous Christian living can endure. Isn’t it better to live each day as it is, continue to ask for the desires of our heart, be content with the answer He gives us, whether it’s what we want or not, and let Him flourish in His ways and in His story for our lives? I might get discouraged at times for seeing opportunities I’ve desired float away far beyond my reach, but then, how would I ever be content if I got every blasted thing I ever wanted? I’d just end up wanting more anyway.

Of course, if God wanted to be the Father who gives to His prodigal son, then that’s His business. It’s not my job to grumble it. It’s my job to love Him anyway and do what I can to follow the path He’s lit for me.

Anyway, these were just some issues that came up during this processing time. After spending many sessions of positive thinking toward the things I wanted in the past, just to have them rejected anyway, kinda tells me that the “Law of Attraction” is just a thing that some people can use, but ultimately doesn’t override the sovereign will of God. If we trust Him with His will, then that’s what we’ll see come to pass. Whether or not that means pleasure for us is irrelevant. Whether or not we become an army He can use, however, is relevant. Submitting to God and letting Him do as He wills is a mark of faith, I think, and one that lets God be who He is through us. Yes, we can still ask God for the desires of our hearts—the Bible makes that clear—but true faith, I believe, accepts the answer regardless of what it might be.

If anyone would like to add a remark to this, please do, as I’d like to build a discussion here.

And you’re welcome to send this wherever you want, if you feel like it. But you don’t have to; this isn’t a chain letter. I know that you still love Jesus, even if you delete this. No accusations, hidden agendas, or condemnations here. Be who you are.