Archive for 2006

You Can Just Deal

Posted by on Saturday, 30 December, 2006

There are a few people in my life right now that are a great challenge to me. There’s one guy in particular that I want to mention. When I first started to get to know him, he was constantly being berated by others for the things that he said. The challenging part was, I felt that everything he said was true, and often rather accurately described something I was going through myself, yet somehow, coming from him it all seemed absolutely ridiculous. Sometimes it wasn’t even the things he said, but just his casual, carefree attitude toward things that I take very seriously.

For example, a small group of us were gathered to play some worship music at his house. After things had begun to wind down, he turned to me and said, “Play one of your songs.” Now a great number of things were going through my head at that point. First of all, my particular style of music has no place at a worship night. But then again, not all of my songs make you want to go right out and kill yourself. I even thought of three or four at the time that could have worked. But then came the question of whether I was even capable of playing them. For one thing, I don’t feel that a lot of my songs transfer well to acoustic (or even just one) guitar, but more to the point, playing guitar is not like riding a bicycle. You DO forget how. It had been a long time since I had played any of those songs and it would be really embarrassing to not know my own music. On top of it all, I really do not function well when put on the spot like that, and ultimately the best I could say was, “That’s probably not wise.” So I dodged that one. But he wanted to hear one of my songs. He wanted to hear MY music. I can’t begin to explain what that feels like.

There are obviously people who know that I write music that have expressed curiosity, but there’s something flimsy about that, like the empty promise of a “Hey, we should hang out ‘sometime’.” It’s a very different thing when I’m sitting there with a guitar in my hands and someone is asking me to play. It’s been a long, long time since that has happened. In fact, I wasn’t sure if it had ever happened, although that’s probably not true. Thinking back, I can really only even remember the first of my three girlfriends ever expressing interest in my music.

Now along comes this guy, just blindly stumbling onto a very deep seated need for of mine for a certain kind of validation, finding a button that I didn’t even know I had and leaning on it.

That seems to be pretty typical of him. The examples are too many to mention. It seems like every time I see him there’s something new that just makes me think, “That too? Is no part of my life safe from this guy?” I also have to say that his strategy toward women is definitely one that I had not seen before. I had heard about it before I ever witnessed it in action. When I eventually did, I initially could only watch in horror, thinking, “Someone please take the shovel away before he completely buries himself!” That slowly turned to amazement at the idea that such a method might actually work. (It really only has to work once I suppose.)

The strange thing is, I actually like this guy. I think he’s pretty cool, and we actually have a great deal in common. It’s just that my ego can only take so much. So finally I see what the real challenge is here. I spend so much time worrying about what is “appropriate.” I am in many cases so burdened by it that I am paralyzed with indecision. This guy doesn’t care about appropriate. He just dives straight in to anything and everything.

Ultimately, I see that he is who I could be, if only I could live without fear.


Posted by on Tuesday, 26 December, 2006

*I ran out of steam while writing this and never came back to it, so I’ll just post it as is.

So much has happened in the past month or so that I couldn’t begin to describe it. I did feel that I should say something about Christmas though, being that I am the only window into the Christian experience for some people. Then I did some back checking, and apparently I did not feel this need in previous years. So maybe I needn’t bother. Or maybe it’s way overdue. I tend to overthink things.

So, just to get it out of my system, let’s pretend someone has asked me, “How was your Christmas?” To which I would reply in typical fashion, “Better than Thanksgiving.” Which sounds like an answer, but actually says almost nothing at all.
“How so?” you ask.

I stepped on a bee on Thanksgiving Day. It’s the third or fourth time I’ve done that. (Not usually on Thanksgiving, just on the bee.) So I was popping Benadryl and smearing Cortizone on my swollen foot for three or four days, and I didn’t even tell anyone about it. Why? Because nobody asked. Not that I would expect it to occur to anyone to ask if I happened to have been walking around barefoot outside and chanced to step on anything unpleasant. But no one even asked, “How was your Thanksgiving?” At least, not anyone that I thought was looking for an answer more detailed than, “Fine, how was your’s?” The whole Thanksgiving holiday weekend was pretty terrible actually. I like to say that God kicked my butt for four days straight, and just to keep it interesting, on the third day He came around and punched me in the face. In fact, when I was making a list in my journal of all the things going on, the bee slipped my mind. It was that kind of weekend.

So Christmas? …Better than that. To be perfectly honest, I really just haven’t had much interest in Christmas for the past couple of years.


Posted by on Saturday, 25 November, 2006

On Wednesday, I went to the Thanksgiving Eve service at my church. At one point, there were open microphones for people to stand up and share what they were thankful for. A fair number of people shared about having a loved one in the hospital, and how grateful they were to God for watching over them. A couple of these people personally thanked the head pastor for coming to the hospital.

When my mother lay dying, there was no pastor. My mother was raised in a christian home. My sister and I were not. I am quite certain that my mother did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She definately did not consider him to be the only way, truth and life. The Bible is quite clear about the fate of such people.

On the night my grandfather died, my aunt told me that wherever he and my mother were now, she was sure they were having a great time together. I don’t remember what I said to that. If I believed in anything, it would be that when my grandfather got where he was going, he was going to be real upset to find out where my mother had ended up. But of course I don’t believe that. How can I believe that?

When my mother lay dying, there was no pastor. If the Christian message be true, then the only thing standing between my mother and a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth, the only one there who could deliver the gospel, was me. In her last moments, I did not know how to try to convince my mother of something that I was not even certain about myself. I would not let her dying thoughts be that her only son was a fool. I could not do it. I did not do it.

Why don’t you try carrying something like that around for a year and a half, and see how open YOU are to accepting the Bible?


Posted by on Friday, 24 November, 2006

In my last post, I intended to write about two consecutive Sundays, but it got so long I stopped at one. Now several Sundays have come and gone, all of them noteworthy in different ways. But I have another burden right now. I am really bad at communicating. Really, really bad. Really. There was a time when that did not bother me so much. I was content with my antisocialness. The thing is, I actually feel like I have gotten better, which makes it scary to think about what I was like before. But better does not equal good. I still have a long long way to go, and I have not been trying very hard lately. For a long time I have had a sort of “wait and see” attitude in several areas of my life. Well, I’ve waited a long time. I am tired of waiting. I wrote a song about it, in April. What have I been doing since then? Waiting. I can look back now and see that the real source of my pain was a lack of communication skills.

Some people consider me intelligent. Maybe I am in some ways. Perhaps I do catch on quickly to certain mathematical and technical things. But in social situations, I am a pathetically slow learner. It takes me a long time to evaluate situations and decide on the appropriate behavior. By a long time, I mean much longer than the situation itself usually lasts. Days longer. Months longer. Looking backward, I can see thousands of missed opportunities. But I can not see any that are right in front of me. Not yet. Maybe tomorrow I will see what today might have held. Maybe if I was able to vocalize what was really going on, I would not have had to wait so long.

Sunday to Sunday

Posted by on Wednesday, 8 November, 2006

It’s gotten to the point where Sunday is really the only day that I care about. Sunday’s are interesting. The in between days are just filler. However, two Sunday’s ago, it was almost enough to make me throw in the proverbial towel. But let me back up.

A couple of months ago I happened to be listening to that Christian rock station, and the fellow was singing:
I am broken inside over and over. I don’t happen to know what song that is. I can understand the sentiment, but in this case, there was something about his tone of voice that just made me think, “I don’t believe you.” Now, I can not begin to imagine the emotional state of a person who would say something like that when it was not actually true, and maybe I’m completely wrong here, yet to me, he sounded like he was just repeating something that he had heard somewhere and did not actually experience himself.

This is a problem I have with Christian music in general. I believe that I have previously mentioned my irritation with the 100% praise music in my church. If you are going to stand up there and sing as if your heart is filled with nothing but praise to God, and has never known pain or doubt, then I don’t believe you. Best case scenario, it may actually be true, but then you simply do not speak for me. My resentment toward the music at my church had been steadily growing for some time.

I’ve been going to a new church for the last month. It happens to be entirely contained within the other church, but it is held in another room. The sermon is the same via video, but the music is indescribably better. Not long ago, I would frequently leave the church actually angry at how impotent the worship music was. For the first month of this new service’s existence, I was actually moved to tears four times out four. When John and Tonya Mace sing, I believe them.

The Sunday before last, the band announced that in the coming weeks, each of them would be sharing their story of faith. I had heard a portion of the Maces’ story in the past. My initial impression was challenged several months ago when John’s father was nominated to the elder board at the church, and I realized that he did not exactly come from quite the skeptical background that I had once believed. But no matter, for atheists come in many varieties. But after last week… well, all I can say is: HAVE ANY ATHEISTS CONVERTED TO CHRISTIANITY FOR REASONS OTHER THAN “BECAUSE OF A WOMAN”?

That was only the beginning. Later that day, I was called to the carpet, if you will, by my accountability group for the fact that I was not actually being accountable for anything. (I felt that the particular implication that it was my fault that the discussion tends to gravitate towards video games, cell phones and movies was not entirely deserved, but the overall accusation stands.)

The night ended with what had previously been an ongoing private situation involving another individual suddenly becoming very public. A lot of people felt very awkward about that, but I was actually quite relieved, because once it was out in the open and other people were involved, I suddenly felt that I had done all that I could and it was no longer my problem. (A foolish assumption, as it turns out.)

In between there was a discussion group. I suddenly realized that I don’t like discussion groups. There are basically three reasons that I generally do not contribute. One is that sometimes I genuinely do not have anything to say. More often, it seems to me that a lot of people who do speak out are often more interested in making their opinions known than in hearing what others think. A lot of times I either do not think that people really care what I have to say or else it is not particularly important to me that other people know my opinion on a given topic, or somewhere in between. Then there are those times when I actually do want to say something, but simply lack the social skills to get a foot into the conversation.
On this particular occasion, I really did not get much of value from the passage which we were studying. There was however, one discussion question at the end which went something like,”Do you sometimes feel like God is far away? On those occasions, who do you think moved, you or God?” This was a question that I know something about. Unfortunately, the facilitator (though well intentioned) chose to introduce the question by first pointing out it’s lack of relevance to the passage at hand, and essentially declaring that it was a stupid question in general. It was then posed to the group, not to answer the question but rather to comment on whether or not we agreed that it was stupid. That was not really a train that I wanted to jump on.

To answer the question:
No. I do not feel far away from God sometimes.

All That You Can't Leave Behind

Posted by on Wednesday, 25 October, 2006

Sunday was such a bright day, after church I just couldn’t stand to simply go home. I went for a long, leisurely drive, like back in the day.

I couldn’t stop thinking about driving around on a similarly beautiful day, some time ago now, on a mission to find California poppies. Those were different times. I have so many of these things, these moments, that mean so much to me but probably not to anyone else. And what does it mean to be alone if not to care about things that no one else does? Yet it seems so trite to complain of loneliness when everywhere I look I see lonely broken people.

So I returned home with a heavy heart. I decided I was overdue for a visit to my grandmother, which happened, but did little to improve my mood. Yesterday I dreamt of my grandparents. Those too were different times, in the dream. They were on a skiing trip, and my grandmother was so young and full of life. My grandfather could barely keep up. I honestly don’t know if such a scenario has ever occurred, but I woke up almost sick to my stomach thinking of how lonely she must be now… after 65 years. I keep trying to tell you how cruel time can be, but I don’t know if you hear.

I wanted to say these things this day in particular, for reasons that, once again, I doubted meant anything to anyone else. Then I got a certain phone call that only left me wondering, “Why today?”

But I am tired of looking for things that aren’t there.

…And I know it aches
How your heart, it breaks
You can only take so much…

What Happened Here Tonight?

Posted by on Monday, 16 October, 2006

I don’t even know. Several things in succession. Strange tidings. Stranger actions. Several pieces of information being unintentionally passed around, some to me, some by me, some about me. Completely unrelated? Is anything completely unrelated? I can’t take it all in.

But you can be as confused as I.

Will You Look At the Time?

Posted by on Wednesday, 20 September, 2006

I was doing some internet research of profound unimportance yesterday, and came across the claim that the “Lappy” era of Strong Bad emails has lasted for almost two years now. (If you do not happen to know what that means, I honestly can not stress enough how much better off you would be to NOT try to find out. Seriously.) Two years? That just couldn’t be right. So I looked it up (with the cursed miracle of the internet) and found out that the era in question began in November of 2004. 2004?! No, no… that must be a mistake… it must mean 2005

Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Do you know what this means? I’m not just wasting days or weeks, but wasting whole years… [the best years]… of my life… (and you say this as if it were a surprise?)

So anyway, speaking of “cursed miracles,” I often consider myself “cursed with blessings,” in the sense that so many opportunities come my way that I have a tendency to just ignore them. “I need time to think things over… I don’t need to act on this right now, I can do it next time… There’s always a next time… Always.
So I wait for the perfect opportunity. I wait, as days turn to weeks turn to years. I let chance after chance pass me by because it just wasn’t “perfect enough.” Such a foolish, arrogant security. Because there isn’t always a next time. You never know which chance will be the last; you don’t know how many grains of sand are in the hourglass; every time you say goodbye, you don’t know if it’s forever. All the while, I stand there waiting.

So that’s the story of my life… but no, this recent waiting is different. I haven’t been waiting for an opportunity, I’ve been waiting on something else this time. I’ve been waiting for a savior. It’s not my move. Or is it? I try to keep busy. I try to do the things I think I’m supposed to be doing in the meantime. Mostly I just wait. Kill time, and wait.

Is it me then? Is there something more I should be doing? Am I not trying hard enough? Are my priorities not straight enough?

I can’t wait anymore. I can’t.
Please, I just can’t.

Ah, you say that. But you can and you will. And I have to, because where would I go?

-Let’s go.
-We can’t.
-Why not?
-We’re waiting for Godot.
–Samuel Beckett

In Sheep's Clothing

Posted by on Monday, 11 September, 2006

My church holds a worship service the first Sunday night of every month. The format of these is a bit different every time but they tend to be interesting, and I go when I can. I was understandably unsettled when instead of assuming a passive observer role, the head pastor called everyone to gather into groups of three or four to pray about various ministries and topics. It just so happened that I was sitting near and ended up grouped with the pastor of children’s ministries and her husband and the missionary pastor.

Did I dare to tell these two pastors that God and I aren’t on speaking terms right now? Of course not. I didn’t have to. For just as I am perfectly able to discuss the Bible as if I believed it were true, I can pray as if I thought someone was actually listening. I can turn it on and off just like that.

Today was the annual picnic for the entire church in the mountains. The highlight of this event is the baptism service in the lake and hearing everyone’s testimonies. (“When I was four years old I asked my mommy about Jesus…”) This year though, I couldn’t really concentrate on people’s stories, as I remembered back three years ago when I stood on that same beach and lied to everyone there, including my own mother.

This year I also decided to try a little experiment, to see if anyone would catch on to the fact that I was actually drinking straight vodka from my Nalgene. You don’t really think that you’re going to get away with this do you? I had visions of getting plastered and causing a scene. Surely with all the pastors and elders present some disciplinary action would have to be taken. Ah, but remember who you’re dealing with. I get away with everything. If anyone noticed that I was acting strangely, (or at least, a different sort of strange than normal) they didn’t say anything.

And what a precedent to set. If my “closest friends” don’t notice, I can go anywhere with this thing… church, school, wherever. And one can not help but wonder, am I the only one? So why bring any of this up? If anyone other than spambots read this anymore, maybe I really didn’t want to get away with this one.

So This is who am I am. I’m the guy that attends church “religiously” and says all the right things but lives the rest of my life with no thought to God. I can’t help wondering if there’s anyone out there who sees me as an example of a godly man. I certainly hope that no one’s eyes are so dim.

Another Day in September

Posted by on Saturday, 9 September, 2006

Almost exactly ten years ago, I was in the room with my mother when she received the phone call that her father had had a stroke. “He’s only seventy-six!” was all that she could say. Only.

No one could have possibly imagined that he would actually outlive her…

…But not by much.

Charles Nicholas Ziilch
June 21, 1920 – Sept 8, 2006