Archive for January, 2008

Escape Velocity

Posted by on Thursday, 31 January, 2008

I started this post about two weeks ago, but I got distracted by various things. Last week I was reading a webcomic (like I do), when it suddenly occurred to me that I could not remember why I ever do anything. I then dozed off for awhile. A lot of times I don’t actually remember my dream, but I wake with a bizarre sentence in my head. This time, it seemed to be a bit of narration: “I don’t go to work anymore. I sit all day in the hospital, waiting for my son to come out of the coma.” Huh. Not a single piece of that statement is accurate. Anyway.

There comes a point when a man simply gets tired of lying to everyone he knows. I wonder if there are enough people that know certain parts of me and, when taken all together, would add up to the whole, but I do not think so. Even to those closest to me, I find myself confiding incomplete truths at best.

I remember some months ago, a certain young lady shared with our church group about the “dark night of the soul,” which is, essentially, when God does not talk to you. (Christians consider this abnormal.) Another girl broke down in tears, as she was experiencing the same thing. A fellow was quick to comfort with “everybody” goes through that at some point. (It bears mentioning that I don’t think any of those three people have been back since.) We also had communion that night, and I happened to notice at least one person who (for whatever reason) passed the elements without partaking. And then of course, there was me. I could not help thinking that night, “Is there a single person in this room who actually believes all this and isn’t just going through the motions?”

On my 29th birthday, I took the last final for the last class of my undergraduate career. I made one last phone call. Then I checked clean out of reality and never looked back. For about four years I had tried to live with two mutually exclusive world-views simultaneously in my head. I needed two, because to be perfectly honest, neither one seemed to adequately explain observable reality.

I was actually contacted a couple of months ago about that discipleship opportunity that I had been wanting. I never called back. Heck, I didn’t call or email anybody back for a period of several months there. But in this particular case, I just didn’t know how to tell him that it was too late for me, that I was already half way to Nihilism.

In December, at our last meeting of the year, we discussed the “direction” of the ministry and how it was not meeting people’s needs. When asked for my opinion, I stated, “I don’t care.” And I didn’t, because I have been to about four or five “official” meetings exactly like that one, and I don’t even know how many private conversations on the same topic. I did not expect yet one more meeting to accomplish anything the others had not.

But it was far deeper than that. I didn’t care about the ministry. I didn’t care about Jesus. I didn’t care about life. A couple of months ago, a psychology student friend needed people to take practice tests. I volunteered for a test where I had to make up stories about ambiguous pictures. I had to sign a waiver that said that I would not be getting the results, but if it was determined that I pose a threat to myself or others, I could expect a call. I might have played it differently at another time, but on this particular day, I chose to be like (I assume) a detective on one of those crime dramas that I’ve never actually seen but seem to be all the rage, where I would look at the picture and have to come up with “the facts” of the situation. (I soon got bored of that and started going more abstract, but whatever.) At one point, I could not help but ask, “Why are all these pictures of sad people?” I don’t need a psychology degree to know what projection is. Regardless, when it was over, I asked if I “posed a threat.” I was told that I was not suicidal, at which point I could not help but laugh to myself, “Well that test doesn’t work at all, does it?”

But no, I’m not suicidal. Just bored. I never said that I was leaving my church group. I never said that I was leaving the church. I just stopped going. I am just not interested in hearing about Jesus anymore.

I think about God in the same way that I suppose someone would think about a father (my real father is nothing like this) who simply was not there when you were a child. Then, when you are grown, he calls out of the blue wanting to be part of your life but then disappears again for months or years before randomly calling again. I am not angry, I am just not interested. Cat’s in the Cradle and all that.

Of course, I have had this attitude before. It seems that whenever I get this way, some weird crap starts happening that I can not explain and think maybe I need to give this God thing another go. This time is no different. In fact, once I decided that I was serious this time, it seems as though God has been pulling out all the stops with these random emails and phone calls and books and funerals (and of course, my job). But I do not care. What kind of God only takes interest when I am trying to leave? That is not a Kingdom, that is prison.

Sometime after I came up with the title of this post, I thought through the implied metaphor of someone actually declaring, “I’ve had enough of you, Planet Earth! I’m taking my chances on my own!” What impudence.

So, I thought of a different picture. (This imagine might have come subconsciously from a movie, I am not quite sure.) I picture a man held captive in some way in an office building. He has decided to make a last ditch break for it by running down the hall and crashing out the window. He has to dodge people coming out of doors and there is lots of shouting and confusion and who knows how far of a fall it will be on the other side…

For I am tired of this up and down nonsense. This time, I want to keep falling until I actually LAND ON SOMETHING and then go from there. At least, that is what I told myself until I was hanging out at this homeless shelter like I do sometimes and it struck me that it could be a very long fall indeed. In fact, the only reason that I’m not homeless living the way I do is because my parents happen to have this empty house they let me use.

Regardless, I am still tired of the multiple world views, the going through the motions hoping that one day my beliefs will fall in line with my actions, the pretending to be something I am not. I too easily can flip right into “Jesus mode” and expound on some Biblical principle before catching myself and thinking, “That sounded pretty good… but you don’t happen to believe a word of it do you?” This is what I seek to leave behind.

How You Say

Posted by on Tuesday, 22 January, 2008

I have a lot of pieces of things that I still need to organize into coherent posts. Until then, something different.

I have long found it humorous to say patently absurd things completely deadpan. I have often suspected that people who do not know me must think that I am either incredibly stupid or mean, depending on the comment in question. Until recently, this never bothered me.

Lately, I’ve been having reservations. Once, at work, after one of my blatantly counter-productive “suggestions”, I received a detailed explanation as to why we do not do things that way. (I do not even remember the circumstances actually, just that the guy ought to have simply said, “That would be blatantly counter-productive,” so we could all move on.) That is not so bad really. What troubles me more is when I get home from some gathering and I get a phone call from someone who wants to discuss the “hurtful things” that I said. That’s a more serious problem.

Of course, sometimes I’m not joking at all. Lately, I feel as though every time I send an email and I’m thinking about it later, I feel like I need to send another email apologizing and explaining what I really meant. I rarely actually do though.

In my last post, I mentioned looking like a fool. I used that term because it happens to be my favorite word for describing myself, but when I wrote that, I knew it was wrong. It took a couple of days to come up with the word that really says what I intended: “scoundrel.”

These are but a few of the many cases when I am reminded that I am really just an insensitive jerk. And I do not believe that realizing after the fact that I had been unkind makes things any better. Particularly since I never apologize. I think that on some level, I merely feel, “Oh well. Maybe it will work out better the next time I have friends.”

On a loosely related note, while surfing the internet today, I happened to find a website dedicated to listing particularly stupid arguments that Christians have posted in various online forums and web pages. Some quotes made me think, “This obviously wasn’t really written by a Christian, this was written by someone satirizing Christians… right? Please?” Most just make you want to put your head down and cry.

Now, I think we all know that a lot of people say a lot of preposterous things online, so maybe this is nothing to get upset over. But the thing is, I too have a website, and the idea that someone might be reading this over and then going back to a site like that and declaring, “Hey, check out what this idiot said about God!” is extremely unsettling.

Poor Timing

Posted by on Tuesday, 15 January, 2008

The reason for the blitz of posts last week (which disappointingly only tied, rather than set, my all time record) is because I wanted to get the frivolities out of the way and move on to the serious. For I had things to say, and things to do. But there have been external factors that have lead me to question, “You’re not seriously going to do that now are you?”

“Do you ever write stories?” I was asked recently.
What do you think I’m doing here? Oh, fictional stories. No, I really don’t. I write stories with my life. At least, I write them down, if they’re interesting. Or not.

I was also asked about a particular post from long ago, by someone who wanted to hear “the rest of that story.” Whatever do you mean? There is no more to that story. Then it hit me: Bull. Shit. For while there really wasn’t any more to add about that incident, the circumstances were but a piece of a much larger framework. In fact, it may be the key piece for which a part of me had been subconsciously searching.

I had recently reread a number of older posts while searching for something in particular. It struck me that in a number of them, while I was clearly talking about one thing, I would leave a hint, perhaps even one slightly incongruous sentence, of something else entirely. To me they were as plain as day, though I could not help but wonder if it was so obvious to others, being that I have certain inside information, as it were.

So I lay pondering all these things late at night when suddenly it all snapped into place. It was like a flashback sequence at the end of an M. Night Shyamalan film where all the isolated incidences suddenly converge, with the mocking, “How did you not see?” But I did see, of course. It’s just that each point, I chose to ignore the implication and look in a different direction. I never realized that one could stand in one place and see the whole line from beginning to end. Now that is a story. As I’ve mentioned before (#3), I do love a good story.

At least, at 4:00 am, it seemed like the greatest story I’ve ever known. In the morning… less so. Could I possibly tell such a tale without making myself a total fool? And reaction to it might be… unpredictable. So, despite the flurry of inspiration, I have yet to write a single word of it. Which I realize is a lot of hype for no pay-off whatsoever.

Which returns me to my original point of what to do now; now that there are things afoot that I could not foresee and do not yet understand? I feel as though I am poised to commit a great mistake, perhaps several in a row. Is this really the time to be burning bridges and betraying friendships? Then again, when is the best time for such things?

Kicking and Screaming

Posted by on Saturday, 12 January, 2008

That’s right kids, FOUR posts this week. As many as all of Sept-Dec combined.

Earlier this week, a certain individual gave his “letter of resignation,” if you will, to my church group. People seem to have gotten worked up about it. Me? I was trying to take advantage of the holiday break to quietly slip away.
“So you’re quitting?”
“Not really… I’m just not gonna go.”

I have been part of this group for over four years. I have seen a near 100% turn over in membership at least twice. (That is to say, everyone who was there when I started is gone, everyone who came later who would remember those people is also gone, and there’s only a couple of people left who remember THEM.) Whatever the goals of this ministry might have been, I’ve always thought that, as far as creating lasting relationships, it has been an almost complete and spectacular failure.

Now suddenly, I don’t bother showing up for a couple of meetings and I’ve been getting nonstop voice-mails and text messages. And it’s obvious that people have been talking to each other in between pestering him and me. Did someone throw a grenade in here? What are you people so worked up about? Part of me wants to think that there’s a sense that timoth IS 20Somethings, just like no matter how many other dudes come and go, if Robert Smith leaves it ain’t The Cure. But… ummmmmm, no.

More likely, I think my friend and I just caught a little Three Stooges Syndrome on our way out the door.

That’s not even what I really wanted to talk about. I went to a new church last Sunday. That turned out to be a mistake, but at least it was one of those learning mistakes. I felt very much like I was crashing a party. In a sense, I literally was, because the church happened to be celebrating its first birthday that night and they had pizza and cake and stuff, but that’s not what I meant. I knew a few people there, and they definitely seemed to have more of a “What are YOU doing here” than a “Hey, nice to see you” attitude. I had actually tried to go somewhat incognito specifically to avoid that, but that plan failed in about the first 15 seconds when I encountered someone I knew in the parking lot. Not that it matters, there weren’t nearly enough people in that room to hide in anyway. I had grown accustomed to significantly larger congregations.

So what was I doing there? I hadn’t been to a church service in almost two months, I told people, as if that was an answer. In retrospect, that only compounds the question. I had stopped going to my regular church when I got a job that included working on Sunday mornings. But even though I wasn’t working for half of December, I still didn’t go. (Well, I was technically in the church building one Sunday morning, but I spent the whole time flipping pancakes. And I specifically went there just to flip pancakes.) The last two Sundays, I just didn’t bother. Sure, I had family in town, but that’s never stopped me… even in foreign countries.

So why this church, and why now? Well, I had thought about going there for a some time, because it met on Sunday evenings which worked with my schedule, and because several people had left my church to go there, and I wanted to see what the big deal was. Also, I had heard that number of people from work go there. One time, I was standing right there at a party when someone told my coworker that he was the only employee who had never been. (Of course, I happened to be with someone else who got off the phone with this same person and said to me, “…And she says ‘hi’ to you.” And I countered, with confidence, “No she didn’t.” So that’s a separate issue entirely.) So anyway, it seemed like the thing to do.

But why this particular Sunday? After two months? Partly, it was to in some way honor my friend Grant. An awful lot of people can talk the talk, but who can say what’s in their heart? He was one of a very few people that I know had a genuine conversion experience, and who truly loved the Lord. I know more now than I did then: He went to a bar to go pick up someone who had gotten into some trouble. There was a fight, and someone kicked him in the head. This was a guy who literally “lay down his life for his friends” in a way that most of us will probably never be asked to. I could not find the words to say that to anyone who asked on Sunday.

On the other side of the coin, even before I heard about that, part of me had been wanting to go already, just to say good bye…

2007 Sounds A Lot Like 1997

Posted by on Wednesday, 9 January, 2008

As you all probably do not recall, I used to pick a “best song” from the previous year. When I became a Christian, I got it into my head that I should only listen to Christian music. I rather forgot about choosing best songs as I gradually began driving with the radio off more and more often, and eventually stopped listening to music altogether.

Last spring, it finally hit me that (with a few exceptions) I had been listening to music that I don’t even like for about four years. So I went back to the old modern rock stations, and was surprised to discover that I recognized roughly five out of every six songs played. Has there been no new music in the last four years? Where are all these bands that, being on a college campus, I had heard of but was unfamiliar with? Where were the Killers, Modest Mouse, and the Decemberists? Heck, where was Coldplay (coming to popularity back when I tuned out) for that matter? Why all this music from high school?

So I tried other things: classical, “playing what we want”, and even country.

Anyway, back to the best song of 2007. First some runners-up:

Made To Love This is a Christian song, but it’s a good Christian song, by TobyMac, whom you may or may not know as the good one from the former D.C. Talk. I’m a little uncertain as to its eligibility though, because my research indicates that while the album was released in 2007, the single was actually released back in 2006.

Vague This is a rather biased choice, as I know one of the guys in the band, Mustard Seed. But they have a legitimate cd that you can actually buy on iTunes, and you should. (As it turns out, they also do a cover version of “Made to Love.” Two for one there.)

How Far We’ve Come I first heard this song last week, and was amazed. Finally some fresh new talent? Why, oh! It’s my old friends Matchbox Twenty… and they’re interesting again! But last week was not exactly 2007, now was it?

…And the Best Song of 2007 is:

I Told You So This song is by Keith Urban, who we know is, as recently came up in conversation, Australian. (What was I supposed to say? I didn’t want to spoil the surprise…) This song, quite simply, kicks ass. Perhaps I was drawn in because it has a similar rhythm to one of my own songs that I never quite finished. I want to say that this song is like a man’s version of “I Will Survive,” but I think that probably says something more about me than it does about the song. (Besides Cake already literally did a man’s version of “I Will Survive.”)

How To Make An Intercontinental Journey In 24 Hours Or Less

Posted by on Wednesday, 9 January, 2008

As in: I wonder how to make an intercontinental journey in 24 hours or less?

Have I ever mentioned that I hate flying? I seem to have no trouble when traveling with other people, but when I go alone…

I woke up sometime between 3:00 and 4:00 am in London (03:00-04:00 UTC). This was about an hour earlier than I planned, as I had discovered that one work-around for jet lag is simple insomnia. I departed at 04:45 and traveled by bus, then train to Heathrow Airport where I boarded a plane which left the gate as scheduled. We proceeded to sit first on the runway, later near (but not at) a gate for two and a half hours while one of the engines was repaired.

At approximately 9:00 pm PST (05:00 UTC), with three delayed and one canceled flight, four waits in lengthy customer services lines resulting in three reticketings, and only two actual plane rides later, I arrived at LAX with my vehicle in long term parking 50 miles away at Ontario International Airport and my suitcase in any number of possible places depending on who I asked.

As I considered my options at this point (taxi, train, rental car), I eventually confronted one of my greatest insecurities: I would have to call someone for help. In fact, I feared, at 9:00 on a friday night, I would most likely have to call many people before I could find someone who was willing and able to make a 3-4ish hour round trip to one of my personal Top 3 least favorite places on earth. Fortunately, I was (reasonably) successful in this task.

Eventually, around 1:45 am PST (09:45 UTC), I arrived in the rain, in my own vehicle, to -get this- a house with no power. (And, curiously, a book tucked under my doormat, the cover of which bares the endorsement, “‘Here’s a book for anyone who has truly loved another person.’ –Today’s Christian Woman“. Why, that sounds like me in nutshell, does it? (Actually I did not discover the book until leaving again for work a short six hours later, but I presume it was there at the time.))

Total elapsed travel time: 29 hours almost on the nose. Which is surprisingly one of my better times. I remember one time a girl in my Bible study was complaining about how it had taken “all day” for her to get home from Ohio, and I believe I exchanged a sort of “I won’t say anything if you don’t” look with my friend who had recently returned from Rwanda/Uganda.

My one consolation through this was that instead of spending the night in a mountain cabin as I usually do on the weekends when I work (since I had clearly missed my shift), I would get to sleep in my own bed… er, couch. (Maybe it’s time I bought a real bed?)

Still Life

Posted by on Monday, 7 January, 2008

I had a post all planned out for today with another spectacular example of why I hate airplane travel. But then I received a couple of phone calls informing me that one of the guys that I went with to Louisiana last year had been attacked and subsequently died. Suddenly today did not seem like such a good day for self pity anymore.