Monday, January 31, 2005

That Darn Girl is haunting me!

I dreamt of our first kiss last night. (The one that never happened and never will.) We were talking; I was mid-sentence and you leaned over and surprised me. The innocence of your being was like a purifying light. It shot through your lips and onto mine. Like the seraphim with the burning coal, the touch on my lips erased from my mind every past indiscretion that they had engaged in. They felt innocent again. The was no lust, only sweetness. It was the connecting of souls on that deepest level that I so long for.

This dream struck that cord of longing so hard, the resounding desire leaves me shaken and thirsty. How perverse it is that this desire for pure relation makes me want to wrestle the pen from God's hand and write our own story the way I want it to be.

~God, you said that it wasn't good for man to be alone, then you made him a woman. You took part of his body and fashioned her for him. What I want is pure and good. I want a woman who reflects the goodness that God put into me.~

And here is this jewel of a woman before me. Here you are. So beautiful and clear. Radiating goodness. I can see myself in you so easily, reflected back without a past that shames me. But in reality, that past is a shackle that holds me back. Just out of reach of this pearl that I would sell everything to attain. Everything but my soul… And yours. I can only imagine the burden on your soul that a divorced man with two kids would bring. How fast would your smile fade under that weight? How soon would the sparkle diminish in my precious jewel? I could say that the love and appreciation that I could shower on you would keep you pristine. My affectionate embrace would buff you to a fine polish. But would that be true? Would acquiring my love cause it to fade? Isn't that the way of all things that are put before Christ? As we futilely grasp for what we think will bring us joy, it decays and falls through our fingers. I know my hands are stained with rust. I've learned the way of the insidious moth. Everything that is not eternal will corrupt when put first. But what about a human? We are eternal. The beauty I see in this woman is from the inside out. It's her eternal attributes that make her shine so brightly. I want her light in my life so badly it's hurting me. And I wonder how deep that wound will go.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Time for a voyage on the river of Guilt!

The waters are choppy. In fact this trip is ripping me apart. What can I do? I'm taxed to the limit on all fronts. I was unaware of just how far I was stretched until yesterday when I got another friendly email reminder from my supervisor. People are still thinking that I'm not putting in full days. We are getting near the end of our project, so everyone is working a lot of extra hours. I feel guilty that I can't do the same. I have been getting 40 hour weeks in. But just barely. And in the game industry, near the end of a project, it's not nearly enough.

This week I finally hired a new fill-in nanny for Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So I won't have to spend extra hours in the middle of the day out of the office. But the biggest problem seems to be the hour long workout I do at lunch. So I'm hearing that I need to stop that. Then I get to feel guilty about not taking care of my body. I'll just add that to the heap of guilt I already have about how I'm not spending enough fun time with my boys, how I'm not acting properly around Pretty Hair, and how I'm still sucking tons of money out of my parents. I feel like I'm on a stretching-rack. There is a guilt clamp on each limb, and it's been pulled as far as it can go. Kids, parents, work, health. Yeah, that works out to one for each limb. So I figure if I cut out one of those things I'll buy myself a little slack. As I go down the list I can only find one thing that I could morally disencumber myself of. No more exercise. I'm not looking forward to turning back into a slob. I feel so much better about myself when I'm not pudgy. I thought about working out at home. That would mean less time interacting with the kids. Less time for reading. Less time for making art I hope to sell. So I guess I just have to bite the bullet.

I was such a mess yesterday. I was on the verge of tears. I really wanted to quit my job and give up. But then I realized that I don't really have any back-up plan, so that wouldn't do any good. My supervisor talked to me today. I think he got wind that I was thinking about quitting. (I told my friend about my problem earlier, and she must have blabbed.) He told me to hang in there. That this company is on the verge of big things. Profit sharing and big bonuses. The behemoth Korean company that owns us is projecting huge numbers for our game and promoting it accordingly. He thinks my financial problems will go away soon if I stick around. I just need to keep my head down and show what I can do. He says management wants me to head up a new level design division once we ship our initial product. So I suppose I just need to suck it up and focus on my task at hand. I'm still not sure that dropping my physical fitness routine will make my life better, but at least I will keep my career on track.

But this is no way to live. Guilt has a function. It's supposed to make you change your wrong behavior. But what about the cases where you are behaving poorly because you're trying to do too many things? I don't think God wants me to suffer with guilt over what I can't change. But since it hasn't gone away, perhaps there is something I can change that I just haven't realized yet. I know I can concentrate on my work better. (I tend to get carried away with online forums.) Maybe that will do the trick.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

My little guy feeling punchy

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Faith and attitude

Prayer is so mysterious. If God knows everything we need, and has a perfect plan that takes into account every contrary action we, and everyone else does… What’s the point? Well, clearly it’s for our benefit - not His - that He tells us to pray. There must be something that we learn from the process. I’m embarrassingly new to the whole thing. I mean serious prayer beyond, “Thank you for the food.” And, “Help me feel better.” Now that I have started a list, and am being faithful about seeking God, I’m at a new level. And as a result new issues are coming up. Here are a couple…

I think I disobeyed a direct order from ‘On High’ last week. My friend was in the middle of a panic attack, and I was talking to her on the phone to distract her from it. (I was told that might help.) I felt like I should pray with her. But I felt like she wouldn’t understand, and possibly be offended by that. And mostly… mostly I didn’t have the faith that God would help her; thus making me and God seem foolish to her. So I prattled on in my usual distracting manner, accomplishing little, and slighting God. Since then I have added her to my prayer list and pray for her every day. But I’m sad that I don’t have the faith required to make a little social leap-of-faith like I was supposed to. It points to a deeper theological problem I have. I don’t understand healing prayer, and I have a lot of trouble doing things that I don’t understand. (Or think I understand!) I do it. But I can’t imagine that I’m doing any good since I don’t believe anything will happen. I don’t get that confused with the idea that nothing can happen. I’m sure it does. I’ve seen things improve. I’ve seen people healed. I’ve heard testimony from very credible people concerning such things. But mostly I believe it because God said it in the Bible. However, there are the obvious cases-in-point of all the times that healing doesn’t happen. For whatever reason, (lack of faith, ordained fate, etc.) that is a reality. So when I feel like I should step out in faith, like in this situation, I have two layers of doubt holding me back. First: I’m not sure that the impulse is from God. Second: if it’s not, then God probably won’t do it. Which I suppose is really only one problem. I don’t have enough experience hearing His Spirit and having that confirmed. So I don’t know if I should act upon feelings that I only think are from Him.

There seems to be a difference between a slow-burning faith that informs big-picture decisions, and the kind of rapid-response faith that is required for this type of thing. I am pretty secure in my faith when it comes to my abiding, deep convictions, and how they play out in my life. I am confidant that God has been blessing and directing me. I have no doubt that He will continue to do so. That is why I am basically at peace. Sure there are all sorts of surface stuff that are going on. Struggles with the flesh and such. But deep down, like a foundation of solid rock, I am completely at peace. So why does this faith not manifest itself in spur-of-the-moment spiritual leadings? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just an experience thing.

Another epiphany I’ve had while praying came up as I asked God for the 300th time how I should pray for my ex-wife. I’ve written about how I find it difficult to pray for her redemption and restoration, since I am guessing that I would have to be involved in it. My convictions have been telling me to hang on and wait for her. So I’ve been kind of doing that, … but not really. Though I’ve made it clear to myself and others that I don’t plan to pursue any type of romance until the issue is resolved, I haven’t had the corresponding attitude. I’ve felt pretty justified in this attitude since she’s the one that did the leaving, and she’s not showing any signs of coming back, and I wouldn’t want her to anyway, etc. But the fact is that none of these romantic shenanigans that I’ve been talking about would have happened while I was married. Why? Because I had a different attitude. I was exclusive to my wife and never even considered looking away from that. Now I’m away from her and officially divorced, but God has not given me freedom from my marriage. (Or I can’t see past whatever is holding me back.) But I lost that feeling of commitment to her and her well-being that I once had. My attitude is totally different, and not at all like that of a man who is committed to another. So I think I’ve been spinning my wheels here because I can’t accomplish God’s will for ‘us’ while I’m considering myself ‘me’, and separate from her. I’m still hoping that His will would not include a reunion. Which is an attitude in itself. But at least it’s an honest one. This whole business of being unavailable but also not-spoken-for, is not. And I think it has been undermining my prayers for her, which should be prayers for ‘us’. I have no idea why… Maybe there is still a significant spiritual connection between us. There seems to be scriptural support for that. Perhaps it is only through me that she will find her way back. I don’t know. But in faith, I can pray that God would change my attitude towards her to align with His. That would take a miracle for sure. I really can’t imagine loving her again. But through God, all things are possible.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

How it’s been going

I’ve had a varying amount of success with my resolutions. Here is the score so far:

#1 Morning devotions. 90%

#2 Time with the kids. 10%

#3 Become financially independent. 1%

#4 Stop hurting women! 50%

#5 Vulgarity in the workplace. -10%

So I’ve managed to actually get up before the kids every day this week and read and pray. I knocked off 10% for Tuesday morning when the alarm went off, I turned it off, said forget it, and started to go back to sleep. Then a strange thing happened: I couldn’t fall back to sleep. And a chorus from a song started playing over and over in my head. It’s a hardcore anthem that goes, “Pick up your cross! Get back in the fight! (repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat…)” So after about 10 minutes of that I got up and had the worst devotion I have ever had. I literally had to think for 4 to 5 seconds between words. It was like trying to run a race through a swamp. The rest of the week was easier. But knowing how hard the mornings are for me, I went to bed with the kids every night at 8. Asleep by 9. So I really didn’t accomplish anything artistically, or with the kids because I came home, made dinner, cleaned up, read stories, and went to bed. Every night. Resolution 2 didn’t happen because I was so focused on number 1. I’m contemplating following the spirit of the first resolution rather than the letter of it, by finding another time in the day where I won’t be interrupted by kids to be with God. I don’t think there is anything super magical about the morning. It just works well for most people and there is no better way to start the day than with God. So I’m going to play it by ear for a bit.

I took the first step towards financial independence by meeting with an elder of my church for lunch on Wednesday. We talked about my future, the ex wife, and a lot of the stuff I explore on this blog. I also brought up the money issue I’m having. So I am going to be bringing my finances to a group of elders for prayer. And they will try to help me figure out what I need to do for God to meet my family’s need.

I’ve had some success with resolution 4. No new women have been stepped in front of the train wreck that I am. But I still haven’t figured out how to not send mixed signals to my co-worker. It’s really hard to just act like a normal friend when someone is so exceedingly nice to me. I have to fight all my impulses to be exceedingly nice back. I think I’ve made some strides this week, but still have to dial it in. One thing I don’t want to do is become suddenly cold. I don’t even think I’m capable of that.

Number 5… Well… Ok, maybe I haven’t actually been worse than usual. But I sure haven’t been able to rein it in at all. I think the problem is that I like to joke a LOT. And to sustain the volume of humor that I put out, I have to resort to the cheapest kind. Which is usually vulgar. So I’ve got to figure out why I am so compulsive about joking. Maybe it’s a center-of-attention thing. Maybe it’s a way to stay awake. Maybe it’s because I like to make people happy, and laughter is a quick fix. It’s probably all of that. Well, I’ll see how next week is. They say it takes 3-6 months to build a good habit. Hopefully it won’t take that long. Here is a great quote from C.S. Lewis I just read today that is directly applicable:

“I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptations. It is not serious, provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience etc. don’t get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us: it is the very sign of His presence.”

Saturday, January 01, 2005

My life is a marathon (in the Special Olympics)

There are several places in the Bible where life is compared to a race. A long one, I guess. A brief summery of my life shows mostly pit stops. Maybe I’m just special. In fact, I know I am. I’m as special as a whole fleet of short buses. Having an autistic sister, I’ve been to a couple of these races. They aren’t pretty. But one thing that always stuck out for me was the unabashed joy many of the contestants displayed. I want to be as joyful as they are while failing so miserably. In my race, I keep falling down. I should probably wear a helmet. I’ve ran the wrong direction several times. But I ask you: How can one face a string of failures without humor? I would be miserable all the time if I felt like I had to hang my head in shame for penance every time I screw up. Of course I repent when I’m convicted. It’s like getting up when I fall down. It’s just necessary to keep running. But what sustains the race is Joy, not sorrow. Perhaps that is why I am starting to laugh at myself more lately. Not in a demeaning way. I’ve just seen the process so often, that the ludicrous nature of my struggle is starting to amuse me. Hopefully this is a phase I’m going through because I don’t think it’s healthy. I still repent. I still recognize my failure and try to learn from it. But I’m not really feeling that bad about it any more. (Oh, I should point out… I’m talking about the small things now. Not the sins that involve hurting others. I still feel pain, and find no humor in those accidents.) So now I'm asking… Is feeling bad a necessary component of repentance? Or is it ok to simply apologize and laugh it off, like bumping into someone on a crowded dance floor? I mean, really… Who is hurt when I over-eat, catch myself looking at a hot girl the wrong way, or find myself thinking envious or selfish things? God is not damaged. I am. I’m moved further from His will. So I say sorry and move back into it… Right? I think I may be missing something here....

New Year’s resolutions

I’ve never been too big on these. They seem so futile. But this year I have seen so many victories over battles that seemed futile and hopeless. I’ve seen my life torn apart, and put back together again. I’ve seen my children restored to safety and peace. I’ve been delivered from lust. Heck, I even managed to build some New Year’s resolution-type habits like eating healthy and exercise. With those things out of the way, and properly appreciated, I am asking God what He would have me resolve to do in 2005. I put a special emphasis in looking outward, towards others, in my request for wisdom. Rather than asking what I can do to improve myself, I want to know what I can do to improve the lives of those around me. What can I change, that would further the Kingdom of Heaven? How can I show Christ in my life better? Well, sadly, the first thing on my list is neither fun, nor outward directed. But the rest are. Of course to be effective for God, I must be grounded in Him first.

#1 Morning devotions. Oh, God. Not this! Let this cup pass from me! I’ve always excused myself from the whole morning devotion thing because I have a diagnosed sleeping disorder. A form of narcolepsy. But not the funny kind you see in movies where people suddenly fall asleep in their soup, or while throwing a bowling ball. No, it’s just the kind where you feel like crap all the time ‘cause you’re always tired. Especially in the morning! So I’ve been trying to do a devotion at night. In the same bed as two little hyper boys bouncing around, hitting each other, and asking questions every 2-2.5 seconds. Not the most conducive environment for meditation and waiting on the Lord. But I have seen a pattern in my life. When I give something to God, like my career or children, He always blesses, and returns greater than before. I am going to sacrifice some sleeping time to Him. And in faith, believe that He will use that to strengthen me, and in turn, bless those around me.

#2 Time with the kids. Being tired all the time is a great excuse to not spend enough time in direct contact with my boys. Of course I’m with them every evening, night, morning, and weekend. But I don’t spend enough time working and playing with them. I usually write, sculpt, or read while they play with each other. This will be a bold step of faith for me. Because of #1, I will have to completely rely on God’s strength to power this one.

#3 Become financially independent. It has been over a year now, that I have lived here in Washington. I’ve been through the really expensive divorce. I’ve retrieved the joy-ridden car from the ex with $7,000 worth of damage. I’ve been paying over a thousand dollars a month for child care. I’ve paid off most of the debt we incurred while living in Michigan. All of this thanks to my incredibly gracious and kind parents who recognized my need and were willing to help. Now I’m still being subsidized heavily, despite a year of living faithfully, tithing regularly, and seeking God. But one thing I have not done yet is to lay this problem before God. I think I’ve just been too ashamed to want to deal with it. This is kind of a funny thing to make a resolution about, since it is completely in God’s hands. I guess my part is to seek His will and do it, trusting that He will guide me to a solution.

#4 For God’s sake, (literally) Stop hurting women! I am still stunned by this. I’m not especially good looking. I’m not sophisticated. I’m divorced with two kids. And I have really bad breath. But somehow, after less than half a year of being single I’ve managed to hurt two great women. I’ve been flattered by their interest in me, and led them on just enough to keep the flattery coming. Not intentionally of course! But… Yeah. I suck. I’m not going to do this any more.

#5 Vulgarity in the workplace. I’m going to try to stop. I have no idea how. God bless me. I sit across from Little Miss Takes It Too Far. God help us all!

As I’ve prayed through these resolutions, one thing that has permeated all, is a sense of expectation. Last year was a huge growth-year for me. God blessed me immensely. But I am getting the impression that 2005 will bring even greater changes. I’m moving from a panic mode of prayer and faith, into a more mature kind of faith. The faith I had last year was for things that needed to be saved. Emergencies that had to be fixed. Now I have seen His faithfulness and I’m not content with where I am spiritually anymore. I want more. And I believe He wants to give it to me.