Tag Archives: faith

Rest(oration) and Relationships

I just realized that WordPress asks what’s on my mind when I open a new Quick Draft window. Ho boy if only WordPress knew… But that’s beside the point, because I’m really just here to call it quits. Not writing, no, this is too much of a release for me to stop. But rather seeking out a relationship. Or trying to be in control of my life in general. I know the topic of relationships seem to pop up in several of my posts lately, and for good reason. For the lack of a better way to put it, I have been pursuing a romantic relationship, mainly through online dating services, for the better part of the past five years. Yes, this means both an investment of time and money, and not a small one either. So why this admission now? Because I feel that is one of the many convictions God has placed on my heart, that I have abandoned my focus on the relationship with my ABBA Father in the hopes of finding a helpmate and spouse. This is not to say I have neglected my faith, for I have still made strides in my theological and spiritual growth during this time. However it is my direct connection to the Creator of all things that I have lost hold of.

There are some factors as to why I am suddenly facing an abyss within. First, as one might guess from having spent nearly five years pursuing a relationship, I have not much to show for it but heartbreak and hard lessons. Not to say that the lessons I have learned were not needed, but if I could go back and change some of my decisions, I can only imagine where God might have been able to use me. Second, the slow but steady fracturing of my social foundations. While my circle of friends has fluctuated frequently over the past few years, I have been living in the same house with the same person (my cousin Jake, who I consider also a close friend) for much of that time. This is about to change come the middle of August as he and another friend are headed to Dallas Theological Seminary. My heart has been aching over the departure for the familiar that I am facing, as I am a more sentimental than most people might believe. Not only this, but I am still in utter confusion what my life will look like in two months time, which brings me to reason three. Third, I am greatly desiring a teaching position so I might pursue my passion for working with young people and learning yet nothing has really turned up. In the meantime I have found a good job, but is by no means something I could do long-term (out of personal preference and comfort, not ability), and it is merely holding me over (at least in my mind) until I find a steady teaching position. And it has been this job search that revealed to me a saddening truth, that I might need to uproot from the little ground I have staked here in Warsaw, IN and go elsewhere. It dawned on me that at age 29, I really have no semblance of stability in my life. I have yet to hold a job for more than a couple years and have only begun to truly involve myself in a community. Yet it is the ties I have formed thus far that sharpen my desire to remain where I am at, and finally have a reason to “settle down”. Fourth, epic Scripture smackdowns. Y’all. The Holy Spirit hits hard. Like Mike Tyson left-hook hard. Like Bruce Lee flying kick hard. Despite missing more church services than attended since the school year came to a close, God has spoken to me every time I have set foot inside my church. I have always appreciated my pastors and the way God speaks through them, but these past couple weeks have been laying it on thick.

 

Point 1: God invites me to rest

I’ve said it before, but my spirit has been experiencing a time of weariness for some time. Like I’ve just been burnt out. And then Matthew 11:28 pops up at church. /Facepalm. Like, how easy is it to forget this? To just get so caught up in life that I forget that there is literally an open invitation from God for me to crash at his place. And boy do I need rest. My current work schedule is the graveyard shift, and I’m finding it harder and harder to sleep when I get home. This is on top of working basically 7 days a week for at least 8 hours a day. Sure the money is good, but the exhaustion is not something I’m used to. And in my attempt to go cold turkey with Mountain Dew (and those who know me personally know how big of a deal this is) means I have little to fall back on in terms of energy reserves right now. So rest would be good. And this is one of the convictions I have facing, to legitimately let God take the reins while I lie down for a while. It’s so frustrating to want things so bad, and not see any visible progress take place. But perhaps this is the lesson God has for me in this time, to let go and let Him steer my life.

Point 2: Faith demands Works

James is perhaps my favorite book of the Bible, and this idea is central to what James is teaching the church. I made the decision at the end of the school year to take a break from volunteering regularly at my church, in the interest of pursuing teaching opportunities and freeing up my schedule. Ironically, the opposite has happened, as I am busier now and miserable because I’m not nearly as involved at my church. James makes the point that faith without works is dead, which can also be taken on the flipside to mean that faith with works is alive! And honestly, I felt more alive serving in my church than I do now. I’ve always been someone who thrives helping in the background, facilitating the good work done by those gifted in evangelism and presence. And having not done much service lately, has noticeably effected my livelihood. And it isn’t just the church in which I wish to serve, but my community as well. This desire is a large part of why I desire a teaching position in the community I already reside, as it would give me greater opportunity to be involved in the lives of the people here. Faith is not just about saying the right things and knowing the right things (which btw knowledge is my thing) but doing the right things. Matthew 25:31-46 is the perfect example of what this will look like come judgment day. Our faith will be proved by the lives we blessed through our service, not through our words. It is not nearly enough to wish someone well, but to give them aid as you are able. This is something God has convicted me of lately.

Point 3: God knows

Something I struggled with is uncertainty. I’m not someone who can stand not knowing something I think I should know. This is a point of great stress and anxiety in my life. Yet as I’ve recommitted myself to reading and studying Scripture, and edifying my brothers and sisters in Christ with my knowledge, I am continually blown away by how impossibly vast God is. Like immeasurably unknowable. And to think He already knows all things, this just blows my mind. And all He asks of me is faith, and through this I am justified through Christ, and sanctified through the Holy Spirit. And if God knows exactly what is ahead (see Jeremiah 29:11, Matthew 6:25-31) and is more than capable of caring for my every need, how much more should I stop all my worrying? This points back to my conviction on faith, but even more so reveals I struggles with control. I have walked a tightrope between blind faith and utter control freak most of my adult life, and this struggle is one-sided. That is to say, I’m struggling against myself here. This is one of the tests God has given me, to surrender all control to Him so he can use me in the accomplishment of His good work (Romans 8:28).

 

Now that I’ve spent nearly 75 minutes pouring conviction into script, I need to let my heart and mind rest. Not just today, but every day. Dear readers, I encourage you to do the same. Let God holds the reins of your life, they are much safer in His hands, as they are already big enough to hold the whole world. It’s a silly thing to think that trusting God with something so small takes so much faith, but then perhaps that is the difference between accepting Christ as our Savior, and accepting him as our Lord. We must die to the self daily, put our faith into action, and let God be glorified in us and through us. Cheers and amen.

 

 

 

S.D.G.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings of a Meek Maniac

A Temporary 4th Down and Goal

I was almost tempted to walk out of the school today with my arms outstretched in a symbol of triumph. But honestly, that level of personal fanfare would have been in highly egregious taste. All things considered, this final week of this temporary substitution assignment went well. The students (well most of them) seemed disappointed that I would be done after Friday, though I wonder how many of them just weren’t friendly with the original teacher. But that really isn’t my concern, I put in a solid month in the classroom as I was asked and hopefully the students learned a thing or two. And the experience will look good on my resume and I should have a decent reference from the school in the future. Now on to the daily reflections:

 

Day 16-

In some ways I hate Mondays (as I should, being a self-proclaimed Garfieldian) but in others I look forward to them. Often, the students are more subdued because of their weekend wariness and generally less disruptive. However, I am also just as tired and can drag my feet for most of the day. I told all of my Science classes why the previous week had been so packed with activities and assignments, and many of them seems to acknowledge the reasons and accept the explanation as a form of apology for working them so hard. I still have an underlying problem of disrespect from some students, and sadly many of these students I have in more than one class. I actually busted out the “coach” voice to silence my 7th period. Many of the students seemed astonished that I could be so loud, or project my voice so well. As middle schoolers, they usually don’t realize how long they are being until you raise the volume one step further. I don’t like yelling at anyone, much less students, but sometimes you need to be a drill sergeant to get respect. The thought crossed my mind today that I might be very disappointed if I need to come back after Spring Break is over, even though that two week break would be nice either way.

Day 17-

Today was a whirlwind. I had two boys get into a scuffle (some might call it a fight, but there was little real aggression involved) during my 2nd period which quickly resulted in a bloody nose. Both boys spent the day in the office but I doubt either felt sorry for what transpired. Even if they were just goofing around, as soon as there’s blood it’s gone too far. My Science classes did an activity with sugar cubes and although they struggled to keep track of all 64 given to them per bag, I don’t believe anyone ate one. Which to be honest would have been rather disgusting because the sugar cubes have been handled by who knows how many grubby hands and picked up unknown bacteria from the table surfaces. I had a girl (one who has never show me respect and obviously doesn’t like me) mouth off to me in Math Lab, so I wrote her up and sent her to the office. Her attitude isn’t likely to change or improve, but I drew a line and she crossed it. And probably not for the last time…

Day 18-

The home stretch is within sight! With only three days left, I can feel a change in my spirit and attitude towards each class. On one hand, the students are starting to anticipate Spring Break and getting antsy and on the other, I’m ready to get back to the crazy life of a day-to-day sub. Most of the classes this week have been fairly low-key and the Science classes are keeping pace with the content I had planned for the week. I’ve hung the “carrot” of a fun day on Friday to encourage them to stay focused on taking notes and completing their work, but there are still students falling behind on their homework. My PLTW class is been very enjoyable to teach and so far I have been impressed with their Invention presentations. One student is a little behind but he also missed the first day the class had to work on their presentations. The Math Labs are basically a study hall as the new students only received their logins today and the rest of the students have kinda burnt out. As long as they are doing something productive and not running around the room like animals, I’m content to play monitor. This also gives me extra time to grade and even read. Since grading and planning have been minimal for this week, I should be able to wrap up the week pretty quick. I’ve warned the students that any missing work not turned in before Spring Break could result in a zero, but what I didn’t tell them is that not doing the work would also mean they’d miss out on the “Funday” Friday. And to be honest, I don’t want to leave a lot of missing work for the returning teacher to track down as soon as she returns after Spring Break.

Day 19-

In most of my classes, today was the final day of actual instruction, except PLTW. Tomorrow will just be a fun day and I told students to feel free to bring in snacks or card games to play. I decided to make Friday a fun day partially because it will be my final day as their temporary sub and also it’ll be Spring Break and I really didn’t feel like planning another lesson. I really this makes me a little lazy but with all the late and missing work to track down, that gives me enough to worry about. It’s basically like pulling teeth with some of these students because, despite giving them the equivalent of lunch detention for more than one day, they still haven’t turned in much of their missing work. I’ve already written up one student for failing to do his homework and will probably write up a couple more before I leave the school tomorrow. I’m actually starting to look forward to not worrying about grading and missing work, as well as no longer having to deal with some of the poor attitudes and lack of responsibility some of these students have displayed.

Day 20-

Last day, last day, last day! As today is a “Fun day Friday”, I literally sat at my desk and read my book while students played card games or on laptops. Any student who had late work got sent to the library to work on it, and this realization seemed to motivate many of them to actually do the assignments. A couple students still dragged their feet and accomplished almost nothing, and these are the same students who have given me headaches the entirety of this temporary assignment. At least I can say I tried to get these students to do their homework but ultimately it is not my responsibility to make them do it. If they want to be defiant, then they must accept the consequence of a failing grade. I made use of my extra time to do all my grading and got the returning teacher caught up with each class’ progress and highlighted any special considerations (such as students who might give her trouble after Spring Break) before turning in my keys and leaving the building. The weather outside was absolutely perfect and matched the warm feeling I had walking away from what proved a challenging but enjoyable experience.

 

Well that wraps it up, unless something drastic happens to the returning teacher in the next two weeks that prevents her from returning and I’ll need to step back in. I’m praying that won’t happen, but I guess if it does then you lovely folks will get a bonus round! Hopefully you’ve enjoyed these reflections, and if this is the first of my posts you’ve read feel free to check out some of the older posts as well. Cheers!

 

 

S.D.G.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings of a Meek Maniac

How to Find What You’re Looking For (By Noticing Where, or What, It’s Not)

To think that I’d actually be writing two posts so close to each other must mean I have a lot on my mind. But to be honest, I always have a lot on my mind. It’s just that something I’ve realized I need to do more often is talk about it, and I’ve heard it said that writing words down make them all the more real. So here I am, writing out my thoughts, for my own benefit and for you, my readers, as well.

So what is this all about? It’s actually a rather embarrassing subject for me but I’m here to talk about relationships, and specifically those of the romantic kind. So why here, why now? Well I’m back to a place in my life that I’m looking for that sort of thing and, before someone asks if I choose when I want to date and when I don’t, I should tell you a story.

Setting: About a year ago

So I’m in the middle of a time in my life where I’m actively seeking a relationship (mostly through online dating sites) and I had just parted ways with someone I really liked (and she liked me too), but the timing just wasn’t right (that’s a story for another time). To be honest, I was fighting some real feelings of disappointment. I mean, that girl was someone I felt I could probably marry, given no red flags came up later in the relationship. Over the next month I went on a couple dates but nothing developed. Then one day I came across this profile that really jumped out to me. I mean this girl seemed to match my ideal perfectly: blonde, loved soccer, a fellow educator, a bit of a nerd, independent. So I sent a message, not really expecting to hear back (I mean, this is the basis of online dating, it’s basically a numbers game). But to my surprise when I woke up the next day, she had messaged me back. We started talking, and it didn’t take long for us to really get “talking”. I was blown away by how similar we seemed to be but I couldn’t quite understand why she was so hesitant to meet in person, despite living less than a hour apart. Normally this sort of behavior means someone is hiding something or lying about their profile. This went on for weeks, and while there was no physical aspect to our “relationship”, we were “hot and heavy” in the intellectual and emotional realms. For those know me personally, you know I am not really an emotional person, and I tend to keep everything under the surface because I don’t always know how to handle raw, vibrant emotional display. Anyway, back to my story. So I finally get this girl to meet me. I made us lunch and we watched one of my favorite movies together. I was deliriously happy. Not only was she as gorgeous in person as her profile pictures, but she genuinely seemed to care about my emotional state (or the general lack thereof). But this is where things went downhill. I hate to admit this but I’m a pretty mellow guy, like I tend to do whatever comes naturally and requires the least amount of planning. So when we started spending time together, it usually consisted of me driving up to her place and hanging out watching Netflix or movies. *Strike One* Then, our time together became less about what was on the TV. *Strike Two* Finally, she confronted me on my lack of initiative when it came to planning actual dates and going out. *Strike Three* And, well you probably guessed it, I was out. So how does this all tie into my title? Well I’m getting to it.

Lesson Numero Uno: “Sometimes it is the lack of doing that is wrong”

You see, I really dropped the ball by not actively creating an environment of creating shared experience and romantic pursuit within that relationship. It wasn’t that I was doing something wrong or hurtful to this girl, but rather by not doing much of anything I was revealing a source of immaturity in my life. A lack of action can be just as bad as doing the wrong thing. This rings true outside relationships as well, but it’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way when it comes to dating. It is honestly an area of growth I’m continuing to work on, both in my relationships and in my day-to-day schedule.

Lesson Numero Dos: “Seeing what’s there shouldn’t blind you from what’s not”

Like I said, this girl seemed to have many qualities I was looking for. And we connected in a way that I hadn’t felt in years. But I let it muddle my perception of some things that are truly vital to my person, things like my faith, my direction in life, and even my sexuality. Looking back, I think I willfully suppressed those red flags because I was desperate for intimacy, and I ended up looking for it in a wrongful manner. Having maintained my virginity all my life, I struggled with whether or not holding out until marriage was getting in the way of my ability to build intimacy in a relationship. This dating experience reminded me that waiting for sex until marriage isn’t about me, but it’s about God, and His plan. My virginity isn’t a curse that prevents me from building intimacy with someone but a gift that proves to the person I marry that I am truly giving myself to them, one and for all.

But not to get derailed by rambling about my v-card, something that always bothers me about online dating is that women tend to seem very cut and dry when it comes to what they want in a guy. Like either you measure up to a specific standard or you don’t. For example, I’ve admitted I’m not a very emotionally expressive person but that doesn’t mean I’m not affectionate or passionate. Rather it takes me a good while to feel comfortable showing deep, raw emotions around someone new. Some women take this lack of emotional display or “intelligence” as an inability to be outgoing or affectionate. Or another example, physically active women (something I’m highly attracted to) tend to want a gym rat or workout buddy, and quite frankly going to a public place like a gym (especially by myself) has never appealed to me. I am a pretty active guy, but you won’t find me at the gym. I’m driven by external competition, so I’m inclined to pursue my daily exercise playing sports. And sadly, I’ve found that this just isn’t good enough for some people. And it’s not like I won’t go to a gym to workout with my significant other, in fact I’d happily do so. But it’s because I value that time with them and not because I particularly enjoy being in the environment. This mindset also stretches into my spiritual walk. You see, I’ve dated women who fit that nominal Christian portrait. It was easy to get along with them, because we were both believers at least. But I’ve come to realize over the past couple years, just going to church semi-regularly isn’t enough. My faith isn’t about attendance or memorization, but about a relationship with my Creator and my Savior. And unless I am willing to life out a passion for Christ in my own life, I’d be deceiving myself if I expected this level of spirituality from someone I was dating.

Lesson Numero Tres: “Live Faithfully, Lead Boldly, Love Sacrificially”

I’ve always had fairly traditional views on dating, relationships, and marriage. This is largely due to my Midwestern, Conservative, Christian upbringing. I mean I was one of those kids who “kissed dating goodbye”, was gonna only court (whatever that actually means in today’s society), and thought I’d wait until marriage to kiss someone. Well that all changed in high school. I went from a quiet, reserved homeschooler to a well-known and respected soccer player, class officer, and honors student. Granted I went to a small private school, but still it wasn’t the same as being taught at home with my brothers. Cue high school romance. I mean there was about a year where most of the school was taking bets on when this girl and I would start dating. Officially we were a couple at the school banquet, but secretly we had been dating for months prior to that. We both graduated and ended up going to the same university, which probably was more beneficial for me than it was her, as far as the relationship went. Just follow this progression of my schooling dynamic: homeschooled for most of elementary and jr high- 3 students, private high school- ~250 students, liberal arts university- >3000 students. Here I was, an introvert in a bustling scholastic environment, and I loved and hated it at the same time. I was so far out of my comfort zone that I relied heavily on my relationship and new friends to provide a stable foundation for my life, and this led me to neglect the one person who’s relationship that should always be my foundation, Jesus. Now I went to chapel regularly and attended church, for the most part, but my faith was pretty rocky especially when my Grandpa Stichter passed away from a heart attack during my freshman year. The only real spiritual lifeboat I had during college was working at Springhill, a Christian summer camp. This thriving spiritual environment oozed Jesus and I couldn’t get enough of it. This place became my escape each summer, especially now that I had ended things (selfishly) with my high school sweetheart. But once I finished college, my direction in life led me away from camp and into a dark, dark place. I moved away from my family and friends, into unknown territory. Here I experienced one of the greatest struggles of faith I believe a person could have; I stopped going to church, I was addicted to porn, I lived alone and partied on weekends, and I refused to tell a soul back home what was going on in my life. It was almost as if I was challenging God to give up on me, because I already had. Thankfully that is not my story and God led me through that time of my life, teaching me some painful, but necessary, lessons along the way. And over the past year, I’ve really begun to see why those lessons were so important. So when I say “live faithfully”, I’m referring to a state of utter dependence. To live by faith, I must deny myself daily and carry my cross whilst following in Christ’s footsteps. Once I have surrendered my future to God, only then can I truly lead others in a bold and fearless manner that mirrors the life of my Savior. Because of my Biblical upbringing, I do believe the man is the leader in a relationship and I have been challenged by the thought that until a man is ready to face all obstacles, firmly rooted on God’s foundation, he cannot hope to succeed in leading a relationship, much less a marriage. And in order to sustain and create a relationship, not only must a man be bold and fearless, but he must make sacrifices. I’m not talking about compromises in order to please one’s spouse, I mean full-on “I’m doing this, even though I really don’t enjoy it, because it’s important to you” sacrifices. And frankly, I’ve always been a giver. I prefer to give my time and money to those with who I desire a relationship, whether it be platonic or romantic. But the one area I fail at is doing it from a place of love, instead I realized I do it as a means of manipulating a person’s opinion of me. You see, it’s easy to get people to like you if you’ll go along with their ideas or go the “extra mile” to be with them. And while this can be genuine, it’s often way too shallow. Love isn’t about easy or shallow. Love is allowing yourself to be stretched and even broken for another’s sake. That is the mindset I desire for when I pursue a Godly relationship, and I trust my Creator to give me the courage and wisdom to do so when His timing is right.

 

Holy Crap. That was way longer than I thought it would be. For those of you who took the time to read this, thank you. Hopefully you found something to encourage or even challenge you. I hope the point I’m trying to make about not getting so caught up in the things you’re attracted to about a person (or a situation in life) causes you to overlook the things that are lacking or that should be red flags has gotten across. If this blog has any true purpose, it’s that others can learn from my experience and maybe even empathize with the lessons I have learned. And while I might not be the type to actively initiate conversations with strangers, I do enjoy talking to you people all the same. Peace to you all, and God bless.

 

 

S.D.G.

1 Comment

Filed under Musings of a Meek Maniac

The Greatest Commands (and the Will to Obey)

I’ve had a lot on my mind the past month, as God has been showing me some of my current weaknesses and blindspots within my current state of belief and relationships. I am ever thankful I am surrounded by family and friends who provide sound counsel and intellectual feedback. And because I am often better at externally processing that which bothers me, here I am to share what is on my mind.

Let me begin by saying God isn’t always subtle when He tries to get His message across. I’ve had some completely unrelated events point me back to the same truth over the past week, which I know are God’s reminders for me to trust in Him. But back to my point of how God can hit us over the head with a proverbial holy frying pan to get our attention. Consider the story of the rich young man from the Gospels. This man seemingly had everything; wealth, piety, and a desire to do good. But Jesus saw into this man’s heart and loved him so much he had to point out this young man’s greatest weakness, his reliance on earthly riches. And what Jesus commanded the rich young man still rings true for us today and it is as follows (from Matthew 19:21): “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven. Then comefollow me.” Most of the time, we get fixated on the first couple of commands, “go” and “sell”, but as my emphasis hopefully pointed out, that’s only part of what Jesus commanded. To be honest, something I’ve been wrestling with is how well I’m currently obeying these commands in my own life.

 

GO

The first thing Jesus commands is to “go”. Naturally, one must ask “go where?” and sometimes we also find ourselves asking “go now?” The will to obey this command usually stems from our ability to trust God’s plan for our lives (as does the ability to obey any of God’s directives). When considering these five commands, this is one that I feel God has already willed me to obey. There have been certain life events I have experienced over the past few years that I can now clearly acknowledge as lessons God knew I needed to learn, but each one was preceded by the command to “go” where I needed to be in order to learn such lessons. For this reason, I found myself living in Muncie, Anderson, and then finally finding myself back in Warsaw; as well as working in a wide range of occupations. Each experience opened my eyes to something new about myself and understanding who I am and who I could be, yet none of these could have happened if I did not first “go” when God compelled it.

SELL

Next, Jesus commands the rich young man to “sell”. Since he already answered the “what?” (your possessions), the question that comes to my mind is “why?” But to be honest, I realized that if one must really ask “why” we should sell our possessions, it becomes obvious that a materialistic mindset has already taken hold. This is a great danger in our American society, the draw of having more “stuff”. Now do not take this as me saying having “stuff” is evil or wrong, as I believe God does bless us with abundance when we abide in Him and walk by faith. However I do believe that Christians can easily fall into the trap of believing these blessings are their right *Cough* Prosperity Gospel *Cough* and becoming fixated on the idea that evidence of personal wealth is a sign of God’s favor. I truly believe this is wrong. God does not give us good things because we deserve them, on the contrary if we got what we deserved the entirety of the human race would be eternally damned. Rather God gives us good things because He delights in blessing those who further his kingdom and abide in His plan for our lives and the world around us. So why would Jesus ask any of us to “sell” our possessions? I believe it is because he knows we have an abundance of wealth at our fingertips that could be used for furthering the kingdom instead of displaying an image of personal affluence.

GIVE

So if we have been blessed with much, what should be done with it? This is where Jesus’ third command comes in, “give”. And since Jesus tells us the “who” of the equation, that is the poor and needy, I must pose the question “how?”. This is the hardest thing I feel for Christians to decide. We often know we are to give, but most of the time we content ourselves to hand over our tithes and donate the occasional sum to a charity or missionary/missions trip. This mindset runs the danger of woefully selling the kingdom short. Where is the love and generosity Jesus displayed throughout his ministry in this Christian habit? Imagine how the kingdom could be furthered if Christians didn’t just stop their giving at their monthly tithe but dipped so deep into their pockets that it reveals an utter reliance on God to care for their financial needs. Now please don’t take this display of faith to mean I advocate the habit of bankrupting one’s self to support missionaries or different outreaches, because I also believe we are called to be good stewards of what God has given us, including our money. Rather the point I hope to make is that I feel we can get so fixated on saving for the future and stockpiling our wealth that we miss out on all the good we could be doing in our communities and around the world by giving out of the abundance God has given us. Now I must admit that at this present time in my life, I really don’t have much to give in terms of finances, considering I still have a large student loan to pay off. So what then can someone such as myself give to further the kingdom? The answer is my time. Time is the greatest gift we are given, as it is the only form of currency we cannot increase. This is why I’ve come to believe that those who give unselfishly of their time for the kingdom are blessed by God beyond those who give endless sums of money for the same end. While one can argue that “time is money” I would point out that “money is not time”. Or consider this, which shows more love to a person, giving them their money or giving them their time? Paul claims that giving to the poor and helping the needy is important, but if we do not love them, what is the point? Let me end with this thought: those who give to the poor and help the needy and loves them for the person God created them to be only have to look to Proverbs to see what God feels about their efforts.

COME

This command can be a bit confusing, because one could posture that it mirrors the previous command to “go”. However I would point out that “go” implies an outward movement of location or purpose while “come” often refers to an inward focus and humbling of self. This is based on my belief that when we are commanded to “come” to Jesus, the only suitable way to do so is in an attitude of reverence and self-denial. If we are to obey this command, it implies we set aside whatever it is we were doing previous, abandoning our former self and mission, to adhere to the purpose and position God has in store. This hit me hard because I realized I have been stubbornly postponing my obedience to “come” because I wasn’t ready to trust that whatever God had in store would be better than what I had currently arranged for myself. And to be honest, I’m still struggling with doing so on a daily basis, mainly because I struggle with denying my selfish desires, something I believe is a part of our fallen nature as humans. So I urge you, as the reader, strive to deny the self daily, pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same, and live humbly before your God.

FOLLOW ME

The final command Jesus gave is another that seems simple at first but when you put it into perspective with the others that preceded it, the implications can be much, much deeper. I argue this because I interpret “follow me” to be an invitation of imitation. To follow someone means to walk in their footsteps, observe their actions, and repeat or reciprocate what they did. In light of the command to “go”, “follow me” means be fearless. Jesus always went where the Father told him to “go” without question, and without hesitation. In the light of “sell”, “follow me” means God only needs us- our person, He doesn’t need our “stuff”. In light of “give”, “follow me” means handing over everything we have in order to further the kingdom, much like the poor women giving all she had at the temple. In light of “come”, “follow me” means that our humility is a key component of our submission and to try to approach God with even a hint of pride or personal ambition means we will easily stumble and fall behind. To follow Christ is the very basis of the Christian faith, yet we often fail to imitate Christ in our obedience to God’s will and I am the guiltiest of us all.

THE WILL TO OBEY

So where am I headed with this little personal devotional? All things considered, I’m really looking for a means to inspire myself to submit and obey the greatest commandments, that is “Love God” and “Love Others”, with a renewed sense of purpose and vigor. Having completed one stage of my personal journey and now heading into the next causes me to reconsider what my life is really worth and whether who I am is headed in the right direction. It is, as I said, my daily struggle to die to myself and pick up my cross. I hope that this might encourage some of you who might be struggling with the same things and possibly remind others of what the purpose of our time here on earth truly is and perhaps might lead others to question if they themselves are seeking the truest purpose life can have. Regardless of where you are in life, I do hope this can speak to you and that you might benefit from my intellectual and spiritual wandering.

 

S.D.G.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings of a Meek Maniac

A Short Summer-y (and a Brief Bio)

So admittedly I have been something of a ghost this summer, or at least when it pertains to writing here. This is partially due to a lack of inspiration as well as a lack of access to a computer when inspiration did hit. So to make up for my blogging absence, I intend to not only give everyone an update on my summer adventures but also a sneak peek into a post I will be making for an online class’ discussion board.

So let’s see, my summer started with soccer, as every summer should. I got my Grade 8 Referee License in the spring so I spent my weekends at the athletic complex in town making some spending money. I also coached a U10 Boys team for the local rec league and we were the regular season champions, however we lost 2-1 in the playoffs to the only team that held us to 1 goal in a regular season game. And then was the Women’s World Cup. Let’s just say I was in heaven for those few weeks, and got to watch the picture perfect ending with the USWNT taking home the trophy on an extremely convincing win.

Next, I had plenty of time to be with family, which usually means plenty of good food (and Mountain Dew!), lots of games, and good conversation. I got to see all of my “Arizona” cousins, which can be a rare treat, and saw another sibling married off. Being able to maintain a regular sleep schedule also helped my summer go smoothly, something I did not really have last summer.

Also, I was able to persevere through several obstacles to entering a Transition to Teaching program to get my Secondary Education License for Historical Perspectives (so I can teach middle/high school history). These online classes (which started at the end of last month) will take roughly 16 months to complete (with a break during next summer) and will compound on my already rapidly filling schedule.

So there is my summer(y). However I also promised a transcript from my biography post for my online class so here goes:

“Greetings fellow cohort-ians! I hail from Warsaw, Indiana (the Orthopedic Capital of the world) where I currently share a house with my cousin and a friend of his from college. However, while I may appear to live a bachelor’s life, I am not currently single, as I started dating someone earlier this year. As the second oldest of eight children, the importance of family has had a large impact on my life and I look forward to the day I can start one of my own. If I had to choose three words to describe me I would turn to what my friends have used in the past and those would be witty, athletic, and genuine.

Trying to cover everything about my interests, hobbies, and favorite things might prove hard to do but I will attempt to be thorough. My favorite color is navy blue; I cannot claim one specific movie as my favorite but I do love sci-fi, comedy, and action movies quite a bit; my favorite type of food and dessert are pasta and cheesecake, respectively; my favorite restaurant is Fazoli’s; my favorite genre of music is pop punk; my favorite book is probably Ender’s Game; my favorite Scripture passage is Romans 7:15-20; and my favorite place to travel is a family camp in Michigan called Little Eden, where my family goes every year for vacation. My interests include soccer (among other sports), probable fiction, basic computer code and programming, and writing. My hobbies also include playing games with family and friends, coaching, and participating in church outreach. If I had a free hour, I would probably watch an episode of a TV show or a replay of a soccer game. With a free day, I like to spend time with friends or find a new book to read. With a free week, I would do the above as well as try to take a trip to see a historical landmark or museum. I do not currently own any pets but I am a sucker for cats and larger dogs.

My faith has been a fundamental part of my identity, as I am from a strong Christian family with a long Mennonite tradition. However I did not start my personal walk with Christ until after I had it out with God over the death of one of my siblings when I was in my late elementary years. This tragedy forced me to confront my views on religion, faith, and personal belief. Thankfully, God is infinitely patient and welcomed me back with open arms. The decade and a half since then I have grown in ways I could not have imagined back then. I currently attend a church that has a strong focus on community outreach and congregation relationships, two things I have a great desire to be a part of.

I hope this wall of text was not overwhelming for anyone but once I get going it can be hard for me to switch off. I look forward to reading everyone else’s bios as well as replying to your comments and questions. Cheers!”

There it is folks, hope this makes up for my failure to maintain any sort of regular schedule for blog posts. It is my hope to at least post something every other week during the next few months, if nothing else to just reflect on my thoughts of the soccer season (as I am also coaching the Jr High team again at my high school alma mater), my online classes, and (hopefully) my romantic endeavors.

S.D.G.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings of a Meek Maniac

A Touch of the Divine, A Taste of the Dastardly

There is a choice we all must make, one not easy nor simple. It often forces us to pit ourselves against that which defines us the most. Yet without a decision, we wander aimless through this forsaken plane…

Well then, now that I have your attention, I’m actually going to revert to a reflection on why I chose the title I did. It is, in fact, a summary of my past year. For I have been blessed in ways only God could have managed and faced off with situations that left a horrid after-taste. In fact, I’d go so far as to say my 2014 experience began and ended on sore notes, not really the way a year is supposed to. But who am I to judge what I deserve in this life?

So how do I chose to divide this year’s summation? Perhaps by simpler categories, such as physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So here goes:

Physically:

I made a conscious effort to get out more and take opportunities to be more active this past year. This involved not only getting back into playing Ultimate Frisbee on a weekly basis but also joining a couple different teams to play soccer in the local recreation league during the warmer months. I also continued my role as a Jr. High school coach for my high school alma mater in the fall and desire to do it again this year. However the common tendency of mine to avoid gyms (for introverted reasons and lack of motivation) during the colder months means my activity levels are slipping to near hibernation levels. Hopefully I will find my way to some pickup indoor soccer before warmer weather begins so I am in better shape for the summer season than in years past.

Emotionally:

Now this category is hard for me to discuss, largely because I am not an emotional person to begin with. However I can try to divide this into slightly simpler sections and divulge how each has unraveled over the past year. First I would like to start with the mental aspect of my emotions. My mental state has, as a whole, been significantly more stable over the past year than years prior, something I attribute to consistent full-time employment, a simple and efficient living arrangement and the inclusion into new and beneficial social circles. While I was not without my lapses into the irate or insane, these were mostly responses to a difficult situation and not a permanent funk. Second I would like to examine the inter-personal aspect of my emotions, or how I responded to events involving others around me. There were several couples within my circle of friends that had their first child this past year and while I was happy they are establishing families, I often had a twinge of solitude because I knew  this also meant my already small social circle would become significantly less involved. However I was blessed with new friends and rediscovered a couple old ones throughout the year. Yet the year ended on a sore note as shortly after the annual Christmas celebrations had ended, my father was rushed to the hospital with extreme pain in his right leg. I was able to visit him a couple days later before he was released to go home but it was still hard for me to witness him in that state, lying on a hospital bed. Here lay the man I often thought unbreakable growing up, yet at 55 he was bedridden by a pain that wrecked his body to the point of exhaustion. This mental image still haunts me days later…

Finally I must rant about the relational (romantic) aspect of my emotions. Now I readily admit this section may be heavily influenced by my present singleness and the lack of any measure of success on my part in the romantic sector over the past year. Just to name a few events (in no particular order): had a second chance with a girl I wronged and probably fucked it up again as she just shut me out after a couple months of tentative friendship, got friend-zoned at least once, had the girl who broke my heart a few years back message me with an apology I never thought I wanted to hear, finally apologized to my high school sweetheart with whom I unceremoniously ended things because I wasn’t ready for the responsibilities a serious relationship led to, and got stood up by a date I met online (yeah, probably not the best place to be looking but, you know, single-guy problems). So yeah, despite almost everyone around my age in my immediate and extended family having been married or gotten engaged by now, I’m still (and perhaps hopelessly) single. Which leads me to wonder, am I really that bad at relationships or am not worthy of one? I know I can be a hard person to get to know, given that I tend to avoid emotional responses and cannot for the life of me put my emotions into speech and therefore act based on a logical progression of idealistic thoughts. Or maybe it is my rather unconventional ideal of romantic relationships and their progression, something I may detail in the future. But here is what I have going for me: I can cook, clean, perform basic auto-maintenance, have a fair understanding of financial responsibility, know how to care for a family (you learn things as an elder child in a large family), have a clean criminal and driving record, am athletic, smart, usually funny, and my worst addiction [sic] is Mountain Dew. I don’t know about everyone, but that pedigree seems pretty well-rounded and even desirable. Yet it would seem that my obstinate view of social conventions combined with my introverted tendencies make me unsuitable for any sort of romantic relationship. So I guess we shall see if the Sun only sets to rise later on or if I must continue to watch the Moon as a reminder of my solitary status.

Spiritually:

This category is perhaps the most improved as well as the bleakest, as I have hit tremendous highs in my spiritual walk as well as dug myself to terrible lows. Perhaps one of the greatest accomplishments (or gains, depending on who’s keeping score) is my involvement in a study on the meaning of Biblical Manhood. While I happened to be the only single (and I believe the youngest) man of the group, I learned significant things about myself, my heritage, and my role as a man. I overcame wounds of my upbringing, established my desired path as a masculine leader, and rekindled the connection with my Eternal Father I had let slide in months before. However the Enemy strikes when we are at our brightest and I fell victim to my passions of game and sport, sacrificing fellowship with believers for the dim glow of a TV screen as I reveled in the competitive football of Barclay’s Premier League and EUFA Championship. Slowly in recent months I have drawn the line between necessity and privilege and am endeavoring to maintain a balance I can be without guilt. I have also grown as I have volunteered my knowledge with the men at my place of employment during our weekly devotions. When I am in “educator” mode, I tend to out-perform my intentions and overcome the limitations of my usual introversion. It is almost as if having a message to deliver gives me an unusual sense of purpose and social presence. It is because of times like these I wonder if I would be better suited for a profession involving instruction or education, despite my usual aversion towards public speaking.

In conclusion, if I had to put a value on the quality of my past year, it would be better than the year before but still a part of an ongoing process of improvement. As I told my dad during my hospital visit, these past couple years have been good but there are moments within them I would be glad to forget, usually memories marred by my own stupidity or social awkwardness. But if I look back on my previous reflections from the beginning of last year (see A Retrospective Inflection and An Introspective Reflection) I would say I did accomplish what I said I wanted to. Perhaps not to a point of lasting results but definitely in ways I can reflect on and appreciate. So if I had to choose a resolution for this year, it would be to continue moving forward and not take anything for granted, for only God knows what the future may hold. Yet I will maintain my belief that things can, and will, be better if I set my eyes on Him, and place my feet where He leads.

S.D.G.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings of a Meek Maniac

The Call for Uniformity Does Not Bring Unity (so stop trying!)

I’ll be extremely honest from the get-go and let you know that so-called “Christian” prejudice is a huge pet peeve of mine. It is, perhaps, one of the greatest hindrances to the spread of the Christian message in our modern culture. I hear stories of people seeking answers and acceptance that go to church and only be met with stares and accusation, which furthers their hurt and causes them to turn their back on God even more. If we truly desire to be like Christ, we need to meet people where they are. Even more so we should welcome the non-believer when they come to us, I mean for the love of all things good they came to us! That takes a courage the average skeptic does not usually exhibit.

It irks me that there is a vein of false ideology within Christendom; many within and without may view these as cults. Here we have people preaching the Gospel but with an outstanding flaw, they preach uniformity over unity. To them, one must becomes like all “Christians”, rejecting all manner of sin and living a rigid, fundamental lifestyle. These people shun alcohol, tobacco, media, and other worldly pursuits. According this brand of Christian teaching, I would considered a sinner, for I do not abstain from all they might claim evil. But I am not here to talk about the moral lines of my personal beliefs, rather I wish to argue a specific point about the calling of the Church.

The Gospel has always been, and will continue to be, a message of diversity. Jesus came for the Jew and Gentile, slave and master, man and woman. He ventured beyond his nature habitats to find and always welcomed those who needed him most (ie- Samaritan woman at the well, Zacchaeus, the Roman centurion, and the list goes on). Ironically, His interest was not to point out where they were wrong but to ask them a simple question: “Do you believe?” It was their faith that Christ was the Way, the Truth, and the Life that helps them turn a page in their life story. How much more so does our faith today speak volumes when we believe without that physical interaction? Therefore it is our faith that unites us as Christians, yet we too often get hung up on what makes us different.

While common interests or situations tend to create friendships, it is our differences that ultimately cause us to grow closer. Why is this not the case within the Church? Why is it that we have the tendency to split over small discrepancies on our opinions? Are we not all covered by the blood of Christ? That is the image I wish to see my Christian brothers and sisters as first and foremost (that is: as a redeemed child of God), for I am only the same. What we are beyond this is not eternally important, for once we shed this mortal form, we will move beyond the physical and share eternity in Heaven. Let us then learn to embrace those around us, those who seek answers, and those who are hurt by the evil in this fallen world as what they were ultimately created to be: a child of God. This is our greatest commonality, and all that truly matters; for the blood of Christ, which paid for our sins on the cross, has dealt with all the rest.

 

S.D.G.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings of a Meek Maniac