Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It's Been A While

Well, I said it. I said I loved her. And I meant it. It felt like a breath of fresh air. It took her breath away. And I still love saying it. She is my dream girl. Amanda is terrific. She loves me for who I am. She accepts me completely and reminds me of it whenever I feel like I've disappointed her, myself or both. She knows how to handle me and can even be sly with me. We also just really enjoy being with each other and talking with each other. God has immensely blessed me with a wonderful woman to share me with. She makes me happy and I know that I make her happy, too. I love her for her as well. And no matter how much I say, I don't know if I can really describe just what I feel for her. We also had a great devotional yesterday. It's exciting to be in love. I long to see her again and to kiss her and to hold her right next to me.

In other news :), Ryan pitched today on JV. And I'm starting to see that patience does pay off and perhaps I jumped to quick conclusions about this coach. The coach noticed a rule that says pretty much from here on out that in JV/V doubleheaders, he has to play one or the other. Why? When both the JV and V play, he can play a maximum of 40 games for both. Ryan's at 32. So, from now on Ryan's playing varsity :) in those circumstances. He even got a hit last night, a single, in a varsity game. Granted that it was when we were up 17-1, but he still got to bat and he got a hit. Today, he played in the second game of a JV double header against Van Meter. He played CF for 4 of the 5 innings, but then he was called in to pitch the 5th (the last inning in a double header game). We were down by 1 at this point. He comes in and strikes out the side 1-2-3. The first two were looking. I had no idea that he had that kind of command! He only threw three balls (as in balls and strikes). Now he's going to be pitching more. In the bottom of the inning, he was due up 3rd in the order. The first two guys got on by being hit by pitches (one on the foot and the other on the thigh) before Ryan came up. Being again 1 run down, we needed 1 to tie, 2 to win. Ryan worked the count a bit (and fouled one off over the fence, which I caught barehanded! The umpire said he was mesmorized by my catch :) ) and got a pitch he wanted. He drove it into the gap in right center field, a game-winning 2-RBI walk-off triple. His pitching record is now 1-0 this year :) on JV.

Great day though I had to get up early. And it's going to get better because soon I'm gonna call my girl. I love you, Amanda! (And thanks for the e-mail :) )

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Forgiveness, Patience & Hope

If there is anything God is teaching me lately, it is about patience and forgiveness. My sweetheart, Amanda, is going through a difficult trial regarding her former church. My brother, Ryan, is being unfairly treated by his coach. One of my friends became suicidal recently and committed himself into a treatment facility. He's doing better now from the sounds of it though not out of the woods obviously. I've struggled to find a job. I thought I got one recently after a good interview only to find out my 87 hours of availability was not enough for them.
This has recently turned me into a somewhat bitter and angry person lately. I can only listen to Amanda as she tells me what she's going through. She tells me this is enough for her and that my support for her helps her a lot. But, I feel helpless and frustrated that I can't comfort her in person. I want to tell Ryan that working hard and playing by the rules will help you keep what was given to you. But, that's not true either, not even in a Christian environment. Injustice happens even within the Christian community. Christians behave badly towards other Christians (in both Amanda's and Ryan's cases). Regarding my depressed friend, I was upset that I haven't been there for him lately. I actually admittedly just forgot about him. And when I heard about this, I was first upset that I wasn't part of the process to help him. But, when I thought about it, I wondered to myself, "Why should I have been? How long has it been since I've talked to him?" And with my job situation: I am in debt, with no job, and little in sight of one.

Here's a crazy question though: Why am I bitter and angry? Amanda is so forgiving, loving and patient towards the people that hurt her so. The only ones she is not really happy with are the ones that confuse the people that hurt her so. And she has been ever so patient, loving, kind, hopeful, and forgiving of me. It's her attitude towards others and me especially that makes me want to tell her those ever-so-important three little words to her. Ryan has become more of a man about the situation he's in than me. He's bitter and angry, yes. But, he's handled it so much better than me. At his age, I would have walked out on that team and said, "Forget you!" But, he said something very mature, "Everyone's got to face adversity sometimes. I just have to right now." This is from a 17-year-old who just received unfair treatment. So, while he still goes to his games for DMCS (his school), I'm here writing this blogpost because I cannot forgive the coach yet nor the people involved in the politics of this institution. My friend is learning that people do care about him and want him to be well. He knows that we're praying for him. So, hopefully he can now have some direction in his life.
What can I learn from these people close to me? Amanda shows me that I need to be quick to forgive and be patient with those who may anger me. Unfairness and poor treatment happen. We're human. We need to exude God's love towards others even when they tell you through actions, words, etc. that they despise you and/or those you love and care about. Anger happens. It's alright to have anger. She has anger about the situation and about what some people write. But, she forgives those that hurt her. She is patient with people who disagree. And that includes when I may do things that hurt her. Ryan shows me that patience is a virtue. No, he has not forgiven his coach. But, his attitude is one of hard work and patient fortitude. He knows that he lost his spot through no fault of his own. However, he wants it back and he'll do whatever. I admire him so much for what he is doing. He is a bigger person than me right now. Through my friend, I can see that hope is a very important aspect of life. We need hope on this side of life. We need hope in something and to feel loved.

How am I able to start showing these characters? Through listening to God and trusting more in Him. I need to be more faithful. I need to be more enveloped in His love, to allow Him to love me and then for me to love myself because I am loved. I then can love others and forgive those who hurt me and my loved ones. And through this love, I can be more patient with others. I need to stay in touch with God and have my own personal prayer time. What do you do with those you love and want to love? You communicate with them. You communicate with them deeply. And who better to spend time with than the One who will love you no matter what you say to Him? I can see now that God has been showing me through all this mess that He wants me to be a better man, a man that is more after His own heart. And that very phrase makes more sense to me now than it has ever before. If I am to be a minister of His Word (in the general sense of minister, but in every sense of Word) and to be a loving son, brother, and future husband & father, I have to love. And through love, I have to be patient and wait on things that I may need because I know not God's timing; I have to forgive those who hurt; and, I have to hope for the things to come that God has laid out for me. Everything I go through, that my loved ones go through, is for a purpose. They are to teach my close ones and they are to teach me. And I think it is a good start that I was blessed by God to be able to listen to this lesson from above.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Love, Romance, Pace, A Girl from Minnesota

I recently became a committed person into a significant relationship :). I've had three previous ones. This one feels different. We just fit. In the past, I've felt like I had doubts though I would deny them on the surface. This one I have doubts (as anyone does in the beginning and usually for me they are the result of overthinking), but I am confident that they are not going to bring this down. God seems to keep in my mind, "Stay with this one. You won't do better." She is my dream girl and she came in a way I was not at all expecting. God has been working in her heart for me and mine for her. She is adorable and amazing. I feel really attached to this one :). I actually cried when I dropped her off. When I could not kiss her any more and I saw her cry as I wave, I broke down. When I returned to the house and went to my room where she had slept (I was on the couch during the week), I broke down and cried harder. I miss her TERRIBLY. And I think it partly because of the sizeable distance between the two and our current financial status. But, I think it also has to do with the fact that we care SO much for each other that this distance hurts so much. We knew that the day would be difficult, but I had no idea it would be this hard.
I am confused, overthinking, crazy, and possibly in love. But, I do not want to say those last two words just yet. We've talked a lot and have gotten to know each other over the phone and during the last week: extensively talking to each other. Maybe it is love. I would like to think it is. But, I also have to be somewhat sober. Maybe I am riding on some heavy euphoria and emotion. Though I have felt during the week that I have been a combination of level-headedness as well as emotional. It scares me actually that I feel that this girl is going to be something special to me for a long time. The euphoria part at the very beginning is easy. Commitment I think scares me. It makes me have to think hard about important questions--questions that require not only the consideration of my own happiness but also that of another. Expectations resulting from my thinking things HAVE to be a certain way. Movies, media, and other people's experiences have poisoned my brain. Part of me tugs me back. It's my own overprotectedness of my heart and my ability to think things to death. I will not let that ruin this one. She is very special to me. I want her to be a greater part of my life. Plus, if I focus on God and what He wills, nothing can change whether or not she and I are meant to be. I have to trust in Him. And everytime I've prayed about this, I've come out in the positive. And not just because I want it, but an overwhelming positive. And as I said before, I have that back-of-mind assurance and confidence that this is the girl for me. This is someone God wants me to spend significant time with. And also, if anything I should expect from this relationship--surprises and unexpectedness. I didn't see her coming quite honestly. I didn't expect to feel this comfortable with her nor have two 8+ hour conversations with her (plus an average conversation time of 3-4 hours). And when I say conversations, I do not mean idle spaces in conversation lasting a long time. I mean REAL conversation. We won't shut up!
Also part of my inability to say the featured words of a significant relationship is that I have said them too quickly in the past. I may feel it this time, but I want to make sure. I think I do. But, I've gotten ahead of myself in the past. However, I must also look at the reasonings in previous relationships. With my first, she was...well...my first. I rode the wave of euphoria into the realm of infatuatedness that was mistaken for the realness of devoted love. My second girlfriend I did like and I did ask her whether or not she loved me. She said she couldn't know that yet. That was actually fairly wise at that point. However, she also was notorious for wanting to take things at a very certain pace. Finally, the last ex I told her that not because I think I actually believed it to be so. I remember saying to myself that I didn't actually believe what I said. I just wanted a relationship in the end and wanted to make things solidified. I did have feelings for her, but I spoke prematurely. I had gone on three dates with her when I said this (we had talked on the phone quite a bit after I moved to Dubuque though). It really was too soon to tell and I'm not sure I ever felt sure that she was right for me and was more afraid of losing the relationship and the feelings it brought as a matter of self-confidence. She and I tried to change each other constantly and argued bitterly without ever really resolving anything. I will say this: she did help me on my way to recovery from an addiction for which I am grateful she did. God used her in that way. I don't believe she nor I really ever loved each other.
With my special someone now, M'lady, I feel differently. I'm more tempered. I have spent significant time both on the phone and spent almost every hour with her during last week (excepting brief periods of sleep). We even went through a moment of difficulty in which we had to face something within our relationship. And we are fine. I have that quiet confidence that she is someone who's going to be around for a while and so I'd better get used to it. She wants me for me. She likes me for me. And I reciprocate. We desire change in ourselves because of what the other inspires. She forgives me my faults, my past. I do hers. She has made sacrifices for me (for instance, she went to a church service with me). She's artistic, faithful, pationate, patient, caring, endearing, sweet, lovely--adding up to her being all-around beautiful. Most of all, she loves Jesus more than me. I want that dearly in someone. And she truly personifies it. It's evident in how she lives. She's not perfect, no, but I find attraction in her imperfections as well. Do we have a long way to go? Yes. Do we still both need to grow together spiritually and in faith? Yes. Will we have arguments? Yes. Are we off to a terrific start? Yes. As Hawk Nelson states in "Every Little Thing": "She has every little thing I wanted and it still feels like the day just started..." and "The girl I once rejected has now become the girl of my dreams." As I stated at the beginning: we just fit. And I feel as though everyday, I want to talk to her. Even if it is for but a moment.
So, M'lady, if I do not say the words "I love you" it is not because I do not feel them perhaps. Someday, I will express these words to you. For now, my actions will have to speak and time will tell when I will be able to verbalize with confidence that you, my darling, are the focus of the words. I know you will be around for a while. I know you are patient. And I know that God will give me the strength when the time is right. And why would you want to hear it the first time over the phone anyway? :)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sickness

I'm sick. I had a three- or four-day reprieve this week, but now I'm back to feeling physically miserable. It is easy when you are absolutely miserable and unable to sleep because of a difficult sore throat to blame God for a bit of discomfort. I admit that it came to mind, but this time around I perished the thought. Why should we when we experience the least amount of pain or a day or three of physical discomfort and inconvenience an attitude of resistance to God? Will He not cure you? I mean the common illnesses. In some cases, as it proclaims the glory of God, we are not allowed to be cured. This is the most difficult one to understand. But, I provide an instance where it does do just that.

C. S. Lewis married a divorcee from America. It seems as though from the evidences of things that they had truly loved each other. However, his wife and lover died tragically of cancer. Lewis wrote some quick jottings that were probably therapeutic for him, but they ended up being compiled together for a book titled A Grief Observed. In it he writes that this experience made him question who God really is. It was never a question of whether or not He exists? Lewis in the end comes to realize through this all that this wound was meant to lead to a cure, one that would improve the quality of his spiritual life. He understood God in a new light and I believe this helped him to understand why the crucifixion was really much more significant. God had to wound His Son to heal humanity.

So, when you are going through a bout of illness that is particularly painful but also knowledgealby curable, consider yourself to be going through a minor testing period of patience and endurance. God uses these as well in wounding us to make us better. I think I myself realized the above in a new way from this particular bout. Wounded to heal...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Forgiveness

I am learning lately a little about forgiveness. Usually I am very hard on myself after making a mistake I feel I should not have made. It mostly involves mistakes I make against other people, but even ones that I know only God knows about I still kick myself a lot over. This morning I made that mistake a couple of times over. And yet I know I am forgiven. However, do I forgive myself? Strangely enough, like it is work sometimes for someone to forgive another (forgiveness is a process and an action), I am working on forgiving myself. And I believe I have. It is strange to think of myself in nearly a third person sense, as if I am detatched from myself in order to forgive myself, but when you make a mistake of the kind I have, it is a sin against God, who God made you to be and against the dignity that God bestowed upon others. So, yes, I do have ask God for forgiveness. Yes, I do have to forgive myself. And to my friend, I ask you to forgive me my transgression against you. This is not to make you want to forgive me more, but you have shown me God's love through forgiveness. In this, I think I am growing because of that. Part of it was a process before I met you, but it is being reinforced and added to because of you. It is likely one of the reasons God has brought you into my life. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gotta Wonder if I'm Gonna Make It

It's sad when I'd rather almost do anything than do the thing I'm supposed to do. I need to finish my thesis and write a 10-page paper on marriage counseling. Instead I'm here writing, but I will not be long. I just wanted to make an observance about my own behavior.

And to make a note of the fact that my procrastination might have caught up with me. I seriously question the quality of my work right now. Did I just provide arguments for and against sociobiology? Or did I present through the writings of others my own point of view? Perhaps my editor will be able to tell me, but it concerns me still.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Can Divorce Be Faithful?

Growing up, my parents have always been together. There was never a time of separation except when it was planned: my dad goes off to a meeting, my mom goes to a retreat, etc. Have they always gotten along? No. But, they have worked things out with each other. However, in modern times for various reasons, divorce has become more a norm with around 50% of married couples getting divorced. Like I said, this is for multiple reasons. Some of it has to do with the lack of trust in the institution, lack of understanding of what love really is, etc. Sometimes, it's for real honest reasons.

In the Gospel of Matthew, it is commonly quoted of Jesus that the only grounds for divorce is adultery and neglect or abandonment. Indeed these are very worthy reasons for divorce. Though they do not necessitate divorce; forgiveness is always an option for those involved. But, Jesus said that divorce can be faithful in this manner. And for many Christians that is understood to be the limit. However, I do not think that it is. David Instone-Brewer argues that Jesus was actually answering a specific question of no-fault divorce. In this case, a Jewish man could potentially leave his wife for whatever reason and not have to meet with the court about the divorce. Jesus was saying that in this manner adultery and neglect could be seen in this light to be a no-fault divorce. Certainly when the marriage has become a shamble of what God has called the convenant relationship of marriage to be, we cannot keep it together for ill.

If the marriage, which reveals God through covenantal relationship and is supposed to be a testimony to God and His love as well as a relationship in which God uses to work in the world for the betterment of the world, is not as it should be then it should not be continued. It cannot be a faithful way of living for God. This means in the case of mutual or even one-sided hatred of spouses, adultery, neglect, threats, abuse (verbal and/or physical), and in some few cases debilitating illness when it is no longer feasible for the two to live together (i.e. insurance), that divorce can be a faithful Christian thing to do. It should be counseled only with care though. There must be little in the chance of reconciliation or even no chance at all. And it would be circumstance by circumstance. Adultery can be forgiven if a person so chooses. If the couple can survive financially when one has a serious illness, then there is no reason for them to part. And even hatred or neglect with proper counseling and therapy POSSIBLY could lead to reconciliation. The last two are unlikely.

And just because it is the faithful thing to do in some circumstances does not mean it would be easy. I personally have no idea what it is like for a couple and family to have to split up because of divorce. Like I said, my family is still relatively intact (occasional division but never so severe as divorce; all families have their dysfunctionality). A couple of really good friends have gone through the pain of their parents' divorces. But, personally and thank God, I have not. For a moment let us consider a divorced individual. This person lives with a stigma of failure. It is not necessarily their fault, or at least it is hardly ever all one's fault. But, one must not look at it as failure, particularly in the case of abuse, neglect or adultery. If one leaves in those circumstances, it is the failure of the other spouse, not of the individual. Not to mention we should not label all divorce as sin. This puts a further stigma upon them. Divorce for nothing more than "falling out of love" when really it's just that the "romance" is over, or for just losing interest in each other, or for when one "finds someone else that fulfills them," is sin through divorce. But, in any case the congregation should help those involved to come through it. And even if it is sinful divorce, sin can be forgiven. Should we condone sinful divorce? No. But, we forgive those who do if they are repentent. And we should not label all divorcees as a product of sinful divorce or even like they are carrying a disease. They already have a burden on their mind. They already have to deal with altered relationships with friends, families, and children. I like the suggestion mentioned in my Mystery of Marriage course in which I am currently enrolled, that there should be counseling offered to those who have suffered it. There should also be a singles group ministry. However, I understand the difficulty of the latter: it can become like a mixer, a way to get dates, instead of learning how to live for God as a single person.

Our culture and indeed the Church has put a great emphasis on marriage and in some ways this has led to poor marriages and greater divorce rates with greater hurt and animosity amongst us. However, when we learn to love as Christ has called us to do, we can understand what it really is to serve God in whatever station we are in: single, married, divorced, widowed, etc. And we can help those who are going through the difficulties of whatever life throws at them, sometimes because we have gone through it ourselves. And we can learn to forgive. None of this is easy, but since when does God call us to the "easy life?"

Monday, April 28, 2008

Reward for Fashionable Thinking?

In Consilience, the decade-old work by reknown biologist and environmentalist as well as THE sociobiology expert, Edward O. Wilson, Wilson states that "a loving personal God, if He is paying attention, will not abandon those who reject the literal interpretation of the biblical cosmology." (Wilson, 6) I agree with him on this point. To take everything literal in Scripture, or to even selectively take certain passages as literal whenever it suits your theology, is actually dangerous. However, he continues, "It is only fair to award points for intellectual courage." (Wilson, 6) Wait a second. He goes on to say that the church he grew up in, the Baptists, made no provision for evolution.

So, let's get this straight. He considers it intellectual courage to break with a literal interpretation of Scripture, which he seems to consider the norm in Christianity. He also equates the Baptists as the norm in Christianity and more specifically a certain fundamentalist group of Baptists as the norm. But, out of all this then, God will reward those who are intellectually courageous in that they break with this line of thinking? I would love to tell him that he has seriously misjudged the Christian faith.

First of all, the idea that literal interpretation of Scripture is the common thought of the Chrisitan religion is completely false. It is limited to a sect of ultra-conservative Christians that sometimes even limit Christianity to certain principles that it did not originally preach. As early as the Church Fathers we have authors stating that the Scriptures are not to be always taken literally and indeed meaning of the passages can be found on other levels. That is to say, Truth can be found on more than just the surface. Augustine and Origen, two widely separate Christian authors in thought, both agree that Scripture is to be interpreted not to just mean what it says literally, but to look deeper or even figuratively. They both argued for allegory in Scriptures. Augustine specifically addressed Genesis in that manner as well. Today, many Christians wrestle with the passages of Scriptures and do not take the Bible in all its verses literally. Does that mean that some should not be taken literally? Not at all. But, we must wrestle with the text and pray about it before we can make that judgment.

Second, there is significant room in the Baptist faith for evolution. Will you see a ton of Baptists siding on the view of evolutionary origins? No, probably not. However, Billy Graham is open to a theistic evolutionary interpretation. B. B. Warfield, though a Presbyterian, was a fundamentalist. However, he did not oppose evolution and actually endorsed a theistic evolution position. Plus, it has been my own experience that Baptist theology is fairly open. That does not mean that Baptists themselves are. But, an example of this openness is that the a liberal theology, the Social Gospel, which argues that we must rid the world of social evils before the second coming of Christ, was early on fathered by a Baptist minister in New York, Walter Rauschenbusch. And Martin Luther King, Jr. was most definitely along these lines as well as a Baptist.

And as a Baptist myself, and a person with degrees in both the biological sciences as well as religious studies, I find myself not needing to endorse a literal interpretation of Genesis to be a devout Christian, let alone a devout Baptist. I would not say I'm a full-blown proponent of evolution. I'm not a creationist either. I believe that the best explanation of the origin of biological life is through theistic evolutionary stance. Evolution was the process as we can see and observe natural history, but that as the Scriptures attest, God is control of and sustains all of Creation. Genesis was written to proclaim the works of God in the form of poetry. It also reveals to us that humanity is animal and in the image of God. We are spiritual and animal. And it provided followers of the True God, the Blessed Trinity, a way to order life in a manner of seven days. Seven also represents God's perfect number and thus showing Creation to be indeed, good.

So, perhaps Dr. Wilson should take a second look at the Christian faith. Don't believe that what you were raised with has to be the norm nor the thought of a devout Christian, even of the Baptist faith. And if you think that brothers and sisters of the Christian faith are mistaken, do not leave the faith because you believe they are. We are all together on the journey that is the Christian faith, we can dialogue and yet not agree. Why? Because Jesus Christ is the Head and we are His Body. We are in unity despite that we may not always agree.

Jesus Christ is the answer to salvation. Not, falsely-labeled intellectually courageous thinking. In fact, his thinking is quite fashionable. It is quite fashionable to label Christians as literalist, close-minded thinkers. It is quite fasionable to think that Christians are opposed to science. It is quite fashionable to think that God will reward us for doing what we think is right. It is inconvenient to think that God calls us to live as He desires us and not how we desire to live. It is inconvenient to think that perhaps the Church has the Truth and that this Truth makes a claim on our lives. It is inconvenient to think that the Church is perhaps more open-minded about some claims than one thinks. It is inconvenient to think that perhaps your rebellion against the Church is against a limited set of beliefs that a limited number hold in the Church. It is inconvenient to believe that there is a God directly involved in our lives and in Creation (because of that aforementioned claim on our lives). However, the inconvenient truth of the matter is that God does exist. He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, through His teaching, death by crucifixion for the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection for the hope of eternal life in Him. God has reconciled us to Himself and if we do join Him, we gain greater freedom even though we lose rights to self and what we think is right apart from Him. Better to be a servant in God's house than to be a slave to intellectual "freedom."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My First

I haven't blogged in a while if you consider xanga a blog site (which I do). I feel encouraged to share my own thoughts on life as I feel the need to journal. A friend of mine has inspired me to start my own blog and to write of my own perceptions of life. I hope that I can provide insight to others lives and at the same time clarify my own thoughts on what I have pondered, thought, felt, seen, etc. Well, here I am. Let's begin...soon.