Thursday, May 31, 2007

Loving Others

One of the things I learned in my Spiritual Formation class was how to tell how we are progressing spiritually. By comparing how much we love people now to how much we have loved them in the past we can tell if we are growing in the Spirit. In other words, do i love people more today than I did yesterday? Last month? Last year? Unfortunately the answer to all of those questions is no. A few days ago I wrote about how I want to chart my progress Spiritually and that I was going to rely on God to show me what I need to work on. A couple of days later I spoke about negativity. Well, the other day God showed me that I am a lot farther away than I think. How can I tell? By how much I love others. And lately I find that I am not loving others as much as I should. Not even close. I have been mad a lot and impatient with others, easily frustrated and generally not very happy. Worst of all I find myself looking at the negative in people and quick to judge them and jump to conclusions. How do I get out of all of this? I need to look to God. Where? Scripture. It has been a long time since I have listened to the Bible on CD. I almost forgot that I have that. Starting tomorrow I will start listening to the Bible on my way to and from work again. That is just the start, but let's see where God takes me.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Why did God Create Intimacy?

Today's thought: why did God create sexual intimacy? I can't speak for everyone but from my perspective it is something that brings us closer together. It creates a bond between the two of us that is undeniable, and unexplainable without God. Even when I am not necessarily "in the mood" but do it anyways, when it is over my connection to my wife is at an emotional peak. Why did God create it to be that way? To find the answer I thought about it from a backwards perspective. If we look at nature, very few animals pair off as couples and stay that way for life.
If I look at it from the Darwinism perspective of Evolution I would have to ask what is the benefit of it from an evolutionary perspective. It would make sense for the male to sleep with as many women as possible (which some may aspire to) to spread the seed and increase the chances of propagation. For the female staying with one male means stability, safety and a consistent source of food. Both of those give strong reasons for sex to be enjoyable, but does not explain the intense connection that one feels (whether they want to admit to it or not.) That sense of love. If those two reasons were the only reason for sexual intimacy to be more than just sex then the only emotion felt from sex would be joy. For a man, there is no reason that after they spread the seed to stick around with the burden of a pregnant woman and children. They work much better as a team with other men. (Imagine caveman or other ancient men when imagining all of this.)
If looking at it from a Creationism perspective that emotional connection makes more sense. God wants a man and woman to be together, wants us to love and care for each other. It is almost like God is giving us a glimpse of what the rest of the relationship should be like. Lets face it the best (and most powerful) sex is when we are not doing it for ourselves. It is when we are doing it for the other person. When our goal is not self centered within ourselves but outwardly focussed on the other; to give them the most pleasure and make them happy. And the happier they are, the better they feel the better it is for us. If anyone disagrees they have to ask themselves if they have ever had sex with the other person in mind. God does this because it is love. Sex is a way that He is showing us how caring for another is more important than caring for ourselves. That loving another brings us more joy than loving ourselves. God is giving us a lesson. In that lesson we are also being shown by God how much he loves us. He could have made sex nothing more than pleasurable, instead He created it to be much more. He created it with all of the emotional connections that show us just a little of what life can be.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Today God showed me several examples of my shortcomings and it was very humbling. Unfortunately, two very serious shortcomings are laziness and a bad memory. When I was falling asleep last night and again as I was driving home this afternoon was when God gave me some very good examples. But at the time I said "these are great ideas, I am not going to get out of bed to write them, down, I'll remember." Of course my memory disagreed and the thoughts are gone. But I know that Go will give them to me again as I really have no shortage of traits that need improvement. One in particular that I see myself falling into quite often is negativity. Especially in the workplace.
There is one particular customer that drives me crazy and I have complained (yes, whined) to the sales rep about how ridiculous they are. Today I was complaining about another when the sales asked me if they were just like the other. In his very subtle way, he was making his point that I am negative about customers. I felt terrible, God had shown me exactly what I had asked for, an attitude that I needed to work on. He showed me that I can be very negative and judgmental about people and impatient with them if they didn't know the business. God has shown us infinite mercy, grace and patience as we struggle through life and our lack of faith. Yet here I was complaining about others because they don't have a grasp of the business as well as I do. It's an easy trap to fall into, thinking that I am better than someone else because I have more knowledge about something. Or thinking I am better because they do things differently, or have a different perspective. God sets the example, Jesus showed us how to follow it. We can either chose to follow it, ignore it, or blind ourselves to the truth and see what we want to see. When I was first saved I went from a very negative person to a more positive person. Then I leveled out and may have even fallen back a little. How do I get back to the positive? How do I not only get back to where I was but continue to grow again? God has shown us the truth, we just need to accept it. Start looking for the signs, take the small victories God has given us. Stop taking life for granted.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Keeping Track of Progress

Sometimes strategy takes a few days before it hits me. Today I was thinking about one of the tactics as a manager that I always tried to do was to celebrate every victory, even small ones. And I realized that is a big part of the journal can accomplish; I can look back on where I was when I started and how far I have come. Then it hit me, I have to start with where I am at now. Ugh. My first openness challenge of writing online. Even though I really don't think anyone will read this but me. Either way, the only way to look back and check progress is to record the starting point. What I need to work on and what I am strong in and why I feel that way. Here's the tough part, often that is all a self evaluation and from the perspective of what I think about myself. I need to rely on God more and this is a great opportunity. The next few days the majority of my prayer and meditation is going to be for God to bring to light what I need to work on. If it goes like I think it will, it may hurt. I'll start a list on this blog and keep updating. If you can think of something let me know.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Love of Marriage

Today Alise came back from her week-long trip to Alabama. I made it through the week without burning down the apartment complex. Though I did manage to eat waay too much junk food. All day I couldn't stop thinking of her, I had a special dinner planned and everything. When I got home I knew she was asleep so I snuck in the house so I could hold her while she was sleeping.
The point is that being in love feels amazing. Often it is even overpowering. But how much it must pale to the love that God feels for us. How do I know? Because God created us, created these feelings within us and the capacity to love. But it doesn't make sense that He would create us to feel a love more powerful than the love he feels for us or what we have the capability to feel for Him. Think about what it is about being in love that makes it feel so good. There are two things that stand out about loving Alise: One is the companionship, not just someone to hang out with and spend time with but someone to get through life with as a team. Knowing that decisions I make affect her, knowing that I am affected by her decisions. It's a great responsibility. But also the teamwork, knowing that she is there for me and I for her. Someone to take care of but who will also take care of me. Someone who has my best interest in mind. I can honestly say that I think of her before myself. The other thing that stands out about love is the intimacy. Getting to know someone on a level that I never cared about before. She is so totally open with me, I am learning so much from her. She puts her feelings, emotions, thoughts, opinions out there for me. She doesn't hold back. Sometimes it may even come across as rude, but when I think about it, and see that she is not meaning to hurt me. In the long run that openness is ideal. I know what she is thinking and whether or not I agree with her, I know where she is coming from.
Now if I take all of that, all those feelings for Alise and apply them to God, I see that I am lacking. Because that is the type of relationship that He wants to have with me, with everyone. God has my back, God is the ultimate teammate. The perfect companion. The problem is that often He is there and I am not communicating with Him. Andy Stanley said that we cannot just talk to our wife about how our day went, just small talk really, and expect the relationship to grow or go well. There is no communication there, we are not learning about the other person on an intimate level. Prayer needs to be on that next level. The problem is that I don't know how to get there. But I am learning, and it is critical that as I learn from my relationship with Alise that I apply that to my relationship with the Father. Something to ponder this next week is what it is about love that is so attractive. Make a list. Then think about how that applies to my relationship with the Father. The next step is to take what I learn about love through my relationship with Alise and turn it towards my relationship with God. After all, who wants to have one of those "superficial" relationships? Worse, who wants to have a "superficial" relationship with God; who loves us so much? I honestly believe that love is the key to knowing God. We just need to figure out love first. Society, I should I say Satan, (mental note: try not to sound so much like Dana Carvey's Church Lady...) has taught us so many things about love that just aren't true. Breaking those barriers and approaching it from a Creationist standpoint (why did God create love?) brings love into a whole new light.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Putting God First and then Rambling Away...

So I met with the real estate agent today and came away feeling good again about the house we have been looking at. I was praying about it on the way home when it hit me that I was forgetting one "expense" - tithing. Which pretty much takes us out of the picture for the place. I have to be honest, the thought came to my mind that I could decrease our tithe to less. Or I could find some other source of income and make that the tithe. Then I got smacked with the "that isn't the point" and knew that the tithe has to come first before anything else. The danger is that my thought was to pay the mortgage first and the tithe second and that just isn't going to fly. More than anything else the tithe is symbolic and a discipline of the strongest type: against money. Father, what is it about money and "stuff" that makes it so tough to resist? Why is it that we are trained to think that buying a house will make us happy and successful? Or more than that, what makes us think that a mate will make us happy? That our life isn't complete without one? Not to complain, being married to Alise has been amazing so far and I know that it will continue to be such. But I was watching a movie the other day and the message was that the lead character's life just wasn't complete until she met someone. The ending wasn't happy until she found love. I think it ruined the movie. She made all of these fantastic connections and friends and created bonds of brotherly love with them and she was happy. That would have made a great end of the movie. Father, isn't that what love is all about? Those bonds of brotherly love, that is how you show us you love us, that love that we hold for each other is your arms wrapped around each one of us individually. Not popularity or idolatry; they are man's attempt to find the "easy way" to that feeling of love, but it is false. All I know is that I feel closest to you when I know I am loved by my friends and family; and I in turn love them back. I often think that what you are giving me now is an opportunity to work on that all over again. Find more friends and show them that love and get that love from them. Father, I know that you will give me the opportunities to do so, give me the strength to do so.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Romans 1

Let's face it, some days I may not have as much to write about as other days. When that happens I am going to go back to the good ol' Way Journal. Read a chapter of the Bible, find one verse that stands out and write about it. Sometime I will also add in my contemplation on how the Chapter made me feel as a whole. Today's Chapter is Romans 1.

They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Romans 1:25-26

Sometimes even us Christians read this verse and only see the worshiped and miss the served, it is important that we realize that we only serve God. Ever since I have been a Christian I have been careful to try not to worship created things. Worship being to have "
extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem" (Websters online) It's one thing to worship something such as money by thinking it is more important than it really is. Once we let go of that materialistic attitude not worshiping created things is so much easier. But service is something else. (side note: this is in relation to the modern definition of the words; Paul may have had other intent when he wrote this, but God created verses like this to be just as true today as they were then.) The problem with service is that we (I) often cut out worship to created things, I am still their servant in many ways. Take this whole house searching experience for example; I want to buy a house. But to afford a house I will have to get more money. To get more money I will have to stay at my current job. I am so hesitant to look for a job at a church because I know that I won't make much money. Not that I make a lot of money now, but I am afraid of making less because if I buy a house now I can't leave my job until I can find a job that pays me enough to afford the mortgage. Doesn't that make me a slave to the house? I need to be released of that and trust that God is going to lead me to the right place. This desire to get a house, it is so tough to discern if it is my will of God's. I want to see the signs that God wants Alise and I to buy, but I really don;t think that they are there. Just opportunities.

Application: stop letting created things affect the decisions I make. The key to being a servant is letting the master direct your decision making. Ideally, the servant will not do anything that is not a part of the master's will. If I let something else affect my decision making I am not serving the Master, I am serving another.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

How God Brought Me to This Point

I have been trying to push myself to do a spiritual journal for a while now, but I have been having a hard time being motivated to actually write. My wife Alise has been out of town for the last few days and starting a journal was one of my goals while she has been gone. I have been praying about it a lot these last few days. Then, today, in the shower God gave me the answer (it seems to happen a lot in the shower doesn't it?) Do a journal online. It won't be easy because honestly, I am not doing this to show off, I am not doing it to get approval from others, I'm not even doing it to get other people's opinions (though I am not opposed to that either.) But understanding why I am doing this is not an easy explanation, it's part of the journey itself and needs to be written down so I can remember it later. (I have the worst memory and writing things down seems to help.)

Last year I started pursuing my Master's Degree in Intercultural Studies at Simpson University and the first class that I took was Spiritual Formation. One of the main lessons that stuck with me from that class is the definition of Spiritual Formation; it is "a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others." I could go into detail on each part of that definition but I will spare that for now. One of the other subjects of the class was about Spiritual Disciplines. I don't have much spiritual discipline in my life and I need more of it. So what I decided to do was journal. Not just journal about my day or what I cooked for dinner, but journal about where my conversations with God went. My spiritual thoughts for the day. Why journal? Because based on the definition of Spiritual Formation I knew it was going to be a journey, and it needed to be recorded so I knew where I came from. But who cares? if they are my thoughts, they are all up here right? Well, the other point of keeping a journal, especially a Spiritual one, is so somewhere down the road I can help people on their journey by reflecting on my own. But why post it online? Two reasons: one is accountability: if I slack off or am thinking the wrong thing everyone knows and can smack me around a little. If anyone reads it. The other reason is that maybe, someone out there can benefit from my journey; whether it be by something I write or just by reading a journal they decide to journal as well. Isn't a journal personal? Yes, very, but we'll see where that goes. This journal was something I was going to do anyways, so might as well do it online so anyone who reads it can go along the journey with me. This could get interesting.