Progressive Clarification 

photo-1464746133101-a2c3f88e0dd9One of the difficult things about this life is when you reach the frustration point: I am not who I need to be; I can’t think the way I need to; I need clarification; what is wrong with me?

Well, nothing is wrong with you. It’s just not clear yet.

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. – Albert Einstein

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:4-6

The problem I run into so many times is that I cannot think clearly enough. Either I am too emotionally attached to the issue at hand to make a clear decision, or no one path seems better than the other.

That’s when I need clarity. And there’s nothing wrong with seeking God in prayer with that–as a matter of fact, that should be our first step, seeking our Almighty and ever-loving God for wisdom.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. – James 1:5

I have learned over the years that if I am stuck in negative thinking, that I am not thinking right. Sometimes there’s a quick fix for that: take a nap, get some exercise, grab a bite to eat. Sometimes the problem is a little deeper and I might have to have a talk with myself, like David:

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation. – Psalm 42:5

“C’mon, cheer up, snap out of it!” There’s no shame in talking to yourself, maybe even bossing yourself around a little bit. We have far more control over our internal thought processes and emotional state than we think we do.

We all proceed ‘from glory to glory’ (2 Corinthians 3:18) and need clarification along the way. I myself have been asking God for clarity on my life’s work, what career path I’m to take next, and through prayer and counseling have come up with a ‘game plan’ (going back to college and getting a teaching degree, which has been my heart’s desire for decades).

But it’s taken many years to arrive at this point where I can think clearly about the future. rather than wading daily through a fog of misery and confusion. I didn’t start getting treatment for my mental illness issues (which I didn’t know that I had) until I had a full nervous breakdown several years back. It’s been a long, difficult road since then. But I’m glad to be able to say that I’ve reached a little more clarity. And every week things become a little more clear, through prayer, wise counsel, life experiences, and reading books. But I’m not ‘all the way there’ yet. And neither are you. But that’s OK.

Progressive clarification, that’s what we receive from God. Enough light for the path ahead. Eventually enough light will come so we can see farther. But for right now, we have a little light, and that’s enough.

Life In The Midlife

It was a dark and stormy life.
It was a dark and stormy life.

As stated in the previous post, I’ve been working through a midlife crisis. I’m approaching 40 and longing for work that’s significant instead of just money-making.

It’s a really challenging time because I’m seeking advice from books and from a life coach. I have to do something different with my life–but I feel a little powerless at times. In order to do anything different in my career, I would either need to go back to college or trade school, and both ideas are something I am having a hard time dealing with.

I need to learn something else. I need different skills to not only pay the bills, but a different life situation where I am using the talents God has given me in a role that feels significant.

The reason I haven’t written much on this is that this season is also one of an identity crisis. When a book asks me to ask myself, ‘Who am I?’ and I don’t have a ready answer, that’s when things get painful. I’ve come up with a million Twitter bios over the years, listing whatever I’m into right now: learning Japanese, lover of progressive rock, World of Warcraft player, a lot of things. I can easily tell you what I do, and what I like, but I can’t tell you who I am.

Here are a few other questions that the book I’m reading, Consider Your Calling: Six Questions for Discerning Your Vocation, asks:

  • What on earth is God doing?
  • Who are you?
  • What is your stage of life?
  • What are your circumstances?
  • What is the cross you will have to bear?
  • What are you afraid of?

Some of these I don’t have very positive answers for, or don’t have any answer. I have a life coach also asking me a lot of questions, and it’s easy to get discouraged during this process of internal probing and intense prayer asking God to make things clear.

I’m sure that good will come out of this time soon, but it’s been painful.

Moving From Midlife Crisis To ‘Half Time’ (Book Review)

418s0cO2dZLIf you’re going to have a midlife crisis anyway, you’d better make the best of it.

Recently I learned that there is such a thing as a midlife crisis–it’s a psychological phenomenon that all men go through, usually as they approach 40 years old, where they re-evaluate their life, find it devoid of meaning, and then…

The ‘…and then’ is what Half Time is about. What most men need to do is look at their life and transform it from one focused on success to one focused on significance. At some point we all decide that what we do has to have meaning–lasting significance beyond the end of our life–or we give up in one way or another. This book encourages you to re-evaluate your life by asking, ‘what’s in your box?’ In other words, what is the most important thing to you? Business or Christ? And if Christ, what then?

This is a very challenging book, partly because it asks a lot of uncomfortable questions, and partly because the writer is frustratingly hard to relate with at times. He says that it doesn’t matter how much success we had in our first half–while he goes on to say that he has several cars and houses, and I look at my much-less-affluent situation and cringe. I wish the man no lack of prosperity, I just find it difficult to relate with someone who has apparently always been rich and successful.

The best and worst part is the questions. This book demands a lot out of you, writing vision statements, thinking about your next demands, running plans past mentors. If you do what the book says, I think it’ll be very helpful. When I’m not throwing the book across the room, I’m picking it up and gleaning a good bit out of it. Perhaps those are the best kind of books: the ones that make you a little angry, so the point where you must respond. The author, Bob Buford, greatly succeeds here.

Reaching The Other Side of Pain With Music

Today’s song is the ever-so-smooth Gospel track, I Want My Destiny by Fred Hammond, off of one of his greatest albums, Purpose By Design.

The other day someone I follow on Twitter mentioned that music is like a drug. He dismissed it as it was like any other psychiatric medication. I disagree that it’s ‘just a drug’–but maybe that’s because I’m a ‘user’.

For many years, silence was painful for me. Without something in my ears, I was terrified that ‘demons’ would overtake my mind, and the pressure cooker would explode. Music was often a comfort, especially when I was in private and could cry as much as I needed to. There are so many comforting albums that I relied on during the hard times that it’d be hard to list them all here. The aforementioned Fred Hammond album is one–most of the songs speak directly to things I faced, and sometimes still face, in my life: the desire to see my destiny fulfilled, to have a clean, unencumbered heart–all of it.

For a while I couldn’t come back to the music that helped me get through the pain. Some music I was listening to during profound times of deception, such as during my ‘Messianic Jewish/Torah Movement’ or ‘Drunken Glory’ kicks, I would never return to–but the albums that helped me through the generally hopeless and heartbroken times, when I come back to them, sometimes they don’t hurt any more. That’s how I know I’ve grown up a bit–that God has worked in my life to heal the hurts. I’m still a work in progress–it’s an everyday thing, believe me!–but I am thankful to God that he hasn’t given up on me–and indeed, has promised never to, Phil. 1:4-6:

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

unsplash-kitsune-4If you’re someone for whom music plays a fundamental part, and you’ve gone through a long time of healing, you might occasionally test your progress by trying some of the older music that you listened to while you were healing. If it brings back old hurts, then there’s no shame! You’re still a work in progress and it’s totally OK. If the hurt has dissipated, mark that down–God has healed you, and you’ve made progress.

Think of this as if you’ve broken your leg and someone prayed for it to be healed. Most folks praying for you will ask you to test it out. With mental and emotional healing, it’s invisible and there’s nothing to test. Results may occur right away, but you won’t know for weeks or months exactly what the impact was. Music is a quick test for that. Does it still hurt? That’s OK, just rejoice that God’s helped you make progress elsewhere and then come back to it later. You’re on your way.

When My World Is Collapsing and I Need You To Help Me

It’s vital to have friends and family around you who understand you when you’re going through hard times.

I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have a wife who, when I tell her to pray for me because ‘everything hurts’, she does.

She doesn’t pepper me with questions when I say that I’m hurting. I’ll usually tell her if I’m depressed, anxious, or completely eaten up inside–where my emotions are so totally raw I can’t sort up from down. The really, really bad days happen less than before, but they still happen.

Luke 22:31-32 came to mind for some reason while I was typing this.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

I haven’t outright betrayed Jesus today, to my knowledge, but I think that’s interesting where Jesus tells Peter, when (not if) he turns back, to strengthen his brothers.

Maybe that ‘when’ applies to me, too.

Maybe I’ll be able to strengthen my brothers and sisters in Christ, who also struggle with anxiety and depression like I do.


Tithing: Does It Work? (Week 1 and 2)

Our church put its money where its metaphorical mouth is and made a money-back guarantee to the congregation: if they tithe for a certain period of time and they were not tangibly blessed, the sponsor would pay them back 100%. I thought this a bold move.

The idea of giving a tenth of one’s income to the church is a controversial one. I’ll let you study it yourself. My family has gone back and forth on it, but we decided this time that we would start back again and never stop. I decided to chronicle what happened so I could tell people, ‘hey, this works’ or not. 

Week 1: 

I asked our pastor for help and he diagnosed the exact problem I’ve been having: I’m in the middle of a mid-life crisis. That clicked with me. He is putting me in touch with resources and people who can help lead me through this.  I was able to be brave and meet with my pastor, despite my fear from previous encounters with leadership at other churches. 

An audiobook version of The Anglican Way came out. I own the Kindle version and had read half of it off and on. I started listening again, but wasn’t able to stick with it. 

Week 2: 

For ‘some reason’, I’ve had this very strong desire to pray the morning and evening offices, using this site, during my morning and evening commute, and sometimes this site before bed. I wanted to do this before, but I couldn’t get up the energy to do it. 

During my morning and evening commutes, I was able to also listen to quite a bit of The Anglican Way. I went from less than half done to 100% done within a few days. This is remarkable, because reading or listening to nonfiction is sometimes difficult for me. 

I got a speeding ticket, which could have been a disaster with points and an insurance hit. But when I told the police officer I thought it was a 45mph zone, he told me he believed me, because it was a common misconception (it’s actually 35mph), so instead of writing 50, he wrote 49, which he said shouldn’t impact insurance or add points to my license. 

There was also men’s breakfast at my church, which I had only gone to once before because it’s at 8AM on Saturdays and my weekend World of Warcraft raid night ends at midnight Friday night. But I wanted to go, and I woke up feeling pretty good despite the fact that it was 7:15 on a Saturday and I ‘should’ be sleeping until 10. I went, and felt a lot less awkward than before. The fact that I wanted to go was remarkable. 

So over two weeks, my heart has been connected with my faith and my church much more. It’s interesting how when you engage with God through finances, how good things happen. I have more to report from today, so I will mention that in the next post. 

Something Helpful

I have been deeply discouraged all week, so I don’t have anything for you. But this guy does.

Don’t Call Me Broken

I’ve read through that post several times and it’s helped me.