Being Agile Means Being Courageous

LionFear is common in many workplaces. Theory X managers will often wield fear to try and whip their employees into shape, and motivate them to do the work they were hired to do. Threats of being written up, put on probation, fired, and subsequently losing your insurance, maybe your car or your house, not to mention your sense of identity and self-worth…

Fear is terrible. Fear stifles communication, prevents learning, inhibits innovation, and creates a work environment and workforce that is toxic and terrible.

A culture built on fear is not inherent in traditionally managed environments, nor are agile teams immune to the effects of fear. I think fear really comes from the top down, and any organization can have a bad leader.

What I like about agile is that it calls us out of fear, and if you’re doing it right, it encourages confronting those things that make us afraid and overcoming them.

Continue reading

I wish I had a niche

While out of town at a technology conference, I’ve been tweeting about the different sessions I’m attending using our work Twitter account. It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s been especially neat to connect online with others who are doing the same thing. Being focused on this subject has let me easily find others interested in the same things, and true social networks are quickly built as we share information and comment on the same content.

An online community and network (just in general) is something I’ve been wanting to take part in for years, but I don’t know how to do that within my context. The problem is one of specificity, and more to the point, that I have none. This blog has book reviews, fictional stories, comments on games, how-to articles about technology, long-winded essays about theological topics… If I were to focus solely on one of those, I could easily find a community to plug into. There is no techno-theological-writing-reading-reviewing community. SilverPen and my own interests are just too broad.

Or so I have always thought. After learning a bit more in the last week about the wonder of Google Alerts and setting up Twitter searches in Tweetdeck columns, I think I might be able to start branching out a bit socially. To use the analogy of the pool, I have been hesitant to dip my toes in because I’m not committed to any one topic. I assume that it won’t go anywhere and no one will be interested in connecting with me because I don’t go too deep into any one thing. Somewhat similarly, I’m a bit afraid that I will go too deep into one thing and lose my other interests. Just as writing for work has hurt my fiction writing (which was already painful to begin with), diving completely into theology at the exclusion of everything else would cause me to lose a lot of interests and pastimes that are valuable to me.

I think if I set up the tools well enough, though, I can quickly browse through these subjects and engage them and their communities in an efficient enough way to not burden me over much. I’m excited to start setting all this up tomorrow afternoon and throughout the rest of the weekend, so we’ll see.

Discovering my own fear of hugging

As I wrote this week’s series of posts about hugging, I realized that I have fallen back into that trap of fear and let it keep me from reaching out to others. I have withdrawn physically, afraid to bless others and afraid to let them reach out to me. This is most evident at our church, where I have yet to have any sort of physical contact with most anyone.

We’re still kind of new to the church (though now that I think about it, we’ve been there at least six months), but I feel like we have quickly been drawn into the core of the community, and for this I am truly grateful. We are regularly invited to social events, people greet us on Sunday morning, and we have hosted a number of different dinners and other gatherings at our home. We like the people and they seem to like us. Despite that, I have remained reserved.

I’m afraid of being inappropriate, of people misinterpreting my desire for physical contact, and of being rejected. Regardless, my fear undermines my relationships there, and I always feel as if there is this chasm between me and others, across which I am afraid to reach. I don’t feel like I have truly joined the community yet because of this fear.

I am the sort who confronts his fears, though, so I am going to do my best to rectify this. I want to be more open with people and to encourage them to be open with me. I want to dispel this fear, and to make sure nothing stands in the way of open and honest relationships between me and this family of believers. I want to remove the hypocrisy I see in my life and actions.

If there is anywhere I can be honest and vulnerable, it should be at church. Physical contact is hugely important for me, and avoiding it is like a poison within my spirit. I can’t keep sabotaging myself this way.

So, if I hug you on Sunday, you’ll know why. Feel free to come up and hug me too. And if you’re curious what this is all about, I encourage you to check out the beginning of this series and read through to find out where I’m coming from. Hugging is too important to be afraid of, or to leave undone. It is about time I take my own advice and just get over myself.

Lighting a Signal Fire

Halfway through my vacation, Eric lent me the concluding two novels to the Sword of Truth series. I always enjoy epic fantasy fiction novels because I can escape to a world of adventure where good outwits evil and the shadow falls. I get caught up in these stories and find myself wishing for an epic of my own, to be a hero in a story.

At the same time, I curse my repetitive foolishness. Not many people are left who knew me when I was younger, or are familiar with the details of my youth, but “adventurous” is a good way to describe it. Adventures aren’t generally fun–they’re sleepless nights, constant threats, and always filled with uncertainty. And yet, my peaceful life for the last several years (since I came to college in 2003) leaves me wanting something more. I don’t know why–I know it’s stupid to want those adventures back–but part of me yearns to be part of something bigger than myself despite the consequences.

The worst part of this ambivalence is that God is clearly calling me to something other than what I’m doing right now. As I sat on the plane somewhere over the Rocky Mountains, I whispered mentally that I wished I had something to do, something to fight, and God replied, “You do, if you would just do it.”

For the last year or two now, I have been hearing God calling me back to a fight I left off when I became Christian. Prior to my salvation, I tried to do good things, though I was doing them the wrong way. I was relying on myself rather than God, and subsequently my best efforts turned to ash. They were twisted and tainted by Satan. When I accepted Jesus into my life, he told me quite clearly that I had to leave that life, and that fight, behind. I was to trust in him now, and he would take care of me.

The fight to which I keep referring obliquely, because I can’t find a simple, non-dramatic, and yet evocative and honest way to refer to it, is a fight against the devil, evil spirits, and demonic forces. In our society, even acknowledging the existence of demons causes many to question a person’s sanity. A claim that one is, or has been, involved with fighting them is cause for even greater concern. Such a claim stems from either madness or delusions of grandeur.

I don’t really like it any more than anyone else does, but before I was Christian it was one of the things I did. There were demons, and vampires, ((Vampires are absolutely nothing like what most people think–I’ll be writing about them at some point)) poltergeists and spirits, ((I’ve begun to think of these as kami to help explain them)) and I could see and interact with them. I could harness, fend off, or help them. There wasn’t a whole lot of soul-searching or thought involved with the matter, just as we don’t have to think much about walking or talking. It took a bit of cognizance, but became a part of who I was.

Things aren’t so simple when you’re Christian. Relying on God is a lot harder than relying on yourself, and my methods are useless now that I’m not a witch. A Christian has to go about everything completely differently. And at least in the US, it feels like there’s a lot of social stigma to even considering this matter, let alone actually engaging in spiritual warfare. It’s uncomfortable to write and talk about, so I found myself pulled between three different things.

  1. God is now calling me to engage in spiritual warfare and fight against the demons, devils, and other spiritual beings that struggle against the Kingdom of God.
  2. I’m not entirely sure how to do this, and I’m not entirely certain I even should be. This despite the fact that God has been pretty clear that I should be… so what is it within me that resists? In addition, I can’t help but feel that I’m not good enough for this task, or to be serving God in this way. I am not free of sin, and I’m not that strong. I don’t memorize the Bible, and I’m not picture-perfect. Who am I to do this?
  3. I worry about the social stigma. This isn’t something that can be done in secret–rather, we are called to practice our faith openly–if for no other reason than that I need guidance and support. But I have a regular job working with computers at a university and a decent amount of friends who don’t believe in any of this, both Christians and non-Christians alike. Despite everything, it’s hard to not worry about what others will think.

At the end of it all, though, I do know a fair amount. I fought a number of demons before I became Christian and I have encountered several more in the last couple of years since I started opening myself to the world again. For years I kept my spiritual ears and eyes closed to that world, fearing what God was calling me to, but my spiritual gifting is in discernment. Closing myself to the negative spiritual aspects in this world closes me off, at least somewhat, to the positive as well. God can only do so much in my life when I’ve got my fingers in my ears and I’m screaming la la la.

Three weeks ago at church, I felt a darkness begin to fill the sanctuary, pressing in on us. Closing my eyes, I opened myself to the Holy Spirit and commanded the darkness begone, stating that we would not be closed in, we would not be oppressed and smothered. The Spirit slammed into me and out through the sanctuary, through the area downtown where our church was, and throughout the entire city. On that day when I was in the Spirit of the Lord, I could see everything in Springfield, in regards to the spiritual realm.

When I was a witch, it was relatively easy to slip into the weave, the flow of magic that blankets, permeates, fills and is the entire world. These days, I don’t know whether to still call that magic or whether to rightly think of it as the Holy Spirit, but that was my understanding of it at the time. When I was joined with the magic in that way, I could sense and feel everything, travel the world over with ease, and impose my will with great power.

Joining with the Holy Spirit is a very similar experience, and yet infinitely more pure and… good. With God guiding and instructing, pouring into me and overflowing me with goodness, I was at peace. The darkness fled before his light. That’s how it is supposed to be.

It was like God was saying, “You can do this. You are the one ((Though not necessarily the only one, by any means–just one among many)) I want to do this. You must do this.”

Two weeks ago in church, a young man came in late and walked directly to the first row of chairs, sitting in the seat nearest the aisle. As he walked past me, I felt a disturbance. Not like the hairs raising on the back of my neck, but more just like a red flag going up, or a feeling of tightening in my gut. There was a demon influencing him, twisting him, and I immediately began looking for ways to tackle and subdue him if it became necessary. With my broken collarbone, I was nervous and worried, but I’d do what needed be done if the time came.

This young man soon raised his hand and interrupted the pastor. Speaking loudly, the man denounced the pastor’s teaching, having it completely backwards and confused, ((Joel had heard/understood the opposite of what the pastor was saying and shouted that the temple of God must be kept pure and holy and free from such sinful teachings.)) and refused to be placated when the pastor addressed him by name (Joel) and said they could talk about it later.

An elder from the church came and pleaded with Joel to step outside, eventually convincing him to leave. Worried for the elder’s safety (though what I’d be able to do, I’m still not sure), I followed them out and watched them from a distance. They had left the building, but Joel soon returned with the elder trailing him, not laying a hand on him but telling him firmly not to go back into the sanctuary.

Joel kept repeating that he couldn’t let the church be pulled down this way, couldn’t let it be fouled, and I asked Joel if he’d sit down and explain it all to me. What was it that was upsetting him? What did he perceive was incorrect with Tim’s sermon?

The demon itself had fled as soon as Joel raised his hand to interrupt the pastor earlier, but its influence was clearly the work of years worth of manipulation. Joel seemed to calm a bit, and eventually went into the sanctuary (interrupting the sermon again, from the back this time) to apologize for the interruption and bless everyone there before he left the building for good.

It turns out the elder was Joel’s father, and Joel’s brother was there as well. Joel’s father thanked me for my help and commented that I had a gift to calm him down as I had, and he was very impressed with me. I replied (awkwardly with a bit of stammering),

“I hope you won’t take offense at this, but that boy is being oppressed by a devil.”

“You’re right,” his father replied with a weary smile. “We’ve come close to it a few times, in fact. You’re very perceptive to have picked up on that.”

When everyone had returned to the sanctuary, I went to wash my hands and, at the same time, blessed some water and sprinkled the area. I then went to my knees in front of the door and prayed forcefully.

“I am your enemy now, demon. Know that I will be coming for you.”

It was time to light a signal fire. I knew what I had been called to–had known it for years–but surely I wasn’t the only one. When I was a young witch, manipulating the wind and the weather across an entire continent, I assumed I was the only one with such powers in the world. It was a delight to learn I was wrong, that there were others just like me and that I was not so alone as I thought. Surely, within Christianity, there must be others, so I want to find them. I want to meet them.

Christianity is not a faith of hermitude and solitariness. We are called to join in a community of believers, and that’s what I want. At the end of the church service I went up to the front to pray, as everyone is invited to do. To the two gentlemen who came up to pray with me, I said,

“I don’t know what God wants us to pray, but this is what’s going on.”

I told them about how God had been calling me for years, and about my gifting in discernment. I shared the increased pressure and certainty of the previous few weeks, and how I felt like the time had come to step out and do something. I expressed my concern in regards to stigmatization in addition to my worry for my wife, April. When you set yourself against evil as I intended to do, evil fights back, and there’s not really any way to keep her out of the fight.

We prayed then, for strength and humility, for wisdom and patience, and out of thanks for the opportunities God gives us. I am blessed that Vineyard is a church accepting of the Gifts.

Suffice it to say that I’m pretty nervous about lighting this signal fire. While it may call allies, it will certainly also mark your position to enemies, and I’m not all that excited about putting myself out there again. At the same time, God has called me, and I feel an obligation to do something. I can see things others can’t, and I know how to fight. How can I keep hiding when people need help?

At least this time I won’t be so alone. I have Jesus fighting with me, and whatever else happens, nothing can take me from him.

Romans 8:37-39

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This post is a first step. I want to let people know my intentions and invite them to talk with me, ask questions, or join in on this work. It’s not for everyone–we are all called to different things and God has gifted us for different purposes–so if spiritual warfare isn’t your gig, that’s fine. The body is diverse for a reason.

A big focus of this blog in the future, and of my life and time, is going to be dealing with spiritual warfare. Most of what there is on the ‘Net on the topic is ambiguous at best and oftentimes completely misinformed or founded upon ignorance. I don’t have much to contribute, but I want to write what I can to help others who are working towards the same goals as I am.

Please be praying for April and me, and for our church. Blessed be ((These two words always amuse me because a common exclamation or means of saying goodbye for Wiccans is to say, “Blessed Be.” I always wonder if it’s just coincedence.)) the name of the Lord.

Transition from Transparency

This post is part of an ongoing series exploring why I blog and my values concerning both writing and my personal life.

I had originally intended to write about how I value transparency, and how my blog helps keep me humble because I put everything out there for all the world to see. How I write (or used to, anyways) about my faults and failures, about my weaknesses, and about my degenerate childhood to serve as both an example and a warning.

This is in contrast to when I was younger, before I became Christian and when I had several different masks I wore depending on where I was. No one truly knew who or what I was, least of all me, and I subsequently developed a tightly wound ball of neuroses that made healing and growing next to impossible.

On top of the lack of self-understanding, my fear of abandonment (stemming from a workaholic mother and a distant father) had led me to assume that if anyone knew the real me, they would turn away. That if I let anything slip about myself, or if someone found out what I had done or what I was, that I would lose what little companionship I had managed to garner. I hid out of fear.

When I first saw that people (Christians, notably) forgave me for my past sins… no, that sentence is not quite true. They didn’t forgive me, they just didn’t think about it. As Christians began to learn more about me and my past, it was a complete non-issue, and that was a huge relief to me. There was no drama: I’d screwed up, it was in the past, and we were different now. It was like being reborn with every truth I let fall from my lips.

Being brutally honest, wearing my heart on my sleeve as it were, was the only way I knew to excise those fears, doubts, and masks, so I committed to always be transparent. To not censor myself, and to not hide behind another mask. And this translated into my writing and blogging (beginning my freshman year of college), where I forced myself to be public with my private-most thoughts and concerns. To be honest, lest I fall back into that trap of fear and self-loathing. Blogging transparently, and living honestly, helped me break free of those fears.

Now, however, my writing is transitioning from that stage. I write less about myself personally and more about technology, the world around me, and interacting with that world. I censor both my blog and my social networking accounts (such as Twitter), not sharing certain thoughts or words, for fear of offending or alienating.

While this leaves me a little unsettled due to my previous commitment, I am comforted by knowing that I now have personal relationships, rather than the impersonal eye of the Internet, to keep me accountable and honest. I have friends who I know I can trust, and while my blog is less transparent than before, my friendships are far more honest than they ever were.

Of course, that means there are more arguments, more heated debates, and a few more apologies, but from these are friendships forged, as far as I’m concerned. If we cannot fight, trusting that the other will not walk out, then there is no real friendship there.

I am glad to have friends I can trust well enough to be transparent with, and equally glad that I need not put every detail on my blog just to keep myself honest. My blog entries from years past are nearly incoherent piles of worthless prattle, and not worth being read by anyone. By transitioning to writing about something other than myself, I am able to communicate something worth reading. I am free to give something to the World Wide Web that might help others, rather than pouring out my heart to only help myself.

A Flower Among the Mud

One purple flower…
        Or maybe it is fuchsia, or lavender
        Or that seventh colour, what is it?
        It is the one we’re never sure of;
        The last upon the spectrum.
It is all that remains.
A hemmed in lake of muddy dirt;
Not even the rich, black kind.
This lonely flower blooming in
Everyday muck.

Maybe it’s my romantic nature
Or a last ditch effort at
But I think that flower of
Negotiable colour
Has value.
I admire its tenacious grasp
And its oft unseen petals
Fluttering in this bitter wind.
I admire its courage to bloom,
So unlike us.


They don’t know what pain I drown.
They don’t, dammit, and I’d like
To see them live my life
And never touch a single drop.
Each drink a brother to the
Needle I hold each day;
Each drop a sister coming to soothe
My mind.
They wouldn’t last without it.

I always said I wouldn’t touch it either.
I didn’t want to be like him, I said.
It was wrong, I said… but what did I
Really know? Not pain, not pain.
I’ll forget. Just one more drink
And maybe it will all pass
Away. Just one more pack
And maybe it’ll hurt no more.
Just one more night and they’ll
All come back.
Just one more.

Scotch on the Rocks

I would cower if I could stop,
But my pursuer haunts my steps.
I would die if I could choose
And escape this existence.
This never ending struggle,
This never ending chase,
I’d end it all, I’d give up life
If I didn’t have to face
My fear.

It’s clutching me inside; what did that wise man say?
That all I feared was fear itself?
Well it has come to stay.
I can’t let go, I can’t escape-
Afraid to even just cry out-
And so I run, for evermore
In this life without a doubt.
Don’t doubt what comes, don’t doubt what’s gone,
I’ve seen it all before.
I’ll run until I can’t go on,
And then I’ll run some more.
This is my choice, this is my fate,
This is my poison picked.
I’ll burn it all to run away,
And drown to just forget.

Eight Years Old

The man on the news said there was a string of fires,
as if a dragon from the Chinese New Year
was trotting across our town
and homes burst in its wake. But here,
with the blanket and the darkness,
I’m not sure. It might be coming but
if I don’t look, maybe not. Maybe
I’ll run if we burn. If it all goes,
I’ll run to Washington and ask
the president to adopt me. He’s
got to, because he’s the president and
they have to do the right thing.