Heading to San Francisco for a couple of days

I’m still continually surprised by the life I lead. It’s so awesome, and I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve this beautiful house, or April, or our friends, or my awesome job, etc. etc.

God is good. April and I sat in the front room yesterday morning and just looked out the window at the birds for a while, enjoying the peace and each other’s company, and I want to hold onto that memory forever.

I’m heading to SF to spend a day with our CEO, the head of products (my boss), and the head of product marketing to talk about Adaptavist Learn and plan our next steps.

In other news, I’m down to 200 even.

  • Starting weight: 240
  • Goal weight: 190
  • Current weight: 200.6

For those keeping score, my weight loss has slowed down; that’s only 3 pounds in the last 2 weeks. Now that I’m normal weight, I keep eating non-keto stuff 1-2 times a week, which breaks keto and slows my weight loss. But I feel tons better already, and I still anticipate hitting my goal weight this spring. If I wasn’t going to SF today, I suspect I’d be at 199 by Wednesday. As it is, I’ll probably eat Chinese food and other stuff that will spike me back up and it’ll be another 1-2 weeks.

Oh, one last thing I want to write down so I remember it: last week I volunteered at Campbell Elementary for a STEAM night (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math). Kids came and there were 5 rooms with different activities, plus free food for them and their families. Campbell doesn’t have a PTA, so a few area churches have pitched in to fill the role that parents might at other schools.

I don’t know why I was surprised by this, but I was surprised by how nice the teachers were. I guess you have to be pretty nice to survive as an elementary school teacher, but for some reason, my mental image of a teacher is: exhausted, burned out, cynical, bitter. I wonder where that comes from? It certainly wasn’t evident at Campell. I didn’t really do much (signed people in at the front door), but I was happy to contribute and I hope I get another opportunity to volunteer there in the future.

Edit: Oh, also, for future-me, this is the week you got a Helix mattress and it’s going pretty OK. It’s comfy but still kind of smells weird. I think we made the right choice getting it.

God found my key

When I got to work yesterday, I discovered the key to my office was missing. I distinctly remembered putting it in my pocket, and I know I had transferred it from that pocket to my coat pocket, yet it wasn’t there. It must have fallen out at home, I reasoned, probably when I was taking something else from the pocket, so while I was embarrassed and frustrated, I wasn’t terribly worried. I knew I’d find it.

April couldn’t, though, despite looking on my behalf. And when I got home, it was in neither the office nor the bedroom. It wasn’t in the kitchen, where I had transferred the key to my coat, and it wasn’t in the stairwell or outside the back door where I had removed my other keys from the pocket to lock the door. With the rear floodlights on and a flashlight in hand, I walked to our rear gate and searched to no avail. I had also combed the yard, and as I began walking back to the door, I did so again.

Nearly there, I kicked something. It might have been a stick, but I knew immediately that it was my key, which I had stepped over with the first foot and yet somehow kicked with the second. Thank you God, I thought quite honestly. Even when I looked, knowing it was there, I didn’t see it, and it wasn’t until after a bit of sifting that the key turned up.

In ways large and small, God continually blesses me. Thank you, God, for finding my key and making today far easier (mentally and emotionally, at least) than yesterday.

If God is Good… what’s that mean?

Jonny made an excellent point in reply to my last post:

To borrow from Christian Platonists, God is Good in the sense that God = Good. We call other things good for the ways in which they are like God. We do not call God good because He is like something else.

Right, this makes sense. I continue to hold firm to the phrase, “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.” I’ve heard it uttered in both Baptist and Catholic churches, and everywhere in between, and I find truth in it. It is uncompromising and hopeful. God is Good.

So what is “Good?” What does that mean? Extending from my last post, my first thought was that our definition of Good is probably incorrect. I’d like to recognize that Christians, at least some, make an honest effort to align their definition of Good with their concept of God, thereby equating the two, but as a knee-jerk interpretation of the word Good, I doubt we really do that all that often. Jonny states that D&D’s definition of Good is “altruism,” and that this is incorrect when compared to reality, ((He also states that D&D’s definition of “Holy” is shallow, in that all it means is that it does 2d6 damage to evil. I’d dispute that–the reason Holy does 2d6 damage to Evil is because Evil can’t stand the touch of something set aside for and consecrated by deity. It is anathema to them. The damage is just the result.)) but as I look at how a lot of people live their lives with God, I don’t see too many contradicting that view.

Can we say that we do not believe that God is altruistic? I’m not really comfortable with the word “we” in the last sentence, because I’m questioning it a bit, but let’s roll with it. One of the things I was getting at in my last post is that a lot of people in the Church seem to think that God’s purpose is to serve them, or at best to serve humanity. I get that we should ask for God’s help, God’s healing, God’s blessing, etc… but do we recognize the purpose behind God’s actions? If God heals someone, does anyone else wonder why?

It took me a bit to reach this thought, but Adam’s reply gets at what I’m going for. Essentially, I’m calling into question our definition of Good. I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely certain who I mean by “our” in that sentence. Partially, I mean humanity in general, but I loathe over-generalization and that’s too far for me. If I narrow it to the Church, that’s still too overgeneralized, though I don’t consider my question irrational in that context. Let’s just say, a lot of the Christians I’ve met seem to have this definition of good: kind, compassionate, altruistic, humble, forgiving, honorable, and honest. They equate Good with Jesus, who washed the feet of His disciples, and so we assume that God will always wash our feet no matter where we tread.

I agree that God is Good, but I don’t think God’s definition of Good and our definition is the same. I think our definition is the list of words I put above. I’m beginning to think that God’s definition is closer to that of Lawful Neutral. So in turn, what humanity considers Lawful Neutral, God considers Good.

Part of the problem, it occurs to me now, is English. After studying a couple other languages, I’m pretty unsatisfied with ours: it’s too limited, with too few words that mean too many things. “Good” can mean a ridiculously broad number of things. Same as “Love” and, apparently, “Companion.” ((By which I mean Eve, who was created for Adam–the English translation of this word is nowhere near its original meaning.)) In my head, I’ve got at least 2 different definitions of Good going, one being “God,” in the sense that Jonny related the definition as God = Good and Good = God. The other is my own thoughts in regards to God’s alignment, that being Lawful Neutral, so if God is LN, and God is Good, that means that our original definition of Good is incorrect and we ought to bring ours more in line with the traditional definition of Lawful Neutral.

Which means that Good isn’t necessarily a humble, all-forgiving, altruistic servant, but is instead a fair, honorable judge, upholding a moral code. There’s a part of me that is revolted by this thought, as a positron revolts an electron. I wasn’t raised in the Church, and fantasy fiction had more to do with my moral upbringing than anything else, but the definition of Good as I related it above (kind, compassionate, altruistic, etc.) is deeply ingrained in me–to defy it and consider something else to be Good is difficult. Yet the phrase, “Does not hesitate to protect the innocent” keeps going through my head, and I look at this world, and I don’t see it. I don’t see our Protestant American definition of Good in this world, and I can’t find a reason for God to not impose that Good if, indeed, God is Good (by the definition of protecting innocents, altruism, etc.).

Here’s how my logic works, then: I know that God is Good. Since God is Good, God would do Good things. My knee-jerk, gut definition of Good would require God to do things that he is not, in all actuality, doing. Therefore, I can only logically reach one of two conclusions: either God isn’t Good, or my definition of Good is incorrect. I have already stated that I know that God is Good, but I am less confident in my definition of what Good is. Therefore, my definition must be incorrect.

If my definition is incorrect, I must find a new definition of Good. And thus far, the concept of Lawful Neutral seems to fit the bill.

Oh yeah, it’s time to give thanks

It’s Thanksgiving here in the United States of America, so I kind of feel like I ought to write something about it. But I don’t really have much to say.

Everything we have is from God. Our jobs, our house, our education, the money in our bank account, the clothes we wear, the bed we sleep in. The food we eat and the water we drink is from God. The car in our garage, the grass in the front lawn, and the light shining from the stars are all gifts.

Every breath is a gift.

There is no way to list everything I am thankful for, but for today I am glad we were able to visit my aunt and uncle, to spend Thanksgiving with them, and to play three hours of poker where I managed to break even.

Not terribly thankful about forgetting my stainless steel coffee mug there, but I guess the bitterness casts the sweetness into even greater effect.

Oh, and I’m also thankful for pecan pie. That was the best freaking pecan pie I have ever had. It was apparently made by some Amish people from whom they bought it.

Anyways, yay Jesus, and thanks!

Dropping Out

It may take me another 2+ years to graduate from college.

I’ve been a bit frustrated for years now. Though doing things I enjoy, I feel like my life and passions have been on hold so I can do the responsible thing. I want to finish what I start, and I want to help people, and I want to do it right. I basically put college on hold for two years to co-lead FnC–I couldn’t take upper-level classes at the time because I didn’t have enough time for more intense study or research. Then I got a full time job so I could afford to get married and subsequently start a family. Throughout it all, I’ve tried to balance school with the goal of getting a degree, and all along the way my writing has been on the back burner. It was what I ultimately wanted to focus on, but these other necessities took precedence.

Now I’m trying to finish my degree so I can move on and do what I want. I thought I just had another semester and a half, another seven months, and then I’d be done. I’d have a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies with a minor in Creative Writing at the end of Spring 2010.

I was a double major (RS and CW), but today I dropped my second major down to a minor so I could graduate sooner. At the same time, I really examined my degree audit. For years, I’ve scheduled classes based on the general education and major/minor requirements, making sure I met each one. I took every night class I could that met those requirements because my work really doesn’t like me taking day classes. Since there are no night classes left to take, I began my last four courses before completing my degree, taking them during the day.

But it looks like I don’t just need four more courses. There’s a subsection on my degree audit I missed that states “40 hours upper-division credits required.” I have eighteen, with three more currently in progress. I need nineteen more.

I’ll get six next semester with my last 500-levels. That leaves me still needing thirteen. At six hours a semester, that’s three semesters. Conversely, I could try to take nine hours during one semester (on top of 40 hours of work), but most 300-levels that would satisfy this requirement aren’t offered at night at Missouri State and I don’t think my work would be quite that flexible.

What’s worse, I have no classes left to take that actually matter. They would have to be absolutely random, unrelated 300-level classes.

The thought of being in school for another two years is devastating, primarily because I just don’t think I can do it. I have been in school for so long, and I’ve been wanting to finish something for so long, that the thought of not finishing is heartbreaking. And yet, I can’t see myself putting my true desires on hold for another two years just to get a piece of paper that doesn’t matter.

I have three desires in my life.

  1. Be a father.
  2. Write.
  3. Serve God (which I think will involve learning about and teaching spiritual warfare).

Number 1 is waiting until April’s education is complete and we pay everything off–we can’t afford to have kids until then. I’ve put number 2 on hold for years because there was always something else to do first. And while I’m trying to do number 3 more, it’s hard when I have to work 9-10 hour days because of work+class and then do homework (reading and essays) in the evening.

What does getting a degree do to advance those priorities? After next semester, I will have already taken every class required to get a BA in Religious Studies, I just haven’t taken enough “upper division” classes. I won’t be furthering my education by taking another five classes, I’ll just be paying the University more money and time to give me a piece of paper that doesn’t go towards advancing my priorities.

I have been in school for twenty years at this point. And it has been inarguably valuable. But do I really need to do more?

I do not want to be defined by a college degree.I want to be defined by what I do with my life, and perhaps that’s where my desire for completion comes. I lack definition, and getting a degree would have given me something while also marking the transition to pursuing my passions. So I could spend another two years in college to get a degree that gives me a label, or I can actually do something. I could write the book of poetry I dreamed up in the shower this morning, and return to my scifi novel, and actually finish a fantasy fiction short story. I can start experimenting and learning how to live and write about it. I could take up photography.

In a sense, I don’t want the sense of accomplishment that comes from getting the BA, because I don’t feel it is justified. What does that piece of paper prove? That I stuck it out? That I delayed my life another 1.5 years?

How much longer do I have do walk on this treadmill?

I have been looking forward to the end of next semester for years. Looking forward to finally having time to write, to being more involved with the church, to starting attending a small group again, and to figuring out how to live.

What is there besides school? I’ve been in school since I was four years old–I have no experience outside of it–and I wonder what’s out there. What else could I be doing? What would life be like?

I could live, instead of just waiting to live.

I’m not doing anything. I go, I do enough to get the grade, and I wait for them to hand me a piece of paper. Is this what life is supposed to be?

I’m going to meet with my advisor tomorrow to see what she says, but I doubt there’s any way around this 40-hour rule. And if it comes to that, is there any point in pushing myself through another two years?

And for those who are inevitably going to post, “Get your degree! It’s so worth it!” please, tell me why. Why is it worth it? Note that I already have a secure, full time job paying a good amount more than average for Springfield, and I’ve already learned everything the degree is intended to confer. Note that a degree in religious studies has no direct application to anything I want to do. I don’t intend, nor do I foresee, going on to graduate level studies, and if I did enroll for a graduate degree then I think it would have to be as a full-time student, not someone trying to do it while working full time (and if that were the case, I could finish up my undergrad in a semester or two). Note the above priorities.

I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if I were really engaged with what I feel God is calling me to. I can’t see any reason to delay any longer.

What is happiness, peace, and fulfillment worth? Would a degree make me happy? Would I be happy if I let that goal go? I don’t know… I really don’t. Like I said, the thought of not finishing the degree–my thoughts going round and round for the last five hours–are stunning. It’s hard for me to accept the thought of not finishing. But the thought of going for another two years, for having been in college for nine years to get a degree to hang on the wall, and for no other purpose, is even harder to accept.

I’m going to brush my teeth and go to bed. God, be with me. Help this all make sense.

Powerwashing Away Sin

For weeks now I have been getting steadily more depressed. Between the constant pain, my inability to write at length, and my continual focus on my continual failure, I was falling further and further away from God. I felt like there was a barrier between me and him, and my life had become one of waking, going to work, coming home, watching anime, and sleeping. I ate, I read, and I did my best to just make it through.

That is not the sort of life I want to lead.

One night recently I decided to go to bed early and pray. I needed help and I needed freedom, for I felt chained down and constricted. I could no longer hear God’s voice, and my steps had faltered and fallen still.

God, I want to do what you want me to, but I can’t hear you. I feel like something is blocking me, something is preventing me from reaching you, and I’m not strong enough to break through on my own. I need you to reach through and tear this apart God, to come and find me.

I wanted God to fix me, but I felt like this was something he wanted me to do myself. I couldn’t hear him directly, but the sense I received was that he had already given me the strength I needed.

I tried to bring discernment to bear to figure out what was wrong with me, but I could see nothing but darkness. Recalling a vision from God in the past, I tried to draw the light of the Holy Spirit from her temple in my heart, but I made no headway.

I had once seen my spiritual heart as being covered in diseased sin, but that sin separated and held apart from my healed heart by a flaming sword, that is by God. I tried to draw that flame out to cut through the cloying darkness that weighed me down, but I couldn’t. I felt no response.

Then I remembered the day I entered into God’s salvation. While praying at that church, with several elders from the church praying over me, I begged Jesus to let me know he was there. That he had accepted me. That I was forgiven. Over and over, Jesus, let me know you’re here. Jesus, let me know you’re here. Jesus, let me know you’re here… and then he spoke.

I am here.

On the day of my salvation, I felt a mighty wave wash over me, like a deep blue ocean sweeping through my soul, and all the darkness, sin, failure, and weakness was cleaned from my being. I thought back to that day and pictured water rushing from God’s temple, that is my heart, and washing away the darkness, bursting the bonds that held me and lifting my body away from sin.

The pain was such that my back arched involuntarily, for the darkness had been both confining and protective. My nerves had deadened and scarred, and this wave exposed them to air and light once again. Even as it was pushed away, that heavy sin struggled to settle back, but I felt God’s encouragement. Pushing unrelenting, it was rinsed away, yet I felt it continue to seep out of a spot near my navel in a manner I hadn’t experienced before.

I reached two conclusions. First, that this cocoon that had come to envelop my spirit was not entirely the result of my own doldrums, but had been helped along by minions of Satan, and it was partly them I had to fight. Second, however, I realized that this darkness would return if I fell back to inactivity, and it highlighted the importance of daily prayer, immersion in the Word, and pressing into God.

The area of the navel represents birth, for it is the scar that was once connected to an umbilical cord, and the inheritance of humanity which is sin. Daily confession and prayer will wash the wound clean, but it must be a regular discipline. While we may have been saved by God, we will fall into sin if we do not press into him, and the darkness that consumes us will prevent us from living the life to which he has called us.

I forced the water down into my navel, cleaning out my detestable spirit, and welcomed God in anew. I could once again hear his voice, feel his presence, and we spoke affably. Despite my sins, he remained my father, and we were reunited with joy. He had never left, always remaining near, but I could not see or hear him. Now all was right.

I asked him to stay until I fell asleep, and he assured me that he would be there even while I slept. This is a lesson I must remember, that our natural inclinations towards sin will ruin us if we are not alert and active. Daily prayer will help wash us clean and keep us healthy, without which we will fall into lethargy and depression.

Why I Hate Special Music

We were leaving the Vineyard last Sunday and it hit me: there had been no “special music.” There had not, in fact, been special music any Sunday we’d been there, and I hadn’t missed it at all. Truth be told, it was wonderful.

“Special Music” is that awkward point in the church service where you aren’t actively worshiping or learning, and everyone sits down so they can hear someone or a small group of people (or the whole choir, whatever) sing for a while. It’s generally passive, unless your church is the sort that claps along, and it is not uncommon for this to come during the time of putting-money-int0-a-plate/basket.

Because I love worship, singing, and music (and though I use those three words consecutively, I do not mean to imply that they are synonymous), I always hate times of special music. It feels like I’ve been told to sit down and shut up, to stop worshiping, and to enjoy the concert they’re putting on.

I get that the person(s) involved in the special music aren’t generally that vainglorious, but I do question whether such times are edifying to the church body. Recognizing that we all worship somewhat differently, I think participatory worship is, at the least, the way to go. And though special music is often a bit of a stretch from our usual worship fare, I have never seen any reason that the congregation can’t be participating in it.

Why shouldn’t we be stretched in worship? Why shouldn’t we be pushed beyond the normal songs we sing or know? Why should participation be discouraged as we’re all told to sit down and listen? I’d rather stand, sing, stamp my feet and raise my hands, and worship the Lord.

After all, He’s the reason I’m here, not the music or the singer.