Post for April 21, 2017

“How do I feel about how I spent this day?”

Currently, I feel perturbed how ego-centric this question is. Of course, I know that the world is not about me. My mind exists almost exclusively inside of my skull so that the thoughts and memories I have seem to have originated with me, the preferences and feelings I have seem to be only mine. But, every other person in existence is just as aware as me. So each moment, all of our consciences are being told by what is happening to them that this world is about them… us… me. But it isn’t. This world is about the Creator of this world who is much bigger than this world and whose ways are much grander than our ways.

So, should I continue asking myself this question, why or why not?

Here’s my thoughts: this question allows for reflection and externalizing. And in externalizing I process the feelings I have and put them forth for accountability, that is for external scrutiny, either for myself or for another. (Isn’t it crazy to think that the other reading this is simply a computer? How very different from a human would that be? What does it mean to image God? To be in the image of God?) Ultimately, although there is intrinsic risk in externalizing, because it is vulnerable and revealing, it is worth the risk because it is the means of self-examination which is pivotal in dodging self deceit.
On the other hand, maybe externalizing my feelings is placing to high a value on my feelings. Of course in a post-modern culture, we think with our feelings so I are really asking what do I think about the moral value of how I spent my day in light of my current convictions and beliefs, but even that may be placing to high a value on human thought. Because, “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25. It’s in there twice.

I just determined to write, “for now, all I have is reason…” and I was going to go on to say therefore I should continue to answer that question M-F as I am able. Before I could finish writing the sentence, I remember a critique brought against those of Baptist faith:
we are too committed to rational theology; we miss out on perceptive theology. If memory serves, it was in relationship to soteriology and our preference for formulations of salvation which in the critics mind was a shortcoming. I don’t think it is a short coming to be rational, because while I acknowledge that there is experiential non-rational trustworthy knowledge, it is not the normative form by which knowledge comes or is shared. Furthermore, checking experiences which lend themselves to the non-rational by examining their consistency with open minded rational thought is a good way to prevent fanaticism or blind faith.

So, just as I previously, determined… for now, all I have is reason (and all the non-rational experiences that make up my self-identity and history), so it is good to rest on it and record my feelings about each day in hopes of self-examination (and possible peer/accountability partner examination).

How do I feel about how I spent April 21, 2017?
Pretty good.

Post for April 17, 18, 19, and 20, 2017

“How do you feel about how you spent your day(s)?”

Pretty good. I had head cold/allergies (I struggle to tell the difference) and that was no fun. Hayley’s parents came to help us on the house and that was amazingly sweet of them. I worked a lot on homework and I have a lot still undone. I did get my car and Hayley’s car ready to drive around – the tags on our cars needed renewing and emissions needed testing. We worked at the church and I thought a lot about polity and theology and how I fit into church life. All-in-all, I spent the days in ways that were pretty good. One thing keenly lacking was investing time to work out. Maybe I will go tomorrow and work out, because I miss it.

Maybe investing time should often be about visiting things that’ve been missed. Maybe missing people and practices are good clues to misplaced priorities.

I heard a statement today lamenting a lack of confidence in theological knowledge. I feel pretty good about these past days.

Marriage advice I don’t follow

So, I have another sticky content and commentary for you. (Here‘s the other.) This one was written by me in the Summer of 2013, before I proposed to Hayley but as I was beginning to suspect I would want to. I asked myself, what techniques apart from good listening skills and practicing the five love languages should married people (specifically my future self) employ to develop a healthy relationship long term. In my infinite youthful wisdom here’s what I came up with:

Content:

Once a week we will do relationship building activities:

1 intimacy (4)
2 book time (7)
3 project time (5)
4 date night (6)
<5> future planning (3)
Commentary:

Weekly relationship building activities sound great on paper, but are hard to practice. The goal was to have “date night” where we didn’t do dates, but did intentional marriage care once a week. It seems like a slightly too high of tax on the individuals’ time, but a really well intentioned and sincere attempt to value a relationship and put in the effort to make it work.
So the numbers are the weeks in a month so the first four would happen every month and the last one would only happen four or five times a year. The parenthetical number is roughly the amount of hours that should be blocked off for this activity.
Still fresh to marriage, but with a little experience, I would recommend these as the schedule allows. So if you have kids and both work outside the home, maybe you can only get this time once a month; if you don’t have kids and/or one of you is a homemaker, maybe you can do this every week; I think every other week is probably the rate Hayley and I could commit to with no kids and both working outside the home. As for the time frame, I think those will vary by couple but are wise to consider since different types of intentional married couple practices take longer than others

Intimacy was kind of a catch all word describing a type of date night. This time was for  intentional and fostered intimacy between the two of you not being expressed with persons outside the marriage. So getting coffee wouldn’t count, going to a movie wouldn’t count, but reading each other’s journals would, being sexual would. I still think this is a good practice within a marriage and articulating it for what it is helps too. Something that conveys, “I only share this with you; I trust you with my vulnerabilities; I love you and want to see/feel/hear/know you for you.”

Book time was meant to provide space for us to meet and read a book on an idea one or both of us was troubled by. Alternatively, we could each bring book reports on what we had been reading lately and think together. The idea was that we would get on the same page or at least hear each other out as we are learning and growing and changing as intellectual individuals. I still think this is a great idea, but I’m less convinced it needs a formal time. Maybe if we were reading something together, a set aside time would be helpful, but if we’re only offering reports to each other, I think that can and should happen as we are reading. In fact, I think it could be harmful to convey that we only want to hear what each other is thinking on/reading about once a month. So, I would scratch this from the list.

Project time was tackling something that will go better if we’re both working on it. I really had in mind non-urgent home improvement tasks that require approval from both parties like choosing new furniture, shopping for a new appliance/car, reorganizing the living room, putting down new carpet/wallpaper, etc. This still seems like a great inclusion because it keeps the couple doing things together and it lets home improvement projects be put off without piling up. This habit can be useful for preventing impulse shopping or delayed maintenance – both of which are easy to fall into.

Date night was non-exclusive outings. So, going dancing together, hiking together, to see a movie, share a fancy meal at a restaurant, biking downtowns sporting event or concert etc. These occasions might also include another couple, but should mostly be just the two of you. I think this is a must to schedule in if it’s not happening organically. In my experience with Hayley, this has happened more than once a month, but I think that scheduling it in would allow for nicer/more intentional outings that could really nature our relationship. From older couples, this is the number two bit of advice I get, only behind praying for each other and your marriage.

Future planning is a time and space set apart to think about the future. This is not the review of the week or next couple days that happens before going to bed or over morning coffee or at lunch. Instead, it’s much further out in its scope of time. It might be revealing the results of introspection and plotting how to align your various long and mid ranged goals. Or it might be exploring the larger life options available as you freeform/brainstorm and get thoughts out together and process externally. The format will vary largely based on the individuals using this tool in their marriage and maybe at times it might be worth sharing this time/space with a trusted mentor or other couple that can listen and point out things that may otherwise be over looked.
If either individual finds himself/herself in a transitory season of life, this should probably happen monthly. Otherwise, once a quarter is probably sufficient.

A final tool that I did not list, but a few years into marriage I would no consider is marriage therapy/counseling/training. A season together with a trustworthy Christian counselor can really help to scan for problem spots and develop plans to address them. Just like a medical doctor might offer a physical examination, or a personal trainer might test strength, endurance, and flexibility in various areas, or a educator might test understanding of a subject matter, Marriage & Family Therapists and Psychologists are trained to test relationships. A few back-to-back weekly sessions once a year or two can really help to check in, recalibrate and clarify the strengths and weaknesses of a given relationship as well as develop an approach to bettering it.
So, if I was rewriting this sticky (and I am right here), I would say:

In addition to marriage counseling with a MFT or Psychologist each year or two, we will also set aide time between one and four times a month to intentionally practice a relationship building activity from this list (The order can vary, but no one activity should be neglected in any three month period):

1 intimacy
2 future planning
3 project time
4 date night

Today Brad asked me…

For 14 months now, I’ve had a sticky on my desktop with only the words of this post’s title showing and without opening the sticky, I was already aware of its content and quietly reminded of my answers each time I saw the unopened sticky. I want to share the contents and add some commentary.

First, a bit about Brad. He was one of my groomsmen at the time of my wedding in November of 2014. We had been friends since late high school early college and had been fairly intentional to keep in touch despite going to different high schools and different colleges. I’m not exactly sure what prompted the intentionality for both of us… for me it was probably the sincerity of our relationship that I appreciated so much. Because we lived in different cities and had very few overlapping friends, it was easy to trust the other and be brutally honest, because there was little at risk with regard to fallout. Also, we both seemed to have a genuine desire to see the other succeed. I would really like it if one day Brad read this and we reconnected as a result.
After I got married, we stayed fairly intentional in our relationship, video chatting once a month to reconnect and exchange ideas/encourage one another. We would often swap personal questions and give plenty of space for answers/clarifying questions until we ran out of time. Since then, we’ve both gone to graduate school and fallen out of the habit, but here was one of the questions that Brad asked and my answer that has stuck with me.

Content:

Today Brad asked me what I wanted to be true of me at 50 and I responded:

I want to be married
I want to be a Christian
I want be financially independent
I want to have journals
I want to be fit/in shape
I want to be a linguist
Commentary:

“Today” refers to February 8, 2016. I had just started going back to school part time in addition to working full time at Whirlpool. I was living in a beautiful 4-plex in Cleveland and life really made sense/matched my priorities well at the time.
Also, I was in my early twenties so “50” seemed a pretty far way away.

I still very much want to be married. I hope that death and/or divorce has not brought an end to the marriage that Hayley and I meant for good when we covenanted into. I hope that our marriage is also not just a formality, but rather still a reflection of Christ and the Church: vibrantly loving in sacrificial, faithful, unsexy ways, all-the-while interrupted by passion and sporadic adventures unique to the situation as together we strive to glorify God, spite the devil, and make the gospel of a risen Lord known.

I still want to be a Christian also. Something that was said to me recently with regard to religious truth statements is that we should not define ourselves by our opinions, because if we discover a better opinion, we may resist it on fear of loosing ourselves if it replaces our inferior current opinions. I think that’s a really wise sentiment, but also a bit naive. Of course, whichever beliefs we affirm for an extended period of time will truly alter who we are and become part of us in an acceptable fashion.
For example, I believe I am a man. This is an opinion that I accept that has altered who I am and how I interact with reality. If I come to conclude that I have been wrong ever since I first affirmed my masculinity, either affirming gender neutrality or femininity or an unforeseen option, I think I really will lose part of my past self as I reject my masculinity. Some of my experiences will have to be overcome/invalidated and put off as futile waste of time/life when I in my new enlightenment reject my masculinity.
With regard to Christianity (as with my masculinity), I hope I am right, that I am a Christian. Further, if ever I determine that I am not a Christian or that I was wrong to be a Christian and I must renounce my faith, then I will be giving up part of myself.
But unlike my masculinity, there are parts of the faith beyond my personal experience like the cornerstone of the faith celebrated on Easter: the resurrection of the person of Jesus from the dead. These tenants of the faith should be like the opinions picked up and put down on merit (the question of what merit ei. the source of an opinion’s value will have to be saved for a later time). And if it becomes clear that the key tenants of mere Christianity are no longer the most meritorious, I should cast them aside for their superior alternatives and with them, my identity as a Christian. So, it is a bit arrogant/bold of me to hope I am a Christian at 50, but it’s still true. I hope that my eyes between now and then are open to follow the evidence unto truth and that the evidence continues to point as I currently believe it does to affirming the external verifiable aspects of Christian faith.

I still want to be financially independent. I want to be early retired. I want to spend my days working towards that which I deem most worthy without personal concern for the financial repercussions. While there are those fortunate enough to find work that they love and aligns with the outpouring of their personhood (and I hope to be among their select number while I work towards financial independence), I do not want to place my stock in that always being true. I want to come to a place where I am not concerned for my employer’s capacity to compensate me in a way that meets the desired spending levels of the lifestyle of my family’s preference.

I still want to have journals or records of my thoughts. There’s a degree of fear I have using this web-log as a place for those because it is so accessible. But for the time being, I think this will be a suitable form of journal. Also, I think there will be great benefit in being able to search my past entries digitally/with a computer instead of by hand. And I think that feature combined with the possible benefit of sharing outweighs the downsides of being public.

I still want to be fit/in shape. Like the last two and unlike the first two, I’m not yet. But unlike the last two, I don’t see my efforts and behavior moving clearly in this direction the way they should be. I’m not sure why they aren’t/I am not… but they aren’t/I am not. Maybe its related to doing anything but hermeneutics.

I want to be a linguist less than I did 14 months ago when I told this to Brad, but I still think it would be really cool. So, while I’d rather be a jack-of-all-trades/renaissance man who only speaks English that a linguist with few skills, I’d be totally happy if languages besides English showed up in the skill set. Like fitness, I’m not pursuing this now. Unlike fitness, I’m really ok with that.

 

What do you think? Am I headed in a good direction? One that’s good for me but not for you? Maybe a bad direction? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Anything but hermeneutics

I’m embarrassed to be writing this post, but it’s better than the alternatives that aren’t the right choice.

I’ve been neglecting my hermeneutics assignments lately. In fact, the talk of hermeneutics assignments that are past due or will be due at the end of the week has reached the double digits: 10. And the right response in this moment set aside for me to do work is to start doing them. Do one and then another and then another and then another and so on. But, I am paralyzed by inactivity and the sheer volume of work that I cannot see out from. Of course, that’s ludicrous and all only in my mind, but it’s still there. Thus, the embarrassment.

The thing I’m now doing to pretend that I’m productive while putting off the very thing I need to do has become clearing my desktop/work space. Already tonight, I’ve completed my Greek for the week and done all but one of my integrative leadership assignments due this week. (I didn’t do the one that had multiple steps and seemed overwhelming. -Notice a theme?) I opted out of theology because the three assignments there seemed just as involved as the one for hermeneutics I’ve picked up and put down twice today.

Back to what I’m now doing: workspace/desktop clearing. I’m cleaning up my stickies which overpopulate my desktop. Lots of them I am saving to address at a later point on this blog, but I thought it might be fun to address them tonight while I’m doing anything but hermeneutics. “Then, (I lie to myself) when I get back to work in the morning, I’ll have such a clear workspace that I’ll get right to work and fly through the assignments before me!” Having bought into it for the time being, the next several posts are the result of those stickies.

Lent 2017 at the end

I had so much hope in my ability to do Lent well this year and looking forward I even have so anticipatory glow considering Lent for next year! Yet, in practice, I was really bad at Lent. I set the parameters of my fasting for the sake of reflection and repentance and somber contemplation and then I proceeded to cross those parameters over and over again, doing the things I did not want to do and not doing the things I wanted to do.

That seems largely a reflection of my two-heartedness. I want to serve the Lord, but I still want to sin. The old man has not left me even though the new man has come. I live in the flesh even though I have since been born in the spirit. So, I guess my first take away is that I am glad that Jesus imputes righteousness to me. Without Him, I would be rebellious, alien, far off, worthless… but with Him, I am converted, familiar, brought near, valuable.

My second take away is like the first: righteousness comes by grace at all times; never do I outgrow my need for grace, as if to say that I was saved by grace but am now sanctified by force of will. If there is anything good in me, it is Christ and Christ alone.

I’m glad for this season of Easter up until Pentecost in which I can celebrate the victory of my Lord in my life and the life of the church at large and the life of the world most broadly.

Post for Holy Week, 2017

It makes it sound a lot better when I use “Holy Week” in my title instead of “April 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14” or “April 10-14” – but they are the same thing. Overall, I’m not super proud or disappointed in the days that made up this week. I spent a lot of them trying desperately to catch up on homework and failing – there are still large swaths of work that I have left unaddressed in one of my more difficult courses. Hopefully, I can address it this week. Also, because it was Holy Week, there was a lot of work around the church that needed to get done. And despite not having Hayley’s parents in town, we did a substantial amount of work at the new house as well. Ultimately, Hayley is not excited about the caliber of work we have been doing and that kind of demoralizes me. I really was to be doing high quality work – or at least work of a caliber that she can be proud of.

I think it stems from the long stated desire of mine to have those that know me the best respect me the most. I want to respect myself more than Hayley does; I want Hayley to respect me more than Mitch, Josh, Tim, Devon, or Samantha; I want them to respect me more than Ron, Dave and Ange, Katie and Jason, Alex and Jennifer, Dalton and Holly, Zac and Kelli, Conor, Millie, Mike, or Caroline; And them more than my Sunday school class or extended family.

So, when Hayley is not proud of the work we are doing around the house it really gets to me because I attribute so much of value to performance and so much of being to doing. I’m not totally sure this is the healthiest/correct position as I’ve had many people -even some I deeply respect- suggest to me the opposite: that being is set apart from doing and value is intrinsic regardless of performance. All-the-same it’s my current position: who you are is manifested in what you do and value is a reflection of who/whose you are.

Anyway, that’s why the week has been not good and not bad. I’ve invested a lot of time in things that seem good, but I have not been met with a satisfactory measure of success.

I hope to be more faithful in writing to whomever reads these… I hope to me more faithful in writing for the sake of my sanity. Happy Easter.