Friday, August 30, 2013

You Don't Seem to Be Taking This Very Seriously...

It's no secret that people's opinions of me are all over the map.  Some people find me interesting, exciting, funny, and a joy to have around...whereas others consider me annoying, stupid, a weirdo, or something along those lines.  True, some of my former classmates didn't like me because of who I used to be; we were all immature during those days, and did plenty of things we now wish we never did.  Still, despite the number of people I would call "good friends," I also have right many former friends, some of whom I have no idea what I did to offend or upset them.

You've probably heard the expression, "It's a free country!" People, especially kids, use that as an excuse to do whatever they want, when they want.  Though the Constitution--and God--gives us free will, we are not free from the consequences of our actions.  Look at what happened several years ago what Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks publicly bashed President Bush.  At the time, "W" was very popular with the American people, and Ms. Maines' remarks led to an outcry against that all-girl singing group.  Though what she did was legal, it didn't stop her from paying the price.

My first favorite band of any kind was the mega-popular Christian group dc Talk, whose amazing songs still get spins by CCM fans to this day, despite their split over a decade ago.  Since I was a bit late to the party--as usual--I didn't get Jesus Freak, which is considered to be their opus, until after I had all their other albums.  When I listened to it, I heard a song called "What Have We Become?" that I didn't like at first, because it disturbed me.  Now that I'm a bit more mature, I understand the meaning of the song better than ever.  One verse bashes racism ("A preacher shuns his brother because his bride's a different color, and this is not acceptable; his papa taught him so!"); the other illustrates the effects of parental disunity ("An inconvenient child; she wasn't worth their while!") However, one of the choruses mentions the secular way of thinking that is so prevalent:
Speak your mind; look out for yourself!
The answer to it all is a life of wealth!
Grab all you can, 'cause you live just once!
You got the right to do whatever you want!
Don't worry about others, or where you came from!
It ain't what you were; it's what you have become!
It's funny how the song mentions the "YOLO" principle, nearly two decades before everyone started posting it on Facebook!  In the context of the song, such thinking is decried.

Despite what that song says and claims from numerous others, many people still think that they have the right to do whatever they want.  I was once in a thrift store where a local radio station was playing, and, when an ad came on for a political candidate, another person in the store said, "Yeah, he'll take away your right to drink beer!" It's not the first time I've heard such ludicrous claims; an eighth grade classmate used an essay on the topic "Is Freedom Really Free?" to lament about our school's dress code, like the people who would have read it would even care.  Such thinking, despite its prevalence, is problematic.

Of course, no one wants to be told that what they are doing is wrong...but that doesn't mean that they don't need to hear it.  I recently watched a movie called The Encounter where a few modern-day people meet Jesus face-to-face, and one of the first statements He makes is, "People rarely want what they need."  Speaking of Jesus, I have to agree with the title of a Christian devotional book I once came across: Your Jesus Is Too Safe.  Seriously, people want to water down Biblical teachings so as not to offend anybody, but Christ told people what they needed to hear, whether they liked it or not.  Even nowadays, being called an adulterer is a serious accusation, right? Well, Jesus said that, if you've lusted, then you are one! Jesus also called people "foxes" and "snakes," and said things that ruffled some people's feathers enough that they killed Him! Though He never sinned, His teachings were upsetting to some people, and that's the way it should be! Christian producer David McFadzean once said, "Only exposing ourselves to Christian books, music, and movies that coddle us can actually keep us in our own sin." The same is true of sermons or other messages: If all you're told is that what you're doing is perfectly okay when it's actually not, are you inclined to stop doing it? Of course not!

Now, here's where things are going to get even more intense.  Despite the actions of some others, I'm not about to subvert the Bible's messages just to please people.  In Galatians 1:10, Paul wrote, "Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant." (NLT) Colossians 4:6 (GW) also says, "Everything you say should be kind and well thought out so that you know how to answer everyone." Of course, you want to say things as politely as possible, but, at times, there's no way to get your point across without sounding like Simon Cowell.  Seriously, if you're not inspired to change your ways when reading the Bible, you obviously aren't doing it right.

Here is my main point: I have known many people who have said, "You scare me!", or that others were somehow frightened by my actions.  Of course, some people use that term a bit too easily, just like the word "love" could describe your feelings for your favorite movie as well as how you feel about your spouse.  Still, some people say it, and they mean it in a literal sense.  Very few of you have actually seen me get really upset, and, if you thought my devotion to Disney actresses was scary, a few minutes around me in a horrible mood will make you wish I was rambling about Demi Lovato instead! Seriously, though, people say that my awkward social habits or my "different" interests are frightening to others, if only because they don't understand any of it.  So, now, I will use some Bible verses to explain why that bothers me.

First off: "The LORD is my light and my salvation--so why should I be afraid? The LORD is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?" (Psalms 27:1, NLT) That right there says that Christians should have no reason to be afraid.  Other Scriptures would agree, and say that God is the only One that you need to fear.  So, based on that, why should you be scared just because some well-meaning guy asked you about Facebook, or because your new friend has actresses and female singers all over his bedroom wall? Isn't that a paltry thing to be scared of? If you're afraid of what your significant other might think...well, if your relationship is that stifling, I don't know why you got into it in the first place.  Though I agree that married folks should have limited interaction with other opposite-gender friends, pretty much casting out anyone who doesn't share your gender unless he/she is a family member isn't right.  (What would Jesus do?)

Now, some of you may be wondering: If I truly believe that, then...why have I not gotten my driver's license? Here's why: "You must not test the Lord your God." (Deuteronomy 6:16/Matthew 4:7, NLT)  Seriously, I feel that God has providentially hindered me from getting my own set of wheels, because He knows what is and isn't good for me.  That whole "You can do anything you put your mind to" mess is mere tripe; seriously, God has given different people different abilities (1 Corinthians 12:4), and our job is to use them as best as possible, not sit around trying to get ones we're not meant to have.  You wouldn't go into a dangerous neighborhood for no good reason and say, "God will protect me," would you? How about praying for God to let you live before leaping off of the roof of your house? Seriously, if I insisted on driving, testing God is what I would be doing.

Second off: "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24, NIV) One of the popular slang phrases when I was in school was, "Got beef?" It probably was inspired by the "Got Milk?" commercials, but it really meant, "Do you want to beat me up?" Webster's says that "complaint" is a synonym for "beef," and that's true; seriously, if someone has something against someone else, it is called a beef.  I'm reminded of an incident on a dc Talk forum I was on years ago where someone made an ugly remark about someone else, and the recipient replied, "If you've got beef, [private message] me and we can squash it now." Unfortunately, such altercations can really ruin things for people; a friend and fellow church member once was at a youth retreat when something happened--to this day, all I know is that it involved his and the other party's younger brothers--that ruined the whole trip for him.  He was in such a snit that he refused to participate in the games later that day, and, during the evening worship time, another kid came up to the youth leader and said, "Something's wrong with [that guy]."  If only they could have resolved things, maybe he would have had a better time.

Unfortunately, it would seem that some people choose essentially the same route.  In many cases, I have been unfriended without any explanation of what I did wrong.  Instead of people trying to resolve things with me, they simply jumped ship, which, according to that above verse, is not the Christian thing to do.  Not only that, but it's also very wimpy.  Most people would think of a wimp as someone who lacks physical strength, but I've never been all that strong, and I've shown the exact opposite of "wimpiness" at times.  There have been several incidents where I said what other people were thinking, but were afraid to actually utter.  I'm also not afraid to tell others that I'm sorry for what I have done, and that I have messed up.  Others who would likely consider themselves not to be wimps actually are; I argued several times with a lady who would always say, "I don't want to talk about this anymore!" within a few minutes of discussing whatever.  She probably thought of that as a victory, but, I consider it to be a forfeit.  Think about it: If you were playing checkers with someone, and your opponent got mad and overturned the board, who would be the obvious victor? The same is true for those who got offended by whatever I did: Instead of being big enough to say something privately about such matters, they simply walked out, leaving me with only one question: Why? (Again, what would Jesus do?)

Third off: "Anyone who is not against you is for you." (Luke 9:50, NLT) Some of you may remember hearing about Sparky, the dog I used to have whom I despised from day one.  When I would badmouth him, other people would say, "That dog never did anything to you!" Their point was that I shouldn't have adamantly hated a pet who not only wasn't mean to me, but actually liked me.  I realize that was a mistake, and that's why I try to treat the dog my parents now have better than I did Sparky, even though I don't like owning pets all that much.  Despite me realizing that I was wrong on that front, some people choose to essentially shun me, even though I "never did anything to" them.  I don't get that; seriously, if you can tell that someone wants to be your friend and means you no harm, why respond in such a way?

For a long time, I have prided myself in how diverse my friends are.  If you want to be my friend, I don't care about your age, your relationship status, your sexual orientation, your religious beliefs, your living situation, your political views, or whatever else; you can be my friend.  Unfortunately, it seems that the friends I have made who don't share my faith are more accepting than the ones who would profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  In some cases, the way some Christians I have tried to befriend apparently think of me borders on prejudice instead of the love and compassion that Jesus expects of us (Ephesians 4:32, Luke 10:27).  (Once again: What would Jesus do?)

Here is my final Scripture quotation and point: "I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do." (Matthew 21:31, NLT) A movie I am currently in the middle of called Lukewarm opens with a minister preaching on Revelation 3:15-16 ("I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!"), and said preacher makes the point that some people who are lukewarm have just enough religion in their lives that they think they are doing just fine.  That's also true in real life, if only because people have been coddled repeatedly; see the David McFadzean quotation above.  I've been doing a daily Bible reading for about two years now, and it has changed my life.  Not only did the Gospels and the Epistles teach me numerous things, but even the Old Testament prophets made me want to give up my obsessions, because they say again and again how much God despises idolatry.  I've also learned that I shouldn't shun people, which is something that I used to do, and even defended it to others.  However, there are right many Christians who are in the wrong, but don't realize it, and are too stubborn to accept the fact that they're wrong.

Some of you might "read between the lines" and see that there are implied references to people whom you consider friends within this post, whether they are "former friends" of mine or never liked me in the first place, and that might be upsetting to you.  You also might be quick to refer to Matthew 7:1: "Do not judge others, and you will not be judged."  What you're failing to realize is that said verse is not meant to give Christians the right to do what they want, when they want; the corrupt culture has turned that Scripture into something it was never intended to be.  If the Bible says it's wrong, it's wrong, no matter who is responsible or how anyone tries to defend the person or people responsible.  There were numerous acts I witnessed and/or experienced before I was very well-versed in God's Word that I thought were wrong, despite others' endless defenses of such actions, and reading the Good Book in its entirety has only made me even more sure of how incorrect all that was.  Unfortunately, the people who need to read this are likely never going to do so, because they don't want to; they just want to be coddled.  If you want to stagnate, that's your choice; I've done all I could do to convince you otherwise.  If I don't tell people what they need to hear...who will?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How Do You Measure An Addiction?

Sometime during the late nineties, my grandmother was suffering from some health problems, and had to stay with us for a while.  Once, during that time, her doctor told her that her electrolytes were low.  She decided to do something about it...but it wasn't the right thing.  Instead of drinking Gatorade or something similar, she sat in our kitchen and downed one glass of water after another, despite my mom's pleas that doing so was merely making the problem worse.  Though I was a bit young to understand such matters at the time, when I look back, I would assume that it was a product of my grandmother's dementia, which also affected her in other ways: confusion, forgetfulness, and all-around not thinking clearly.  Still, she persisted, and was all the worse off for it.
Was I addicted to this series?
Fast forward to last year: I randomly decided to check out the first volume--that is, three-book omnibus--in the Sierra Jensen series.  After reading the premiere novel, I read the rest of the series as fast as I could; in fact, I finished the last eight or nine books, while alternating between them and sci-fi/fantasy literature, in about two weeks.  When I thought about it after the fact, I thought back to my grandmother's insistence on downing tall glasses of water, and figured that I had another addiction, like she did.  I discussed it with my mom, and she disagreed; she felt that it was merely a sign of how much I enjoyed that series.

That right there is a sign that I have no idea what makes an addiction (or obsession, or fixation, or whatever you want to call it.)  Then again, I never have; when I was a kid, it seemed like everyone knew I was obsessed with whatever or whoever...except for me.  It wasn't until I found out that I had a medical condition that caused such irrational devotion that I decided to make it work for me.  In elementary school, when I was told I was obsessed, I denied it; in high school, I simply replied, "Yeah; so what?"  If I was going to show the signs, there was no point in denying them!

Still, one thing I have realized recently is that an obsession is always a bad thing, in more than one way.  Not only does it annoy people--seriously, you have no idea how many folks have gotten frustrated because there were only one or two topics I wanted to discuss--but it's also idolatry, which is sinful.  I'd like to think that such behaviors have gotten better with time...but I never knew they were that bad in the first place!

Though I haven't gotten a complete handle on it, I do know that one symptom of an addiction is when it takes precedence over what should be more important.  Some of you already know this story, but it's worth repeating: During the last half of 1999 and all of 2000, I was a die-hard fan of Pokémon and Scooby-Doo, and everyone who knew me knew that, for good or for ill.  Around February or March of that year, a longtime fellow church member and father of four lost his battle with pancreatic cancer.  On the way to his memorial service, my brother-in-law admitted he had cried over the guy's death, and asked me if I had done the same.  I said that I hadn't, because I felt no need.  He immediately criticized me by saying, "Oh, sure; you cry because the store doesn't have any Pokémon cards, but you won't cry over someone's death.  You really need to get your priorities straight."  It wasn't just that; on Mother's Day that year, I made no attempt to give my mom a present or even make her a card, despite the fact that I had a great printer and a Mac with Print Shop installed.  It got to the point where even my mom told me I had "a one-track mind," and you can guess what "one thing" she told me was all I thought about.

When I think back on that, I realize that it was a serious case of idolatry.  Though those Game Boy games could be fun, there are much more important things in life than a bunch of fictional battling "pocket monsters".  I have tried to be better about not letting my interests and fun pursuits get in the way of what really matters.  Have I succeeded? Not always; just last year, a former friend got rather upset because, as she said, "Some actress you're never going to meet gets more respect than a real-life friend!" I could say that my previous actions were well-intentioned, but that doesn't make them right.

The one...the only...DEMI!
Those of you who have been following my Facebook postings--as well as some of you who might not have--know that actress/singer Demi Lovato has replaced Victoria Justice as my number one celebrity crush.  Though I have liked her since at least 2008, I find that, the more I listen to her music, the more I like it.  She has several amazing songs, including "Trainwreck," "La La Land," "Remember December," "Heart Attack," "Never Been Hurt," and "Really Don't Care."  I realize how much I used to be obsessed with celebrities in the past; with Ms. Lovato, what I am going to try to do is be a fan of hers...without being fanatical.  I might need you all to help me keep that in check, though; we all know how bad I've had it over attractive female celebrities before, especially Hilary Duff, Anne Hathaway, and, yes, Victoria Justice.  It's one thing to admire a famous person and/or his/her work, but, when people start accusing you of being that celebrity's stalker, you know you've gone too far.

Any comments?

You've Got It; I Want It! (Wait...Do I?)

If they can have it...why can't I?
From around 1996 to 2000, the most common four-word phrase out of my mouth was "all the other kids".  When I wanted my mom to buy me something, or to take me/let me go somewhere, my appeal was that "all the other kids" got to have whatever or go to wherever.  Of course, I knew I had no idea what every coeval individual around the planet was doing, but I believed that every person around my age that I knew, whether from school, church, Scouting, my neighborhood, or elsewhere, got that privilege and I didn't.  The same was true when I was required to do something I would rather have not had to do: "All the other kids" didn't have to do it, so...why should I?

However, that all changed because of two personal experiences in 2000, though the realization took place later.  The first one involved a fellow Cub Scout who had wanted to lead our patrol on a weekend camp-out, but didn't win the election.  He ended up proving he was not leader material when he had three separate meltdowns that Saturday.  One was during a box maze; another was on a rope bridge; and, the "grand finale" was at our campsite, which was because he was "homesick."  Never at any other point in my life have I ever been happier that someone I voted for did not win.  He apparently thought he could do anything else the other Scouts could do, but he was wrong.  Later that year, I was attending a sports day camp at a local Baptist church with another Cub Scouting buddy, and was able to ride there and back with him and his family...until the last day, when some friend of theirs, whom I didn't know, picked them up.  I knew about it beforehand, and my brother-in-law was able to pick me up; however, when I rode there with said friend, he and his siblings were all carrying tennis gear for after the camp session.  On the way home, I lamented to my brother-in-law about missing out on what they were doing, and he simply said, "What do you care? Since when have you been into tennis?"

I missed it...but I DON'T regret it!
After those two incidents, I became my own person.  Sure, I still had items I wanted and places I desired to go to...but I didn't sit there and tell my mom or anyone else that "all the other kids" were getting whatever or going wherever, usually because, in most cases, they weren't and didn't have any desire to do so.  I also became more willing to refuse invitations and offers to go places, even when "all the other kids" were going.  People invited me to go on outings involving large bodies of water; I said no, and refused to budge, even when my reasons were refuted.  Tons of folks strongly suggested I should go to my middle/high school dances, especially the eighth grade dance, "ring dance," and prom; I outright refused, even boldly telling a well-meaning teacher, "I don't give a crap!" Though I was met with criticism in all those cases, I'm pretty sure those who truly know me would understand why I shouldn't have gone; I don't have any regrets about supposedly "missing out".

You may think that, with all the talk about me being original and unique, I don't want anything anybody else has.  How many times have you heard or read me say something to the effect of one of these phrases?:
  • I'm going to like what I want to like, and I don't care what anyone else has to say about it!
  • Why are people unfriending me because of my constant references to _______? Don't they realize that ________ makes me happy in the same way that others' relationships make them happy, which is why they bombard their Facebook friends with posts about them?
  • It's not a good idea for me to ________.  Here's why:
  • So what if whoever or whatever wants to take away what I like? I'm not going to give him, her, or them that power!
  • If you don't like the constant references to _______...there's the door! No one is forcing you to stay on my friends list!
  • ________ had a well-meaning suggestion, but, when I refused, his/her insistence made it turn into harassment.
The longer you've been in contact with me, the more you've heard all that...right? What might surprise some of you is that the "all the other kids" desire still lingers a bit in a certain area: relationships.  Sure, I don't sit around and regularly lament about the fact that I have no significant other--though I used to, as some of you know--but the amount of coeval friends and friends of friends who have gotten into serious relationships continues to increase.  When people post about it on Facebook--I know; it's their right to do so--it's sort of advertising their relationship.  I mentioned in an earlier post that advertising in general creates a need where there wasn't one before, such as the mother and teenage daughter who were in a grocery store and said they had no need for an item...until they saw a end-of-aisle display for it, and they then proceeded to put it in their cart.  The same is true with me seeing others' relationships: When I see significant others happy, smiling, and celebrating getting married, I start to think: Why don't I have one? Where's mine? At times, it makes me want to act like I'm two years old.

Did ALL of my peers have tons of these? No!
However, when you have a case such as this, you have to check out all of the facts.  Going back to the "all the other kids" thing: One of the biggest debacles my mom and I had during that time was over Beanie Babies, those once sought-after toys that hardly anyone wants anymore.  I kept telling my mom that "all the other kids" had more of them than I did...but I glossed over two important facts.  First off, though many of my friends and other peers did have a larger collection of said toys, not all of them did.  Some didn't even collect them; even one kid in my neighborhood said, "I don't get any Beanie Babies; the only ones I can get are the ones I buy myself from the [dollar store]!" I only got them for Christmas and birthdays, but that was more than he did.  Second off, I was given more than one chance to work for them, and I never did; I worked harder on the ClarisWorks spreadsheet to keep track of what I was going to do than actually doing anything.  Even non-"other kids" desires involved details that were conveiniently left out.  Some of you may remember me talking about a "kick" involving having pizza for lunch on a Sunday.  What I always said was that I remembered an old friend and I doing just that back in 1994 or 1995, and that my mom should do it again.  However, what I didn't say was that, after some thinking, I couldn't be 100% sure that said memory was actually on a Sunday; said old friend came over both Saturdays and Sundays, and, since my memory doesn't have a time stamp, it's impossible to say which day it was.

The same is true of relationships: Though many of my friends around my age are in serious ones, there are still right many who are not only single, but always have been.  Still others have had significant others, but continue to have problems because they chose the wrong people to date.  I can't honestly sit there and say that all my coeval friends have found "the one" for them...because, when I really stop and think about it, that isn't true!

I will end by saying this: It's no secret that my tastes in pretty much everything are different.  People all over the world love theme parks, pets, beaches/pools, and sports...but I can't stand them, and want as little to do with them as possible.  Not only that, but, you'd be hard-pressed to find another adult--of any age--who likes Disney Channel and Nickelodeon productions, contemporary Christian music, libraries, books, superhero cartoons, and reality competition shows...yet, I like them all.  That right there is why I have a broad group of friends; most people can find one or two things in common with me, because my interests are that diverse.  However, it makes it impossible for me to find a social group, because my intense despising of what "everyone else" likes means that I won't join them on an outing involving any of that.  Even more to the point, it also makes it quite hard to find a significant other, because very few people are going to truly respect such tastes in anyone.  I've experienced incidents where friends would appear to be fine with my interest or lack thereof in something, only to say the exact opposite after an altercation would arise.  Though some of those people may be still among my friends, I have a feeling that not only do they still feel that way, but there are others--including potential dates--who would agree, but aren't saying anything.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If you don't truly respect my preferences, I can't see why you would consider me a friend in the first place.

Any comments?

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Need for Quiet Time?

Back in June 2003, I rode to and from a Sunday night church service and potluck with a friend, his wife, and preschool-age son.  (For those who don't know, my mom either had to work or was taking care of my oldest sister, and my other sister and brother-in-law, who normally would have given me a ride, had something else to do.)  As soon as we got in the car to leave the church building, the little boy asked his dad some random question; I believe it was, "Daddy, is it Christmas yet?" Instead of answering the kid's question, my friend told his son, "You're on quiet time right now!" He later said that, at the potluck, his son had been "running around like a chicken with its head cut off!" I hadn't been around little kids very much, as I never had any younger siblings, so I had never heard of being "on quiet time"; even though I wasn't on it myself, I was still afraid to say anything.  The kid didn't even obey his father; he was taking whatever he could reach from his car seat and throwing it around.  Before I got dropped off at my house, my friend did say something to me, and we did chat a bit, which made me feel...well, a bit calmer.

I bring that up for one reason: Throughout my life, I have never really had any quiet time.  As a kid, I spent most of my spare time playing computer and video games, which are known for being noisy.  Even the TV shows I liked were the same way; more than one critic described the Digimon movie as "noisy," yet that was one of my favorite shows, and I loved the film.  As I got into popular music, I often had dc Talk, Audio Adrenaline, or ApologetiX playing while I was doing...well, whatever.  It became standard for me to have music playing no matter what I was doing on the computer after December 30, 2003, when I got my first computer with iTunes.  Even now, when I'm reading a book, I always have music playing in the background, usually via an Apple device.  Though I don't remember too much about when I was a little kid, I do remember that I just didn't take naps.  My mom tried and tried to get me to do it, because all little kids do that daily...but it just didn't work.  Even if I got into bed, I didn't sleep.  I was so active that my grandmother used to call me Mister "B", the "B" standing for "busy".

This is just one audio Bible I use!
Even the things that most people would do quietly are not quiet for me.  For example: I bet most of you reading this do--or, at least, used to do--some sort of daily Bible study.  It probably involves reading from the Bible and maybe a devotional book, along with a silent prayer.  That's not my kind of Bible study; when I do it, I use both an audio Bible and one I can read, usually either an app on Jade or Danielle or the Bible Gateway website.  I play the audio Word while I read it, so that way I can get as much out of it as possible.  I used to do just one or the other, and it just didn't work; I wasn't getting what I needed out of it.  If I just read it, I read too fast and missed important details; if I only listened, my mind wandered, and I still missed important details.  Not only that, but all the audio Bibles I use have voice acting, background music, and sound effects worthy of a Hollywood production; if you were to sit in the other room and hear it coming from my speakers, you might think I was watching a movie instead of studying God's Word.  That's pretty much the way it is with everything; if I'm doing something, either I'm making noise, or someone/something else is, because I simply can't deal with the quiet.

Yes, and for far too long!
Unfortunately, I do think that my busyness is a problem, and not because of the way I study the Bible.  A Baptist church across the street from my high school had a message on its marquee sign that said, "Too busy maybe?" and then explained busy as the image to the right does: Being Under Satan's Yoke.  Even though I have a lot of free time, I spend many an hour worrying about this, lamenting over that, or immersed in...well, whatever.  First off, Jesus told us the pointlessness of worrying in Matthew 6:27.  Second off, though lamenting does have its purpose--there's a book of Lamentations in the Bible!--dwelling on a situation does no one any good; what I should do is learn my lesson from it and move on.  When it comes to entertainment, though Christian and even some secular books, movies, music, television and such has its good points, sometimes even that can drown out the voice of God.  An article in Plugged In once said this:

I'm convinced one reason teens aren't hearing from God the way they want to is that He's being drowned out by electronic media. It's not just that the volume is turned up too loud; it's the sheer amount of hi-tech noise consuming adolescents' attention. That includes entertainment that contradicts God's Word. How can we expect to hear His "still, small voice" amid the cacophony of culture? The din has become, like the stone, an obstacle.

Teens will find that there's a price involved in removing it. They'll need to give up some of their precious noise. It could mean turning off the iPod, letting the TV or computer go dark, silencing a video game, or limiting their availability to take cell calls and text messages. It's a sacrifice. But as King David declared in 2 Samuel 24:18-25, the only true sacrifice is one that costs us something.

The Lord is as interested as ever in revealing Himself to young people. In using them. In giving them direction. If your teen wonders why God feels distant, it might be that He's waiting for them to move an obstacle so that He can do something miraculous.

When that article was written, I was a teen, and I saw it, but thought nothing of it.  Now that I'm older and more mature, I realize that the writer of that article was right.

So...what's to be done about quiet time? I'm not exactly sure, but I do know that I need it.  That may be the first step into helping me relax, which is something that I've needed for quite a while.  Any suggestions you may have are welcome.  I do know one thing, though: It's probably going to involve some willpower on my part in order to succeed at actually having quiet time.  However, as Frederick Douglass once said, "Where there is no struggle, there is no progress." It may involve me training myself to read without any background music.  It may require me to keep my thoughts in my head instead of talking out loud to myself whenever I think I am alone.  I don't know what it will take...aside from determination on my part.  Still, whether or not I like it at the moment, I still need it.

Any comments?

An Outcast...Like Always

My experience was NOT this idyllic!
Many of you reading this probably went through kindergarten, though it was so long ago that you probably remember very little of it.  I know not everyone went through it, though, because my mom said that she never went to it; back when she was a kid, it wasn't required like it is now.  Those of you who are parents probably either remember your child(ren)'s first day of school, or are already preparing them--and yourself--for it.  I actually remember kindergarten to a degree; that's what happens when you have a better-than-usual memory.  What do I remember most about it? Simple: I didn't want to be there.  I already knew everything that I was supposed to be "learning," and my teacher was rather aloof and unkind.  After the first day, I told my mom that I had learned everything I needed to know and didn't need to go back.  From what I hear, that's a somewhat common response; however, I said it because I didn't want to go back.  Since I was advanced for my age, my teacher ended up putting me by myself a lot, if only because, as she told my mom in a conference, she "just [didn't] know what to do with" me.  My mom has always said that the main reason for kindergarten is to learn social skills...but, how can one learn those when he is always put by himself?

Though that was a long time ago, it seems that people never have known exactly what to do with me.  Some of my other teachers have despised me; in fact, one seemingly got fired because she didn't follow my Individualized Education Plan.  I had a lot of trouble making friends in school, if only because my tastes in things were different than that of my peers, yet I was very vocal about what/who I liked.  Even some adults I used to know as a kid just didn't seem to understand me, and it was a source of strife for us and others.

What's funniest about this image is that this cat looks just like mine!
Being different, which everyone already knows is one of my signature traits, makes it quite hard to get along in many situations.  For example, most people love dogs; either they have one or more and love it/them, or they wish they had one, but they can't because they're allergic, their landlord won't allow it, they can't afford to keep one, etc.  Those who don't like dogs usually are scared to death of them and/or have been brutally attacked by a vicious one in the past.  However, neither of those are true in my case...yet, I still don't like dogs.  Sure, they're cute on TV and in movies; in fact, I've been a fan of the Garfield comic strip, which is very pet-focused, all my life.  Other famous fictional pets I've liked were Scooby-Doo and the unnamed terrier on the short-lived sitcom Complete Savages.  I can even take real-life pets in small doses.  However, I don't want to be around one for prolonged amounts of time, and I definitely don't want to own one.  When people hear that, though, it's usually offensive.   They don't just wonder how could I not like dogs; they wonder how anyone couldn't like them.

Preferences aren't just on computers!
The same is true for not only my other dislikes, but also many of my likes: What kind of guy doesn't like sports? Who over the age of fifteen cares about anything on Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel? Who under the age of thirty chooses to read a book for fun? How could any young adult choose not to watch "R" films; is that not a privilege of being our age, one that kids and young teenagers don't have? Still, when people have argued against such beliefs of mine, they have never been able to convince me.  Some people present it respectfully, yet I still disagree; others try to use harassment and personal attacks, in which case they've essentially forfeited their argument from the get-go.  Some folks have told me I should consider looking into sports; at the very least, checking out the scores and the highlights from each "big game".  The fact that I am happy when a victorious team makes my friends happy is a step in the right direction, I'll admit; still, I can't get too involved with such matters because...well, it isn't me.  My preferences in pretty much everything are one of the things that make me who I am; take them away, and you don't have me anymore.

It's the truth!
You may be thinking, " can you live in such a way? Don't you want to have friends to hang out with, to talk to, and to do stuff with?" First off, to assume I don't have any friends is incorrect; I have friends I go places with fairly often.  Are they around my age? No...but why should that matter? Having a designated "age range" for your friends is rather unkind, not to mention judgmental.  Not only that, but, as a Christian, one is required to take a narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14), which may include avoiding "popular" things if you know they're not good for you.  Prolonged exposure to pets frustrates me; sports, especially American football, are too slow-moving for me; I rarely forget entertainment, so, if I saw a sex comedy or horror movie, I'd still remember parts of it, even a decade or two later; and, taking away Disney Channel from me would be like taking away one's significant other: I could survive, but I'd be very bitter against the person/people responsible, especially if I had any reason to believe that he/she/they did it with ill intent, and I would still want it back.  (Seriously, that's how important it is to me!)  My friends understand that, regardless of how they feel about whoever and whatever, and respect it; anyone who doesn't shouldn't even be my friend in the first place.

Still, sometimes I wonder who my friends really are.  It's not that I fear that someone who I've trusted for quite a while will suddenly turn against me and start plotting to kill me; it's that I sometimes wonder if those who I consider friends are just merely being polite, and actually despise me for whatever reason.  I've had people tell me multiple times that they would confirm my friend request on Facebook, only to just keep it pending for a long time.  (To me, "social lying" is just that: lying, and, therefore, wrong.)  Other times, it seems that people would rather not interact with me, and only talk to me because I walked up to them and said something, or called/instant messaged them for whatever reason.  True, some of that may be because people are busy, or have more immediate pressing concerns; still, sometimes, I wonder if it isn't because they'd just rather not be bothered.  People have described me as "outgoing"; I think I can be a little too much that way, even bordering on audacious at times.

Whatever the case, though I do have some very good friends--who are hopefully among the ones reading this--I still often feel like the singer of Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams": "I walk a lonely road; the only one that I have ever known!"  I've always been a bit of an extrovert: wanting to meet and talk to people, no matter where I am.  Maybe my problems wouldn't be as bad if I were to keep to myself more; that way, I wouldn't be tempted to go to the extent of forcing myself on others, as I have been known to do sometimes.  The fact that I am unable to drive limits my social interaction quite a bit; that actually may be a Godsend.  Though I enjoy talking to people, it has led me into trouble quite a few times; maybe I should be more cautious about who I'm talking to, what I talk about, and when/where I do talk.  It's hard not having that much social interaction, but, God never promised life would be easy!

Any comments?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Overcoming a Fear of Change

Last week, my church put on a Vacation Bible School--also known as a VBS--called Colossal Coaster World.  The whole theme of the event, as seen in the logo to the right, was "Facing Fear, Trusting God."  Though I was well past the age limit to be in classes meant for elementary-age kids, I attended not only because they were having adult classes, but because my sister was one of the driving forces behind it all.  As I saw the kids singing about facing their fears, trusting in the One who created them, standing up for what's right, etc., I realized something: For far too long, I have been subscribing to a fearful mentality.  I never took any driving lessons with a professional instructor for fear that I would actually get my license, and then proceed to die in a car accident; I haven't been to any of the theme parks in my area in over a decade because I was always afraid I wouldn't like them as much as I did when I was a kid, and, therefore, it would be a big waste of money; I currently have some single female friends who I think could potentially be more than friends--no, I won't name names!--but, fear of rejection and the ruination of our friendships keeps me from "asking them out"; I didn't go to see Victoria Justice or Bridgit Mendler at their local recent concerts for fear of bad weather--i.e., rain or insanely hot temperatures--and being out too late; and, there are countless other similar stories I could mention.

When it comes to such matters, I have to ask myself: Why am I not trusting God?  If God knows I shouldn't be driving, He would tell me somehow; in fact, I think He already has.  If a relationship between me and any of my female friends were meant to happen, she would say yes when I "asked her out"; otherwise, she would say no, and then I just would cut my losses and move on.  If theme parks weren't for me, I would be hindered from going by something other than just me saying, "I don't want to go."  Sure, some of those things may involve taking a risk, but, as I once heard someone say, "Those who never took a risk never got anywhere."
Note: Actual business meeting not pictured.

As if that alone wasn't enough, yesterday, the library system for which I work had our annual staff day, and one of the members of the system's administration team made a presentation about change.  His whole point was that we shouldn't be "stuck in our ways" and be open to new technologies, experiences, and materials in our library.  Part of his presentation showed photos of other libraries in our state and a neighboring area, and one of them showed an X-Box 360 a library.  He specifically mentioned that one, saying, "Who would have thought, ten years ago, that you would see an X-Box or PlayStation at a library?" Though video games at un biblioteca may seem out of place to most of you, that appears to be the future of libraries; his point was, instead of shunning such change, we should embrace it.

Yes, he was only talking about the library system; however, his points can also apply in a broader sense.  You probably know that I have always been hesitant to change.  When anything changed--when we moved, when the place, time, and day of my weekly Cub Scout meetings changed, when a teacher required me to do things a different way than I had done them previously--I always had to ask: Why? Why the change? Why can't we do it how, when, or where were doing it before?  If you look back at some of my old writings from the past decade or so, you will see quite a bit of that.

In the past, I've talked about how I thought it was ridiculous when people did things nobody liked, or that didn't really work for anyone, only because it "was the way we've always done it."  I always said: If it isn't working for you, then maybe you should change it! Unfortunately, as I recently realized, I failed to apply that to me as well.  For quite a while now, I've been doing too much of the same things, while lamenting about how my life isn't what I want it to be, and blaming external factors for that being the case.  That doesn't mean I should completely give up on what I like to do; it does mean, however, that some changes are in order.

Some of you longtime readers of my blog may remember that I did numerous posts where I started to talk about change, only to end by saying that I didn't need it.  One former friend described it this way: "The theme I have noticed in recent posts of yours is you questioning why you are where you are in life or is there more to life, and by the end of your blog entry you've talked yourself back to everything's fine, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing."  You may think that I'm going to end on that point...but I'm not.  Seriously, I know that I'm in need of change.  What is it? I don't know.  When will it come? Your guess is as good as mine.  All I know is: Instead of shying away from change--even if it involves taking a risk or facing a fear--I should be embracing it, because, otherwise, I won't get anywhere.

Any comments?