When A Great Man Passes

When a great man passes into Glory, the world pauses to shed a tear, then gets back to living. 

To them there is a moment of sting, then back to normal. 

To him there is nothing but the blink of an eye and the eternal ceasing of pain. 

He gets the better end of the deal. 

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Take Your Compliments and Shove ‘Em

IMG_20170114_170752_269
Just an average picture of an average guy.

Compliments, what do we do with them? How constructively do we take criticism? What do we do when faced with cricket chirps at our hard work?

As I mentioned last time, I’m slowly learning to like, indeed, love myself. Part of this process is learning to accept compliments, second is learning to accept criticism without magnifying it out of proportion. Third and probably the most difficult is learning how to properly interpret silence.

A few months back I talked about how my anxiety has robbed me of contentment for many years. It has also given me a large sentiment of cynicism. I don’t trust people when they compliment me. I assume that they can’t really mean it. I’m not that great, am I? I’m certainly not worthy of the love of others.

I am though.

If an infinite and holy God can love me, then certainly other, not-so-holy, created beings can love me too. By virtue of being an image-bearer I am lovable. And I can accept compliments about my person, my actions, and my creations, without cynicism or disbelief. Sometimes, I really do good work. I should accept that, and love it about myself.

Also by virtue of being an image bearer can I accept criticism without believing that I am a worthless piece of rubbish. Yes, I am a sinner, and I am fallible, and nothing I can do is perfect, but that doesn’t make me worthless. By the Grace of God, I am not a piece of garbage. Critique should drive me towards better work, and make me strive after perfection, not run from it.

But what about silence? What about the times when no one seems to notice?

I put in effort, I strove for perfection, I did my best.

*Crickets*

That one is a bit more difficult for me. I think silence drives most creators mad. They want recognition, even bad attention is better than no attention.

I have to tell myself that sometimes silence is merely a sign that I am doing just fine. There is no need for critique, but I am not to the level of deserving a compliment. Average-ness is properly met with silence. And average is perfectly acceptable, if one is progressing smoothly within their level of experience. If I paint an average painting, or write an average prose, or take an average picture, or sing an average song, are they not still acceptable?

If I want accolades I should strive for better than average. I should work on jumping out of my level and into the next. And I shouldn’t take silence as critique.

If I am below average I should expect to be corrected; average, an approving silence; above average, resounding praise.

All should be equally acceptable to me.

Music and Art Monday, December 11th,2017: What Was I Thinking?

I was sorting out a tub of crusty old stuff the other day and found some of my old cds. What a time capsule!

You know you are “old” when you have to make sure your cd drive is hooked up to the computer. Who listens to cd’s anymore?

So what was I listening to just a few short years ago?

The first oldie I popped in was Carla Werner’s first album “Departure“.

Daparture

Never heard of her? There’s probably a good reason. Her last album was released in 2009, and it was much better than the first. But not much better. Snooze fest and an anemic voice. What was I thinking back then?

Next up was a copy of Forest For The Trees’ “Planet Unknown“.

forthetrees

This isn’t a bad song for late 90’s electronica. But they aren’t on Spotify and judging by Google results, they probably aren’t around as a group anymore either. ‘Tis a shame.

Next into my cd drive was The Beatles “Anthology 2”. The middle anthology is personally my favorite. This is definitely the best period of the band. I’m actually quite glad to have found this one.

Anthology2

There was also a Paul McCartney live album, which is pretty meh. I saw him in concert, and after that there are very few good live albums that are worth it. Either be there or be square.

I stopped listening at this point. Sometimes nostalgia is not so fun. It just reminds you of better times or worse times, or just the fact that your taste in music isn’t always the most discerning. 

Also in the tub was some Norah Jones, a couple of compilation cd’s from record companies I used to get for free at the local record store, and a random Dave Matthews Band disc that I found in a whole case that some bro had dropped in the university parking lot. Nothing that I still listen to.

If I had continued I would have popped in Lily Allen’s “Alright Still“.

Alright

Which is actually my favorite of the bunch…

(except for the Anthology. But that’s not nostalgia, that’s timeless.)

Love Your Wife: Love Yourself

Simpson Selfie
Sometimes I see myself as a Simpson, apparently…

From stay-at-home moms being called bad moms for wanting an hour to themselves, to husbands and fathers who just want some time away in their “mancaves” being called irresponsible, self-care gets a bad rap.

In blogs and books and sermons, folks are told that they should give up everything and give themselves to everyone else’s needs far above their own. People are beaten to death with the line that true happiness is only found in complete and utter self-denial.

But the Bible implies something very different, especially to husbands, in Ephesians 5:28-30:

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

In order for a man to properly love his wife, he must first love himself.

But… This is not the selfish, narcissistic, self serving “love” that many men demonstrate through cruelty, waste, disrespect, slovenliness, and misplaced passions.

The self-love spoken of in these verses is informed by a proper perspective of self. The man who practices this self-love is enlightened by Gods own view of him. This man sees himself as God sees him, frail and sinful, fallen and weak, but loved, saved by grace, imperfect, but being sanctified daily and made more holy. God is pleased to see us as image bearers reflecting His glory back to Him. Instead of wretches clothed in rags He is pleased to see us in the robes of His Son.

A man who loves himself will care for himself, he will take pride in himself. He will understand that his value and loveliness is not in his success, his wealth, his looks, or his health, but simply in his createdness. Only when he understands this will he be able to take care of those things. When he properly loves himself he will be able to properly love those things and care for them.

And when he cares for those things he can care for his wife. Only when he cares for himself will be able to care for her. When he takes care of his health he is able to care for her. When he tends to his wealth he is able to care for her. When he is successful in any number of other areas, he will be able to care for her.

A man who eats too much, sits too long, and invests far too much time in pursuit of wealth and “security” is not a man who is able to care well for his wife. A man who hates himself and takes no pride in the fruits of his labors is most often married to a miserable woman.

Christ cared for Himself, He took time away from the crowds, the disciples, and from healing. He knew enough to rest, because His humanity was frail like ours. By taking the time to care for Himself, Christ was better able to care for His bride, the church.

About a week ago I was forcefully informed that my self-hatred was killing my marriage. My life to some degree has been falling apart because I have been refusing to take pride in my own life and worth, and refusing to care for my responsibilities (because what’s the point?). Even what I learned back in February seemed to be going by the wayside.

I tried to take care of everyone, tried to make everyone else better, but neglected myself.  I shut myself down, never expressing feelings thoughts or emotions. I never had an opinion that didn’t agree with someone else.

I became a nothing. And my wife despised it.

She wants a man who loves himself, who takes charge of himself, who disciplines himself, who prioritizes himself. She wants a man with a voice, opinions, thoughts, challenges to her daily life. not a lump of flesh. Certainly not the weak-willed mumble I was quickly becoming.

I am learning, slowly, to love myself. I’m figuring out how to to do the things I want, to make time for me, to refresh my soul and take care of my body. I’m making sure to take care of my appearance as well, as this is important.

And for the first time in my life I’m learning to take some pride in what I do, instead of loathing the silence from critics or friends, I’m taking it as a sign to improve and keep striving. Eventually I’ll get someone’s attention. At least I’ll know my capabilities.

It’s refreshing and terrifying all at the same time.

Making Money Like a Millennial: Pizza Delivery

Isn’t this how Millennials talk?

This may be one of the least Millennial of all the methods I discuss, but I include it because it has proven to be one of the more profitable ones.

What it is:

Well, it should be self-explanatory. You take pizza or other foods from the restaurant and take them to the customer.

How to get started:

For this job you usually have to actually go and apply, usually at your local big chain pizza place, online or rarely, in person. 

For me this is one of those right place,  right time situations. I was picking up an Uber Eats order when the store owner asked if I would be interested in helping him out a couple of days a week during the lunch rush. Of course I said yes, any money is good money when unemployed. 

General experience:

This is actually more difficult than driving people, and actually more difficult than driving Uber Eats. You have a real boss calling you to see where you are, you have people who are expecting a higher level of service than Uber Eats customers, and you are collecting money and keeping track of receipts. And instead of a GPS preprogrammed with your destination, you are given a chicken scratched ticket to decipher and enter in your phone yourself.

OK, threes? Fives? Eights?!

Maybe that’s just the small joint I work, who knows… 

So far it has been fun. I’ve seen even more parts of town and have met even stranger people than those I meet when I drive. The most annoying times are when people make me wait or don’t tip (frequently both) and just the general annoyance of finding parking. Thankfully I have a magnet on my door which gives me magical parking powers in any loading zone in the city. 

How much money are we talking here? 

I said this was the most profitable, but that is not because of gross earnings. What makes this the most profitable is the simple fact that I get to drive a beater van which gets better mileage AND I am not driving the 130 miles in a night that I do with Uber and Lyft. It also has the added benefit of being paid in cash, hourly, and nearly every person tips. 

So for between 3 and 4 hours I can bring home between $35-70 after gas. I’m not sure how comparable this is to other places, or to the big chains, but I’m satisfied with the little bit of extra cash. 

General tips: 

Dress “nice”, people appreciate someone who looks kinda put together coming to their door. 

Make sure the voice entry works on your phone, there is nothing like wasting time typing in an address, especially when you have less than one full hand available. 

Carry change, and make sure it’s ones. Giving back ones in change is a good way to encourage tipping. Having exact change and taking time to count out every penny is as well. 

Bottom line:

There isn’t flexibility about hours like the other driving jobs, but the only person you have to worry about killing is yourself. And mangled pizza. And you can drive whatever nasty wheeled contraption you favor. And the pay is pretty well considering the amount of time and effort. 

So if you can, I’d say try it out. 

Music and Art Monday, December 4th, 2017: Cezanne et Moi

Cezanneetmoi

This week instead of analysis, I have a movie recommendation.

Recently we decided to get a Roku box.  With a Roku box comes the temptation to watch entirely too much tv. Since it’s located in our bedroom, I tend to use folding laundry as an excuse to catch up on shows. Multi-tasking, go!

Last week, partly out of guilt and partly because I have binge watched every show I am actually interested in (hush), I was trying to make my tv watching more “educational”. To this end I watched a documentary about a photographer, since it was related to art and I could write about it here. Unfortunately, I can’t really recommend it here since the subject matter was a bit risque. And in all reality,  as far as documentaries go, it was a bit disappointing.

I can however recommend Cezanne et Moi, which is currently on Netflix. This French film follows the friendship between painter Paul Cezanne (with whom I identify entirely too much for comfort) and writer Emile Zola.

While I am sure it took great artistic license (see what I did there?) in telling the story, it isn’t light and fluffy and filled with positive nonsense. The movie is frequently dark and gritty, much like real life, especially the real lives of starving artists.

Being a movie about two artists, it is well shot in beautiful locations. Being French, it has only the most attractive actors and actresses. Since the dialog is in French, it matters not to English speakers how well they deliver the lines, although Zola’s character seemed a bit stiff and hard to read.

The biggest (only?) problem I had with this movie is that it is entirely in French and subtitled, which makes it a bit difficult to watch while folding laundry!

But if you can watch TV without feeling guilty for not multi-tasking, I highly recommend this for all the art lovers (especially Cezanne) out there.

Distractions From the Gospel

St. Augustine

What is the main purpose of a Christian’s life? What is the main job of the church? If you said anything other than “to share the Gospel” you might want to re-read your Bible.

I have noticed a disturbing lack of focus in the church and in the lives of the average American Christian. I have been guilty of this lack of focus as well, so don’t think I am claiming some moral high ground or virtue signalling.

What are we focusing on instead of the Gospel? Well, politics for one. Much of the American church bows at the altar of the State. It gets worked up about the “liberal agenda” or the “problem” of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. If kneeling for the anthem triggers you more than someone speaking the Lord’s name in vain, you might want to consider your idols. Does the State swell your heart with joy more than Christ Himself? Many churches preach Romans 13 as a command to support the State no matter what evils it commits. Instead of preaching the Gospel of Christ, the church often preaches the gospel of the State.

If kneeling for the anthem triggers you more than someone speaking the Lord’s name in vain, you might want to consider your idols.

Another way the church is neglecting the true Gospel is by preaching the false gospel of prosperity. Charismatic preachers like Joel Osteen and Stephen Furtick are telling the lie that everything in this life is wonderful. All we have to do is think positively and grab hold of what God “has planned for us” in order to be saved from our misery. Sin is hardly ever mentioned as the real source of the world’s misery.

Individuals like Rachel Held Evans reduce the gospel to a touchy feely “let’s make the world a better place through political and socio-economic change” message. Blogs are written, books are published, seminars are held. Few of these dare to discuss making the world a better place by speaking the simple truth that Christ died and rose again to save sinners.

I would be a liar if I didn’t admit to being a complete hypocrite about this topic. Unfortunately the Gospel is not often forefront in my mind. Life gets complicated and I forget what’s truly important. Money becomes more important to me than the daily study and meditation on the Word. I am always making excuses for not doing the secular things of life, how much more do I make excuses for neglecting the Sacred?

How are you living and sharing the Gospel? What are you doing to make sure your focus doesn’t drift?