Dailyish Thoughts #105

I used to do posts called “Dailyish Thoughts”. Each post was kind of a diary of my day to day happenings and thoughts. Apparently the last one (that I can find anyways) was way back in 2019. I guess my life got too weird to share after that.

After seeing such a gap, I’d like to start up again. Maybe people will read them, maybe they won’t, but for my sanity it might be nice to have a little place to vent. It may be every day, it may not be (hence “Dailyish”). This may mean that you will see two posts some days, but I’m sure you will forgive me for that.

So what’s up today?

Dealing with Taskrabbit and a client who hasn’t paid. I should have known there might be an issue when I helped someone moving out of an obvious eviction. Usually I’m the one delivering the eviction notices. This time I got to see the other side. Five hours of loading and unloading my van into a storage unit. So much stuff I would have left if I were them. So much stuff I would have sold to pay the rent. And now two days later no payment, yet they left a five star review…

Currently working on coasters for a convention this weekend. It’s the last one for a few months, so hopefully sales will be epic. Christmas shopping might help with that…

Fighting with a check engine light…. Scanner says catalytic converter but Google says it could be several things. With a longish trip this weekend and a much much longer drive to Virginia in a week and a half I’m hoping it’s just a case of overly cautious vehicle codes….

Cashed out my first $10 from Atlas Earth. It’s only taken four months, but for free to play that’s not bad. Plus it only compounds from here. I’m already up to $0.04 mere hours after cashing out! Here’s my link if you’re interested: https://r.atlasearth.com/WW3gj1i2Kvb or use OC2UT2

And that’s about it….


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Time Changes All Things

Less than one month until my 38th birthday. So close to 40. Still “young” but yet so old.

The picture above was taken on my 31st birthday. I don’t remember it honestly. 31 is not a milestone. Neither is 38. But every year is an accomplishment of sorts I suppose.

I don’t know what the 31 year old me would think of the current me. He’d probably chastise me for some things and maybe be impressed with a few other things. He would have much more to tell me than I him. I would keep my mouth shut mostly. He doesn’t need that kind of anxiety looming over him.

It’s incredible how blurry the past is. I remember bits and pieces out of my memory, but so much is based on photographs. And I almost seem to remember feelings more than events. They are almost always negative. I’m honestly not sure I remember “happy”.

That’s not to say it’s all been miserable. But “happy” is elusive. At 31 I was dealing with money struggles, a depressed wife, four children, a messy house, and the potential of starting a new career. Stress was ever at my door. It wasn’t miserable, but it was one long day to day struggle just to make it to the next. It was life, just average.

From other photos around that time I can guess I liked a good beer, my pipe (obviously), and I was still headlong into painting. I had pleasures. But happiness isn’t pleasures per se, it’s a state of mind.

Now that I am nearing 38 my life is very much the same yet very much different. Unfortunately, “happy” is still hiding somewhere under a rock. Most days I’m just exhausted. I have learned not to stress too much about the nonsense, but every day is a battle with my nerves ending in a stalemate.

So much of that battle is in my head, warrior brain cells are conscripted out of nothing to go fight against imaginary monsters. Thinking thinking thinking… That will solve all the problems. Nope. You’re chasing a ghost, dear synapses.

Time has taught me to stop worrying out loud. It has taught me to find solutions, not just thoughts. Physical, tangible problems *can* be dealt with. It’s the spiritual, metaphysical, and emotional challenges that have turned my beard grey. It is the time spent wondering about the state of my soul, my happiness, my love, my fears, my self-worth, etc that has wrinkled my face and worn down my bones and tone of voice.

I’m quieter and a bit less nimble now than I was at 31. But I’d like to think I’m wiser too.


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Both Sides Now

There is something exceedingly frustrating knowing both sides of a story. Watching a conflict is already heartbreaking enough without knowing all the gory details, but when you see one side and then the other, and both are guilty, it just rips out your soul.

Mediation is vital, but most don’t seek it. One side or the other refuses reconciliation, convinced that “their truth” is “the truth”. Meanwhile I stand by shaking my head at the complete fabrications I’m hearing.

Worse is when one party drops off the face of the planet, while the other lives their “best life now”. Both are secretly suffering, but neither are honest.

I’m growing weary of people. People lie. People mislead. People manipulate. People don’t forgive. All regard themselves higher than the rest. But all are fallen and disgraced. No one is above reproach, no one is innocent.

If you ever find yourself listening to one side of a conflict, stop and consider the other party. They will have their own perspective on the situation, and likely the truth is something down the middle.

And never ever ever validate someone on “their truth”. Acknowledge that they have a perspective, but understand that they have a bias.

There is “truth”, then there is “the truth”.

All the Providences

Four months of silence? Really? Has my life been silent? Not at all!

Though all the facets maybe shining differently, God certainly never allows my life to be dull. There are dark corners and bright ones. What would life be without all the Providences, good and bad?

Sometimes we think God must not be listening. We think He is forgetful of our needs. Things don’t turn out the way we want and we get angry. We feel as though life should be a constant state of elation, that permanent happiness is the greatest commodity God can bestow.

But is God not sovereign even in His “no”? Sometimes it is in the “no” that we find God’s best blessings.

I’m learning one day at a time to accept the “no” and look for the blessings instead of lamenting the “losses”.

A Hex on The Stoics

The other day, I was listening to an episode about prayer on Ligonier’s “Renewing Your Mind”. The speaker, R.C. Sproul, mentioned that prayer is a lot like a love letter. He said the even though God already knows about our life, we should be excited to pray and tell God all about it.

This made me wonder, why aren’t more people who claim to love God giving Him love letters in their prayers?

I then realized that many Christians don’t pray at all. Perhaps much of what prevents them from praying is a lack of real joy in their life.

They prefer to be stoics.

People are told so often not to let their emotions control them and dictate their actions that they often assume it’s safer not to have any feelings. They think “Don’t let your emotions rule you” really means stop having emotions at all.

Should emotions rule us and dictate everything we do or say? No, we should certainly apply logic and rational thinking when making decisions. But should emotions have some influence? Perhaps.

I think it’s unbiblical to say we shouldn’t have our emotions influence any of our actions. In the Bible there are numerous examples of people weeping, soaking their beds in tears, and rending their clothing in mourning. In the Gospels we have Jesus flipping tables. “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” got angry and showed it. The people of the Bible were very emotional and their actions certainly displayed it.

I think the modern (or not so modern, honestly) tendency to stoicism is very unbiblical. We were created to feel. God Himself has emotions, and strong ones at that. Part of being created in His image is the ability to emote.

Most of Fruits of the Spirit are emotional. For example, what is joy if not happy? What is joy if not exuberant? We should let joy influence us. Especially in our prayers.

There are many out there who say that happiness is not something we should strive for. I think this is hogwash. We should feel nothing but happy knowing that the God of creation loves us, cares about us, provides for us, and even died for our sins. If nothing else, we should strive to be happy about those facts.

That happiness ought to be reflected in our prayers. We should be excited to pray because God is listening. He values and loves the prayers of His saints and wants us to come to Him with our burdens and worship. We should be glad to give Him our love letters of prayer, because his love gives us great joy.

As usual, Sproul was right.

Beside Myself

Introspection is a confusing thing. Like many practices in life it can be good or bad. I was always told not to navel gaze. It can distract us from others and turn us into selfish monsters. But I think it can help us find our faults, work on them, and serve others better.

For me, more often than not my introspection turns me not into a self-pitying puddle instead of a selfish monster . My faults are many, what use am I to the world?

For many years I hated myself for wanting anything. I considered it a major fault that I had desires. Surely, I must have been discontent, I wanted what I did not have. God gave me everything I needed, who was I to tell Him I should have more? But I was wrong. It isn’t discontent to desire. It’s only discontent to envy. That’s a very different animal.

It wasn’t introspection that uncovered this error, I learned by looking outside myself. Introspection festered my guilt. Healing was found in extrospection.

I only found the truth by seeking out what God and others had to say about contentment.

Back in those days, I was my worst critic. I lied to myself and let my lies injure me. In my woundedness I cut myself off from the love of others.

When I turn inward I become a ghost. I spend so much time beating myself up that I forget others. I disappear. Nothing comes out of me because I am pouring everything into myself. I am there but I am definitely not present.

Perhaps a better form of introspection is a form that looks at how I treat others. Does that which comes from me match what is inside me? If what comes out of me is selfish or cruel, is that reflecting what is inside of me?

Before communion we are warned to examine ourselves. We are told to heed Paul’s warning to ensure we are recognizing the body and blood of Christ. We are also sometimes warned to ensure we are in good standing with our neighbors before we commune with Christ Himself. This type of introspection is concerned not just with what is inside of us, but with how we relate to others.

If I am in conflict with others it may be a reflection of my own hard heart. I may not be letting go of a particular sin someone has committed against me. Or I may not be repentant and seeking restoration because I am too prideful or stubborn to accept my fault.

To figure out if we are guilty of a hard heart we must be introspective. This type of introspection is not concerned with “finding myself” and “loving myself”. This type is about learning how to love others and loving Christ. It is a holy type of introspection.

Of course this introspection must be accompanied by an understanding of scripture. Without a knowledge of the laws of God we are unable to know our sins, except for those written on our hearts as Natural Law. We may know not to kill naturally, but without scripture we would not know that anger and insults make us just as guilty as a murderer.

Perhaps we could call this an “extrospective introspection”? We look to scripture and the Holy Spirit to show us the truth of what is in ourselves.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. ” Psalm 139:23-24

Perspective

Perspective is a hell of a thing.

What we may perceive as small is actually an illusion created by our relative position to the object. This kind of illusion applies to many places in life, not just visually. Sometimes when we are distant from a person we tend to underestimate the big affairs going on in his or her life.

Sure, we may see the problems, clearly even. But because of our distance from the situation we may interpret what we see as a small issue. We may even think “we could handle that, why don’t they seem able to?”

But we don’t see how big the problem truly is to the person standing right under its power.

The only way to truly see how big the troubles are in someone’s life is to get closer to them. Spend time with them, talk to them, maybe share some of your big struggles with them to encourage them to bring up theirs.

Remind them that with time and distance problems always seem to shrink. What seemed big last week is now a tiny speck on the horizon of memory.

Of course this also should remind us all that what appears to be a little problem way out there in the future may end up quite large by the time we confront it. Small problems grow to big ones if not taken care of.

Don’t let your perceptions fool you. “Small” is not always small.

Thankfully “big” isn’t always big either.

Is It Wrong To Want Things?

Sometimes you just have to scrap an entire blog. My original title for this was “Happiness As a Goal”. But I’ve renamed it and rewritten it. And then rewrote it again. And then renamed it again.

So here it is, after a ton of editing:

I have struggled with the concept of wants and needs for a while. God gives us everything we need, so everything we don’t have we don’t need, right? And if God doesn’t give it to us and we don’t need it, it’s sinful to want it, right?

For a long time I felt that contentment meant being completely satisfied with what you have. This means that any desire for something one doesn’t have is discontentment and therefore sinful.

This was my train of thought: It is a sin to be discontent, to be content means you don’t want anything, you are satisfied with what you have. Therefore to want is to be discontent, therefore to want is to sin. Furthermore, God gives us everything we need, if we don’t have it we don’t need it. If we don’t need it we just want it, and wanting anything is a sin.

From the last three paragraphs you can see why my life has become kind of messy. I have shoved down a lot of desires and drives mistaking them for sin. This has made me a bit of a limp noodle. If wants and desires are inherently sinful what’s the point of trying? After all, you’re going to get what you need.

But then I realized that the Bible clearly talks about wants.

“You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” James 4:2b-3

James does not condemn his audience for asking for things.

In 1 John we read this:
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

One only asks for things if one wants something. Since asking is not condemned, wanting is not condemned. I was wrong to think merely having wants was sinful. God clearly wants us to want things that are in accordance with His will and to ask Him for them. Asking is encouraged, and we are to do it with confidence.

Ultimately I don’t have to feel shame or guilt for wanting things (or experiences, or good feelings). But I do have to ask the question “is this in accordance with God’s will?”

Probably the easiest way to determine this is to ask the questions “Do I want this purely for selfish gain? Does my desire ultimately serve others and/or bring glory to God?” If the answer to the first is no and the answer to the second is yes then I am free to ask and to pursue what I want.

This whole train of thought has further implications, obviously. This is me after all. I can’t keep anything too simple. Keep checking back and I will try to further expound on these thoughts in other posts as I get to them.

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I Don’t Care

Every time it seems to get better, it just gets worse again. Every time I think I am going to have a break from all the awful, something else comes along. And I’m broken. Broke and broken. And alone. So utterly alone.

I am human and flawed. I’m negative. I see nothing good. While I believe there is good, it is apparent to me that it is not for me. Good things aren’t for me to enjoy. I haven’t failed. I haven’t lost my privilege to good. It’s not like that. It’s just that good things seem to stay away more than the bad.

Maybe there is good. Maybe. I have blessings, sure. But every blessing seems to come with a drawback. Every choice good, bad, and neutral has negative consequences to some extent. There are no purely “good” things in my life.

Is that normal?

I know I have friends. I know intellectually that there are people out there who do have some care about me. Maybe even some concern about my soul. But where are they?

“You gotta be a friend to have a friend.” OK. But when I’m drowning in shame and anxiety and self-loathing who really wants me to be their friend? No one wants an anchor. No one wants someone who takes more than they could ever give in return.

Because I don’t have anything to give in return right now. I’m burned out. I lost my ability to empathize. You might talk but I might not listen. When I do I’ll turn every statement negative. Even the positive statements I will twist. I suck the life out of joy. I can’t give you anything. Not that you would ever ask.

I do care. I care a lot. There wouldn’t be a boiling rage or a twisting knot in my gut if I didn’t care. I wouldn’t want everything to be fixed to desperately if I didn’t care.

As I said the other day, to all six of you who read it, I don’t really want to die. Despite what the voice whispering in my darkest thoughts keeps telling me. There are too many good things to enjoy in this life.

I just want to be able to enjoy them for a change. Is that too much to ask?

I have to write. I have to get this out. If nothing more than to untangle the web of lies that seems to have ensnared me of late. I have never been so overwhelmed and lost in my life.

But that is hyperbole. It can’t be that bad, can it? Other people have it worse. Other people are dying. Other people are enslaved and abused. Other people have way bigger problems than I ever have. I’m just a whiny loser who can’t keep his head on straight. Everything bad in my life either isn’t truly bad or if it is bad it’s deserved.

It is totally hyperbole. Right?

Why do I crumble so quickly? Or have I crumbled that quickly? When did all of this begin? Has it been a year? More? A week? A month? How much time elapsed vs how much time did my brain tell me had passed? Truly life isn’t that bad. And if it is, it can’t have been for that long. Right?

I honestly don’t know. Maybe I have been strong but I just didn’t see it. Maybe I have been good. Maybe I’m better than my lying mind will let me believe. Or maybe I am much much worse

I care. I do.

Dailyish Thoughts #104

Literally nothing to do with this post. But look at that snail go!

My youngest just turned five, my eldest is about to turn thirteen. And I am just getting older by the minute. People don’t give kids enough credit. Those minds are quick, clever, and always absorbing. It is a joy to watch these wonderful people grow up. I would be lying if I said I didn’t take at least a little bit of pride in them. But really, what have I contributed much more than a few genes (and all the good genes are from their mother)? They are wonders on their own.

Why do I suddenly have a flashback to some horrible Chinese food we had in Arkansas? Does anyone else ever pull up random memories completely without context? That place was awful, and I’m easy to please, so that’s saying something.

We are talking about completely rearranging the house again. Rooms will be repurposed, furniture rearranged, and multitudes of items “rehomed” in the trash or shelves at Goodwill. This should be interesting…