Sunday, December 30, 2007

a confession

I pretty much hate being condescended to—even more so when part of me assumes that the other person is somewhat justified in their estimation of their own higher intelligence or consciousness. Of course, I don’t care to let this show. I shrug my shoulders and give a half smile, secretly hoping that my silent or affable martyr shtick will encourage them to be racked with guilt later.

Hopefully a tragedy was avoided. The scratch on my learned veneer not too deep, not revealing the mess of ignorance and tawdriness comprising the core.

Sometimes I’ll pick their brain right that moment. If I’m ignorant hitherto I’d rather not be henceforth. My immediate shame does yield to hope, hope that future embarrassment over an untruth, mispronunciation or malapropism will be avoided—and that these little nuggets gained can later be paraded about, laurels of the educated life. If anyone’s lording intellectual tidbits over others, it should be me.

Of course, I couch this all behind wide, innocent eyes: Not only am I bright, I'm so modest about it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

not always thanks and peace

tear at this body
the sin is in my flesh
tear it out

fist punched into wall
car crash

get the HELL out of me

fuck the writer in my head
always summing up everything

always throwing things together into a story
not a real story

but the one that sells me

that damned brain
remove it, bleach it
HOLY light envelop it
cleansing rays leave nothing of me

i'm HERE! What are you waiting for

screaming, yelling, crying, slumped in a hostel bathroom. YOU ignore it all!!!!!

is this not broken enough for you?


praise, scorn. i shake. shout. cough. insides tremor with them all and yet you don't care. You don't care. You don't care. FIX ME already.

i'm sick all over, my skin crawls with sin.

to sleep.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

God Dealing With Me

God, the Ultimate Claims Adjuster

Lot’s of things claim us. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Facebook owns me. My iPod owns me. So does my car. I need these things more than they need me and I spend more time with these things alone than I ever do with God.

Well, I’ve known that for a while. Last year I joked with my friend Kathryn that on Judgment Day, God’s decision is going to be pretty easy when he compares my prayer ledger vs. my Facebook and television ones. It’d serve me well to get a specialized hell where I’m only allowed to surf Facebook for all eternity. Heck, I’m already gnashing my teeth over all of these application invites.

Nothing’s really changed in a year. I probably just feel a bit more smug that at least I now recognize the things that own me.

A speaker at a panel discussion at school helped broaden this “ownership” insight for me the other week. In his view, the NT is pretty clear in stating that the nation state doesn’t have a claim on one’s personhood. Oooohhh. “Claim on one’s personhood.” I love it. I’m going to work, “But does _____________ have a claim on your personhood?” into lots of conversations for the next couple months.

In talking about the present-day relevancy of all of these gospel-negotiating-the-world testimonies, the speaker mentioned work and the choice of profession and I perked up since my post graduation plans and absence of plans have loomed large in my mind in recent months. On the role of work, the speaker said that most people were much more concerned with getting ahead than being faithful. Booyah! My decision to postpone real work and grad school and instead save up money working at AAA just gained sure theological footing. Oh those grad school goin’, real-jobbin’ peers, so concerned with getting ahead. Humble me just going to focus on being faithful.

So now I’m feeling better about my less than ambitious plans. These are my favorite types spiritual insights: the ones that require less of me. The ones that make my life easier and actually feel “freeing.”

Putting Myself on the Couch

I’ve got people-pleasing/impressing issues. Sometimes I may as well be one of those insecure, underdog teenagers most writers of popular television are always lauding. As much as I have recognized and tried to divorce myself from caring what people think of me, it’s still very
important to me that people think highly of me. A couple years ago, I stopped caring to a wide degree about material possessions. I wanted to be that person who didn’t care about my clothes, looks, or possessions and it just took the realization that it was none of those things that made me like the friends I had to be largely freed from that burden.

Now I just need to work on my insecurities about my self-awareness, intelligence, and niceness. I get a great deal of satisfaction over whether people think highly of me in those areas. Attacks on those raise my most startled ego-defense mechanisms because those are the things I care most about; those are the things I bolster so that I’ll be well liked. More so than just about anything else I can think about, I allow those huge claims on my personhood. (Even blogs like this fill my need to be self-aware and insightful.) I like to think that Grace was the impetus and I know that my faith is a huge part of the way I carry myself around others—I’m just uncomfortable with this feeling that my life of faith is mixed in so well with my selfish self-aggrandizement.

On Even Being a “Christian”

I feel like I don’t have much control over my heart. I do recognize that strange tension between everything being the work of the Spirit and my place in allowing that work to happen. I’ve given myself to Christ—I’ve just taken myself back. I’ve submitted myself in those aesthetic, crying-before-God moments. It’s just that it didn’t seem to stick. I’ve also set some public paths toward God (e.g., in my education and my relationships) that inertia propels when I take a break. It just always feels I’m like happiest visiting both worlds—there’s just that cold reality that it’s not enough, that the hope of eventual rightness with God is just a distraction, a pipe dream, keeping me from actually doing it.

I’ve come pretty far in the past few years and that past is helping me imagine a more spiritually disciplined future. I just don’t want to get lost on the scenic route.

Uneasy and Hoping for and Expecting More and OK with Being Weak (for now)

I so often wish that all of this came naturally—like it seems to be for others (some of my Christian friends). For me, honesty is easier than being good. Most of my Christian friends know this. I’m pretty sure to let them know early on not to expect too much faithfulness from me, that I’m pretty worldly and one those newcomers to this whole Christian thing. “Maybe after my full submission to the Lordship of Christ, I’ll stop watching Nip/Tuck and making inappropriate jokes.”

Outside of Point Loma and among non-believers that Christian label follows me (although I prefer the “trying to become one” line). Here, being cute and impish doesn’t cut it and I feel the responsibility to God to better mirror Him. However, I feel conflicted and incongruent knowing that lots of people, acquaintances and nominal friends, only know that best face forward mask. What happens when they see the cracks? What about when I slip up? What will they think of this living God and His work if they know about my artifice in constructing that smiling, patient mask? I don’t know the answers for sure. I just have to get better at letting people know that I’m weak and showing, like the bumper sticker says, “I’m not perfect. I worship the One who is.”

Ohh, there’s no structure to this. It’s late. I started one blog and ended up with this. Praise Jebus. Just think about what’s holding you from God. What’s making claims on your personhood in lieu of Christ? I would really appreciate any prayers. Thank you.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

tempting chaos

start times and
due dates
whats in it for me?

fake smiles
held words

run again
but cant

i want pedal to the floor
sprint off the pier
to be weightless slow-mo

Sunday, October 28, 2007

This Week's Thoughts

Err on the side of "God cares"
I give this advice (to myself and others) a lot. We ignore it a lot. What's safer? To believe God wants you to take responsibility here or that he doesn't care?

One day, I will do a grand, 6-week "summer in Scandinavia" trip. Oh, and I also need to get to Australia and New Zealand, go to grad school, and find a job...and win the lottery.

Lack of insight? Nah, not too much. Lack of will? Bingo.

"But it's the only time you get to spend with these friends." Counter-point in my internal dialogue over whether to listen to morning talk-radio or plug in my iPod.

But is it only the manifestation of a psychodynamic structure born of a intrapsychic wound?

So I've got a good idea about how Jesus would act in some situations--but how would he tolerate 8 hours next to a ridiculous and inappropriately chatty woman 3 days a week? I think I prefer martyring persecution. Yes, lions would be preferable to this.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

an apology

Ideologues are weak and often they are hypocrites. But, please, consider first that the ideologue may be all too familiar with this fact. Ideology is of the brain—love is of the heart. The heart is weak, wicked, and unresponsive to Truth. The brain is damned but the ideologue controls it. Most of the time. So he reads, converses, and inquires (all the while constructing the ideology). He cannot say that he has built an edifice as great as the OTHER'S or indeed another's, but he built his own; he knows it. And in the moments when the passions rage and the conscience is silenced—it is the beacons of those mind towers that shine, that argue with the breathy or mocking voices of the Moment. The ideologue’s heart is small and weak and has been so since he was a boy, scarred from the injury of a Stronger. Do not blame him for adapting in the only way available to him.

Yea, there is hope. For congenital goodness remains and the SPIRIT is not away. Ideology is a bandage. In the construction of the towers there is a change—of spires more humble than ever conceived on blueprints. Glimpses of heaven are caught and the drawing table returned to. And when he is ready, he walks away from it all into the open ARMS.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Posing Questions

Thoughts: I've assumed for a few years now that the more evolved a person's self-concept—the more evolved their emotional and spiritual development (especially in the Christian faith)—the more humble and aw-shucks they'd be. I certainly have some finger-in-the-eye favorites, cerebral stalwarts from past and present ages who buck up my ideology, but, for the most part, in my day-to-day relationships, I esteem humility and genuine smiles. Incidents of arrogance usually signal me that someone has more growth to go. However, it was recently suggested to me that healthy, "congruent" people weigh jerk-ness and humility and find a balance. I'm willing to lend this a bit of credence because of the own distressing incongruities in my life that produce a volley of attacks on affable, compassionate Matthew from the passive-aggressive, cynical parts of myself. Still, I hesitate from imbuing this observation with too much suggestive power—interpersonal relationships hardly suffer from too many compassionate, humble people. Moreover, the call to Christ-likeness is cheap and bastardized if it is reduced to a call for psychological healthiness based on the individual's sense of wholeness and getting what they want out of relationships.

What are your thoughts? What's the tension between being an ass and being genial, between humility and steadfastness? What attributes do you prefer in your church leaders?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

late night rambling

Maxims Reference:

"All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be." -C.S Lewis

"What people call insincerity is simply a method by which we can multiply our personalities." -Oscar Wilde

I'm stuck, asking "who am I really?" The parts are many: my parents' son, my siblings' brother, Shelly's friend, Greg's friend, Sarah's whatever-the-heck-I-count[ed]-as, ___________'s friend, AAA Matthew, the generous son of God , the sinner filling his head with noise to silence God and have 'just this sin.' What model gives this any form? Spectrums, graphs, percentages, or solutions? Am I leaping or crouching? Who are the characters/actors/agents in this story? The trite summations of life and God I dispense to others have lost their resonance. Are they now merely insufficient for a more evolved person or have I hardened my heart?

Disabused of a comforting pride—one that told me that I stood at the center, being touched on all sides: that I was the complete man—all I have is this awareness of a mind always lying to itself, conspiring against faith and love. How much deceit has seeped into my life, underlies my thoughts, and strengthens the sinful pillars of my mind? I'm resigned too, sad because of an intervening conviction that these existential crises are a mark of immaturity/irresponsibility to others and God.

What is motivating this all? Will digging deeper help? Is this all mere vanity before God and you, affected weakness concealing a sinister and deliberate treachery, seeking pardon for the tormented hypocrite rather than the prideful one? I answer my own questions, of course.

I imagine the scoffers condescending still, "You homo curvatus in se. Buck up! This is the 'doing' faith. Your mind filthy only because you wish it so; hands idle save for wringing."

But I protest, "All I do is make the sub-conscious conscious. I've made the incision; I'm performing the surgery. There's bleeding, such disarray; It's not time to sew up now! Oh how I pray for virtue not managed nor planned but flowing from the Spirit, of vice extinguished, not merely explainedvice not demanding sympathetic countenance but evocative of a righteous purifying anger.

My heart feels dead and it's not taking orders; there will be no repentance today. There is a reaching coming from some will but its only organ-of-use is that damned mind: offering an explanation of sin and capable of manifesting only shame when something in or about me longs for redemption.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Unwell in a New Way

Last semester, for my Pastoral Care and Counseling class, I read excerpts from “The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction” by Eugene Peterson ( author of The Message). His thoughts on inadequacy and false humility have stuck with me, becoming a weekly and sometimes daily critique on my flights from God.

As someone with an ideological commitment to orthodoxy and “conservatism” as well as an acute and weighty (but sometimes numbing) sense of condemnation because of my moral failings, I juggle imperatives, asking myself questions with conflicting answers.

What I can say is that some of the following thoughts shifted my thinking in a lasting way: at times, making me face God when “humility” and biased guilt would have me do otherwise.

From “The Contemplative Pastor”:

“People don't feel they are very good at the Christian life. They are apologetic and defensive about their faith. A feeling of inadequacy is characteristic of adolescent life. When a person is growing rapidly on all fronts - physical, emotional, mental - he or she is left without competence in anything. Life doesn't slow long enough for him to gain a sense of mastery. The teenager has a variety of devices to disguise this feeling: he can mask it with braggadocio, submerge it in a crowd of peers, or develop a subcult of language and dress in which he maintain superiority by excluding the larger world from his special competence. The variations are endless; the situation the same: the adolescent is immature, and therefore inadequate. And he is acutely self-conscious about this inadequacy.”

“That is exactly what the pastor meets in people of all ages in the church. They feel they aren't making it as Christians. This is a bit of a surprise because in the past the Christian church has more often had to deal with the Pharisee - the person who feels he achieved adequacy long ago. People today are more apt to be uneasy and fearful about their Christian identity.”

“That process seems natural an innocent - as natural and innocent as the feelings of inadequacy in the adolescent and his consequent admiration of competence. It is more likely, though, a new disguise for an old sin - the ancient business of making idols. God calls people to himself, but they turn away to something less than God, fashioning a religious experience but avoiding God. The excuse is that they are "inadequate" for facing the real thing. They proceed with the awareness that, far from sinning, they have acquired the virtue of humility. But the theological nose smells idolatry.”

At this point, Google Book’s anti-copyright infringement protections thwarted the rest of my quote harvesting. Until I can check out the book, here are my notes from the rest of the chapter:

-The pastor can’t treat this inadequacy as an unfortunate feeling to be removed by psychological or moral means. The pastor should see it as a sign of sin—an avoidance of personal responsibility in the awesome task of facing God
-Second Characteristic (the first being Inadequacy) : Historical Amnesia
-People are not in tune with 20 centuries of tradition
-People are not of the persevering type—they easily led by fashions
-It is a manifestation of our nature, just like Inadequacy because it acts like a clever ruse for masking sin. It is a sin of denial that denies dependence on God and interdependence on neighbors and a counter-insistence that the ego be treated as something God-like.
-The quest for “identity” and integrity, while appearing innocent, actually harbor sin.

I needed to read all of these things. Inadequacy—reaching but not grasping—and dejection typify so much of my life and, now I realize, so much of my irresponsibility. I’ve been the Pharisee and I’ve played the woe-to-me Christian, but it wasn’t until I read this that I saw them as symptoms of the same disease. I don’t mark this realization as a cure; I am still an adolescent (may I hope an older one?) but I am guarded against seeing virtue in sin.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


I've been doing my best to manage my thoughts about the often-ridiculous members who walk through the doors at the AAA. I give them the Jesus eyes, I treat them just like I would want my little old grandmother to be treated, and I pray for the Holy Spirit to kick in, with an added Divine gust of love, as I struggle to project unconditional positive regard toward someone who just told me to "eat sh!t." Today, I had to serve another doozy of a member and I spent the rest of the day fighting off terrible thoughts about this man.

I first tried self-discipline. My internal dialogue went something like, "OK try harder, try harder. This is virtue at the testing point. Be as nice as possible. Not too nice. Don't let his unreasonableness win out. Wait, Love is all giving. Treat him like he's Mother Teresa. OK that's not working. Wait, watch your tone. Double up on the smiles and niceness. This is for your good and his." As he left, I thought that it would have been better to pray to God rather than give myself a peptalk. "Ah, next time add prayer."

Then next, I tried pity: "Wait, you know who I really need to pray for? Him. He's the one whose life is so miserable he gets upset over missing forms—how awful such a life must be for such an impatient man! Tonight I pray for the a$$hole!—er, child of God whose redemption is made possible by the same Christ who redeemed me; that's right: we're both in the same boat really—both awful sinners deserving death. Oh, he's going to need a lot of prayer."

Then I got angry. Coming off those lofty feelings of my loving realization that he needed the prayer, I heard that he had complained about me—suggesting my transfer or termination. Well Jesus went out the window at the moment and I entertained fantasies of scrambling over my counter and stabbing the jerk with my pen. I came down quickly from that as I remembered a passage from The Great Divorce (which I'm re-reading at the moment) where a redeemed spirit confesses to his unrepentant boss and asks for his forgiveness for laying in bed at night in past times and dreaming of terrible things he would do to his cruel boss should the opportunity ever present itself.

That made me focus: I'm battling evil thoughts in my mind right now. They do not deserve indulgence. The fruit of temptation is there—and it is ripe; but I cannot reach for it. Satan was tempting me with anger. And honestly, this is probably the first time that I realized and dwelt on the fact that Satan also tempts me when it comes to anger. How easy is it for me to imagine that he tempts me with lust, gluttony, or greed—but how did I never consider that the great Deceiver is ready to reap the harvest from the tempting seeds of wrath in my mind? And not just anger, why don't I think the same of sloth, envy, and pride as I do with sex, food, and money? I know where underwear ads, free cookies, and the future salaries of my friends lead my mind, why haven't I given the same pre-thought and caution to where it will wander when a troublsome customer comes to my desk? I need to get more serious about ALL temptation.

Sorry, this may seem old news to many but it's pretty new to me.

There but for the grace of God go I.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

so self aware, so full of scheisse

I'm not feeling very smart lately. I read lots of things I can't write—nor could ever—and become discouraged. The cut is especially deep if the writings come from the pen of a peer, particularly one with whom I've competed (in my own mind, at least) in the past.

I'm concerned about my education. I'm 21 and just starting my senior year; the diploma, if not on the doorstep, is down the driveway. It will mean a lot—perhaps more than I first imagined—but I doubt it will fulfill my highest hopes. Wasn't I supposed to be closer to "greatness" by now? Instead, I feel about as intellectually developed as were, I imagine, the 12-year-old selves of my heroes.

Upon sampling certain friends' and peers' work, it often becomes clear to me, painfully so, that they think at higher levels. Glimpses into their minds tell me how they must disdain my parochial mind—even my best, most evolved work must seem naïve and amateur to them. They read more books than I do, engage more thoughts, and string phrases together that I could never imagine.

These real and imagined critics torture me. Oh, how they must have looked down on me in the past—certain bygone writings and rants surely exposed me as a reactionary, an intellectual pygmy balancing dictates and paradigms on a few borrowed ideas, most not fully understood.

It's not just my peers, the under 22 set, though; the world is opening up before me. Any admiration afforded to me by the mere novelty of youthful writing will soon disappear. I mean: any greater esteem I received because of my age—the respect adults give to youngsters for being atypically far- and keen-sighted—is shrinking with each birthday. I'm no longer being compared to Slacker Joe in most capacities but with the stalwarts of ages past and present. There's no special novice standard anymore; the only thing that distinguishes me now is my work.

But how to solve any of this? More purposeful reading—but where to begin? I already own shelves full of never-creased book spines. Adding books to my Amazon cart brings tenfold the excitement of completing the second chapter. I am so lazy and the task so huge—my destiny with right thinking and esteem is pushed ever further back. How long will this take? How much better will I get? Is it going to be "enough"? Is this the fate I'm stuck with—the millstone that shrinks but still drowns me?

I need to get serious about my education, I need to make my self- and independent- education more systematic, and I need more engagement with peers who edify me and older/wiser antagonists who challenge me.

Monday, July 23, 2007

So why start a blog?

Because it tickles my inner narcissist? I’m not sure if there is a definitive answer as much a myriad of reasons innocent, benign, and/or ignoble.

Primarily, I hope this space will function as a little window into my daily and weekly thoughts. Some may know, from my dozen previous myspace and facebook blog and notes posts, that I dwell on some questions, lessons, and insights long enough that I decide to spend a few hours crafting an essay to distill my ideas and clean up my reasoning. I’d like to do more of it...trouble is, I rarely muster the will to turn my notebook scribbles and Notepad musings into neat paragraphs. Instead, I’d rather post these fetal missives and move on rather than feel overwhelmed by the jumbled “My Thoughts” folder I keep on my Windows desktop.

That said, I have few illusions that I’m anything more than a neurotic novice with a thesaurus. Thus, I’m not naïve enough to believe that most people actually care what I think about the Iraqi war, abortion, Christian education, the New Age movement, etc. What I can promise though (and why would I write this blog if I didn’t at least half-believe it?) is that this blog will be interesting to a few, particularly my friends, who think that I’m interesting or my thoughts worth a read. If you disagree, than you should take that up with my mom or never visit this blog again.

Luckily, I'm a two-trick pony: when I’m not wondering about God, politics, or relationships, I like to think about Kathy Griffin as I dance to Lean Like a Cholo
and I wouldn’t want to deprive my friends of those thoughts. Truth is, I spend more of my time contemplating the flashy and fleeting than I do the grand questions of life—and I enjoy talking about these things as much as anything else I bring up only in more refined company.

What will guide me? What I hope guides me in life: love, honesty, inquiry, and self- and other- awareness.

Bookmark and comeback soon. Thanks.