Health and balance.

With the start of a new year, I sometimes like to attempt to implement new practices.

This year, the themes I’ve been pondering have been health/fitness and balance.

I want to obtain and maintain higher levels of physical, mental, emotional, financial, social, relational, and spiritual health; and as a byproduct of that, I want my life to have more balance.

That is, I want my life to have it all – social functions, work, play, exercise, intellectual stimulation, creativity, etc – and I want to have it in a balanced fashion. I want to read, but I want to play and be mindless. I want to create, but I also want to take time to meditate and clear my mind. I want to be alone, but I also want to take time to be social.

So, I created this chart. (the link will be below.)

It’s a chart that helps me keep track of what I did and when I did it, and the hope is that at the end of every month, I’ll get a sense of my priorities. I haven’t set specific goals or determined my minimum/maximum for each activity, but I think that’ll come with time.

 

I’d love your thoughts on it – do you think it’d help you? Do you already feel your life is balanced? What are your goals for the next year or so?

 

[and, I don’t want to flatter myself, but if you’d like to use this, please feel free. The idea is that you’ll print it, put it on your wall, and check it off every day.]

 

LifeBalanceChart

a male’s lament of an over-sexualized culture [honesty ahead.]

If you don’t already know this, my number one policy in blogging is this: be honest. Honesty takes precedent over thoroughness (as in, sometimes I will allude to honesty but I will not expound at risk of putting someone else under the bus) although thoroughness is very helpful when it’s possible.

The following entry has been on my mind for a while now, and it’s something I’ve hesitated greatly on. This could make or break me. I may or may not post this on my other social media outlets, and I’ll be frank: I’m somewhat scared of this.

But alas, here goes.

I hate pornography for a number of reasons, not least of which is its detrimental perspective towards women; its potential to skew perspectives towards sex; its addictive qualities; and its ability to create unreal schema about sex.

I hate pornography because of its grey nature that people try to mask as black and white. What I mean is that people try to categorize things into what’s porn and what’s not porn, and in my opinion – if you’re using it to masturbate, if you start to get an erection, then it’s porn. I almost said it’s “probably” porn, but no – it’s porn. They don’t have to have their clothes off for it to be porn. It doesn’t have to be in motion to be porn. It doesn’t even have to be intercourse to be porn. It can be nude photography. It can be a webcam feed of a girl who sits there naked. It can be a girl in a bikini. It can be a brief scene in a movie that’s not even sexual in nature, but involves the removal of clothes.

I can say that because I have used all of those before. We are, I believe, too conservative in our use of the word “pornography.”

I hate pornography because it gives you such a wide range of choices: do you want a brunette today, or a blonde? A redhead? Skinny, or only sorta-skinny (because let’s face it, most of our sexualized culture favors the skinny.) Big or small breasts? Inside or outside? Wearing anything fun or playful, like an apron or a nurse hat?

I hate that aspect of porn because the reality is that if you want to have a monogamous relationship, you don’t get a choice. Your spouse is your “type,” your spouse is your choice. If your spouse is 25 years old, 5’7″, 120 lbs with brown hair, you don’t get to choose between a teenager and a twenty-something. You can’t choose their hair color, or their weight. But porn gives you those options, and it’s disgusting for that. I don’t even have to call it disgusting – it’s just plain unrealistic.

The reality is that pornography sets you up as a consumer. It tells your brain to approach sex as something that is for you, something you can set your parameters for, something that is entirely self-serving. Sex isn’t self-serving. Not real sex, anyway – not good sex.

Good sex exists between two people who love each other, who trust each other, who don’t have to walk on thin ice with each other. Good sex exists between two people that have seen each other at their worst and stay patient and committed.

Like a sacrament, sex is an outward display of an inward grace – it is literal, physical vulnerability and nakedness leading to oneness and connectedness which represents the inward versions of that: emotional vulnerability, total honesty, sharing all things, accepting every detail, the beautiful and the ugly.

Pornography doesn’t prepare you for that. Pornography tells you that if someone doesn’t shave their pubic hair, then you can just readjust the search engine to get someone who does. But your spouse doesn’t exist within a search engine.

Pornography doesn’t prepare you for the awkward parts of sex – the initiation, the questioning of “is this really happening?” or “do you want to right now?” Pornography doesn’t set you up for rejection. Pornography doesn’t prepare you for when your partner says, “not tonight.” If anything, pornography sets you up to always get your way, and when things don’t go your way, there’s no telling how you’ll react.

In pornography, you’re the boss. And while that may sound good to all the frat guys out there, it’s not a good thing if you want to be…well…a generally decent person.

Sex is one of the following for everyone: god, gross, or a gift.* If it’s god, you’ll do whatever it takes to get it. it’s the highest priority. You serve it, you keep coming back to it, it’s your greatest desire, and you worship it. If it’s gross, you avoid it. You’re afraid of it. You don’t want to touch it, and when you do, YOU feel gross.

But if it’s a gift, then it’s handled well. It’s not something you can lose, it’s not something you grip too tight, it’s not something you can hold too loosely. It’s something you give, and something you receive. It’s a two way street of giving and receiving.

The world, however, doesn’t look at it that way. The world articulates it as “getting some,” “getting off,” “Netflix and chill,” “screwing,” “messing around,” etc. etc. We’ve managed to take a holy, sacred thing, and make it ordinary. And that’s less disgusting and appalling and more sad.

It’s sad to have two people who are incapable of keeping up a relationship over a long distance have sex. It’s sad to have a guy who gets annoyed when his girlfriend gets sad or remotely emotional and yet they still have sex, and then they break up because he can’t stand her anymore.
It’s sad to have two strangers who meet at a party and find each other attractive go back to one of their places, have sex and never talk to each other again.
It’s sad to have two people who are divided on what they’d do if they got pregnant (abort or keep) have sex.

Am I old-fashioned? Sure. Too romantic? Romantic, maybe – but not too romantic.

The reality is this: we can choose to look at sex purely as animals. It’s a need to be fulfilled, it’s something to be done for reproduction.

If you want to look at it that way, then that’s one thing. In my opinion, it’s not very decent – you risk a lot of hurt feelings (because as much as we want to detach emotions from it, there’s a lot of chemical release in sex, usually bonding chemicals that draw two people together) you risk pregnancy and either a fatherless child or a murdered child, you risk a lot of disease, etc. So – that’s one option.

Or, you can look at it as sacred. To me, that makes a lot more sense. It makes sense that if I’m going to let someone see every aspect of me, I’m going to make that emotional and spiritual – not just physical. It makes sense that if I’m possibly going to impregnate someone, I’m going to be around tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after. And the day after. Etc. It makes sense to me that if I’m going to have total physical unity with someone, I’m also going to have total emotional unity. The sex will be preceded and followed with, “I love you.” (quick aside: how the hell does our culture think “I love you” is so weird when sex is so casual?)

I realize that I sound pretty damn fundamental here, but here’s the reality: in the past, I looked at abstinence and chastity and celibacy and virginity as something you do because it’s right. I believe that, but instead of saying “I still believe that” it’s more technically accurate to say, “I believe that again.”

I believe that after having discussions about whether or not I should have sex with a girl, and we didn’t agree on what to do if we had an accident. I believe that after lots of back-and-forth decision making on what we should do. I believe that after being told “I don’t want to mess around” when I didn’t even make a move.

And, I value it more now – I understand more than ever the good and the bad of it. Intimacy is fun, and it feels good – but man, does it burn when that person disappears from your life. It’s not so easy to shake off.

So, in a weird way, I’m almost thankful for how messed up our culture is when it comes to sex – I’m not thankful for the damage its caused so many people – it’s almost a back-handed thanks: thanks for showing that it doesn’t work to just get off; thanks for showing that there’s a very-less-than-best way of going about the whole sex thing.

*Borrowed this idea from Mark Driscoll.

marvelous light.

I’ve realized (and you’ll see the irony shortly) that you can hear something over and over and over again, but it doesn’t mean anything unless you listen to it.

I’m thinking: “if you just cut out sweets, you’ll thin down and tone up.”

“If you do your homework on time, it’ll make your life easier.”

“If you save a dollar a day, that’s better than nothing.”

“You can hear something over and over again, but you have to listen.

I’ve realized that’s how hearing God works.

In the last year (as has been well-chronicled in this blog) I have desperately attempted to hear the voice of God, and it occurred to me the measures I’ve taken to do so.

I’ve taken countless walks.
Journaled.
Written songs.
Prayed.
Listened to worship music.
Listened to music that wasn’t worship.
Cried with my sister over beers at the tap room.
Jumped into this church and that.
Avoided my hometown (to hear Him in a new place.)
Ran to my hometown for comfort (to hear Him in a familiar place.)
Cried at the sight of lamp-posts.
Written blogs.
Vowed silence and avoided technology in my own home to foster creativity.
Welcomed a TV and some well-received distractions in the form of a PlayStation 3.

I know it sounds weird – all of those things are an attempt to hear God? in a hyper-spiritual sense, no. The hyper-spiritual answer is to hear God by reading your Bible and praying, and that’s all.

But the realist in me says that everything is an attempt to find familiar footing, or to find footing that can become familiar.

That version of me says that an emotional night spent crying with my sister at the bar just down the street from my apartment is an attempt to fight the chaos going on within my own heart and to grasp that sometimes-elusive peace that surpasses all understanding. It says that sometimes reliving painful memories or joyful memories is evaluative tactic to figure out what went wrong, or what worked.

Because that common ground, that stability, that peace – that’s God, isn’t it? Isn’t that who He is? Isn’t that what He’s like?

God is light, and in Him is no darkness. [1 John 1:5.]
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. [Hebrews 13:8.]
it is You who light my lamp, the Lord my God lightens the darkness [Psalm 18:28.]

To me, the pursuit of happiness, of peace, of light, and of goodness, is the same thing as the pursuit of God, and vice versa.

After all,

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light. [1 Peter 2:9.]

It’s almost as though not only is the pursuit of God is the pursuit of light, but His pursuit of US is the pursuit of bringing us into the light.

His desires for us are the same (to some degree) as our desires for Him, and let me explain what I mean.

No man wants to owe anything to anyone. Nor does God (though He, by His very nature, demands generosity from us toward each other.)
No man wants to feel guilt and shame over the past. Nor does God (but He desires Godly sorrow, leading to repentance.)
No man wants to feel uncertainty about the future. Nor does God for us – He prepared for us an eternal hope for an eternal future.
No man wants to let his ego destroy his interpersonal relationships – nor does God. He desires for us an exuberant unselfishness, dying to the flesh and humbling ourselves under His hand, preferring others to ourselves.

I don’t like to write like this – but I will: I urge you to consider it yourself. What are you aiming for? What is the happiness you are pursuing?

A few months ago, I was working out this issue in my head – there was something I wanted desperately, but it wasn’t in line with everything I was taught to believe growing up, and I wanted to stand against it (almost for that very reason) but the harder I tried, the less at peace I felt about it.

I suppose the simple equation should be that if you feel tension and tugging, it’s a good sign that we should give it up, right? I think that God, being the good Father that He is, is willing to tell us “no” when it’s not in line with what’s good for us.

It’s also an issue, at least in my opinion, or delayed gratification.

Perhaps it is that often times the things we want are good, just not in the context.
Sex is great, but it’s volatile outside of marriage.
Money is great, but not when it’s hoarded.
Comfort is great, but not when it comes at someone else’s expense.
Power is great, but not when it’s abused and fought for violently.

Perhaps we should change our language from talking about the pursuit of happiness and talk about the pursuit of wholeness. Happiness exists within wholeness, and when happiness is found outside of wholeness, it’s dangerous.

The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of light – it is everything good, it is everything beautiful, it is everything whole, it is everything just, it is everything kind, it is everything truthful. That’s the kingdom God is seeking to establish.

on being wrong.

I’ve really blown it this week.

Heck, I’ve really blown it a lot of weeks.

I’m no stranger to airing my own dirty laundry so here goes again: often times at work, I’m a little (or a lot) stubborn, and I get really frustrated really easily. Sometimes I make uninformed decisions and then stick to my guns when I shouldn’t, sometimes I get frustrated when I’m asked favors or have to run errands that I didn’t expect, etc.

And, to be frank, I’ve found that I’m never satisfied in doing so – I don’t feel good about shutting down people’s ideas because they don’t agree with my own; I don’t feel good about asserting something that turns out to be wrong; I don’t feel good when I argue; I don’t feel good when I cop an attitude about something that’s inconvenient.

I hate that feeling, really.

I don’t embrace it, and yet I don’t know how to let it go.

Often times, it feels like the alternative to being frustrated is to not care at all – something impossible for me. I can’t not care that when my time and space is impeded upon, because to me, the sound of not caring is to not mind it, and I find that impossible.

And yet (this is a coin that you can keep flipping, so I’ll stop soon) such frustration often causes me embarrassment, guilt, and humiliation.

And somewhere, somehow, out of this quagmire of frustration, guilt, shame, embarrassment, anger, etc. I’ve been hit with a big, theological question (at least, it’s big for me…)

Could it be that there was one little aspect of being human that Jesus never had to struggle with?

It’s advent season, and I loved the sermon this morning at church, where I was wiping tears throughout the service, and it was about Jesus, the King who came to visit and the King who came to save. It was about the incarnation, about the dawn of hope, how the world would get the King they needed in the form they needed Him: God in human form.

And there’s talk, as there well should be, that Jesus faced everything we face, He was tempted in every way and yet He was without sin.

That’s a great thought – one I love to ponder.

Here’s what I wonder, though – Did Jesus have any clue what it was like to be wrong?

First of all, this is by no means a theological stumbling block for me – it doesn’t shake my faith in Jesus as a perfect, sinless savior; but perhaps it leaves just this little corner of empathy which I have a hard time believing in.

Does Jesus know what it’s like to have a carnal mind like mine, capable of racism and classism?

Does Jesus know what it’s like to have a stubborn disposition like mine, capable of bulldozing conversations and asserting opinions that aren’t founded on truth, love, and grace? I mean, Jesus IS truth, love, and grace – how is it possible for Him not to see the world through those lenses?

Does Jesus know what it’s like to live in a society like ours which is so fast-paced that you have to cling tight to the little seconds of time you get that are your own?

But wait, maybe that’s just it. (and if you can’t already tell, I haven’t concluded this own mental map in my own head just yet)

Maybe that’s exactly how Jesus avoided the trap of wrong-ness: He knew His life wasn’t His own.

Maybe that’s what was allowed Jesus to let go of His humanity.

Maybe the fact that He didn’t have to be right was what allowed Him to be right – that He knew His mission and He knew His identity allowed Him to let go of his need to always be right, His need to always have His time…

and while we’re at it, Jesus seemed – on multiple occasions – to get away when He needed to. To be able to separate Himself. Maybe He was able to see time as a resource less precious than our culture and our pace allow us to see it – as something which occasionally needs protecting but often times needs to be given away.

Maybe Jesus saw everything – opinions, money, time, etc – as something to be held with an open hand, because while there is absolute truth, there is not absolute experience…

Maybe it’s the case that, while Jesus was never wrong, His humiliation, shame, and the weight of humanity’s guilt was so much heavier than my own will ever be, that the feelings of being wrong are as inconsequential (in their relation to His overall sacrifice) as the shame I feel from sexual sin, financial sin, or interpersonal sin.

Maybe being wrong is just part of our humanity – something no bigger than our other flaws, which, in and of themselves, also fall under the categories of “being wrong.”