Adventures in Pre-Fatherhood, Part V

Reality Comes A-Knockin’, or “Freak Out Time”

All the pregnancy books and birthing classes say that at seven months, the whole having a baby thing becomes more real to dads. Bingo.

So I’m sitting in the fully-furnished nursery today (complete with a crib, changing table, dresser, book shelf, and cradle) playing with the brand new car seat (for 5-65 pounds) when I suddenly have the thought, “Holy crap, a real live tiny little person is just a couple of months away from invading my home. We’re having a baby for real!” It’s been cool to imagine having a baby and register for gifts and all, but we’ve got a real baby coming… dang! I’m so not qualified for this position. I’m still working on figuring out how to take care of myself, much less a baby.

Of course, the woman realizes the baby is real long before the man. We feel the occassional “kick” which could alway just be gas or an implanted alien. They feel the bundle of joy doing jumping jacks on their bladder. Meanwhile, dad-to-be is able to pretend that his wife has just been hitting Mickey D’s too much and has grown a really huge beer belly. Sooner or later, though -BAM!- it hits you… you’re about to be completely responsible for another human life. Despite this, God put a baby in my wife and in just seven weeks he’ll be here.

I’m still learning how to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on our new musical octopus!

Adventures in Pre-Fatherhood, Part IV

Video Debut, or “The very first embarrassing naked pictures go online!”

I’m back with some real content, not just goofy videos. I know it’s been a while since my last pre-fatherhood post, but other than a lot of nausea, not a lot happens during the first few months of pregnancy. I could have written endless posts about vomitting, but that just wouldn’t be much fun for anybody.


For a non-medically-up-to-date guy like me, new medical equipment seems like something out of Star Trek. Alanna went in for her halfway point ultrasound yesterday morning and we were able to leave with a DVD of the experience. There’s even some 3D pictures and heartbeat sounds! Thanks to a little computer trickiness, I’ve ripped the video and put it online for the world to see. Can a child be embarrassed by their parents prenatally? If so, it’s good practice for later on in life because this baby’s dad is pretty weird.

Oh, one important little detail was revealed during this appointment… We’ve got a boy on the way! Pretty exciting! Of course, the first thing mom-to-be wanted do was go shopping for some new blue accessories. We decided to skip all the little outfits with sports equipment on them because if he inherits his parents’ athletic ability, giving him a shirt with a football on it is just setting the poor little guy up for disappointment.

Here he is in all his tiny glory! You might notice that he never stays still for even a few seconds. Well, his mom had just finished a healthy breakfast of Corn Pops and chocolate milk, so baby’s on a sugar high. He does kick a lot though, even without stimulants. I think he’s going to be a ninja.

Adventures in Pre-Fatherhood, Part III

First Pictures, or, “I think that’s the baby… maybe”

Alanna and I were introduced to our baby for the first time today. He/she/it is not very active at the moment, but does have a good strong heartbeat (which we actually got to hear). I guess it’s hard to do a whole lot when you’re only the size of a coffee bean… once it gets bigger than that though, I’m going to have to put it to work.

We brought home some pictures to share. I think the baby looks like me.

Adventures in Pre-Fatherhood, Part II

My Baby Momma, or, “Pardon me while I vomit on your shoes.”

To prepare myself for the next nine months, I’ve been doing a little reading about pregnancy and what to expect when we’re expecting by reading the aptly titled What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Along with that great resource, I’ve also been pouring over the equally informative Babies and Other Hazards of Sex: How to Make a Tiny Person in Only 9 Months, with Tools You Probably Have around the Home by Dave Barry. Based on my reading of these two books as well as my week of first-hand experience I now feel qualified to use my blog as a tool teach others about the joys and trials of growing a baby. (Hint: It doesn’t involve a cabbage patch at all.)

The nine months of pregnancy is divided up into three units called “trimesters,” which is Latin for “three mesters.” The first trimester, the place where Alanna is right now, is a lot of fun. And when I say “fun,” I mean, “not fun.” During this phase of Operation Baby, the woman’s body basically goes crazy for a while. You’ve got hormones that have no business being in a human body in the first place suddenly taking over. When these hormones kick in, they usually bring with them a whole bunch of fatigue, soreness, nausea, vomiting, mood swings, and the desire to mix pickles and ice cream.

I can joke about these things because as a guy, I’m not the one going through them. For my wife, however, this is no laughing matter. In fact, she’s probably going to hit me when she reads this. The reason for this is that during this stage of pregnancy, the baby gets its nourishment by consuming the mother’s sense of humor. For instance, I really enjoy making comments to Alanna that I am now her “Baby Daddy,” but usually she just rolls her eyes while I’m laughing at my own joke. Thankfully, after the first trimester, everything should stabilize and she will once again be able to appreciate my wittiness (assuming she ever appreciated it in the first place… I think she actually married me despite my sense of humor.)

Based on my research, it’s important to note that at this stage, our baby has a tail. It will shrink and go away over the next month, but at this moment, we have a little tadpole. Plus, it looks like there is an alien growing inside of my wife. Watch the skies… and the womb!
So anyway, in case you’re wondering (or wandering), Alanna is cool with me making smart alec comments about her pregnancy and discussing her nausea in front of the whole world via the internet. She will undoubtedly hit me, but she would probably do that anyway. (Remember, mood swings are part of the joys of pregnancy!) Stay tuned for more educational moments, most of which is at least somewhat true.

Adventures in Pre-Fatherhood, Part I

Revelation, or, “This thing I’m holding has been peed on!”

Last Wednesday, my wife Alanna surprised me by walking into my office with a bouquet of flowers for my desk. As a guy, I’m not used to getting flowers, but I thought that maybe she was just in a particularly sweet mood and wanted to spruce up the little cave where I spend most of my week. Then she told me to close my eyes and hold out my hands. I obeyed, hoping for candy or maybe pizza.

When I opened my eyes again, however, there was a pregnancy test in my hands… and there was a plus sign in the little window. Being a guy and knowing nothing about how these things work, I looked up at Alanna and asked if this meant what I thought it did. She beamed at me. There was my answer. Wow, my head was spinning and a stupid-looking grin spread across my face. Holy crap, I’m going to be a daddy!

And I need to wash my hands…. ew.

X-Rated: Adults Only!

A little disclaimer before you read this post: This was not originally a blog post. I was commissioned by Circle Six Magazine, an online magazine aimed at Christian men ages 18-35, to write an article about Song of Solomon for Valentine’s Day. With their readership in mind, I let it all hang out with no self-censoring for this article. This might make you blush. It kind of makes me blush to have it on my blog. The article was published in 2006 and I’m just now posting a link to it in 2010. (I still can’t bring myself to share the link on Facebook.) But here’s the thing: I think this may be one of the best articles I’ve ever written.

After the article was published someone wrote in the forums that this article changed her life. She said that she and her husband had been doing everything that the article suggests, but she always felt a little guilty about it, like enjoying sex was wrong. Reading this, she said, gave her new freedom in her marriage. I loved that! So here it is… if you have trouble making eye contact with me after reading this, I’ll try to understand.

You have tried the candles, the wine, the Barry White, maybe even some toys… so what else is there? How about the Song of Solomon? You may not believe it, but hidden in the middle of the Bible is a book all about sex and love, and Solomon holds nothing back. The Song of Solomon is an X-rated, adults-only celebration of love and sex, as erotic as anything you are going to find in a porno shop. In fact, some Jewish rabbis recommend that no one under the age of thirty be allowed to read the book.

Song of Solomon paints a beautiful picture of romance, sex, and intimacy in the context of marriage, but for thousands of years interpreters have been trying to find some way to get around it. Surely God would not talk about things like that in the Bible! So they find all kinds of hidden meanings about God’s relationship with Israel or Jesus’ relationship with the Church – anything to avoid sex in the Bible. The fact is Song of Solomon is a celebration of love and sex enjoyed freely by a married couple the way God intended. This book is thick with eroticism and offers plenty of tips for married couples on how to keep each other happy between the sheets. There’s a lot of good stuff in these eight chapters, but I am going to cut to the chase and just talk about the dirty parts. Feel free to take notes.

First, let’s introduce the characters in the story. We have Solomon, the king of all Israel, and his new bride, a simple girl from the country who is only identified as “the Shulammite.” Already this sounds like the perfect setup for either a hit romantic comedy or a dirty porn. It is their wedding day, and this girl is already getting hot and bothered thinking about what is coming later that night. As we look at this book, there are some wonderful and steamy tips every couple can take away and put into practice.

Tip #1: Ladies, never be afraid to initiate sex in your marriage. Trust me; your husband will appreciate it!

1:2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
for your love is more delightful than wine.

3 Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;

your name is like perfume poured out.

No wonder the maidens love you!

4 Take me away with you—let us hurry!

Let the king bring me into his chambers.

As the wedding approaches, the Shulammite is not worried about whether or not the caterer has been paid or what the flowers look like for the ceremony. She just wants to get this show on the road and get down to the business of lovemaking. She is imagining him kissing her, thinking about how he smells, and she longs to enter his chambers with him. This is a girl who has her priorities straight. She is not ashamed of her sex drive and is willing to initiate things when she feels the urge.

Tip #2: Try new things! Do not be afraid to experiment.

2:3 Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest
is my lover among the young men.

I delight to sit in his shade,
and his fruit is sweet to my taste.

Here she is giving him a little sneak peak of what she wants to do after they have walked across the threshold. She wants him to be standing while she sits in his shade and tastes his “fruit.” Now what exactly could she mean by fruit? Apples? Pears? Nuts? Most guys would run down the aisle if their bride-to-be starting making these kinds of offers. She is not afraid to experiment with her husband and tell him what she wants. All men should be so lucky.

Tip #3: Men, take your time and enjoy building anticipation. Do not rush through foreplay.

The wedding takes place in Chapter 3, and in Chapter 4, the marriage is consummated. For the first seven verses, Solomon looks at his new bride wearing nothing but a veil over her eyes, and talks seductively to her. (Note to men: When your wife is naked in front of you, choose your words carefully!) His eyes slowly inch down her body, as he describes her hair, her eyes, her lips, and her cheeks flushed with anticipation and desire.

4:5 Your two breasts are like two fawns,
like twin fawns of a gazelle
that browse among the lilies.

Why does seeing his wife topless make Solomon think of two furry little woodland creatures? I think there is something subtle going on here. When you see furry little baby animals, what is your first instinct? You pet them! Solomon is a breast man, and he cannot wait to get his hands on her. Instead of rushing right in though, he takes his time and uses his words to get her ready. Foreplay is important to a woman. He speaks of their sultry adventures, which only seem to end with the setting of the sun.

Tip #4: Enjoy every part of your partner. All five senses are important in the bedroom.

4:12 You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride;
you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.
13 Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates

with choice fruits,

with henna and nard,

14 nard and saffron,

calamus and cinnamon,
with every kind of incense tree,

with myrrh and aloes

and all the finest spices.

15 You are a garden fountain,

a well of flowing water

streaming down from Lebanon.

The woman has saved her virginity for her husband and until this point has been a “locked garden” and a “sealed fountain.” Now that garden is wide open, and Solomon is enjoying all its fruits. Pomegranates, henna flowers, nard, saffron, calamus, cinnamon, incense, myrrh, and aloes were the finest fruits and spices available in the Middle East, and all had erotic implications. He’s talking about smells and tastes coming from her body, which he now calls a “well of flowing water streaming down from Lebanon.” There is no place for inhibitions in the bedroom. Explore, touch, taste, feel, smell, and experience your partner in every way you can. After all this sensory indulgence, she is hot, horny, and ready, and she invites him to keep going. She gives herself freely to him.

Tip #5: Men, when your wife is in the mood for love, be willing to change your schedule around for her.

5:2 I slept but my heart was awake.
Listen! My lover is knocking:
“Open to me, my sister, my darling,

my dove, my flawless one.

My head is drenched with dew,

my hair with the dampness of the night.”

3 I have taken off my robe—

must I put it on again?

I have washed my feet—

must I soil them again?

4 My lover thrust his hand through the latch-opening;

my heart began to pound for him.

5 I arose to open for my lover,

and my hands dripped with myrrh,
my fingers with flowing myrrh,

on the handles of the lock.

6 I opened for my lover,

but my lover had left; he was gone.

Every couple has a bad night now and then; Solomon and the Shulammite were no exception. The beginning of the chapter says Solomon arrived home late, and his beloved was naked in bed awaiting his arrival. She had already perfumed her body with myrrh, a sure sign she had planned on making love, yet now the mood is ruined. She becomes angry with her beloved for not calling (forgetting, of course, that phones would not be invented for a few thousand more years) and refuses to unlock the door for him.

Solomon tries to smooth talk her into showing him a little affection, calling her “my darling,” “my dove,” and “my flawless one.” This time, though, his words fall on deaf ears, and he makes one final attempt reaching for his beloved through an opening in the door. Seeing how much he wants to be with her moves her heart, and she decides to open up for him. She goes to open the door, but it is too late. Solomon is gone. Solomon’s story aside, if you keep your wife waiting until one in the morning while you play X-Box, do not assume your wife is going to be so thrilled over your Halo victory that she will want to celebrate with you. Be considerate of her feelings. When she is in the mood, go spend time with her, or you may find her back to you, being in no mood for passion.

Tip #6: Ladies, every man appreciates a good striptease.

In Chapter 7, Solomon’s new bride gives him a private performance by dancing naked for him. This is one of the most explicit passages in the entire book. Solomon watches her intently, observing each part of her body, from her feet to the top of her head, leaving nothing out. The word Solomon uses for one of her body parts is so graphic the English translators get a little scared and translate it as “navel.” Solomon compares this body part to a bowl of wine: round, red, and wet. He says it is full of wine, sweet to the taste and intoxicating. Whoever said the Bible had to be boring? After her dance, he can no longer remain an observer.

Tip #7: When the time is right, let her know how you feel and make your move.

7:7 Your stature is like that of the palm,
and your breasts like clusters of fruit.

8 I said, “I will climb the palm tree;

I will take hold of its fruit.”

May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine,

the fragrance of your breath like apples,

9a and your mouth like the best wine.

Solomon makes his intentions clear – he wants to take hold of his bride, touch her breasts, taste them, and kiss her, taking in every part of her. The environment is perfect for a night of satisfying lovemaking.

Tip #8: Be spontaneous!

7:11 Come, my lover, let us go to the countryside,
let us spend the night in the villages.

12 Let us go early to the vineyards

to see if the vines have budded,

if their blossoms have opened,

and if the pomegranates are in bloom—

there I will give you my love.

13 The mandrakes send out their fragrance,

and at our door is every delicacy,
both new and old,

that I have stored up for you, my lover.

In the final sexual scene of the book, the Shulammite asks Solomon to take her away for the weekend. She wants to take a vacation to keep things fresh. Budding vines, opening blossoms, pomegranates, and mandrakes were all considered to be aphrodisiacs. Here, among all these outdoor delicacies, she promises, “There I will give you my love.” Not just in the country, but outside under the open sky, they will find a place for just the two of them where they can give themselves to each other. Outdoor sex… have I mentioned that Solomon was a lucky guy?

Did you take good notes? If not, pick up your Bible and read it again. You might even try reading some of it out loud to your wife. The Song of Solomon is what marriage and sex are all about: love, commitment, pleasure, enjoyment, and mutual satisfaction. God, in all his wisdom, gave us a guide book for a happy sex life, so make sure to not overlook it. Now stop reading and put your Bible study into action. You can have this same kind of passion in your own marriage. Go light the candles, pour some wine, turn up the music, and enjoy the fruits of your own private garden.

Originally published at Circle Six Magazine.

Longetivity

Dan Haseltine, lead vocalist for Jars of Clay, has written a great article for this month’s issue of Relevant Magazine about the harmful ideas our culture has about relationships and marriage. He looks to the marriage of his grandparents as an example of selfless love and love and lifelong commitment. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the article online, but it’s got so much good stuff to say, that I’m going to type up most of it. After celebrating his grandparents’ sixtieth anniversary, Haseltine wonders why so many people from older generations stayed the course while younger couples give up, why people have discounted the idea that marriage can last.

“Iti is a cloudy morning in Baltimore. I just hopped on a plane headed for a family reunion of sorts. The point to acknowledge is that my grandparents have lived for 80 years, and even more significant, they have labored in marriage for 60 of those years.I am headed to a celebration. I find that as years pass and as we continue to celebrate the great accomplishment of years and the profound mercy and grace surrounding the life of my grandparents, the celebrations become a bit more sobering. They become less of a cheer and more of a sigh of relief. I am so thankful that they have lived this long, and I cannot believe that they still find ways of loving each other well. It is affirmation of something that seems to be constantly eroded and discredited —the idea that marriage can last, and that there truly is enough grace to cover the wounds, even the deep ones.”

“There are many reasons why people do not stay together anymore. I have watched relationships crumble, and I have been in orbit around couples that never realized they didn’t know each other and didn’t even have the desire to dig in. They slowly constructed parallel lives with huge embankments and heavily decorated medians. And then the roads split off with no apparent convergence in sight. And it all happened without much drama. If you asked them, they would say that they just had different goals and that they were fine with the separation.”

“I think some of our cultural ideas can be poison for relationships. We seem to operate on two basic ideas: what we deserve, and who we can blame for not getting it.”

“There seem to be more “Christian” marriages that dissolve slowly or end quickly, and I am amazed that even counselors, who are provoked in their vocation by the Gospel, tell couples that the situation they are in is just too corrupt to be reconciled. I have often wondered what this truly means in light of the Gospel. I look at those who have stood the test of time, and after wading through so many back-handed comments and justifications that dismiss the accomplishment—statements like, “Well, they are just from another generation, a generation of people who stayed together”—I am aware that we just don’t see the Gospel account of marriage as valid anymore.”

“Look at the marriage of Jesus, the one He has been in for eternity, the one with the bride who sleeps around, never listens, disowns, scorns, dishonors, runs away, intentionally proves to be more interested in anything but her husband, is selfish and bears the children of every affair and the scent of every escapade. It was a marriage that killed Jesus. And it was the Gospel that brought Him back to life to love once more. Jesus endures the worst marriage of all. His bride nails Him to a cross, and there are no metaphors to compare His suffering to what we think we endure.”

“We will continue to search for ways to be appreciated in our marriages, for ways to be cherished, and if we do not find them, then we leave. Because we are not getting what we want, or feel like we need, our spouse is to blame. We are people who like to move from relationship to relationship, church to church, in search of what fills us, rather than what allows us to fill others. But what we think we deserve by way of our cultural cues is quite different from what we do deserve.What we deserve is to be lonely, what we deserve is to be isolated from the one who loves us better than anyone else. What we deserve is to never be pushed forward, to never deepen in our wisdom and experience of love and community. What we deserve is to die a dark and disconnected fate. And if we are going to apply the rules of culture today, the only one to blame for not getting what we deserve is Jesus.”

“I watched my grandparents hold hands and walk together. They are most definitely from a different generation. They have seen the invention of computers, cell phones, MTV, chemical warfare, strip malls, Nazi Germany, cable TV, rock ’n’ roll, the civil rights movement, the rise of heroes and the fall of heroes. And they held hands through it all. They fought to keep a family, bent on falling apart and dissolving, together. They were honored by those of us who stood around them smiling, while in our minds taking stock of our own marriages. We wondered if we would have the tools to last that long. And for a brief moment, we were able to escape the cultural winds of blame and entitlement, we had cake and we ate it too. Now on another plane heading away from the experience, I know it to still be true. And it is good to have these times of clarity.”

“For people like my grandparents, who have lived long enough to feel the effect of carrying the accumulative weight of scars, life was about the fight. But what they remember most is the way burdens were lifted by laughter and how the fight was always interrupted by the joy of victory, and those moments, however fleeting, carried a sweet fragrance. They have lived in the trenches and on the mountaintops, and their story of life and marriage is worth describing. It is worth recounting. Theirs is a legacy that illuminates grace, mercy, pain and redemption. I hope more people from our generation will find this view of marriage to be worth the fight.”

Real Love

Christian faith has always been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Believing that there is a God who created this world we live in feels as natural as breathing. I could no more stop believing in God than I could stop loving my wife. I know that because of Adam’s sin, I’m fundamentally flawed, and that I need to be rescued from myself. I also know that Jesus is God and that he left heaven to come down to earth to rescue me by giving his own life in my place. I know that in trusting him to forgive my sin and turning away from those sins, I have become clean in the eyes of God. I know and believe a lot of things. It’s just been a long time since I’ve really felt anything. I’m in seminary and that does a great job of increasing my understanding on an intellectual level, but there’s just something about a faith based almost entirely on intellect that is wrong. I know I’m supposed to love God with all my mind, but what about the part of loving him with all my heart and soul? Heart love seems deeper and truer than just head love.

For the first time in a long time, I’m starting to feel again. For some reason, I’m on the verge of tears now when I start really thinking about God. What I’m starting to feel again is love. I think my eyes are being opened. After several very difficult years with trials and difficulties dragging me deeper and deeper into self pity, I’m starting to feel God’s love again. Not because those situations have changed. The trials are just as bad as ever. I’ve been so wrapped up in myself that it’s been hard to see that Jesus loves me.

When you’re a kid it’s easy to believe that Jesus loves you in a real way. As you get older and go through more of life it can start to seem like he loves you out of principle because it’s the right thing to do. People in the church make you feel like love is a conditional thing. You have to act, dress, speak, and vote a certain way to earn the approval of other Christians. I know this is a blanket statement that is wrong in a lot of ways, but it’s how I’ve felt. I’ve based my feelings about Jesus love on the love (or lack of love) I’ve received from the church. When my paycheck from the church hasn’t been enough to stretch across my bills, it’s made me feel like I wasn’t valuable. I’ve felt like a lot of people in the church have seen me as a means to an end. Like as a person I wasn’t that valuable outside of what I could do for the church. These people may love me in a way, but I definitely haven’t felt like those same people really like me. And somewhere in my head, I got the church’s version of love mixed up with Jesus’ love. Like he loves me as much as I deserve to be loved. That’s a pretty depressing thought considering how undeserving I felt.

There’s some kind of profound change taking place now though. I’m starting to feel like Jesus is not someone who just loves me in some kind of cosmic God way. If I met him face to face, I feel like Jesus would really be interested in me. He’d want to know my story. He’d ask me about my hopes and dreams and he’d really listen while I rambled about my frustrations. He’d let me get angry and once I calmed down, he would look me in the eye and tell me the truth. He would smile and I would see on face and in his voice that he really liked me. He would rebuke me, too, and he would tell me that I have prejudices against some church people that I need to deal with. He would tell me there are other people out there who need love and that he wants me to love them the same way that he does. I think he would tell me what my gifts are and why I have them, and help me know how to use them. He would point out very clearly how God has taken care of me through all these years, all the things he’s protected me from and all plans he has for me.

I want to know Jesus the way that Bill Bright did. When an interviewer asked him about Jesus, Bill Bright just broke down and cried right there at his desk. I want to love Jesus like that. I want my heart to break when I think about how unconditionally he accepts me as I am and at the same time wants me to become more like him so I can love other people the same way. I repent of letting other people define my self worth. God is getting into my heart and showing me how to love by showing me how loved I really am. Real love is something beautiful and magical, but it’s hard to put into words. I think I’ve been trying to hard to understand, without letting myself feel. There are parts of the Christian life that I don’t think you’re supposed to understand. You just have to know and believe.

Confession: Moving Toward Authenticity

I’m feeling very convicted about what a fake I am a lot of the time. I want to be an authentic person. I believe the church needs more authentic people. By that, I don’t mean people who genuinely change who they are to match their talk, but people who are simply honest about who they are. I believe God made me exactly the way he wants me to be, and to be dishonest about who I am is just another way of saying that I know how to do things better than God. So from here on, I’m shooting to be real and I think the first step of that process is to get a lot of the fake crap out in the open.

Most of the time, I act like I am absolutely the most important person who ever lived. I think I’m cooler than everyone else and that my ideas are better than anyone elses. Deep down I’m pretty insecure and I don’t believe any of this, but you wouldn’t know it from the amount of time and energy I spend making myself happy.

I’m not a Republican, and I don’t believe they are any more on God’s side than the Democrats. I’m not a Democrat either, but a lot of times I lean more to the left than the right. Jesus wasn’t a political figure, and I doubt he approve of everything either party does. I think a lot of things that politicians do “in the name of God” are really motivated by other agendas and add to the reasons why the world hates Christians.

I’m more comfortable hanging around a group of artists and pot smoking hippies than I am around some of the people in the church. Even though I grew up in the church and love it on one level, I feel out of place a lot of times. People in the church have hurt me very deeply. A lot of times when I’m in church, I become really fake, putting on a cheesy smile saying things like “God bless you” and other Christian slogans while I shake hands. I don’t even know what I mean when I say those things. Honestly, I don’t hold a grudge against the church, I just realize I’m different than a lot the other people there and don’t feel like I fit in very well.

I struggle with lust. A lot.

I dress the way I do because I think that makes me look cool. I wear a cross around my neck as more of a fashion statement and a way to make people think I’m spiritual. Overall, I’m very concerned with my image, how I look, how I talk, how I walk. I’m very afraid people will stop thinking I’m cool.

I don’t share my faith outside of the church very often. The way I’ve been taught to share my faith makes me feel like I’m pushing Jesus like a vacuum cleaner salesman. Also, I’m afraid that if I tell people what I believe about Jesus they’ll think I’m stupid.

When I get angry, I tend to say cusswords.

I have doubts at times, not about whether or not I believe what the Bible says, but more about whether or not I can really do anything about it. I feel totally unqualified to be a leader. I think a lot of Christian leaders should quit pretending to be Moses and just admit that they helped build the cow statue.

As a Christian, I’m supposed to be known by my love for others, but there are a lot of times when I don’t feel very loving and don’t act that way. I want to be loved, but loving others is hard.

I’m always afraid that the people are going to figure out how phony I am. I’m afraid to be real with most Christians because experience tells me I will either be lectured or rejected. I feel like I have to be godly in order to be accepted.

This is by no means everything I want to say. I feel like this could be a good first step though. By being true, I hope that I will allow people to get to know the real me and that they will still love me for who I really am. I don’t feel like God wants to use fakes. I may not have everything together, but I do know I want to be the kind of man that God can really use.

Every Man Dies… Not Every Man Truly Lives

Originally posted on my long dead Xanga page.

The Lord spoke to me today in such a mighty way that it left me weeping. I have been casually reading Wild at Heart by John Eldredge for several weeks now, and slowly God has been openning me up to prepare me for today. Here’s the premise for the book:

“A Battle to fight. An Adventure to live. A Beauty to rescue. This is what a man longs for. This is what makes him come alive. Look at the films men love. For that matter, look at the dreams of little boys, the games they play. There is something fierce, passionate, and wild in the heart of every man. That is how he bears the image of God. God designed men to be dangerous. Simply look at the dreams and desires written in the heart of every boy: To be a hero, to be a warrior, to live a life of adventure and risk.”

Where are the battles today for men to fight? The truth is, we are already in the midst of it. But, like soldiers hiding in a farmhouse and drinking merrily, we often choose to ignore the tumult around us. The enemy is steadily gaining ground in the church, our homes, and our own lives simply because we refuse to admit that he’s even there. There was a time in my life when I fought a very real battle against Satan and his demonic forces, but over time I had convinced myself that a majority of the attacks are coming from within, that I was a pitiful sinner with no hope of truly fighting. I had defeated myself and thusly handed the battle over to the enemy. Reading this book with the urging of the Holy Spirit has reminded me of who I really am.

The church has often used the title “sinners saved by grace” to describe the church. Yet, this very thought is what often cripples those who should be the Lord’s greatest victors. “A sinner saved by grace” is what I was, not what I am. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor 5:17) What I am now is a child of the King! A warrior for the cause of Christ. My struggle is not with myself as much as it is with sin.

“For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.” (Rom 7:19-21)

There is a traitor within us, and that traitor is sin. Sin is the one doing wrong. Satan tries to convince that we are still sinners, that we are still slaves, and he gains victory when we answer him by saying, “You’re right.” As long as we believe we are defeated, then we are. Too often Christians make the mistake of assuming that the real battle is the one going on inside of us. While that battle is a true one, to focus on that one is self centered. As long as we are only looking at ourselves, we are ignoring the fight outside of us. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12)

Men, you are engaged in a battle, not just for yourself, but for the Kingdom of God. You are in a battle for your wife and your children. Often I find myself fighting with the princess instead of for the princess. I imagine that the struggle is with her and ignore the dragon holding her captive. This is not to say that my wife needs me to free her, only God can do that. Only God can free any of us, and only God can give us our strength. However, God designed the marriage relationship to be one in which the man takes on the batttle for his wife. The enemy is real and he is attacking our families. How many times do we see struggles in our lives, our jobs, our families, our churches, and ourselves and immediately try to find some rational, natural explanation? There are supernatural forces at work in this world, good and evil. We may think that our actions and decisions are only personal, but what we do as humans can have cosmic significance. Read the first chapter of book of Job to see God pull back the curtain and reveal what’s behind the scenes. Job’s actions made a difference that he never knew. His refusal to denounce God and curse his name was a victory in the heavenlies. Look at the description of the nativity as described in Revelation:

“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” (7:1-5, 7-9)

Though I am still learning about the interpretation of this book, it seems clear that this describes the birth of Christ in a way that is a far cry from the description in “Silent Night.” Christ’s birth was a battle, with Satan and all his armies on the attack. We must never forget that we are in a battle. If there is no battle, why are we given armor (Eph 6:11), and why would we be called “more than conquerors” (Rom 8:37) if we are not fighting? Do not let Satan convince you that he is a minor threat, or that he is not concerned with you. Do be persuaded to think that the struggle is with our own human natures. That nature is dead. The struggle is with the evil forces at work in this world. The struggle is with the one who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pet 5:8) Be a warrior. Be who God has called you to be. Be dangerous to the devil. A warrior for God who knows he’s a warrior can do some damage.

“Every man dies… not every man truly lives.” (Braveheart)