Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Sometimes I have a tendency to rewrite the events of the past. When I was in the middle of battling this "temptation" and engaged in the "struggle" I would sometimes convince myself that I was not fighting hard enough. I would tell myself that some part of me wanted to be gay and that I was allowing myself to be gay. Even now having somewhat come to terms with my sexuality there are times when I wonder if maybe I just didn't try hard enough. However, a look at the things I wrote just a couple of years ago reveal that this is not the case:
"Daily I struggle with feelings of inadequacy, a struggle against desires I don't want to have"
"I think if I continue to fight temptation and stay resolved my life will improve"
"I am struggling with something horrible inside of me and need to be receptive to healing. It is a daily struggle and sometimes I don't know how much longer I can bear it. I just want it to vanish or be destroyed"
"I realize that this journal will be read when I die. Let me clarify something. I do not want to be gay. I don't know if people can 'get over it' but I am going to try"
This is a very tiny sample revealing a glimpse of the turmoil I was going through. Looking back on the anguish I was in before I wonder how I accomplished anything in school. I also wonder how I was able to be so self absorbed. Did I not realize how much pain others were also enduring?
In my journals I rarely used the work gay or homosexual. I was much too closeted for that. I always alluded to a "great evil" or "temptation" or "this struggle". What I was referring to was the fact that I was sexually attracted to guys. I would get sucked into watching stuff on youtube (not even porn) and feel extremely guilty if not physically ill afterward. A lot of effort was put into trying to end this attraction. I will not go into what now seem comical lengths to overcome "this evil", but trust me when I say they were exhaustive. From working out, to befriending more straight guys, to praying for the lust to stop, I was desperate to try anything.
Monday, December 29, 2008
When I talk about faith I give the impression that I had an infantile faith in which I only demanded things from God. While that was a part of the story, it was far from the whole truth. First off, I was more begging and pleading than I was demanding for my attraction to change. Second, I was very passionate about God and Christ. I was determined not to be one of those "lukewarm" Christians and was inspired to be radical by the likes of Shane Claiborne.
While it is definitely true I was angry with God and relentless in my desire to change my sexual desires, this was not what my faith was about. Reading over the old posts made me realize that was the image I was presenting.
I just wanted to clarify. As I've mentioned before, these posts are just snapshots revealing a tiny portion of the dozens of conflicting thoughts bouncing around my head.
Gearing up for 2009 has seen me more earnestly work to simplify my life and clear out my physical space (apartment) and mental space (books I am working on, posts I am writing, topics I want to study). The bulk of my posts for January will be a purging of a dozen or so old posts that need to be completed. Some I will post with a January date and others will keep their original date. I don't want to make my "thought timeline" out of sync.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Liz: And meeting someone new, uh, all the nodding and smiling and sibling listing and what's the upside? It works and you have to have a bunch of sex?
Jack: Lemon, what do you want? Do you want to be alone for the rest of your life?
Liz: No, I just wish I could start a relationship about 12 years in when you really don't have to try anymore and you can just sit around together and goof on tv shows and then go to bed together without anybody trying any funny business.
Oh Liz Lemon, if you were real I would so marry you.
Friday, December 26, 2008
1. I was born in California
2. I went to 5 elementary schools
3. Airports are one of my favorite things
4. Spending the night in airports is not one of my favorite things
5. Old school Nickelodeon shows rock
6. Old school Disney shows (especially So Weird) rock
7. When I was a kid I read ever single Peanuts comic strip collection
8. I like the person I am today more than the person I was four years ago
9. I thought I was a pretty good person 4 years ago
10. When nobody's home I like to dance
11. I never dance in public
12. Buying things for people makes me happy
13. Bookstores are magical
14. Jamie Cullum songs speak to my soul
15. Singing at the top of my lungs to Brandi Carlile can dramatically alter my mood
16. The popcorn at Target always smells delicious but tastes disappointing
17. When I go to the movies I avoid wearing button fly jeans because they are awkward at urinals
18. Number 17 may have been TMI
19. One day I would like to have a scholarship named after me
20. I don't like hot liquids (though I can manage hot tea when abroad, chamomile is my favorite)
21. Tommy was my favorite Power Ranger.
22. I have had a crush on Matthew Lawrence since Super Human Samurai Cyber Squad
23. Forrest Gump always makes me teary-eyed
24. You've Got Mail is my favorite romantic comedy
25. Emperor's New Groove is my favorite movie of all time
26. I would like to learn Arabic
27. Traveling the world has a permanent place on my "to do" list
28. Mexico is my next international destination (followed by Turkey)
29. I was a Royal Ranger
30. Veggie Tales amuse me
31. Esther is my favorite book of the Bible
32. Not auditioning for the school play is my only high school regret
33. High school was kind to me
34. Middle school was not kind to me
35. College was awesome
36. I'm pretty sure grad school is going to kick ass.
37. Eliminating global hunger is a dream of mine
38. I don't do enough to help those in need
39. Making this list is harder than I thought it would be
40. Express is the source of 80% of my work attire
41. One of my biggest fears is getting fat
42. I weigh 152 pounds
43. I am short, 5'8 (rounding up)
44. Skechers are my favorite shoes
45. I used to work in a shoe store
46. CST is my favorite time zone
47. 12+ books need to be read (most are new)
48. Writing a book is another life goal
49. Pinecar Derbies are awesome
50. Camping is not awesome
51. I prefer the mountains to the beach
52. I've never been drunk and don't care that much for alcohol
53. Margaritas are an exception
54. My iMac brings me joy
55. I have a Miley Cyrus song in my iTunes library
56. Kids would be nice in the very distant future
57. Living abroad is something I dream about
58. Every now and then I dream of being independently wealthy
59. A Lexus iS would be sweet
60. I will probably buy a Honda Fit
61. My car is named Rhonda and I plan on staying together until death do us part
62. Ephraim is one my favorite boy's names
63. Jasmine is one of my favorite girl's names
64. I am hyper competitive at board games
65. I hate it when my roommate beats me at Scrabble because it hurts my ego
66. Vampire Weekend is super white, but super awesome
67. Oxford commas are amazing
68. Rollercoasters bring me joy
69. The ability of Americans to queue up astounds me
70. I can eat an entire 7oz. Hershey's bar in one day
71. Thin Mint girl scout cookies are delicious
72. I spend an unhealthy amount of time on YouTube
73. Cookies in general are a big part of my life
74. I use an aluminum water bottle now
75. This was going to be a 100 item list, but I am tired.
Friday, December 19, 2008
There are a few more big topics that I would like to discuss soon. It will take a while to gather my thoughts so don't expect anything soon. After reviewing some previous posts it came to my attention that the word "I" is used a lot on this blog. While it's understandable, I can't help but think about what my elementary school teachers said about using too many "I's" when writing sentences. They were very much against it.
The recession has hit my company. After a big announcement I am still fortunate enough to have a job. However, if the economy does not turn around there is a good chance I could get the boot. As one of the newest employees in my area there is a good chance I would be the first to go - LIFO style. All I can do now is pack a lunch more often and make sure I am debt free. No need to be broke and unemployed.
Obama's choice of Rick Warren has been on my mind, but I am not too passionate about it. It was very politically savvy.
Tuesday night I saw Milk with a friend of mine. We went along with an older gay couple. While I still have an aversion to gay-themed things, I must confess I had a wonderful evening. I stopped by their place first after work and then we all headed to dinner. After dinner was the movie (highly recommended) followed by conversation at their house. They have been together a decade (if not more) and it was interesting to hear their stories. Like me, they came from very conservative Christian homes. L actually taught in California when Prop 6 was being pushed. He taught in a fundamental Christian school and lived his gay life in secret. He told the story of receiving a teacher of the year award from the school and the proceeding to have a small breakdown afterwards due to the stress of living a "double life". S is very successful at his job and does a lot to help those in need. Still, he is not out to his coworkers and must keep a large part of his life a secret. I found both of these stories sad. Nevertheless they are happy today and it was great to see a non-stereotypical gay couple. It does help give me hope for the future.
This is very random, but I feel like sharing. There is a lot of cheesy Christian music out there, but if you are interested in something high quality I have some recommendations:
Jonny Lang - Turn Around
Jars of Clay - Good Monsters
Jason Morant - Abandon
Jason Morant -Open
Sara Groves - Add to the Beauty
This may sound strange due to my current state of affairs, but I still listen to the music as it comes on my iTunes quite frequently.
See you soon.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Work continues to go well. I am fortunate to have a job (that I like) and although our company is hurting, I don't feel at risk of losing my job. However, I am going to watch my spending a bit more and try to squirrel away some money in case 2009 does see me unemployed.
My brother is back in the States with his lovely fiancé. They are quite cute together. I bought her a couple of sweaters since Mexico is a bit warmer than here. She loved them and said I have great taste, what can I say? She also wondered why my brother did not dress as nice as me. I found it amusing. Having extra money to spend on wardrobe is quite nice.
I am going to get a new haircut! My hair is not that styleable, but I think I can make a new look work. For those of you know me in real life (if you even care) I will try to include a new photo when I relaunch my Facebook account. Wow, that whole paragraph was really vain.
Plans for moving next spring have been set! A coworker needs a roommate and I think it will work splendidly. Now, I can see the worried look on some of your faces. There will not be any conflicts with work. She works in a different building (across town) and reports to a completely different management team.
Next month I am going to the optometrist and getting new frames. This always excites me.
This week at work we are having a door decorating contest. I have gotten very into it. It's going to be great!
This morning I intentionally mismatched my socks. This was to counter the socks I unintentionally mismatched last week. One was tan, the other cocoa.
Saturday the family leaves for vacation! This is only the third family vacation we have ever had and the second I can remember. My brother and I told my parents we were going to have a marathon session of Disney parks to make up for the crushed dreams of our youth.
The Wall-E soundtrack is delightful.
That is all.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I have experienced grace. What I mean is the feeling above described by Paul Tillich. My experience with grace came last Easter. I was coming out of a spiritual funk and during church I started crying. It was during the time that I was ready to come out to my family and the emotion was overwhelming. I was sad, angry, and confused, but the feeling of grace overwhelmed me and I knew everything would be okay.
Amazing Grace. For a long time I never really understood that song and felt weird singing about it because I did not like to admit that I was a wretch. I never felt like a bad guy. Of course, I know I am not perfect. I guess I just felt that saying you were a wretch was a bit harsh. Plus, from where I stood I was morally superior to most of the people in my life.
Now my faith is radically different than it was before. It lacks the black and white that I had before. I fought through nihilism over the summer to reach the point I am at today. However, I am not sure where that is.
I grew up in a very conservative Christian home. The fall from this conservative Christianity was brutal. I just finished reading a great book by Peter Gomes: The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus. It was written for people new to the Christian faith and to people like me who have fallen out of conservative/evangelical Christianity. I can't think of anything in particular I took away from it, but nevertheless I recommend it. I have a hard time evaluating my previous Christian faith. I know it was quite self-centered and immature and dealt a lot with me failing in sin (being attracted to guys) and asking God to heal me. A lot of it was me being angry at God for withholding my dreams from me. I thought he was punishing me. However, my firm belief in there being "a plan (Providence)" allowed me to bear the suffering for years. My faith was also about works, and I tried to be a force for good in the world. However, I don't know how much of that was really tied to Christianity.
Today I am trying to live a moral life. I find this is a lot harder than I ever imagined. It requires, like Jesus said, "mercy not sacrifice". This does not mean that sacrifice is unnecessary, it just means mercy trumps it. I am now much more cognizant of my actions and the way my life impacts others. I have always had a passion for volunteering and a soft spot for immigrants. I'm working on increasing the time I give to others. Now that my life has become more devoted to morality I wonder what's the point? If there is no God, I don't believe in salvation through Jesus Christ, and I am highly skeptical about there being anything after this life, why should I care about this world? Shouldn't I just do everything I can to ensure my security, protection, and comfort?
No. I love creation. I want to build community. I want to share grace with the world. I want to usher in a messianic age (to borrow from Reform Judaism). Many people say that you can't be moral without believing in God. Maybe that's true. Maybe atheists don't know the source of their goodness.
I don't believe in cheap grace. It seems to me that many Christians (myself included) have a tendency to do immoral things and treat them as a "stumble", but that's all well and good because Jesus forgives. Now that Jesus has lost that role in my life, I find all of my decisions have a lot more gravity. Before I speak a slanderous word I mull it over. I realize that I will be living with the consequences. I can't just hide my conscience behind the cross.
I very much want to be a follower of Christ and I very much want to believe in God. However, I don't really believe in the theistic God that I held on to for so long. I also don't buy into the doctrine and dogma peddled by the church over the millennia. Lately I am especially irked by Augustine, Calvin, and rapture "theology". I feel so much hatred simmering when it comes to evangelical Christians and fundamentalists. I want to wake them up but would hate for their beliefs to crumble as mine have. It's not like I have anything better to offer them.
I like religion. I really, really do. I am a constant seeker and studier. I still pray, though prayer life has been severely damaged by my feeling of God's departure. Seeing all the hate and ignorance in the world I often wonder if it would just be better to jettison religion altogether. However, I am not the biggest fan of secularism.
This post didn't go anywhere and I am sorry to be so bitter and blunt.
I will leave you with one thing to mull over. During church today we talked about how easy it is to "love humanity, but no one in particular". So true.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
A few weeks ago I was reading this article and was caught off-guard by this line:
"And, just as JPL pitched in to help create Wall-E, now the movie's DVD release will help NASA name its newest robot: NASA announced a naming contest for its Mars Science Laboratory rover scheduled for launch in 2009. This will be JPL's biggest robot to date -- about the size of a compact car, compared to the kitchen table-size Phoenix."
"Kitchen table-size?" How big is that? What kind of measurement system is that? Does this table have leaves? How many? Is it a table in a formal dining room? Is it eat-in kitchen size or breakfast nook size? I am not satisfied with this description!
I thought this was a rather odd, yet hilarious way to describe an object's size.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Ironically, I am here today to make the same statement. However, it must be tweaked to say "god is dead" for the God I worshiped so long was an idol. He was an old man god, anthropomorphic, picking up fallen sparrows and doling out wrath and smitings.
As I continue on my "faith journey" (conservative Christian vocabulary) I am unsure of where I am going.
However, there are a few things I do believe. I believe in resurrection; new life from what was once a corpse. I have seen and felt it in my own life. I believe in casting off the things that have weighed us down. I believe in humility. I believe in charity. I believe in justice. I believe in mercy. I believe in grace. I believe that despite evidence to the contrary there is more to life than what we see. I believe in transcendence. Tomorrow offers hope. Tomorrow offers new life. With resurrection comes insurrection, a casting off of the old order and the building of something new and better.
As I have mentioned before, God and I have been wrestling it out, and I think I have emerged from the fight, limping and a bit disoriented, but understanding things I never did before.
I will not apply a label to what I am now: atheist, agnostic, deist, christian atheist, Christian, liberal Christian, liberal Quaker - I don't think any of these are fully applicable.
This has not been easy. I have always considered myself an intelligent person and have pursued understanding and knowledge with a passion. However, it appears I had neglected to apply this same trait to religion. I will not fault my parents for raising me in a conservative Christian home. They were doing what they thought was best. Growing up there was no "metaphorical" interpretation of biblical events. As a child I converted cubits to feet to see if a full-size brontosaurus would fit on the ark. God really led his people out of Egypt with a pillar of fire and a pillar of smoke. Jesus was coming and the rapture was real. A younger me would often fear Jesus would come before I had a chance to grow up and that I would not get to experience being an adult.
I have come a long way from the faith I had as a child, yet I don't know what or where I am going to end up. Atheists seem so arrogant and agnostics so Charlie Brownish in their convictions.
All I know is this:
Sunday, December 7, 2008
The biggest struggle I currently face is overcoming my desire to buy things. I am hyper-materialistic. I love things. Shiny, new things. I will openly confess that I also want money, lots and lots of money. I can easily see myself becoming a millionaire and traveling the world floating from one luxury hotel to another.
The question that arises is why? Why do I want all this stuff? There are two main reasons. The first is to impress people. I enjoy complements and desire people to admire the crap I own. Second, a part of me still thinks things will make me happy. It's true. I feel entitled to things that will "make my life wonderful". Funny, my DVD collection contains movies never watched, and the Wii with several awesome titles sits unused. The idea that these things are adding value to my life is nonsense. Any joy they bring is fleeting.
I used to attribute my financial blessings to God and was so wrapped up in praising the blessing I kind of forgot about the source. I cannot begin to describe the changes that have occurred in my heart over the past 4 years. Back then I would not have realized how immature I was. I am quite certain that future Joseph looking back 4 years from now will be equally astonished at the growth that has occurred.
My motto for 2009 is "Here's to less". There is no need to purchase everything my heart desires. Soothing existential emptiness with stuff is idiotic. Drawing the line about how much constitutes "less" is still tough. What constitutes "enough" to where I don't feel the things I have are causing me to live immorally? I very much like my Burt's Bee's lip balm, J. Crew peacoat, and P.F. Chang crispy honey chicken. Also, a new digital SLR camera is hopefully in my future.
In seeking an answer to this question about balancing giving and having I asked my father. For several weeks I had been debating buying a new peacoat. I ended up buying it but was torn for quite some time. Lately, giving has not been the priority I had told myself it would be. In talking to my father he made the statement "it's not the coat's fault". Buying the coat does not prevent me from giving to the poor. It does not prevent me from volunteering or helping widows and orphans. He also stated guilt should not motivate my giving. Referencing the sermon on the mount he implied that the hand that shops should not know what the hand that is helping those in need is doing. I love my parents.
Moving forward I will strive to have a more generous heart. Slowly but surely I will keep changing and growing into the person I want to be. Hopefully the worst side of me can slowly be killed.
Friday, December 5, 2008
It is amazing how much has changed in such a short period of time. In 2006 I came out to the first person ever. It was a girl I had become best friends with. Everyone thought we were going to get married. In fact, I spent a lot of time agonizing over whether or not to marry her. That's another story for another day, maybe.
Fast forward to now. I am relatively comfortable with my sexuality and more and more people know. This has moved from consuming all of my thoughts and energy to just being a part of who I am.
It has been interesting growing as an individual. It has been painful.
After regaining my sanity and mending my soul I was still left in the midst of rubble. Most of my dreams had gone up in flames. The fire consumed the dream of a wife and kids, my midtown home, hosting the church home group, my heirs. However, it did not stop there. It continued to consume my faith and all the assumptions and convictions I had previously held.
I refuse to live life afraid of the future. Daily I will strive to overcome cynicism and my own ego in order to make a positive impact on the world.