A closer walk

First post in a long time.  I’m going to make them regularly again.  And this time I mean it.  Ahem.

I recently started going to church again.  Don’t worry if you’re not religious.  Neither am I.  This is far from an evangelical endeavor.  I merely want to share some of my thoughts and feelings about God and spirituality.

A little background to start: As I used to tell people, I’m not a “born again” Christian.  I’m a born and raised Christian.  Been in church as long as I can remember, and before that.  I remember accepting Jesus when I was about 7 or 8 along with my brother and a friend in our living room at my mother’s guidance.  No bells or whistles went off, and I honestly didn’t feel any big weight lifted off my shoulders or even a warm fuzzy feeling.  I was pretty young after all, and pretty well behaved.  Not that much to confess.  I did feel like I’d just done something important, though, and that it was a commitment.

I stayed true to that commitment for most of my life, with a period of deistic distance. More on that later. I did the Sunday School and church thing with my family as a child and young adult.  I don’t regret or resent it like many people do.  At least, not the church-going itself.  More on that later, too.  I actually enjoyed Sunday School and youth group as a teen, and I even liked the monthly mission nights when we had guests tell of their experiences on their mission trips for the church all over the country and the world.  I always wanted to travel, (Still do.) and this was a chance to hear about how people lived in other parts of our nation and around the globe.

I was a little “luke-warm” toward God the last couple years of high school and through the college years, just due to scholastic distractions.  But I still attended church regularly.  It was during a year and a half break between colleges, while still living at home, that I had a faith renewal.  One of those guest speakers in the missions department, was giving the main message one Sunday.  He spoke of several times in his life when, what could be described as miraculous events, occurred, like a very large man (angel) appearing behind him and a companion when facing several menacing would-be attackers.  I don’t clearly remember the other incidences. I didn’t think much of it at first, but then I thought about it.  I reasoned that if I really believed in this whole God thing, then couldn’t the missionary man’s tales be true?  I opened my mind to the possibilities.  I went to nearby Minsi Lake after church and looked to the seagull-filled mostly sunny sky and I felt liberated – from doubt.  It would return.

In the meantime, though, I delved into scriptures and prayer, and self discovery like never before.  It really helped me to grow as a person.  I would pray the whole way on my half hour commute and found that I repeated the same things everyday, so I started to try and rephrase things from day to day.  Much to my surprise, doing so often made me realize the answer to my prayer, whether it was what I was looking for or not.

The down side was that I started to get a self-righteous, pious attitude.  I only listened to Christian music, and at work, Focus on the Family started the daily line-up of biblical sound bites pumping through my headphones.  The Christian Right movement was steadily increasing its entanglement of The Church at that time.  I was nearly sucked in before seeing the light.  To think, I almost voted for Bob Dole.  Thank God, I departed from the political invasion of Christianity.

Between national politics, church politics and moving out, my church going days were soon to see a hiatus.  My home church had gone through a split a few years earlier, after which we got a very warm, loving, and bright younger pastor.  My family and I loved him.  But the old people who sit in the back with their old money, saw fit to send him packing.  Even my parents emigrated to another church then, and I had moved 45 minutes away to Allentown.  I tried a few different churches, but the disillusionment was too great to overcome my fatigue of working two jobs, so Sundays became just a chance to sleep in.

I didn’t throw out the baby Jesus with the bath water.  I maintained a belief in God.  I just wasn’t really “feeling” it.  At times I was borderline agnostic, but the doubts never totally took over.  I guess you could say I was a Deist, believing that God exists, but feeling like his major work was done and he didn’t get too involved in things down here.

It was during this time of reduced influence of Christianity in my life, that I first dared to think what I always knew.  What if I was just gay?  No psychological or moral solutions.  It just is.  Now was the time for resentment to set in, but not against my own church or any pastors, or even my parents, too much.  It was just the teachings of Christianity that have been held for centuries.  Being gay is a sin, and any kind of pre-marital sex is immoral.  I could’ve had so much fun.

For years, I just attended my parents’ new church on holidays and once in a while got out my Bible and read a chapter a day, for two or three days.  So when I returned to church, I’ll admit, it was largely to seek social connections.  I’d found a gay friendly church.  In fact, straight people are scarce in those attending.

I joined as a member on Easter Sunday with 6 other sinners.  Lightning did not strike a single one of us.  I’m glad I joined and I want to stay involved, but it would be dishonest to say all doubt is completely and irrevocably dispelled.

Sometimes, I still wonder if God hears my prayers word for word.  How can he hear billions of thoughts and words at once?  I can believe that we are connected through the Holy Spirit, though.  Maybe it’s the actual words, or maybe it’s more of a spiritual stream of emotion and energy.  Either one is pretty miraculous.  I can even believe in something more abstract, but I believe in God and I believe we all have eternal souls.

Another challenge is a feeling of resistance, even rebellion, when I hear that we’re supposed to put God first in our lives, in everything.  Am I not honoring God by working on things that will help me be complete and reach my potential?  Like writing.  Should I go to a Wednesday night Bible study, or write another blog post about all this?

Tomorrow will tell.  I have much more to say on the whole subject.  Comments are welcome.

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A place to lay your head

Between last fall and this spring, I helped 3 people move.  Each was a different situation, and each gave me things to reflect on.

First, the good thing: I got new furniture and decor out of the deal, but I earned it.  So there ya have it.  The selfish end of things.

The first move was last November for my sister who moved to her own place for only the second time in her then 47 years.  The other time was a good ten years ago and only for a year.  She has personal things to cope with that I won’t go into for the sake of her privacy, but she lived with my parents in an apartment at the time of the move.  It was a big step to go out on her own.

The first time she went on her own, she was urged to do so by those around her, but she wasn’t really prepared for it, nor did she really want to go.  This time, it was her choice and desire to have a life of her own as we watch our parents advance in years.  They won’t always be here.

It was a triumphant and encouraging event, and I was very glad to help. I gave my sister things I wasn’t using and I call her and try to encourage her as much as possible.

The next move was my parents in January, precipitated purely by financial needs.  My dad was 83 at the time, 84 now, and my mom is 76.  My mother has arthritis – spina stinosis. Her back, knees and leg make it hard to be on her feet for long.  My dad is in remarkable shape for an 84 year old, but he did have heart surgery more than ten years ago, and he is definitely slowing down.  Fortunately, they belong to a church whose members helped them tremendously.  I helped as much as I could after work and on the weekends getting ready for the move.  The day of the actual move, the good church folks had the majority of the work done by the time I got there after work.  There were still quite a few more trips with the minivan that evening and subsequent days, but the big stuff was moved and most of the furniture even in place.

It was great that they had good help since neither my mom nor my dad wanted to make the move from the comfortable apartment they really liked where they had become friends with the landlords and their toddler son.  With my sister in her own place by this time, they were adapting to an empty nest for only the second time since a year and a day after their wedding.

So when I go there, I feel somewhat at ease that they have adapted to their surroundings, but the place is so small.  So very small.  I can’t help think about all the wealthy estates with so many rooms, they never even set foot in some of them and have amenities they never use.  Nevertheless, my parents have all they need and all they can really take care of at this point.

The final move was my cousin who had to move from the house his grandfather built and his mother grew up in, which he lived in for the past 22 years.  The move was forced by his siblings wanting to sell the family home out from under him.  Fortunately, he was able to move in with his fiancee at her apartment.  But, as with my parents, it was a downsizing.  He put many items to auction and gave a lot to my brother and me who helped him with the move.  That worked out well for us.  Indeed, we made out well between the things my parents couldn’t keep and the things my cousin couldn’t keep.

I reflect on all this in my own home that I share with my brother and love very much.  It’s 100 years old this year.  We’ve done a lot of personalizing and improvements.  One thing we didn’t have to do, because it was already here, was to install a deck.  It was a major selling point with a great view of Bethlehem.  I am so thankful for everything I have and for a loving family.  I would do anything for them.

I still wish my parents had a little more room, but we all have what we need: a place to lay your head.

 

 

Enjoy the moments

Driving to work today, I saw a man leaning against a wood rail fence with one foot propped up on the middle rail.  Nothing notable, right?  Well, the temp with wind chill was in the mid 20’s F.  That didn’t seem to be bothering him.  He was looking over a grassy area that drops down below the street.  It would have been covered in snow, though I couldn’t see it from my vantage point in my swiftly moving vehicle carrying me to that place I go to make money in order to get by.

Maybe he was watching kids or a dog romping around, but even so, he seemed to be enjoying the moment.  His stance was completely relaxed and while he was wearing a winter coat, he wasn’t especially bundled up.  You can get pretty used to the cold, once you stop thinking of it as a negative.  It makes you appreciate the spring and summer more, after all.

It was an unexpected scene of tranquility in an inconspicuous bit of roadside real estate.  I must confess, I didn’t slow down, since I was a little later than I like to be, and my manager likes me to be.  I wasn’t late, mind you, but not as early as expected.  Such is the rush of modern life.

I did take a mental picture though, which I’m looking at now in the small hours of the night.  I see afternoon rays through the trees, lighting the scene just brightly enough, not glaring, but radiant.  I feel the calm of the stranger by the road, and I’m glad I saw him.

Thanks for the reminder to enjoy the moment.

Obligatory year end review

Yes, everyone does it, but why not?  A year in review:

My first full year as an assistant store manager at Family Dollar.

I stepped down as president of Allentown Film Crew, a community filmmaking group.   I held the group together and got a project filmed two years ago with little support, and set up some workshops and guest speakers for meetings over the last year, but didn’t have the energy or the gumption to follow through on ideas I had.   Stability turned to stagnation.  I decided to let someone else take the reins and take a supporting role for myself.  My friend and original member, Trisha Thompson took those proverbial reins.  I may have created a monster.  wink,wink, nudge, nudge

I started this blog.

I attended my 25th class reunion.  Still can’t believe I’m that old.

First full year of having adopted cat Smokey, to whom Wiley has been amazingly receptive after being the sole cat of the house for ten years.

I lost another 15 pounds, added to the 25 lost in the previous two years.

Things I’ve learned:

Even people who are friendly with you at a retail store will steal right under your nose.

Coworkers will talk smack about you to no end.  Everyone’s a critic – of everything you do.  I bury the judgments and criticisms I feel toward others and then resent the overt negative talk from others, because I don’t have the gumption to dish it out.  And then get over it.

When assertiveness doesn’t come naturally, it’s a life long effort to keep doing it.  If you’re not assertive, people will walk all over you, leave you out in the cold, and have a lower opinion of you.

Anxiety, paranoia and resentment are inhibitive of personal growth.

Man was not made to live in a vacuum.  I need to find a partner in 2015.

It’s a struggle to keep seeing the positive in humanity, but it’s worth the effort to keep trying.

Putting your foot down about something can cause friction, but will be for the better in the long run.

I’ll probably add more later.

In the meantime, have a prosperous year as you pursue long time interests and dreams.  You’ll find some kind of satisfaction and fulfillment, no matter what the final outcome.

 

Cold Comforts

This isn’t what it sounds like.  It’s actually about things that bring comfort on cold days/nights:

 

A warm, soft, purring cat in my lap.

SAMSUNG

 

That warm tingling when your hands finally start to warm up after being outside.

 

The layered look.  Layering up keeps you warm and looks cool.  No pun intended.

 

Snuggling under the covers, being thankful for shelter and warmth in the cold of night.

 

 

 A steamy hot shower.

 

 Reading by candlelight.

Wearing that great coat you bought on clearance last year for the first time.

 

 

019 010

A warm sunbeam through the window.

 

Knowing you don’t have to go out in the cold on your day off.

 

 

 

Leaving office

For the past several years, I’ve been president of a group called Allentown Film Crew.  We aren’t a film appreciation group.  We actually make short films.  On average, two of them a year.

The group was started about 7 years ago through meetup.com.  There was a hiatus after the first two projects that lasted about a year and a half.  Another original member and myself got it going again, kind of by accident.  We planned on having some kind of reunion event, but scheduling something on a weekend wasn’t working, so we just met on our old Tuesday night and the rest is history.  It was at least six months before we decided we needed officers.  I was elected president.   I didn’t really do a lot until one of the co-leaders left.  At that point, I held the group together and we produced a film, the only one that year.

Now, I’m in the last few weeks of my tenure.  I announced to the group that I was stepping down as president toward the end of this month (Sept.).  Don’t worry, there was no scandal or any shady dealings.  The reasons I cited in my email to the other three members of the leadership team were to free up time for other interests and looking for a better job.  Also, I stated to them that I simply didn’t want to do it anymore, and therefore, couldn’t do it justice.

When I subsequently announced to the rest of the group at our meeting August 26th, one of the more outspoken members immediately asked why.  I gave similar reasons.  Later that night, I found myself asking why don’t I want to do it?  I mean, I don’t, and that’s the main reason for my decision when it comes down to it.  But why don’t I want to?

It’s been good for me in that it has helped me build leadership skills, get more organized, network and the like.  (I still have plenty of room for improvement in all those areas.)  I also facilitated the meetings and have gotten much more comfortable talking in front of a group.

While the group has grown a lot and I had no small part in that, I can’t say that I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to, so that’s not a reason for shedding the mantle of leadership.   It’s definitely not a people problem.  It’s a great bunch of people.  I haven’t lost interest in film or writing.  At least, no more than anything else when I’m feeling low on energy or depressed.  Ok, there’s part of it.  The thing is, I’m always glad I went to a meeting, even if I didn’t feel like it beforehand.  So, of course, I’m staying involved, just not as president.

 

(CONT.)  Didn’t finish my draft.  It’s now Tuesday, October 14.

We had the first group meeting that I wasn’t president tonight.  I still wound up facilitating due to the new president being unable to get there by the start time because of her work schedule.  So, it wasn’t a lot different at this point.  It did give me a chance to reflect and I feel that I’ve made the right decision.  Trisha, the new prez, has a lot more energy and enthusiasm than I have.  I guess it is largely due to depression, after all.  I suppress it, but it’s there.  Part of that is being alone, no significant other.  That’s a topic for another post.

Some of Trisha’s ideas are similar to my own.  The difference is, she will follow through on them.  So, I’m happy to pass the reigns while staying involved in a group that makes films.  That was a long time aspiration of mine and I’m doing it.  Not professionally, albeit, but I’m in it.  I’m not sitting home nights that I don’t work, feeling sorry for myself or watching the idiot box, and Allentown Film Crew is going strong, largely thanks to me (during the aforementioned critical time).

So this post comes to an end, not as the perfect Hollywood happy ending, but as the more real indie style mixed happy ending.  I’m at peace with the degree of accomplishment I achieved, though not what I’d hoped, and I’m still part of something pretty special and unique.

Allentown Film Crew

Father’s Day

Yesterday was Father’s Day.  I had a lot of people tell me Happy Father’s’ Day if you’re a dad.  I’m not and they’d say enjoy your day anyway.  I sometimes wish I could have done the “normal life” thing, getting married and having kids.  Being gay doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do that anymore, but I don’t think I could handle kids.  Having enough trouble handling myself.  The Bible says something to the effect that God won’t give you more than you can handle.  But then he made me responsible for myself.  A little joke I came up with.  Thought about using that for a t-shirt idea when I was starting my t-shirt web store.  (That’s done now. Another story.)

But enough about me.  I was looking for a card at, you guessed it, Family Dollar, and saw one that the front design really caught my eye.  As I read it, though, it didn’t fit.  It said thanks for all the advice and guidance you gave me.  My dad never did that.  I used to feel bitter about that when I was younger and looking for that annual card.  Also on his birthday.  I felt like he didn’t do anything to help me, and didn’t spend a lot of time with us (1 brother, 1 sister) doing the dad stuff like playing catch, or fishing, and the like.  I love board games and would try to get a family game going.  He usually abstained.

As I got older, particularly in my 20’s, I began to see my parents for the human beings they are.  We all have faults, and strengths and weaknesses.  I think around that age, you start to turn into your parents and gain understanding about them.  My dad just didn’t have it in him.  He lacked energy and vivacity for doing things, not just for us, but for himself.  He did play with us when we were real little, giving us “horsey” rides, despite his weak back.  Also, piggy back rides, or putting us on our shoulders when we were at a fair or fireworks or something.  I understand that lack of energy and enthusiasm for life.  It’s called depression.  I do have a great enthusiasm for life, but sometimes have no interest in anything.  I’m glad I have bipolar and not just plain depression.

As for the advice giving, well, he’s just not an insightful person.  He learns things the hard way himself, so it can’t really be expected that he would be proactive in imparting wisdom ahead of new experiences and challenges that I arrived upon.  He could have used some advice himself from others on things, but nobody wants to help the misfits.  They hold back their knowledge and experience, perhaps to feel better about themselves while they shake their heads at someone else.  It would have been nice to receive guidance throughout the growing up years, but it is what it is.  I love my dad.

I can’t leave this post without pointing out some good stuff about my dad.  He’s very generous and considerate.  He has no guile or hidden agendas in his dealings with others outside the family or within.  He likes to joke around and is very warm and loving.  I admit I felt emotionally neglected at times through the years, but I never had to doubt for one second that he loves me.  I’m thankful for a stable home with both parents there.  I can’t imagine having divorced parents living seperately.  My parents’ 47th anniversary is coming up in a couple weeks.  I hope to have my dad with us for their 50th.  He’s 82 now, and doing well.  But he had quadruple bypass about 10 years ago.  He married a younger woman (gotta give him credit on that one). My mom is 73.  An interesting side note: they met on a blind date, set up by friends.