Christmastime is Here

Hey all…

I have been a lazy blogger lately. I admit it. But I should be revving back up to full swing at some point in December. Or maybe I will wait until January and make a New Year’s Resolution.

First…some identity crisis. Blogs are about mashing together all of a person’s different interests, right? Well, if men are like waffles, my waffle is filled with cooking, faith and spirituality, hospitality, artsy-fartsy, writing, and psychology. How does one blog about all of that at once? It’ll be a cookifahoartsywricology blog! Say that ten times fast.

And on that, I read a blog post today that I loved. And it was about food. And God. Thanks to Joe Pastry for his observations and musings on the fine art of baking. I love reading his blog; I feel so much smarter.

This year, inspired by the Baked cookbook and abundance of cookies, I decided to make chocolate truffles. The process was somewhat of a fail, since the first round of tempering chocolate involved 45 minutes of hand mixing straight. I guess it was a workout. But I was bitter for the rest of the day. I mastered the process, and now I feel more like an expert. I made milk chocolate almond ones and dark chocolate coffee ones…and now I am working on the pinnacle of holiday treats…rum balls. I’ve got to take some pictures…

On another note, I am fine tuning the novel. I would love to have friends sample it and tell me what they think…so if you read this and are interested, leave me a message or write me an email. I am only in the final stages of rough draft creation…so it is going to be painful in parts. It is exciting to have gotten this far, though. Is it wrong that I think I should finish it before I have any kids?

Faith and phil0sophy-wise, the thought of Jesus, the Son of God, being a baby, has really hit me this Christmas. I keep thinking of all of the contrasts between the throne room of God and the manger in Bethlehem. I wonder if Jesus had shadows of memories, you know, like that feeling you have been someplace before? I also have thought about traditions more. I even wrote a blog post that I never posted on the subject. Perhaps that will come out this week? I’ll see what I can do.

If I don’t get to it before the end of the week- Merry Christmas to you all!

I just don’t feel right….

Sometimes I forget where I am going and what I am doing. I believe my life this week has been an example of that. Somehow my passion and drive leaked out, and I moped around without motivation or enthusiasm. I stopped seeing value in the things I was doing. In my quiet, internal thoughts, the mists of disappointment whispered discouragement. Questions dropped to undermine my every choice, my every action, until at long last I arrived at the worst question of all – is this really all there is? And as silence failed to answer the question, and the world around me filled with good cheer, I become further unmotivated and lost. I just don’t feel right.

I know that I am lost when activities and people that normally bring me joy fall flat. I arranged a big office lunch yesterday which was well attended and fun, except I was no fun. There wasn’t even an attempt at shallow happiness on my part, I felt bleh and acted bleh. Deep down I wanted something different and better. At times like this, the temptation to take “hits” of happiness from various deceivers grows; pride becomes fragile and needy, lust wants to taste everything, and each activity requires a pep talk. When I stand back and look at these mini fits and failures through the lens of perfectionism, I see failure – failure at work, failure at home, failure to change, failure to lead, and failure before God.

I almost gave up on reading the Bible this morning. I read the grocery ads to begin with instead. While I was on the train, shuffling around through the front of my bag, I came across that salve for my wandering soul – “My Utmost for His Highest.” To be honest, I didn’t expect much. If I felt blah enough to disregard the impact of the actual people in my life, how would a book help? Then I read the top of the page. “The moral law.” Just what I needed – a  lecture on morality – a chance to discover another failure upon failure. I could see my sin and guilt, spilling out like a hundred scarlet letters on my chest.

But I let Oswald Chambers talk:

“The moral law does not consider us as weak human beings at all, it takes no account of our heredity and infirmities, it demands that we be absolutely moral.”

Well come here and take away my spiritual gold stars because I am never going to get there.  I don’t know what upset me most about that statement – the part about the law not taking into account how messed up I am, or the expectation of perfect morality. And besides, I don’t really know where I am going and if it looks anything like where I am at, and I don’t care if I get there. So what if my logic is illogical; if the situation felt right in the first place, it all would make sense. Life would be right, and everything in the world would line up with it. Then I could be like all the other “happy” people around me.

Ever felt that way?

It seems like I live my life in two extremes as a follower of Christ. The first is consistently self-congratulatory, feeling better at every step, seeking and finding affirmation in doing good and being right. From this worldview, I am a success, and I can do anything I put my mind to. The opposite extreme I frequent less often; the doldrums of drudgery, when the bright colors all seem gray and I am unhappy and I am barely making things happen. Life appears near meaningless and often hopeless, but I know I have to keep going. How often are my prayers whining, filled with striving and moaning , desperate and destitute. I beg to be put back in success mode. I want to be right.  Who wouldn’t want to be?

Oswald Chambers, of course, kept speaking to me:

“We only begin to realize the power of the moral law once we see that it comes with a condition and a promise. But God never coerces us. Sometimes we wish He would make us be obedient, and at other times we wish He would leave us alone. Whenever God’s will is in complete control, He removes all pressure. And when we deliberately choose to obey Him, He will reach to the remotest star and to the ends of the earth to assist us with all of His almighty power.”

I didn’t want to admit it, but this funk I was in, this state of near depression, was also a state of rebellion. I want my life to be different and to serve me, I want my obedience to be rewarded, I want my pride to be stoked, I want to be made into a better person than I am so that I can achieve more and be very successful. I am tired of scraping by and making due. I have fooled myself into thinking that it all comes back to being in that happy place.

“And when we deliberately choose to obey him…” there it was, plain as day. I just don’t feel right because I am not willing myself to obey; to do, to go, to risk. Even if I don’t see the next step or I am lost and unmotivated, I can still take that step towards obedience, even if it is a step out of the dark into the slightly less dark. For me this looks like an abandonment of that magical “something better,” through prayer and honesty with myself. My God is bigger than my situation, and bigger than my ability to do it all by myself.

[On a side note, God was faithful to my obedience this month, and I wrote down more than 50,000 words towards a novel. It is not complete. May that stamp (to the right) be a testament to God’s faithfulness..and remind me to keep obeying.]