Thursday, April 27, 2006

Who are you? Take a test and find out!

I recently stumbled across a couple of websites that do some sort of personality tests. I decided to take them, and see what the result was. I'm not going to tell you if I agee with them or not, but I'll let you tell me if you think they're accurate. Being myself, I'm biased.

The first one was 5 (count'em - 5) questions long. The results had something to do with my eye type. Whatever that means. Here are the results:

Take the quiz:
What kind of eyes do you have? (with pictures)

You have green eyes. Green is the color of balance. Your eyes symbolize your ever need to learn. Green brings peace and harmony into our lives, as you may be a very optimistic person. At times you may be placid, lethargic, lazy, and slow, to the point of becoming moody and depressed. You may also be apathetic and have a fear rejection. Do not feel bad though, for what you may lack, you can in your ability to heal and bring hope to people. Some words to describe you: growth, fertility, harmony, healing, refreshing, peaceful, contentment, satisfaction, confidence, prosperous, hopeful, lucky, and beautiful.

Not really trying to be trite, but what does it mean when you describe someone as having "fertility"? Whatever it means, I'm surprised they could tell after 5 questions. That's some strong fertility right there.

The next one had 36 questions, and the results categorize you as one of 9 types. I came out as a tie between type 1 and type 5. Here are their descriptions. Which one do you think is more like me? (You can take this test here)

The principled, idealistic type. Ones are conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change: always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake. Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionistic. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience. At their Best: wise, discerning, realistic, and noble. Can be morally heroic.

The perceptive, cerebral type. Fives are alert, insightful, and curious. They are able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent, innovative, and inventive, they can also become preoccupied with their thoughts and imaginary constructs. They become detached, yet high-strung and intense. They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation. At their Best: visionary pioneers, often ahead of their time, and able to see the world in an entirely new way.

I'm interested in your feedback, but to be honest, I'm more concerned about the way God is interacting with me in my many colored days. I understand who I am more as God opens up space for me to understand my actions an motivations. In many ways, I hope who I am today won't be the same as who I am in the future. Except for having fertility. That's a constant that will never change. I'm just astounded they understand such a complex, nuanced thing about me after only five questions!

So, who are you?

Monday, April 24, 2006

The truth about anti-persperant and deodorant

From what I understand, some people think that wearing deodorant or anti-persperant is unhealthy, since blocking all those sweat glands in your armpit must mean that the sweat can't get out. Others think that your skin absorbs the anitpersperant chemicals (often containing aluminum), which in turn causes breast cancer, armpit cancer, or alzheimers.

I don't know about any of that - in fact, no study has linked deodorant use to any health related issue. Except maybe the people around you being able to breathe easier. So what's the truth about deodorant?

I don't seem to need it. There, I said it. That's my secret. I don't seem to need deodorant. Or antipersperant. I know this mind boggling, but I tell you, it's true. It's an underarm miracle!

For many, many moons I wore deodorant - every day from the time I was in early adolescence until about early Febuary 2006. Due to a mixup involving sunscreen and the beach, I ended up with pretty tender skin. So, while I healed, I didn't wear any deodorant, because it kind of hurt to put it on. I expected to be driven out of the office because of my offensive odor and profuse sweating, but in fact, I haven't smelled or sweated at all.

It's been getting close to 3 months now, and I've only used it twice - both for times I didn't think I could affort to smell and/or perspire in an unattractive manner.

Now, I know what you're thinking - you're thinking that I must be mistaken, because no virile specimen of manhood like myself can possibly not need deodorant. Or maybe your thinking that I'm one of those people who really do smell, but don't seem to notice it. All I can say on both counts is "Maybe", but I dare you to come smell my armpit and say it doesn't smell like tulips on an April morning. Alright, then.

(Some of you may be thinking I'm gross. Yet you've read this far in a post about someone else's underarms. Who's the gross one?)

Now I've just got to figure out what other toiletries I can get rid of. Toothpaste? Uh, I don't think so. Shaving cream? Ouch! Soap? Maybe, but I'm in the shower anyway, so I might as well use some. Hair goop? I saw the first afro in a long time on a real-life white man when I didn't use hair goop the other day. I know the truth about getting rid of hair goop, and it's not pretty.

So, there you have it. The truth about anti-persperant and deodorant. For me, at least.

Friday, April 21, 2006

We all live on Saturday

Since Easter was last Sunday, I've been thinking about the point of the resurrection, and what it really means to me.

Some people would say that Easter, Sunday, means our sins are forgiven, but if you look at it carefully, you would have to say that our sins were forgiven during the crucifixion, on Friday. Or, if you believe people like Renee Girard, our sins were never forensically forgiven, but instead our attitudes and actions were changed as we watched so much senseless violence be inflicted on this innocent man. In any case, it was on Friday that our sins were taken care of.

Some people would say that Sunday means a victory over death, and eternal relationship with God. But as far as I, or anyone else can tell, people still die, and have yet to be resurrected. Maybe my MD friends know more about this than me, but truly dead people tend to stay dead. Since no one I know has physically met, or has met anyone who has physically met, someone who came back to life, we have no idea what really happens when we die. Anything we say happens after death is all speculation. Some people call their speculation faith. Others call faith foolish or escapist, which is only speculation as well. For me, at least, I find plenty of reason to doubt any speculation about what happens after we die.

So, the reality is that we all live on Saturday. People die around us all the time. And just like the disciples did on Saturday before Easter, we all mourn people's death, with the expectation that they will stay dead. Some of us might hold out hope that our loved ones will come back to life, but in the meantime we sit and wait. In this way, we all live on Saturday, awaiting the resurrection that comes on Sunday. But for 2000 years, Sunday has never come.

So, why do we still find hope in Sunday? Maybe Sunday is less about life after death, and more about life. I mean, the gospels don't spend much time on the resurrection. Mark spends no time on what happened after Jesus' death. Matthew and Luke spend around one chapter apiece. John spends the most time, but still only a little less than three chapters. Compared to the amount of time the gospel writers spend on the life of Jesus, the resurrection gets virtually no time.

To me, this means that the first recievers of the good news found the most hope in life, not in death, and not even life after death. Hope was in life. Ultimately, Jesus came not to raise us from the dead, but to give us life. Jesus came to show us how to live a life that displays love towards God and love towards others no matter how abusive those others get towards us. Jesus showed us what real life looks like, even to the point where people crucify you.

So, as I live life today, not worrying about tomorrow (for tomorrow has worries of its own), I find myself not thinking too much about Sunday, but instead living my life on Saturday as I follow Christ's example. This is real life, life like the kind of life Christ lived. Life that is abundant. We don't sit around and wait for Sunday. Instead, we all live on Saturday, because Christ showed us how.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Worth a thousand words (pt 2)

After recovering from family and friends being in town for Easter, I'm finally able to sit down and blog a little bit. Instead of coming up with a deep and profound topic (that'll be tomorrow), I'll show some more pictures. Some of them will be from this weekend, some will be old.

Unfortunately, I don't have a scanner anymore, so I can't scan a lot of my favorite old pictures. For instance, one of my favorites is Alethia sitting on the hood of my wrecked car. (Alethia, do you remember that?) Another is of Mel and I looking goofy on our wedding day. Ah, too many pictures, too little scanner.

But for now, on to the pictures:
James and Sarah (the couple on the left) came in from out of town. They have a little boy a couple of months younger than Madelyn. It was really good to see them and hang out with them. They were even kind enough to eat my and Mel's first attempt at roasting a turkey. I'm not saying it was bad, just that it's not like mom used to make. (If y'knowutimsayin.)

The next day was Easter, and Madelyn got dressed up in her brand new Easter dress with sandals, and went out to see what the Easter bunny left her. Who knew her favorite thing would be the water bucket? Personally, my money was on the candy, but she wasn't really interested. Either than, or she didn't know it was candy...

Melissa's sister, Elizabeth, came into town to spend time with us for Easter. It was nice to be able to see her.

Okay, now for some old pictures.

I'm not sure what I love about this picture, but I find it to be fascinating. Joni and Tara were acquaintances of mine in college. I happened to be in their dorm room once, saw this picture on a desk, and essentially just took it with me. Cool pic huh? I wonder what happened to them after college.

In college I had a bad habit of using up the remaining shots on a roll of film I wanted to develop with pictures of myself. What a narcissistic habit. Anyway, this picture was taken my junior year as I was experimenting with growing a goatee. You can't quite tell from the pic, but goatees aren't for everyone, and after a friend told me that I looked like a catfish, I shaved it off. One of my close friends, Kimberly, was nice enough to overlook my facial scruff and take this picture with me. This is one of my favorite pictures because I think it is a great picture of Kimberly. Kim, how on earth did you get your teeth so white? You look like the girl off the Orbitz gum commercial.

So, there you have it. A little new, a little old.

How was everyone else's Easter?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The wrong kind of Forgiveness

I'm sorta stressed out about my blog. I want to be funny and charming, and a little more 'me' in my blog, but every time I sit down to write only serious stuff comes out. I've started and deleted probably 5 entries the last couple of days because I begin light and airy, and end in a very somber place. This is not what I want all my blogs to be about, and it's stressing me out.

But for now, I can't stop myself. I don't think I'm quite so somber in person, am I? But, if I'm not a downer in person, why do I create the kind of blog entries I do?

Somehow, I think its about forgiveness. More specifically, the wrong kind of forgiveness.

Christians are called by God to forgive, and we are taught by other Christians to forgive. But the problem is that some violations are so hurtful, so egregious that we can't just turn on a dime and forgive. I don't want to speak for others, but when that happens to me I feel even worse, like I'm not being a good person or good Christian because I can't forgive. So I put on a mask of forgiveness, and act like events haven't hurt me, like I've let go of the hurtful thing. But in reality, I have not; I'm working hard on forgiveness, but I just haven't gotten there yet. In the mean time, the unforgiveness festers and grows. It drives me to adopt certain behaviors so that I can't be hurt that way again. It drives me to act happy when in fact I'm torn apart inside because I don't want my Christian friends to see me in the throws of unforgiveness. I become light and airy because that's what it takes to be welcomed into relationships where I am loved.

Over time, however, the hurt subsides, and I stop working on forgiveness. But my behavior doesn't change. I make the same moves over and over again because they work, they make people like me, and they keep me from being hurt. In my opinion, this is the type of forgiveness that a lot of people practice. The wrong kind of forgiveness.

You see, what I've just described is forgetting but not forgiving, which is really no forgiveness at all. And so I go about life, thinking I've forgiven, when in reality, all I've done is forgotten. Yet underneath my amnesia, I carry wounds that affect my behavior, and I constantly make maneuvers in relationships to avoid getting hurt the same way again.

But as I allow God to color my days, I've become more aware of the maneuvers I make that aren't really me. As God travels in time to my past, he seeks out the places where I've changed my behavior to avoid more pain, and he shows me how to heal the hurts that underlie the behavior. And as I realize that I am actually in a place where I am greater than the person who hurt me - greater than the hurtful action and hurtful intent, I'm finally able to forgive. And if I'm deliberate about it, truly deliberate, I can change my behavior, too, so that I'm no longer living life to avoid getting hurt, but living life in which I can risk myself in authentic relationship.

So when I look in the mirror and see a man trying too hard, I wonder how well I'm grasping this concept of forgiveness. And when I encounter a Christian who doesn't act like one, I wonder if they really understand what forgiveness looks like. And when I encounter a non-Christian hiding behind the motions of self-preservation, I wonder how interested they'd be in the transforming power of real forgiveness.

So, why do I blog the way that I do? Maybe it's because only here I let go of enough inauthentic behavior to really express what's going on in my life. Maybe because in real life I'm still trying to get you to like me.

But it can't be this way forever - because I know there's an entertaining story in me somewhere, just waiting to get out.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The consequences, interrupted

The other day I watched "My Name is Earl" for the first time. From what I could tell from the show (and later, NBC's website), this guy is trying to get good karma for all the hurtful things he's done in his past.

What exactly he thinks he's going to accomplish, besides be funny, I have no idea. Good karma only makes you even - it doesn't get you ahead, because all you have to do is really screw up once, and all your good karma is flushed down the crapper. One of those "guaranteed not to clog" types. I don't really understand what anyone is trying to reach towards with good karma. It seems to me that good karma is only the thing that is against bad karma, and not an end in itself.

I'm glad I'm not forced to live under the rule of karma. Karma means that the consequences of my bad actions must be made right by me. But even if I work to undo the wrong of my bad actions, the poisonous seed has been planted. The toxic fruit is inevitable. And no matter how I try to do other things to undo the wrong, that poison tree still exists - waiting undo all my good deeds. I can never get out from underneath the pressure of my bad karma. The consequences always follow me into the future, demanding their toll, making the future into purgatory.

What I need is something to interrupt the consequences. Something to free me to begin again. What I need is a new rule to guide my path - one that gets me somewhere, and that isn't me fighting bad, but instead being good.

What I need is grace. Grace interrupts the consequences. Grace allows me to begin anew. Grace allows my past to be formative, but also calls me to be like it, like the grace-giver. Grace allows me to love because I'm not stuck hating and acting out against my past.

So time and again when I sit down to blog, and ask myself what I have to write about, my message always comes back to love. It comes back to grace that calls me into the future and allows me to break free of self-loathing and actually love. Love is the message I'm driving home.

"My song is love, is love unknown, and I've got to get that message home."

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Beauty of (non-sexual) affection

Let's face it - I'm not a touchy guy. I like my space. I don't even like standing close to people, which is why you'll usually find me a good distance away from the crowd at a party - or going to the state fair on a day the least number of people will be there.

But space isn't really an option with a toddler. You have to touch them and hold them - they invade your space because they want you to read them a book, or play pat-a-cake, or sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." Evidentally, my rendition of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is unsurpassed. As is my rendition of "Itsy-Bitsy Spider."

My toddler also likes to give hugs and kisses. Where she got that from, I have no idea. (To the left is her planting one on my chin.) And I don't know if it's true or not, but I like to think she gives hugs and kisses for me. Not for her, as if she's taking a piece of me for herself, but instead giving a piece of herself to me. (I have a really smart toddler, to be that self-differentiated. ;-)

This idea of affection is a shift in thinking for me. Most of my life I've considered that people were trying to take pieces of me when they were trying to give me affection - they were making themselves feel better, or trying to fulfull some sexual urge for touch. At a relatively young age, I decided that is what affection is - getting what you need through touch. I just wasn't interested because I neither wanted to allow a person to steal from me, nor did I want to steal.

But affection, I've found, is about giving. It's not about stealing what you need, but about giving yourself away. The beauty that can occur with non-sexual affection is that it can give peace to those who need to be consoled, it can express gentleness and kindness. It can express joy and patience. The beauty of affection is that it can mediate love. Not the sexual/eros love so many adults immediately think of, but real love that heals and restores, that gives peace and expresses fondness.

So, I've become much more open to giving myself away through affection. I actually initiate hugs now. Upon occasion, I've been known to give a holy kiss or two. Not because I want something from a person, but because I want them to understand how welcome they are in my presence. I want them to feel the fondness I wish to show. I want to give them a message of love mediated by affection.

But you know what I've found? I get something in return - better memories. I remember the person better, and can empathize and pray for them better. For instance, I remember so much more about the last people I gave holy kisses to than I would have otherwise. I remember how I caught one on the edge of the eyebrow rather than on the forehead, I remember how one turned their head away and I ended up kissing the top of their head, I remember the smell of one, and the skin texture of another.

Sound creepy? You bet. That's why holy kisses should be used judiciously and sparingly. But guess what - I remember those to whom I've shown affection (not just holy kisses) so much more vividly in my prayers. I feel connected with them, empathetic towards them. Not because I stole a piece of them or forced myself to care, but because I gave a piece of myself away. I'm able to love them as myself because they have a piece of me.

Strange how that works, huh? Strange how you give yourself way, expecting and wanting nothing in return, but instead get back a life more colorful and beautiful than you expected.

Now, since all this affection talk is over, I'd appreciate it if you take a step back. I like my space.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Worth a Thousand words (pt 1)

Okay, in light of my flagrant violation of Blogging Rule #8 on my last entry: "Many Colored Days", I've decided to keep my commentary on this entry to a minimum. Instead of posting something deep, spiritual, and intense, I'll just post a smattering of my favorite pictures. With commentary. (Sorry, I can't not do commentary.)

For some reason, I really like this picture. It was taken at the end of my freshman year of college. Chad and I were moving out of the dorm, when I decided to take a self-portrait to commemorate the completion of my first year of "higher learning". Chad happened to walk in behind me and make a goofy face in the camera. Imagine my surprise when, weeks later, I had the film developed and saw Chad's mug looming eerily in the background. It made me laugh out loud. Still does.

This easily ranks among my top 5 favorite pictures of all time. The first couple of years of college I was in a sketch drama troop called Parable. At the end of the year, we all piled on each other and took this photograph in black and white. It reminds me how good looking we all were "back in college." Especially that 'Ben' guy.

Melissa and I went to San Franciso on our honeymoon, and stayed on one of the top floors of a highrise hotel. Late one night, I took this shot of downtown San Francisco from our hotel window. The view was stunning, and I think this picture turned out really nice.

What group of pictures is complete without a one of my daughter? This is definitely one of my favorites of her, despite the fact that she is over a year older now. Capturing a good picture of a toddler is kinda like capturing a picture of an earthquake in progress. I suspect it'll be another year or so until a picture does her as much justice as this one.

What on earth am I doing in this picture? I include it not because it is one of my favorites, but because in this picture I embarrass myself and everyone else in the shot with me.
To all of the memebers of the '96-97 Believer's Harmony, my sincerest apologies.