Blogger Makeover

Taking a page out of TLC and Matt Gambill's book, I've done a complete blogger makeover! And folks, if you use blogspot, you do not have to miss out on this revolution that is sweeping the nation. Just go to Blogger Templates and you can do the same.



Praise the Lord!

The past few months my posts have been contemplative and melancholy in nature. Certainly there is nothing wrong with posts of these sorts, in fact it was almost necessitated by life's circumstances. But today I come with praise! I got a job back at Chesapeake and I couldn't be more thrilled!

Many people have been praying for me for many months during this intense decision making process. I first had to decide whether or not to return to Japan. While I still wish I was there continuing the good work, after much prayer and discussion with many wise people I decided the place I need to be was back in the states near my family. This choice still weighs heavy with me even though I know it was the right one, but it is hard to leave a place who so badly needs God. However, those working over there are doing a fine job and will continue to do so.

Then I had to decide where to get a job. I at first wanted to move out of Oklahoma City and try Kansas City or even St. Louis. However after accepting a job in St. Louis and coming within hours of signing a lease I realized the place I needed to be was a place I was already comfortable and loved in. Naturally that place right now is in OKC.

So I will be joining Chesapeake within a week or so, as soon as the contract is drafted and approved. The job is incredibly nerdy, which I love. I get to work on something called GIS which is an acronym for Geographic Information Systems. Basically something like Google Earth on steroids. Way cool!

Thank you God and thank you for all those who have been persistent in prayer for my family and myself.


Effective Ways to Fall Asleep

For the past two years I've found a great way to fall asleep. It is fast, effective, and best of all it doesn't require medication! What may be surprising is that we've all known this solution but have never implemented it. The secret? Listen to a sermon! I mean, we all struggle with the temptation to sleep at church from time to time, why not put it into practice a few minutes before we go to bed?

My mom always wanted me to listen to two of her favorite preachers, David Jeremiah and Chuck Swindoll. Not ever having the time to actually sit down and listen to them during a day, I eventually discovered that I could put one of those two on and hear a great sermon as I go to sleep. Nearly ever time about five minutes into it I'd be put to sleep, but best of all I've got a few good minutes of truth (the best part is the intro anyways, right?)!

Well last night was the first night I've been able to do that thanks to WiFi internet at Matt Gambill's house. Last night's message was particularly relevant to me. It reminded me that God is in control and that I need to trust God whose ways are not my ways, and whose plans are not always my plans.

Isaiah 55:8-9

8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.

9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

A great reminder in a time that I am trying to figure things out. When we trust God, then circumstances, while ever sometimes disconcerting and confusing, will work out as He intended and not as we manipulated them to be.

Another great way to fall to sleep: read Gabe's Blog!

p.s. Just kidding Gabe, just thought you wouldn't mind the shameless plug!


Joan of Arcadia

When trying to determine who the thriftiest person I know is, I ultimately have to decide between two individuals: my dad, Hacksaw Jim Blackwell and my best friend, Travis Powell. Let's examine the facts. My dad will buy fifty bars of soap at Walgreens if he thinks he's found a steal of a deal, thus eliminating our need to purchase soap for the next two years. Travis on the other hand can come up with great date ideas like going to the OC cafeteria or using clips to secure his jeans so they don't get caught in the bike chain. Amazing! But, and this did not occur to me till I came home because of my B&N/Blockbuster (I'm anti-Blockbuster by the way, but Randy's M&M would only speak to a portion of people who read my blog) mentality. My dad rents DVDs from the library! How cool is that? Naturally you always have to wait because you are generally the fiftieth person in line for any given DVD, but if you constantly have twenty holds out you're likely to have one DVD per week. I almost forgot you could check out books!

I said all that to basically explain how I got my hands on Disc 3-6 of Joan of Arcadia: Season 1. This show blew my mind the first time I saw it on television, and I really didn't like it at first. It starts out with the song What If God Were One of Us by Joan Osbourne, also a song I really never liked. The premise behind that song and the television show is that God could be an average person walking around on the streets. Joan of Arcadia takes it one step further by having God, in the form of an average person, talk to Joan to give her "advice" in which she then follows in one emotional episode after another. I really think people fifty years ago would have rolled over in their grave with this concept. And while I'm not sure its always Biblical, I must say I like and enjoy the show and even feel challenged by it.

So while it initially shocked me in perhaps its boldness, I've really started to like it. Joan deals with a lot of good faith issues, and the family shows a great cross-blend of real people with real problems. The father is largely agnostic but a good guy, the mother is struggling with faith and teenagers (this is all season one knowledge I have by the way, not season two), the older brother became paralyzed due to a car wreck and is frustrated with himself and can't fathom the concept of God doing this to him, and the younger brother is a science genius who fleshes out the scientific questions involved with faith. And then of course there is Joan who interacts with God on a very personal way. She is often frustrated, confused, and upset yet ultimately thankful and reflective upon seeing God's ultimate beauty in the plan He had for her.

And perhaps Joan really resonates with me. Or perhaps all of humanity. God is immutable and He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. But as I continue to grow in my understanding of God I am inspired by the real relationship that God and Joan present. Joan can communicate just as she would to a friend, or better yet to a father. Not only in reverance, but also in trying to grasp life's mysteries. And that is Biblical! The Psalms are ripe with passages of confusion, frustration but ultimately hope and belief in God's will. Jesus pleaded with God himself to "take this cup from me" but also accepted God's will. And so does Joan.

So I like the show. And perhaps even the song.


Restoring Hope

The last couple of blogs have been a myriad of frustration, despondency, and sadness. I seemed to have lost my anchor, my rock of refuge. However today, for reasons unknown, I finally realized that in large part these problems were due to my lack of trust in God.

I was reminded today as I read the Psalms (particularly Psalm 71, 77, 86) that God is there in the darkest and deepest of times. God has a much better outlook on our lives and on the events that have occurred then we do, because He is the creator and sustainer of this universe. I also realized that He will take care of me and that if I trust in Him, my life will be put to good use.

Its hard for me to remember that at a times. I'm a person who likes to be used, who likes to be active all of the time. If a few hours are spent not doing anything I generally feel slothful. Yet God is using this time as I wait and search for work, as I think about my life goals and aspirations, for a variety of reasons that are sometimes hard to see. I get to spend time with my dad and have meaningful discussions about the loss of mom, or just to help him paint a room. I get to spend time to reflect on the loss and what a good life she lived. I get a chance to grow in my dependency on God.

And so I will once again be thankful and praise God. He is in control. I am not. Believing that is easy in times of plenty and in times of great joy; believing it in times of sorrow and uncertainty however is when God is truely testing us and helping us to grow.

So I apologize for giving up and the despair displayed in those prior posts. However, God continues to work on all of us and all we can do is put our hope in Him. I will close with a song that I really like:

Raging Sea
by: Michael W. Smith

Sometimes the journey makes you weary
Feels like a long and winding road
Sometimes this life can lose it's meaning
But you might be surprised to find some hope
Maybe you're wondering where love is
You may feel it's far away from here
Maybe you're wondering where I am
You might be surprised to find I'm near

And when your life is tossed and turning
And your on the raging sea
I'll come and pull you from the water
Then you will know that you are free

So if you're stumbling through the valley
Or if you're tempted to give up the fight
Reach out your hand and I will lead you
I will be your strong arm in the night


Failure to Communicate: Part 2

A few people have mentioned a little bit of surprise to my last blog, and I must say that in hindsight it was probably poorly written and perhaps even of bad taste. This was certainly not my intent, although it has made me to realize the difficulties I'm undergoing and perhaps the stress that came through when I wrote that blog.

This whole sad event (I can't find suitable terms to express the loss of my mother, so sad event will have to suffice) is becoming tougher to handle that I thought, and my attempt to go to St. Louis was an effort to produce some stability in my life. Sometimes you need something to hold on to, and when you've been thrown out of one endeavor you thought meaningful and God-inspired to deal with another experience you can't even fathom to be God's work, and are then enduring the aftermath of loss on top of culture reentry shock, you want to hold on to any solid ground you can find. To me, having something worthwhile to do is that solid ground.

Therefore I jumped at the first solid job opportunity which came my way. And my mind was so jumbled I couldn't see all the variables clearly. Thus, my whole failure to communicate how hard I am taking this is a huge part of the problem. Not only do I have trouble admitting that to myself, but to others. I am afraid it is me who has the inability to comunnicate.

Part of the problem comes in my lack of understanding God as well. It is natural as humans to throw things at God and say, "Why would he do this?" Why would there be a hurrican so devastating that it uproots entire cities and strews families apart? Why would a tsunami hit Asia and kill thousands? Why would a disease exist that we can't even fight? Yet while I want to throw these questions at God, I don't really see the validity of them. God asks Job to explain the mysteries of His creation and like Job, I come up speechless. The questions I want to ask really do not appear valid. But this confusion, this speechlessness, does not help either. Ahhh how frustrating it all is!


Failure to Communicate

This post is not meant to be critical in a negative sense, but critical in a constructive manner. Having decided not to move to St. Louis I noticed two divergent modes of communication that arose through the whole process. Prior to going to St. Louis, people were generally supportive and expressed their hopes that all would go well. After deciding against St. Louis, the majority stated their relief that I would not be going up there and how tough it would have been. This dichotomy existed not only in communication towards me, but also in the dialogue going on in my head. This leads me to believe the real problem wasn't a failure to communicate, but something deeper.

Truth is, we as humans generally want to make the best of any given situation. Even when we think decisions may not be the healthiest, we have a general belief that God will help us out and that we will be able to handle the difficulties that lay before us. So we can rationalize a potentially bad situation into something manageable.

However, are there degrees of good and bad? Are all things equal? If there are degrees of quality (stolen concept from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) in our decision making process we must evaluate and decide between perhaps even two necessarily good options. In this case a good job as opposed to a stable way of life in a time of tumultuous change.

Not really sure where I'm going here except that I hope that we can not only communicate, but intellectually decide when we have decisions of significant magnitude to make. And perhaps I'm the only person who struggles with this problem. After all, in hindsight, it was my failure to listen to the naysayers in the first place. :)


My Faith is Like Shifting Sand

Sometimes you realize you forgot to put God in the picture. Sometimes you realize what you really need is friends. Sometimes you realize...you are human.

Today I really struggled with my choice to move to St. Louis. My life has more or less been a roller coaster the entire year and I nearly ran off the tracks today. I forget that I've been through a lot including quitting a good job, starting a challenging position in Japan, watching my mom suffer terribly and finally passing away, to handling the loss of her while searching for a job.

I got to St. Louis feeling incredibly depressed. By lunchtime I could hardly even talk to my dad and did not feel good at all about moving up there and living by myself in a town where I know no one. Having already verbally committed to the position I felt ethically obligated to keep the position even if it meant suffering through it. While it may have worked out, after much heart wrenching toil and thought, I decided it best not to make the leap.

Somewhere along the way I really need to grasp that money and opportunity is not the most important thing. I've got to realize that God will take care of me. I also need to realize that being an autonomous human being is not really what's best for me either. Being independent and free spirited is not always incredibly healthy. God did after all create the church for strengthening and edifying.

And thus I find myself once again searching. But now I'm no longer searching for a job but for purpose, for meaning, and for what God really wants. Hopefully this time I'll get it right. Or rather, hopefully this time we'll get it right.


What's Next?

Well, while I feel I could continue to write more about my mother and the spiritual challenges/questions that surround this part of my life, I feel like it would be best to take a different path with this blog. Yet I can't decide what this path should be. So you, my wonderful readers, get a chance to decide!

I really think it would be quite funny to write my own eHarmony blog, much like Auvrey did. I doubt I can even compare with her blog in terms of content, simply because her blog was just way too hilarious and she is a far better writer. Yet I must admit its a great idea, and while it may be plagiarism, it would be fun.

The second idea I've come up with is perhaps writing a bit of commentary on the books I'm currently reading. Perhaps using them as a springboard for random thoughts and ideas. Currently I'm in the midst of reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and computer books on .NET technology. I'm sure I would lean towards the .NET books for much of my insight into this unpredictable world we live in. Thank you Microsoft.

And thirdly, there is always my random and tumultuous life that I could depict for you since I'm now moving to a town (St. Louis, MO) where I know absolutely no one. I could go in to my rides on the metro, my explorations of the town, and the incredibly interesting people I will meet.

The choice is yours! Weigh in and let me know!


Well since today has been an especially rough day in my decision to move to St. Louis, I completly skipped over discussing it on purpose. But since I was caught in the act, here is the scoop.

I will be working with Bryan Cave, a large law firm in downtown St. Louis doing programming/web development type work. The job is a contract to hire and has me employed till the end of December. From there we both decide whether or not its a good match and I will either be hired on full-time, extend the contract, or find something else.

The hesitancy comes because I heard from Chesapeake today. After spending a weekend with friends and being at my old church in OKC, I realized how much I missed the place and really had a strong urge to return to my former job. Yet I had already given my verbal agreement to join and thus being a man of my word I will honor that comittment.

Why St. Louis? I really don't know. I think I'm primarily mixed up about a lot of things and really went for the first good looking job opportunity came my way. So yes, I probably should document how it goes and will do so since I am far better at blogging currently then I am emailing.

I will be emailing out my cell phone number soon once I have a new St. Louis number.