Archive for November, 2007

Nov 27 2007

Irrational Anger

Published by under Me

Tonight I was driving back from work when an SUV swerved right in front of me. That’s not atypical, really. And neither was my reaction. “F&@* you, buddy!” This is but one example of reactions I have that are totally incongruous with the situation. Welcome to my life. There’s something absolutely stunning about the anger and rage that lives inside of me. People who know me probably have no idea this person lives inside of me, but it does. You might be wondering right now why I write some of the stuff I write in my blogs. Why make it so available? Do I have some kind of weird voyeuristic tendencies? I don’t. But I’ve decided that speaking the truth about who I am will do two things. It will help me be real with myself about how I need Jesus to change me and it might help other people to be real about their struggles too. What’s the worst that’s going to happen? Someone’s going to read this and use it against me or gossip about me? Life is short and I don’t like pretending I’m a great person when I really have some big problems. (Since my mom reads my blogs, I feel obligated to say: I know I’m not all bad, mom! :) But this stuff isn’t going to fix itself!)

The procrastination book I’m reading, Do It Now: Break the Procrastination Habit, talks about these outbursts I’ve described above. The author calls it “irrational anger.” He starts by validating certain types of anger. In fact, he alludes to this fantastic quote he attributes to Aristotle that, though somewhat cryptic, is incredibly descriptive and helpful if you read it a few times: “We praise a person who feels angry on the right grounds and against the right persons and also in the right manner in the right moment and for the right length of time.” He contrasts this “good” anger to irrational anger which he desribes like this: “[Irrational] anger follow a predictable pattern. First there is an expectation that others must live according to your expectations. This illogical premise then demands that we force others to acquiesce to the “right rules” – namely, the rules we set. Third, people should know these rules, and if they act disobediently, or fail to properly interpret a subtle warning, they should be severely punished.”

How often do YOU do that in your life? I have TONS of rules I think people should have to follow. And when they don’t, I get angry. REALLY angry. The feelings I get are way out of proportion to the rule they broke. But you want to know what is crazy? Merely knowing this stuff won’t help you. I got worked up TWICE on the way home from work. Both times, I said, “It’s ok, man. No worries; these ‘rules’ you imagine they’ve broken are not real rules. Let it go.” But I couldn’t let it go. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so aware of my sin as I have been the last few days. It is fantastic and devastating at the same time.I don’t want to unknowingly sin. But I don’t want to sin period. So knowing what I’m doing is great, but knowing what I’m doing is also awful because I see the sinful me.

I don’t know what the solution to irrational anger is. One verse has come to my mind more than once these past couple days. Paul, the apostle, writes a letter to one of his students, Titus. In the letter, he reminds Titus of what their lives were like before they came to know Jesus. He says, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another” (Titus 3:1-3, emphasis mine). What changed Paul? He continues, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:4-6).

This is the time in the blog where I’m supposed to say that Jesus has given us everything we need to live righteous lives and I can go to sleep feeling like a bible scholar because I’ve  coughed up a few fairly obscure New Testament verses. Well, I’m not going to do that. I’m going to write exactly what’s on my mind. I don’t understand why, when my wireless keyboard acts up, I’m inclined to pound it. I don’t get it. I started following Jesus about 7 years ago. Why is it that I still have such problems with malice, envy, hatred, lust, and other sins. Yes, the easy answer is to say, “Well, I’m human.” And I don’t want to ignore that. But Paul alludes to things in the New Testament that include an ELIMINATION of sin. Not totally because we still live in these bodies. But he consistently alludes to people being changed because of their faith in Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. How much has that happened with me? Sure, I don’t do lots of sins other people do and the Holy Spirit may well help me resist those sins, but what of the 5,000 other sins? Simply saying, “Becoming holy takes a lifetime” doesn’t make sense to me. I KNOW it does, but why is it going so slowly? What am _I_ doing to hinder the work of God in my life? I don’t know but I WANT to know. So tomorrow morning, I’m going to ask Him. And I’m gonna try to listen. Actually LISTEN for His voice. I’m EXPECTING Him to talk to me. Yeah, this is getting David Koresh/Branch Davidian-ish. No, I’m not going to start a cult! I just want to know what’s going on in my heart! How am I sabotaging my growth in Jesus and where does this irrational anger come from and how can it go away?

This is my life. It is jacked! I haven’t even written here yet about my money, lust, church, or many other problems. But you know what? Like I just said – this is my life. This is my REAL life. This isn’t what I want people to see. This is just the way it actually is. And it’s the life God sees, too! Jesus didn’t hang on the Cross for a nice story. Paul tells us “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). I wasn’t created to curse people out on the freeway. I wasn’t created to break my keyboard when it isn’t working right. I wasn’t created to be snippy with my brother when he’s making more racket than I’d like. I was created in Christ Jesus to do good works. And I’m either not recognizing these good works I’m supposedly doing or I’m not doing any good works. There’s a disconnect in my life. Sin is right at the center of it. And I’m going to figure it out. Lots of churches today don’t speak to this life. They speak to some kind of psuedo life where we’re still able to maintain our facade of having it together when everything on the inside is messed up. I’ve taken a break from church (read: I’m not going anymore because I don’t think I should). Undoubtedly, some of my friends who read this will be concerned. I’ll be sure that my next blog is about it.

My post-word is that I feel more real, more humble, and more open than I have at any point in my life. Jesus is the Savior. There’s no doubt of that. But while I live, I don’t need Him to save me from hell. I need Him to save me from myself. I’ve never really asked Him to do that. I might pray some shotgun prayer, “Jesus, help me not be angry.” But I’ve seen no fruit. Why? Do I not have faith when I pray it? Do I not pray it enough? Or is there something I’m missing altogether? All I know is my joy is being plundered by sin. I don’t like it. I want my freaking joy and I’m going to fight for it. I don’t even know what that means yet. Maybe this blog will just fade into digital oblivion and it will mean nothing to me. But, at this moment on this day, it meant something. I hope it does going forward. I want to be happier than I am now! I know God will be my greatest joy, but I don’t know how it works out IN REAL LIFE.

David Crowder has a song called Foreverandever Etc… Two verses say what I feel…there’s not just an intellectual agreement with these words. There is some kind of profound understanding/feeling in my soul (or whatever place lives below my heart).

“I think I’m on the brink of something large
Maybe like the breaking of a dawn
Or maybe like a match being lit
Or the sinking of a ship
Letting go gives a better grip”

What if God uses our awareness of our sin – like irrational anger – to drive us to Himself? I feel more like a little kid every day. A million questions. Are we really living the full life? There’s no way! So why do we accept it every day? Arise! This won’t happen by itself. Father, answer. I don’t want to invent some way of living. I want to live how we were intended to live. Who else knows but Him? I’m betting that if we’re willing to really be quiet and listen, He’ll talk to us. A new adventure starts in 6 hours. When did I lose my awe of life? When did I replace it with a psuedo-awe that verbally marvels at things and praises God, but inwardly is numb and unmoved?

Just so you know (I just thought of this), I never want to be fake in my writing. I want to use words that are precise and engaging without being pretentious and fake.

That’s all for me tonight. I go to sleep a sleepy, perplexed, and inquiring boy. He remains ever-awake, never-perplexed, and always-knowing. I smile knowing that…and knowing He answers those who ask. And speaks to those who listen.

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Nov 26 2007

Procrastination 1

Published by under Life

I started reading a book on Saturday afternoon that is really helping me and I wanted to share a couple preliminary ideas. Before I do, I want you to know that I’ve committed to myself that I’m not going to worry about my blogs being perfect anymore. Sometimes they’re going to be sloppy. I just want to write without feeling the need for it to be spot on. Ok, here we go.

I am maybe one of the worst procrastinators. Ok, that’s melodramatic. Let me put it in perspective. The book I started reading is called “Do It Now: Break the Procrastination Habit.” While the “voice” of the book is not my favorite, the content is incredible. I have taken so many notes while reading the book because it is PACKED full of information, questions, and exercises. One of the exercises is a 60-question inventory to determine how much of a procrastinator you are. Out of a possible 240, I scored 174. If you score above 180, the book says, “your procrastination can prove immobilizing, and you are likely to have a hard-core, chronic procrastination problem to deal with.” I missed that description by 6 points. Needless to say, I truly do have a procrastination problem.

So what am I learning from this book? First, I’m learning that the roots of my procrastination go very deep. One of the exercises the book gives is to keep a “Procrastination Log.” Every time you’re inclined to procrastinate, you write down a number of things in a log – things like what work were you avoiding? Why did you want to avoid it? What did you do instead of the work? How did you feel? Stuff like that. I’ve been realizing that I actually have a PHYSICAL feeling inside of me that is extremely discomforting when I don’t want to do something. This happens both in my personal life and at work. Let me give an example. Dishes. I hate doing dishes. So I finish eating something and I go over to the sink to drop my plate in. I say to myself, “You should clean this” but then this feeling wells up inside of me that is just repulsed by the idea. It comes from a strange place. I can literally FEEL it near my zyphoid process (the space in the center of the base of your rib cage). This feeling wins almost every time. I’ll just leave the dishes in the sink (yes, since I live with my brothers and they’re neatniks, they want to beat me down every day). Why does this happen to me? I don’t have solid answers yet, but I think I have an idea. Those who know me know that I have lived with depression for a good part of my adult life (the last 10 years). Severely depressed people, as a symptom, don’t want to do anything. The smallest task is like climbing Mt. Everest. I truly think that I have been so conditioned that even when not depressed (as I’m not right now), I still have this propensity to procrastinate. (While I can’t stand psycho-babble, I DO think it has a place and, in this case, I think it illuminates my propensity to procrastinate…at least in part.)

What else am I learning? How do I BEAT procrastination? One answer I’ve received from the book and one I’ve come up with myself. The book recommends the obvious, but oft-overlooked solution: just do it! Don’t spend a ton of time thinking about whether or not to do it, just do it! I was talking to my friend Michael about this today at work and he said that he will sometimes say to himself, “Oh, I’ll do it later.” But he’ll then ask himself, “Why not now?” Brilliant!

Another way I’ve been thinking that has helped me to combat procrastinating the last couple days is to think about the purpose of my life. A couple months ago, I went through an exercise of listing seven areas of my life where I wanted to focus my attention. As usual, I left that list to gather cobwebs for the most part. I put off doing much of anything with it. But there’s been an exception. One of my priorities was to stay alive. (No, I’m not saying I don’t want to die. I don’t really care when/how I die). Being alive means that WHILE I’m alive, I’m going to really be alive. I don’t want to get older and have all kinds of health problems that are caused by being overweight, overworked, and undernourished. This priority really HAS worked itself out in my life. I work out (mostly run), eat well, and sleep well. And I give priority in my life to these things. I don’t always do it perfectly, but I do it a lot better than I did BEFORE I had it as a priority. And when I don’t do it well, do you know WHY I don’t do it well (i.e. why I procrastinate)? It’s because I’ve lost focus of that as a priority. So I think that having priorities can really help.

Right along with priorities is a concept I’ve stumbled back upon in the last 24 hours. I’m not going to take a massive amount of time to explain it, but Stephen Covey has this great  illustration I’ve heard about. He divides tasks into 4 quadrants (I give an example in parentheses).
1. Urgent and important (issue that is time-critical at work)
2. Urgent and not important (renewing your driver’s license)
3. Not urgent and important (being healthy)
4. Not urgent and not important (surfing MySpace)

Interesting, isn’t it? So Covey says that our attention should FIRST be focused on things in 1 and 2 because they’re urgent. Whether they’re time-sensitive or mission-critical, they’re urgent. The third group are things that are longer-term in nature. They require our attention, but not right now. Now think about 4. Think about how much time you spent today doing things that weren’t urgent and weren’t important. This is a deceiving category because things here can be classified as leisure, but beyond a point, leisure becomes procrastination.

Anyway, the bottom line of all this is that when procrastination jumped up at me today, I was aware of it. There were a couple times when I kept procrastinating anyway, but I KNEW I was procrastinating. There were also a couple times when I said, “No, I’m not going to get distracted by _______. I’m just going to do this! Why not now?” I would then think about how the task fit into my priorities. For instance, I can’t tell you how often I will not eat when I get on my computer. I’ll just start doing stuff and not eat for hours even though my body needs food. Tonight, I said, “No, I’m making food for myself. I worked out and my body needs to have its fuel put back.” I also had to mail a check and rebate. I’ve put these things off for weeks! But you know what? They were urgent; the deadline for them is coming up. Granted, it’s not for another week, but that’s urgent enough. I could tell you about all the irresponsible times I’ve paid my bills late and overdrawn my bank account, but I’m going to save those embarrassing stories for my next blog on procrastination (which might just be tomorrow if I have time).

As a parting shot, you might wonder why I’m writing right now? Is it to put something off? No! It’s because one of my priorities is self-improvement. I want to spend time every day in the pursuit of becoming all Jesus has made me to be. I’ve squandered so much time already, but Lord-willing, I have much time left to redeem! Writing helps me crystallize ideas. And writing what I do might help in another of my priorities – helping other people. Maybe it’ll help you.

Today wasn’t a huge success in beating procrastination, but it was a good step. Getting things done actually feels pretty freaking good. I really feel like a little kid. It’s pathetic but it doesn’t bother me. I’m happy because of the simple things I got done today. Feel like doing stuff later? Why not now?

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Nov 23 2007

Permission Granted: A Wandering Missive

Published by under Life

It’s 1:07 here in Michigan. Yeah, Michigan. I’m home for Thanksgiving. I think today might have been one of the most crystallizing days I’ve had in a long time.

I spent almost all day reading and thinking and writing. Know what I learned? I need to follow my heart – even when it doesn’t make sense. The next couple paragraphs will maybe seem disjointed, but I don’t care right now. I just want to tell the “world” (whoever reads this) how happy I am.

So what if I’m excited to read a book about Feng Shui? Tomorrow I’ll want to read a book about finance. The day after that a book about Jesus. The day after that a book about world politics. The day after that I’m going to study one of the 1300 page computer programming books I own. God made me this way. My fascination with learning is GOOD! How am I to know right now what is and is not a waste of time? TO ME, TV feels like a waste of time. AWESOME! I need to respect that in myself. And I’m not going to get mad at other people who don’t feel the same way. It’s ok.

I want to start big, crazy projects. I want to train poor people how to program computers so they can get out of poverty. But I don’t want that to be my life’s mission. It’s too small. I want to help create new ways of reclaiming run-down city space and making it livable again (especially for poor people). I want to write books, I want to help people discover and USE their gifts. I want to start companies. I want to be rich and not use the money on myself. And guess what? I’m going to do all of these things, if Jesus gives me the time and blessing to get them done.

Does any of this stuff really make sense? No! Does any of it really seem possible? Not really. But with work day by day, it is going to happen. Why would I NOT be so bold as to try to make this stuff happen? Because someone else says it can’t be done? What even gave me the IDEA that it couldn’t or shouldn’t happen? I’m not saying reality isn’t real. I’m saying that our perception of possibilities has been beaten down way too far!! We accept and expect the mediocre because we see it every day. I can see more now. I’m beginning to see it as though it’s real.

I need to be a better friend! Now, this one has a caveat with it. I don’t like to waste time. Sitting around all day and watching football (even though I do it sometimes) always feels like a waste of time to me. So I want to extend my current friendships and create new ones with people who want to DO stuff in life….people who aren’t content to WATCH life happen to other people on TV, but people who want to make it happen themselves. And I’m not going to sit around and watch TV with them (unless that IS somehow helpful), but spend time beginning to hammer out a new way of life. WHAT dreams do we want to see accomplished? HOW are the going to get there? I NEED people in my life. I need GREAT people in my life because I can’t do even one little sliver of all I want my life to count for by myself. And neither can they!

Today I gave myself permission. I gave myself permission to say what my heart thinks. This blog is random. It’s very vague. You know what? I don’t care! :) When your heart is busting at the seams with excitement and anticipation, a lot of other crap doesn’t really matter. I haven’t expressed myself very clearly here, but there are a lot of things I wrote down today that are clear, solid ideas. I’m going to begin writing about those soon. I hope as early as tomorrow. Because one thing I learned today is that things don’t have to be perfect. Things just need to be good enough a lot of the time. Our desire for perfection prevents us from doing so many things. I can’t swim because I’ll look stupid. I can’t learn Spanish because I won’t be able to speak it fluently. I can’t start a non-profit because I don’t have any experience. Where does experience and skill come from but by trying?

Failure is inevtiable. Looking stupid is temporary. Some inventor once said that he never failed – he just found a bunch of ways that didn’t work. I don’t know if I exactly agree with the wording, but the princple hinted at is cool.

When you try new things, you’re going to fail. I tried at training for an Ironman. I don’t consider that a failure (although, for the last two weeks since I quit, I considered it so because I feared OTHER PEOPLE considered it that way). What I found out is that limiting myself to a physical pursuit that largely only benefits myself is not how I want to spend my time. I’m not faulting other people for pursuing it because that may be what they’re supposed to do, but not so with me. I could feel it in my soul. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel big enough. It was too limited in scope – to me and, mostly, in the realm of physical achievement. The question isn’t how many people have tried to train for an Ironman? The question is how many people have tried pursuing ANY of their dreams? False starts and wrong turns are inevitable. We can’t exactly determine what will work and what won’t. All we can do is talk to Jesus about it and work toward what we feel we should pursue. If that ends up being the wrong road, at least we’ve eliminated one of the roads! We’re one road closer to finding our place! We might feel a little sheepish turning around and walking back past the ground we had covered but it is no walk of shame.

The first efforts to build a plane were hilarious; sometimes even deadly. But people kept working at it. Those fortunate enough not to lose their lives eventually figured things out and were rewarded with the thrill of flight. I might bump my head into things. I might break some bones in my pursuit of my new goals. It’s all part of the journey. But the finish line is a place of exhilaration. It takes work to get there. It inevitably requires bearing pain. But it’s worth it.

Today I gave myself permission to dream my dreams into reality. That doesn’t really make a lot of sense, but you’ll see in time exactly what I mean. My dreams WILL become reality. This blog entry will seem hilarious in its waywardness, but its passion will be embodied in the work that gets achieved between now and that day. I’m on my way!

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Nov 10 2007

Formatting a Maxtor OneTouch II

Published by under Computers

In spite of my profession and general nerd tendencies, I have never written a technical post on my blog, but I cannot resist today. Since I know my blog gets indexed by Google, I figure I may be able to help some other poor sap with this problem.

For about a year, I’ve had an impossible time getting my Maxtor OneTouch external harddrive to work. I initially bought it to backup important documents from the computers on my network. Kind of hard to use it in that capacity when it’s not even recognized by the OS!

I would plug it in and the computer would make its regular sound for a USB device being plugged in, but it was invisible. Today, I ran a program called TestDisk to see if the partition was messed up. Turns out it didn’t even HAVE a partition. So I Googled another entry and was trying to see how I could run fdisk through Windows XP. Turns out XP doesn’t have fdisk, but it has something better.

Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Disk Management

There was my “invisible” hard drive! All I had to do was right click and format it in NTFS and now it’s ready to go! I’m pretty happy about this. I bought it about 2 years ago. Today is the first time I’ve saved something to it. The power of (intermittent) persistence!

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