Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Gift of Acting

This has been a weekend of amazement for me. Yesterday I mentioned a dance recital which 4 youth group members were in. They just amazed me with their co-ordination and (honestly) their flexibility.

Then there was The Sound of Music which I watched today and one youth, Heather, had a leading role. She wasn't the lead, but was the lead child, Liesel.

It's been years since I saw The Sound of Music. I mean, I was so young I was watching the movie and fell asleep. So you can only imagine how much I remember of it. I mean, I knew what it was about (Germany invading Austria, plus nuns, romance and kids, what else does a play need) but I didn't remember any story line or know how it would end.

Anyway, I was once again amazed. This was a community acting troupe. It was similar to watching a high-school play, except that the roles were played by people the correct age. So there were adults playing adults and (believe it or not) what must have been a 6 year-old playing Gretl. It was great to see people the correct age playing their roles. While some adults were good, the youth definitely outshone them. They had some of the most amazing voices you'd ever heard, if you've heard Heather before, you already know her voice is incredible.

I'm just so amazed with how well everyone played their roles and how well they sang. The play was incredible and I felt really honored to actually know someone in the cast.

I've tried acting in school, and while I like to think I'm good. Unfortunately I have to admit that it's really not true. When I see a full orchestra and actors like I saw today, most of whom were 1/2 my age, I know I have nothing on them.

I know some of my own gifts, but now I want to figure out how those gifts fit in with my job (not just church). As I head off to CreationFest this week (more on that later) my focus will be on how I should live with these gifts in my every-day life. How about you? Do you even know your gifts (or even what I mean when I say that)?


Saturday, June 25, 2005

Dancing and Getting Old

I just got back from a dance recital which 4 girls from our youth group danced ballet and tap. As a quick side note, I have to say the tap was much more interesting and (as far as I could tell) the tap had a better execution.

Anyway the main thing I thought about while watching all of these girls (two guys, but they barely showed up) dance was just how good they were. Now, I have seen better in some college dances like the nutcracker suite or Riverdance. At the same time, they were really, really good. Jessica, Liz, Taylor and Tegan were excellent. I saw a few minor mistakes but really they were awesome!

During the recital I really enjoyed watching everyone. There were 3-4 year olds ding tap. It felt like looking at out daughter Rachel dancing, absolutely amazing they were even slightly coordinated. But I really watched these girls dace, keep in step and (in some cases) really enjoy themselves.

I am often called "old and wrinkly" (sometimes even by myself, but without the wrinkly part... I Photoshop that out). Today I again realized why it's actually nice to be old. I really, really appreciated what they were doing and was genuinely impressed. I can't walk in time, much less jump in the sky and land in a split. Though with the tap dancing I am all ready to get tap shoes and tap my way around everywhere in them.

I wouldn't have enjoyed this show 10 years ago. I'd have been bored out of my skull and falling asleep. Being older I've really figured out how to watch and appreciate what these people do. They've been practicing forever and they really looked great. At one point the four girls were out tapping away essentially in a country line dance format. Jessica put a hat back on each girls' head (covering their eyes in the process) and you'd never know they couldn't see.

Anyway, all I'm saying is this. Being young is amazing. Retaining so much, seeing the possibilities of the world, and, really, the flexibility you have. But being old is almost better. I get to make a difference in people's lives and have enough stories that help me really appreciate all the things other people are so gifted at. I'm not jealous (as I would have been years ago), all I am is glad and amazed with how incredible these girls did.

What I learned from today is simply (simple, heh heh) that whether your young or old you really should enjoy your body as it is. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

As a quick closing. Jessica, Liz, Taylor and Tegan... You each did an amazing job and I was really, really impressed.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Ending the relationship

Today I was able to catch up on 3 days of blogs. This is especially strange for me since I get them e-mailed within the hour after they are posted. But life has just been such that I've spent more time with family and working than I have checking blogs.

Interestingly most people must have been as busy as I am, since very few have been updated. Though there was one which kind of bothered me. When I say "kind of bothered" I mean it's really, really irritated me and continues to really bother me. This is pretty impressive since I do tend to get over things other people do (which don't directly affect me) pretty quickly, I'm much harder on myself.

Anyway, I pop on to see that one of the youth group members has essentially broken off their relationship through a blog post. This person mentions being torn between two people (one they are dating another they aren't currently dating) and ends it with "I think I know who I should be with, I just don't know if that person will accept me" (rewritten to remain as anonymous as possible). Sure enough, the person they are dating saw this and wrote a comment along the lines of "Obviously I'm not the person you want to be with, I hope it does work for you and the other person".

I don't know what other conversations have taken place between the writing of the blog entries (though I know some face-to-face conversations have occurred). So I can only hope and pray there's some real personal conversation going on to help this process. It is pretty clear that this person has essentially broken off the relationship through their blog entry.

Now, I've done some pretty crummy things to girlfriends.

One I cheated on. I went on a date with someone else and while I try to make myself feel better by saying the relationship was ending and she'd been cheating on me a few times as well, I still feel a little guilty.

Another one we'd been dating almost 2 years and I went to visit her and had a weekend long break-up discussion which ended with me telling her we could work it out, though on the drive home I realized we couldn't and called her to break it off.

Yet another I drove up to visit for dinner and broke up with her on her birthday! In my defense somehow I didn't know it was her birthday, I didn't say I wasn't an idiot.

There was one worse, not the breakup but how we treated each-other afterward. But I'm going to stop for now.

What gets me is this. I've heard of people breaking up through a letter and even by e-mail. Heck, I once talked to two youth as they were breaking up with each-other over IM. I have to say it is just too impersonal. I can't say I've seen a breakup in a blog yet, and it's a very good example that we do need to be careful what we write since everyone could be reading it (and who doesn't wish the whole world, or at least those we care about, read our blog)?

What has happened to us that we think it's okay to leave (and be left by) someone over a public blog? Do we see each-other so rarely that it's not important to see or at least hear the voice of the person breaking up with u? Are we so un-committed to relationships that ending one just isn't that important?

My wife and I go to football games, and see planes flying cute statements to the world "Erin, Will You Marry Me?", "Goodyear Tires Will Get You Home From The Game" (ok, you get the drift). Do you think this year I'll gaze up during the game and see "Tom, Sorry But I Love Someone Else"?

Have any of you done something similar? Has it happened to you? And do you think it's ok to handle relationships this way?


Saturday, June 11, 2005

Revelation Devotion

I recently started writing daily devotions based on the Epistle for our church. I'm now writing each Sunday to our Daily Devotions. My switch to Sunday has been both wonderful and hard. Switching days has now got me discussing passages from the Book of Revelation. One of the hardest books for me with all the symbolism, not to mention the hard discussion about the end of the world. Today's entry on Revelation 15:1-8 seemed to also kind of fit with some of my other discussions in this blog, so I figured I'd post it here...

I give a lot of thought to my life and how I live each day. As I run around at work I often wonder if what I'm doing really does make a difference in the world. Are the products I design and implement really changing someone's life for the better? Most importantly I wonder if I am living God's plan for my life.

We're shown the beginning of the End of Days. This dream of our future explains the seven plagues which will infest the earth. Those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior have been rescued from earth and are at home with Christ.

There are some days that I really feel like I am not making a difference. Especially those days after we deliver a product, I just come into work fried and tend to veg out a bit. I don't mean I slack off and do nothing, but I sure do things a lot slower just to get back into the swing of normal life.

While I feel like I need these relaxing days, they are also troubling to me. I generally sit at work wasting some time. Then head home and just sit watching television. Where in all of this is God? He's obviously with me and encouraging my actions, but I'm just focusing on myself and what will make me feel better.

God does want us to feel good about ourselves and have great lives. Unfortunately that doesn't mean we'll do what we want and always be happy. There have been times in life where I have been given responsibilities from God which are so troubling I just have to cry. Other responsibilities where I have no idea what to do and really need a few hours to focus on Him and His desires. If you know me, taking a few hours to think on something is generally a commodity I don't give myself, and yet here God is forcing me to take this time.

My challenge for myself is to live each day where I take at least one action which is for God alone. I think I'll start that today with a phone call I should have made two weeks ago.

Will you live God's plan for your life each day? What will you be doing when the end comes? Will you be ready when it's time to meet Jesus face to face?


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Are You Happy With Yourself (for Friendships)?

There were two good comments on yesterdays post which I really enjoyed. The first was really from Sheri whose blog I quite enjoyed reading and now subscribed to the ATOM/RSS feed (quick warning though for those who may be offended, she does swear sometimes). She has some very interesting discussions about family and her experience with parenthood.

Another comment came from my great friend Cindy. She mentioned a good point which I didn't really focus on yesterday. I really talked about needing to be happy with yourself before you enter into a dating relationship. She made it pretty clear this applies to friendships as well.

I do think that a friendship can make you happier, help you grow and get you past some unhappiness you feel about yourself. At the same time, if you haven't figured out what makes you happy on your own, those friends may not really enjoy your company. While people who are confident and happy with themselves will often have stronger and more comforting friendships.

I mean, how often do you want to hang out with someone who always complains about things, how everything in their life goes wrong and how they have no idea what they want to do to have fun or make their life better (blaming others is one way people focus on their life being bad)?

My point (well, the point I stole from Cindy) is that we can have some good friendships even if we aren't happy with ourselves. Imagine how great those friendships would be if we really knew what we wanted and were happy with ourselves? Cindy mentioned that she had friends and did stuff she really didn't good about because she "needed" the friendship. Once she broke from that and figured out who she was in her own right, her friendships became something amazing.

The other thing Cindy mentioned which I really, really liked was a way to figure out how to like yourself. Of course from me you'd expect prayer to be in there, and it certainly is. I mean, a quick check-in with God asking "Who do you want me to be today? Am I really making sure I'm happy with myself?" is always good.

But another one is to really spend some time alone. We seem to have this weird mentality that it's impossible to spend time on your own, that having someone with you is always better than being alone. But why?

During our marriage counseling Rob gave us a lot of good advice. One was that no matter who you are, you need to find a way to tell your spouse that you need some alone time. For me that often means holing up in the office for an hour or so playing a game or editing photos without being interrupted. Or it means we get home and Erin does one thing while I do another.

Regardless we need to spend some time alone, walking, writing, reading, going to movies, biking, whatevering. Heck we may even meet someone else out on our trip who shares our interests and spark up a new friendship.

Are you really allowing yourself to have some alone time? Are you happy with that?


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Are You Happy With Yourself?

Lately I've seen quite a few youth group members begin dating. People from 8th grade to 11th. What's interesting is when they break up. They'll separate with their boyfriend/girlfriend and already be looking for that next person to be interested in (if they haven't already found someone). I'll sometimes ask about this and the answer I'll get is along the lines of "I'm happier when I'm dating someone than when I'm not".

This reminds me a lot of something I say to people. That "I'm my own best friend" (stole it from Barf in Spaceballs, remember, "I'm a Mog, half man/half dog... I'm my own best friend" - Classic movie, trust me). This morning I was listening to a radio show which put it this way, "If you aren't happy with yourself, how can you expect someone else to be happy with you"?

Now, I don't have any problems with dating. I dated quite a few people, and stuck with dating one person at a time, leading me to some very close relationships with each one. Each person I've dated has helped me see the world in a different way and made me grow as an individual.

That all being said, I get concerned when I see some people begin dating seriously. I see people who aren't really all that happy with themselves. They feel down about something in life, or just don't enjoy doing things alone. They then find that when dating someone they really enjoy that person and are happier themselves.

Here's the trick. When I was not happy with whom I was I would then latch on to a girl. I'd often feel kind of insecure, and no matter what she said I would think I'm just not doing enough to make her happy. I'd also give all my energy to the relationship, letting school, work and friends become second in importance.

The opposite is also true. I dated someone for two years who I cared about more than I can explain. But she wasn't happy with the person she way. She'd generally be down about something, see the bad things in life and cling on to our relationship (it was hard to break that one off, but God does have His plan for each of us).

The thing I've realized is that if you aren't happy with yourself, you won't be happy with someone else (at least not fully happy for the long term). If you're dating someone who can't be happy single, you won't be enough for the other person either.

I have seen some healthy relationships. Where people date knowing it probably won't last long term, but just enjoy each-other's company for the time. Learn from each-other and grow. I have seen a lot of people (both youth and adults) who go into relationships devoting everything to each-other thinking that the relationship will make them whole. The entire time not realizing that only one relationship will make them whole, the unforgiving relationship with Jesus.

So, are you you're own best friend? If not, what will it take for you to love yourself wholly?


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

It Could Be Worse

I was talking to someone who was feeling down and I said "It could be worse". To which he had a great reply... Yeah, it could, but people always say that I don't see how it helps.

Got me thinking about why it is we do say that. What I came up in 10 seconds or less was:

"It helps because it forces us to remember those in the world who live that "could be worse" part of our lives. So we have no right to be down when others suffer so much more. Instead we should be looking at others and helping them work through the same troubles we experience."

That of course led to a few other questions and clarification. I had originally said that through helping others it makes us feel better. I'm not sure that's exactly true. We might feel better helping someone else, but we might just as well feel more stressed from giving up even more of our previous little free time.

But God doesn't give us the stuff to do that we enjoy. Okay, okay, he gives us some stuff which we enjoy (beautiful spring days, sunrises, wives, dogs and babies). Anyway, there's a common misunderstanding by those learning about Christianity or new to the faith that if God is leading us our lives will be good and enjoyable. Unfortunately that's not true, sometimes the best work we do for Him is miserable hard work (trust me, I'm going to a mission trip to do God's work, but will be miserable sleeping on the floor and doing lots of manual labor).

What this brings me back to is "it could be worse". I've been very down in my life. At one point my brother was put in a mental hospital to work through some issues, and I took it really, really hard. On top of it I felt like my parents were giving my brother all their attention and resources to help him, while I got left on the side a bit. But the "it could be worse" came up recently when a friend had their child put into a mental hospital to help them work through some issues. I was able to share my own experiences but I can't imagine what it will be like if the same is true for Rachel. How did my parents make the incredibly hard decisions they had to make regarding us?

"It could be worse" also gives us a reminder on how to look at the world. It's a selfish feeling, but it reminds us to look at the world and how lucky we are to have what we have. I have friends and a close family plus very strong church relationships. I may have some very, very hard times ahead, but I can get through them knowing I have this support group from God.

So the next time you hear someone tell you "it could be worse" don't dismiss it. Give it some thought. Look at the world, what is God challenging you to do to help others? What is He trying to tell you about how wonderful your life is?


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