Recalling a Sermon on Contentment

I haven’t listened to many sermons in the last few years, but I did tonight. It was a simple message, but it helped me see some blind spots.

The preacher shared a quote from Voltaire. It basically said ‘God created man in his image and man has attempted to return the favor.’ What this means, is that we try to create a version of God in our mind that fits our life. If we value financial stability and providing for our family above everything, we twist God into this being that understands when we hoard our money and don’t give with open hands to the poor. If we value romantic relationships above everything, we twist God into this being that understands and welcomes our sexual sin.

The preacher said we should twist ourselves to align with God instead.

“There are things about Jesus that I don’t like,” the preacher said. “There are commands that Jesus makes that are hard for me. But we cannot twist Jesus into something we like. We must twist ourselves instead. Die to ourselves and learn to cling to Jesus more.”

He went on to say that Jesus was radical. Jesus didn’t know where he would eat the next day. Jesus didn’t know where he would sleep the next night. But he still relied on God. Because Jesus was radical, we should live radical lives too; giving our security away so our brothers and sisters can eat, abstaining from sexual immorality when the world promotes lust.

The preacher said the reason we are not content is because we don’t really believe that Jesus is enough to sustain us.

These are things I have been hearing in church circles for a long time, but they struck me tonight. Dying to myself is hard. Believing ‘Jesus is enough’ all the time is hard. But twisting God into my own image does not work.

One creative expression a day

One creative expression a day. That’s what I’m hoping for. Some folks put deadlines and disciplines between them and creating. If that’s what helps you, do you. I haven’t put deadlines on myself to create ever, but I’m not saying it won’t happen in the future. I’m pretty good at being consistent and I like to alleviate stress there.

I’ve been painting and drawing and writing songs and performing and recording music and writing poems and submitting articles. It’s been a good, hearty season for expression. I’m teetering on the edge; do I plummet, submerge myself and go ‘all in’ or do I find other work and keep creating as a hobby?

I’m gunna go all in.

Megaphone

It is not until I’m seated in a reclined position that I realize how heavy the mental burdens of the day have been. Then I can see how unwieldy they really are. 

I’m wondering out loud a lot to my fifth grade definition of God. “Why all this pain? Why all this broken and bent and tragic? What are we doing? What are You doing? Do you love us, still? Did you ever at all? 

Basically, it boils down to : this life is really hard. A real slog at times. 

God doesn’t like to be asked direct questions, it seems. He likes to whisper in the wind and speak in a mourning dove’s song. I’mma be honest, I get pretty tired of discerning meaning from the breeze on a blade of grass (that’s a joke). 

How about some megaphone responses? Maybe he does that too in the face of tragedy, but I’m talking some straightforward, not cryptic, unmistakable commentary. I mean all of this light-heartedly (for now), but it would be nice to see some road signs marked, “Tyler, go here.” 

I’m in a life-lull for the moment and a big, clear push is welcome. 

 

Confidence lacking

Confidence is something I’ve lacked my whole life. People have told me I need to gain confidence; everyone from my mom to my pastor. I would love to feel comfortable in my own skin, in my beliefs, in my doubts, in my struggle with depression and mental illness. But I’m not – not really anyway and on top of that, I’m not sure how to work on it.

Maybe if there was a special pill I could take in the morning (along with the litany of other pills I already take … what’s one more?). That sounds nice and easy.

There are not many areas where I can hold on to confidence and feel secure in myself. I am an average musician, with an average voice. I am a poet who has never been published. I am an author with a book collecting dust. I have never experienced success in the workplace. I have a disorder that makes all manner of those things difficult. I care about my friends more deeply than they care about me. I suck at romantic relationships, to use a word that doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of this piece. You get the idea.

But I am kind. And I am honest. The world does not need more confidence in my opinion before it needs more kindness. I’m not saying confidence is not important, it clearly is. However, it comes down to: what I want to practice in my life. I want to practice kindness before everything else.

I want to practice honesty too; telling it how it is with no white-washing or bullshitting. And maybe, I’m realizing, confidence can come from those places instead of some vacuum that I don’t understand or some elixir that doesn’t exist. It can be born out of those top-tier things, like love for your fellow man.

I might have to be ok with a confidence meter that is perpetually half-full. I don’t know how to work on increasing it. I do know how to be more kind. There are always ideas in my head for that. I am naturally very honest and it could be that my apparent lack of confidence is really just a proclivity for telling the truth. The average man or woman probably feels the slights and nervousness that I feel, but doesn’t voice them. Along with their doubts and failings and unsuccesses.

Maybe it is not I who should be more confident, maybe it is you who needs to be more honest.

I am fascinated by confronting myself and telling the truth about every situation. ‘Know thy self’ seems like an idea worth pursuing and who knows, confidence could come with it some day.

We have the honor to remain

We got everything in order for you.

The disability benefits for your final months.
The life insurance so we can pay off the house.
The automatic payments for the energy bill.
The files are in order.
The mail’s been checked.
The cars are paid off.
The radiation is done.
The chemo is through.

No more doctor’s appointments.

We got everything in order for you,
“Right down to the urn.”

A poem to call on confidence

I have a stately purpose
Just like a stately pine
I have a sprightly wit
Just like a friend of mine

I have a stunning sense
Just like a flower’s smell
I have a sustained vigor
Just like a young Orwell

You like my noble name?
Why yes, it ends in matter
How ‘bout my natural charm?
Mad, just like a hatter

I bring a sparkling fury
To music like a dance
My hand’s superb command
Puts my readers in a trance

I am a throneless king
Who picked the wrong to rule
You can call it vain conceit
But I know I ain’t no fool

I’m slick with polished ease
Gold throughout my voice
Calculated with mathematical precision
And you thought you had a choice

There is a majestic awe
To my nameless grace
A simple, modest plainness
To my fervent, steady pace

Don’t make a vital mistake
And sullen, call it quits
You might make boats for a living
But I’m the captain of this ship

-TS

I’m Not Asking

I will never know
how hurt you have been
and are.

You held it together for
years. Then one day it all
came apart.

Maybe you saw it coming,
but couldn’t believe it would be
a new reality.

Reality sounds kinda nice
compared to what every
stunted, splintered day in this hell feels like.

I hope you can have some good
before you go. There’s been a mistake
in how much broken you were handed.

I pray peace for you, even when you
really frustrate me. I want to hear
more joy in your voice.

Not one more moment of pain, Lord.
Not one more God-forsaken moment.
Let’s see you redeem.

I call upon you now to right this ship.
To make impossible good out of
insurmountable bad.

I’m afraid I’m not asking.
I’m telling.
Right now, show my mother … love like she’s never seen.