Monthly Archives: May 2013

Stalker (fictional)

Is it stalking if I used to know you?

I just need to know that you are ok
Did your life work out fine?

Please tell me
Does your heart bleed
Like I hope it does?

Do you wallow in lonely misery
Like you made me do?

Am I your great regret
The one you wish you could have back?

Do you think of me like I think of you
Distant and faded, loving yet heart broken?

Or am I still nothing
The unbalanced side effect
Of a one sided relationship
That could have been perfect

If you had only known my name?

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Living An Authentic Life

The internet seems like a really good place to write something about living, or trying to live at least, an authentic life. I thought that, because the internet in my experience is full of fake people. Either people with picture perfect lives, or even more commonly people who use the protection of anonymity to be a cyber-bully, to release the pent up frustrations of a broken life on others, but its ok, it’s just the internet right?

Authenticity is very important to me, it is a huge part of this journey that I am on. What got me thinking about the subject again was an excellent sermon last Sunday on the subject by Andy Tilley at my church. I decided to write down my notes and thoughts to share on here. The sermon was based out of Matthew 23, I’ll put the key parts here so you don’t have to run to another site to read it.

Matthew 23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted

The saying practice what you preach is nothing new. In Jesus’s time, the people he was talking about were some of the most respected in society. They were who the people looked to for guidance, they studied and memorized the scriptures more than anyone. They had all the right answers. Unfortunately, while they had all the correct information, they were not putting it into practice. I can relate, there are countless times that I have known what the right thing to do was, only to do something different. Sure most of the times it was not a conscious decision, but a decision born out of rituals of bad practice. Yet it was still the wrong decision.

Matthew 23: 27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

 

They would whitewash the tombs so that they would look clean, so that they would reflect the light. It made you ceremonially unclean (a bad thing), if you touched the dead, so the paint was a layer of protection. The comparison with the behavior of the Pharisees is clear to see. They may look all perfect and clean on the outside, but on the inside, they were rotting, full of death & Jesus knew it.

 

How do we apply this lesson to 21st century life? We have to look at ourselves and perform a self-examination of our authenticity.

A great place to start with this is with your online life, how are you presenting yourself online? Is the presentation you are giving of yourself online authentic? Or are you just presenting what you want people to see, or what you think people want to see?

Not only that, but are you judging yourself against other peoples online lives? If you compare your life to the happy snapshots of other people’s lives, the happy smiling photos taken 5 minutes before the meltdowns that don’t make it onto Facebook, you will always feel substandard.

Likewise, we need to examine our face to face encounters. Are you a different person depending on who you are talking to? Do you have one personality at work, another at home, another with your friends and another at church etc, etc. I have lived that life, it is exhausting, you don’t realize you are doing it, yet at the same time you realize you feel so empty inside. The reason for this emptiness is that you are not being authentic, you are not being who you really are.

That is what it all comes down to. We are all called to be the person we were created to be, not a mask wearer, not an expert in the art of using defense mechanisms. We are called to be the individual that we are, warts and all. Why then is it so hard to be the person that we were created to be? Why is it so hard to be authentic, to present our true selves, instead of what we think the world has told us we should be? Where do these defense mechanisms come from?

The single biggest cause is lies that are believed to be true. It could be something that was said to you when you were a small child that has stuck with you ever since, were you called ugly? Were you told you were not good enough? Did someone abuse you? Were you lead to believe directly or indirectly that your life had no meaning or significance?  A lie believed to be true, will affect you as if it were true. The pain these lies cause, the hurt, this is what our defense mechanisms are born out of. We decided that we do not want to feel the pain again and so we develop techniques that we believe will prevent us from feeling the pain again. Sometimes they work, but if you decide that you don’t want to feel the pain of a broken heart again by never getting into a relationship again. You might be successful in avoiding another broken heart, but you will also deny yourself a chance at happiness, of love. Many of the common defense mechanisms have similar side effects.

Another cause in the Christian world, is not fully believing scripture. We can believe that God’s word and promises are true for everyone else, but not for us. For me it’s a whole other thing, God can forgive anyone, but not me, don’t you know what I have done? This of course is a lie, a lie that when accepted as truth will act like truth. You know who the father of lies is right? Not the Author of truth!

You have to learn to believe what God says about you to be true, not what people say about you, not what lies say about you and certainly not what the devil says about you. You cannot be fully loved unless you are fully known, this is why authenticity is so important to real relationships. This is also why listening to what God says about your identity is so important. Even behind all the masks, behind the lies, God still and already fully knows you, He made you, He knows you and He loves you. Let Him speak your identity into your life and live from that.

How do we get past being scared of who we are? The fear of being exposed? We trust in the Lord. We trust that the Bible is true, that Jesus is real and no matter what this world throws at us, that He will not abandon us. We must listen to God and not to men in order to find our identity.

Proverbs 29:25

25 Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
    but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.

 

Our number one priority needs to be to focus on pleasing God, not people. Funnily enough, personally, whenever I focus on pleasing God and not people, I find myself pleasing a lot more people anyway. There is something inherently pleasing to others about an authentic individual.

Galatians 1

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

 

I am who I am and that is all. Live from the approval of God, not other people.

1 Thessalonians 2

On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 

 

You being who you are, warts and all, is the best you that you will ever be! It is ok not to be ok, God wants to receive you right where you are. It is not ok to stay not being ok though, because God wants more for you than that and God’s people, his true people, want to help you.

 

You want the best example I have of not putting a false face on things, of being truly authentic? Look at Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. He knew what had to happen, He knew what needed to be done, but in a moment of beautiful honesty, he asked God if there was another way. I don’t blame him, I’m out on getting crucified, save the world or not, I’m not up for it. Jesus on the other hand, even in this moment of asking if there was another way, true to form said, Yet not as I will, but as you will

 

Matthew 26: 36-39 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” 

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtyVdC7E6Wo

 

You can watch the sermon here, I highly recommend it.

 

 

A Decidedly Fun Thing I’ll Certainly Do Again

 

So that was it, my cruise journal. I still have a couple of poems yet to publish from on-board, but other than that, this will be my last post relating to this vacation. I learned a lot of things on-board about myself and about how I would like to spend future vacations. I learned that I really enjoyed and benefited from keeping a vacation journal. I shall endeavor to keep one for all future trips and assuming I am still blogging will share those too.

I learned that I prefer smaller cruise ships and that the next cruise we take I would like to be more of a luxury cruise. Something about mega-sizing the ship and going for a younger crowd removes something of what allures me to cruising. I want to feel like I am gatecrashing a lifestyle and a culture that I am normally a not a party to. Yes you can still (I did) have a wonderful vacation on a super-mega-ship, it is just not the experience that I would ideally choose. That is not to say that I won’t vacation on the Magic again, exiting Galveston for a really rather reasonable price has a very big upside. I still got all the rest and relaxation that I wanted, I just would have liked to have felt a little more hoity-toity in the process (if that even makes sense).

I learned that while the flexibility of “any time dining” is wonderful, but, if you have assigned dining, so long as it works out well, that can be even better. We have had this on previous trips and usually you are assigned to a table with other people. This makes for much better dinner conversation opportunities because you are not just reviewing what you have all done together all day, you have the chance to tell stories to people that have not experienced them. However, if you are assigned to a table with people who don’t want to talk, or not with a good wait staff, then anytime dining is the way to go.

The thing that changed this from a really nice vacation but the service was not so much, to this was a great vacation & the people were amazing was relationships. Whether it was that we(I) needed a few days to get to rested enough to where we could enjoy people, or that it took us a few days  to find the people that we could effectively relate to I’m not sure, although I lean towards the latter. Our conversations with our eastern European friends in the dining room, with the English people on the entertainment crew made the vacation vastly more enjoyable. I have to look at this and apply it to life in general, to be fair I have been working on this for a few years now & the change is immense.

Relationships are what can change your life from “is this all there is?” to “life is great”. Sure there are challenges, most of us don’t get to work for fun, we have to work for a living. Yet the time working is not so bad if you build relationships there, just like if you have relationships waiting for you at home & in your recreation time, life is just better. Now these relationships need work, unnourished they will be empty & flounder, but if you work on your relationships. If you chose to build covenant relationships rather than contract relationships, your life will just be better & that makes life much more worth living.

While my vacation gave me much needed & overdue physical & emotional rest & recuperation. There was an unfortunate down side, it had left me feeling spiritually low. I didn’t realize how much until I walked into church the Sunday after we got back, it was a beautifully overwhelming experience. I had happy tears as my spiritual gas tank was immediately filled up. The answer to my life’s purpose is in here somewhere what He will chose to do with that is up to him, I will simply follow (and look forward to more vacations). I need to make sure that on future vacations I make time to stay connected to my source, more than I did on this trip.

Other thoughts? Some people say that I don’t have an accent anymore, however I have come to realize it is because I don’t sound like James Bond, Hugh Grant or Dick van Dyke. I have an accent, faded and slightly Texanized, but I still have my accent (dang it). I have never sounded like any of the aforementioned people, I am from Yorkshire, our accents might not be Hollywood famous, but they are wonderful British accents. I shall decide to ignore people who say I have no accent from now on.

I have no idea why I could not bring myself to dance at the beginning of the week, the terrible music was no excuse, my daughter wanted to dance and I didn’t do it. That could have been a great regret from this week. However it will simply serve as a warning to ensure I don’t get as fried as I was prior to this week. By the end of the week I had danced on stage with my daughter and on the final day (skipped this from the journal) we danced in the atrium several times, slow dancing around the floor shared with some delightful elderly couples, one of which were especially encouraging to my daughter to just keep dancing (her whole life I presume) and gave me that wonderful, knowing look saying that I am not doing too terribly as a Dad. Maybe I should force myself to dance more, before the inhibitions that were removed come back, I guess that’s a thought for a date night in the near future.

What else did I learn? I learned that I cannot read an entire David Foster Wallace book in one week if I have more to do than just read the book. I discovered that while I loved his essays, especially “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”, I do not agree with his assessment of cruising.  My assessment, and if for some random reason I decided to gather my vacation writing into a book its title, would be “A Decidedly Fun Thing I’ll Certainly Do Again

 

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Vacation Journal: Day 7

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Day seven was our last day at sea and our last day of vacation. We have been sailing north / north west since we left Cozumel last night, sailing towards the end of this wonderful week. I had a pleasant sleep-in to 0745 (something is wrong with that being a sleep-in on vacation), followed by a slow breakfast of smoked salmon on bagel, followed by blueberry pancakes. Overeating is so easy on a cruise. The service at breakfast was slow, causing me to consume more of the excellent coffee than normal.

A planned day of pool side leisure was curtailed by mist on the horizon. That mist slowly manifested into rain and occasional thunder. Somehow being in a pool in a metal vessel in the ocean seems remarkably unwise with the very real threat of lighting on the horizon. Instead we decided to review our week’s photographs taken by the cruise photographers. From probably over a hundred photos, we pick out three to keep, I then went back and got another three, because while my wife could live without them, I couldn’t  she is the strong one when it comes to such things.

The humidity on board is so great today that the stairs are slick close to the lido deck. Another downside of humidity is the adjustment period required by your camera to take photos outside after being in the a/c. Prior to the adjustment the lens fogs rapidly and annoyingly.

Stormy weather means choppy seas and high winds, which means the boat is rocking. Not everyone enjoys the physical sensation of the ship listing. Personally, I love it. It is like a perpetually slow roller coaster, strangely similar to being drunk, but only in your legs. Looking over the balcony the waves do not seem to be big enough to cause the movement that the ship is experiencing. They are choppy, but we are not talking deadliest catch and with the size of this ship it should take some serious moving. A quick look on one of the ships tv channels tells me that we are experiencing steady 30mph cross winds with gusts over 40mph, that will do it.

There is not much of our vacation left now, I feel ready to return home, if not to work. I am however not looking forward to debarkation or the 5+ hour drive home. These feelings may be fueled by spending so much time in the cabin today, reading and writing. As much as I enjoy these things I am starting to feel confined, yet there is nothing on the ship that appeals to me to go and do right now. I don’t want a drink and I certainly don’t want to eat. I am pretty much sick of the taste of chocolate & sweets in general. I am tired of eating. I am ready to feel productive. I would estimate that my tank has gone from 10% to 90% in this wonderful, restful and fun week.

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Dining shots

He wanders the floor

On the prowl

Between pensioners and families

Poison on a tray

Not just to the body

But more so to the mood

 

Shots at dinner time,

Monumentally inappropriate

Yet he cries

Shot, shot, shot

Trying to lure a victim

 

With his evil glare trying to seduce

Money, money, money

He wants, because he is told to

Err no sir, this is formal dining

Thank you & move on

 

 

 

Vacation Journal: Day 6

Cozumel, Mexico

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If there was going to be a day to make or break this trip, today was the day. Today was the focal point, the fulcrum of this whole adventure. Today is the day we get to swim with dolphins. As a Dad that wants to reinforce to my child that dreams are both real and attainable, her love for dolphins months played a large part in deciding to take this cruise. The decision to cruise was made knowing full well that swimming with dolphins is always an option at some of the ports.

The day, fortunately, did not disappoint, if anything is surpassed expectations. We took a quick van ride from the port to the Dolphinarium, once we arrived we were given a briefing and then before we knew it out group of about 12 entered our pool with 2 dolphins. Over the next 40 minutes we petted, kissed, held fins and went for a belly to belly ride. The speed of this ride and the astonishing acceleration taking me completely by surprise. It was truly a dream come true occasion for my daughter, for her parents too. I was particularly proud of my daughter who did all the tasks without assistance, the swimming lessons paid off!

CL Dolphin Pull

Moments like today make struggling through work worth it, it is the memories of these truly special occasions that you have to cling to when you are at the end of your rope at work wondering if it is all worth it. It is worth it, I might not get to travel months at a time, or do anything on my trips that they would make a tv show about, but they are so worth every second, just to see the smile & hear the squeals of happiness from my daughter.

FL Dolphin Pull

qIMG_4897After our dolphin experience we had lunch (included) at the place before heading back to the ship. They have a long duty free store that you have no choice but to walk through to get onboard. It is almost like friendly piracy, taking your money with a smile, there were some good deals to be had though 🙂

 

 

Before we went in to dinner we joined our fellow guests at the frequent cruisers thank youqIMG_4907 reception. We enjoyed some rather potent free drinks and I finally got over myself and danced with my daughter, on stage no less, with about 50 others. Still, that shows how much recuperation has been done during this week. On the way out we struck up a conversation with Katie from the entertainment staff, I correctly guessed (by her accent) that she was from Halifax, not far from Leeds where I grew up. We talked at length about life onboard and her current struggles with deciding how to get a visa to live in the states with her American boyfriend. She was a very pleasant and most engaging person to talk to. Two things struck me after our conversation, one how much better I am at conversations now than I used to be & two, just how far I have come in the last 12 years since I first made the decision to leave my home town in search of a better life. I really don’t give myself enough credit for what has been accomplished, not that any of it could have done without the gentle guiding hand of the Lord, but you know what I mean.

Following the reception we headed to dinner, requesting the same table as the night before as we had finally found a wait crew that not only brought us some food, but had a bit of personality too. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about past cruises is getting to know (somewhat) the wait staff, with not having assigned seats & generally overworked wait staff, until yesterday it has not been as good an experience in that sense as on previous trips. However Iavn the Serbian and Jovana the Croatian were a delight and Alona, our Ukrainian drinks waitress was fantastic and so much fun to talk to. It is when talking to these people that you really start to get a feeling for how fortunate we are. Take Alona, I don’t know her life story or her situation at home, but I do know that she is 35 with a teenage daughter who she doesn’t get to see for 7 months at a time. She does this to be able to provide for her daughter the very best way that she can. I cant imagine being away from my family for 7 month stretches, but if that was the best way for me to provide for them I would do it. I really have a tremendous appreciation, admiration and empathy for these dedicated people.

The evening show on day 6 was a comedy hypnotist who was very entertaining. My favorite part being when people were sent to look for their missing belly buttons. He asked one lady what she needed her belly button for & she replied (in her hypnotized state) “to put my finger in it”. That cracked me up and was a great end to another great day of this vacation that is sadly drawing to a close.

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