Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Deepest Sorrow

For some time now I have kept it inside of me, and there was a time where conflicting feelings helped me suppress them all the more. But I am a passionate man, a man with conviction and I follow my feelings through to whatever end lies in wait. There is someone who is close to me that I cannot escape without feeling the longing for. That person has been judged time and again, and although not perfect, that person did not deserve the treatment they received. I sit in my ivory tower of leadership, looking down at the ones who have trusted me to guide them, to uplift them in their times of struggle... But there is one who has my attention even when there is no struggle, and that person has earned my affection. That person can have it if they will take it. All I ask is that this person wait until I can speak plainly to them about how I feel, until I can profess these feelings as boldly as I profess my own faith.

There is an ache within me that refuses to heal, and I have searched deep within myself to find out why it continues to fester. That person has watched, most likely unknowingly, as I wrestled with the answer to make sense of it all. They have watched me become increasingly dissatisfied with the way things are, and to my greatest pleasure, has allowed me to confide in them some of my more ulterior thoughts and feelings. What that person doesn't know is the damage I've suffered at the hands of those I placed my trust in, and gaping wound that reminds me daily of my foolishness. This person has been there for me when I needed someone, and while my "best friends" were too busy with their own lives, or sorting out their own problems, this person was there.

But the deepest sorrow within me is that I have fallen so far away from God. I have spent my entire self for what I thought was what God was calling me to do, and while I may have done some good for His Kingdom; there was no grace covering the vain sacrifices I made. Had I opened my eyes and taken a moment to critically assess the situation, I might have seen the truth in all its ugliness. I became so engrossed in the work I was doing, that it became my god, my idol. I had said all the right words, made all right choices, and gone the extra mile to be the leader that everyone saw me as, but it was all for the wrong reason.

God, forgive me for I have sinned. I have put the work that I do before You. I put my trust in the leaders above me, all the while they cared more for their precious image than they did about me, and now I am left here broken. Lord, forgive me for being an arrogant self-righteous and judgmental zealot. In the eyes of the world, I was doing a noble deed, but now I see that I was serving an abusive liar who has lost sight of what our purpose is. Had I listened to You, Oh El Shaddai, perhaps then I would not be where I am today. Perhaps then I would have not fallen by the wayside and been betrayed by the very people I put too much trust in. I question my every footstep knowing that I once fearlessly walked about in defiance of Your will. I ask that You would forgive me and bring me back to You, bring me back and teach me Your ways through Your Word. I need to see it in Your Word that it what it is, because for too long I have listened to false teachings and snakes preaching contrary to the truth. I need Your help to discern the truth from the lie.

I have been shaken to the core. Coming to the realization that my career as an actor has been for the benefit of a crooked, abusive, controlling man that has lost sight of the purpose of our performances has left me with not much to rely on. As I swiftly make my departure from the theatre company, I ween myself off of half-truths and false revelations and back into the things of God. I am not this way because of what I leave behind, but because of what has been stripped from me. Please, do not take pity, for that is exactly what the lame man needs. I am not a lame man, but rather a man who has gotten lost now returning to the right path. Yes, I got lost, was beaten, robbed of everything I had to offer, and now left high and dry, but since I am on the right path my losses will be nothing in comparison to what I gain on the right path.

Until next time,
De Facto

Monday, February 22, 2010

Choose This Day Whom You Shall Serve

My e-mail address is very to the point, "Read Joshua 24:15." That verse says, "Choose this day whom you shall serve [...] But as for me and my household, we shall serve the Lord." To me, this is the ultimate show of manliness, when the man of the household stands his ground and proclaims that his family will serve the Lord. I have no household, none that I can call my own, but I have a body which is a "house" of sorts. It is a home to the the Holy Spirit. Due to circumstances which I am not at liberty to discuss freely, I've begun to question a lot of things I once assumed true without a second thought.

Just over a year ago I joined a theatre company, but it was more than that; the theatre company was a ministry. I started out as an amateur actor without confidence or self-assurance and became a leader who seldom looked back at failures of the past. I was convinced that I was growing stronger in my faith, deeper in the things of God, and growing to have a better understanding of the things of God. I look back now and see that I practically dropped off the radar. I almost never go to church because I'm either performing or recovering from a long week of rehearsal, and I don't attend Wednesday night services because I haven't been able to connect very well with regulars except for the youth group who are all beginning to either grow up or transition from Jr. High into the Sr. High, which means they're significantly younger than me. I don't spend much time with my friends because I'm either spending it in rehearsal, recovering, or taking some time to myself to gather my thoughts. I couldn't tell you when the last time I've read my Bible is, which is something I've always struggled with, but this time it goes against my personal goal of reading the Bible in a year.

Now I'm not trying to say that the theatre company is all to blame, but looking at my spiritual growth since then, I think I've actually taken several steps back. To be honest, the theatre company relies more on personal revelation than it does on Biblical principle. Half the time that I do feel God speaking to me about an issue, it gets disregarded and forced to the back-burner until more artistic aspects are considered. I've choked down every excuse that was given to me, but I'm beginning to see the flaws and I cannot say that I'm proud of the things I let slide. I've watched so many things happen that were branded as, "attacks of the enemy" and really all it was was human error. It's so much easier to blame it on the devil, because then we don't have to take personal responsibility for our actions.

Folks, no matter what happens and no matter what kinds of pressure you are under; compromising is what it is. You can't say that you believe in profanity-free speech if you're swearing every time something goes wrong. Not swearing when things are going well is easy, but it's when you're stressed out that tests the integrity of what you believe and stand for. Over this past year, I have found myself becoming more and more of a hypocrite with every turn. I say one thing while doing the opposite. I get up on stage and preach to an audience about something that I say I believe and then cave to do the same thing in private. I now see that I've fallen so far, some people might have a hard time believing I was in ministry for a year; where is the fruit of my labor?

The truth is that I want to serve God. For the past year, I think I've been serving myself and my director more than anything. Sure, I gave God all the credit for my accomplishments and I said all the phrases that an exceptional minister of the Gospel would say, but the actions that followed say otherwise. If I am to serve God, truly serve Him, my life has to change. I have to repent for idle word and action, and start seeking Truth in the one place I can count on for reliability: the Bible. There is no truth higher than the Truth, and anyone who claims to know better than the Bible is a heretic. I need to redevelop my prayer life so that I'm not running to God only when there are problems, but that I go to Him for every occasion; that He is my first source for everything. I cannot piggy-back on others who claim to know more than me, because for too long I have allowed that to take precedence over finding the answers myself through God's Word. Don't get me wrong, I think that seeking the counsel of those who are wiser and more experienced is a good thing, but when they are your first line of defense against confusion is when you have too much reliance on them.

I won't say that this past year has been a total loss. The fact that I am here now running with arms flailing towards the Throne of Grace means that I have seen my error and can learn from it. I learned a lot about the difference between Biblical and personal revelation and which has more authority. I learned a lot about integrity and what it is to have it. I learned that trusting the spiritual authority over you is important, but not to the extent where you have to lie to protect them. I've learned a lot about being an actor and acting in general, which hopefully will show when I take more acting classes. I have learned that I should never ever put anything extracurricular before my studies regardless of what it is. That means that doing ministry should be secondary, not primary; God cannot honor your faithfulness to your other pursuits if your main objective fails because you didn't commit enough effort to succeeding in your first goal. Not going out to do ministry is not the same as neglecting your spiritual health. If you were so engrossed in your studies that you didn't take time to pray and read your Bible; that would be an example of neglecting your spiritual health. Ministry is for those who have a solid grasp of their responsibilities to society and to themselves and can manage the extra workload of reaching out to others.

The Great Commission can be fulfilled without an official ministry! For the longest time I believed a lie that I needed the theatre company to fulfill my obligation in carrying out the Great Commission. Now I see that every good deed and every kind word spoken is a seed planted in someone's life that could be pushing them towards the path of salvation. I may never be there for them to see them come to the saving knowledge of Christ, but if my conduct around and with them reflects Christ, then I have already fulfilled my duty to God in regards to the Great Commission. This isn't to say that I shouldn't speak and preach, because I must do this as well, but I don't need a ministry with all its titles to fulfill the Great Commission. It is a huge burden off my shoulders to know that I can do God's work just living my life as an example of Christ and His Love.

Anger at failure is not passion for success. There have been countless times where my director would get angry about something going wrong and then it would get written off as his passion for success and reaching the lost. Over the course of this past year in the theatre company, I began to believe this lie because I heard it so much and I wanted to believe it was true; the only alternative would have been to see that my director was just angry. When we fail, we may get mad at ourselves for failing, and when we do we only bring ourselves and those around us down. Passion for success starts when a person realizes their failure and makes a conscious effort to turn that failure into a learning experience to succeed in the future. The worst way to get angry at failure is when you get angry at other people's failure, or your own failure and blame other people for it.

There's a lot I still don't know and I'm in the process of digesting what I've learned, comprehending what I'm still learning, and changing the things about myself I see that I don't like. There's been a lot of hurt and betrayal come at me and it will take some time to heal, but I know that Jesus bore all that on His back for me. My mind may not be quite what it used to be from all the lies I've swallowed so that the truth conformed to the picturesque view I had of my director and the theatre company, but I am going to be going to counseling to undo a lot of the psychological and spiritual damage that was done to me. I just thank God I even woke up to the reality of what the situation and became aware of my present state of spiritual low.

Until next time,
De Facto

P.S. - In case you hadn't gathered, I am leaving the theatre company for good. March 1st is my last performance and my last time I plan to be associated with that "ministry".

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How Far Is Too Far?

I get this question a lot by guys in dating relationships or guys who want to be in dating relationships. I wrote a response to this question over at the The Rebelution Forums in the section specifically for men and here was what I had to say:

I am a very black and white man, and I do not believe in compromising for anything or anyone lest you wish to tarnish your core integrity: who you are. Over this past year, I have been serving in ministry as a performer and speaker on several subjects; one of which is purity. It has come to my attention that my previous solution mentioned on the first page of this thread is inadequate in addressing the question.

Firstly, the question should not be, "How far is too far?" The real question you should be asking yourself is, "If I do this, will I be tempted to go further?" Temptation never slaps you in the face, but instead whispers suggestively in your ear. You must do the opposite and never whisper suggestively back, but slap temptation in the face with full armor of God.

I can't tell you where to stop, what action is going too far, except that you know you've crossed the line when you've lost your virginity. If you have any desire to avoid even getting close to that, then please heed my advice.

You as the man must set the boundaries, and once you've come to terms with that you're next step is determining what boundaries those are. This second step requires a lot of honest discussion between you and your significant other; I'd even go so far as to suggest that you may want someone the two of you trust to encourage you to be as brutally honest with each other as you can. If you and your significant other are not completely honest, even at the risk of disagreements and hurt feelings, the boundaries will be set too low and you will fail and maintaining the desired level of purity.

For example, when I choose to enter a relationship, right off the bat I'm going to tell my girlfriend that I am not comfortable being in a dark room alone with her. From there, I will take in to consideration what she is not comfortable with; constantly honing in on what we're comfortable with until we know exactly when to stop before we invite the temptation to sin.

Remember that your goal is not to come up with a list of things you can and cannot do, but to draw a definitive line which you both agree you are not going to cross. If you're definitive line is "not have sex" then you have missed the point of my advice completely and need to go back to the first step. These measures are taken not to just help you both save your virginity, but to also keep you from inviting the temptation. Let me put it allegorically, I'm not just trying to keep you from burning your hand, but to show you how to avoid getting to close to the fire to begin with.

I hope this advice proves insightful to those of you who may not have the answer to the question, "How far is too far?" Hopefully, it will also be insightful to those who do.

Until next time,
De Facto

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Internet is Serious Bidness

Niggers, spics, gooks, chinks, jews, fuckers, and so on... We've all seen the labels thrown around on the Internet. Whether it's on MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever those corporate thugs have spun out for the masses to flock to only to watch their social graces get slaughtered like lambs. Careful studies have said that people do this because the Internet gives them anonymity. I would like to dig a little deeper than that and get straight to the point.

The idea that people call other people by these terms simply because they can might possibly blow your mind, but the truth is they do. It doesn't matter that they're on the Internet. The Internet is just the canvas, the painter would simply find another medium on which to spread his colorful artistry if there were no Internet. With millions of people accessing it every waking moment of the day, internationally leaving no moment for a second of shut-eye, this is the perfect platform for the average person to speak his mind uninhibited. One need only look into the annals of human history to see that the kind of behavior we're seeing on the Internet is nothing new; on the contrary it's more like an evolution of an age-old problem that takes occurrence everyday. The truth is, it's not even racial, it's programming.

But why? Why do people do it? Well, for those of you who can't wrap your head around the idea that some people do it just because they can, then I suggest you look no further than common sense. Maybe there's a Jew out there with a death wish. Maybe there's a dude out there who got ripped off by his Japanese girlfriend and now all he sees are chinks and gooks. Maybe there's some girl out there who really hates black people, and to her, they're nothing but dumb ape niggers. Or, as some have stereotyped this behavior to, maybe there's some insecure little masturbating white 15 year-old who has no life outside of his computer and thinks that he can do whatever he wants because the Internet is a vast plethora of trash. The fact that we can't escape is that there is no formulaic answer to this mystery, my dear Watson. The only "elementary" thing about it is that it what is it.

The Internet is rife with crap, but amongst the crap there is a lot of good things about it. If you can shake off the crap and let it go by without phasing you, then perhaps you should following my advice to curing your illness:

1. Throw your computer tower/laptop out the window (the higher, the better!)

2. Throw yourself out the window (Like I said, the higher, the better!)

3. Make sure your relatives read your story from the Darwin Awards publications at your funeral. (Haunt them if they don't)

Following these simple steps will ensure a decisive victory over your troublesome woes. The Internet is not a place to impose one person's sense of morality over another, but there are a few things we agree on, such as children under the age being posted on the Internet nude. Things like a sex tape, internal promotional videos, and news information should not be censored in the least. When you try to censor that kind of thing, you're asking the world to turn a blind eye towards what's happening around them. Despite what stereotypes you may have about people who spent copious amounts of time on the Internet, they want what you want, and they get it with the click of a button... Perhaps, those who use the Internet aren't as degenerate as you may think, and perhaps it is you who are the backwards thinking primate still trying to start fire with two sticks.

Until next time,
De Facto

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Change is Needed

For anyone who has taken notice and kept track of my "Quitting Progress" you may have noticed that my progress has been past due by nearly two days. The problem is that I failed my Goal 3. I was half-way through the first of three days and caved. Quitting is turning out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. I hate it, but the reality is that I started something that requires a little more than a half-baked plan to quit. That is why I have decided to change my strategy, and although it will probably mean that I will not quit before I have to buy more cigarettes; I am determined to quit.

In my first attempt, the way I did it was this: complete each goal and then take a day in which I allowed myself to smoke. The idea was that I would be weaning myself off of the stuff over the course of about a month and half. This time around, if I happen to cave during any one of my goals, I will restart the whole process. It doesn't matter if I'm at Goal 34 (go 34 days without smoking), I will restart and go back to Goal 1. I may decide against this, because it seems self-defeating at that point, so perhaps once I make it that far, I may not go back as far as Goal 1, but perhaps Goal 20 or something like that. Do you see my point though? This way, the progress is less stressful, but still progress.

The fact is that I cannot quit on my own strength. I'm a lousy quitter at something I enjoy. If I love something, I won't let it go. With smoking, I have a love-hate relationship, because it's the only thing that can calm me down anymore since I've become dependent on it. What I need is God, and prayer support from my brothers and sisters who know of my struggle. There are some who still don't know, and if they don't then let them remain ignorant. Some know, but choose to embrace a more critical perspective on the whole situation. The rest are those who truly understand what is happening, or maybe they don't understand, but they know that God does and they put their trust in Him. I need those who put their trust in God to pray for me that He will continue to give me strength and peace as I go through this process to quit smoking.

Until next time,
De Facto

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Honest Assessment of the Church

I am a Protestant. If I ever give anyone the impression that I'm not, I apologize, because I'm completely Protestant. I have been a long-time admirer of the Catholic Church, but I don't have any immediate plans of converting (although I'm not ruling it out either.) I have spent over four years researching, two and half considering my conversion, and another five months in limbo regarding the whole issue. Despite some theological disagreements, I have another grievance that I feel is often overlooked or written off as something else.

When attending Mass (the regular weekly service) as an observer, one has to understand that the traditions and ceremonies are based on centuries of cultivation and derive from ancient practices which still serve a purpose today. Everything is very calculated, and while some may misinterpret this as rehearsed and cold; the fact is that it is what a person makes of it in their own spiritual walk. At the time when a lot of the individual rituals were developed, such as praying the Rosary, most of the congregation was illiterate. Praying redundantly was not meant to be a meaningless recitation of Scriptural prayers and praises, but rather to show the sincerity of the one praying. Today, people can easily make up a prayer on the spot without much thought put into it, but at the time of the Rosary's conception, that may have proven to be a difficult task.

People are fickle. We hang on to guilt as if it were a the coat keeping us from dying of hypothermia in the dead of an Alaskan winter. For some, they can't let go of their own self-condemnation until they've gone to the priest and confessed their wrong-doings, prayed, made penance, made restitution, and left the parish. This is a perfectly normal, albeit not efficient, part of being human. It's always harder to forgive yourself than it is to forgive others. At the root, we always want to blame ourselves for things that happen even if we had nothing to do with it. The Church knew this from the start and thus the lengthy and often perceived empty practice of confession began. Putting aside absolution, we can therefore reach an understanding of why someone would go to confession. I have often felt the desire to go myself, however I am not well versed in the ritual and therefore do not want to be seen as outsider or someone who is only giving lip service.

Most, if not all, of the people I closely associate myself with have a very harsh judgment of the Church. To them, it's all a bunch of spiritually dead people and rituals which have no practical application. To this I say, "Dig deeper and open your mind." The fact that you don't understand or don't appreciate the careful precision and artistic displays does not mean it isn't spiritual. You don't have to convert, and I'll be the last one to peddle something that you won't like, because I'd rather you find out what it's all about for yourself. I'm only giving you a glimpse into the reality which has been misunderstood since original Lutherans were put six feet under.

The other problem that I see is that there are too many young people raised in the Church who go through confirmation and then walk out the doors and never really take into consideration all that they learned. Most Protestants go through some Biblical training, as children we go to Awana/Sonlight, and some even attend a regular Bible study which gives them new ideas and concepts to ponder. Protestants have removed, some more than others, the ritualistic and iconic practices which the Church clings to as a tie to their grassroots. I respect both sides of the coin. I understand why people would avoid hymns like the plague, but at the same time I have and pray the Rosary on occasion because of it's simplicity when all other words fail me.

A perfect example is this: I was running the technical side for a major production with the theatre company I'm apart of. After the show, I felt led to take anointing oil (which was in the form of cream because oil gets messy if spilled) and pray over each actor as they left the dressing room. They lined up at the door and I put a tiny amount of cream on my finger and made the sign of the cross on their forehead while saying, "All the garbage off, in the name of Jesus..." The last guy in the dressing room, who shares my name, requested that I not do it because he didn't want it to be ritualistic. To that, I conceded and let him walk out the door without so much as a word. I knew that for him, the spiritual stigma of playing the worldly role he had just played was not going to be a stumbling block and that God would wash any residual icky-ness off regardless of whether I did anything or not. The anointing oil, the sign of the cross, and the phrase I uttered were merely symbolism of something much bigger than what the eyes could see. I did it because I felt led to, and I think it was done because some of the actors have a hard time disassociating themselves with their role (also known as getting out of character) as much as they do letting go of the spiritual junk that gets flung at them when they play these worldly roles.

The anointing oil, the sign of the cross, and the phrase weren't going to do diddly-squat on their own. The only one who could do anything about what might have been going on with each of those actors was God. He is the one who sees into their hearts and minds and knows what's going on with them. Likewise, the Church recognizes that most of the practices and rituals performed on a regular basis are symbolism of something much greater than what our eyes can see. In a sense, they try to bridge the gap between faith and evidence by supplementing faith with actions.

Until next time,
De Facto