Wednesday, July 19, 2017

This is my son in whom I am well pleased...

II Brady 3:9,10

"And Dennis looked down from heaven and saw his son, Jeff, changing the oil and replacing the blades on his mower and he said, "this is my son in whom I am well pleased." And many thought they heard the voice of Dennis; others thought it was just thunder or a train on the tracks at the bottom of the hill..."

Yip, I did it. First time I ever changed the oil on The Tank. It was easier and a bit messier than I thought it would be. There is a rubber hose with a bolt in the end at the back of the mower. You have to unscrew the bolt and the oil will come pouring out into a strategically placed container. The oil was dark black. Not sure when Dad changed it last, but it was well passed time. Getting the oil filter off was a bit of a challenge. It was in a tight place next to the engine and it was also very tightly screwed in. I finally maneuvered a monkey wrench in there and got it loose. Once the filter was off, I put the new one on and the bolt back into the hose. It took two quarts of synthetic 10W-30 oil to fill it.

With that done, I proceeded to replace the blades. I got the blades and filter at P&P Small Engine. The new blades were spray painted black and labeled "bottom" on the side that was to face the ground. My first thought was, this sounds easy. It was not. It's really a two man job, but I figured out how to make it a one man job (much like life). My Dad had more tools than Craftsman I think and so I used those.

I used two hydraulic jacks to raise the mower high enough to get under it and work. Once the mower was up, I placed two axle stands under it to ensure it did not come down on top of me. Once in place, I got down on the ground and had a look underneath the mower. There was a great deal of dirt and grass caked under the deck and all three blades were worn and split on the ends, probably from Dad mowing rocks and stick and cans. He never liked walking the yard to pick up those things prior to mowing.

Anyhow, I quickly figured out that these blades were not going to come off unless something was holding the pulleys in place from the top. So I took a long handled wrench of the correct size and placed it on the bolt head of the pulley, bracing the long handle of the wrench against the mower itself. This gave me the leverage I would need to remove the blade nut from the blade. The nuts were on tight. I could not budge them, even with the long handled ratchet I was using. I pulled a spray can of penetrating oil off the shelf in the garage and sprayed each blade nut heavily. I let it set for awhile to give the oil time to do it's thing. The nuts finally came loose with repeated efforts and I got the blades off. Here they are.
 I wish I had gotten a picture of the new blades for comparison purposes because these blades are very badly worn. Putting on the new ones was much easier than taking off the old ones. When I was done, I was too worn out and stiff to mow the yard, but I did test them and they wonderful. I am going out now to do the whole place. I will let you know how it goes. I also aired up the tires and now the mower rides much better.

I'm getting pretty good at this 'man stuff' that the rest of you have been doing all your lives. I am learning much. Time to mow.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Believing The Unbelievable

The hard part for me is believing in what is supposed to come after conversion to the faith. There is so much I do not understand. I also have questions about God that I still find no resolution for in scripture. It all bothers me. As one that likes things to flow, I am not finding that flow in my faith.

I do not really know what it means to live by the Spirit. I know what it means to live by the Word. Is it the same thing? Or is something supernatural supposed to be happening, or is it happening and I am just unaware of it? I can try to live by the rules and I do try, but I am unaware of any spiritual involvement in that process. I do not understand how it works. I feel no sense of direction coming from anything except myself and my own intellectual understanding of the scriptures.

And how does the Spirit change us? Why has it not changed me? Why do I still have to deal with the SSA that I have experienced since before my conversion? Why has God left me to twist in the wind with this? What is the point of such a struggle? If I received new life and freedom at my spiritual rebirth, should these things not have left me by now? I am almost 60 years old and I am still dealing with this crap. I came out in November of 2015 with the hope that this would finally free me. Confession is supposed to be good for the soul. It did help for awhile. I was released from pretending to be what I am not. That tension was gone and I know that my friends still love me, but the SSA is still there. It is not only there, but it is stronger than it was before. The battle rages. Why? Coming out may have been a bad choice in retrospect. It freed me from caring what people think about me. but it ratcheted up the desire.

Where is the promised freedom and the new life? Why has nothing changed?

I can only conclude that it does not work as promised. Natural inclinations can be controlled but not changed. 100% control is not possible and 100% change is not possible. All of this is as it has always been with me and I sense no spiritual involvement in the whole process as I fight.

Totally unrelated to this is what I see as the character of God in the Bible. He seems inconsistent to me as I read. John tells us God is love, that He loves us, that He wants to save us. Why did He not want to save anyone before the flood. If the book Genesis is to be believed, God is a genocidal maniac. He drowned the entire population of the world and to what end? Sin continued apace from the offspring of Noah's family. Purging the human race did nothing to end the reign of sin and death on earth. Even the death, burial and resurrection of His Son did not bring an end to the reign of sin and death. We still sin. We still die. But now there is this vague promise of life after death of which the Bible reveals little.

I know there are textbook answers to these kinds of questions, but they fall short in explaining why God does the things He does and is as He is portrayed in scripture and by evangelical leaders. I do not understand Him.

Accepting these kinds of things in faith in order to hear an explanation at a later, eternal date is hard. I would like to know now and be enabled to understand. Oddly, I have no trouble in believing in the resurrection, the possibility of a virgin birth or a six day creation. If God truly is God, these things should not present a problem. It's His behavioral inconsistencies that bother me. Is He the same and unchanging? The scriptures say so; they also reveal His changes of mind and attitude, as I read them. As I said, I do not understand.

I can only conclude that maybe things are not as I have been told all my life, that God is someone other than the One portrayed by Christian and Jewish teachers.

Lord, if you are reading, please enlighten me. I'm short on time and I would like some answers. Is that too much to ask? Have I pushed too much here? I need to know and understand. If you are really there, you would do this I think, right?      

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Post Script to Six Years of Crap...and there may be more

This sewage came flowing out of my spiritual pipes today as a result of things I heard in my class and in the sermon later at church. It's been backed up for some time and it needs to see the light of Day. It will stink for awhile and then as it dries, maybe it can be used for fertilizer or it will just dissolve into the landscape.

Quite a change from yesterday eh, when I thought the Holy Spirit was trimming my spiritual tree? Maybe I'm bipolar. Bad brain chemistry and not spiritual warfare?

Getting back to the point of this post though...

My faith is in question of late, or maybe for awhile now. I am not sure what I believe anymore. I can't pray in any organized way outloud or silently. I'm not sure it actually produces any good in my life or anyone else's. What I am able to do is close to what Jesus advised in His model prayer. I give thanks, pray for protection and a softening of my spirit; I might ask for some forgivness or pray for someone else. I am unable to do conversational prayer anymore where I just talk to Jesus or His Father. It's like we have nothing to talk about He knows what I think and where I am at and does not care. And I'm not sure it matters in the big picture sense anyway. I lack faith that prayer actually does anything. This from years of experience.

I have been a Christian for 45 years - or at least, I did the things that people do to become a Christian. I am sure that I believed it at the time or I would not have walked down into the water for the big dip. I may have discussed this before, but I remember thinking immediately after the event, "what now Lord?"

Now most people that choose the faith do not go there right away. There is usually a honeymoon period; a time of unparalleled joy, of feeling free or new. I never felt any of those things. I had no sense of the Holy Spirit's presence or an awareness that He even existed. Truth be told, I actually felt kind of bad. I still had my guilt. It was as if nothing really happened that day beyond getting wet.

I tried to make it work with what I knew and what I was learning, but I have never really felt comfortable in my Christian skin - if I ever had one.

I am, to this Day, unchanged in any appreciable way. In some ways, I am morally worse than when I was 14 years old. My mind and my body still wants all those things that should have died when I became a Christian. I am urged daily by my flesh to do these things. There is no sense in me of sanctification and by this time in my life, I do not see any possibility of me being a finished work of faith on Judgement Day. It's all just too late and I and I don't know if there is anything I can do about it.

Today, in class we talked about the possibility of obedience without love and mostly how nothing counted without the presence of love as a motivating factor. We also talked about how some people manage to fake the whole thing to get through life with their friends and family. Someone in class suggested that sooner or later, a Christian like that would get caught faking it. Maybe. You haven't caught me yet, probably because I'm an expert.  So now I confess it. I do not know that I was faking. It's more like I have been going through the motions or fulfilling a duty. Like a Pharisee as it were.

A bit later, during the sermon, the preacher was talking about the resurrection of Lazarus and how Martha was having a problem with Jesus because He had not arrived in time to heal her brother and now he was dead. Martha could not let go of her displeasure with Jesus. She could not wrap her mind around the notion that Jesus could raise someone dead after four days. She could not let go of any of it. Until it happened.

This is where I am at. Despite all the assurances in scripture, nothing has changed in my life. I am as I was and have always been for the most part, and now I'm cynical and cranky too. I have not yet received the new life I was supposed to get and I blame Jesus for that. I used to blame myself. It was because I didn't do this or that, or because I did do this or that. I'm done blaming myself. I need to see some ressurection action in my life or I'm no longer going to buy into any of it. I hope He shows me something. I need something. I can't play this game any longer. I'm old and tired and close to the end. I need some hope. That's all I'm saying. Help me get my faith back! Or at least one that works.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Six Years of Crap

I woke up this morning feeling pretty good. I had the sense that the Holy Spirit had been working hard in me as I slept to buff out some spiritual issues and also to sharpen and repoint my mind. Of late, I was beginning to think that He had given up on me, but the sense of peace I have today tells me otherwise.

For some reason, it is abundantly clear today that I have been dealing with six years of crap that has been building since I put my life on hold to take charge of my Dad in 2011. It's like the files of my mind are being purged in the hard drive of my brain  and I can collate data again. So when I got out of bed today and took my morning pills, I knew without a doubt that, as much as I love the peace and quiet of my parent's house and property, I need to get out of there. I also need to get rid of my condo on the south side and settle into something smaller in a different place where there are people of my own age. What a painful thing to admit. I need to be with people. Who would have thought it?

I have been given much, but the weight of it is more than I need in old age. I think it is more than I ever needed. I feel enslaved to it all. God did not intend for me to live this way. I need to be free of the entanglements and pressures of this present world. I've never been one to thrive under pressure. It usually makes me tired, cranky and horny. Hence, my desire for the forbidden, metaphorical tacos late.  

And about those tacos, I have concluded what follows.

There is nothing wrong with having the desire. Indeed, it seems quite natural.
There is nothing I can do about it.
There is a right way and a wrong way to enjoy them.
I have resisted the wrong way for 38 years. Why would I want to mess up a streak like that?
It's OK to be alone and lonely as long as I am free.

And so, it's time to break the present paralysis and move forward. Probate will be over next month and there are things I need to do to ready myself for completion of my last chapter. Time to move forward, onward and upward.

Lord, please make it so. I can almost see your smiling face from here. An undiscovered country lies ahead and this nomad is tired of being a stranger here. See you soon.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tacos and Lust

I have been lusting after some tacos from a local vendor for a few days now. I'm pretty sure they are not good for me, but I am obsessed. I cannot stop thinking about them. The crunchy deliciousness of the shell, the crispy lettuce, the sharpness of the cheese all dripping with hot sauce when I bite into it. Gastronomical delight. When I look at pictures of tacos it gets worse. Watching a video of someone making tacos is pure torture. Driving by the taco stand is completely unfulfilling. Worse yet, if I substitute other foods to kill my taco desires, I am left completely unsatisfied.

So I have to ask, would I lust for tacos if I made them a part of my regular diet; if I married them into my meal plans? Would I be better off giving into the desire to prevent the lust? Does resistance to eating them breed more lust and desire? Hmmm.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Lawn Fairy

I was supposed to go to a movie on Sunday afternoon with some angel friends, but I backed out at the last minute because the lawn needed mowing. It was a chick flick and I was just not up to sitting through all the weeping that invariably occurs when a group of women watch these cinematic tear jerkers. I may be queer, but I'm still a man. Shut up. I am too!

Anyhow, I stayed home and mowed the lawn. I have a Cub Cadet 60 inch zero turn with a 28 hp Kohler engine. The model name is "The Tank" and that pretty much describes it. Lest you think I'm over compensating for other short comings, I need this mower for my lawn. It takes almost three hours to mow all six acres.

So anyway, I am coming up out of the bar ditch on the mower yesterday afternoon. I leaned forward and then back as the ground leveled. In the intervening seconds, a honey bee came between my back and the seat back. It firmly planted it's stinger in a place I cannot easily reach right through my Under Armor polyester t-shirt. I came flying off that mower like a bat out of the 9th circle of hell. Arms were flayling around as I danced across my half mowed front lawn. Cars on the street were slowing down to watch as I did the bee sting dance. I'm sure everyone enjoyed the lawn fairy spectacle I was putting on.

I love their honey, but I hate honey bees. They always leave their stinger and a good dose of venom. I now have a bright red mark in the middle of my back. It kind of itches today, but yesterday it was like someone stuck me with a pen knife.

I spend a lot of time trying to cultivate an image of the country gentleman doing his chores. Yesterday all my efforts went down the tubes. Turns out I'm just a lawn fairy.  

(The term "Lawn Fairy" was borrowed for today's post from Dean Samuels at YOB)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Do I Sound Gay?

I was listening to a podcast at the Your Other Brothers website yesterday about gay perceptions. Many times, you straight folks can pick up the fact that we are gay simply by the way we talk, walk, act or dress. It's your version of gaydar. It is wrong alot, but it seems to be your way of determining that we are not like you.

Even so, this is a real thing. Gay men in particular will many times speak differently than an average straight male. There is a film that was introduced in the podcast called, "Do I Sound Gay?". The trailer for it is above. The whole thing can be found on Netflix or Amazon. It is a documentary that traces the steps of a gay man named David Thorpe in his efforts to discover why some gay men sound different or even effeminate. He seeks out speech therapists and actually tries to change the way he sounds. If you choose to watch the whole film, please know that there are several F-bombs scattered throughout as well as some gratuitous and unnecessary scenes from gay porn used to point out that the guys in these films do not sound gay at all. There might be 40 seconds of this. Offending body parts have been blurred.  Dan Savage also appears in this documentary. I find him to be the most annoying gay man on the face of the earth, mostly because of the way he chooses to hatefully express his gay activism. In the film, however, he makes some very good points.

I think the whole subject is interesting. I do not think I have any 'tells' about what I am, but I seldom hear myself recorded or see myself in video, so maybe I act like a big queen and I just don't realize it. When I watch the 8 mm films of my early life, I can see it. At age 7, 8 and 9, I'm acting kind of gay. There is no sound on these films so my voice then may or may not have been girly. I also know that I worked very hard to 'man up' as I passed into puberty and so I'm pretty sure I seem straight to most folks that meet me.

Anyway, the film is good. If you can deal with the NSFW content, it's worth the watch. The podcast at YOB is also worth the time.