Thursday, March 20, 2014

Day Sixteen of Lent

In my attempts to better understand the Catholic faith and my own journey converting, I'll be spending this Lent doing a daily reflection of things I've learned. The faith encourages reflections on subjects like this (even the Pope reflects!) so I figure I'll reflect through writing. As always, my understanding of this is noobish so forgive any wrong conclusions and do feel free to correct me where needed. Here we go. 

The blackbook today focused on when Judas betrayed Jesus, leading a mob to him and having him arrested. The author makes the point that a close relationship gone sour -- whether between a husband and a wife, parents and grown children -- is a sad story. That's true, but more than sad it usually ends badly. When you're close to someone you know them intimately. Their fears. Their dark secrets. Their dreams. Their wants. Their feelings.

You know so much about them that, if the relationship goes sour, that intimate knowledge can become dangerous. It's easy to fall into the mindset that when things go bad with someone you've been close to, that you can use all those secrets and things to nuke them out of existence. To ruin them.

I've had some falling outs with people I've been close to before. The temptation to nuke everything out of existence, to draw as much blood as I can before we're done, is great for me. I've never done it but I've gotten close a few times. I know that the end result will only be bad, that it'll only make things more toxic, but being angry blinds you to a lot of things. I have no idea how Jesus felt when he was betrayed by Judas, but I imagine he was a little angry.

He just accepted it and moved on. That's a lesson I can definitely apply to my life.

Thanks for reading, folks. God Bless.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Day Fifteen of Lent

In my attempts to better understand the Catholic faith and my own journey converting, I'll be spending this Lent doing a daily reflection of things I've learned. The faith encourages reflections on subjects like this (even the Pope reflects!) so I figure I'll reflect through writing. As always, my understanding of this is noobish so forgive any wrong conclusions and do feel free to correct me where needed. Here we go. 

The blackbook today asked a great question, one which I had an immediate answer for. "What is God calling me to do in my life that I find most difficult to accept?"

Be patient. Wait. I HATE waiting. I hate it, especially when I feel like I can do something.  It kills me to wait, it does. I like taking action and doing something, which (if you read yesterday's post) is one of the reasons why I felt so bad yesterday (and did so bad) as I can't really do much of anything for my friend. He lives a solid day and a half away from me, which I'm more than willing to drive that far, but I'm otherwise engaged this weekend and can't get out of it.

Timing. It sucks sometimes.

I like taking action and, nearly a year ago, took a Myers Briggs personality test that called me an INFJ. An excerpt below:

The INFJ type is believed to be very rare (less than 1 percent of the population) and it has an unusual set of traits. Even though their presence can be described as very quiet, INFJ personalities usually have many strong opinions, especially when it comes to issues they consider really important in life. If an INFJ is fighting for something, this is because they believe in the idea itself, not because of some selfish reasons.

INFJ personalities are drawn towards helping those in need – they may rush to the place of a major disaster, participate in rescue efforts, do charity work etc. INFJs see this as their duty and their purpose in life – people with this personality type firmly believe that nothing else would help the world as much as getting rid of all the tyrants. Karma and similar concepts are very attractive to INFJs.

These tendencies are also strengthened by the fact that INFJ personalities have a unique combination of idealism and decisiveness – this means that their creativity and imagination can be directed towards a specific goal. Few other personality types have this trait and this is one of the most important reasons why many INFJs are able to eventually realize their dreams and make a lasting positive impact.

INFJs are masters of written communication, with a distinctively smooth and warm language. In addition, the sensitivity of INFJs allows them to connect to others quite easily. Their easy and pleasant communication can often mislead bystanders, who might think that the INFJ is actually an extrovert ...


Which, when I polled my friends, everyone was like, "Yep, that's you, man."

I'm still perturbed by that but I can't help but prove it right. Which I kinda hate because that makes me wrong initially. So, I'm an INFJ and I have passions and desires and strong opinions ... this is me, yes, I get it.

And the Lord is calling me to wait. Be patient. To breathe and relax and let his plan come to fruition and I'm ... not. Look, I can be patient--when it's not a goal I'm actively working towards. I can be patient with others. With children. With dumb customers. With events I have no control over (that don't in any way relate to someone I consider a friend or family).

But waiting? WAITING?! It infuriates me. I want to go out and run laps at this very moment because waiting seems so wasteful. I can be doing SO MUCH but instead I'm waiting for God's plan to take shape. However that's happening.

Look, I'm convinced it is taking place. I am now, I wasn't for awhile there. I have bad days (see yesterday) and I have good days (somewhere). I can remember the bad days way more than the good ones (the good ones just don't stick as well).

But there are things in my life that I'm being asked to wait for that I'm having real difficulties waiting for. I'm waiting for that special girl to enter my life. I'm waiting for resolutions to multiple situations with my friends. I'm waiting for the elimination of that sad sack of loose skin that's on me. I'm waiting on the Catholic church to get me confirmed (next Easter, chisel it into STONE).

But it's not like I'm just waiting! I'm working on all those things. Holy mother of mayhem, am I ever working on them. I have bad days, yeah, but I have more good ones than bad (surprisingly, but the statistics bare this out) and blast it, I feel like I should have some sort of payoff.

I know, I know. "God operates on his time, not ours," you say. "We don't deserve anything but hell," you say. "There's no guarantee you'll ever get a payoff," you say. Yeah, I get it. I do, really.

But just because I do doesn't mean I should be happy with it, even though that's what's being asked of me. I shouldn't be angry about waiting, I know. I'm not bitter but I am pissed ... it's not a good emotion to have. I don't get it. I still don't really get it.

I'm a thin guy. Not as thin as I want (working on that, 130, here we come!) but I'm thin. I don't know why. Why allow me to achieve that when there was no reason for me to? What could possibly be achieved by me being thin? The answer is ... well, everything I've done since. I wouldn't have been able to do it without being thin. It's not just a physical thing, it's a mental thing, a confidence thing ... I have a little confidence now. I know I can do some things.

But what's the big thing? I'm not just thin to do all those little things, those minor things, am I? My pride wants me to have some bigger effect on the world. Nothing major, but something moderate ... hell, I'd settle for having my weight loss story published by the site I found Primal on. I submitted that back in November of 2012. I have heard nothing since and I'm pretty sure it'll never get published.

So much for being a "success" and my weight loss being "amazing."

Am I thin for my possible future wife? If that's the case, God (who has a great sense of humor, don't get me wrong) is seriously setting me up for the joke of a lifetime. My dating exploits aren't worthy enough to fill up a paragraph. Sure, I broke the streak this past fall of datelessness (awesome) but it led nowhere (not awesome) and I'm not sure what the point of it was, other than a message from God saying, "See, it's not that hard, Zach. Just chill."

In which case, that feels like a tease of the worst kind.

If I could just figure out why I was allowed to exist as I was to exist as I am, I think I'd be fine. That's the root cause of EVERYTHING that has transpired for me in the last three years. Three years that seems to be a completely different lifetime ... three years living a life that can't possibly be mine. It's too good, filled with too many good people, and the failures have been rather minor.

I deserve a big, nasty, horrible failure to come crashing down and crush me. To make it so I can barely breathe and I'm hearing my heartbeat in my ears as my eyes strain against the inevitable darkness that approaches. I should be struggling to live.

Instead, I'm not. I'm not and I don't get it. I'm being tasked with something, but what?

I don't know. But the most difficult thing God is asking me to do is wait and that frustrates me.

Thanks for reading, folks. God Bless. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Day Eleven Through Fourteen of Lent

In my attempts to better understand the Catholic faith and my own journey converting, I'll be spending this Lent doing a daily reflection of things I've learned. The faith encourages reflections on subjects like this (even the Pope reflects!) so I figure I'll reflect through writing. As always, my understanding of this is noobish so forgive any wrong conclusions and do feel free to correct me where needed. Here we go.


I slacked off this past weekend and didn't do as much as I wanted, but that's my fault. I got caught up in other things and didn't take the time to really reflect on what was going on. Yesterday was a particularly tough day, as a friend of mine went through some serious heartbreak (a woman he had been with and thought he knew for years up and left him). It made me feel utterly horrible and I was really, really close to breaking and grabbing some pizza.

I didn't. I was literally seconds away when my best friend IMed me and we chatted till the late hours of the night. Pizza was removed from the equation. I wish I could say today was better, but it wasn't.

I was still disturbed by the utter heartbreak my friend was going through, felt helpless and I went for the pizza. I went for the comfort food and at first it felt good, but by the second slice I was feeling pretty bad about it. I had a third slice and the guilt was pretty severe at that point.

One bad decision then led to another as I was tempted -- and gave in -- to Twix (my favorite candy ever). My day was wrecked and I'm at odds with myself at this point.

The blackbook had been talking about acknowledging our sinfulness, committing ourselves to be a better disciple to the Lord, bearing our crosses without bitterness but with acceptance, and trusting that God's will will be done.

I pretty much failed all that in one day. One. Day. I'm not gonna lie, I'm pissed. I came up with some BS justification for it when I caved but by the second slice I knew it was wrong and by the third slice I had lost any appetite for it. I had been doing SO good this far in and I have crucial tests in the coming weeks (visiting family and friends, neither of which eats all that well). I caved today because I felt horrible for my friend.

I felt like I could do nothing and, sadly, I really can't. I and others are attempting to band together to help out as we can, but it feels so much like nothing it's not even funny. It feels useless. He lives in the Pacific Northwest, so I can't simply drive over there and help in person ... it has to be over this great distance.

It feels wrong to me. He's a great guy and he's a great writer and he's a human being who deserves happiness ... instead he got his heart broken by the one he was sure was going to bring him happiness. That's a horrible betrayal and one I wish he was spared.

I don't get it. I don't understand it and I'm mad. I'm mad for my friend and scared for myself. I wish I could say this wasn't about me, but it is in some ways because that kind of heart breaking betrayal, I know the feeling a little. Mine wasn't nearly as bad nor was it nearly as important in the grand scheme of things but it still hurts.

And I don't want to hurt like that ever again. I want my heart to not break. I want to find a girl and be able to say, "Yes, she's the one!" and be able to ride off into the sunset (and I'm riding in my car, not on a horse -- never on a horse). But how exactly can I trust in God's will, his plan, when good people like my friend keep getting screwed over?

It's scary. He put himself out there and he was hurt, bad. I wonder if I'm destined for that again and I know it's the likeliest scenario. I know everyone goes through multiple rounds of hurt before they find the one they're destined to be happy with. I know this. I write this in my characters all the time.

But I can't seem to shake the fear and what happened to my buddy reawakened that fear in me big time. I went hyper-analytical last night, in my IM chat with my best friend and in my head as I tried to sleep. I played out multiple scenarios of how my best laid plans will just crumble before me this upcoming summer and beyond. How nothing I want is achievable. How it's all so worthless.

I was in a bad place when I woke up this morning and it just got worse as the day went on. Pizza. Twix. All can be traced back to what happened to my friend.

I'm disappointed in myself. A lot. I really was doing really well and tomorrow is my shot to make it up. I can fast tomorrow, workout hard, clear the air between myself and ... well, myself.

I honestly think that maybe all my sinning is really just the reason why I suck so much with girls. If I was a better Christian, a better Catholic, would I be so inept? Would I cringe so much at the pictures of myself in the past? I'm kinda trapped there, you know. I'm not past me but am past me. Parts of that person still exist and I'd rather they didn't. The whole is a mishmash at the moment.

I just want to be right, whatever that is. I really do. But I feel like today I didn't just slip, I tumbled down multiple flights of stairs and faceplanted at the bottom. I came head-to-head with a stressful situation I could not affect in a direct way, and caved hard. I sought out comfort and I found it, only to find guilt in its place.

I screwed up today. And I really wish I could reset, do it over and just not go through it. I really do. But I can't.

Trusting in God is tough when bad things happen to good people, especially those I know. Tomorrow, I'm gonna hit it hard and not eat. Gonna get right. Gonna try.

Thanks for reading, everyone. God Bless.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Day Ten of Lent

In my attempts to better understand the Catholic faith and my own journey converting, I'll be spending this Lent doing a daily reflection of things I've learned. The faith encourages reflections on subjects like this (even the Pope reflects!) so I figure I'll reflect through writing. As always, my understanding of this is noobish so forgive any wrong conclusions and do feel free to correct me where needed. Here we go. 

Today, the blackbook talked about an issue that my Lent is pretty focused on: Trusting in God. The author points out that a lot of bad stuff happens in this world and, for some reason, God tends to not interfere. He can. He can change it at a whim, but he doesn't and that bugs me (like it does most people).

I don't understand why and not understanding something frustrates me. I like to understand things. I like to know how it all works. But with the Lord, I don't really understand. I guess. Over and over and over again and often times I guess wrong. But I can't stop guessing ... I figure I'll hit upon something right before long.

I need to trust God more, yes. I grant that and I want to do that, but wanting and doing are two different things. I feel like turning to the Bible more is a good step in doing that and I've been doing that more of late (it helps when you have the Bible at my fingertips on my smartphone). Ease of access is awesome for that.

Is it helping? Some. Not as much as I would like. I'd like it all spelled out but if my life is any indication, things will only be spelled out when I die. And even then I won't really get it, it'll take a long time to fully understand it.

Which isn't a bad thing.

Trusting in God is difficult. Striving to trust is difficult. Which means it's a good thing, I think.

Thanks for reading, folks. God Bless. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Day Nine of Lent

In my attempts to better understand the Catholic faith and my own journey converting, I'll be spending this Lent doing a daily reflection of things I've learned. The faith encourages reflections on subjects like this (even the Pope reflects!) so I figure I'll reflect through writing. As always, my understanding of this is noobish so forgive any wrong conclusions and do feel free to correct me where needed. Here we go.

Today, the blackbook talked about forgiveness, specifically the type of forgiveness one finds at Mass. The author points out, rightly so, that we all sin. Some seriously. Some not so seriously, but we need to find forgiveness and we need to find it at Mass. There, are everyday sins can be forgiven.

The author points out that this needs to be emphasized more and you know what? I agree. Admittedly, the number of Masses I've been to is only in the lower double-digits, so I don't have a ton of experience with it. But in my brief time as a Mass goer, I've really felt good about it.

I've never come out of Mass empty. Every time I go there I feel ... better. Like I learned something, either about myself, God, life or a mixture of the three. In the past, in other services, I've often felt like it was all just going through the motions, like I only came out of habit.

It's not like that with Mass. I miss it some weeks and that's on me, yes, but when I miss it I don't just miss it, I miss it. I genuinely feel like I missed out rather than saying, "Oh, I forgot about church."

I guess, from my perspective as a guy converting, this isn't an astounding thing. But in my limited time attending Mass I've seen people show up in mass (pun!) for the big events, like Ash Wednesday. People were there for Ash Wednesday, a lot of people. Most of them weren't regulars. Or even irregulars. Most of them we didn't know.

Now, that's not to say that they didn't go to Mass regularly somewhere else, but the point is on a usual Sunday my little church can count on 8-10 people, most of them regulars. There's something to be said about dedication, yes, but that's also a rather damning statistic.

From what I'm seeing and hearing, it seems like a lot of Catholics identify with the faith culturally rather than spiritually. So, they are culturally Catholic (growing up in a Catholic family) but spiritually don't seem to live the faith.

Maybe I'm using the wrong words (work was tough today and I'm tired) but you get the point, right? There seem to be more people who claim to be Catholic than actually live Catholic. Hence the low numbers at Mass. Hence why the author is calling us to emphasis that Mass is more than a church service, it's a way to get forgiveness for being a sinner.

That's important and a point that I think should be hammered home harder. Certainly, I'm no saint (but I'm supposed to strive to be one ... that's a subject for another day), but I want to be able to say, when I die, that I made the effort. A really good effort.

Whether that ends up being true or not is unknown. But I love Mass. For as structured as it is, it never feels routine to me and that's something I hope I'm not alone in.

Thanks for reading, folks. God Bless.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Day Eight of Lent

In my attempts to better understand the Catholic faith and my own journey converting, I'll be spending this Lent doing a daily reflection of things I've learned. The faith encourages reflections on subjects like this (even the Pope reflects!) so I figure I'll reflect through writing. As always, my understanding of this is noobish so forgive any wrong conclusions and do feel free to correct me where needed. Here we go.




Well, it's officially been one week since Ash Wednesday and the blackbook today asks to check up on our plans for Lent. How are things going on that front?


I've stayed away from the comfort foods and I'm feeling better because of it. The weight is coming off but that was always a secondary goal; the first was to use the time away from the comfort food to gain a greater understanding of the Lord. It's not been easy devoting time to study but I'm doing it, slowly.


I can't say I have any major revelations other than, perhaps, my relationship with God isn't nearly as adversarial as I thought. I've always had the feeling that its been a push/push thing with us. One of us pushes, the other pushes back, ect.


Now I'm wondering whether or not it wasn't so much a push from God as it was a nudge.


The blackbook talked today about how God loves us and how he knows us better than anyone. I have a lot of difficulty imagining that. Love ... love is a confusing, strange, infuriating, irrational, all-encompassing and stubborn emotion. I only know that from observation.

There are many different kinds of love and I, of course, tend to focus on the romantic kind. But here is a love that's not romantic but rather family. There's a reason God is called 'God the Father' and I think one of those reasons is because his love is that of a parent to a child.

My parents, and all parents out there I imagine, deal with that love every day. Where the child does something incredibly stupid or acts insanely stubborn and they put up with it. They deal with it. They love.

Familial love is a love that comes in many different strengths ... sort of like alcohol. Some is really weak. Some is really strong.

I'm lucky enough in my life to have a few families and their love is strong. My love for them is strong, but in the case of my biological family, it's frustrating. I'm not good at A) hiding that frustration and B) expressing it in a way that isn't confrontational.

That's something I'm working on this Lent and will address in more direct fashion in the coming weeks.

Now, I won't deny God loving me because, let's be honest, if he didn't I would have died a dozen times over at least from something stupid I've done. Plenty of opportunities to snuff me out, take me to the afterlife and berate me for being an idiot.

I've been of the opinion -- and still am to an extent -- that God finds great amusement in my life. Which is why it's so strange. The stranger it is, the funnier it is. I'm also of the opinion that he tends to like to stick me in situations where I can learn things ... but they're situations which tend to break certain ideas I have into a million little pieces and that leaves me grasping for something. Anything.

It's how I decided to lose weight. It's how I decided to go Catholic. I reached a point in the situation I was in where something had to give; either I opened myself up to a new idea or cling onto what I know in the hope it'll work out.

I'm resistant to change in a lot of parts of my life. I'm still attached to my geeky graphic t-shirts (I need to invest in boring ones but I just hate the idea of t-shirts that say nothing). I'm still unwilling to junk my old laptop (it works, but not as well as it used to and it's a beast to carry around). I won't get rid of my barrel fan (despite it not working some days). I'm a sentimentalist.

But there comes a point where one must change. It's the nature of human existence and to deny it is to deny your nature and the fullest existence you can have.

I've invested in multiple jackets, of different kinds (I used to have just one). I do Pilates now (after avoiding exercise of many kinds for years). I just bought things that might help tighten the loose skin around my midsection on Amazon (after considering the options for two years). I can change, it just takes time and I'm slow. I'm not as slow as I once was, but I'm still slower than everyone else.

Whether that's a function of a character flaw or merely a function of my personal nature is unknown. 


God knows me better than anyone else, so says the blackbook. I generally believe this but I don't really know myself that well. I hope I'm good. Whatever person I am, I hope I'm a good one but I can't be sure.


But God knows me. I suppose if I wasn't a good one or didn't have the potential to be a good one, I'd have been snuffed by now.


Thanks for reading, folks. God Bless.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Day Seven of Lent

In my attempts to better understand the Catholic faith and my own journey converting, I'll be spending this Lent doing a daily reflection of things I've learned. The faith encourages reflections on subjects like this (even the Pope reflects!) so I figure I'll reflect through writing. As always, my understanding of this is noobish so forgive any wrong conclusions and do feel free to correct me where needed. Here we go. 


Today in the blackbook, the author busted out Matthew 26:20-22, where Jesus tells the disciples at the Passover meal that one of them will betray him. Each disciple in turn asks, "Surely, not I, Lord?"

The author encourages us to ask something similar: "Lord, how am I doing?"

It's a pretty open-ended question with vaguely defined parameters. I hate those. How am I doing ... in what, exactly?

I imagine the focus is spiritual but my mind couldn't help but jump to other focuses first. How am I doing with my health? Winter saw me gain weight (that sucks) and Spring will see me lose it and more (if I do it right, which is awesome). I haven't been sick. I haven't really even been slightly ill. I'm in good shape and getting in better shape every day.

How am I doing with my life? Things are chaotic, as usual. People I care about are worrying me with the stuff happening to them. I'm progressing, slowly, on my goals. I still can't claim to have a steady relationship with a girl ... or any relationship with a girl, at least in a romantic sense. I'm going to be 26 in October (seriously, that hit me tonight and just ... wow. Life is strange) and I'm looking forward to cheesecake. Maybe some bowling.

There were a lot of parameters I could have attached to this question, but the focus is definitely one that's on the spiritual side of things. The fact the spiritual side of things entered into the equation at number three isn't super-good (optimally you want it first) but being at number three isn't bad.

How am I doing, Lord, spiritually? I'm confused, as usual, on what you have planned for me. I'm converting to an entirely new faith and doing it on my own accord until I can get into an RCIA class next fall. I'm neck deep with a great group of young Catholics who have accepted me for the weird headcase I am. I go to Mass. I lector. I like it.

My feeling, in asking this question and thinking on it all day long, is that the Lord is pretty all right with me at the moment. We seem to be on the same page which is strange because we're usually not. But things I thought were merely hypothetical months ago are gonna be reality soon.

I'm better off now. I've learned. I've grown. I've done some things I never thought I could or would do.

Progress has been made and progress is good, in my experience.

Thanks for reading, folks. God Bless.