Monday, November 28, 2005

What I learned from my blogout

I spent last week on a self-imposed "Blogout for the Kingdom." This was first inspired by Dan, who felt we bloggers spend a lot of time writing about things we should be doing, but perhaps don't spend enough time doing those things.

This was not a criticism. It was driven more by Dan's blogging style, which is often critical of the Church. Dan felt motivated to do those things he personally espouses, which he boldly trumpets on his blog.

I did it for a couple of reasons:

  • My blog was becoming a big distraction at work
  • I've been slacking in my Kingdom work
  • I really liked the idea of dedicating time to affirming with my hands the words that I write and speak.

    Dan, whom many of us have affectionately taken to referring to John the Baptist of the Blogosphere, has that kind of affect on me. That's why the Pyro lists him as provocative and I hold the man in high regard, even if our perspectives are very, very different. Dan is a man of action, and I think he has a much better understanding of the radical nature of the Gospel than I do. I am a man of thoughts, and I'm probably less concerned -- to my detriment -- whether I am being a good steward every single moment of the day.

    So I followed Dan into the wilderness, and the first thing I did was to sneak back into the blogging village. I spend a great deal of my time sitting on my backside in front of a computer, waiting for people to call me back. Sure, I probably could have been writing letters of exhortation to the four families of missionaries commissioned by our church, but, as I stated above, Kingdom stuff is unfortunately not always at the forefront of my thoughts.

    What was captivating to me was what I accomplished with minimal efforts. My first goal was to get back what I have always felt is my specific calling to my local church: building up and supporting the pastoral staff.

    I went to lunch with the staff and in 90 minutes I realized what a great blessing they are to me. I went there to encourage them and they ended up knocking my socks off with encouraging words and timeless one-liners. I'd almost forgotten how much I enjoy their fellowship, mostly because we can move seamlessly from plusses and minuses of a specific theological movement to popular culture without pulling a muscle.

    Another thing I focused on was putting more effort into loving my wife and connecting with my family. I had really shirked this duty in the past months because my job is so time-consuming -- often times putting in 75+ hours a week. For my wife, I tried to do things without asking ... washing the dishes, taking out the trash, thinking ahead to the little things I know she wishes I did but never really do.

    I also spent some earnest moments with my father, whose old-fashioned (but well-meaning) authoritarianism never fails to send me back to that wound-up teenager who just wanted to put his father in his place. This was a tough one, but I realize I need to be much more patient with him, because in spite of our disagreements he has always supported me without question and without fail. He is a complicated man, but he has always shown his love to me with considerable backbone ... I know supporting me can be a major burden sometimes.

    What came out of this is the realization that my pursuit of a career in journalism is necessary at the moment (because I have no other way to gain a regular income), but it's almost surely a selfish pursuit to continue down this path. I am capable of making much more money in what has become a one-income household, and our new budget reveals we have a monthly shortfall that I did not realize. To save money, to pay off our debt, and to be a good steward with my money means I need to find an occupation with more earning potential.

    This is not a "keeping up with the Joneses" issue. This is a "we're not even meeting our basic needs" issue, and I recognize now how I've unintentionally put us in this hole by settling for less paying jobs in the hopes of moving ahead someday in this business.

    It now appears I will be returning to a line of work I said I would never return to: real estate. I used to joke, when I left real estate at 21, that I needed to find a line of work that paid you to tell the truth. Funny line, but sorely exaggerated.

    The beauty of this is both my father and my younger brother are in desperate need of immediate help, and they are probably willing to nearly double my current income if I would be willing to step into that gap. I have been disappointed with my current job because it has taken me away from renewed opportunities of fellowship with them.

    I consider this without delusion. Working with family is exactly how you would imagine it: challenging. They take your feelings for granted. You take their feelings for granted. You say things to family you work with that you would never say in a professional environment. They ask you to do things -- clean toilets? -- they would never ask another professional to do. You decline to do things in a caustic way -- "I'm not your janitor" -- you would probably fear cause for termination in a real workplace.

    But I do love my family and I wish to be a better provider for my wife (and hopefully future children).

    Back to the issue ...

    While I spent some downtime at work responding on other blogs, I generally kept my mouth shut here in spite of my instincts. There was a heated divide between two major bloggers, and I had all kinds of thoughts on the topic. Instead, I kept my promise and discovered I am thankful for the words I did not write here. What I thought was so insightful at the time was probably more inflammatory than I intended.

    The blogout, which was basically a fast, is not for everyone. I concluded this blog serves my own love of writing than it is of any benefit to the readers. I blog because I need this outlet to be silly, to be creative, to be connected to others who share those needs. I simply don't know very many people beyond these virtual walls who could appreciate those aspects of my personality.

    So I am thankful for this blog space and the people who visit here. I am also thankful for the revelation God delivered in my time off -- how much I enjoy the fellowship of my pastoral staff, and how beneficial it is to me when I serve others in the kind of love that Christ gives us. This is especially true of family. I'm hoping this new insight I have God will use as a personal renewal of me so I can fulfill these small Kingdom tasks without having to stage a special cause.
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