Refrain

We don’t often have words in our minds to help us get through a tough day; we choose instead to endure it. Some do maintain a mantra, loaded into the brain and flung into the empty air, but even that falls short of repleting them, meaning they continue to crave any small encouragement out of necessity. For me, I haven’t found a collection of words that successfully propels me through the day in a swift manner; I require only on the utterance of a name.

Jesus.

Many wonder why I bother with this refrain. They muse at why I don’t have more to say, why I don’t express my full gratitude eloquently with every exhalation. They don’t know that I cannot express or imagine the infinity in this name, and that they can’t either. I’m so much less, I’m completely dependent, and I’m completely incapable. And all that it takes to make me reliable and useful in this world is the utterance of a name.

Jesus.

People throughout our history have tried to silence this refrain. From the beginning of Christianity, in the front yard of our forerunners, this name was outlawed from being spoken, but the Spirit fell so that they couldn’t keep it unspoken. Numerous kingdoms have persecuted the belief in this name in both past and present, yet we have brothers and sisters across the whole world believing. All of this overcoming the world can be performed by our incredibly maimed souls because of the utterance of a name.

Jesus.

One begins this refrain secretly, which is by no means a bad place to start. However one must also repeat it publicly. Churches have had bad reputations, have slandered, and have robbed; but churches have also served, aided, and loved the needy more than what is seen. Every church speaks a different language, but there is one word that is the same in all of them. No church is perfect, but all can help you qualify for eternal life, because the one word that is the same is the utterance of a name.

Jesus.

I leave you here today with this refrain, hoping that you will speak it. Apparently I can generate something that has a slim chance of being helpful to you. Someday I hope to become useful, not just to you, but to this world. Before I can do that though, I have to cling to a lifestyle that involves the utterance of a name.

Jesus.

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Living in the desert

Depression is something I wouldn’t wish upon anybody.

Out of every struggle I have weathered in this life, this is the one I most wish remained nonexistent. For some there is a direct cause, and others (like myself) don’t feel that way.

All of us are called to the same path, a straight path facing in the direction of our almighty God, from which we are never to stray from. Some people have a path in the lush green forest right now, where one finds it easy to marvel and gaze at innumerable splendor. Others have it through the mountains, which have awesome views and soaring heights, but thin air. Some more have it through the grasslands, where the land is navigable yet fertile.

Depression is like having a straight path through the Sahara Desert.

Only one thing exists plentifully in the desert: sand. The path is colorless and void, and life only manifests in tiny pockets, without which one wouldn’t make it alive. The life evaporates out of your body, and all you have to do is exist. We thirst more, then we begin to hallucinate, and that’s where our perceptions become wild. As you walk through the desert, everything hurts you and all you have to do is exist, whether it’s the hot, dry days or the frigid, dark nights. You hallucinate further, and everything is against you, everything shames you relentlessly, as if they wanted you to slowly peel off your flesh until you could no longer sustain yourself. But in reality nobody is doing anything, and any pain you feel is exerted by yourself. You want others to notice, so you make yourself like a prophet of Baal, mutilating yourself just to summon someone to help you and send rain, quenching your thirst. And everything you create and do seems vain and unworthy of attention.

It sucks.

It always happens to those you least expect, it seems. I apparently always look happy, but I am very frequently dissatisfied with myself.

Anthony Bourdain had the world’s most enviable job. He’s seen more in person than I could dream to witness on screens, experienced more life than I could imagine. But something was missing even from that.

If you have depression, it’s possible to get out of it. In no particular order, here are some suggestions:

First, seek help. There are people in your life who would love to listen. However, still be careful. There are also people who don’t care to listen to you. Ignore them and cast them out of your life, because they’re probably terrible people. Accept the ones who do listen.

Second, remember that you are loved. You MUST always do this. You live under the scope of a God who loves you infinitely. People care about you. I will care about you. Besides, I also struggle with this, so I have some knowledge of where you’re at.

Third, if this is a recurring problem, seeing a doctor. If you’re poor, Pastoral Counseling is also a good idea. I can attempt to duplicate something like counseling/therapy, although I would personally recommend someone with more spiritual authority than myself.

Lastly, remember that God always loves you, and never forget to respond to him in praise. The Psalmist for Psalms 42-43 existed in a depressed state, which they were in for no particular reason, though they perceived enemies. In the end, they encouraged themselves to further remember what God has done in their life, and continued to give Him His due credit.

One last note: In the early church years, some monks would exile themselves to the desert to get closer to God. Understanding their need to shed sin from their lives, and their need to become spiritually enhanced, they excommunicated themselves from society, accepting the risks of a desert lifestyle. Many of us would never last isolated from others. After all, community is a gift, a blessing from our Lord. Struggling with anything, even depression, will make you more resilient against future attacks.

You are good. You are enough. You are loved before you are anything else, and after.

 

Being the supervillain to your own life

The seasons of waiting and preparation can be rough.

This is especially true if you are as impatient as I am. And this is coming from someone impatient by America standards.

Many of my sins and distractions from God, especially in the past ~8 months have occurred because of my impatience. In many ways that are scary to me now, since I am finally aware of what I’ve been doing, I have sinned in a manner directly antagonistic to where I feel God wants me to be when the time comes. What has ensued afterwards are attempts to continuously wash the blood off my hands, only to put more on.

There’s a part of everybody’s soul that seeks to keep things as we like them. It’s the part of ourselves that, deep down, has strong reservations about putting everything in God’s hands. It’s the part of ourselves that clings the grim reaper for life. For me, this thing is control over myself. Self control is important to have, but you have to give the necessary amount of control of your life to God, otherwise a pit of despair awaits you. Especially when in your self control you have desired immediate gratification for things it seems God wants for you.

Of course afterward, I would pray repentance of my unbelief and my various sins and ask for forgiveness, never realizing that impatience aided in bringing them into fruition although I was always aware of how I sinned. I would of course sin again, then repeatedly try to abuse and manipulate the grace God has for my life. Then rinse and repeat. And because my heart wasn’t in the right place in my bad days, I would only feel the capacity to pray for repentance and forgiveness of myself. This would mean that in these moments, nobody was prayed for.

One reason I guess I’m writing this is to apologize. I haven’t been giving you guys anywhere close to the attention you deserve in my prayers. I have acted selfishly. You perhaps haven’t noticed any of this from my outward appearance or conveyance of myself, though I would have no way of knowing. But what happens with you and God privately will strengthen you more than you can imagine, and if others aren’t mentioned in prayer in those moments, then you’re really only trying to help yourself.

I also wanted to give some advice (I guess it can be called that) to any of you in a season of waiting and preparation. First, seek God before anything else. You may be waiting for a reason. Perhaps you aren’t ready, which is not a bad place to be. Or, God may be wanting to grow closer to you, and you have to respond for it to happen.

Second, be there for others, and don’t live selfishly. Inward selfish living results in outward selfish living. In my inner selfishness, I have neglected you guys. And if I neglect you guys privately, I will do the same publicly. If I remain unaware of brokenness and blessings occurring to you, then I can bear no fruit for you, and that’s why I’m here in the first place. All are called to bear fruit, but we must also understand that it wasn’t meant for ourselves to capitalize on; it was meant for others. There’s always the deep recesses of your soul that wants things for itself, but we must submit that to God with the rest of our wholes selves.

Lastly, be patient. I have a lot of trouble with this, but if you’re waiting for God’s promises, there’s a reason why. He is in control of everything, and you shouldn’t have any reason to trust anything over Him.

Yeah, I know that was a mouthful, but I thank you for enduring through this mess.

“What a piece of work!”

The title above is derived from what my mom has, and still does frequently tell me: “Andrew, you’re a piece of work!” She has never been wrong about that. But anyway, here I go.

Work is always an interesting ordeal.

It’s something I struggle with tremendously, not so much in a way where I don’t want to do any work altogether, although that was its original manifestation. Rather, in a way where I want my work to have some sort of meaning to it.

I understand this is quite a struggle particularly for millenials. We always want there to be deeper, realer meanings in everything we do. Ultimately, the attitude output is frustration, even in my case where it could easily appear as indifference.

Back in the days when I was a new, still ignorant Christian, my idea of work was rather ecclesiastical, i.e. a “life is meaningless” sort of philosophy. I perceived nothing I did as having a particularly profound meaning in my life. I had never been motivated by tasks I considered trivial, as if for whatever reason I was already greater than my own work, or maybe it was that I never felt adequately challenged (I promise I’m not flaunting my intelligence, and I actually think of myself as quite the opposite). I never felt I was doing anything great in any of my work, probably the entire time I had been working. Back when I was at a Starbucks, people were all like “you work at a Starbucks?! Awesome!” while I didn’t consider it worth mentioning, much like everything else I did in my life. This has caused great struggles in my life that could easily have been averted, but were necessary for my development, particularly spiritually. For those of you who are taught/have learned this early, I envy you greatly.

Working in a church has helped immensely with this struggle. I see all the background work, all the preparation that goes into running this thing. Easily 90% of the work is the most tedious stuff of your life, and 10% is actual ministry. Sure, this could ruin the dream of entering ministry for those of you who care so much to see the meaning of your work, like me. However, I actually really love what I do at my church. It does help that I am at a church with quite some momentum behind it, but I see the preparation work that leads to Sunday service, and then I see it come into fruition.

Although I have made great strides in this struggle, it has a different manifestation now.

I am aware now that I am making an impact. However, this has to be told to me in order for me to realize it. Part of this is because I am very self-absorbed, and as a result, completely oblivious. The other facet of this is that I really don’t think of anything I do as important. A weird combination, I know. If I change someone’s life (a BIG if), I don’t notice it until quite a while later. And usually I’m not even trying to do anything at all. My smile is the biggest example of this (to understand that better, read my previous post on here).

And it drives me absolutely crazy.

Because of this, though only in part since there are many contributing factors to this, I doubt myself severely, more than any of you could combined probably. It also makes me feel alone and unnoticed, even misunderstood. Other things come from it I imagine, and I’ll get back to you when I notice those. There is, like with any struggle, an answer to fix it. One that can be comprehended easily. I will not have the best answer for the time being, since I’m still working on this, but here’s what I have so far.

Do or do not. There is no try.

Okay, maybe I stole it from Yoda, but this helps me with my work. In many work oriented situations we become quickly overwhelmed, leading to panic. When this happens, our only choice is to do what is required of us. The more you think about it, the more it will hinder you in moments of crisis (which is more so what the “no try” means here). Ultimately whether we do it or don’t do it will lead us to more great steps in life, or less.

This works in our walks with God as well. We either obey or disobey everything He tells us to do. There is no trying to obey, because that usually ends in succeeding to disobey. Obedience is the first requirement to living a Christian life, and the one most frequently commanded of us.

God wants us to work. He wants us to do everything at the best possible amount which we are capable of doing it. However, we must also remember how incapable we are at anything without God. Work your 100%, and always involve God in your work somehow. Or perhaps you can believe that I am not the best, and am likely the worst , person to get advice on how your attitude in wherever your workplace is should be.

After all, I’m a piece of work. Just ask my mother.

The Man Behind the Smile: Why Sadness is Important

A lot of the time, I’m a major sad sack.

A lot of you, probably almost all of you, do not know this about me.

In all likelihood, some article discussing the world’s best kept secrets has at number 1 “Andrew Kinsella is a sad sack a lot of the time.”

Most of you understand that I smile all the time. Usually, I don’t even know why I am smiling. Although there are the many moments where I am genuinely happy while smiling, I am unfazed or indifferent toward it all the other moments. This doesn’t always mean that I doubt my own unconscious ability of having and spreading joy, if that’s what you call it (and don’t get me wrong, I am guilty of this sometimes). It most often means that I know the path I’ve been through to get to the point where I can smile constantly, and oh boy, it’s a painful one.

People see me as a happy guy, but I almost never see myself that way.

I’ve been through some crap (or if you’re southern, stuff). My parents went through a divorce, which took waaaaaay too long to settle, and I hardcore resented a lot of people for most of that time. I’ve been through depression, which is always a well kept secret by anyone that has it until they finally can’t take the fact that it is secret. I’ve been unhappy for such long periods of time before that, when I did feel happy again, it felt really weird. It’s reasons such as these why I view myself differently.

Obviously there’s a caveat (at least toward understanding me), where if I’m smiling, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m happy.

However, it’s not terrible that I’m a sad sack. In fact, now that I don’t really deal with depression anymore, I am very welcoming of sadness. Sadness is the emotion that reminds me that I have a heart, or even that I can feel anything. It also reveals to me that I’ve loved something or someone enough that it made me feel sadness toward it when it disappeared or in some way wronged you.

As you continue to chase God as he chases you, more things will burden you, especially considering that God desires to chase everyone to an infinitely grand extent, and frequently with no response. God would love it if everybody could make it to heaven, but many won’t, so of course God has reason to feel sad.

Sadness gives us an understanding of pain, and a gateway toward stronger empathy toward others. Ultimately nobody wants to feel pain, and sadness helps with the belief that we don’t want others to deal with pain either. There is no shame in being sad. In fact, our sadness makes us stronger.

I would never wish the things that have caused you sadness upon anyone, considering that some of it can be traumatic. Everything that causes pain is a tall hurdle in our path anyway, and that’s not something we can jump over and leave behind under our own power. (Grieving is okay. If you didn’t do it upon the loss of something or the negative impact of something on you, I would strongly question your emotional capacity. Ultimately we must continue the race though.) We have a God that has overcome the world, whose right hand can destroy any enemy regardless of how intimidating it is. That hurdle in your way that you cannot jump over successfully under your own power requires just a tiny step from Him.

I am also not saying that I’ve been through more than any of you. I am more so frightened because I feel like what I have been through has been vastly more insignificant insofar as the pain it has caused. However, that’s one of the wonderful things about God: nothing is too insignificant!

Meanwhile, I will continue to smile. Sometimes I will feel happy while other times I won’t. Ultimately this is an attempt at becoming more open and honest about myself, and sometimes I get too emotional to do so in person.

Sadness isn’t a bad thing.

Finding your Voice

In my life, this has been one of my biggest challenges.

Especially since, for many years, I felt like my voice could not be heard, or was very intentionally ignored. Of course some of this had to do with how timid and withdrawn I was as a person. However, the main issue for me has been self-confidence.

I’m a doubter. I doubt the ability of others tremendously until I am able to witness it for myself, and then leave having changed. I doubt my own ability to a far deeper extent than that. For example, I frequently attributed high grades on papers not to my hard work, but to my professors’ leniency in grading them (there were exceptions though). I just interpreted other peoples’ senses of evaluation as somewhat of a joke. And while that can be partly true, in this scenario other people definitely were not the problem; I was, but not in any way I thought about being my own problem.

Later, I learned that my writing actually was good, and realized it could be used as a voice of sorts.

However, writing is not the method where I am expected to use my voice, nor is it a method I use frequently as someone who plans to go into full time ministry. Public speaking has been another hurdle in my race to attain a roaring voice. I had not practiced public speaking frequently when I was younger, due to me being my timid, withdrawn self. When I was a younger college student, now with marginal social confidence, I was able to hold my own most of the time. I think the real turning point for me was actually doing a sermon for the first time. And it being the first sermon I ever preached (given it was in a class, so not as stressful of an atmosphere for a college student as, say, an actual church), of course it was terrible. It may have been terrible, but the experience aided me in realizing my habits, i.e. the bad ones.

The job I used to have at a Starbucks in a Kroger (if you’re out of the loop on this, I left there) helped me become more assertive. You have to learn a lot of information in a short period of time, and in the beginning I was flustered and intimidated by rushes. Three months later, though mainly due to suddenly relentless employee turnover, I am the top dog. Some of that was me having to become the top dog in order to help out the swaths of new employees coming in.

Over the past few months, I have gotten more practice at speaking, teaching lessons, and doing devotions in my Sunday School class in my own church. I have improved with that over time, especially since, at the same time, I was becoming more assertive in my former job. I had little confidence in myself five months ago, but now I feel like I can do many things.

For anyone who may read this, perhaps you haven’t found your voice yet, or you know someone who lacks confidence. There are a number of things to keep in mind while trying to find your voice.

  1. Time: Finding your voice is a process. For some, it may occur more quickly than others, but a voice never manifests immediately. It’s like when we were babies, and we made noises which were obviously not cohesive language gestures. However, as we grew older, we began to say words, to understand them, and realize that we could be able to use them without thinking much of it. Your brain will take time to adjust, but when you understand what you’re doing, it’s like muscle memory.
  2. Opportunity: Practice makes perfect. This of course isn’t like practicing an instrument, which is likely accessible 100% of the time. Public speaking opportunities only come every once in a while, for you , the person still trying to find your voice. If you do go into something where public speaking is an everyday aspect of the job, you will need many opportunities. With each time, you will become more aware of what public speaking is like, and this will help you in confidence as well as voice.
  3. People: What your voice is like, or how existent it is, depends a lot on the people in your life. This is the most important factor of all because how people react to you really makes or breaks you. Hopefully the people in your life will empower you, and hopefully you will reciprocate said empowerment. Hopefully the people in your life also keep you in check, and tell you when you have done something dangerous or inflammatory, because if they say you’re right all the time, they’re either intimidated by you or scared to lose you rather than truly concerned. Empowerment is probably the best tool in making a confident person out of all of these things.

I really would be nothing without the people in my life. I feel bad for not discussing a topic as important as people earlier, but saving the best for last is something of a tradition. I get to work around a crowd who supports me to the end, and I have family and friends who do the same.

Ultimately you will always be working on finding your voice. Sometimes, the atmosphere changes. Other times, the era changes. However, the adjustments to those changes are small potatoes in comparison to the principles behind being confident and assertive, which stay the same throughout.

 

I have blessings, but I’m out of title ideas.

I’ve always had trouble with counting my blessings.

Even in childhood I always wanted something else, something new. Back then, I achieved completion of my journey to boredom rapidly, and there definitely were many of those journeys. I’ve even been ashamed of what I had, whether it be people, things, or characteristics about myself, in my own life. And this continued, for a very, very long time.

I was very much a whiny person in my adolescence, as if I were someone who sought after Prequel Anakin’s own heart. I’m very convinced that all of my friends thought I was lucky to have what I had, and they were right, but only about one thing.

I had never really counted my blessings.

I was that person who was given a pretty darn great setup to life, yet I still hated (yes, hated) it. Eventually I had begun to hate myself, all the while hardcore repressing it so nobody would publicize it. Nothing for me was good enough, and I wasn’t either. At a certain point in my life everything, including myself, had become a curse. I had hit a rather Nihilistic thought pattern, where life is pointless and we’re all just waiting to die (in case clarification is needed).

But God.

I got saved when I went to college, but then still had trouble considering any aspect of my past life as a blessing. This would cause me to be really excited to go back to school and really unenthused toward going home (though divorce stuff was a marginal contributor to that). For three years it was like this, and I was still a terrible human being to people who would always be there for me.

It was hard for me to be thankful for anything I had.

But recently I have been realizing how temporary things can be. I’m very busy all the time. I haven’t seen my dad or my best friend in way too long. A few weeks ago, I was at a wedding where I saw some college friends for the first time in roughly a year (though they, too, are very busy). I’ve been learning that, whenever you are reunited with someone after being distant for some time, the part of your personality that your friendship with them occupies goes through a great awakening. And honestly, it’s the best thing ever.

Sadly, it is also temporary.

This has made me realize the blessings in my life. My family is a blessing, not to mention a support machine. My friends, whether childhood, college, or church, are all blessings. Both of my jobs, one great and another miserable, are both also blessings. God has given me great things.

It doesn’t matter how well I know you or not. In all likelihood, if you are reading this, you have impacted me greatly.

I’ve also learned that, on a scale that includes all people, I have immensely high standards for what people should be. I am also trying to fix this, especially considering I hold myself to that same set of standards, causing me to be really hard on myself.

But for those of you who have seen the Anakin in me, I’m sorry I was such a whiny person to you, and I’m working on being changed.