August 30, 2005

Happy Birthday to Me

<happy-dance> Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear Danny ... happy birthday to me! </happy dance>

And perhaps the best part of the day is that the above ditty is the only time I'll hear that song today. No party, no fuss ... all sorts of excellent.

My attitude strikes me as somewhat odd ... all the more so for the fact that I think it's widely shared. Most of my friends would be quite satisfied to let their birthdays slip by unnoticed, uncelebrated, just like every other day. We treat the well-wishes of our friends and family with a certain long-suffering face. When did birthdays become more fun for our families and friends than they did for ourselves? Actually, I'm uncertain about whether birthdays are actually more fun for friends and family than they are for ourselves, but it is our culture that our family and friends must pretend that they are, but we are under no such requirement. How odd. Why don't we like parties?

Certainly, when I was a kid, my birthday was much more important. It was one of the highlights of the entire year, let alone the entire month. It was the day of presents. Perhaps it is because of the simple fact that it is not customary to receive presents of any significance as one grows older that our interest in our birthdays flags. There's less in it for us.

I think that the attitude is somewhat stronger (statistically) in men than women ... men tend to be bored at social occasions such as parties, and need significant inducements to attend them. Women, however, tend to find them more interesting. Perhaps it has to do with a desire for social interaction, I dunno. I doubt it, actually. Guys like society of their peers very much and don't mind "hanging out with the guys." It's just that parties tend to include lots of people who are not our peers.

But even parties given just by our peers are somewhat boring. We submit to them with the best composure we can, but the keyword is submit.

For me, I think I want my birthday to be conducted quietly. I think that doing something unusual with one or two close friends would be quite sufficient to make me happy. Maybe. That and lots of presents.

God bless, you all. It is a twenty-two year-old Leatherwood who greets you.

Posted by Leatherwood at 08:48 PM
This post has been classified as "Autobiography"

August 08, 2005


Thanks to those of you who wrote to wish Nikki and me a happy first anniversary. Both Nikki and I really appreciate it. We celebrated by going into Seattle and dining at the Space Needle ... an extremely expensive proposition, but worth it once a year, I think. I'd like to go back next year, but I think I'd like to go later at night when the whole city is lit up.

It's been quite a first year of wedded bliss. In some ways, it seems like we've been married forever ... I certainly don't dwell nostalgically on the vanished days of my bachelorhood! But it also seems like just a moment, which is a much more accurate feeling. I think we're still going through the "newlywed" phase ... we've never really had a serious argument (not an angry one, at any rate) and it's still all too easy to think of my wife as a perfect angel than a flawed human being. But that's ok ... our marriage will go on, and life will teach, and we'll come to the end of it more in love than we are now. With His help, anyway. God bless you all!

Posted by Leatherwood at 06:31 AM
This post has been classified as "Public Address"

August 03, 2005

Confessions and Reflections of Proud Man

I've struggled with pride for most of my life. As soon as I discovered I was good at something, pride immediately began its subtle work on me. Academic pride more than any other was my trap, though at various times I've been proud of being able to run fast, read swiftly, remember well, fight hard, shoot straight, and more. It seemed to me that praise made me proud. So I've spent a great deal of effort and psychological energy trying to block out praise. I punish myself savagely for praising myself within the privacy of my own head (it often takes a little while before I realize that's what I'm doing), and I try very hard to blunt the internal impact of praise before it penetrates inside. I do this by spending a large amount of effort to discover a way to reflect the praise a bit by pointing out something that makes the accomplishment a little less loustrous. I wish it weren't such an easy task, but it is.

However, I have failed to make myself a truly humble man. Or at least, any progress I've made has nothing to do with the aforementioned policy of trying to screen out praise. Instead, that policy has had at least two disastrous effects - first, it conceals from me how proud I truly am, since any time my praise shows itself I do my utmost to hush it up and hide it. Second, it has made me mostly deaf to the love of my wife. Nikki is wondrous at praising me and trying to encourage me. But when she does so, I feel nothing inside. My shield against external praise seems to deflect every good thing she says about me, admitting only the (thankfully few) things she says that don't sound so good. I am reminded of what Aslan said to Uncle Digory in The Magician's Nephew, "Sons of Adam; how well you defend yourself from all that may do you good." The only sort of praise my shield seems capable of deflecting is the sort that can do me good ...

As an aside, I've learned at least one lesson from books and movies. Never, ever, under any circumstances let your guard down. I flinch inside every time a hero (or villain, actually) commits the stupid mistake of assuming that everything is ok and it's time to gloat. Every time I see blatant and open arrogance, I strengthen my internal vow that it must never happen to me. I think to myself "do not ever think that you're safe, that you've made it, that you're ok. Don't dare let up for a single second, because as soon as you do, you've had it. You'll lose."

I am like a man who has suffered a deadly wound and tries desperately not to think about it or let anyone touch it. I hope that if I try my hardest not to think any proud thoughts, that my pride will go away. This is deadly dangerous because it lets pride slip in all around me. It affects my assumptions, my expectations of myself, my expectations of others, and the way I think. But as long as it's clever enough not to show up on my "anti-pride" screens, it's safe.

You see, the trouble is that I don't really belive that I'm a proud man. Yes, I'm writing this, yes, I know it's true, but I almost never feel it. For a couple of moments as I've been writing, I feel a twinge of "reality" that lets me know that I'm writing of something I really feel inside. But most of the time, I'm writing information I've worked out in my head or read in a book.

I think that one of the greatest problems of being a Christian is find a way to be eternally grateful for God's grace. Just as I don't actually feel very proud much of the time, we rarely feel sinful either. For example, none of us loves perfectly ... but how long has it been since that thought actually hurt? We don't care if we don't love perfectly; nobody else does either. I've always found it hard to believe in the doctrine of original sin. Don't get me wrong; I believe it all right, but I don't feel sinful, and the people around me don't seem sinful either. On the surface of things, everything seems about right. Jesus once told a parable about a master who forgave two servants their debts ... one owed him very little, the other very much. Jesus asked which servant was going to love Him more ... and the answer, obviously, is the one who's been forgiven more. At hearing that, part of me almost wishes that I were guilty of greater sin, so that I could appreciate forgiveness more. And that thought betrays me. (Gosh I love it when I catch myself being so blatantly hypocritical!) You see, I don't consider myself guilty of great sin. I dismiss the sin I've been forgiven of as a mere trifle and wish I'd committed something I regard as truly horrible so that I could love more. Every more damning is the thought that likely the only reason I would want to love more is to make my "good Christian" score rise.

What should I do? Repent of course ... but how shall I repent of a sin I do not feel? Forgiveness shouldn't be sought because it's the "right thing to do," but from the simple knowledge that I need it. It has been long since I felt that I needed forgiveness.

How can I distinguish between a truly Godly desire for righteousness and a truly human (and infernal) desire for the appearance of rightouesness? How can I come to desire righteousness honestly ... instead of desiring it to make myself look better? How can I desire to do what is right rather than desire to have done what is right (so I can pat myself on the back)? How can I desire God more than "good Christian" points?

And what should a person do when he realizes he is not only a sinner, but but a self-righteous sinner who feels no need for forgiveness? When Jesus said He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, He did not mean that there were people who did not need Him. Rather, He is of no use to people who do not feel their need for Him. What do I do with that knowledge when I realize that I feel righteous?

Something tells me that the a person should do what he knows to be right, even if he doesn't feel it to be right. I think that sometimes a person needs to drag himself along, without any help from feelings at all. I suppose there's room for the prayer: "God forgive me for not feeling I need forgiveness. For not wishing for more than I do."

It seems odd and faintly heretical to ask forgiveness for not feeling the right things. But it also seems right.

Thoughts, anyone?

Posted by Leatherwood at 10:27 PM
This post has been classified as "Soliloquy"

August 01, 2005

Update on How Things are Going

Reading my blog is generally a terrible source of information on my life. When I update it regularly, it's a reasonable source of information on the state of my mind, but if you want to find out what I did today, it's generally very unhelpful. This is probably because I simply don't care about such things - or rarely care, anyway. The circumstances in which I live my life rarely interest me enough to notice them. But I've discovered most of my friends have an interest in the daily doings of my life ... in some ways, it seems they have more of an interest than I do. This is, of course, flattering. But it means I should probably let you know what's been happening. So I will. Or I'll try to, anyway.

These last few months have been positively delightful. I've loved my job and really enjoy living here in Bellingham. Nikki and I found a wonderful church almost right away, and our opinion of it hasn't changed since. It's been more like a vacation than it has a career beginning. And I think that's how God intended it to be ... a time to rest, enjoy myself, and recover from the pain and suffering that was my final semester at LeTourneau (hardly unmitigated, of course).

But it looks like this delightful time is drawing to an end. I spoke to my boss, and my chances of being able to stay on and keep working at Logos aren't very good. They aren't really ready to add another full-time developer; things have been a little slower than expected. Additionally, I don't think I've impressed them tremendously. While the projects I've been given work, it takes me quite a while to finish them. I noticed this trait even at college - routine programming assignments always seemed to take me far longer than it did most of my fellow classmates. To some degree, I made up for this by writing code for very long hours and by stubbornly refusing to give up until an assignment was completed to my satisfaction. I've got a lot to learn as a software developer, though. My ability to cut, splice, and refactor code swiftly and cleanly needs a whole lot of maturing ... if indeed I can do it at all. The thought that I may be incompetent at the task of programming has crossed my mind more than once ... it would be terrible to discover that the job I love so much is one that I can't do very well :-(. Of course, the jury is still out on that - it probably takes a lot longer than a summer to see if I'm any good at it. Besides, in most occupations, being good at them isn't so much a matter of inborn ability as it is passion and practice. I've discovered that I like the task of programming computers very much. Now I just need to learn to be good at it. Suggestions from those of you who are brilliant programmers would help.

Anyway, I've crafted a new and updated resume, and I'll start shopping it around presently. This is a great state for my line of work, but this city isn't particularly. I'd hate to move, but it may be necessary. Still, at least my internship won't be over until the first week of September, which means I've got about a month or so. Umph. Not much time ... I'd better get to work.

In happier news, this coming Sunday will be Nikki and my first wedding anniversary! This Saturday will be exactly 52 weeks since our wedding, and 104 weeks since I asked my beloved wife to marry. It's interesting; I deeply enjoyed the wedding and wasn't a bit nervous ... not even when I got to kiss the bride (for the second time). But it was a nerve-wracking, sleepless night before I asked her to marry me. Getting up the courage to ask her dad "the question" that day wasn't exactly a walk in the park, either. It wasn't that I was afraid of her answer ... it's hard to explain what it was. Maybe just a momentous sense of doom ... the knowledge that on the morrow, I would make a promise that would never be broken. From my engagement on, my course was set. I also wanted the moment to be just right ... I wanted her to be pleased with the ring I'd bought, and happy that I'd asked her. There were a lot of issues on my mind that night. But anyway our first anniversary is coming up, and I can tell you that I've loved my last year of being married to my wonderful wife. We're hoping to go out for lunch at the Space Needle Restaurant in Seattle. That'll be a lot of fun; I've been up in the Space Needle before, but never in the restaurant. And never with a lovely lady at my side, either ... ahh, the joy of strutting in public, secure in the knowledge that I'm married to the prettiest woman in the world. I try not to be smug about it, really I do ... :-) Sometimes.

One of the many benefits of where we're living is unlimited long distance. We don't get it for free, but at only $20 a month, it's not a bad deal at all. And Nikki and I take full advantage of it. It's amazing and wonderful to look at our phone bill, to see that we've called dozens of states and talked for more than a thousand minutes in the last month ... we're certainly getting our money's worth! It's helped a lot of hold our friends and family close, in a way I hoped this blog would ... but it hasn't, because I've been so miserable at posting. I doubt I'll ever be really regular at it again, but I hope you continue to come back a few times a month ... I hope you'll always find something new and interesting for you.

I'm not sure what else to update you all on, so I think I'll close this post off. God bless you all ... and thanks for continuing to read.

Posted by Leatherwood at 08:21 PM
This post has been classified as "Public Address"
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