When Our Life Expectations are Faster Than the Speed of God

Roll the dice.  Press the buzzer.  Time to play America’s favorite game.  “Solitaire: Life Expectations Edition”.

Life is often a difficult and careful balance of two extremes. Not any two certain extremes- each situation has its own.  But one in particular of these balances has proven consistently annoying: The balance of being a motivated, goal-oriented, hard-working American as well as living in accordance to God’s timing.

I have an agenda, a set plan, an order of events, a timeline by which I’m already behind on, according to me.  Yet on a yearly basis, I’m stalled by a classic answer to many of my prayers: “wait, it’s not time yet”.  And that’s what I call being faster than the speed of God.

Obviously, God, in all his power and lack of limitations can not be outrun.  But by pointing him to my calendar and its several missed and delayed events, I’m simply reminding God of my inability to keep up with him- since his calendar doesn’t simply just move forward; he’s in every moment of the past as well as the present and future.

When God misses my appointments for his involvement in my life expectations, it also serves as a reminder that man-schemed plans are often irrelevant in the face of God.  My life expectations are nothing more than an often-frustrating check-off list of a game that I am playing, involving other people at times, as my volunteers and spectators.

Graduate college and get a job.  Check.  Get married by age 27, which is the national average of American men when they get married.  Check.  Buy a house.  Check.  Have a baby by the time I’m 30.  Check (of course, Lord willing).

Good for me.  I’ve met some of my goals.  My American society-influenced landmarks.  Of course there are plenty more that I’m only beginning to scratch the surface of.  So by playing the rules of my own game, I lose.  Conveniently for me, though, I’ve still got the rest of my life to play this game, and accomplish these goals.  Yet still, the humbling truth is that this game still doesn’t matter to God.  His checklist for my life is much simpler, yet much more complicated.  And from everything I can tell, it mainly just revolves around loving other people.

As for the film based on my non-fiction book, Scenic Route Snapshots, starring James Franco, it’ll have to be postponed until 2013.  Because after all, I need to publish the book first.  And according to my calendar, that’s scheduled to happen next year.

And yet I return to the pointless game of Solitaire: Life Expectations edition.

Bad Deeds for Good People: Finishing Up for Others

We are often naturally drawn to do the wrong thing, but for those who struggle with being bad, I’m throwing in my two cents to help you get started.

It’s common knowledge that serving others is important.  And we all would like to consider ourselves each as a “good person”.   As plenty of nearly washed-out celebrity guests have stated on the annoying/inspirational TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, “it’s important to be involved in something bigger than yourself”.  True.

But what if you’re too good of a person?  What if you spend all your free time volunteering, you give away all your extra income, and you never say about bad thing about or to anyone?  What if you have come to the conclusion you should participate in some “bad deeds” to balance things out?

The problem is, since you are, as we’ve established, a good person, you don’t want to do too bad of a deed which would permanently  damage your reputation.  I am working on collection of slightly bad things you can do, so people won’t be inclined to call you a “goody two shoes” or sarcastically call you a saint, or resentfully acknowledge that you put them to shame.

The first bad deed on my list: Finish up a consumable product that a stranger is taking too long on.

Yesterday I was at the Seattle’s Best coffee shop at Borders and there was this middle-aged woman and her grown son, both catching up over $4 frozen coffees.  I had been sitting across the room from them for over an hour.  Yet still, the lady had about an inch of frozen coffee remaining in her cup.

Bad deed opportunity: A person could have ran over to her table, reached out and picked up the coffee, and proclaimed, “I’m drinking this!”  The bad deed doer would then stay standing there in front of the woman and her son and take the time to finish the drink.  Afterwards, the bad deed doer would say, “Mmm… that was good.”

This bad deed would also work well if you were at a steak house: Finish up the last few A-1 drenched bites for the person sitting at the table behind you.  Then say, “Look, now you don’t need a doggie bag.”

Manspeak, Volume 0: Introduction

Amidst the beer can-crushing chauvinist, the dead beat dad, the neurotic Michael Scott type of boss, the wimpy emo kid, and every other kind of negative or less-than-positively-masculine stereotype of a what a man can be, there is actually a realistic collection of males that serve as the standard of what most men truly are or at least should be. They are not necessarily heroes or saints. They are still full of flaws. But they are sincere.

And misunderstood. And given a bad name as they are often judged by their worst specimens. To make things more complicated, when a man tries to explain his feelings he often enters a territory of being seen as “sensitive”. And that word has a negative connotation these days for men. He wants to be a good man, but if he wanders too close to the edge of being of safe, he may be labeled as boring. Or a lover of musicals.

Being a man means having to constantly find the balance in between double standards, paradoxes, and damning extremes.

If a man is too aggressive, he’s a tyrant. If a man is too passive, he’s a pushover. If he’s too understanding of others, then he may become The Good Guy or “Mr. Perfect”, and is ironically considered sub-par compared to the dangerous, adventurous, and often offensive men of society. Where does a man end up? As the Bad Boy or as the Good Guy? Both have negative and positive qualities. What does the balance look like?

What started as a two page article on the importance of a man speaking has oddly evolved into a shot at understanding this ultimate balance of what society truly wants, needs, and is looking for in men. I laughed when it got to the point I finished my 10th volume in the series, as I thought to myself, “Of all people, how am I qualified to write about manhood?”

I don’t know much at all about cars, sports, hunting, or home repairs. I hold no specialized degree in psychology. All I am is a writer who is trying to materialize how I, as a man, think and act. And what I have learned so far is that I am simple and often clueless.

That’s when it hit me. I AM qualified. Because I am simple and clueless.

I don’t know who won the Super Bowl in 1997 or how to install a hardwood floor. I don’t claim to understand women. But I do have an understanding of what excites me, what motivates me, what insults me, what confuses me, what baffles me, what hurts me, and what helps me. While I have always been a little off-beat, that doesn’t change my hard-wiring. I’m still a guy.

One thing I can do is express myself through writing. And on behalf of men everywhere, provide a voice for them, since honestly speaking about our feelings is both difficult and dangerous. What’s most ironic is that in actuality, I have learned that more women read my Manspeak series than men. And I am honored to be the official spokesman for the Average Joe. Not a professional. Just qualified by default.

Men need to see an end in sight. They need to know when the story will end. When I am doing household chores, I have to have a list I can check off as I go. I can’t simply “straighten up the house”. Otherwise I am overwhelmed and nothing really gets done.

I figured Manspeak would never up end being more than 10 volumes. But I realize now that this is an open-ended series. It could end after 20 volumes. Maybe 50. It could eventually become a published book. But even then, I feel like I will still keep coming up with one more volume. For every week that goes by, I realize another quirky aspect about myself. And that new truth usually translates over to most men.

But maybe one day I’ll actually finish the final volume of Manspeak. If men really are as simple and easy to figure out as I say they are, I should be finishing up any minute now…

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

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Manspeak Table of Contents

Volume -1: Boyspeak: http://wp.me/pxqBU-9d
Volume 0: Introduction http://wp.me/pxqBU-8G
Volume 1: Humor http://wp.me/pxqBU-1i
Volume 2: Heroism http://wp.me/pxqBU-1m
Volume 3: Filtration http://wp.me/pxqBU-1p
Volume 4: Stance http://wp.me/pxqBU-1s
Volume 5: Movement http://wp.me/pxqBU-1v
Volume 6: Law http://wp.me/pxqBU-3h
Volume 7: Bromance http://wp.me/pxqBU-3W
Volume 8: Relaxation http://wp.me/pxqBU-6a
Volume 9: Appearance http://wp.me/pxqBU-6f
Volume 10: Exploration http://wp.me/pxqBU-6O
Volume 11: Responsibility http://wp.me/pxqBU-8v
Volume 12: Transparency http://wp.me/pxqBU-8J
Volume 13: Composure http://wp.me/pxqBU-8N