Church Searching and More

Posted in Blog with tags , , , , on July 19, 2014 by Phil Martin

Church Searching and More

By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

July 19, 2014

On July 27 (eight days from now, if you’re counting), I plan to begin my church search.

Now that I have begun working at a my first full-time “good-for-the-moment” job, my next challenge is to find a new church home. I have several fears about this next step in my post-college journey. What if I don’t feel welcomed? What if I don’t connect with people? What if I don’t find a way to get involved? What if I get hurt really badly? What if I struggle with the same challenges I have faced between middle school and college? These are the biggest fears I have listed off the top of my head.

In fact, I was so worked up on these fears, I emailed a very distant brother I have in Christ. I apologized to him about dragging him into the drama I had in a conflict between his friends and myself. Although the issue has been resolved over two years ago, the shame I have lingers. On really bad days, I feel spiritually attacked. On these days, I boil over in bitterness I had towards the people who treated me poorly. Then, shame bombards me about the wrong I had done towards those same people in my junior year of college. My fear is that this baggage has marred me and that it will follow me wherever I end up attending church. It’s like I have real fear that I will either repeat the same mistakes with people or that people will hurt me in a similar manner.

Maybe facing these fears is how God wants me to grow? I’m not really sure. While on a quiet walk with myself yesterday, I started feeling that was another piece for me to grow. Along with the fears I have about church, I felt similar fears about work. During that walk I started feeling, “You’re going to be challenged. Prepare yourself.” It’s a good thing I’ve kept up with journaling and reading the Psalms frequently in this season, as my counselor and others supporting me have encouraged. Still I fear that I’m still under-equipped. Just another reason why I need God, and I cannot get through these fears on my own.

What I do have going for me are expectations. I don’t expect any community church I visit in the next few weeks to be like my college ministry. In fact, I strongly hope it is nothing like it (no offense to my college ministry for which I have no ill feelings for).

For one thing, I will feel less out of place knowing the leadership of a community church will be different. I will feel less pressured to become a leader either because I’m expected to at some point, because of my desire, or because of comparisons between myself and my peers. In my college church, I would say roughly 95 percent of those in my graduation class were leaders. Additionally, roughly 10 percent of the student church members at the time (approximately 60 out of 600 +/-) were leaders. Looking at these numbers alone and then observing the culture of my college church and its leadership model, I felt a false impression — that every student would become a leader. I happened to be an outlier among my cohorts (seniors and juniors with tenure and underclassmen with leadership experience) who were leaders. Despite feeling like a glaring abnormality while often comparing myself to those around me, the question of why I wasn’t a leader was asked to me only once my senior year.

Secondly, I will embrace stability. As you could surmise, a college ministry lacks stability. Every four years, a typical graduation class passes through and moves on. So therefore, as the wave of students cycles through, a college church constantly changes each year to keep up with its changing demographic of students. Staff members also come and go. The nature of my college ministry was to constantly recruit new staff members as well-tenured staff left to help church plants at other colleges and universities. In a community church, I will find a stable community of families, staff members and pastors. Changes to the people, operations and structure of a community church occur far less frequently (Can I say once in a blue moon?). Stability and continuity is an element of a church that suits me well.

Diversity is a third expectation but also very strong concern I have. One thing I did enjoy about my college ministry was its diversity. We had people of different ethnic and church backgrounds. It was remarkable to see a melting pot of all types of people making up the the student congregation. That’s what you get when you have a ministry for students at a state-funded university — diversity. As I search for a community church, I realize there will be a lack of diversity because of the rural area in which I live.

Although I have several fears about finding a new church home, I have armed myself with realistic expectations going in and my continued devotion with God. I have a feeling I am going to learn and grow a lot from this scary experience in my life.

Miscellaneous…

Congratulations to the Germany men’s national football team winning the 2014 World Cup. I picked them to win it all. (Bragging rights to me?) Thomas Müller should have won tournament’s best player. Not Messi!

Commendations to LeBron James returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers! I hope he wears No. 23 and the Cav’s revert back to the vintage jerseys they donned during James’ first stint with the team.

I have reached a slump of motivation in writing my novel. Great. Just when my life gets busier again. The timing couldn’t be more perfect.

I am no longer wearing blue jeans. I have found cargo pants to be more comfortable, durable and fashionable for me.

I want to start collecting flags. I want to first get the flags of England and Germany, for the possible ancestry in my family.

An Unlikely Mentor

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , on July 13, 2014 by Phil Martin

An Unlikely Mentor

By Phillip Martin

An excerpt from an untitled work

July 12, 2014

Finally! After two long months, I finally give you guys another teaser from my unfinished novel.

Meet Elden.

Despite his 215 years, Elden is a handsome and well-built young man. Like many of my characters, he is a native of the fictional realm I have created. (In my main story’s setting, the natives age at a much slower rate than we humans.) Elden is well-recognized for his brown skin and long dreadlocks, which he wears down in a loosely braided mane or in a ponytail tied back.

My rough sketch of Elden. (I do not claim to be a sketch artist at all, nor do I claim to be gifted as such. Ha ha.)

My rough sketch of Elden. (I do not claim to be a sketch artist at all, nor do I claim to be gifted as such. Ha ha.)

Another thing that distinguishes Elden from other characters is his coat. Like many of the guardians, his wool coat is brown, but two epaulets (a shoulder loop on either shoulder) and a small shield on the right breast area are dyed yellow.  Gaurdians of his city added these ornamentations to Elden’s coat to warn others of an egregious past mistake. The mistake Elden made at 185 years old cost him his rank as a guardian in the realm. In the city in which he lives, the common people regard him as unreliable and unworthy for his folly.

What makes Elden important to my story is that he becomes an unlikely leader. The fallen guardian of past glory, by a strong request of Lucian, becomes a mentor and trainer to an important main character. It is by sharing of his severe shortcoming that Elden helps the main character overcome his own fatal failure en route to becoming a hero.

Elden lives with his cousin in their city. Her name is Carron. Carron also becomes acquainted with the character her cousin mentors and trains.

The Refocus of July

Posted in Blog, Purpose with tags , , , on July 11, 2014 by Phil Martin

The Refocus

By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

July 11, 2014

I wonder if LeBron James will announce his decision to stay in Miami or return to Cleveland as I write this.

Alright. Let’s refocus this post back onto me now. (See what I did there? Clever, right?)

So, my summer has been challenging. It started out with this weird feeling. I guess the magnitude of my four years of college reaching its end hit me a little differently than my cohorts. In late May, I also suffered some deep hurt after mailing thank-you cards to people whom I connected with and felt blessed by at some point in my college experience. In the cards, I wrote a personal note to each 11 people thanking them for their company and purpose to me in college, and I asked how I could pray for and support them. It was a thoughtful gesture, really. Apparently, one card was not well-received from me.

Then, the entire month of June for me was the utmost depressing. My job search and spiritual life were spiraling down to a dry and hopeless point. In that month, I also deleted my Facebook account. After reaching a point of questioning its real usefulness for my life, I decided cutting Facebook out was the best thing I could do for myself now. So far, with little regret to return, I have enjoyed peace. No more comparisons with the superficial posts of my peers. No more hurt of the past pain I’ve felt in the past couple of years.

Fortunately, July has been more encouraging. In the first 11 days, I secured a “good-for-now” or an “in-between” job to support me financially for the moment as I figure out my future. Even more encouraging, my work schedule may allow me to realistically attend graduate school part-time (for a Master’s of Social Work degree) starting in the fall of 2015. As I enjoy a much more peaceful July, I can reflect on at least two things I have noticed this summer.

One thing it seems is that this initial post-college season has been a humbling experience. No, I didn’t get an awesome job. No, I did not feel like a good fit for the career my four-year degree (sort-of-but-not-really) prepared me for. No, I did not leave my parents’ nest. But, yes, I’m still alive, I have a job, I have God, and I still have a home to live in. I’m thinking that accepting the “good-for-now” job is part of a humbling process I guess I have to go through now. Maybe part of me coming back home was part of God’s plan to tell me, “Phil, I know this doesn’t suit you well now, but I still got you. There is hope. You will still have a bright future. Just now is not your time. You have to trust me… please.

The final thing I notice now is how blessed I am that I did not stay in BG. Now I’m not at all saying this to spurn anyone involved with the campus ministry there. The church is doing wonders for the Kingdom of God and for my alma mater’s campus. I’m just merely saying it seems good that I am not there now. It was not best for me to be there. With no hope of helping the church leadership, or undergoing training to reach a point where I could be seen as “ready” to lead, it seems that moving on was the best choice for me. As I reflect on my campus ministry, I didn’t really see a good place for me to serve and to thrive and be content in serving. I also saw the direction and formatting of the church at this time was naturally drawing me farther away from it. Now, I don’t feel so bad that I possibly misheard God last summer about staying in BG. With all these natural dominoes falling in place, I feel glad I have moved on.

Moving on is it. That’s what I’m simply doing right now. I do hope that this lonely season lasts not much longer. It’s also worth noting I will begin church shopping in the next four weeks. (Church shopping? What? I need a new church home. Maybe that wasn’t the best term, but most church-goers probably understand the process behind it.) I also plan on volunteering at a hospital nearby on my off days from work. I leave with you saying I will soon have to post another teaser from my novel, a character named Elden.

Day of Depression

Posted in God's Love, Writing with tags , , , , , , on June 26, 2014 by Phil Martin

Day of Depression

By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

June 26, 2014

Around 7:30 this evening while laying on my bed, I checked the time. I also recognized the familiar calendar date on my alarm clock. My eyes widened as they saw the glaring digital black characters “6 / 26“.

Four years ago today, on June 26, 2010, I suffered one of my worst days of my young adult life. That evening spawned a period of depression I would endure before starting my freshman year at BGSU that August.

Hours after sharing a picnic I had planned with my prom date, I received a chilling phone call. A man, who sounded five to 10, perhaps 20, years older than me spoke. He sounded so calm, but his tone sounded unforgiving and heartless. The man, who called from a private number to my cell phone, told me he was breaking my prom date up from me on her behalf. My heart throbbed after the call ended. I was confused about the man’s call. I knew my picnic at the park with my prom date was not spectacular, but I was not expecting a cold call from a man I had never met.

Twenty minutes or so later, my dad and I drove to my prom date’s house. My intent was to allow my prom date a chance to clear up the call from the mysterious man and talk to her. Almost moved to tears, I could not understand how my prom date and her family had no knowledge of the caller to my cell phone. Meanwhile, my dad spoke with her mom. Her mom did express her concern about my relations with her daughter and our ambiguous relationship status. From the moment my dad and I left back home, I had no choice but to move on from an emotional relationship that lacked clarity, communication, and understanding. It turns out that I had allowed my emotions to maintain an over-attachment I had with the young woman whom I took to prom.

For about two weeks after that fateful evening, I fell into depression. I was simply a wreck. I lost confidence in myself and felt despicable. Hopelessness also weighed me down to my bed, where I lie without motivation to work for anything important in my life, and I had no happiness.

Four years later, I have found myself in similar (and thankfully less unfortunate) position. I may have lied across a newer bed, but I felt the same depression I did today as I did on this day in 2010. Drained and burnt out, I lied belly-up with the weight of my hurts and pains from my college career crushing me down. Alone and far from my close college Christian friends, I have lost motivation to seek God and, in the past week, have even begun to doubt Him working in my life. It’s been about a week since I read Scripture or prayed. Although I have journalized in the past two days, releasing bitterness I have harbored from the past school year, I still felt deflated. My story writing has also suffered in the past three weeks. (Arlan, my story’s outcast-and-eventual-hero, hasn’t begun his training with his mentor Elden yet. I still haven’t moved past the part where these two characters meet on the forest trail.)

Now, after reflecting on the hurtful day four years ago, I have to decide how I can make the present better than my past experience. Then, I did not write my feelings in a journal. Keeping them bottled up caused me emotional problems months later, and the depression permeated into my life during freshman year of college. Today, I have a journal to express my feelings in a safe place where I can alleviate some of my pain. Releasing through a journal has proven to be therapeutic for so many areas of my life. (Removing my Facebook account also limits me to journal more often.) Then, I also did not interact with God through prayer, Scripture, or any other practical means. Today, I can choose to give the Lord a chance to heal me through my devotions (even though I am in doubt of their effectiveness in the present season). What I can ultimately take away today that I did not understand from the past is that simply obsessing over a woman did not make me happy or remedy whatever lacking I was feeling at the time.

As I finish this blog post sitting in an upright position on my bed at 8:52, I am amazed. Some of you may think it’s odd for me to remember specific dates. (Some around me at college have seen this as creepy.) However, I see value in it, when not intended to obsess. The notion here is to refocus the pain and hurt of the memory of the date. Romans 12:2 talks about us being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” — to refocus on the things not on the world’s wavelength but on what can help us in our walk with God. In fact, my counselor at BG persistently shared this verse with me. He wanted me to work on changing my behavior towards my pain, not to simply ignore the pain, but to manage the painful memories in a more healthful way. By changing behavior patterns in my life, I months later reached a point where I enjoyed peace with my past and real joy in the Lord.

I reached a real spiritual mountain peak, but now I’m in another deep valley in life as I occasionally glance at dreadful “6 /26″ on every digital clock in sight. Maybe you’re in a similar place? Which also feels familiar to a past hurtful event? If so, you and I have a choice to help ourselves. We can seek the Lord, find the help of others, and express the pain in a healthy way. And, yes, it is a lot easier said than done. Remember, you’re not alone in this.

Avoid Feeling Hurt on Facebook

Posted in Mental Health with tags , , , , , on June 16, 2014 by Phil Martin

Avoid Feeling Hurt on Facebook

Phil’s Portfolio

June 16, 2014

I read an article titled “6 Ways to Avoid Facebook Misery” on SocialWorkHelper.com. Jessica Spence, author of the article and writer for the website, is a licensed counselor for an agency in North Carolina. Spence writes of six practical actions we take upon ourselves to temper hurt or sad feelings from being expressed poorly on Facebook. I wanted to share this article as it relates to my voluntary deletion of my Facebook account a week ago.

Real World Growth

Posted in Purpose with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2014 by Phil Martin

Real World Growth

By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

June 15, 2014

Small trees budding from the soft cool ground at Wintergarden Park near Bowling Green.

Small trees budding from the soft cool ground at Wintergarden Park near Bowling Green.

I am blessed by being fortunate in an mildly unfortunate place in life.

That opening line made no sense. Allow me to explain: I may not have it made like other cohorts of my age, but I believe I have an edge over those who have social influence and a support network readily available to them. Because I lack having friends physically close by or immediate success after college, I feel I have all the potential for real world growth.

In my first month after graduating college, comparisons I made between myself and others hurt me. I felt like a failure for not having a job lined up, not being happy with the major in college I chose, and not leaving my parents’ home. Because I could not stay and help my college ministry after graduation (with all the challenges I faced in my senior year), I felt like I was perceived as one falling away from the Christian faith. Three weeks ago, a person also told me they did not feel comfortable being a part of the different path in life I am on now. They did not even want to support me spiritually in their ventures after I had wished the same for them. (This one really made me feel perceived as a lesser Christian.) Then, nearly a week ago, I deleted my Facebook because people’s posts and photos of their perceived success and happiness made me feel impoverished of the soul.

Well, Saturday night I came to an encouraging realization as I self-reflected in bed aloud to myself. I may not find a desirable job I want to work. I may feel my four-year degree is a failure and waste of my effort and time. I may feel like I haven’t yet found my calling or niche in life. I may not have my college friends (or any friends) within an hour’s drive of me. I may not have a support network of people readily available around me outside of family yet established back at home. I may not have influence or leadership in a ministry, along with all aforementioned things, which some of my fellow graduates or friends left in college do have. But, I realized I still have one thing. That is the Lord being the sole rock and foundation of my life.

My relationship with God, I realized, is my edge over every person I’ve compared myself to in the past month. You see, I’ve always felt like I was an outsider for most of my young adulthood. From middle school to this season in my life, I’ve endured several challenging and discouraging periods of loneliness and desolation of my soul. Having being one to work himself through these periods while constantly facing adversity gives me strength. Now, I believe this is why I was meant to return home and pursue a new career outside of the comfortable college town I so desperately wanted to escape to and serve in.

I may be better off not being in that comfortable place. So may you too, if you’re experiencing a similar life season. Maybe you had to move away from your home church to accept a job in a new city? Maybe you’re moving to the third school in your life, and you’re trying to finish high school with the challenge of making new friends again? It’s okay to feel scared, but don’t feel like your new phase is overwhelmingly daunting. What I’ve realized one night ago is moving on to an unsettling place is good for our relationship with God.

When we have comfort, it can be easy to lose our focus and fall away. You could have all the closest of friends and widest support network. You could have the easiest road to success. You might feel you have the best entry level job related to your major. You might feel you’ve achieved wonders and have found yourself fulfilling your life’s purpose. You could have great influence of your friends, co-workers, church leaders who fully appreciate your efforts, and such… That would be awesome if all of us could enjoy these things. However, I’ve remembered that sometimes it becomes easy to lose our focus on the Lord and feel that we need Him less and less. When we have blessings readily available and set up where we can work less for them, we can become complacent in our walk and relationship with God. We can become less humble. We can express less thanksgiving. We can exert less effort. We can feel less need.

Now, when have less fortune and favor, it can be much, much easier to draw closer to the Lord and see why we so desperately need Him all the freaking time. Moving through difficult phases, where phases can feel lonely and discouraging, is a part of real life. I feel that our friends who have more going for them can sometimes lose sight of reality, especially those whom have never experienced trials that myself or others have. I’m not at all saying I’m better than these friends (because I could as well mess up all the things God has going for me and with the potential He has in me now). I’m merely saying my lack of fortune is actually my strength when I compare myself to their place in life. Your lacking is also your strength as well, and you can feel peaceful and content with that.

After all, is not the best thing to boast about, if anything, God?

Leaving Facebook for Good

Posted in Blog, Friends with tags , , , , on June 13, 2014 by Phil Martin

Leaving Facebook for Good

By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

June 13, 2014

On this Friday the Thirteenth I announce that I have deleted my Facebook account.

I made my decision to drop my account from this social media network this Monday. Several reasons drove my decision. Ultimately, most Facebook features drained me emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

Most news feed stories on Facebook drove the negative emotional impact on me. Many stories of relationship statuses, praises of happy life events and happenings, and photos cluttered my news feed of my 200+ “so-called” friends. As with the majority of Facebook users, I would assume, only 10% of my Facebook friends were people I enjoyed authentic friendship and interaction with in real life. Seeing these stories led me to make comparisons. I began feeling as if I wasn’t a good enough person or Christian and that perhaps I was a failure in life. Because these comparisons are especially harmful to me psychologically in my post-graduation phase of life, I can no longer put up with this pain.

I’ve put up with a lot of pain, whether I made mistakes or people have treated me poorly. I don’t need it anymore. So, I’m not running away. I’m just saying Facebook needs out of my life.

Leaving Facebook will give me a chance to grow spiritually. One great need for my well-being is to feel appreciated and accepted through the connections of people I have. However, communication on Facebook seemed to hamper me from maintaining friendships well. It appears direct messaging, when too often, overwhelms people and pushes them away.

Direct messaging, while I felt comfortable with it as with texting, was not as effective as face-to-face interaction or, perhaps second-best, phone calling. Think about it. Without seeing the facial expressions or body language and hearing the tone and pitch of voice, it can be difficult to effectively communicate between two people. In a large body of typed text, one can easily mistake a few seemingly innocent and honest words as hurtful or harmful. Therefore, I feel dropping Facebook will give me a chance to improve on my communications skills face-to-face with all people.

Yes, this will give me a chance to improve my communication skills with women of my age I’m attracted to or feel awkward around. This will be a solution to a problem in my young adulthood, as with many young men of my age. However, I must point out that a deep relationship is the very least of my desires now. I want to become more financially stable and independent while I iron out my career path. I’m also more deeply concerned with establishing a support network of people around me and continue building on my socialization skills. I especially have a much dire need in maintaining a stable relationship with God.

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