Monday, December 31, 2012

What I Want out of 2013

1. For the words rape, fag, gay, and phrases like "kill yourself" to be taken out of the world's vocabulary. Specifically, out of gaming vocabulary.

2. Actually, how about gaming disappears?

3. For people to give up opposition to love. Gay love, straight love, interracial love—if it's love, no matter what the kind, it's undoubtedly better than hate.

4. For people to stop hating each other for having opposing political views. That's why we vote. Now shut up about it.

5. For all judgment to cease. We all do stupid things, mean things, hurtful things, and things that nobody else understands. The sooner we accept this, the better we will all get along.

6. For God to be allowed back in schools. Church and state can be separate without restricting the freedom of those who believe in God but may not be able to afford private school.

7. For teachers to be able to provide their students with an education, not just a lesson plan.

8. For "family time" to include activities that exclude any type of screen.

9. For all the Kindles to burn in a fiery, fiery funeral pyre larger than the state of Alabama.

10. For everyone to appreciate honesty as much as my best friend does.

11. For all those folks who showed up in theaters to see Les Mis to stop hiding when other pieces of art and literature are struggling to make an appearance in society.

12. Robin Williams for President.

13. For jobs to be payed according to social importance, i.e., teachers should be payed more than reality show pimps.

14. For "Man in the Mirror" to actually take effect on people, especially politically. African hunger is sad, but it's okay to start with the hunger in our own country before we pretend we're going to fix the world.

15. For real crimes to stop being turned into Lifetime movies. It just happened. No, a year is not enough of a "sensitivity period."

16. All video games to be demolished except Pacman.

17. NO MORE REMAKES OR SEQUELS. There are plenty of struggling writers in this world. Hire some of them to write better movies.

18. Better yet, hire them to fix all the profane grammatical errors in advertisements.

19. For people to stop being afraid to be human. Rejection happens, pain happens, mistakes happen, and no matter how hard you try to avoid it, you will get hurt. There does happen to be some truth in "go big or go home." If you go home, at least you tried. The effort is always better than the avoidance.

20. For more people to bring to social awareness the things that matter to their hearts. No more songs about that booty all up in da flo or the chain hangin' low or rides on disco sticks. How about some more work from Macklemore and U2 and other people who take notice and try to spread awareness. Or, you can write songs about sex that don't have to be vulgar as @#!%. Think a little more Bryan Adams, a little less 50 Cent.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Paradise Lost... and Found?

"For neither do the spirits damned lose all their virtue..." —John Milton, Paradise Lost

Perhaps it is uncouth of me to quote a piece of a poem partial to Satan. John Milton's masterpiece, Paradise Lost, describes in poetic brilliance the war, fall, and deception of Satan and his legions of thwarted angels. With this description, of course, comes the contrast of the Good Lord's grace and power amidst a "threatened" throne. Milton writes with resounding diction and philosophical inquiry, thus making Paradise Lost an absolute dream for me: an epic poem and genius work of literature that also causes me to think deeply about my faith and the state of the world.

As can be read in many of my previous posts, life's social and logical struggles have challenged me. I have recently fallen into a state of distrust, abandoned expectations, and neglected hope. In response to such notions I have acted accordingly, living in the world as if it is all that exists. Though my actions do little to glorify the God I believe in, He has been ever on my mind throughout, and every day I question what it is exactly I am trying to prove by turning from faith to the world. I made a sort of pact with myself to pursue only what I truly want and to chasten no more the honest opinions of what is necessary in my life. I dove into literature and writing, working a job I adore, creating lists of self-improving goals like re-teaching myself guitar and learning calligraphy. I am working toward the body I want and the mind I want; yet, all falls to faith. Its impact is constant: if you do have faith, its effect is impossible to mistake; if you don't have faith, you spend most of your time trying to explain why it is not there. Either way, the mind is consumed with the presence of faith.

I have not yet brought myself to return to reading my Bible consistently. I have hardly felt worthy to touch it in past times, and now I hold a slight (unjust) aversion to it. I have read only some chapters from my favorite book, Ecclesiastes, which was brought to my mind when it was quoted by dear Mr. Hemingway in the front of my new favorite novel, The Sun Also Rises. Despite my love for Ecclesiastes, the disarray of my mind has kept me from immersing myself in the Bible's call, causing me to be negligent and hesitant and doubtful. By some stroke of fate divine, I chose to next read Milton's aforementioned poem, which I had previously read excerpts from about a year ago in class. The excerpts—small though they be—were enough to dramatically arouse my interest in the poem. An epic verse about the Fall of Man from the tormented perspective of Satan himself? How could anyone not be intrigued?

Thus began my reading of Paradise Lost and the psychological journey back toward faith. Though baby steps seem awfully large in comparison to the miniscule movements I am making back toward God, it seems He is still watching me, luring me by dropping into my hands the perfect concoction of my love and bane. Logic and literature, faith and reality superimposed into beautiful words and artful arrangements on aromatic, red-worn pages have captured my attention. I am only three books into the epic, and already I have witnessed several dimensions of rebellious spirit wrought with sins of pride, greed, malice, and gluttony, as well as the gloriousness of those fallen who had such potential, and the contrast of the wounded, vengeful rebellion against the majestic benevolence of the great Creator. Some instances that have already captured me include God's discussion with his Son about the forgiveness of man, claiming men are given grace because they did not manifest evil within themselves but were seduced by the outward forces of the fallen. Also, the quote at the beginning of this post stopped my eyes immediately upon the page. "For neither do the spirits damned lose all their virtue..." This said of the masses of fallen angels who hold honor among thieves, upholding respect and perverted virtue among the monarchic structure of newly-founded Hell. This statement particularly struck me, as I have mentioned asking before of my friend how many times God would be willing to forgive me the same foul strikes. If the damned do not forfeit the entirety of their virtue, how then can I possibly be so beyond the reach of redemption? I have never doubted the power of God's forgiveness, but only the power of my own ability to turn from evil and embrace the humility necessary to return to God's favor.

If the damned have enough left within them to be considered still of virtue, even in the mires of a poetic Hell, then I on Earth still have infinite strength to return myself to a state fit of attempting worship of a greater God than ever found. I cannot be completely devoid of the virtue I may have owned before. There is a way back; though I have to find it precisely, I am now aware of its existence. I no longer doubt my ability to return to God's graces. It is simply a matter of bracing myself and doing so, and the Lord has encouraged me by placing this response directly into my hands, centuries after it was written by a simple poet.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Mad World

It's a strange, strange world when you can feel guilty for being someone's friend.

Right now, I can think of three people I "should" hate. Each of them has wronged a friend of mine in the past. I do not condone their actions, but I do not hold grudges against them, either. Two of them I don't even particularly like. I see no problem, however, with treating them like human beings. Isn't that why my friends hate them in the first place—because they didn't treat others well?

Three stories.

One. A bunch of college kids become friends. A girl and a guy in this group of friends start dating. Everyone knows this guy is a "friendly" guy. Eventually, he cheats on her. A few times.

Two. Two girls become friends. One shares her feelings about a guy that the other girl has just befriended. The first girl harbors secret feelings for years. The boy suspects, but doesn't return the ardor, and acts accordingly. A small, drunken betrayal occurs, and the first girl is heartbroken.

Three. A girl discovers her friend has been dating a guy who has allegedly cheated on her twice. The friend's friends all hate her boyfriend for this reason.

In story One, I am one of the "college kids." I was horrified for my friend when she got cheated on, and I was angry that the guy—also my friend—had done it. I wanted to be there for my girl friend, but I did not feel the need to shun the guy. I wasn't seeking him out, by any means, but I wasn't about to forget about the year of friendship we had developed. I didn't see him around for a while; he was giving my girl friend space. The girl's other friends started violently hating him immediately. I understand this situation, I really do; but is it necessary for me to end my friendship, too? Treating that guy like a leper wasn't going to help my friend's wounds heal, and treating him like a human being wasn't going to harm my friendship with her (at least, it shouldn't). Now, a year later, we run into each other, and he's surprised I'm still "cool with" him. It's still not over, though—some other friends of mine aren't fond of him and seem to lose words when I mention that he invited me to hang out. Why do I feel guilty for wanting to hang out with someone who has already been my friend for two years?

Story Two tells of a friend of mine who was hurt by someone we both know. I became friends with the guy much after the story began, but I have been here to witness the end, and the end is not pretty. Now I am caught among another group of friends who want to hate this guy with all they have (not quite as violently as the group in story One, but still). I am casual friends with this guy. I don't hate him. I think he acted like a jackass, and I'm sorry that he hurt my friend—very sorry—but I have nothing to do with the situation. Why do I feel pressured to hate him?

Story Three is about a friend of mine whose boyfriend all our friends hate. Am I the only only one who thinks IT'S THEIR OWN DAMN BUSINESS? If he did cheat and she took him back, that's her choice. She's allowed to date whomever she likes, even if he's not a great catch. I understand wanting to be there for her and wanting her to be with a man she deserves (rather, who deserves her), but I don't think it's "being a good friend" to continually talk shit about her boyfriend when you're only slightly out of hearing range. Sure, he may be a douche, and sure, maybe he did cheat on her, or whatever he is said to have done. Either way, I believe you can support a friend without supporting their decision. I think it is more loving to listen to a friend and help them out with their bad decision (read: be open-minded and willing to listen and advise) than to correct them without being willing to hear reasons. Hear reasons, not just learn them and trash-talk them. We all make dumb decisions. Making someone feel like they can't talk to you about certain parts of their lives is only going to make it worse if that decision does backfire. Why do I feel like my friends would hate me for wanting to support my friend, no matter what her choice is?

None of this is okay. None of it. The way the guys acted is not okay, but the way my friends react is not okay, either. I'm not saying I've never had a particularly insensitive reaction to someone who has hurt me or a friend, but I think I've grown a bit past that. Perhaps it's because of one of my best friends from home. She dated someone I was okay with for a while, but rumors of cheating began to arise and led to heartbreak. She has since still been somewhat involved with him, but I'm not going to stop being a good friend to her because of that. I want her to be happy, and even though I don't think that guy is going to make her happy, I'm willing to hear her reasons why she's willing to try. I would rather stay close to her and be able to help her up if she falls than to abandon her because I disagree with her choices. The pressure that I feel to hate all of the aforementioned guys is so intense, though, that I almost felt guilty for running into the friend from story One in public. I almost didn't want to be seen with him because I felt I would be judged and subsequently hated. Has anyone heard of forgiveness? Yes, heartbreak hurts. Yes, people make stupid choices over and over again. "As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly" (Proverbs 26:11). We all know it. So let it go. Forgive. Forgive and let live, and support those you love, even if they're acting foolishly. YOU act foolishly; would you like it if your friends muttered hateful things about someone you cared about, or forced their friends to hate you for a mistake you made, or refused to hear about an important part of your life because they disagreed? How would YOU like it?

Don't put your friends in those situations. Don't demand hate. Let forgiveness suffice where injury stings. Forgiving may not satisfy the desire we all have for vengeance or calm our sense of self-righteousness, but it is the better way to handle wrongs. I'm not saying avoid protecting those close to you—by all means, let them know how you feel. Tell them you disagree, disapprove, etc. But don't push them away. Be honest, and let them return the favor. Open your mouth if you must, but never forget to open your ears.

Jesus saves.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Mountain Lion

A couple years ago, I had an encounter with a mountain lion. It was not a gruesome experience; I simply ran into one with a friend as we descended a hiking trail at dusk. We stared. It stared. It took a few steps toward us with a flicking tail. We threw our hands up and shouted as loud as we could. It disappeared. Despite how easy that confrontation was, it terrified me beyond belief. Thus began the dreams about the mountain lion.

At first the dreams seemed to be mental replications of the actual experience. They gradually grew to be more violent, however, with the mountain lion attacking first other people, then me, and most often succeeding. I've had dreams in which the lion attacked in houses I felt comfortable in, thus destroying their serenity. I've had dreams where I attempted to fight the lion to little avail. Very often, I would shout at the lion in my dream, only to wake myself with strange half-hollers trying to escape my sleep-paralyzed body. I would encounter the lion every few weeks. This has been happening for about two years now.

Last night, though, the dream finally changed. This time, the scenario was that I had lost everything and had to live outside in the woods with a sleeping bag and a hammock. I couldn't find anywhere safe to hang the hammock, so I discovered a tiny cave with just enough room for a person to sleep. I didn't want to be attacked while asleep, so I left the cave to find something with which to block the entrance. When I returned, the mountain lion had taken over my cave. Instead of fleeing—it hadn't seen me yet—I started growling at it, loudly. I growled and growled, and the lion crouched, tail flicking, eyes flashing, just as it did in the true encounter. Suddenly, the lion sprinted out of the cave. This time (be warned; the dream gets a bit Chuck Norris here) the lion did not win. Right as it lunged for me, I swung a fist around and punched its muzzle, then managed to swing an arm around its neck and snap it (sorry PETA). I had finally defeated the lion.

I still woke with those strange hollers in my throat. Fortunately, I don't think I woke my roommate, but this has happened before and I warned her about it, so she shouldn't be worried either way. This time, though, I woke with a sort of astonishment. So much of this dream was different. I had never been completely alone when the lion attacked before. I had never had to face the lion dead-on, eye to eye. Most importantly, the lion had always won. This time, in a face-to-face deadlock, I succeeded.

Some part of me feels this dream is significant somehow. Recurring dreams don't just drastically alter their endings that way. Yes, the setting and specifics of my mountain lion dreams have changed in the past, but the main plot was always the same: Amy vs. mountain lion. Mountain lion wins. Defeating the lion woke me with the feeling that something in my waking life has also changed. I can't imagine what it would be—I can only think of minor "victories," and even those are grasping for straws—but it feels strong. There's a sense of relief in my spine today. I feel as if defeating the lion has brought me over a nasty ravine, a wild crevice, something large that I could not have thought of crossing before, but here I am on the other side. I feel like there is another part of my life waiting for me, and I am finally able to face it.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Letter to My Friends

When you think nobody is listening, you yell too loud.

This is the base of my life recently. To use a far too common metaphor, this year has been a roller coaster ride - not the fun kind. It's the kind where the people standing next to the tracks can hear the cars ripping over the steel, thrashing wind through the bars as they race by, shaking the tracks with something wild between a rattle and a bang.

I have put all of you in the place of the passersby to the roller coaster. I have selfishly flown across the steel, not caring that the wind I shoot your way is too strong and uncomfortable. I have hardly stopped to listen. Occasionally I pause, then get up for another 30-second race around the tracks. Circles, constant circles. I'm going nowhere.

I do have to say one thing: I'm still not sure what is wrong. Yes, I am struggling immensely with my faith. Yes, I have been talking about boys all the damn time. Yes, I am slightly caught up with a few minor situations. Clearly, some of my choices are not at all beneficial to myself or to those around me. That being said, I don't feel like I have gone off the deep end. I'm pushing my boundaries, but I'm taking small steps back. I'm aware of what I'm doing. Maybe that will make you all even more frustrated with me, but it's honest. I am not entirely certain of my motivations all the time, but I'm not trying to hurt anyone and I'm not on a self-destruction path. I'm sure half of what I just said will only convince you otherwise, but it is the truth of my thoughts.

No matter what I am struggling with, however, I should still be acting as a better friend. I should slow down and shut up and listen to you. I should stop constantly whimpering about everything I want and don't want and that is happening or not happening in my life. I should find ways to deal with my problems so that you guys don't have to. I should realize when I've blown enough hot air and learn to shut up and deal.

So guys, this is me apologizing to all of you. I'm sorry for being a shit friend. I'm sorry for being so selfish in the time I spend with all of you. I could say now how much I cherish my friendship with each of you, but I don't think I'm worthy to say that if I don't act like it. I'm sorry for making you listen to me over and over and over again with all the same stupid stuff. I'm sorry for grabbing too tightly onto your friendship because something inside me is askew. I should figure out my own loneliness issues without putting weight on your shoulders, and I haven't been doing that effectively. Or at all.

I know some of you are probably rather disappointed with me. I'm sorry to have disappointed you. Some of you must really be better than me, and I don't say that sarcastically. You can understand whatever it is I'm doing wrong, and I still don't feel it. I've felt trapped in Core for so long that this just feels like actual life now. It feels normal. I know the idea of Christianity is to be better than normal, but maybe I'm just not. They say the path is narrow, and maybe I just don't fit on it.

I commend all of you for being such wonderful people. If I didn't already know how amazing each of you are, the fact that you put up with me this long would prove it. Thank you for listening, for trying to help, for giving advice, for watching my back, and for not punching me in the face, though I'm sure I deserve it. Thank you for being true friends even though I'm doing something wrong enough to put you all off. Even if you're mad, disappointed, or just frustrated, thank you for everything. Know that I love you all and I am thinking every day about how to figure myself out and make myself better. You all deserve a better friend than me.



Saturday, November 24, 2012

When God is Gone

I think we all like the image of God begging for us to give Him our attention. We all like to think when we are busy with other things, He waits for us like a puppy at the door. We think He gives us so much attention that we are the only ones on His mind when we decide to drift away for a while.

I don't think this is true. I think, as much as God loves us, He is not going to put Himself on hold while we waste our time with trivial pursuits. This should not be such a foreign concept to us. Hell, some women won't even keep their attention on a guy if he takes too long to call! Why then do we need this constant reassurance?

I think we say this because we are all afraid to admit we have actually walked away from God, however temporarily. We are too afraid to do something wrong and own it. We'll run off and dabble with sin, but we always want to be able to glance over our shoulders at the door we closed and know God is on His tiptoes, desperately peering through the peephole, watching us. We like to think we are so important that we will worry God if we take off to make some mistakes.

We are NOT that important.

Don't get me wrong - we are definitely important to God. Think of the verse everyone always quotes about the sparrows. God loves us unfathomably, but He does not need us. He made us out of love, He guides us out of love, and He continues to bless us out of love. Apart from Jesus, there is no human born because his presence was necessary. Jesus' human life on Earth wasn't even necessary for God, only for us. God could have let us rot; He sent Jesus instead, again out of love. Most of us just refuse to acknowledge a certain truth:

If we want to walk away, God will let us.

He is not going to force us to stay close to Him. He is not going to force us to obey His commands or read His word. He is not going to commandeer our lives if we intentionally drive ourselves too far off course. He will always welcome us home and He will always forgive us, but there comes a point when He will let us live without Him. Why else does the word "if" exist in the Bible? There are people against God - some vehemently against Him. If God had done his puppy-dog wait at the door, those people likely wouldn't have such strong hatred for Him. They would feel as if He had been there all along, and some horrible tragedy of fate had kept them from seeing Him. If God lets them walk away, however, they have no one to blame but themselves, and someone to hate for letting them go.

I only bring this up because I have not been as strong in faith in the past couple months. I have been frustrated, angered, and rendered careless, and only because I allowed myself to be. I have wondered aloud to one of my best friends, "How many times do I get to run away before God stops wanting me back?" Many of the above thoughts resulted from that conversation. God will always be willing to forgive and to love, she told me, but He is also willing to let me walk away. The path is narrow, and not because God does not want us to come back - it is narrow because we refuse to knock. We want to be chased. There is the whole idea of God pursuing us in ardor, but I think even that has been too romanticized. God will pursue us, yes, when we are most in need of Him and most ignorant of Him. Once we know Him, though, we are responsible for bringing ourselves to His feet when we are most deserving of pain.

I understand right now that God has let me walk away. I am not sure if I am ready to come back. I do miss Him. I still have connections with him. I think about Him every day and pray to Him about at least the smaller things. I have conversations in my head about what He would think and what I should say. I haven't read much of His word in a while and I find it hard to give up some of the areas in which I have allowed my tense limbs to stretch - areas that may not be very beneficial to my faith. I know God has not abandoned me, though; He is letting me figure myself out, and He knows (more so than I) when I will be back. I do not think God is worried about me. Should I get myself into irrevocable trouble - which is always a danger in walking away - I think He would care. Of course He would! He is the God of unfathomable, unmatchable love! I believe it wrenches His heart unimaginably painfully when each one of us turns away, but I am also able to admit exactly how selfish of a human being I am. I know my actions hurt God and I still want to do them. I know my actions can break God's heart and I'm still not sure if I want to give them up yet. I am an impossibly selfish human being and that is why I sin!

I'm working on getting back to the way I believed a few months ago. By working, I mean I am thinking more and more about why it is right for me to return to God. The funny thing is, my faith was the strongest it has ever been in my life right before I turned away. Why would I leave when my faith is strongest? I don't know exactly. I got fed up, I suppose. I wanted to see what life was like without all the uptight pressure and tension that comes with dealing with a bunch of Christians all the time. I wanted to see what would happen to me if I encountered the world as it is. I wanted to see what faith I could bring from being hurt, from messing up. I have found God closest when I have been destroyed, and everything I was feeling recently led me to feel nothing. Ever sing "break my heart for what breaks yours"? Ever utter the prayer that God "break my heart" to let Himself in? I believe it is necessary. I don't think I have to be overwhelmed by a physical sensation of God in order to have strong faith in Him, but I do think participation of the heart is necessary, and right now I can't feel my heart at all. I'm not necessarily setting out to get my heart shattered, but I can't with certainty say that is not some part of my intention. I am wandering, and I think God understands. Approves? Well. There are some things I know God definitely does not approve of, and I think we're all kidding ourselves if we pretend He doesn't care. I do have enough faith in my God, though, to know He understands the fickle wanderings of our hearts. He knows me. He knows what I want, even though I don't. He knows what I will find. Most importantly, He knows exactly what will kick my butt home.

And He will still be willing to answer the door.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Good to be Grateful

A list of things I am currently grateful for, in no particular order:

1. The willingness and understanding of people that I definitely was not expecting.

2. All the wonderful friends that have grown or appeared in my life this year.

3. The deeper friendships that have gotten down to the grit and stayed true.

4. The ability to experiment and explore, and even more so the ability to learn from such adventures.

5. Being closer to all the members of my family again.

6. Learning to find God in a new way.

7. Being able to have a small-scale version of my dream job and the ways that job lets me encourage my friends and help bring their dreams to life.

8. That God still loves me, even after all the genuinely stupid things I've done.

9. For not totally knowing myself yet, which is giving me the willingness to experience the world.

10. The opportunity to finally travel farther than a few hours away!

11. A better outlook on myself and my health.

12. Everything I get to learn socially and academically, and the chance that I absolutely adore what I am studying.

I am brimming with gratefulness and just felt like sharing. Thanks, God. :)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Crashing to Earth

I'm thinking it's about time I learn to grow up and shut up.

There's a popular phrase circulating in society today: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Google credits the quote to Plato, but with the abundance of incorrectly credited quotes on the internet, I tentatively include it here. Most people agree with this quote; it is not difficult to see its truth. Only on the occasion in which you suffer from its truth, however, does it seem like something you should actually do.

"You annoy me sometimes." Spoken directly to my face, amidst a circle of friends. At least, I hope they're my friends, lest they be thinking something similar. A comment like this normally would have buzzed a nerve and then been forgotten completely, had it not occurred during one of the longest days I've had all year. When I say long, I mean painful. Unbeknown to the speaker, I had just been through an ordeal in which I had to hurt someone I dearly care about, an ordeal which equally hurt me. There is nothing worse than knowing you are horrible enough to be able to hurt someone and claiming to yourself you care about them at the same time, even if you genuinely do. I am just enough of a miserable wretch to try and dull the sting by attending a celebration - and by refusing to reveal to anyone exactly how awful I feel. Fortunately, God granted me time with many delightful people who were able to keep me laughing for most of the celebration, something for which I am incredibly grateful. I am not anywhere near as funny as they are, though, so most of what I said fell flat and led to a brief lull in the conversation until one of the funny people spoke again. As I've said before, I know I'm not funny, but on a day like this, you foolishly care about everything.

So, with some true and some fake smiles, dull comments that everyone ignores, half-hearted dancing and swallowed emotions, I made it through the rest of the day. Right as I was preparing to leave came the comment: "You annoy me sometimes." I don't remember what I said to earn that comment. I responded to it with a laugh and continued with my charade. Now, though, that comment sits as the cherry on top of the load of bull I dug through that day. Along with every other insult I'm granting to myself, I have that to acknowledge, spoken by someone I considered a good friend. Not only am I horrible for hurting people close to me and stupidly stubborn for making myself appear heartlessly unaffected, I am also annoying. Marvelous. Hey, Plato, could you say that a little louder next time? I don't think some of us heard you...

Maybe it's about time I stop making comments that aren't funny and give up my tendency to tease people I consider friends. I know I don't follow Plato's quote as well as I should, either. Maybe it's time I only say what is absolutely necessary to say, to eliminate romance and embrace logic, to sit in silence within myself and speak when spoken to. In my old Bible, I underlined every single proverb that mentioned how the words of a fool contrast with the silence of the wise - perhaps it is time I start listening.

I miss my best friends (the ones I mentioned in the earlier post). They hear everything I say and know all the stupid things I do, and they tell me to snap out of it but with a hug. I love them so much and wish I could spend as much time with them now as I did in high school. I have some friends in college that are just as good to me, and I love them just as much. I should be able to honor them with the same honesty with which I honor my friends from home. Another flaw of mine.

Okay, Plato, I'm listening.

"When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." 10:19

"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." 12:18

"A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of a fool blurts out folly." 12:23

"A fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing his own opinions." 18:2

"The words of a man's mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook." 18:4

"A fool's mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul." 18:7

"He who answers before listening - that is his folly and his shame." 18:13

Proverbs (and many more...)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dream Guilt

I believe God speaks to me in dreams. Following that statement, I would expect many different opinions about the nature of God in dreams. I am aware of the spiritual ideas of prophesy and visions, although the concepts are still somewhat new to me, having been raised in a Catholic church. I accept those ideas for what they are, but they are not what I am writing about today.

God has spoken to me in radically unconventional ways. He has written my name in the sky, tossed my own words in my face through a television sitcom, delivered me into uncannily perfect settings for conversations - all in response to very specific prayers I had made. I think it is very easy to distinguish between God and coincidence; the feeling that accompanies God's signs to me is often an overwhelming sense of truth, awe, and irony. Dreams, though, are much more difficult for me to decipher. I struggle with them. Most times, I think God uses my dreams not for prophetic visions or profound injunctions, but to reflect the things I most need and hate to see.

I have learned enough about psychology to understand the basics about dreaming. The parts of our lives causing us to think, worry, and stress are the ones most likely to project on our eyelids at night. From what I understand, dreaming also assists the mind in organizing information and recalling experiences. I can certainly attest to these facts; I have had enough dreams of mountain lion attacks to irrevocably cement my fear of them. It is the combination of psychology and faith which causes me to dwell on the residual emotions of my dreams and why my reaction to some of them is so powerful.

Last night's dream is giving me great qualms about myself. I will not describe it here (some things are better kept personal), but I will emphasize my tendency to feel real guilt for imaginary actions. For example, last summer, I had a dream that I had betrayed my best friend's boyfriend to modern-day pirates, who later killed him for his failures. In the dream, I hadn't known he would be punished, and was caught in a horrible trap when my best friend was leaning on me in her devastation, ignorant of my role in her boyfriend's death. It took almost an hour to console myself upon waking; something about the sequence had broken my heart with guilt and left me crying for what I had only done in my sleep. The dream I had last night left me with a similar guilt, though not quite of the same sort. Thankfully, nobody was killed this time! My conscience is perturbed, however, by my dream actions and nonchalance. The guilt of subtleties is incredibly as powerful as the guilt of drastic action.

I wonder now if it is reasonable to feel this way. Obviously, I know I am not to hold myself, nor anyone else, accountable for what happens in my dreams. If this dream is a reflection of what is actually happening in my mind, on the other hand, it needs heavy consideration. I do think God uses dreams to turn us to face what we keep submerged in the trenches of our consciousness, and if this is what I have buried in my head, I have some ugly things to face. I know some people would probably tell me to let it go, that dreams have nothing to do with reality and simply surface in odd combinations of characters and events, but something about this last one feels deliberate. Deliberate, too true for my liking, and a very ugly form of ironic. Knowing God, though, He loves to speak to me in terms of irony, and this would not be strange for Him.

I feel this dream pushing me into action. I know I carry false guilt, and will attempt to relieve it, but I cannot ignore its weight or importance. Unfortunately, my actions will have to be postponed for reasons out of my control, but I certainly feel an immense amount of self-examination to be had immediately.

"For God does speak - now one way, now another - though no one perceives it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn them from wrongdoing and keep them from pride, to preserve them from the pit, their lives perishing by the sword.

Pay attention, Job, and listen to me; be silent, and I will speak. If you have anything to say, answer me; speak up, for I want to vindicate you. But if not, then listen to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom."

Job 33:14-18, 31-33

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Beret and a Bible Gets a Makeover

Several months have passed since I last wrote on this blog. There is no significant reason why I ceased writing, other than the busyness that accompanies the end of the school year and the advent of summer. The passing time, though, has split my rose-colored glasses, and I am finally able to see through the cracks.

This summer I have been spending a lot of time with my best friends from high school. As expected, the reunions were more than welcome and direly needed. I sank into time with my best friends as a palm on a sleeping bag about to be rolled up, which sighs as the air squeezes out through tight zippers. We told each other all of our stories, struggles, frustrations, joys and questions. We perplexed each other with tangled situations and tested each other with probing statements and honest opinions. We laughed, ranted, made fun of each other, and ate like we still had our high school metabolisms. I couldn't be more thankful for these girls and what they do for my soul.

Today, the second one leaves for school again. She invited me over last night for dinner at her house with her family and one of our other best friends (there are five of us). We spent the night talking, drinking tea, and whooping and hollering to tears over our yearbooks. As I left her house, I began to think about how easy it is to be back with these people, even after I spend about nine months of the year away from them - and how difficult it can be to spend time around those I see every day at college.

This is when I reach the point of reconsidering everything I've done in college thus far. Do I regret anything? Not really. I have realized, however, several things that high school me would have been disgusted to have seen change. These are things I had sworn I would never compromise, things I held dear to my heart as elements of my own truth. They are things I look at like a complicated report that I just don't want to evaluate, for lack of compassion with its given results.

I molded elements of myself to pass through others' judgment.

I didn't put my foot down when enough was enough.

I tried to be close with people I knew I couldn't really care about the way I do my best friends.

These are just a few of the aforementioned failures. High school me would have slaughtered me for these, especially the first. Who do I think I am to change for others? Not only is that detrimental to myself, it is detrimental to those I change for - they don't know me completely, and that takes away their right to decide if they want to really love me or not. I have given up details that infuse me with happiness and ease. I have restrained habits or quirks that may not interest others. I have actually followed trends of the majority.

In addition to that, I have also let things like this keep happening. I have kept myself struggling to keep up, to fit, to sway with the waves that come my way. I have rolled water off my back that should have soaked my feathers long ago. I have kept my mouth shut in an effort to choose my battles, only to avoid the entire war. I stood up for others less and not at all for myself.

I do think it is a noble pursuit to love and be kind to everyone. I like being friendly with people. I enjoy the casual passing hellos as much as I do the rolling, cavorting conversations. I do not, however, think it is necessary to attempt to learn everything possible about people with whom I just do not get along on a "deeper level." I, like anyone else, am drawn to particular personalities, and am averted to others. It doesn't have to be a personal insult to anyone if I don't want to be their best friend (in fact, I would really be surprised if anyone thought of it that way, and I doubt anyone would). Acquaintances are just as valuable as friendships. I do NOT need to befriend everyone in order to be a good person.

All of this considered, I am deeply grateful for the growth of my two years in college. Many beneficial changes have occurred as well as the negative ones. My faith in God, for example, has grown exponentially, and I would never dare to look back on the years without Him with anything more than relief. I have always believed in God, ever since I was a little girl; the things I have learned about Him and myself these past couple years are irreplaceable and immeasurably valuable to me. I want with all my heart to continue following Him with earnest desire, and to chase Him as the most intense and powerful romance of my life. God is good, God is powerful, God is all we could ever dream and more - He is the one good change.

I want to follow God as me. 100% me.

So, I'm sorry to anyone who did not see every side of me. I apologize to everyone who did not witness every truth I carry, be it personal or trivial. Every identity I represented was a true one, but they were all pieces of the truth. From now onward, I will not edit myself. I will be myself again. Here are some bits to start with:

I like Green Day and other inappropriate, drugged-out punk rock bands. I also like metal, country, alternative pop/rock and the occasional rap song. I know not everything I listen to worships God, but God lives in my heart, not in my ears. I do not believe enjoyment of other sounds takes away from the love I carry for Him.

Same with movies.

Literature is the second greatest love of my life. God gave me the obsession with words for a reason, so I will continue to follow it. Don't sue me if it takes a while for me to do something with it.

I hate beating around the bush. I hate softening my opinions so as not to be "offensive." What I see as truth, I will offer. I hate hurting people, but I think it is worse to withhold opinions on truly important things. If you want to hear something particular, tell me what to say. I may or may not say it to you. "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." Proverbs 27:6

I do NOT believe there is a right way to do everything. Some things, of course. Not everything. These arguments are futile. Stop arguing about things that vary among individuals (dating, anyone?) and start arguing about issues that really matter and can benefit from passionate discussion.

Sometimes I like makeup. Sometimes I don't. Dressing up does not make me a heathen or an ungodly woman. True, I have moments of vanity, but many people do, and I work on that. I am not perfect. Stop making people feel like they are worthless, trashy, world-obsessed women if they want to play with their appearance a little. Makeup is like crayons for girls - the sparkly ones!

If you are not overly fond of me, I would prefer to skip the false interest in the depths of my life.

I am loud and sometimes obnoxious. I take jokes too far and make the most awkward ones just as the room falls silent. My voice rises as things get funnier. I know it's not appealing to everyone, but I like to laugh. I don't think I'm funny, I just say stuff anyway.

I get angry about things I care for, whether they be people, issues, or trivial pursuits. Anger does not mean hatred. I have come a long, long way with my temper (thanks Jesus), and have a long way to go. I am under no pretenses that all my anger is righteous, and I think about things now before I react. Sometimes, though, in an attempt (as stated before) to choose my battles, I end up gathering anger in my chest. Don't be surprised if it surfaces in a random conversation.

As vain and sinful and selfish as I am, I care far more about others than I will ever care about myself. Things hurting others are what hurt me the most.

I have a small taste for rebellion of the harmless nature. Sometimes I think dirty jokes are funny. Sometimes I play pranks. I tease friends. I am a tomboy; rough-and-tumble punches don't seem strange to me. Sometimes I side with the underdog for the sake of opposing the majority. Whatever.

I believe a person can learn from dating. For God's sake, I have not lost my soul for dating more than one person in my life!

There are millions of little bits of me that I will not list here - I will be surprised if any of you read this far. I just think it is about time I reclaim my identity. I want to relax the way I do with my best friends. They love me when I love them, when I hate them, when I pamper them and when I treat them poorly. They love me when I am stupid and when I am wise. They love me when I date dumb guys and when I ease them through nasty breakups. They love me when I ignore their advice and when they laugh at me as I realize they were right. They love everything about me, and that is why they stay. Whether they are as invested in God as I am, they reflect more of Him than many of the people I am told are better for me than non-Christians (this is not an attack on anyone; be offended if you want, but it is not intended that way). So, I give up trying to fit in the neat little drawer that is supposed to be my sanctuary. My sanctuary is God, and He has given me every bit of myself, including the people I love, who truly are a part of me. I am chasing Him and looking back for nothing, and bringing the people I love who truly love me on the way. I am at home in myself again.

I am back.

"All man's efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied. What advantage has a wise man over a fool? What does a poor man gain by knowing how to conduct himself before others? Better what the eye sees than the roving of the appetite. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Whatever exists has already been named, and what man is has been known; no man can contend with one who is stronger than he. The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?

For who knows what is good for a man in life, during the few and meaningless days he passes through like a shadow? Who can tell him what will happen under the sun after he is gone?"

Ecclesiastes 6:7-12

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Social "Graces" and Real Grace

"We shall flow a river forth to thee, and teeming with souls shall it ever be." - The Boondock Saints

"Oh, my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart! My heart pounds within me, I cannot keep silent. For I have heard the sound of the trumpet; I have heard the battle cry." Jeremiah 4:19

Your blood swells under your skin. Heat ascends from your core, saturating your cheeks, palms, and neck. You feel every cell in your chest tense tightly, and your heartbeat rises from inaudible to a muted bumping sound punctuating every word you hear.

We have all felt the intolerable sting of injustice. It burns into our eyes, flares in our skulls, hitches in our breath. As in The Boondock Saints, many of us strongly desire some sort of tangible retribution for those who commit atrocities against us, be them subtle or outrageous. We have all also suffered an overt sense of self-righteousness that many a time causes such mistakes we would never have made had we not felt entitled to certain rights. Most of the time, these things that anger us go against basics human instinct, inflicting major harm upon others. What about the times when these injustices exist only for us?

Recently, I have been feeling perturbed by many aspects of society. Gender rules, the dating game, the way "uncool" people are treated and the rules for what establishes someone as socially acceptable... It's all bull. To me, people should be seen as people. Nothing more, nothing less. Does it really define a woman as marriage material if, upon first sight, she happens to be dolled up and dressed to impress? What about the girl in jeans and a t-shirt? Must a guy be six feet tall, muscular and bossy to be husband material? What about the guy in the corner booth of the library, with glasses and skinny arms? I am so angry with all of the expectations we hold for each other in this society! By no means am I excluding myself - growing up in this world, it is difficult not to succumb to such social "graces." Over this past quarter, however, I have realized just how much of myself I have lost to such stereotypically pleasing standards. Some change, of course, is good - if I had not changed at all in college, I would be less of a person than I am now. Too much change, however, is not. Certain aspects of my personality have been squashed in attempts to make me more "pleasing" to what others expect, and I have no one but myself to blame. Why do I do such things? Why do I feel so tightly chained to the expectations of American society that I only allow myself to run to the end of the leash and bark?

The only opinion of me I should be letting affect my person is God's opinion. Every little change I make to please others is completely dependent on which type of person I want to please, whereas with God, the changes He asks of me are the ones that make me a better person. The changes God demands are the ones that serve Him, and by serving Him, I am serving others. If I simply aim to please social eyes, however, I will not be pleasing God at all. As cliche as it may be, my King has called me to be exactly how He made me, flaws and quirks included. He has built me as a house, and I am not about to turn it away because of a leaky faucet. From this day forward, I aim to please first and foremost my Lord, who created me to be as I am and change as He sees fit. I am done pretending.

"We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts." 1 Thessalonians 2:4

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mourning Dew

"Take this sorrow to thy heart, and make it a part of thee, and it shall nourish thee til thou art strong again." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions." Ecclesiastes 7:10

Sorrow, the evasive dew that weighs down the spry leaves growing in our souls, is nearly impossible to eliminate. Like the dew that collects on the outer foliage of the earth, sorrow is too vast to press a cloth to each leaf and wipe away the sadness; one must wait until the dawning of the airy sun for all the mist to evaporate. 'Tis not ultimately unbearable, for one to await the gradual dawning of their own sun, for most know the moment will come when their sorrows will dissipate. Holding the sorrow of another, however, is less like dew - it is heaver and thicker, sticking to the soul relentlessly. It is like a wounded tree spilling its dense sap onto the leaves of the ground. Both suffer the weight of one's injury.

It is much easier to await the light of God's arrival on my own dampened spirit than it is to await His arrival to another. When I am unable to assist relieving another's tragic sorrow, and unsure if they are aware the light will dawn, I am the leaves of the ground catching the sap from the adjacent tree. I yearn to provide an artificial sun, one that will dawn and dry up the original sorrow on the other's soul, so they may heal and sap will no longer be spilled. Despite this desperate longing, I am unable to conjure such a sun, and am left frantic, fearful that the weight bending my stem will be too much to bear.

The one part I am forgetting, however, is the part that matters most. Sap does not evaporate like the delicate dews of the morning - it sticks and rolls, leaving hindering traces of its substance behind. To truly rid myself of such sap, someone else would need to come cleanse my leaves with hands untouched; said person would also cleanse the wounded tree, stifling the flow of sap and healing the original injury. This person is the Savior of the world, the Lamb of God. I cannot control the injuries of others (or myself), and cannot bear the burden on my own. I need Jesus to come rescue me from the weight of sorrow and replenish the sun in my soul. He is the dawning light I need to evaporate my sorrow, and the hand I must await to wipe away the sap upon me. No artificial sun could ever replace the love and power of my God, Jesus Christ, the protector of all and the eternal King.

"When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about his future." Ecclesiastes 7:14

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3

Monday, March 5, 2012

Indelible Joy

"Laughter is the best medicine." - Unknown

"Sarah said, 'God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.'" Genesis 21:6

Of the greatest joys in the world, almost none are comparable to the pure sensation of laughter. An empty expectancy spontaneously explodes into carbonated bubbles and rapidly ascends through the core of the body, hastily tickling the heart and bursting open at the lips, releasing discordant waves of the most beautifully out of tune voices. The uncontrolled, buoyant expression of glee tickles tension out of the torso and touches the soul with a dash of freedom, gently persuading it to relinquish uneasiness, letting it drift from the body and soar out into the air, swirling toward the sun.

I most love the moments when such laughter is a direct result from our Lord. Truthfully, all joy is the gift of God, but often it is easy to miss His presence in the fun of each giggle. When I remember His love in the midst of laughter, however, my reality is tinged with a richness that saturates every atom of my being, expanding its radiance to the world surrounding me. I can laugh at everything from the twitch of an eye to a playful grin to a bad joke to an eccentric slip to an accurate satire to nothing but the bubbles in my core, spreading through my blood and filling me with the lightness of air I can only attribute to the Spirit.

I especially love the delicate fizz in my heart as the bubbles lightly pop and fade, resting with the laughter as it sinks into a steady smile.

"I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High." Psalm 9:1-2

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Marrow of the Matter

I can read a passage a thousand times, and never capture its heart.

"From the same source I have not taken/ my sorrow; I could not awaken/ my heart to joy at the same tone;/ and all I lov'd, I lov'd alone." - Edgar Allan Poe

"I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." Ecclesiastes 3:10-11

I am alone in my flesh. Surrounded by warmth; layers of skin and life construct me. I have soft parts and hard bones, and senses... But even these fail me.

We need communion with God because we are never truly united. We were made for a greater union than any we may experience in this docile life. We swim and crawl through our experiences, screaming just to shred our throats and know our voices still function even though no one seems to truly hear them. We screw up to make sure we still have guilt, because if we did not, we would have lost a piece of our humanity in this world that means nothing. We must fail to test our own existence, to make sure we still have a piece of this evasive eternity we both loathe and desire. We cry out for answers and anger ourselves demanding comprehension, but we will not find it here. We demand meaning with entitlement that was never ours to possess.

Everything is meaningless. Yet, we are given so much to busy our hands while we pull ourselves through the grime that wets the wings of our spirits and keeps us from ascending to transcendence. This is our lot; we should grasp it with iron grip and work exhaustively with it until we have no more breath with which to perform. We ought to enjoy what we are given - yet this statement is so loosely tossed. "Enjoy" seems to imply some kind of happiness, but I do not think that is always so. To enjoy, to me, is to feel in every shard of your being; to appreciate existence by allowing it to saturate the very essence of your being. Not every emotion will be uplifting or laughable, but that does not mean they are not satisfying. Rejoice, and know that you are alive. Because you feel, you are in existence. You have been given a great gift that may lead you to the one great King who brought your humanity to life. If you are angry, sad, hurt, ecstatic, feel it to the very marrow of your bones, and know that you have been blessed with a true soul with which you are able to bring praise to your Creator, here and, someday, in eternity.

"It is better to go to a house of mourning that to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart." Ecclesiastes 7:2-3

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fortune's Fools and Faith

"Self love, my liege, is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting." - William Shakespeare

"I never sat in the company of revelers, never made merry with them; I sat alone because your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation. Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable?" Jeremiah 15:17-18

I begin with a quote from one of my personal journals:

Me, I think I bring most miseries upon myself. I am afflicted with a sore sort of accidental deliberateness, a recklessly intentional chaos that I inflict on those I most dearly wish to preserve in my life. My desperate fear of missed opportunity propels me head-first into shallow water; as I prepare myself with each leap for a fathomless dive, each impactful collision with the bottom of the well hurts with more profundity. Yet, I still seem insatiable - stubbornly brutal, training myself to believe the tender bruising of my spirit is simply the way life feels on a writer's soul. Is it so? Am I inclined to greater sensitivity - or perhaps feebler defense against the vastness of reality - because of my poetic heart? I long to be included among the great wounded souls forever commemorated on the pages yellowing in libraries forgotten, but how much in life must I yield to achieve this?

I wrote this entry about two months ago. I have often been consumed by similar thoughts; the myth of the writer's passion intrigues me. Many times I have responded to an occurrence with radical emotion, much to the confusion of those close to me. As I become more invested in writing, I realize how much more some things matter to me than to everyone else. Obviously, the notion is not completely exclusive, but those I've found to empathize are also writers. I still fall victim to these thoughts sometimes, confounded by the lack of response in others: How can it be that they do not feel these things like sand in their veins? How can they not scratch at the surface of their skin, attempting to dig the dirt out of their souls and thus refresh their hearts' peace? Sometimes, I am so bothered by an instance (and the lack of reaction from others) that I am inclined to feel guilty for my emotions - guilty for feeling something.

With God, I have been exponentially better at handling these emotions, and the pendulum rarely swings as dramatically. Some days, however, such radical emotions creep upon me like the ant I don't notice on my leg until it gets to the sensitive skin under my knee. I haven't a clue where they come from or what ignites them, but once lit, they burn in my core until I spew them to an unfortunate confidante (I take this moment to thank God for my wonderfully patient friends!) in a torrent. Most of the people around me, however, seem to be very much in control of their emotions; therefore I feel near barbaric for desiring to let my moodiness saturate through my soul for even a moment. I often attempt to conceal these moods - I most often am a joyful person, and thus feel, in some social circles, I am only allowed or expected to feel joy. Alas, I am human, and do have fallible moments in which my own shortcomings and those of others bother me explicitly. Why do I feel as if I am one of few who possess these moods?

After expressing my anger to a friend (thank you Cougar Tulip!), I promptly felt uncertain of it. Am I allowed to feel this way? Is my frustration sinful? I, thankfully, felt compelled to ask God what He thought of it - I asked Him to be my fingers and walk through the Bible to what He wanted me to see. He led me to Jeremiah 15:15-20, partially quoted above. I immediately related to the above quote about sitting alone because of convictions and feeling incurably wounded. The passage goes on, however, to describe submitting to God and being revitalized to become a faithful servant; it encourages me to spend my energy on worthy pursuits, not futile rage. It reminds me that my strength is in my King and no one else, and that I will be able to withstand all that angers me if I trust and serve the Lord. So, while I am able to say, "Lord, you understand" (verse 15), I am simultaneously cautioned not to heed my anger as a motivating force and to return my heart to God. In trusting the Lord, I am relieved of my constricted emotion and free to let my convalescing soul revel in my Savior's glory. Praise be to Him who understands our humanity and liberates us from the confines of devastation! This, my friend, is true joy.

"Therefore this is what the Lord says: 'If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,' declares the Lord." Jeremiah 15:19-20

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Stairway to Heaven

"For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting." - T.S. Elliot

"Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway." Proverbs 8:34

Writers are always encouraged to write in the present tense whenever possible. Current things - immediate things - are always more easily received, imagined and accepted. Perhaps this is because we live in a stoplight society: green means go, yellow means hurry and red means try to screech through at the last possible second. Have we yet a moment to ponder, though, exactly what is so worth the haste?

As for myself, I most often rush to accomplish those things with importance lasting only a moment. A chapter must be read for homework, a sentence perfected, a limb severed and offered to the academic lords we call professors for a decent grade - yet these things are, in the words of Solomon, meaningless, "a chasing after the wind." (Ecclesiastes) I hurry to fill slots of time like bricks with mortar, imagining each task as the adhesive that will secure each piece of my life to the next. I often fail to realize, however, that the only object to be built with this mortar is a wall. If I build the wall faster than anyone else, I may reach its heights first. If I am constantly building, though, to what end will my efforts climb?

As Ash Wednesday comes to a close, I ponder the necessity of haste in my life today. Yes, certain tasks have deadlines, and the authorities that are should be respected. That does not mean, however, that I must shove all else in my life aside so these tasks can take precedence - often, those joys I shelve are the ones never finding an allocated time slot in the future. Even practices I consider extremely beneficial are displaced by mundane chores: sleep, healthy or even regular eating, time for family and distant friends, and, most importantly, time with God. In the constant speed of daily life, I forget how joyful it is simply to wait.

What do we wait for? How can waiting possibly be joyful? Most of us imagine a dark, dusty waiting room where one can practically see germs left from children past resting on the arms of chairs as the light dimly sifts through yellowing blinds. This waiting room generally leads to a reluctant end - perhaps a dentist, cleaning, assignments from school or work, or an unwelcome meeting or appointment. Imagine instead an entire world filled with miraculous beauty and companions to share in its joy. It is both constant and ever-changing; it comes with seasons and environments and flavors and scents and sensations and emotions and endless experiences you may participate in at will. Here, you wait - completely occupied - for the greatest life you can never imagine. That majestic world is what we call Earth, and it serves as the waiting room for the impossible to perceive glory of the world beyond. Not only do we have the privilege of waiting here, we have the absolute honor of waiting bathed in the love of Christ. Though we wait for Jesus' arrival in our long begotten world, we are still given His love to aid the seething burns on our souls, from sin stinging like the sun on our bare arms. We run free among the world, blessed with holy affection, still sinning and yet still desired individually as irreplaceable treasures. Which dentist is it who will lavish you with the whole of his heart while you wait in his dingy reception area?

Even with this amazing love at hand, God still gives us innumerable tasks and hobbies to distract us from this "permanent" wait. Though (most likely) we will not see God until our souls meet Him in the world beyond, He still ensures we have an entire planet to occupy our hearts, minds and bodies through the duration - all He asks is for our spirits. Will we not give them? Let us remember this Lent that, despite all we have to fill our time, this life is ultimately an active waiting for our Savior to return; it is a preparation of our spirits for the holiest King. Why, then, are we not most eager to wait? Why are we not bouncing upon our toes as we wait for His key to turn in the lock? Our sin is so great, yet His love transcends all, and He loves us greater so. Waiting for our Father to return should be the greatest, silent joy of our lives. Thus, here we are at the beginning of Lent, a designated opportunity to reflect on this spiritual ecstasy as we wait for the celebration of the life that redeemed our own.

"I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning." Psalm 130:5-6

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Of Lord and Literature

A reflection of a mere piece of the great spiritual journey of faith.

"Doubt thou the stars are fire, doubt thou the sun doth move; doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love." - William Shakespeare

"... for love is as strong as death, its jealousy as unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one's house for love, it would be utterly scorned." Song of Songs 8:6-7

My first love was literature. I fell in love with the nuances, sighs and sinews of language, the delicate curvature of poetry that resembles the soft skin of an angel's shoulder. I devoured novels, poems and short stories alike - Shakespeare, Poe, and Dante mentored my inexperienced pen. I grew up in the land of John Steinbeck (which, by the way, is not much like it is in his books). Authorship has always been present in my life; thus, it became the most powerful desire of my heart.

I had never considered the possibility that my love for written words would ever overshadow something greater, something far more monumental. I went through years writing poems, short stories, song lyrics, and pieces of novels that would sit unfinished on my desktop. Eventually, my attention was momentarily diverted to a newer discovery of love - I was brought to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I was overwhelmed by His love and mercy, and the magnanimous forgiveness He bestowed upon my sin. After almost two decades of believing in God, I finally came to understand Him, to know who He really is and how real his love truly is. I often found myself at a loss for words; God's glory would strike me silent in wonder, as it still often does today.

My transition from literature to God was not necessarily fluid, however. As recent as last year, I was still watching movies and plays about literature (Dead Poets Society, Shakespeare in Love) and diving into my list of classic novels and poems without even drawing breath. I attempted to fashion myself after the great masters of language, molding my writing style and the eloquence of my thoughts and speech to resemble the likes of Shakespeare and Poe. I slipped into the "authentically" brooding mindset that accompanies linguistic genius, as if I possessed enough talent to warrant such a diva style. I focused more on my writing than I did on prayer or pursuing a relationship with Jesus. Eventually, it dawned on me: Literature had become my idol.

Once I realized this, I grudgingly admitted the shortcoming to a friend. I did not want to abandon my literary pursuits for anything, for I so loved literature that my heart beat with the taps of pen on paper. I slowly persuaded myself to spend more time in God's word, however, than my own - a decision that steadily brought me to recognize some of the most beautiful poetry ever written.

Shakespeare's iambic pentameter and manipulation of language redressed multitudes of ancient legends in eloquent finery; Poe's tragic elegance threaded innumerable tell-tale hearts together with empathetic human pains, but neither of these masters I so desperately admired could compare to the positively divine majesty of the words I found in the Bible (awful pun intended). Not only are the words themselves beautifully strung, but the powerful truth behind them consumed my heart with a fire never touched by literature. I was not merely swept away by the possibility of the words, as I was with plays and poems, but thoroughly enraptured by the devastating truth and confounding love of the Gospel. These were not just words - these were declarations of holy reality, of true love and sacrifice already given in the world, witnessed by thousands, recorded and proven and known. Shakespeare could never imagine so great a love as that which was given by Jesus in His bodily sacrifice for our spiritual survival. God granted us wretched, spiritually impoverished fools the gift of his holy Son so that we might choose to wander back to Him from the frivolities of our daily lives. God yearns for us to return - us! That so great and good a God would actually desire our love left me incredulous; I still am sometimes confused as to why He would call for my heart. My faith, however, has grown so strong and so deep, that despite my daily mistakes and permanent flaws, I not only love the Lord, I want to love him more than anything else I could ever want. As darling Mr. Darcy says, "I love, I love, I love you" - but this I now breathlessly say to my God. Literature, although I still adore it far above most other temporary joys of this world, has been displaced by the greatest poetry any words could possibly contain: truth.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16