Read Daily.

Dear Me,

You’ve been stuck for too long, and you’re the one holding yourself back.  In order to change these things, here are a list of promises/things to do to try and rediscover who you are.

1) Promise to pray.  Pray like your life depended on it because it does daily.  Never lose communication with God; you know when you do, and it doesn’t make you feel comfortable.  In all things, try and offer a little word of prayer to God before doing anything.  You know that you don’t need to close your eyes to pray to God; always walk in a spirit of prayer.  Don’t take pride in your prayer life, but try to set an example for others that you may encourage them to want to pray more also.  Prayer is a powerful weapon that God has given you – don’t abuse it, but also don’t let it sit and gather rust.

2) Promise to laugh.  Why have you become so serious all the time?  Are you actually…growing up? Growing up doesn’t mean that you walk around sighing and rubbing your face in distress, buddy.  Laughter is good for the heart, you know this more than most people do.  Loosen up a little bit.  Take joy in the things that you have and the people that are in your life.  Find merriment in situations that God has placed you in, from success academically to struggles emotionally.  Nothing is quite as strong as the person that can find time to smile in the face of disaster; confidence to laugh comes from faith in God.

3) Promise to love God over girls.  You’ve been bitten so many times by this problem in the past and it’s showing no signs of stopping.  It doesn’t hurt to be a hopeless romantic, but stay that way – hopeless – until it actually comes true.  There’s no need to go around hoping or finding hope in girls that “captivate your soul.”  Nonsense.  You can still live life as a hopeless romantic just by looking around you; God’s display of His might and His mercy daily should fill you with His brand of romance – a pure one. Pay attention especially to this one because it’ll come in handy when the right girl walks around the corner.

4) Promise to encourage others.  In this world, it’s not just about you and what you’re going to do, and how you’re feeling.  You almost gave your life away years ago, and it was the people that God put in your life that you stayed for.  So how is it that you are still so lacking in encouragement for your brothers and sisters?  These are the people you are going to be loving and growing with over the next few years, so treat them right.  This also goes for people you might meet outside of fellowship; God loves them and wants to use you as a way to encourage them, so that they might have a chance to know Him more.

5) Promise to spend time before God.  You’ve never been the best at having quiet time with God, in part because you pray throughout the day.  But think about all those prayers and how selfish they can be.  Try to wake up fifteen minutes earlier than you normally would to just spend time at the feet of God and truly just admire how majestic He is.  Meditate on things that you wouldn’t normally pray about so that in doing so, you may give God the glory He deserves.  You might be surprised by how much more you learn to love God and discover His will by attuning your ears to hear His voice calling to you.

6) Promise to have, or at least pray for, grace.  People are all different, coming from different backgrounds and having different experiences.  Don’t be so proud about your lack of bias.  You don’t truly know what people are going through or what is motivating them to do certain things.  It could be that they care for you, but you just don’t see it because you’re utterly consumed with your own thoughts and judgments of others.  And that’s not okay.  Always remember that Jesus is who you are being conformed to; if He is able to always show others grace, pray that you might even come close to doing so also.

7) Promise to live your faith.  The last one of the promises, and probably the hardest, but most important, one to keep.  Don’t be the kind of Christian that is good at talking about faith and makes it so that you deceive others into thinking that your spiritual life is fantastic.  Live it out in your actions, your conduct, and your attitudes towards things, so that they may truly have the sense that you are set apart for the Lord and that people may see that Christianity is not a religion as much as it is a lifestyle.  Continue to allow Jesus to transform your heart and your being, and you will finally know His love.

You might have times where you feel like keeping all seven of these promises is impossible, and that’s okay.  But do your best to work your way up to doing all seven.  Challenge yourself each day and keep calling yourself out on things, then pray to God asking for the strength to persevere and the softness of heart to be molded into what He wants you to be.  Do things for God and not for man; man will benefit from whatever you do if it is God’s will, even if it seems like it isn’t true in the short term.  Realize that this is a lifelong project; don’t expect to even be able to get more than two of these promises down by the end of the school year.  However, you’ll get better and better at it if you keep on pushing for it, so take heart.

I’ll leave you with a verse to encourage you to keep going and trusting in God.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Believe in the plan that He has for you.

Take care,

Me

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Crystal Light.

Shattered crystal lays upon the ground

without a sound, it crumbled due to age.

It quivers at each harmonious sound,

willfully suspending peals of teary rage.

It began as a whole, full in form and light.

The hours passed by and its beauty grew.

Hearts soared and romance set to flight

when from this crystal, lover’s eyes saw true.

All who loved the pilgrim soul within,

Visions of future with clarity beckoned.

It drew toward a false kiss worn thin

as crystal shattered after it was reckoned.

False love cracked that lightful crystal’s face

Effulgent beams never diffused again.

The beauty, the break had soon replaced;

the split crystal was never quite whole then.

Through wearying sands of time blown by,

the crystal’s core was beaten ragged.

It dragged on through quicksand from a lie,

the radiance, once fresh, now sullen flagged.

The crystal, with no hope left, whimpered

for that first love, who silently whispered:

Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight,

I wish I may, I wish I might, be the wish I wish tonight.

A glassmaker happened upon the fallen shards;

with love, he restored the fragmented face.

More precious than the ancient anointing nards,

he fixed the crystal back to its rightful place.

Forgotten and left behind in throes of

splendor found renewed;

the crystal loved not the glassmaker, but

’twas that first love that it pursued.

Tears of Haven.

The sun glazes trees with a sheen of tears;

the layers within show resounding years.

Time passes by, or does it yet stay still?

The rays of sun beaming as the leaves fill.

Glorious birdsong rings out amidst a branch,

a squirrel looks up, paws frozen askance.

Butterflies flutter onward into the wind

as the lizard, fast caught is soon pinned.

The tree bends slight in the oncoming gust;

finding shelter soon was an absolute must.

Sweat of dawn, the morning dew falls

tears of haven, and safety – it calls.

Paranoia.

I have a mental disease.  It’s called paranoia.  It used to be just confined to my writing, my self-consciousness of how I was performing against my peers.  Somehow along the way, that disadvantaged state of mind juxtaposed itself into my daily life, usurping my bright, personal relationships and replacing them with morose, distrustful situations ranging from short to “it’s only a matter of time.”  I don’t even know when this sempiternal shadow slipped so silently into my life – and that’s the most terrifying part about it.  Knowing that a perspective on people, gestures, even life itself can be so covered in shade is about as unsettling as having a stroll in a park whilst bystanders line up alongside you as you stride faster and faster, feeling the pulse in your brain reach excruciating pressure, thinning the windpipe jammed into your throat.  The paranoia in writing gradually disappeared as I began to just take comfort in where I was as a writer and just settle down.  But now, having realized that I have the desire to improve, the paranoia begins sinking in, as I sweat within the regions of my soul upon pondering how to attain heights that have already been attained.  If I can’t even do what’s been done…how am I supposed to be better than the forerunners of my craft? At least, that’s what the paranoid, insecure part of me says.  And this thought of a perpetual state of inadequacy causes me to flounder in the multiple facets of life.  The paranoia makes me exceedingly jealous in my relationships, to the point of suffocation and being overbearing, because I withstand the constant pressure of just not being good enough to keep the people I have in my life unless I constantly make an effort of retaining them all.  It has produced a self-esteem so downtrodden that I would believe that unless I provide a new, refreshing service each day to the people I care about, they would cast me away and leave me careening towards the perils of satisfying those dark, faithless thoughts and having them become reality.  My mental instability causes me to produce multiple consequences based on judgments of character and knowledge of typical human reactions, and when the most depressing of those consequences comes true, it only whets the appetite of my paranoia.  It is like a second, metaphysical shadow that follows me, preying on my insecure beliefs and lack of faith in the people I hold close to heart.

By now, it should have become apparent that this disease seeps into my spiritual life, making it a disease of spiritual nature as well.  As some specter that lurks in the depths of my unbelief, it waits until I get settled down in my current position before God.  And suddenly, the spiritual world has gone photo negative, and the distorted image sends me in throes of suspicion, not fully trusting any words coming out of any mouths.  Motives are questioned to their root as the judgmental side of me is lured out by the paranoia, and it paints every brother and sister in blackface, daring them with utmost cynicism to prove me wrong.  The one thing that echoes in the wells of blind despair is grace.  God has shown me grace, and He has shown my brothers and sisters grace; are they, therefore, any less worthy of grace than I am?  If anything, I am the least worthy of receiving grace, for I am not dutiful in dispensing it to those around.  The paranoia mobilizes me to become a selfish, self-centered, and self-destructive tour de force like none have ever witnessed.

I write this post not as a cry for a pardon (although it may indeed function as such as well), but as an apology.  This disease is completely manageable, curable even with the hands of the great Physician upon me.  I, in my self-loathing and self-centeredness, re-directed all that was wrong within me and projected it onto those around me, causing more hurt than I dare to imagine.  So, if, as a result of my weakness, I have ever hurt anyone reading this post, I’m sorry.  I know how much it must have hurt hearing that I didn’t trust you or expected the worst from you or even didn’t believe something you said.  It’s an easy thing to act according to the norms that have been set, but to admit this grand flaw of character is exceedingly difficult.  I know that I’ve hurt a number of people with my actions, words, or attitude, and for that, I offer the weak, human apology that renders naught forgiven – I understand.  However, I just ask that you continue standing with me as I begin my slow pilgrimage towards fully giving over my heart to God, that He may fill this temple with His presence, and that any remnant of me might permanently vacation from my already tainted spirit, leaving behind a malleable, soft heart for Him.

Who Goes With Larry?

Larry is a mule we met at the pumpkin patch we visited.  He greeted us by sticking his nose out in a forlorn fashion, displaying only the long face he had on.  The thoughts of Larry were not known to  us, but sorrow was clearly painted upon that face’s canvas.  With his hooves together, he meekly stood at the barn’s opening as dusk brought in fading light, observing in melancholy the patches of orange spheres and his human compatriots.

But which one of us observers could tell the story that Larry bore upon his shoulders? Little did we know that Larry was orphaned as a young animal.  Left without mother or father, Larry was led to the his current place of residence by a complete stranger with a firm grip – he was, indeed, forced to leave the place of his ancestors.  Not only that, but he was removed from his younger siblings on account of mandatory appropriation; his braying did not even touch the heart-shaped stone within his captor.  Larry, was then mounted by this alien, and urged to continue meandering along a path that led further away from home.  Not only this, but his captor attached a cruel contraption of leather and metal to his back so that he could hang packs off of Larry’s side.  They walked from dawn until dusk before he dismounted and tied another leather mechanism around his mouth; the freedom that was his seemed to belong to a dream dreamt ages prior.  And so, Larry found himself led against his withering will to the barn in which he now sulks, imploring bystanders for some sign of the life that he had left behind.

Or he could just be a regular mule, born and raised on the farm.

And We Laughed.

The stories old, all told and

encountered, wistful smiles of past

romance.

A familiar beginning to

lure in the ear, the catch of ages

soon beheld.

“And it was like

fate,” he said, “Stars lining

in place.

I saw her there and said

hello, but somehow that

became ‘Homework?'”

A rousing cry

rises from the friend,

I know it.

Gravely, amusedly, he

nods his head, and goes on

to finish the tale.

And having finished, we

laughed, our sorrows buried

but never removed.

We laughed awhile, shaking

heads with nostalgia,

memories.

We looked at each other

reflections of lovers past,

lost chances.

The sighs of old times

Dust of the years,

What ifs.

The table cleared

out now, we left

and we laughed.

I Know Whose Woods These Are.

I know whose woods these are, I know

The wind below and falling snow.

A measure of time lost to the years

the way I found, a path to forgo.

These woods belong to the One above

He watches the trees and birds with love

the animals are wrapped by graceful arms

as He sends forth His pure white dove.

I ran through the clearing, unaware

of His breath, resting upon my very hair.

He covers me with His grace unearned

For He is with me, and constantly there.

Scars.

Once wounded, we never forget.  Scars have to do with a kind of forgiveness; if we are physically wounded, it takes time to heal and for the body to forgive the offense we rendered unto it.  Forgiveness is never far from a freshly formed scar.

At least, this is something that we tell ourselves.  But when the pain is deeper than the surface, what do we do?  The easy thing to do is become infuriated, leading onward to more destructive (and more often than not, self-destructive) behavior.  Or perhaps we can let bitterness seep into the heart, quietly storing up an acidic venom that will, sooner or later, ruin the relationships that we have.  “To forgive is human, to forget is divine.”  And yet, how hard is it to do even that, to forgive?  Sometimes, I find that though I tell myself I’m a forgiving person, that very pride in my own forgiveness causes me to fail and that pride becomes warped into a kind of convoluted self-hate stemming from a lack of forgiveness towards others, and disappointment in myself for my pride.  Inherently a very violent individual, the individual that people see comes from years of this process of hurt, failure to forgive, humbling before God, and forgiveness from God.  Tempered by the anvil of experience, my personality is still an unrefined, double-edged sword; it bites to the extreme and cleaves to either one side or the other.  And that is exactly the weapon that I am, to myself, to others, and to God.  I am intrinsically an extremist; the notion of the radical is embedded with the veins in my body.  Only through the molding of society, experience, and God am I made temperate and benign; but there are still moments at my core, particularly when I find myself feeling alone, that the most brutal, treacherous notions come to mind to truly destroy all relationships that I have built up.  Last year, there was just too much encouragement – indeed, I feared it at the end of the year.  I began deceiving myself into thinking that I am who I am in the eyes of others, that I actually had some wise things to say, that I was, perhaps, an example.  I saw that I needed to be crushed, and no greater opportunity revealed itself save for this one.  The one I completely poured my heart into, missing the vessel of God and instead splattering it all on the earth.  The mask I forged in high school began showing; I was terrified of showing my true colors for fear of people fleeing from my true self; the love for man was greater than the love for God.  There was a time when I truly desired God – I grew.  And now, I can fear that growth being stymied by my humanity, stifled by the Enemy.  I was too proud of my position; like Satan, I reached for the highest and have been brought low.  Echoes of a past rebuke from parents, saying that a seed of Satan had been planted in me come to forethought.  And over what?  Hiding a quarter (not semester) report card because I (accurately) assessed that they would hurl my ascending motivation to improve back to the nether regions of morale.  All of this is just an excuse to blame others in lieu of blaming myself, but after having put on the act of being selfless for so long, the selfishness of who I actually am is resurfacing. This, I find, is where humanity crumbles before the grace of God.  I have been too reliant upon self for too long, and this makes me hate my humanity.  As I hate my humanity, I grasp for the love of God, fumbling in the shallow blindness that is often self-imposed; relinquishing the veil is not something I am prone to do because acting has gotten me so far, hasn’t it? It’s gotten me to a point where I have gained respect, friendship, temporary happiness of a year or so.  And yet, I have been deviously escorted to the domain of faithlessness, lack of trust, and pain all in the same swoop.  The discordant sound of laughter rings in my ears, each tone a mocking pulse of consciousness, streaming directly into the soul.  The darkness spreads, and the slow blood inches out.

Forgive and forget; scars and healed skin.

Forgiving the scars, and forgetting the sin.

Where does this grace flow from, I ask?

From the presence of God, in which I bask.

Yet why should this dark, upon my soul shade?

For I know that I am wholly made.

It is I again, insidious, insatiable I

interrupting in iterated insight, I.

Destroy myself full, that I may flee

and give my heart fully over to Thee.

The cries of a desperate believer, struggling through what may or may not be an attack of the spirit, but definitely of the soul.  The despair looms great upon him, as he realizes the bleakness of his situation.  And so, he prays. And prays.  And prays.

Steinfeld.

Gertrude Stein…a name I now have learned to fear.  We have begun reading some of her works in my English 104A class, and I have to say, it is utter gibberish to me.  Sure, maybe I’m not “deep” enough to grasp the “genius” that is at hand, but to me, hyper-realism is even less practical than stream of consciousness literature.  I’m sure many literary critics will grimace at hearing this, but it’s true; if there are a select few people who “enjoy” her works, little can be said for the rest of the population, literature snobs included, that does not understand or enjoy her writing.  Part of me is wondering if the people who claim to love Gertrude Stein are just walking around, blindly crashing into things that are in front of them because their noses are held up so high in the air with the pretense of having a higher understanding of that which does not even deserve to be understood.  It’s frustration speaking, of course, that so guides my speech to excessive lack of gracious acceptance, but at the same time, it’s the kind of Joycean vs T.S. Eliot approach to pop culture.  Whereas Joyce chose to embrace it and paint it as utterly brilliant despite how ordinary it is, Stein takes the opposing camp’s approach by writing something so clearly written for those who are, perhaps, borderline conspiracy theorists with their level of analysis.  I think that I will never grow to appreciate literature that requires readers to completely twist how they read the literature in order to understand it; I feel like the truly brilliant literature is one that can be understood universally.  But then, again, what do I know?  I’m just like Kramer in Seinfeld when I read Gertrude Stein…