These Streets.

These streets no longer are the same;

footsteps fall

foreign before asphalt.

These streets once saw the

joy of nighttime cheer, now

tears adorn the paved sidewalks.

These streets now bear

in memory, ones who were loved

and loved others.

We walked upon them for

years and years,

yet it was not

these streets we walked upon.

These streets, they’ve changed

along the way,

and so have we.

Strength to Rise.

Tragedies have always found themselves in the limelight, becoming fulcra of unity around which communities gather.  As students of UCSB, more and more it seems like this year has been a year for us to pause and reflect on our own community.  With the riot from Deltopia and now the death of seven students, including the shooter, we are gradually becoming unfortunately familiar with regret and mourning.  This latest shooting in particular has caught me off guard in terms of how much of a burden it is upon my heart.  To think that one of the victims was on the phone with his father not even an hour before he was shot is heart-wrenching.  It’s in times like these that people of all beliefs, all cultures, and all upbringings ask, “Why?” and though they scan the skies desperately, the meaninglessness of the brutality is only magnified.

Tonight, I mourn the condition of a community I have grown to love.  Coming in as a freshmen, hearing about the reputation as a party school, I was terrified.  And yet, I found the most open, friendly, welcoming students on campus.   There was trust in those days – trust that we would respect each other, trust that we would take care of one another, and trust that we would all leave UCSB, grateful for the memories and the preparation it provided for the “real world.” And now, I cannot help but feel as if that trust has been broken by a single individual.  When we question how we as the future generation can make a difference, how we as students can contribute to society, how we as a community can improve the condition of the world around us, we never expected, and never realized, the power to change borne by a single individual.  And yet, if this is the effect one man can have, what’s stopping us all from using our own God-given abilities to do the opposite, and perpetuate a more hopeful tomorrow?  Not as individuals will we overcome, but as a unified coalition; solitude only bears forth calamity, but to stand in one accord arms us with the strength to rise above what has happened and look onwards to what is to come.  In this time of healing, we must learn again what it is to trust.  We dare not live for the betterment of our own lives any longer, but that we might enrich the stories of those around us until we all come to the full measure of our portions in this life.

The dead can speak no more on the preciousness of their own lives, having had their lives robbed from them without opportunity to resist; we the living bear the silence of these victims as guilt, as sorrow, as regret, as pain, as loss, and as sacrifice.  However, this silence is not merely an event for us to look back upon when we leave these grounds – that would be an insult to their memories.  The silence these victims leaves behind will be a lasting call to grow as a campus and even beyond the boundaries of Henley Gate when we leave, bearing a message that speaks to the effect of: “Don’t take what you have for granted.  Your education, your passion, and your characters will all mold this world in ways that we never had the privilege of experiencing.  Don’t consume yourselves with just focusing on improving UCSB, but expand your visions to encompass the world around you.  Do big things for us, the ones who were stripped of the joy of seeing how we could affect the world positively.”

The situation was born from an imperfect heart in an imperfect world, shattering the hearts of thousands within the community.  And now, we as a community ought not have a more pressing goal than to greet one another with our shards of hearts, exchanging them with one another as we knit ourselves tightly around the memories of the lost.  We all offer our prayers and condolences to the families of the deceased, praying in earnest that we might finally wake up and realize that we are together, that we are united, that we are one.  In unity, we stand vigil over the memories of the victims.  IV, my thoughts, prayers, and my heart go with you; I can only ask that you treasure them as your own, and that these shattered hearts heal not as many, but as one.

Consuming Night.

Consuming night, the furor’s sound

does the soul’s cry for grace confound.

The tears of sorrow shed for naught,

a life of light with darkness fraught.

A God seems deaf despite the pleas

for mercy, grace, and love for these.

~

When love falls short of saving grace,

forgiveness deigns to hide its face.

Dark thoughts aswirl in tempests form,

alone we stand, our hearts forlorn.

We seek Your light for guidance true,

it’s You we lift our voices to.

~

With regret, the sky wanes black

with no way of turning back.

By Your grace, we pray

for redemption’s touch,

And ask for mercy’s calming flood.

Invited by Redeeming Love.

Invited by redeeming love
Before the throne of God above”

– Rend Collective Experiment, “Boldly I Approach”

As I was meditating on the topic of grace, which I’ve been doing in recent times, I came upon the verse Luke 15:10, which reads: “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents,” and it gave me pause.  I read the verse many times before, but the frame of mind in regards to considering grace put a slightly different perspective on the verse.  This time around thinking on the verse, the power of redemption really stuck out to me.  By grace, lives have been delivered from their former darkness, but the extent of that salvation does not end simply on Earth; even the angels rejoice as they see the will of God manifesting itself to further reveal the depths of His love.  The power of redemption is such that it allows us to approach the throne of God whereas in any other circumstance, our mortal striving would amount to consistent failure, an eternal undershooting of the mark.  It displaces us from the former paradigm of working towards an end goal, and places us far beyond any previously attainable accomplishment.  The invitation is extended to all, but because of a mysterious love, we still have the choice to take the invitation or not.  And yet, when we make the choice to invite Him into our lives, the very hosts of the heavenly realm exult in the occurrence.  While I’m not any closer to gaining a different understanding of grace, it was a refreshing reminder of how little we actually do in the way of the eternal will, and how incredible it is to be redeemed, both in the process and the consequence. 

Tragedy of Life.

Day by slow day, the grind remains;

hot weather breathing down your neck, it stains

the white Hanes t-shirt underneath your v-shirt,

neck well-bronzed like Hollywood to be sure.

A preacher is calling out the names

of the people around, bringing to them shame.

When the people are crowned, singing to them fame

how the walking get crippled, the standing are now lame.

Make me tame, make me live, just never let me give

an ounce of my freedom for the glory of a crib.

The glorified McRib, the ancient Irish jig,

a pitcher full of alcohol from which they take a swig.

The life we live is just a race to die first,

the heat gets the best of us, Miami has the thirst.

Should nets curse the ocean, a boiling vat of salt

the scars come down faster than a fall on asphalt.

Take a malt and just halt, looking out onto the shore,

and see a world of distance from things we soon abhor.

He Lost First.

Time for some shower thoughts.  This is entirely unrelated to what is at hand, but in the bathroom or in the shower is where I do some of my best thinking.  Something about how the light illuminates individual cells of the fiberglass sliding door while gradually heating water sprays my feet really helps me connect the dots.  Anyways, enough of that.

As a hopeless romantic, the fundamental basis of my thoughts stems from a strong inclination to romanticize.  This ranges from the standard, stereotypical, love-type romance to the true appreciation of love that abides in the core of nature.  The key to being a hopeless romantic, however, lies in the necessity of being romantic beyond reason; where I have been crushed, I only allow my shattered heart to become finer and finer dust, waiting for the heat of reciprocation to weld it into something whole again.  In terms of Christians having dual lives, I suppose this would be my alter ego.  This is the area of my life that I keep “hidden” from God, the part where it’s just about me and my desires, not really having anything to do with God.  It’s not necessarily the healthiest thing to do, but it’s a human fallibility that plagues me to such ends.

However, in the shower, the two lives intersected, and the unintentional emotional masochism of being hopelessly romantic resonated within my perception of Christ’s love somehow.  In a way, I go through what Jesus goes through except to a far lesser degree.  Just as my pursuits have ended in nought, Jesus still pursues those that He loves.  And because He has the advantage of foreknowledge of whether or not they’ll return His love, it makes it an even more beautiful image of how much He loves.  If I knew that there wasn’t a chance the people I pursued would feel the same way as I did, then I would drop the venture at once; Jesus, however, knows that some people will never accept Him, and yet He still loves them.  Jesus is the original hopeless romantic, and His love story is one that defies genre, with the narrative changing in certain aspects per person based on their own experience of Him.  It just so happens that chancing upon this facet of Jesus’s love reinforced my faith and love for Him.  If He can love the unlovable, what’s stopping me from going beyond myself to love people for more than just a purely selfish reason?  We love because He first loved us, and it’s that pure love that I should be focused on expressing, not some fantastical love borne of present solitude, because I have an eternal companion in the form of Christ Jesus.