Isaiah 53.

Who will come to hear the story

one that God has painted true?

With no part about Him special

why should we keep Him in view?

Some before us did mistreat Him,

jeered and scorned the One who saves;

He became a man of sorrows,

Every grief in life He braved.

Though we failed to love His presence,

yet He bears our burdens whole.

We saw death, and thought, “He earned it,”

didn’t see He saved our souls.

He took the beating meant for us –

because of sin, the Son was killed.

He laid His life down for our peace,

and by His wounds, we are healed.

So all of us, who’ve turned away,

had our wrongs and burdens laid

silently, upon His shoulders,

He, our Lamb, atonement made.

He was treated by His people

like a robber or a thief.

He did no wrong during His years

yet the Lord put him to grief.

Now we see what our transgressions

bear as fruit: the death of Him.

We’ve become now seen as righteous,

He intercedes for us, praise Him!

 

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The green leaves washed in the light of the sun looked yellow; the tree stood in yellow-green silence as the wind tried to get a rise out of it.  An unseen, shapeless, colorless cloud – I really haven’t seen the darn thing – passed in front of the sun as other dirty-white, partially-torn cotton balls (or sick vape clouds) moved briskly along the sky blue belt.  They’re moving faster today than usual.  The smell of brown-sugar coated ribs assaults me from the oven downstairs – just morty fore minutes before charring them on the grill.  I begin to hear myself breathe, and suddenly, I’m enveloped in the sounds coming from the click-clack of my keyboard; my typing slows to try to reduce the noise, but the frustration of words passing me by urges me to sacrifice silence for more prose.  The volume goes up, and the inspiration goes down.  Coming face to face with the spectres of assumed creativity can prove to be quite a humbling task.  It’s been a while since I’ve allowed myself free rain (simmer down, I know what I’ve down) over the downpour of literary attempts to create, to opine, to connect, to attribute, to illuminate, to narrate, to embody.  4/12    Kim paper #1 scrawled across a moving cloud reminds me that I’ve finished one of the milestones of this semester – I also need to wipe my window clean.  A bird – probably – flies across my window.  It could have been a bat.  Or a bat.  Or Badtz-Maru.  Tippecanoe and Tyler, too.  A smaller bird – seen this time – flies slower across my window headed in the same direction as the previous blurd (this seems the most genuine way to characterize the previous thing).  I wonder where they’re all headed.  Do they even know?  Maybe it’s the annual meeting of birds in which birds of all feathers come together to resolve their differences in orderly, singsong manners.  The crows and the sparrows would probably have much to reconcile.  I yawn, and I feel somewhere behind my sternum, between my shoulders, right at the point of rising when drawing breath, go dry.  Seventeen more minutes, and then it’s off to the ribs I go; my short, meandering, realistic, pointless, odd narrative is finally at its end as the bed calls for me to lay down and scroll until the ribs scream at me from their foil coffins.

The Drifter.

He woke up before his alarm had a chance to crescendo.  Why even have that feature if the slightest sound from the alarm was enough to wake him up? Just in case he managed to sleep through the noise, perhaps.  He snoozed the alarm and lay on his back, waking up with his eyes wide shut in deep reflection about his love life.  After all, what else does one spend one’s time alone thinking about?  It was only natural that he found himself thinking about the futility mingled with desperation that he shouldered day in and day out.  He considered how he had skipped in and out of interest in various women he encountered, musing on the reason for the instability.  Maybe it was a weird vibe or her being too self-interested or him being too insecure or maybe it all didn’t matter that much anyways and he would be fine with the first one who’d have him.

It was his loneliness that caused him to drift from one person to the next.  At this, he put both his hands behind his head, eyes alert now as they gazed past the ceiling.  He saw now how naïve he was in thinking that he was actually able to love someone else; how could he when he failed to even love himself?  That was the reason he chased here and there, after all.  If he could just see that someone else could see something good in him, then he’d be happy. Then, he’d know that he meant something to someone.  Then, he’d realize that he was worthy of being loved.  Even though he had friends and family, it was his loneliness that knew him best, and it was his loneliness that he loved.  It let him push his problems onto other people, projecting a lack of understanding and empathy onto those around him; loneliness let him comfortably deceive himself into thinking that he was taking the high road by suffering their misunderstanding and “appreciating that they tried.”

What could he do about it? If he was lonely with his own company, adding more people who weren’t him, couldn’t think like him, didn’t know enough about him would only serve to magnify the alienation.  He kept laying in bed, dreading the masks he would need to put on just to get through to the next time he would be laying in bed.  It was never about the other people; a person like him would never be good enough for someone else.  He didn’t wish himself on anyone at this point.  All he could hope for was the day that he’d learn to just be okay with who he was.  Maybe then he could look for something more.

Submarines.

I’m just tired; I’ve got some work to do; I’m fine; I don’t know what you’re talking about.

He went with, “I’m just a little tired,” because it was the most convenient half-truth to tell at the time.  It felt like he could do nothing right that day.  And he knew – he had been told, really – that it was all just an overreaction to a single negative situation, and his programed response to it was to catastrophize.  Nevertheless, he didn’t care to fight back tonight.  He joked about physical exams earlier, realizing too late that she was anxious from her latest checkup.  The doctors were taking an uncommonly long time to return the results to her; in fact, self-diagnosing led her down a dark corridor with the walls closing in on all sides, stopping with just enough room for her to tuck her knees into her chin and hope beyond grace that it was all just catastrophizing.  He hadn’t meant to lead her by the hand back to the corridor.

How selfish he was, letting his regret show on his face, putting her in a place of regretting her openness about her very real issue while fighting to steady the darkness from encroaching upon the rest of her night.  And the way he left, making a big show of just how much he regretted making the joke, all the while leaving her ashamed and thinking – wrongly – that maybe she was being a burden on other people.  Maybe he was putting prison bars where freedom walked, giving in to the whispers of doubt about just how good of a friend he actually was, and none of this was happening at all.  He wanted to feel guilty about what had happened – he deserved to bear the responsibility for his mistake because he was supposed to be a good friend.  It was the most convenient half-truth to accept at that time.

The retreat inwards began, but he didn’t notice.  He just needed to get through to the end, and he would be home free – free from ruining anymore of his relationships, free to be silent, free to not live underneath the expectations that others had come to own.  He would just run from it all because after all, he was just a coward who couldn’t face his reflection when it surrounded him.  All he did was lie, sell himself as better than he really was, believe in his own lies, and continue manufacturing selves.  Positivity was his most polished mask, and his heart had accumulated enough of his half-truths to believe it owned a single, reliable shard of honesty.  At the end of the day, he was weak.  He wanted to be strong; he wanted to be reliable; he wanted to be honest; he wanted to be kind; he wanted to be free to know who he was and where he stood without the ground collapsing at the slightest nervous shift in weight from right to left, plunging him into the frigid and lonesome below.  He was catastrophizing.

Another mistimed joke, and he found himself lost.  Why was he? Had he not realized that he could have tried not belittling people around him for once, just so that his own crudeness could find a measure of stability?  Was it impossible for him to understand that who he was just didn’t fit who he thought he was?  He was pitiful.  He’d go home and paint something – painting would do the trick, what with the silence and the focus on making something really intricate so that he would just forget seeing his own face stapled onto his friend’s disappointment.  He knew that it had been a rough week for him, but he let his own charm poison the vial even more.  What a wreck.  He really didn’t know who he was at all.  All this time, he had the ridiculous idea that he had been doing him a favor when he himself was the burden.  Is it only now occurring?  He probably thought he was an idiot for even trying to show him in the most explicit way that he wasn’t the friend he thought he was, and here he was, thinking that he was saving him from the shadows.  There wasn’t a thing right about him.

He dove into the dark of the ocean, colliding with the side of the boat on the way down.  Abrasions didn’t matter anymore at this point; he wasn’t even sure he felt the slick, dull, trauma anymore.  I can’t do anything right. I’ve heard that one already.  Why are you wasting your time? Be honest about your mistakes.  You’re the reason we’re here.  Are you still here? Haven’t you grown up yet? Jeez. Get a grip. Move on. Stop worrying so much.  Time will tell.  Why didn’t you say anything? You disappoint me.  Where is the surface?  Don’t be a baby.  Where are you going?  You don’t understand.  Why am I here? You’ll be fine.  I can’t feel anything anymore.  Who’s fault is that?  You made this mess, you fix it.

His heart pounded and every beat felt heavier and heavier and slower and slower he felt it in his head and in his eyes until he was realizing that he was trying to breathe in deeply he was trying to breathe in but his lungs weren’t enough for him and he saw that it was dark except for a single moon far away though far from him and who he was and where he needed to be so he breathed less hoping to reflect on things more and realize that it was just catastrophizing it was just in his head it wasn’t going to be that bad it couldn’t be that bad what was going on he hadn’t felt this way in a long time but he couldn’t find his way out except to talk to no one about it because that’s who understood him best.

I can’t breathe.  Just let me wake up.

Please.

Falling Branches.

 

A branch fell down today, carried off by

the wind?

Or was it the weight of life

bearing downwards a moment too long,

breaking its ability to hold on?

It fell slowly but loudly whispered,

demanding my attention, and so I paid.

The leaves fluttered, excited

to meet the ground.

The grass! Their unknown, distant cousins embraced

some of them, yet some of them

were still born aloft by the natural way of

the branches.

They had to wait their turn.  Warmth found them all

as the sun shadowed them with light;

they wait until night to begin life anew.

The thoughts of the natural world are –

or aren’t they?

Perhaps I’ve been staring outside for too long.

Highway to Hip.

Ethiopian beans are ground,

so filled with vibrant life.

A lovely smell my nose has found –

awake the after-life.

The brown remains are soon poured out

into the chamber’s heart

as boiling water is whored out

to heat the inner part.

The tamped-down grounds are introduced

to scalding, steaming rain;

I lick my lips as it’s reduced

to heal the waking pain.

The shot is pulled, and life is formed

within a humble cup.

I take a sip, my soul is warmed –

espresso’s just enough.

See You Next Fall.

The contents of the following narrative come from within the confines of my imagination; no elderly people were harmed in the process.

“I get it, the drought’s over.” I donned my “leopard yellow” – it was really more of a canary yellow, if you ask me – North Face raincoat and stepped outside in some old, oversized, navy-blue Crocs.  Yes, they were the ones with the holes on top, but I figured the odds of the raindrops falling precisely into those little perforations were even (thanks, Olan), so I confidently stepped out in them.  Stuffing the aging ‘U S A # 1’ lanyard into my right pocket, I thought about what kind of mail would be waiting for me in the cluster mailbox unit.  Bills and credit card pre-approvals, most likely.

Having gotten used to the black, non-slip Crocs I wear at Heritage Cafe, I realized that not all Crocs were made equal in regards to slip resistance.  Some panels of sidewalk were gritty enough to provide the traction that my clogs lacked, but other panels were waiting to put me on a gag reel.  I tread on a red carpet of fallen leaves, resigned to the fact that the only signs of fall were to be found during a Californian winter.  This slippery sidewalk is going to be a sign of fall too, if I’m not careful.

After looping around the gated swimming pool in the center of the housing community, I began to hear a faint hum, like the buzz bees make behind you when you’re running as far from your mistake as possible.  That’s odd – what would bees be doing out in this rain, and where are they so I don’t scream when I see too many of them?  As I carefully rounded the corner bush facing the entrance to the swimming pool, the source of the low commotion hit me like a train.  The elderly were strewn about the rest of the way to the mailboxes, moaning in soggy unison as their old age coupled with the ruthlessly slick rectangles of concrete mingled in a momentous occasion.  There wasn’t enough Life Alert in the world to help all of my elderly neighbors as they lay dripping, groaning.  What am I gonna do?  How long had they been laying here, felled by the long overdue precipitation?  The scene was too much for me, so I plod on, taking care to step in the patches in between cardigans and knit sweaters, reaching my destination after what seemed like a mile of meek footwork.  I got the mail – sure enough, it was bills and credit card pre-approvals – and headed home, wondering what it would be like if some of my elderly neighbors were to slip and fall out here in the drifting rain.

A Friend of the Mist.

He walked through the haze of memorial pain,

seeing the scars, the wounds.

He thought of each glimpse of once-certain gain,

knowing his soul it’d consume.

Onwards, he marched, until silence reigned –

solemn, severe, surrender.

He laid down his arms before stifled pain

beckoned him to remember

the spectres of his friends; they drifted

as mist upon his weary legs.

They bore him up, his spirits lifted

the bottle ’til the bitter dregs.

I Mean.

It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for heartfelt messages and thoughtful gestures, and I think my friends have picked up on that over the years.  Then again, who isn’t?  I have been blessed with amazing friends over the years, and I’m constantly amazed that I ever have an impact on anyone.  More often than not, I think deeply about how the things I do have little to no impact on the lives of others, and why should they?  Talk is cheap, and indeed, that seems to be all I’m good at.  Nevertheless, I’m occasionally reminded as I am on this day, the day my daughter is to be married (whoops, wrong movie – go watch the Godfather!), that somehow, I’ve meandered far enough into people’s hearts to find myself meaning something.

Perhaps it’s ego-stroking, but perhaps it’s waking up from a dream of false identity.  Most likely, it’s a mix of the two.  Growing up in a culture of perseverance begetting further expectation, verbal expression of appreciation was nigh unheard of.  Passing through the valleys of depression led to a lack of weightiness to this life; the side effect was believing myself to be barely existing, just a breeze that was pleasant enough to take note of but for a moment.  And so, when I’m met with so much appreciation and shows of kindness, it becomes rather confusing to sift through.  On one hand, I ought not enjoy it so much because I’ve really done nothing worthy of the attention that I’m receiving, but on the other hand, it’s nice to find reason not to listen to the silent acceptance of meaning very little.

As it rains outside and as my eyelids begin to wage war against my wide-open consciousness, gratitude sinks heavy in my heart.  I am nobody, but Christ in me is more than enough to find an identity in.  Thank you all for seeing past the shortcomings and pointing me to where Christ has redeemed my wretched life.  As we usher in the new year, I hope some of us can continue to encourage one another on this crazy journey of life to understand just how deeply Christ is involved in shaping and sanctifying who we are.  You all didn’t have to remind me of the memories that we made together, but I’m really glad that you did.  It’s been a humbling day just thinking about all of you and seeing that I have no reason to continue on in insecurity about my friendships, which has been a bit of a struggle for me from time to time. If I have any boast in this world, it’s that God has granted me the most precious of friendships with all of you and with Himself, and that means more than enough to me.  I mean something, but that’s founded on God and God alone.