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.
As rain graced the front lawn with its mild pitter-patter, he sighed as he turned his eyes from the window back to looking longingly through an old photo album. The fact that he had a photo album at all already hinted at the amount of dust he had to blow off before opening it. Eyes watering before he even got to the first page, he waited for his coughing fit to subside before attempting to make out individuals, years younger than they were now, on the glossy, colored rectangles. He saw familiar pictures of him as an infant that had been embarrassingly shown to every family acquaintance, family photos at various scenic locations and unremembered birthday parties, and his dad’s transition for donning glasses that made him look like a human fly to lenses that made him look like a pretty fly human. These were all just memories now; re-creating some of these events wouldn’t even be possible.
With a sharp intake of breath, he saw his first pet, Buddy. How had he forgotten him? A warm golden retriever, Buddy had been with him during his teenage years, loyally sitting at his side through all of the unspoken troubles that rebellious teenagers inevitably go through. He remembered throwing the frisbee as far as he could and watching Buddy race after it, then laughing as he watched Buddy jerk his head from side to side trying to throw it back to him. He remembered sitting on the couch, watching the television, and seeing Buddy amble along and plop down right under his feet – he remembered Buddy’s breath swelling slowly up and down against his legs. He remembered…
He killed Buddy.
As he pulled into the driveway late at night, that foolish, affable, loyal creature bounded right in front of his car and the consequential thud said enough. He ran out of his car without a second thought, but it was already too late; Buddy lay still, never to catch, nor attempt to throw, another frisbee again. He forgot about how he cried as he held the cooling body in his hands, waking up with a blanket draped around him. He forgot about walking into the house, shivering, holding Buddy in his arms, and collapsing in a chair, hearing what his parents said to console him, but not understanding anything they said. He forgot the months spent in quiet everywhere he went, swallowing bit by bit the guilt that had consumed his soul.
He got over it eventually, but they never talked about it again in that house. Buddy was in many more pictures in that album, but something suffocated the desire to continue reminiscing on the matter. It was raining that day as well. Suddenly, the rain outside intensified in volume, and it took on a more menacing tone, a rumble of thunder, a glare of lightning. He saw the headlights of his car rove into the driveway, he felt the thud, the rain washed over him. How quickly it was all over, years of companionship ended by an exaggerated gesture of welcome. He missed his Buddy.
He had no idea how long he had been repressing this memory. It has been decades since he even thought of Buddy, much less the circumstances in which Buddy had been killed. He never got another dog, nor did he ever desire another pet. He always felt pangs of melancholy echo in the chambers of his heart when he saw other dogs, but he figured it was just puppy love. He sighed. He thought he had suppressed recalling the tragedy for so long because he took the life of what had been his best friend – turns out he had just been saving it for a rainy day.
Tonight, I’d like to say that sisters of AACF, we really appreciate you. Coming from me personally, I don’t think I’ll ever be that good at showing it because 1) I troll hard, 2) I am master of abhorring physical touch other than high fives or fist bumps, 3) it’s hard to really find the words to say sometimes when you show how precious you all are as members of the Body. I really hope that today was a blessed day for you all, because all of the brothers here at AACF did put their hearts on their sleeves all day today; however, we didn’t merely provide rides, food, laughs, and hopefully memories, for nothing. We all understand how blessed we all are to have sisters as unique, caring, sympathetic, encouraging, steadfast, faithful, hopeful, and Christ-centered as you. We know that maybe at times, we might be awkwardly bromantic, and forget to really show our gratitude and simple appreciation of your very presences, but I guess today’s the day that we get to at least try and let you know that we’re not just a bunch of goons, goofing off willy-nilly. It’s always cool to think about the fact that you sisters do really help your brothers grow in our faiths more by who you are and what you do, without needing the verbosity that I tend to have in my writing. Personally, I struggle with showing grace, and I guess I’ve found myself constantly shaking my head, somewhat in frustration towards my own lack of grace, but more so in awe of how effortless you make it seem. It’s really a gift of God that you all are the way you are, and I guess if you remember anything from tonight, may it be that God has made us as family with Christ as our head, and that all of the acts of appreciation and love that you all felt, it came from Christ first. The theme verse last year (1 John 4:19) says we love because He first loved us. And I guess I just wanted to continue pointing you sisters to Him and encouraging you to discover how much God appreciates you each day because your earthly brothers can only muster up one day to really be able to go all out for you.
Secondly, I’d like to thank my kitchen staff a bunch. You know who you are. It was so awesome to see all of you step up to the occasion, work together to create solutions, and really be able to keep it lighthearted in the kitchen. Sisters, if you were to see these guys at work…man. It wouldn’t even matter if your love language was the furthest away from acts of service; the way my brothers serving came together was really God’s mercy and God’s grace. From the actual kitchen staff to the brothers serving as waiters, I’m real proud of how we all were able to keep a steady composure about us, perhaps showcasing our subtle faith that God would provide us with the way to appreciate our sisters. For the people I somewhat threw out of the kitchen, I hope you know that there are no hard feelings, it just was necessary to keep the train going. And what a ride it was. If I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t have changed my staff one bit, and I’m grateful that God put it in your hearts to step up and serve your sisters so that they might experience the love you have for all of them.
Finally, it’s got to go back to God. I mean, the very fact that I’m serving at this fellowship alone was determined by God, and the fact that all of us were here, at UCSB, at this time, was all appointed by God way before. His sovereignty in putting us all in each others’ lives is something we should all reflect on and rejoice in. In our lives, may the actions we do, the words we speak, the thoughts we bear into existence bring glory to God, for who else is as deserving as He? God loved us, and from that love, I really do feel like we learn to love one another. I mean, to see how much some of us in the fellowship have changed since entering it should be testament enough to God’s amazing plan for us. None of us is perfect to be sure, but we are all being sanctified, and conforming slowly into His image. To God be the glory forever and ever, amen.
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.
The leaves plunged in summer yellow were paired with various hues of green, causing a distinct, but aesthetically pleasing portrait of nature’s simple sketches. The shadows of the leaves on the wall reflected the perfection of each leaf’s design, more or less in keeping with each other in a uniform array of yellow-greenery. The wind that gently blew over the heads of the stems proved the plant fickle, as it bounded upwards and downwards in an inconsistent fashion. The once red, now weathered pink, brick wall provided a soft backdrop for the plants. Solid green leaves marshaled themselves at the feet of the tall, standing plants, providing a miniature canopy for any insects or lizards desiring refuge from the summer sun.
The car gave a gentle lurch backwards, the gears shifted, and the low whine of the garage door was heard. Then, with a mechanical purr, the car surged forward smoothly, guided by the driver at the steering wheel. The red glare of the brake lights flashed as the car eased to a crawl before the speed bump, gently bouncing up on down on the white obstacle plastered on black asphalt. The car turned the corner and was gone. Day by day, this routine continues at 7:35 each morning.
That God designed the leaves goes without saying. The vivid hues of coloring reflect the life within that life-giving Spirit. However, for all things man-made, the colors are constrained to either violently dull tones or merely black and white. Something within the soul of man desires to tear the suit of routine apart; that the safety of what is known has now become too yawn-inducing for him, and in an attempt to create a new vivacity in living, he needs to turn elsewhere to restore the thrill of living. His mind roamed to sports, reading, and drugs as alternate routes to shaking up his current journey. Yet, it was inevitably the last one which had the greatest appeal. If only he realized that indulging in the wonder of God’s radiant creation would be enough to make a daily routine ever filled with new discoveries and appreciation, he would have avoided the self-destructive end to which he led himself. Imagination can here fill in the blanks with the life of secrecy and deception that followed.