Nothing to Hope In.

Today, I shared something with my church that may or may not have shaken them up regarding my work in the youth ministry. I think I caught a lot of the people in the room off guard, and, on my end, I regret not voicing these feelings sooner. It hasn’t been the easiest time ever finding community at the church I grew up in—a surprisingly common experience, from what I’ve heard—but it’s also led to the deep experience of learning how to focus on what God is doing in times when my own needs aren’t being met. While some may question why I would keep going to a church that I felt didn’t meet my needs, I think it’s worth noting that the Christian life isn’t always about our own needs. A lot of times, it’s about being humbled and invited into deeper growth and reliance on God; it’s a bit like putting yourself in handcuffs and throwing the key away. (That’s an inside joke; looking at you, Modus.) But it can be difficult to keep one’s arms raised during the struggle; even Moses had to take a seat and get some help.

The point is, in sharing my perspective on the ailment of the church in the area I am most acquainted with, I learned that I am nothing to hope in. There were many moments on Saturday evenings when elders would reach out, bright-eyed, and ask how I was doing and encourage me to continue doing the good work of youth ministry, and today, I felt like I had really disappointed them. My mom (for whom I am deeply thankful) has been faithful in reminding me that the only person I serve is God and to not worry so much about pleasing others or thinking about how they see me, but I am learning that it is a very difficult, uniquely human aspect of church ministry. I want to make the elders who taught me in Sunday school proud. Whenever I stand up to speak in front of the church, there’s still a remnant of the really timid, on-the-verge-of-tears, young boy from years ago. This is not to say that I am immature (though in many ways, I still am); this is, in my estimation, an honest account of how the transition period in a young servant’s life looks. It’s not easy saying hard truths as a kid.

However, in saying today that with respect to the youth the church is sick, I hope I have not been misunderstood as making a judgment rather than a diagnosis. I said what I said partially because there is a dull fire shut up in my bones, and I have grown weary with holding it in, but also because sickness is still a sign of life. Too often, we take statements like “the church is stumbling in this way” or “the church is sick in this way” or “the church is weak in this way” as assaults rather than verifications that the church has breath. I believe that as long as there is life in the church, in a person, in a community, there is hope for God’s redeeming work. Sickness becomes praise, weakness becomes triumph, and sorrow becomes peace in light of the redemptive aspect of God’s actions. I often sadly share about picketers telling event-goers that they’re going to hell not because of how offensive their methods are (and they are offensive) but because they have put people (who may be innately and unknowingly craving the riches of the Gospel) in hell before they have even had a chance to be drawn by true grace. I wonder if we are too quickly defeated in our relational encounters and our experiences of life’s natural rigors, forgetting that though people may intend to harm us, God intends things for good to accomplish the saving of many lives (Gen. 50:20).

To close, I just want to say that I still love the church I grew up in. The church has been a model of faithfulness. Many members in the church have served longer and seen more than I have. I want to cooperate in what God has planned. I want the youth to know Jesus as their Savior, as their Friend, as their King. The church may be sick, but Jesus is the Great Physician. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

“fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isa. 41:10 ESV)

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Moving Along.

Of the people we meet, the friends whom we greet

how many do we see still remain?

The memories sweet, our hearts feel complete,

yet there is occasion for pain.

When tears are our shower, we see the last hour

of bonding that we’ll recognize.

It’s not in our power, this thing that’s gone sour –

it’s too late for us to realize.

So we try to forget, we stuff down regret,

shake off all the dust of what’s gone.

We’re sorry we met; our eyes aren’t wet.

We move along but never on.

Enter title here.

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.

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.

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.

To Battle.

As I reflected on the Lord’s Table at this past weekend’s young people’s meeting, I began to make ties to the current season of Easter.  The matter of the blood being sufficient to overcome the ghastly feeling of sin that enslaves the soul identified itself to me, and all at once, I began to realize that as Christians, we are ourselves caught in the middle of an ongoing, spiritual warfare.  Just as Paul defends his ministry in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, saying, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (ESV), so too must we adopt the attitude as we passionately seek to further Christ’s ministry on Earth.  This matter of Easter, of Christ’s resurrection from the dead in particular, should not just be confined to a yearly acknowledgment of and rejoicing at Christ being risen – though that is a spiritual cornerstone that we all must take pains to remember in our daily lives.  Christ’s resurrection is victory over all; Isaiah 25:8-9 says, “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.  It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (ESV).  When Christ’s blood was spilled, what was a fleshly defeat became a spiritual conquering of Satan, sin, and death.  In this warfare, we align ourselves with a majestic King who gives us confidence in His victory, having foreknown it before the foundation of the world.  

And how ought we respond, then, to this warfare deemed victorious? We have no other course before us to run aside from what Paul says in Ephesians 6:10-18: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” Our strength comes not of ourselves; it is the strength of His might. As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, it is by the power of His resurrection that we gain His life – a life characterized by victory, righteousness, and hope.  Our King reigns over all, making it possible for us, through the spilling of His own blood, to be His servants and work His will among men for His glory.  And so, when we come to the Table, when we celebrate Easter, what we are doing is proclaiming the victory that has already taken place.  Christ is risen, and death is defeated.  Let us celebrate well, run well, and make His everlasting glory known to all nations; our King died not in vain, but to save us from certain demise at the hands of our sin.  

Our King is calling – blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on [His] holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near. (Joel 2:1)

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.

Change.

As I glumly sat behind the wheel of my minivan a few days ago, I began reflecting on things.  This prompted me to remain still at a green light, leading to the expected honking of people upset with the lack of action in their own lives.  However, the thing I began musing on was about how much I’ve changed.  I began thinking about my winter break and what I would be doing with it, and I came to the point where I reminisced on how I spent them in the past.  The realization settled on me when I discovered that I no longer enjoyed staying home alone and doing solitary things, like reading for hours.  It was a bitter moment actually; part of the blame was on college and how the forced interaction somehow stole a bit of my personality, dissipating any desire I had to be alone.  The need for human contact was, in a way, a crippling inability to exist and entertain myself independently.  However, the moment was fleeting when I began reflecting on my spiritual life as of now.  I began seeing that I had always been blessed with an ability to communicate fairly well with others – the exterior reserved, awkward, aloofness was the only thing that made me unable to reach out to others.  Now, I find myself in an internal skirmish come social gatherings; do I continue on with my newfound self, much of which has changed drastically, or do I let my old personality refresh itself.  It’s a question that I find harder and harder to answer with each meeting of old friends.  My life now is filled with God because of the environment that He’s placed me in, and yet, I’m not sure how it would be reflected if I did some of the things I used to do in order to get along with my old friends.  I have since limited my swearing exponentially, normally catching myself before saying them, but it was that casual usage of it that seemed to let me “fit in.”  All of this reflection is beginning to wear me out, so I guess I’ll just finish with a reminder that the true friends of mine won’t mind, and that as long as this new change doesn’t reflect my human judgment of my old friends but God’s love for them, I should be alright in the end.

Still Blazin.

This is a start of a young kid’s life raised in

stories told of sex, drugs, and guns blazin,

an Asian, not aware of the hell that he was cravin.

It’s amazin, cus Mr. West was the Yeezus who was savin.

Impressionable, there’s no other way around it

A fresh can of bull, and at a young age, he had found it

Resounded within him, the silent fury he had drowned in.

They clowned him, it was his voice that they didn’t like.

He passed fresh lines but he failed on the mic.

Point guarding the pen cus all he could do was just write.

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.