Fall Together, Fall Apart (a poem about colder weather and cognitive dissonance)

Idioms and axioms swirling across the concrete of my twisted mind,

Like reddish yellow leaves swirling ‘cross the concrete of  twisted sidewalks where I find,

My beginning and my end.

 

Righteous indignation sets ablaze the synapses in my head,

Like the fire in my bones is strengthened by emotions long thought to be dead.

“I am the beginning and the end.”

 

But God who called the dust to rise up and speak a life-giving word,

How can I discern your plans for me when silence is all I’ve heard

At the beginning and the end?

 

Where is this mysterious scroll  of prophecies long inscribed by omnipotence,

Hiding beneath the clouds of vested emotion or rambling beneath my own incompetence?

You are my beginning and my end.

 

My judgment has been marred by trust long broken,

Faith in anything is so frail that affirmative words are now hardly spoken,

As if bearing heavy burdens is an easy trend.

 

Goosebumps, a childhood memory that kept me up at night, weaving tales of killer clowns and puppets across the back of my eyelids that would make your skin crawl. Goosebumps, that feeling of anticipation that something was about to happen that would change everything and you couldn’t put it down. Goosebumps, raised on my flesh as war rages under my feeble plans. Rising knots in my throat and tears in my eyes as I try to put pen to paper and understand my own rebellious heart. What a wretched, empty soul who cries out “Abba, Father” and is made whole. Following your heart is just fine in fairy tales, but “the heart is deceitful…who can know it?”

 

You can know it because you know me,

Like leaves racing across the blacktop of childhood dreams,

Their path unknown to the casual passerby,

 

Twisting and turning and ripping at the seams.

Unraveling like words in a line and cognitive dissonance shaking the corners of stanzas yet

to be

(or not to be)

written.

Falling apart, we fall into ourselves,

and

into our selfish whims,

But we are not of those who shrink back,

But those who cry

 

“Abba

Father.”

 

 

Predetermined or burdened with purpose?

Invisible streams flowing mightily from the one who holds it all in his hands,

My beginning and my end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhema (or, Idol Hands Sit Idly.)

Emboldened by words left unspoken,
Crumbling beneath all that I have broken.

As I scramble to rearrange the jagged pieces,

To complete a puzzle named resentment.


Wordless, I have no thoughts left to pen,
I have no utterance to be uttered,

No rhymes left to usher in.

I have held all my cards close to my chest,

And I wish I could say I tried my best.
So I guess the letter I would’ve written would sound like

This:
Dear Future Me,

You’ve got so many stories left to be told, A blank canvas soon to be dripping with red and blue and gold. Do not give in, do not give up.But stand.

Stalwart and proud of the man you have become.

A man who knows what is past and what is to come. One who weighs his legacy like his idol hands weigh on his conscience, and idol words sit enshrined on tongues of fire racing around and around as if chariots set ablaze.
I speak because there is an inferno resting inside my bones, as I wrestle against flesh and blood and deny the calling which I have received.
To be simultaneously saint and sinner, to wage war on these rebellious legs that carry me to places I know better than to be.
Oh God, may my futile words be few.
May my lips tremble when I speak your truth, and may my heart be laid upon a blazing altar for you.

You are my past, present, and future. It’s always been You. So forgive my idol thoughts and my idol ears and my idle soul sitting idly by, waiting on You to move.
Jesus, rid me of deceit, of anger, and of my broken heart. Let me embrace the calling you have poured out upon me as you envelop all the idols that strive to gain a foothold in my life in refining fire.
“I love you Lord, and I lift my voice. To worship You. Oh my soul, rejoice! Take joy my King in what you hear. May it be a sweet sound in your ear.”

Fight For Joy (grief after three years)

“The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief, the closer is God!”
-Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I feel like I’ve written endlessly about the topic of grief. As if it is the only constant in life, where all relationships, in one way or another, end up. As if it not only holds all the cards, but stacks them neatly into a house that could crumble at the slightest breeze. As if death has the final say, and we are always haunted by its specter.
But for me, writing about what I feel is catharsis. So, it’s probably telling that I haven’t written anything in a while. That sometimes you move into that stage of grief where feeling anything is an outright challenge.  This blog began for me as a desperate attempt to come to grips with the goodness of God in a world that sometimes indicates anything but.

And, as I believe life is a journey and we never stop learning, I don’t have any neat and tidy answers for you. I can’t tell you with absolute sincerity that I never have doubts or fears. I can’t tell you that I don’t find myself crying with little provocation. I can’t say that I don’t get a knot in my chest when I think about the people in my life who are gone way too soon. I can’t tell you that injustice doesn’t make me question why.

I think about absence, which hurts a ton more than outright rejection, and my mind is drawn back to the good times, which overwhelm me in the way that simultaneously feeling joy and pain does. How two opposing ideals–joy and pain–can be so irrevocably intertwined and cause me to understand myself even less.

Three years ago from last Tuesday, one of my dearest friends was involved in a hiking accident and fell from a hundred feet and died. 

I’ve written it so matter-of-factly so many times because I need to understand it as reality. Sometimes, even three years later, it’s so hard to fathom, impossible to comprehend. The unfortunate thing about trying to wrap your head around something so much is that it leaves you with a terrible migraine.

Tuesday, I came back to my hometown and spent the day with some of my closest friends. We all went to the park we used to hang out in and then the cemetery. Sitting around Jordan’s grave was different this time. Before, I’d almost always go alone. But surrounded by the friends he helped knit together, we laughed, we talked, we cracked jokes and reminisced. It is times like those that give me hope, that show me, no matter what, that I am not alone. That the God of the universe who I so love to question, knows exactly what I need and pours it out lavishly. That he is not content to leave me in my grief that feels so like fear, as Lewis says, but instead shows me perfect love to cast out fear.

image

Out of His Love, he replaces that feeble house of cards with stone and mortar, and refuses to give some immovable fate the victory. He is a God who loves his children so much that even in their pain, he gives them good gifts, relationships that do not end with this side of eternity, reasons to rejoice though the pain is sometimes so intense.

Leo Tolstoy said that “only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.” And I do not always believe that is true. But on days like today, I do.

I do because on this week three years ago my world was shattered. I was like a flattened house of cards, but I know a carpenter who was also called the great physician and binds up all my wounds and floods my weakest moments with his insurmountable strength.

I’ve learned after these 3 years to fight for joy. And you will fight. Because it is by no means easy to be joyful, but on days like today I believe it is not only necessary, but possible.

Velocity (a poem)

Autobahn2

You were a song spilling out of  speakers at 70 on the interstate,

Words I’d heard a million times, but never quite believed,

Emotions hid away for the sake of projecting the perfect persona,

A voice swept up and hidden in all those years I let myself be deceived.

“You are invincible,” echoed in my soul.

Spilling out like a song from the lips of a child certain of his own security at 85 0n the interstate,

Convinced that whatever gave him life would never feel so entitled as to take it away,

Believing that death doesn’t happen to kids our age,

That life clings to us and shrouds us from all that might expose us where we lay.

“You stand immovable,” screamed through my soul.

Believing that innocence clings to us like our souls are safe at 105 on the interstate,

Like, turn the speakers louder and believe that all the bad you’ve done doesn’t need to be washed clean,

As if all the good I’ve done will cover up those ugly stains on the side of highway,

Perhaps if I pray hard enough I’ll make it home in one piece, however obscene.

“You are unforgivable,” a whisper through my soul.

We believed we were safe at breakneck speeds on the interstate,

Found solace in the songs on the radio that blocked out all strife

Disregarding the sound of our own heartbeats at 200 on the Autobahn,

Convinced our souls are safe from the world we believed owed us our life.

“You are loved,” a voice calls out.

But there is freedom outside of ourselves,

Running parallel to us at the speed of light,

Calling, beckoning, come home, let go.

That voice that shakes the ages, pulls us from danger with all his might.

“You are set free.”

It’s been a little while since I’ve written anything because I guess I just had nothing to say, but this is the poem I’ve been trying to write for months now. Granted, it may not be very good, but the image of a kid clinging to the idea of safety while needlessly risking his life has just kinda been stuck with me for a while now. We grapple with our own mortality, and believe the lie that we are in control, but we aren’t. And the only real freedom from our self destructive tendencies is found outside of ourselves in Christ, he is the only one who can free us from our love affair with sin and death. 

A Prelude

Boundless insecurity,

Thickening ice across a mountain made of fire,

Staring out on the shore over an ocean of starless nights.

Wondering about the plight of those I’d rather just forget,

In favor of the sword I clench tight in my fist.


Oh God, deception calls me

To trudge through the waters of my despair and build a home for all my secrets there.

Redemption yells from the shore, begging me to run back,

To be made whole in the presence of the one who can free me.


Circular sins,

But a circle always starts from where it ends.

Oh but hope is like a ship at sea and an overcast sky,

and I can barely see it’s sails unfurling, but I know it has not left just like I know it’s not standing dry,

Like I know God has not left us wanting, left us to die.

And that ghost is ever haunting in the depths of my soul.


If suffering proves me that I can feel at all,

Set me on fire and watch me fall to the ground,

Rolling around and around and putting out all that makes me human.

Believe me, I don’t want this emptiness,

So take it from me, set me free.


Freedom looks like arms stretched across splintered boards,

Nail protruding from hands that held children and healed the sick,

Thorns pressing inward and bleeding out.

A hole in the side that my fingers will just barely fit into.

Freedom purchased for a wretch like me.


And fear still ebbs in the darkest parts of me,

Like I know God has not left us wanting,

But that ghost is ever haunting,

And sometimes I slip back into the chains that bind me to myself.


But the King is calling,

Resurrected

“You are free.”

IBR-1113189

Weakness (Diagnosis)

“All of us are weak and frail; consider no man more frail than yourself.”

Thomas á Kempis

Weakness3

Some days, being joyful is the easiest thing in the world. In fact, it’s something I’ve always prided myself on. The trait which I always believed I embodied with my very existence.

But it’s not always easy.

I tend to hide myself behind a smile, brush off suffering with well-timed platitudes and well-wishes masquerading as spiritual truth. I tend to say things like “Jesus is the only desirable thing in me, let him be the only thing I desire” without practicing what I preach. Because, in truth, what I really desire is to be liked. To feel like I add value to someone else’s life. To fight back overwhelming waves of crippling doubt with empty rhetoric.

I talk about things like sexual purity and honest accountability as if I am far removed from the need of it, as if immorality is just a blip lost on the early years of my timeline.

I talk about loving scripture as if I am always fervent in my devotion to studying it.

And I talk about kindness as if its something I never choose not to practice.

Somewhere along the way, in pursuit of the truth of the Gospel, I have lost sight of my own frailty. And then some tragedy or disappointment comes along and exposes it, as if holding a mirror to me reflecting the ugliness inside. I forget my weakness and bask in the strength I have…or the strength I used to have anyway.

So I sit in my own lack of joy clinging to the hope that, someday, I will be whole again. Forgetting that thing I claimed about Christ being the fulfillment of all I am incapable of.

I lean on my goodness instead of His.

I lean on my own understanding instead of His.

I cling to the hope of discovering peace of mind on my own instead of resting in the peace Jesus offers.

And I become what I most despise–a fraud in pursuit of the next high (in my case, in feeling happy.)

The last few weeks have been suffocating. Between shutting myself off from others and trying, yet again, to figure out what is left for me to do here before graduation, it has left me in a funk. It has left me empty. And thinking about graduation is finally becoming scary. Thinking about what happens on the other side of the stage, once I jump out into that big world with only small pieces of a plan in place. It terrifies me.

And it would be so easy to blame on my unhappiness on that. It would be taking the simplest approach to claim that graduation and beyond is why I shut myself down so much this semester. But that’s not even it. It’s that I don’t often want to relinquish control and I find myself in predicaments where my will is in contrast to that of God’s.

And I suffer.

We suffer because we pursue freedom by the abuse of our own frailty, selfishly thinking that’s what best.

But I am made perfect in weakness, because God’s strength is made perfect in it.

In Christ, I can give up the desire to be in control of my life and be okay with that.

In Christ, I am made free, so why do I pursue my own bondage?

All the things I’ve talked about throughout my life, about fighting for joy, about loving scripture, about sexual purity and accountability, about desiring Christ. Those are all good things, but the posture of my heart to those things is more pivotal than I often assume. I can’t approach those things arrogantly, or else they become empty spiritual rhetoric. Only when I truly grasp humility, which seems to be the most difficult thing for me to do, will I truly desire Jesus more than I desire the dirty reflection of myself in the mirror, will I see the truth of the Gospel’s effect in my life–that Christ has done what I could not, cannot do.

Only in Christ can I experience the type of freedom I long for.

The freedom to be His.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.(Romans 7:21-25, ESV)

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