Monday, October 24, 2011

Facing My Portrait

Dust-filled rays of light hit my face and slowly bring me to. As I open my eyes I realize I’m in an unfamiliar place with no recollection of how I got here.  I roll myself off the mattress onto the floor and get myself to my feet.  I look around and find a pile of neatly folded clothes and a note at the head of the bed. 

The clothes are simple: sandals, boot-cut jeans, a white v-neck t-shirt, and a brown knit beanie.  I put all of it on quickly to chase off the cold air that’s been setting in and the hat serves the additional purpose of hiding the unruly hair-do the night has produced. 

Then I turn my attention to the note.  It has my name on the front in plain but beautiful script.  I unfold it and read: “Come to the studio, coffee’s on”.  I still don’t know where I am, but coffee sounds good so I exit the room I’m in through its only door.  The scent of coffee leads me to a large room that has paint on the floors and lots of windows that let the light flood in.  In the middle there’s a wooden stool with an empty mug on it.  As I reach the stool, a man walks through the room’s other door with a large French Press in his left hand and painting supplies tucked under his right arm.  He looks strangely familiar but I can’t put a finger on why.  He’s probably in his early 30s and definitely looks like an artist.  His hair is kinda curly and goes down to his shoulders and he has a neatly trimmed beard.  He’s wearing a plaid shirt, khaki pants, and skate shoes; all of which look like they’ve seen better days.

He starts a bit when he sees me, drops one of his sketchbooks.  While he picking up the sketchbook up off the floor says, “Oh, I’m glad you’re up.  I didn’t expect you this early.  Just give me a few minutes to get everything read,”.  After setting the coffee down on one of the workbenches that line all four walls, he disappears into the next room.  I reluctantly walk towards the bench and pour myself a cup of coffee.  More questions swirl through my head as I blow on the coffee to cool it before my first sip.

A few minutes later he comes back into the room with his hair in a messy ponytail and carrying an easel and a large white canvas.  I decide its time that I figure some stuff out.

“So, where am I? And who the hell are you? I appreciate the coffee and all but I’d really like to get back to my place ASAP.”

“Wow, I can’t believe I’ve been so rude.  You got me kinda flustered when you came in on me during the middle of set up.  Well, I’m…Jesus and we’re in our Father’s house.”

“Ah shit, am I dead?  I meant shoot, sorry. But for real, am I dead? What did I do?”

“Relax you’re not dead.  You’re here so I can paint your portrait.  Father wants you to see it.”

“Wait, aren’t you a carpenter?”

“Yeah, but I have hobbies…and I’m getting pretty good at it.” He says with a grin. “Just take a seat and I’ll get started.  Oh, do you want some music on?”

“Yeah, for sure.”

He picks up a remote and instrumental hip-hop begins to play as finishes setting up.  With me sitting on the stool He sets up the easel in front of me but turned so I can’t see it.  When He starts painting I will be directly to His left.  After He gets all His paint and brushes out He rolls up His sleeves, kicks off His shoes to reveal bare feet, and picks up a paintbrush.  As He approaches the easel He stretches out a bit, closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.  He starts slowly but increases His pace and intensity.

After a while there’s joy on His face, excitement in His eyes, and paint all over His clothes.  Even though He’s working at a frantic pace, He’s deliberate.  He stops and takes a minute or two to mix several colors into a perfect hue before starting again.  Every once in a while puts the brush between His teeth, takes a few steps back,  nods and starts to smile. He walks back to the easel to paint again shaking with excitement and energy that has built up during the brief pause.

I watch Him for hours, seemingly unnoticed now; unable to see the progression.  Finally, while He’s five steps away He looks at me and does His best to says “Pat, you gotta see this” without losing grip of the brush between his molars.

I’m afraid to see what he’s been painting—what He truly thinks of me.  I’ve seen the colors He’s been mixing recently: swirls of black, grey, navy blue, and deep purple.  He must be putting the final touches on the spectra of darkness that I’ve seen in myself for years.  I tell Him I already know what it’s going to look like and would rather not see it.

Then, He turns His entire body towards me, takes the brush out of his mouth and says, “Pat, really, just come and see.”

“I can’t, I won’t.” I tell Him as I begin to cry.  I’m convinced that this will be the final cosmic kick in the teeth, confirming that all I am is a mixture of dark hues.

But not knowing what else to do I start making a long arc so I can see His work from a distance.  Within a few steps I can see the top corner, its color is what I expected: a kind of darkness that doesn’t even exist in my worst nightmares.  This takes my knees out from underneath me and brings me to a full sob.  Even if my legs would move me I wouldn’t be able to see my way through the tears.

Jesus then picks the easel up and sets it right in front of me, “Pat, just look. Please.  When I finally work up enough courage and clear away enough tears to see the picture clearly I’m faced with something unexpected.  The swirl of dark colors is in the background, like fading twilight as a glorious and vibrant dawn rises on my face.  I start to cry again, not from anger or fear but from joy.

“It’s so beautiful,” I say, “but I don’t…”

“It’s beautiful because you are.  That’s the first thing you need to learn, appreciate, and live out.  The rest of the little details will take Me at least a lifetime to explain to you.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Writing Love Over My Scars

Tonight Jaime Tworkowski from To Write Love on Her Arms came and talked at UWEC.  I've been interested in TWLOHA for a while and to be honest Jaime didn’t really say anything that I hadn’t heard or read before.  What stuck out to me the most was his explanation of how the name of the organization came to be. In 2006 Jaime and some of his friends helped a girl named Renee get sober and mentally well enough to enter a small treatment facility in South Florida.  At one point during her last night spent in a world filled with drugs, binge drinking, and self-harm she used a razor blade to carve the words “FUCK UP” in her forearm; it was the summation of who she viewed herself to be.  It was Jaime’s intention with his interaction with this girl “to write love on her arms” over the self-inflicted wounds of razor blades and false self-image.

Our actions reflect our view of ourselves.

I haven’t used razor blades, but I have carved my own perceptions of myself into my flesh and soul.  I have sought out a life that I felt I deserved: one that’s cold, lonely, and without hope.

After tonight, my hope is that I will learn to write love over the scars on my soul that both others and myself have caused.

Before Jaime talked this guy named Noah Gundersen played a few songs.  The song below brought me to tears, so I thought I should share it

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Haircuts and Grace

My life has been crazy recently.  Starting school two weeks ago added to the drain on my finances and my free time; but that’s not entirely the truth of the matter.  I don’t know when exactly; but somewhere in the recent past I started on a journey of self-discovery, sailing past what I now understand as my own point of no return (with Kansas playing in the background).  Most of the time on this journey I have felt like I was stumbling through the darkness chasing after some elusive and far-off light. However, there have been times when the light of truth was focused intensely and specifically on an area of my life or the way I view the world that surrounds me. 
One of those moments happened last night…
While at work on Sunday a customer handed me a coupon for a free haircut at SportsClips.  I had no intention of getting a haircut before receiving the coupon but readily put in my wallet with the intention of using it sometime this week.
Every Wednesday I go to Man Club, a men’s group my pastor hosts at his house where we read through the Gospels in parallel to each other and try to come to an understanding of the passages as a group.  Afterwards, we always break up into smaller groups to pray, smoke cigars, and kill zombies on Call of Duty together.
This week I was put in a group with a good friend of mine, a man who finalized his divorce earlier that day, lost his job a couple months before that, AND in the middle of it all had his car break down. Fortunately, he is no worse for the wear, actually in spite of it all, I’ve seen him come alive.  After asking for prayer over certain areas of his life he added that he needed a haircut sometime soon, but didn’t really have the money for it.  Without much thought I reached into my wallet and handed him the coupon I had received on Sunday. 
As I drove home I was taken aback by how willing I was to him the coupon.  This nugget of scripture has been ringing in my ears ever since:
Since you freely received, freely give.
-Mat 10:8b
I don’t give much freely, especially trust, grace, forgiveness, and mercy.  The reason is simple: in my mind those things need to be earned. 
To be honest I don’t think I would have been so quick to pay money (that I had earned with my time and effort) for my friend to get a haircut.  I don’t freely give grace, mercy, etc either because I like to think I’ve earned them through my morality and my intellect.
For someone, like myself, who claims to be an amateur biblical scholar this belief, holding this view is ridiculous.  Grace cannot be earned (see Eph 2:10).  It is a gift that has a value beyond comprehension and part of enjoying it involves NOT trying to buy it.
I really don’t know how to change except by praying that God would grant me the wisdom of how to live the rest of my days enjoying the gifts He’s freely given to me and find ways to daily give those gifts freely to others.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sarai or Elizabeth

So it’s interesting that I actually posted what I did Monday night.  In the moment I didn’t want to believe the truth that I had written about.  Like I said and will continue to say: biblical truth is a lot harder in practice than in theory because it involves our hearts, our scars, our open wounds, our hopes, and our dreams—it messes them all up.

I don’t like patiently waiting, AT ALL.  I’m frustrated with it and with God for asking me to do it.  I’m working through a book that deals with past pain and this week’s subject was betrayal.  The last question of the chapter asked me to write about what I’d like to say to God.  The question really pissed me off.  I answered the question as if God was in the same room, within earshot of me but as though I wasn’t speaking directly to Him (I don’t want us to be on speaking terms right now).  I wanted Him to hear what I had to say but without having to look Him in the face to do so.  Here’s part of what I wrote:

I’m frustrated with [God] because of this process to find healing and wholeness.  I’m frustrated because I know the Bible too damn well to walk away from Him for good—I have the choice to act like Sarai or Elizabeth…

What do I mean by acting like Sarai or Elizabeth?  Well for starters they were both barren and advanced in years far past the age of logically conceiving a child.  They both have very different responses their shared situation.  My last entry referenced Elizabeth’s “patient endurance” with her husband Zacharias alongside her.  She waited on God to answer her prayers while faithfully serving Him.  Sarai (Abraham’s wife before both their names were changed) had a very different response.  She knew God’s promise to her husband, Abram: that he would have a multitude of descendants, that he would be the father of NATIONS.  Instead of waiting for God to show up and act in the ways He said he would, she took matters into her own hands.  She gave her Egyptian servant, Hagar, to Abram as a wife so that he could have a son by her.  Hagar gives birth to a boy, Ishmael, who is described BY GOD as a “wild donkey of a man (insert Pat’s interpreted version: he was a huge ass)” who fights with anyone and everyone.

I understand why Sarai did what she did.  It makes sense doesn’t it? Her husband was supposed to be a father and there she sat, old and barren.  Why not expedite things a bit? It was pretty resourceful and not all that uncommon in the culture of their day. But here’s the truth that comes to light and frustrates the hell out of me: taking God’s plans and promises into our own hands ends up horribly for us.  Sarai ends up resenting Hagar and treating her horribly.  Ishmael becomes the forefather of a multitude of nations as well—and those nations are habitually enemies of Israel (the descendants of Abraham and Sarah’s legitimate son—the means by which God fulfills His promise).

My impatience in waiting for God to fulfilling His promises and the subsequent acts of me trying to do so by my own means has ended horribly for me on every occasion.  It often feels like a “damned if you, damned if you don’t” situation.  Either I’m left lonely and unfulfilled waiting for God’s blessings to come to fruition (and who knows when that will happen?) or I try to do things on my own and end up more battered and bruised than I was to begin with.

As always, there’s hope (I wish there was a way to express mild sarcasm in text).  The fact of the matter is although Sarai screwed things up pretty royally God still delivered on His end of the deal.  She still conceived a son, and through the process of receiving that blessing she literally was given a new identity.  That’s the hope that I’m begrudgingly holding onto: that despite my litany of screw-ups and failures, my infidelity to God, and my lackluster history serving Him, He will still come through and bless me and that by blessing me His way he will restore me into the man He intended me to be from the beginning.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lessons From Luke 1: Climax

God loves climax.  He loves doing things that make us sit back in our proverbial seats and shout, “I can’t believe that JUST happened”.  The only problem is He unfolds stories over decades and generations, not hours like movies or minutes like sitcoms.

The married life of Zacharias and Elizabeth is a perfect example of this (from here on out they’ll be referred to as Zach and Liz). Luke describes them as being “advanced in years” and says that they lived their lives righteously before the Lord, keeping to His commandments.  Both Zach and Liz spent decades devoted to loving and serving God.  I can only imagine how many times over the years they both prayed to God asking Him to bless them with a child, with seemingly no response.  Many of us were raised with the mentality that silence in response to a request was to be interpreted as a “NO”.  I can’t imagine how Zach and Liz must have interpreted God’s silence over the many years they lived together trying to conceive.

Then, one day, something BIG happens. Zach goes to work in the Temple in Jerusalem to burn incense in the Holy of Holies (the residence of YHWH at that time).  While he’s in there by himself an angel comes and tells him that his wife will conceive a son, a son who will be a great prophet and prepare the way for the Messiah-Israel’s Savior.  Zacharias’s response was more or less, “Really? You do realize how old we both are right?” The angel kinda gets pissed at this response and makes Zacharias mute until the day his son is born.

Zacharias spent a long time in the Holy of Holies that day, too much time.  The people waiting for him outside began to worry that he had been struck dead. Then he came out unable to speak and everyone began to understand that God was at work.

I like to think that God used the years of waiting to develop and establish character in Zach and Liz, the kind of character that would be necessary to raise such a special child-to handle the enormous blessing.  The years of waiting also made John a very special child.  I don’t think anyone would have paid as much attention to John’s life and subsequent ministry if he had an older brother Steve hanging around.

As always, biblical facts are often fun and feel fuzzy when we just know them in our heads adding them to our wealth of knowledge somewhere between the multiplication tables and our favorite Gandhi quote.  It is a lot harder to get our hearts involved and apply even simple truths to the mess of our own lives. 

I’m 24 and there are lots of times you will hear me moping and whining about how I haven’t dated in over 6 years, still live in a small, often dirty, apartment, and have yet to start my career.  I’ve asked God for those things.  I haven’t been asking for them as many years as Zach and Liz and can’t even begin to claim that I’ve spent those years of petition “being righteous and walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord”.  Regardless, I feel like God is at work: building climax in my life and character within me. 

Today, I’m not a doctor providing medical care to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it.  I’m not a great leader or a passionate activist.  I’m not the faithful husband of the love of my life.  While I’m not all of those things, I hope that I will be someday (and I hope to God it doesn’t take decades).  I also have to hope that once those things are in my life and I am that man, it will be greater than I ever could have imagined.  The blessings of God are always completed in their proper time; I just need the patience to wait.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Luke 1: Good News

I’ve been reading through Luke 1 this week.  This is the first time that I took the time to REALLY read it, not just rush through its 80 verses in order to “get to the good stuff” of Luke’s account of the life of Jesus (you know, things like the Christmas story, feeding 5,000 people, stumping the Pharisees, loving on the outcasts of His day, etc).

My next couple posts will be lessons God has taught me through this chapter.  Above all else, He has used it to remind me that He really does do extraordinary work in the lives of ordinary people: a couple trying to get pregnant, a young peasant girl, my friends, people I go to church with, and even myself.

I won't post the entire text here.  You might want to read through it yourself to get some perspective on what I'll be talking about.

I hope you hear about God's amazing character through my imperfect words.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tenderness I Cannot Bear

In the play Man of La Mancha, the Don Quixote’s love interest sings these words:
“Blows and abuse I can take and give back again.  Tenderness I cannot bear”.  The song she is singing is an attempt to convince Don Quixote that she is not Dulcinea, a princess who is the epitome of beauty, chastity, charity, and grace, but rather Aldonza, a “kitchen slut reeking of sweat”.

“Tenderness I cannot bear” resounds deep within my heart.  Dulcinea/Aldonza is a woman well acquainted with sorrow who has taken her lot in life to be the maid and prostitute of mule-drivers. Over the years she’s steeled herself to both pain and pleasure (after all to her  “one pair of arms is like another”).

I read through some Wounded Heart tonight.  The chapter I started on was on betrayal.  One of the lines that struck me to the core of my heart was:
The [abused] child does not have the intellectual understanding or the contrasting experience of a nourishing home to evaluate the shortcomings of his own parents and siblings.
Until recently this statement remained true of me.  In many ways I was still an abused, childish man who didn’t realize the full extent of the damage done to my soul in my childhood home intentionally and through neglect. 

In recent months I feel like I’ve been stepping more and more into manhood for the first time. But that transition is not the important variable in this equation.  What is important and what has brought about change is the fact that I have witnessed and begun to understand the  “contrasting experience of a nourishing home”.  It has been heartbreaking to say the least.

What could have been first-hand experiences of tenderness have glanced off my heart, which like the heart of Aldonza/Dulcinea is protected against any feeling: good or bad.  Compliments and emotional nourishment offered by members of my church family (especially from Renee Wurzer) have gone unheeded by my heart.  Thankfully, I have been witness to others being the object of tenderness and it is these moments that have softened my heart and caused me to be introspective, starting the process of healing in my life.  One instance in particular stands out to me and still brings tears to my eyes (in fact I was a sobbing mess in Racy’s tonight when I remembered it).

I was meeting with my friend Perry, who also is my pastor, at his house. For several days prior to me visiting his 3 year-old daughter had been extremely sick and was still hadn’t fully recovered by the time I stopped by.  During our time together she came into the office, climbed on Perry’s lap, and in whispers asked for food, medicine, and a bubble bath.  Perry’s tender response undid me and continues to do so to this day, months later.  I had never been such an intimate witness of tenderness like that, much less experienced it for myself.

One of my goals for August (a month of break during my academic year) is to “Fall more in love with God”.  To do that I need to give into the tenderness he’s offering me.  All too much like Aldonza/Dulcinea, the experience of true unadulterated tenderness without strings attached is just awkward for me, almost unbearable.  I’m accustomed to dealing insults, emotional abuse, being shamed for physical attributes and lack of performance, etc and know how to dish those things out on others.  Things like affirmation of my good character, compliments, grace, kindness, and love are all unfamiliar to me and I don’t know how to respond to them.  Part of me “falling more in love with God” over this next month (and the rest of my life) will be learning how to believe in God’s love for me and how to properly respond to it.

It’s going to be unfamiliar, awkward, and unsettling. But I need to believe in the end it’s going to be worth it, that the pursuit of loving Christ will bring me the best life possible. It will not devoid of sorrow, heartbreak, and sacrifice but it all will have a purpose: my sanctification, God’s glory, and the restoration of the broken world I live in.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


What did God do on the seventh day? I mean of course before creating the Packers, beer, and rock n’ roll. Was He tired from the previous six days? Was the universe just a little too crowded after creation, making Him need some “me-time”? What does an eternal Creator-God, who is unrestrained by time, do on His day off? Did He alternate napping with watching Grey’s Anatomy while sipping coffee on a recliner?

To me, YHWH’s day of rest in the creation story is a cosmic lesson about how we as humans, made in His image, need to take time to rest. In the times that the Hebrew Bible was written God commanded that the people of Israel “keep the Sabbath day holy”. Saturdays, the seventh day of the Hebrew week, were set apart specifically for rest.  It must have been one really simple way of imitating God at that time (Hey, I have the same day off as YHWH!).  But, over time we, as humans, put way too many rules on how to “rest” on our Sabbath.  As a Jew during the time of Jesus, observing the rules of the Sabbath had to have been exhausting; you could only walk so many steps, you couldn’t cook, couldn’t carry things over a certain weight, etc.  Rest must have seemed oppressive, like work.

Why does God command us to rest, even to the point of modeling it Himself?  Think about it: if anyone really does have the weight of the world on His shoulders AND the ability to change things that are wrong with the world it is God.  Sometimes, I wish He had used the 7th day to make the human genome a little more robust or figuring out a way to make the world work without mosquitoes and cockroaches.  He didn’t though.  He was intentional about resting---and it was good too.

I’m at a point in my academic year where I actually get to rest, legitimate days off without obligations to do anything but get out of bed (I really don’t even need to shower or brush my teeth).  Is that what God wanted? I don’t think so; but at the same time I don’t want to feel obligated to do certain things to make my day off restful. What’s the point of rest for me? Recharging my batteries, regaining mental function, having coffee with friends, finding time to enjoy myself, etc.  Is that just as “holy” or worthwhile as spending a day fasting, in prayer, listening to sermons, and reading the scriptures?

I don’t know really. What I do know is that God is constantly calling us to something better, better than day-to-day survival and better than rule-following religiosity. The specifics of what that looks like for me may be very different than most everyone else (who else would spend a day off looking at pictures of gross anatomy for enjoyment?).  God wants us to have one day each week set apart rest, take stock in what matters, and spend it doing something we enjoy.  Why is that so hard for us to do?

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I sat down at my computer tonight with the intention of writing about addiction and the magnetism of addictive behaviors.  It was going to be my attempt to explain my grandmother's relapse into alcoholism after over 20 years of sobriety or my own history of "relapses" to smoking cigarettes, drunkenness, lust, and self-damage.

Everything I wrote seemed scattered, inaccurate, and, inadequate; like a 4 year old trying to describe the plot of a movie they just saw.

All I know is my addictions are keeping me from living as the man I truly want to be: the man of God's design.  I don't know what recovery looks like and am extremely discouraged by the idea of "Once an addict. Always an addict.".  I know to retreat into my addictions will only leave me unsatisfied and even more frustrated with myself and God. The only other option is to move forward, however impossible that may seem.

I'm battered and bruised from losing too many fights to be better, or at least different, this week. I'm exhausted.  All the "right answers" seem trite and useless.  I'm discouraged to say the least.  I know that as a Christian there should be something to be hopeful about, but I'm just not feeling it tonight. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Suicide By Tiny Tiny Increments: A Lesson From High Fidelity

High Fidelity, like all of my favorite movies it has a great soundtrack and has little life lessons scattered throughout it.  To be honest I’ve been thinking about writing on this particular scene from the movie for quite some time but haven’t really found the heart to go through it and write my own story around it.

The entire movie is centered on the history of bad romantic relationships and hurtful break-ups, particularly the most recent one, of Rob Gordon (played by John Cusak).  Just under an hour and a half into the movie, after attending the funeral of his ex-girlfriend’s father, Rob is sitting at a bus stop in the rain and says this:

I can see now I never really committed to Laura. I always had one foot out the door and that prevented me from doing a lot of things. Like thinking about my future and…I guess it made more sense to commit to nothing, keep my options open and that’s suicide by tiny, tiny increments.

I have been guilty of suicide by tiny increments on many occasions. I too have committed to nothing and kept my options open only to strangle the opportunities that were right in front of me, waiting for me to seize them.  All too often I turn on the TV instead of reading a book that I know will inspire me.  Countless nights I’ve chosen to have another beer instead of calling a friend to see how they’re doing. I’ve settled for meaningless, unhealthy relationships instead of risking and fighting for romance.  I’ve supplemented fantasy with reality in order to numb the pain of my loneliness.  I haven’t voiced my opinion or shared my emotions, fearing the consequences of being exposed and known. All these things are suicide by tiny increments, safety in familiar, unsatisfying mediocrity.

As a man whose tried to take my life on two separate occasions during my youth this concept is even more harrowing.  When choosing to end life (to whatever degree) seems like a better option than continuing on, something is terribly wrong.

Paul Farmer, in his book Pathologies of Power, uses the formula Observe, Judge, Act when dealing with the issue of inequality in global health care.  The formula has merit here as well. I have observed and know my preferred methods of self-destruction and judged that their existence points to the fact that something has gone terribly wrong and needs to be corrected. That only leaves me to act, to change the state of heart, mind, and body.


Stop. Stop choosing to sacrifice the true me in front of the idols of safety and pleasure. Stop expecting that my only outcome is failure. Stop forcing compliments glance off my hardened heart or dismissing them as ignorance while weaving criticism and deceit into my inner identity. Stop sabotaging myself. In short, stop killing myself daily.

Start. Start choosing to do the things that bring me life to the fullest. Start calling friends and actually caring about their struggles enough to pray for them. Start intentionally writing about things that matter, issues close to my heart, exposing the frightened little boy inside me. Start dreaming again, believing that miracles do happen, even to guys like me.  Start believing I’m actually loved and learning how to love others. START LIVING, LOVING, AND BEING KNOWN.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Heart and The Wind

my heart

My heart is surrounded by layers…
    stinky like an onion or an ogre not fun like a parfait

Layers of make-shift armor set up to protect my heart from pain-givers
    miles of flimsy defenses encircle my broken and anguished heart

“I’ve been hurt too much before” I whisper to myself
    and throw another shopping cart or apple box a little bit farther out

Or is my heart more like a tree?
    year after year adding one more hard layer…23 rings that you can count

The hard shell protects what’s inside
    dry-rot and emptiness where there once was life

These conditions were caused by my defenses
    and seem to call for more and more of them farther and farther out

My defenses are now so far out
    that even those bringing nourishment and love cannot reach the real me

There is one thing I fear more than the pain-givers


The Wind blows…
    it rattles and displaces my defenses

The Wind blows…
it bends and twists my shell until I groan and creak on the verge of bursting

The Wind blows…
    it calls me to freedom and to restore that which was lost long ago

The Wind blows…
    it tells me He’s gentle and kind and won’t hurt me or leave me or forsake me

The Wind blows…
    it asks me to trust Him and to live without defenses or a shell

The Wind blows…
    it whispers “I love you. Come, follow Me” over and over

As much as I would like to, I can’t ignore the Wind
    it blows all the time these days

I have to let the Wind carry away all of my defenses even the ones I grip the tightest
trying to hold on to the last shred of the asylum I’ve built

I have to let the Wind burst my hard shell
    exposing the frightened me that I’ve learned to protect

The Wind has said that to love I must let myself be known and loved
    to have a life worth living I must let go of survival now

I’m afraid but I must listen to the Wind
    and let it work in my life

I know I will fail
    but the Wind will catch me and teach me how to soar

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rise from your ashes, burst to beautiful flame.

I love the myth of the Phoenix.  I have ever since I heard about the bird for the first time as a self-proclaimed pyromaniac adolescent.  As I’ve grown in character and stature, my love for this bird and the legend that surrounds it has matured as well.  To sum my understanding of it up in a sentence, a Phoenix is an emblazoned bird with a beautiful song that is reborn every thousand years or so from it’s own ashes.

There’re some obvious implications: renewal, immortality, resurrection, new life, etc. I think mythologists, writers, philosophers, and sermonizers have beaten all of these allegories to death.  So I really won’t bother with explaining the allegory, I’ll just let you know it’s happening: I’m resurrecting my blog. 

Now, I know the statement above will cause no one to run off, buy fireworks, and light them off in celebration.  But this is a pretty big deal for me, it scares me.  There’re a few reasons for my fear and hesitation starting to blog again.  First, I started this particular blog over 2 years ago and really haven’t done much with it.  I’m afraid the same thing will happen again: a few good posts written months apart only to be abandoned and forgot about.  Secondly, the name sets up a lot of expectation in my own mind.  I started a hungerforchange blog on 3 years ago while living for a month on $30 worth of food.  It was an inspired time when I lived with a purpose, noticed things, and wrote about them.  I tried thinking up some new trendy blog name that I could be proud of and I couldn’t.  So, I'm simply resigning myself to add to this one: resurrecting it hoping it will blow on the burning coals of my soul and ignite something.  Lastly, I’m truly afraid to produce.  It’s a strange fear but one nestled in my own self-image of being an appreciator of the finer things of life: music, art, literature, coffee, cigars, etc.  The moment I produce something, anything I’m opening myself up for criticism.  There’s extra fear because what I write is simply an extension of who I am, how I see the world, and what I think of it all; for someone to criticize something I wrote would be to critique what makes me who I am.

I AM forging ahead despite all of that.  I’m doing so because there is a chance for great beauty, the kind that can only emerge of the ashes of an old life, from scar tissue, from memories that put a knot in your guts and bring tears to your eyes.  I’m not sharing the lessons my life is teaching me because they are unique nor because they’re universal.  I’m sharing them to produce, to contribute something to the world that surrounds me.  I’m forcing myself to care enough about something that I’ve written to edit and revise it then put it on display.  I hope the process of writing and revising will be introspective and enlightening.  I hope to find something within the ashes of life that’s been there all along but only needed a little coaxing to ignite and shine like crimson.

Arise oh Phoenix from your ashes, burst into beautiful flame.