Sith it was May that I last ventured past the centurion of pines who guard these peaks, I now concede to her in citizenship within this mountain fortress. How readily do kingdom walls that fend off assailants and armies serve an alternative purpose as boundaries for its prisoners. Slivers of light cut through our gate of needles and shrubs: a sick device for torture. Our catharsis is stifled. Dwarfed by the mountainous curtain of our city, a house for gods, it limits our scope. What a beautiful embroidery. What an intricate sculpture. Brothers, she is but a drop in the Vintner’s cup. Though we are bound to a decorated city, let us not give it further embellishment. Rather, let us mount our peaks as gems on the robes of our Lord.
Surprisingly stupid things happen.
Today, my waking moments started rudely as a cat pounced on my face whilst practicing rolling his Rs. I never suspected him to be of Latin origin, until he commandeered my futon this morning, but life without surprises would take the fun out of nearly everything, not to mention Christmas and television game shows, and that’s what today was all about: fun.
Walking out to my car this morning, I was reminded of the preceding night’s traumatic experience as I noticed the remnants of owl on my windshield. Yes, owl. A dollop of poop the size of a marshmallow peep rested on the arm of my wiper, and what appeared to be speckles of other fluids and blood danced over the driver’s side of my windshield. From what I can piece together of the occurrence, I remember seeing a large white blur flying into my line of passage. Before it registered to me that the flying thing was indeed flying, and the large animal was large enough to where I should try to maneuver from him, I heard a loud thump and a terrifying yell. The thump left a ringing in my ear and I was certain I was in for a hefty repair bill. It took me a moment to realize that the scream I heard was my own, and that the discoloration on the windshield was just blood and smudging from the feathers. I was sure I killed it. When I pulled in last night from my little surprise, I shined the light from my phone to examine the glob resting on my windshield wiper. I remember thinking to myself, “It’s probably guts or something.” I started to feel queasy, and as so, went off to bed.
That was what rushed back from memory after seeing the flies suckling on what was so clearly in the morning light, poop from a massive bird. And just so you know, I looked for the dead owl on the way into town and couldn’t find it. I may not have killed it, but I quite literally knocked the living poo out of it.
I went to Valvoline and picked up my paycheck. Nothing special. Took it to the bank to deposit it. Yay, money! I was chatting with my brother over the phone for a while. Didn’t notice I left my card in the ATM. Find our later when trying to refuel my grandma car that I only have a receipt from my check deposit, but no card. Went to the bank, they checked the ATM twice, and as I was talking to a personal banker about reporting it stolen, the manager comes out from the back room and gives me my card. I’m fortunate. Have a good day!
Denny’s at midnight
I like being the sort of guy who doesn’t mind sitting alone at a table. Contemplative solitude is scarce these days. I count my being social as a great blessing as it permits me to appreciate evenings like this one all the more, even when the eggs are overcooked. Here is a nice dinner conversation: Be mindful of the future and embrace the present. Expecting more of yourself is part of finding success, but appreciating the now is the celebration of prior expectation—the act of acknowledging that you are successful. I love that I can say that I am successful because of all of my own hard work but it’d all be in vain would it not be for the love of Christ—knowing that should we ever be stripped of our worldly success, no one can ever steal away the victory we have in Jesus. He is worth selling all our possessions to obtain, yet he gives himself freely. I hope I never tire of celebrating that fact. I rejoice for situations like tonight’s as it has allowed me to be reminded of Jesus while eating at a table for one. I can never truly be alone.
The Faith of a Child
On nights like these I look back on the mistakes I’ve made and ponder the choices freshly laid before me; I try to make sense of them in the most logical sense: a method that has never rendered results before but I still make my attempts. Where do I look for answers? In the deepest spaces of my thoughts, the jumbled up knowledge collides; all of what I remember from research and reading just collapses onto itself as if a tower constructed atop a landfill were demolished only to reunite with the rubbish it was built upon in the first place. While I try to repress the habitual responses to feelings such as these that were deeply rooted within my judgment as a child (the Sunday school answers I’ve always practiced), I find reasons to seek other avenues only to arrive at the exact same answers. I am in no way comparing my faith in the Lord with a pile of rubbish. A more complete analogy would be man: divinely created from the dust of the earth and then returning to dust. It is my philosophies and selfish ambitions that are the rubbish. I have always been afraid of what my response would be if I were ever accused of having a moral compass based solely out of my church-filled upbringing, but why must those solutions from Children’s Church always be the righteous ones? Even now, after I research the topics at greater lengths and spiritual pains, the same answers circle back to morals I’ve believed in since before I can remember. The only difference is the vocabulary. Being born into a churched family has had its shortcomings just like any other family would, one of the most trying things being my incomplete understanding for the foundations of my own beliefs. I recall there were a few youth summer camps where the proposition would be to “find a way to own your own faith.” I have to admit that this was one challenge in which I chose to tune out. Yes, I understood the message of salvation. I’ve always known about it and I’ve accepted it as the truth. But the sweet message of God’s own gift of salvation from sin became so watered down to me, it seemed pointless to dwell on my own salvation experience when there really wasn’t, what the newly converted would call, a “born again in the Spirit feeling” within me. My response to camp back then was: How could I possibly have any other reason to believe in God when He is all I’ve ever known? This must not apply to me. I was only in kindergarten when I said the “official” prayer of salvation, so there really isn’t much that I remember of my life from before then to tell me that I was lost then found. There was no point of “spiritual change” in my heart—no conversion. I sometimes wondered if I was truly saved because I had never known what it was like to experience this. But I would double back on certain events and recall feelings of being so in love with God that I wanted to do anything to bring Him glory. When baptized at 5, I didn’t understand the full scale of salvation and the process of atonement. Few new believers do. As I got older, I learned more about the weight of Christ’s burden for the world, for me, and the magnitude of his grace. I found the same story told in different ways, but all resonated in new ways and they all weighed differently on my heart. I used to be ashamed of my testimony. It dawned on me: how could a testimony like this be something I’m ashamed of? It is because, then, I didn’t see my story as something special enough to share. All of my life I was told that my testimony was the most powerful tool in showing people the love of Christ. I was shown so many examples of testimonies, all of which I thought could move worlds compared to my own. It was the stories like the drug addict who came to Christ and has been clean ever since, or the one of the abusive mother who found Jesus and she became loving and pure. Those were the testimonies that sounded so beautiful and rich to me. My story went like this: “I invited Jesus into my heart when I was 5 and I don’t remember much of my life before then. All I know is that my heart was changed.” How was I supposed to help bring Jesus to people with this sad little thing? “My heart was changed” was what I was told to say in discipleship training. I didn’t know exactly what that was supposed to mean and I’m pretty sure whoever I may have shared this with wouldn’t have had a clue either. I couldn’t use a decision I had made before I could spell “salvation” as the foundation of my faith. It didn’t feel like the truth. Did my heart change? I’m absolutely positive that my heart was sealed with the Holy Spirit. Is it possible that I was just born with the Holy Spirit? I don’t know. It may be true of many who were born into the church. It certainly makes the most sense as I can’t remember a time without His influence on my life. The exact point of my deliverance has always been unclear to me but I am positive I have received the kingdom of God like a child, as a child. Even as clearly as I remember awkwardly walking up to the alter, I hold no significant emotion to the particular date of my first prayer for salvation from sin, as I don’t believe the “change in heart” that many speak of actually occurred on that day. The time never mattered. It has taken me years to confirm that I am not ashamed of my salvation story, but now that I’ve seen the bigger picture, I realize that my testimony of faith will always have its newer and wiser revisions as I grow in intimacy and learn more ways to describe it. Did I ever come to “own my own faith?” Yes. I’ve never been more certain in my life. I try to wake up every morning to ask God how to best serve His kingdom. Finding my own reasons to be completely in love with Jesus on an individual level stack up every day. I’ve had my selfish moments along the way and my moments of being totally confused. Occasionally, I will realize that the answer to my problems were always right at the core of my moral thinking, but I’d rather find every reason to rely on the more difficult path. I’d end up arriving at the same obvious answers I used to repeat over and over again. The Sunday school answers: “Jesus. Obey. Pray. Worship. Read the Bible. Trust God. Ask God for forgiveness. Listen for God.” The beauty of stumbling on these now is that God responds in new ways that, in my adult life, continue to bring me back to childlike faith. In this and among other things, I’ve found that one of the most trying aspects in walking by the Spirit is that it can be both the easiest and the most difficult thing in the world to follow through with the obvious.