I wrote this over a year ago, but I finally decided to post it. Here ya go.

They life is like a box of….a box of…

Life is just a box

We stuff everything inside and lock it all up

Every thought a person can think I thought

I thought of life and death, of friends and love,

of everything under the sun,

and everything under the moon too

When I was 17, I told a lie

By the time I turned 18, I had already told 27

I’m 21 now, and I have completely lost count

I blocked out every hurtful thing ever said to me

and every hurtful thing I ever did to myself

Maybe my pain would feel more real if you could touch it,

run your fingers over it,

feel the mingling of blood and sweat dance across your pupils and waltz down your face

What if I told you i cried the first time?

and the time after that

My cheek knows no lover like the back of your hand

My lips know no savior like red wine in a lonely hour

Mistaking attention for love, I wrapped up every secret thing you said to me and swallowed it

It couldn’t fit inside my chest, so it dropped down into my stomach

I like to sit at the lake alone and think,

but I often find you here,

wrapped in my every dream,

every thought,

every breath

I swallow that tobacco wind, and I taste you

Running hands down legs and across chest to find the knife wounds again

Fingers touch scars not made by you

I wish I could crack open ribs,

pull out heart,

and touch my real scars

The ones flesh could not heal

The ones prayers did not answer

The ones that keep me up at night

Insomnia is a colder lover than you ever were

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t gotten used to the bruises

They’re like constellations

Mapping out every insecurity and pointing me home all at the same time

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt

I’d be lying if I said I was alright

I’m 21 now,

and I’ve already told more lies than I could ever count.

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The Metaphor

Hey, so I wrote something. I’m sorry it’s sad. There’s a place for all emotions in poetry. Hope it touches someone.

Every morning I wake up taking my first breath underwater and fidgeting with a blade at my wrist

Whether this is metaphoric or not I still have not made up my mind about

My love is not for you

It exists only in a past time to your former self

Your yesterday and your tomorrow are both darkness

The former, the latter, the now

They stand tall in the face of giants we could have never faced together

The mountains weep

The stars tremble

The trees sway and sing

As love dissipates

Every bird participates

I cannot yet explain this melody my heart creates

But I know this

I heard once that nothing is real but love

I know now

that nothing real is love

I wake up every morning with indentations

around my neck

I breathe in the salty ocean air that rests only behind my eyelids

I know this can never last

I know this will never be

There is no hope for people made of paper

and rings incomplete

Wedding bells never sounded so silent

or streets looked so grim

I see you

You stand beneath lights that once signaled my return home

now denying your every pass at humanity

I see you

Cold-blooded killer

My dreams nestled in your shoulder

like the bullets in mine

I believe my metaphor died when you did

Thanks for reading.

Dear Heart: A Summer in Europe

I recently spent some time in France with some great friends and Christian family. This trip might have been last minute, but it was the most wonderful experience of my life.

Let me start from the beginning. None of you will ever understand the grace of God in my life. You cannot even begin to fathom the amount of grace and forgiveness that has been lavished upon me. I deserve the worst death. I do not deserve God. I do not deserve love. And that is exactly what I have been given.

I did not expect to encounter God on a vacation to France. Anyone who has been on a mission trip before knows the spiritual preparation that one puts in before going on one of these trips. We prepare ourselves for an encounter with God. We are then overwhelmed with emotion, and we truly feel God’s presence. I didn’t expect or prepare for what happened to me on this trip. Going to France, I felt none of this. I did not have some emotional encounter with God. However, while on this trip, God spoke to me more clearly than I have ever experienced.

I felt God tugging at my heart. I felt God truly calling me out of the place I was in, and into into his presence. I cannot explain this. I just felt like I had no choice but to be obedient. I ended a major relationship in my life. I decided that obedience to God was worth more than my comfort. This decision is already more difficult than any other decision I have ever made, but I have never felt more peace with a decision.

During this trip, one of my great friends said to me something that truly changed my life. He said, “You can wake up tomorrow morning and choose to make better decisions. You can choose that.” And I realized for the first time in my life that I did not have to make decisions based on how I felt. I realized that all of the emotional ties I have to things do not matter near as much as obeying God. Often we have to make decisions that actually go against how we feel.

Maybe I am just behind the curve, but I cannot remember a time that I made a decision that was not based on pure emotion. For the first time in my life, I realized how enslaving that is. Emotions are a great expression, but we cannot base our lives around them. They will fail us.

I am a very stubborn person. That’s an obvious statement if you know me at all. Once I make decisions, I stick with them, even in my error. I reached a point on this trip in which I was so disgusted with my sin and so enraged over the person I had become, that I couldn’t help but to cry out to God. I knew I couldn’t even begin to change on my own.

This same friend also encouraged me to ask God to move me if I couldn’t move myself. I began praying, “God, I am too stubborn to want what you want. If you want me to change, you’re going to have to move me yourself. I can’t do this.” And from that moment on, I have felt a peace unlike any other. Obedience truly leads to abundance of life.

God really pushed this on me during my time in France. It felt like every church service, every sunday school class, and every conversation was geared around this concept of obedience. It was eating away at me for weeks, months, and I would say even years before I finally gave in to God’s will for my life. I have said this before, but I will say it again; Christianity all starts with changing the way we think (Romans 12:1-2). I had to really change the way I viewed freedom. Freedom is not found in my selfishness. Freedom is only found in the grace and forgiveness of and obedience to God.

I have learned more lessons than I can write out in this post. We must be in a regular habit of confessing our sins, not only to God but to our brothers and sisters in Christ as well. We need the community. However, we do not need each other as much as we need God. I am a people-pleaser and extrovert by nature. I love company. I love being loved. I love affirmation. I have made a decision to change that in my life. I have made the decision to really seek God wholeheartedly and truly experience the grace I tell all of my friends about. It’s a beautiful thing to love each other and to be loved, but it is far more beautiful to love God and to be loved by God.

Lè kè m’ par kase ande

“When my heart is torn asunder…”

As many of you know, a couple weeks ago, I went to the country of Haiti on a medical mission trip. Going into this experience, I knew that I was going to “experience” God. I had been on countless mission trips in the states during middle school and high school. I felt like I knew what to expect on the spiritual side of things at least. On the medical side, I had never done anything like this before. I figured that I would see some interesting things, gain some experience, do some soul-searching with regard to my future career, and just see what the medical field is all about. I came back with more than I ever thought I would. God truly changed my life there.

Before even leaving the country, I knew what I was going to be walking into when I arrived in Haiti. I knew that I would disease, destruction, depravation, and poverty. And yes, I did see all of these things, but I saw something that I felt like I had never seen before: faith. The people of Haiti have the strongest faith I have ever seen, stronger than in any American church. And I felt myself become physically ill with my own country and myself. We are far worse off than the Haitian people. They have something that we don’t have as a whole. They have what matters in life.

Suddenly, everything fell apart in my mind. My entire way of thinking was changed. We have all of this money, food, clothing, entertainment, you name it. But we as a nation are headed down a path of destruction and a path that leads away from God. I cannot even describe the freedom I felt being there. I had nothing but God and people. And Jesus’ command suddenly made so much sense. “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” I finally understood that at least to some degree.

We have put so much pressure on people in America to look a certain way, be a certain way, act a certain way, etc. That doesn’t exist there. All of these arguments that we get in about doctrine and churches and everything that goes along with that do not exist in Haiti. The pastors of surrounding churches all meet together and talk about their congregations and their personal walks with God. They have a united church. They are doing things right. I never realized the depravity in America and especially in American churches until I experienced what a real church was supposed to be like.

There is no way to describe this feeling. There is no possible word combination that can make you feel this freedom. There is nothing I can say or do to make anyone understand what I experienced or how God truly changed my heart. I so desperately what to go back. In fact, I never wanted to leave. That place, those people, that church has my heart. I want to be there so badly. I have made friendships with the Haitian people in one week that are stronger than most relationships I already had. I realized what it meant to have a relationship in which the foundation is God. I always thought I was doing that, but I wasn’t. That is something I am now changing and working on.

This all brought me back to one verse that I have talked about before and that God always kept in the back of my mind and on my heart. However, the week I spent in Haiti helped me to truly find this renewal. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Christianity is all about the renewal of your mind. It is changing the way you think. Once we change how we think, we will change the way we feel, and then the way we act. This is when lies and sin begin to disappear. When we align our thinking with God’s thinking, our lives will change.

I discovered so much about myself, and even more about God and what it really means to follow him. My life will never be the same. I still maintain relationships with my Haitian brothers. I have seen how a church, God’s church, can stretch across oceans. I pray every day that I can be in Haiti with these people. It is truly where my heart is. I have never felt such a peace or such a freedom. I wish I could describe it in words, but it is not something that I do not think can ever be described. It must be felt.

Waiting for the Feeling to Return

I haven’t written in way too long. I have had this poem brewing for a while. I thought today would be the perfect day to share since it’s snowing here, and I know no one has anything to do. Here it is. I call it, “Waiting for the Feeling to Return.” Enjoy!

there comes a time in every man’s life when he must decide

when he must choose his way out of choosing neither side

when he must climb down off of his white picket fence

and earnestly claw his way out of the apathetic rut that he has slowly swiveled his heels into

there will come a day when he must realize

that grace and obligation have everything to do with one another

instead of praying for the orphan and the widow, he’s been preying on them

and while he’s been trying to fit the ocean in a cup

his brother’s heart has been overflowing with the Father’s love

his heart is feeble and his mind is week

never knowing the nearness of the grace that he seeks

he has run away

and into an embrace known only to this world

his feet have been set to walking

and his heart to wandering

he drips with sweat he was never meant to bear

and carries chains he was never meant to wear

he spends restless nights awake and alone

praying to the god that never listens

he’s been screaming

he’s been shouting

he’s been crying out

he’s been searching

he’s been seeking

he’s been dying now

longing for a touch

hoping for a kiss

he says, “I prayed my life would never be like this”

and he waits

he waits

sometimes we wait too long

So that’s that. Hope you all enjoyed this. I loved writing it. I hope it touched you like it touched me.

God: What are you Expecting?

Expectations do not dictate reality. I’m going to start off with a short passage of scripture. My dad shared this with me the other day, and it sparked these realizations in me.

John 20:15-20, “‘Woman,’ Jesus said to her, ‘why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’ Supposing He was the gardener, she replied, ‘Sir, if you’ve removed Him, tell me where you’ve put Him, and I will take Him away.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary.’ Turning around, she said to Him in Hebrew, ‘[Teacher].’ ‘Don’t cling to Me,’ Jesus told her, ‘for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and tell them that I am ascending to My Father and your Father—to My God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them what He had said to her.'”

Now, based on my first sentence, most of you could probably guess where I plan on going with this. I was to focus on one word: SUPPOSING. Mary just assumed that Jesus was an ordinary gardener because she was expecting him to look and be a certain way. Mary expected Jesus to be dead and buried, so she did not even see Jesus when he was right in front of her face.

Although it may not be in a physical sense, we do this too. We expect Jesus to appear to us a certain way. We expect God to be a certain way. And those expectations built around human understanding and our own knowledge are often what lead us to miss God. Sometimes we are looking for God so hard that we miss what’s right in front of our faces. I am not by any means suggesting that it is possible to seek God too much. I am simply stating that sometimes we are seeking our own image of God, and that can make us miss the real one.

I am going to take this even a step further. Is this not a form of idolatry? If we are seeking our own image of God, is that not the same thing as not seeking Jehova God? If we start giving God characteristics that we simply wish for him to have, we are creating god. There is a quote that was shared in my philosophy class a while back that has really stuck with me, and it goes along perfectly with what I am talking about. Voltaire said, “If God has created us in his image, we have returned him the favor.” That hit home with me. It still tears my heart up when I read that and meditate on it.

We earnestly and desperately reach for a God that is not the God of the Bible. We simply give him the same name. We reach for a God that doesn’t send people to hell. We reach for a God who does not punish our sins but punishes everyone else’s. We reach for a God who will bless us. We reach for God who does not ask anything of us. We reach for a God who is easy to reach for. We reach for the God that will get us A’s on tests and help us win basketball games. We reach for a God who we have constructed in our own minds. We reach for us and call it God.

If the God that you are seeking is not the God of the Bible as he describes himself, you are not following the God that will redeem you. We need to stop getting so wrapped up in our theologies and our hopes of what God should be like. We need to read the scripture and find out who God is. God will reveal his character to us, but first we have to let go of all of our presumptions on how God really is. We must stop worshiping ourselves.

I don’t know if anyone else feels like this, but I certainly do. I have prayed about this for years, and I feel that this is a righteous anger. Sometimes this anger is even directed at myself, so it’s not just me bashing the church. I get angry when I hear churches worship sometimes. I listen to the lyrics of certain songs, and all that runs through my mind is, “This is not the gospel.” If a visitor came to your worship service or to your church, and all that they heard was your music, would they be lead to Jesus or some worthless construction of a god? When they listen to your songs, what matters more, how you sing it or what you are singing? I am sure that God cares more about the words, the meaning behind them, and your heart when you sing them. I get passionate about this. It almost makes me sick sometimes when I listen to certain songs in the church because I will put myself in an unbeliever’s shoes and know in my heart that they are not being lead to the God of the Bible.

We often seek to draw people’s attention to God with how pretty our voices sound or how great we play guitar. We focus on making everyone stand up and sing these songs we have created. I feel like often times we worship the song more than the God who the song is supposed to be about. This could honestly be an it own post altogether, but I will stop ranting now. I think my point has been made.

To sum this up, though, what I am getting at is that in everything we do, we seem to be creating God in our likeness, rather than being molded by him for his glory. Just because we expect God to be a certain way doesn’t make him change. It just draws our attention away from the true God and his glory, and on onto ourselves and our own glory. I know I went off on a mini-tangent there, but I will tie this all in. Just be patient with me.

The point. Whether we are singing songs or just living life, we must ask God to reveal his character to us, not suppose God to be a certain way. Our human minds cannot comprehend the true nature of God. We have to stop filling in those empty spaces with our own thoughts, and instead fill them with faith that God is good.

God is. We must let him be.

Unclean Hearts: What Can Wash Away Our Sins?

If you have grown up in church, you were probably absolutely bombarded with the message that Jesus washes away sins. We’ve all heard the lyrics, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” That’s all good considering that’s the gospel. However, there has been something that I have realized recently that has changed my perspective completely.

What is it that has made us dirty? Any good church-going Sunday school kid would say “sin.” This is where the problem comes in. We cannot believe that what we do is what makes us unclean. Before you start screaming heresy, please continue reading.

It is not our actions that have separated us from Jesus. It is our sinful nature. We are inherently sinful. You may be thinking that there isn’t much a difference between those two things. Everyone sins, so it works the same to say that the sins we commit separate us from Jesus, right? So wrong.

The problem with this thinking is that it leads to shame rather than freedom. If we believe that what we do is what dirties us, then every time we sin, we are going to feel like we have dirtied our holiness. We were never holy. We were born into sin. We were born dirty. We were born unclean and unworthy. Even if we never sinned in our lives, we are still not holy.

I have found that every time I sin, usually the “bigger” ones, I feel like I have somehow spotted my perfection. I feel like I’ve messed up some sort of “I didn’t sin for this long” streak. This is a huge issue because instead of focusing on Jesus in sin, it makes us run from God. When we think that we have somehow failed God by sinning, then we fear God in an unhealthy manner. We run away in shame.

We have to understand these things:

1. God knows that we are going to sin. We aren’t failing him by sinning. He already knows we are going to, and his grace is bigger than any sin.

2. We are not perfect. When we mess up, we don’t suddenly make ourselves unclean. Yes, we should repent and feel conviction, but we must understand that we were never holy to begin with.

3. Although we are striving for perfection and holiness, we aren’t there yet. We are going to sin. We are going to lie to ourselves. We are going to justify the things we do. Sin isn’t always going to be subconscious. We are sinful in our hearts. We are going to blatantly and consciously sin at times. God still forgives that.

The most important thing to realize is that the condition of our hearts is what has separated us from God, not our moral imperfection. Our moral imperfection is what shows us that our hearts are inherently sinful. We are unclean in the very fibers of our being, completely separate from our actions. Our actions and failure to adhere to the moral commands of God are simply to show us that we are not holy and that we need Jesus. That is the purpose of the law: to show us our need for Jesus. It is not to try to live perfectly in order to not spot these perfectly white robes that we seem to think we wear. That leads to legalism, not to Jesus.

Following God should lead to guilt that pushes us to repentance, not to shame that leads us to run from God. We must realize that God’s grace is bigger that ALL of our sin. Our sin does not continue to separate us from God. Once we are made new in him, we can never lose that. God sees us through the lens of his perfect grace. We are to strive to be holy, but at the same time we must realize that we are not there yet, nor have we ever been. We are not in the process of trying to stay holy. We are in the process of trying to become holy.