A Repose in the Battle

Madness disguises itself as reason

And robs me of my joy, my compassion, and life itself

Passion alone is a dead end

Ruminating is my ruin

The only joy and peace is involuntary

It comes upon me against my will

It laughs at my silly thoughts

And my soul, for an instant, bursts open

 

I’m tired of the wrestling,

I don’t want to play the game anymore

I just want to exist, and feel, and be blessed 

And I don’t care if the best part of me

Is the part that comes not from me

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Holy Spirit, Are You There?

I wasn’t supposed to think about God for seven days, in fact, I promised I wouldn’t. I know what you’re thinking, and believe me, I really, really didn’t want to do it. I almost had to.

Of course, the promise didn’t mean much because I still thought about God. How could I not? Hey, don’t think about elephants. What did you just think about? And it goes even deeper than that. You see, I can’t stop thinking about God because I belong to him.

I still felt so guilty. I still felt so bitter. I felt like I’d betrayed God. I feared he was going to abandon me forever. “You’ve made your bed- now go and lie in it.” I feared that I would die before the seven days were up and be cast straight into Hell. 

And yet, here I am. I don’t think God abandoned me, though. I felt His presence. There were moments that I was absolutely certain of HIs existence and infinite significance. Sometimes, you don’t know just how real God is until others oppose you. Sometimes, you don’t realize how ridiculous and fleeting the world is until you watch someone else continually living for it. 

There were other times that the worldliness took over. I found myself wondering if I really would have a better life without thinking about God, as O had tried to convince me. 

Even now, I don’t feel all that spiritual. I don’t feel the guidance of the Holy Spirit as I’m writing this. I don’t feel “abandoned by God,” but I don’t feel filled completely by Him either. And I can’t help but wonder if it has anything to do with my denying Jesus (but if I’m going to use that analogy, God did forgive Peter. I don’t know- just saying). 

But one thing I do know is this- that every decent thing I’ve ever written on this blog was the work of the Spirit. It wasn’t me, my talent, experience, or “wisdom.” God forbid that I should be prideful or smug! It was Him, it was Him all along. I just pressed the keys. 

Oh, Spirit return to me! I’ll do whatever you say! Spirit, where are you? Fill me, please, like you filled the apostles, like you have been filling emptied souls for centuries! Pick up the pieces of my heart! Scrub the filth from my mind! 

O, Spirit, where are you when we fight on the side of the road with our brothers and sisters? Why don’t you whisper in our ear as we whisper filthy gossip into the ears of our friends? Where is your healing touch when we feel jealous or angry? 

Why does the flesh win, Spirit? Why does it constantly hunger and yearn, even when the Spirit is filled? 

Why can’t we walk in our spirits? Why do we ignore, belittle, and defraud our brothers and sisters? Why is there so much tension, drama, and awkwardness when our spirits are all rejoicing together? Why?

 

 

There’s the Fruit!

When I was in middle school, I remember going to chapel every Wednesday. They made us wear these really ugly plaid skirts and white oxford shirts. Yes- they had to be white oxford shirts. Our normal white polo shirts, I guess, just weren’t holy enough. 

And when we were dressed thus, we sang many cute songs, one of which is called The Fruit of the Spirit, based on this verse:

Galatians 5:22-23Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

22 And the fruit of the Spirit is: Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith,

23 meekness, temperance: against such there is no law;

 

I used Young’s Literal Translation even though it doesn’t flow quite like the other translations because I like the words long-suffering, meekness, and temperance which are more familiarly translated as patience, gentleness, and self-control. 

Long-suffering- what does that make you think of? Somehow I’m picturing someone who’s been at the bottom of a well for five days, singing “How Great Is Our God,” hoping that someone will hear even though his voice is weak and rough. The word “patience” doesn’t give me quite the same image. “Patience” reminds me of standing in line at Starbucks and repressing the urge to yank the pony tail of the girl in front of you ordering five impossible concoctions. Or maybe I’m just crazy, and the two words are perfect synonyms. 

“Meekness.” I suppose that’s similar to gentleness. But “gentleness” seems more linked to grace and femininity, while meekness is a bit more gender-neutral. Meekness is close to humility, while it also implies gentleness. Yet, one could be gentle without being humble, right? So I like the use of the word “meek” a little better.

“Temperance” makes me think of ladies wearing way too many ruffles carrying signs with pictures of liquor bottles x’ed out. We can call them naive and misguided from our view, but maybe that’s what we all need as a society, more temperance. 

I think what I’m really trying to say is that I like the word “long-suffering” because it involves suffering and not just waiting for good things to come. Patience is when we see the first streaks of dawn. Long-suffering is when it’s pitch black and the only light is in our soul. It’s a reminder that the Spirit will help us in our suffering, help us endure it, well, for a long time. And we will endure it because the “Love, joy, peace, and goodness” will keep us going. Somehow, we will keep going. Somehow, we will feel love, and somehow we will give love. I believe it, even though a part of me screams that it is impossible. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trying to be Optimistic, For Once

Compared to yesterday, today I observed a boost in mental health. What more can I ask for from God? Every driplet of sanity has become precious to me.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Don’t even ask me about six months from now.

They say that the life is about the journey, not the destination. I have a hard time believing them sometimes. It seems like I have reason to crave the destination and despise the journey after all. My journeys often seem mundane and anticlimactic. What are my journeys? The first thing that comes to mind are my tri-weekly journeys to school. As a commuter, I’ve gotten way too familiar with one stretch of highway. I don’t really travel otherwise. So the journey motif isn’t working so hot.

On an emotional/social/personal level, the story is similar. Exciting things don’t happen to me often. Which is good and bad. Few friends and little drama. No love and no heartbreak. But the common theme is stagnancy.

BUT let me turn the tables on this whole whine fest and explain why I have reason to be happy.

The fact is that I’m in a good place in general. I’m busy and I’m on the way to something. And that is exciting. I have a novel to write, people to meet, a future ahead of me (God willing). I am just beginning to awaken spiritually. And I’m in college (except I’m on summer break) which I don’t enjoy all the time because I feel like I’m just watching everyone else have a fun and/or fulfilling time but you know what, my education is an amazing opportunity that I shouldn’t waste being miserable. People say that these are the best years of my life. I don’t really believe them, but maybe it would behoove me to. After all, it could be worse. It could be much, much worse.

Lord, the journey is enough for me. Lord, You are enough for me.

In Defense of Contemporary Christian Music

I know that I have probably used this blog in the past to rant about how Christian art is dry as a desert and blah blah blah, but Iately I have felt blessed by the Christian pop on the satellite radio station The Message. Call it cheesy, but if you asked me, it’s kind of sweet (and not all of the songs can be called cheesy). You could say that the melodies aren’t as good, but really, it’s the same style as all the other music out there. Just saying. Maybe I’m a little out of the loop because I don’t listen to most current music anyway, being a 60’s fan.

The songs get stuck in my head, and believe it or not, the lyrics spiritually convict me. That’s right, the Lord works in mysterious as well as obvious ways. The songs encourage me to give it all up to God.

But like many before me I suppose, I wonder what it really means to “give it all up to God.” I think it’s safe to conclude that we should be willing to give up our very lives to God, and of course, everything that we have. But the fact is that one does not simply give their life away… that is usually suicide. So then what do we give away? Is there a percentage? 

In Luke 19, Zacchaeus gives away half his possessions. That is a fraction. But the confusion doesn’t stop for me, unfortunately. 

Sometimes I feel that it is my calling to give everything away and live in the most simple way possible, eating only the simplest and most wholesome foods. And, ironically, I worry about this decision. I worry about what people will think, what I would do, etc. I wonder if it would be right to leave my family behind in pursuit of the life that I have planned, whatever it will look like precisely. 

In many ways, I am misguided. I think that I will attain spiritual growth through self control, but self-control is only part of it. To get anywhere, we must abide in God, the vine (see John 15). Ultimately we won’t be able to change our behavior if we don’t change our hearts. And only the love of God can truly change a person’s heart, this I believe. I am also misguided because I don’t truly want to give everything up. I still love the world when I should be loving God and using the world for God. 

God, I know I can’t let my life pass me by while I stand around, but I can’t make a 180 now either. I’m stuck physically. Help me to take it one day, one hour, one precious moment at a time. Let me share in your gift of peace (John 14:27). Do not let me agonize over fractions and doctrines. Let me know that what is done out of love is not done in vain. 

 

 

 

We’ve Got To Get Out of This Place

And by “place,” I really mean our minds and even our hearts, not necessarily whatever the Animals were talking about

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God- what is good and acceptable and perfect”

-Romans 12:2

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothes yourselves in the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

-Ephesians 4:11

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth

-John 4:24

I am accustomed to glossing over the idea of the spirit, even though it is the key to renewing the mind and reforming actions. Not that I didn’t believe in it, I thought it was just a technicality, a detail tangential to the real message about giving yourself wholly to God. But now it occurs to me- what is self? And what exactly is this spirit? 

I just read another pamphlet by Watchman Nee which explains the relationship between the heart, soul, spirit and mind in great detail, as well as it described the unfortunate condition of the is unrenewed, worldly mind. I really wish I could share this pamphlet with you all, but once again I am restrained by copyright laws. I would like to go on a tirade about copyright laws right now, but I suppose that would be rather hypocritical of me since I am an aspiring novelist. 

ANYWAY, back to the point. Do you see how unrenewed my mind is? I am the most scatter-brained person. I’m sure that the things I have been posting on here lately reflect that. Most of the time I think about food. When I am working, I think about relaxing, when I am relaxing, I think about working. My mind is full of all sorts of vain and foolish daydreams. My mind constantly puffs itself up. For that reason, I can hardly write anything good because the ego clouds my inspiration, and every time I do think I write something good, I am always sure to give myself a hearty pat on the back. 

I can probably sustain thoughts that are exclusively about God for about a minute, whereas I can entertain anger and jealousy almost indefinitely if I so chose. 

Even my heart is in the wrong place; it seeks after itself continually. It festers in its wounds and refuses to be healed. That is why my thoughts are often filled with discontent and bitterness.

And then, of course, mental illness adds a whole other confusing layer to the already jarring conundrum that is my mind.

I have described the state of my mind, but what about my spirit? I am only beginning to understand what my spirit is, let alone what it can do. This must be the reason why my spiritual life is lacking so. Why can’t I pray well? Why aren’t my prayers answered even if they are unselfish prayers? Why can’t I effectively speak about God? Why don’t I feel that the Holy Spirit is giving me words? Why do I constantly feel so self-conscious and not God-conscious? And why can’t I understand anyone!

The spirit, I suppose, is the part of us that is outside of the body. It is the part that will remain when all else perishes. It is the better half, the ideal essence of our being. So if it is true that this spirit will last forever while our body and our brains will perish… wouldn’t it be a good idea, then, to get to know this spirit?

But how is that accomplished? How will we relate to our spirit? How can we even meet it? The spirit doesn’t need food or coffee, so that’s not useful. I mean. Is a meet and greet icebreaker in order? Of course I am joking, but the confusion is real. 

I don’t think it is useful to really strain yourself to get in touch with the spirit. Please don’t consult mediums. 

I do think that you will feel your spirit eventually. You may even understand something profound and spiritual when you’re not trying. And that is because it is God who communicates through our spirit. But what do I know about the spirit? Maybe you shouldn’t listen to me, I’m just a silly girl

But even though it may be difficult to understand and know the spirit, I think it is very useful to know that it is there. It’s not just a technicality or some abstract thing that isn’t important, as I always thought. The spirit may not be material, but it is real, it is a source of comfort. You see, the spirit is somewhat independent. It is not the body, it is not even the mind really. Now, let me say why this is comforting. We may feel worthless at times because our actions and thoughts are evil. But there is a higher self outside the flesh. The higher self can receive information from God, or the Holy Spirit. And once our spirit fellowships with God, the rest of us will follow suit. So there is continually hope for the sinner. It doesn’t matter how perverse your thoughts are, but they can be washed clean through this flawless system that our Lord has created. Not that I really understand it, not that I am explaining it in the right way, but let us rejoice when we realize that there is an abundant and sublime life apart from this one. Or, as the song goes, “There’s a better life for you and me.” 

Yet, I am sad to admit, that finding this life will mean abandoning the old self or the “old man” as some translations say. Abandoning old thoughts, old desires, old habits sounds like a lot of work. But it will be worth it in the end. 

The fire is coming, friends. We can stubbornly stay where we’re at, which will be comfortable until the end, or we can evacuate. If we evacuate, the road may be long and perilous, but I think that once we see the glory of our new dwellings, we will hardly have remorse over what is lost. 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I Feel Like A Chained Dog

Why God, do you daily instill in me a love of the higher pursuits, and yet deprive me of the means to attain them?

Oh that I could know your will for me and accomplish it!

Why can’t I be free God? Tell me now, what’s wrong with me?

Why, continually, must I howl at a bright moon that I cannot touch?

Why am I only allowed to bark and growl from my safe dog house, why can I run in pursuit of the enemy only until the chain tightens up?

Is death the only release from this condition? Or will it be a number of years? How many years? Get me out right now! But no, not too soon, I pity my captor…

And what if I do become free? What then? Will it spoil me? Will I take it for granted and carry out my own will? Will the flame of righteousness that occasionally lights my soul be extinguished forever? Is longing the only thing that binds me to You?

The things of this life bring me so little joy sometimes. If only I could taste the cool waters of Your mercy or the hearty bread of Your being! If only I could catch just a glimpse of you! When will I finally enter Your presence?

But until then, the Peace of my soul, the pearl of my treasure chest, the captor of my heart, let me yearn for you humbly. Lord, let me be Your servant, Your handmaiden, Your bride. 

Until I see you in paradise, let me sigh after you and dream about you (if I can’t hold you tonight, sorry I thought of that song, I hope this isn’t some kind of copyright infringement). 

Let me continue to howl at the milky moon that You created, and bark at Satan until my voice grows hoarse. And let me know, deep down in my heart, that unlike all my other vain dreams, this one will be even more glorious in reality than in imagination.