Monday, July 25, 2011

A Soul in Shambles

I've had a fear of bridges for as long as I can remember.  It's an irrational fear but I can't go over a bridge without feeling like the car is going to plummet into a watery grave or I'll be completely impulse driven and walk off the edge.  Yet bridges can be beautiful.  We just drove over one that, while possibly fatal, overlooked a gorgeous valley with a peaceful river hemmed by trees that even the best Hudson River School landscape painter couldn't enhance.  I had this overwhelming sense of dread and fear yet a complete appreciation of the beauty around me.  That most aptly wraps up how I'm feeling right now.

My heart is heavy.  It's the type of heavy that makes it hard to sleep.  I usually sleep on my right side but with this lead-weighted heart, it feels like my heart will crush my lungs and I'm left gasping for breath.  I just mixed a physical and emotional description but its as close as I can get to depicting this feeling without actually giving you my heart.

This feeling of breathlessness and a heaviness of heart is because I am downright sad.  The wonderful people I've spent time with this week will never be in the same place with me ever again.  I'll come to visit of course, but things will never be the same (everything is forever changing, remember?)

I'm also downright terrified.  I've learned much about God and myself and life in a week (we will touch on this later) and as I approach home, I can already feel this slipping away.  The old frustrations and confusions and struggles are waiting to welcome me back.  Also waiting are my family, friends, to-do list, shower, and bed--all of which I'm eagerly anticipating. 

So here comes the beautiful river and trees and serenity part that lies beneath my deathtrap bridge of over thinking and fear and sadness.

This week was good for me.  Other than seeing everyone mesh and grow into a family and stronger children of God, I got to serve others in perhaps the simplest form of meeting needs.  The majority of my time was spent in soup kitchens ranging form a very high-tech program to churches with kitchens to a small facility in a shady section that ran like clockwork and seated 22 people yet fed 400 people in 3 hours.  I did some street ministry and prayer walks which were good but not life-changing, which was also perfectly fine.  Oh, and my partner and I dominated in euchre all week.  Good times were had by all (except possibly our euchre opponents).

So even though I'm going to miss my 3D Visioners like crazy, there is beauty in knowing they are on fire for God and will do amazing things for Him.  In an interesting stroke of timing, we just passed the exit of Grove City.  The idea of new friends and experiences and adventures is beautiful too--even if it is overshadowed by my fear of losing those I love so much now.

So even though I'm terrified of reverting back to my old self, with my soul in shambles, there is a new serenity in knowing that God can put it back together and I don't have to.  I'm a realist.  I know my struggles won't disappear in this life time.  I know my soul will be in shambles once again, and probably sooner than I'd like.  But I'm a realist.  I know that my God fixed the problem of an irredeemable human race and can surely fix me.

Since I abandoned my previous day by day structure (for an excellent play-by-play please visit:  I'm sure I've missed some details and important revelations and good stories.  However, there is value to consistency so I'm going to relate in as concise of terms possible (a lost cause at this point, I know)  what I have learned during a week of serving God in NYC.

Lessons Learned:
  • Just because my comfort zone is getting larger and larger and proportionally harder and harder to break out of, it doesn't mean that the things I participated in didn't have impact
  • Serving others is ultimately about, well, serving others and about serving God.  Even if I didn't have a huge epiphany it doesn't mean that it wasn't significant.
  • I need to slow down myself and my thoughts.
  • When I pray for others, I become personally invested in their lives.  Therefore, I find it easier and easier to care about their well-being.  This gives new light to the idea of praying for one's enemies (or at least the people you'd rather avoid).  It's more than a test of forgiveness, it may just be the best way to eliminate having enemies.
  • Release
  • The thoughts that occupy our thoughts the most and dictate our actions are the things we "worship".  Yet these things do not love me in return.  They don't redeem me, tell me I'm beautiful or worthy, give me peace, protect me, save me, or offer eternal life.  But God does.  So why worship the things that enslave me and rob me of happiness instead of the God who will set me free and give me true joy?
  • The value in being real.
  • God puts me where I need to be for a reason.


Hello all!  It was suggested to me that I explain the new name for my thought outlet.  The word penintime means "second from inmost" and the word latibule means "hiding place".  Since there is a hiding place for my thoughts that are about as close to me as I will allow anyone to know, it seemed right.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Writing a Better Story (Part 1)

Blogger graphs the page views from this blog, and I've found that it has a unnerving correlation to my personal up and downs.  The best parts of my year have huge peaks then there are massive valleys during the hard times, when I want to write, to express myself, to shout something, but nothing comes out.
Speaking of writing, I have been thinking a good deal lately about stories.  In particular, the story that is your life. 

Do you realize that?  That this life is a story, and we are in the process of shaping the rising action, anticipating the climax, and choosing the setting.  Arguably, it is God doing the writing but I will discuss this later. 

I have a friend who put it this way: "We define ourselves as characters with our actions, our inactions, so on, so forth.  And really morality is merely doing exactly what your protagonist would do."

I tend to agree.  I'm not promoting a frantic, Willy Loman, "I haven't got a thing in the ground" reaction to the story idea.  A life lived solely for the purpose of leaving a legacy will most likely look very impressive.  However, a character that has spent so much time focused on the appearance of their actions will miss the actual living part.  

I am promoting an intentional life.  What can you remember from your story so far?  Which moments stand out?  If you were weeding out all of the commonplace events and stringing together the significant ones would it make a good story?  Would you make a good protagonist, one that you would root for and relate to?  It doesn't matter if it would make the bestseller list or end up in the free box at garage sales.  What matters is if it is a story that you would like reading, and inevitably, one that you wouldn't mind reading to God.

At the end of any book, it usually isn't the success of the mission, the resolution of the inherent conflict, or whether the boy gets the girl that makes an impact on me.  If it is any sort of quality book, it is the personal success (that is, the development of their character towards a better end) that creates an enticing plot line, significant climax, and satisfying end to any book.  (Side note: I have a habit of aligning myself with the wrong character in any given book, which my English class was ever so kind to point out to me.) 

The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined.  The point of a story is never about the ending, remember.  It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle. [Donald Miller]

So envision what you want life to be.  Decide to like the main character, which, by the way, is you. Take the opportunities to write a better story.  Don't shy away from confrontation and changes.  But be wise, be careful, and seek God's will continuously.  The only problem with writing a better story, is that it might just work.

Friday, July 1, 2011

This is living.

She shudders as the thunder blankets the sky.  Her reaction is to hide, to withdraw inside of the house, herself, a book, anything.  Sheets of rain driven by powerful winds rush by the window.  The movement of the individual rain drops down the glass and the immense force that they command together frightens her so much that rationality is abandoned.  Rubber boots are adorned instead of logic.  The umbrella is left lying under the tackle box in the closet, her mothers warnings are left unheeded by ears that need to hear the wind in its full force.

The wetness is trapped in her clothing.  It wraps around her tightly, clinging to her skin.
She runs.  The neighbors peer from behind their gingham curtains and wonder why she must run, never once thinking that they must run as well.  She doesn't notice. 

There is renewal in the rain and joy in the puddles.  The rain forms moving walls that travel down the road.  She laughs and runs after something that is impossible to catch.

Mud splashes with every step, barely noticeable on her legs and shorts that are saturated with water.  She does not stop running.

Until she does stop and opens her eyes and her arms because this is the time to create a photograph.  This is the time to be symbolic and embrace the rain.  The smile is small but it has started from the heart and it cannot be stopped.  Exhausted, she lets her hands fall, palm-down, over her head, onto the ground that is so wet that it accepts the hand prints willingly as they impress into the mud.  Her body forms an arc.  Slowly, she lowers the spine and lets it mold into the ground. 

Eyes closed she lays there, soaking in the water from the earth and from the clouds.  The thunder no longer blankets the sky.  Each peal moves through the clouds on a diagonal, followed by a slight turn of the head.  Sunshine replaces the darkness but the rain has a steady, lulling, consistency. 

Each drop feels like it will pierce her skin as it lands on her legs and arms but the way it kisses her lips balances the pain.  This is living.