Enough

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We don’t have a big home, but we have a home
There aren’t too many rooms to heat, but we have rooms to heat
We don’t have a lot of money, but still we have some money
Nor is there fancy food to eat, and yet there is food to eat

Though riches have their grandeur, we have what is grander
We don’t have too many things, but indeed we do have many things
No gilded clothes upon our backs, but there are clothes upon our backs
Others may not our praises sing, but with reason for praises we often sing

We’ve no space to flee from each other, but alas we have space to be with each other
A hungry soul thinks it desires more stuff, but a hunger-slaked soul no longer desires more stuff
The quantity is small of our heart’s contents, but quantity does not make our hearts content
They say if we had more we would have enough, yet what more could be had since we have enough?

Fragments 10/10: The end of all things

I began a 10-day experiment on October 30th. For 10 days, I am:

  1. Setting a timer for 15 minutes
  2. Writing what I can during that time
  3. Stopping when the time is up
  4. Posting what is written without any final editing

For additional context, check out the first post in this series by clicking here.


START

It will be a time when words cease. The lion will lift its paw and every tongue will give pause, as an orchestra before the conductor’s suspended baton. It will be as though one was looking for a country and, having dashed for miles through hill and valley to find someone to point him in the right direction, suddenly comes to understand that the very terrain he’s traversed in frantic longing is the very soil he has search for all along. 

The greats of every age will take their place among the humble and the humble among the great. For all will be instilled with the simple knowledge that there is nothing left to say and nothing left to do. As a once busy mind, weary from sorting through the archives of yesterday, today, tomorrow, and a thousand days more, finally slows to a still sleep, so shall the infinite neurons of our souls fold their hands and take their seat to watch eternity unfold. 

Things that could not formerly give pause will be further stilled. Stars may cease their relentless consuming and mountains, their solemn humming. It will be as though a translucent sheet were dropped from view. Things once invisible will now be made plain. Things once in the forefront of focus now obscured in the midst of larger, grander light and colors, or things as impossibly small yet undeniable as the bending of a grass blade in the wind. 

STOP


I wrote these words on the train this evening. Recently, my commutes have been split between reading books and listening to podcasts. The material I’ve filled the time with has ranged from philosophies that are way over my head to thought-provoking commentaries on racial tensions to comedic banter.

Today was different. Receiving much media input can make one bloated so I felt the need to produce some output to balance my equilibrium. Before I left work, I ripped a few pages out of a spiral notebook and folded them into my pocket.

After entering the subway station, an announcement on the PA system indicated that the incoming train would not be taking any passengers. Moments later it rolled up to the platform with empty passenger cars and closed doors. It remained at the platform for about 10 minutes while the air became so thick with a foul exhaust that I covered my nose with my pulled-over-the-shoulder sweatshirt hood. Some component of train machinery pierced the air with intermittent, staccato splutters of steam. We waited as the digitized voices on the PA system announced the delays. The train eventually rolled out of the station and was followed by the one that would take me home. I found a seat, set my timer, held the papers taught against my leg to form a writing surface and wrote about the end of the world.

That may sound morbid but it’s the truth, and I wasn’t approaching the subject from a morbid perspective. If you’ve ever read The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis, you’ll recall that the end of the book (the last in the seven-book Narnia series) tells of the sweeping destruction and renewal of Narnia. If you’re familiar with the last book of the bible, Revelation, you’ll see some parallels between the events described by both C.S. Lewis and the apostle John. In both accounts, the events that take place are beyond words. There is chaos and order, fury and silence, tragedy and jubilee. The last image we are left with is a deep peace and joy. For the past few days, I’ve had it in my mind to put some thoughts on paper on this subject and to highlight some of the stillness and beauty that have been touched on by these authors.

In the bible, John has a vision of what ‘the end’ will be like. Human language is apparently inadequate to describe all of it. “And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby” (Rev. 4:3). Jasper and ruby must be the closest equivalents in our language to what he saw. I think that’s awesome. I’d like to think he was so perplexed by what he saw that he was helplessly grasping at words to try to convey the image. As John discovered, sometimes glimpses of God and eternity are hidden in the marvelous shimmer of a ruby. Other times, they are depicted through a sweeping C.S. Lewis epic. Or sometimes  a simple train delay at the end of the day. May our attempts to capture those glimpses in our words, images, and memories always fail just enough to keep us looking.

This little light

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Arise, little light of mine
Now is your time to shine
Though darkness is growing
And storm winds are blowing
Now is your time to shine

The shadows are mounting in strength
Still you must burn your true length
You will pay full cost
To light the path for the lost
Still you must burn your true length

The hearts of others may die
Yet keep your fire alive
Friends may betray
And turn from the way
Yet keep your fire alive

Take heart, little light of mine
Now is your hour to shine
Though it is lonely to be
Aflame in solitary
Now is your hour to shine

When evil begins to show
Be bold in your noble glow
When sacred is defaced
Right and wrong, misplaced
Be bold in your noble glow

Remember why you were made
When all good things seem to fade
God’s light evermore
To bring shipwrecks to shore
When all good things seem to fade

Be strong, little light of mine
This dark world needs you to shine
Till all wounds are mended
Till long night is ended
This dark world needs you to shine

Fragments 9/10: Carpentry

I began a 10-day experiment on October 30th. For 10 days, I am:

  1. Setting a timer for 15 minutes
  2. Writing what I can during that time
  3. Stopping when the time is up
  4. Posting what is written without any final editing

For additional context, check out the first post in this series by clicking here.


START

(Shhhick – Shhhick – Shhhick)
(Shhhick – Shhhick – Shhhick)
(Dee-alee-aling!)

“Good morning!”
(Shhhick – Shhhick…Thud)

“Good morning, how are you?”
Fair as the weather, I’d say.”
“That bad, eh?”
“Well not as bad as it could be but ‘fraid not as good either. Landlord and I are having some ‘mis-agreements’.”

Four thick fingers shot higher than necessary above his head in vigorous air quotations. 

“About what?”
“Eh the usual: rent, standards o’ cleanliness.”

He’s the shopkeeper across the street. He stopped by every morning for a chat. Recently, most chats have involved some rehashed ‘mis-agreement’ with his landlord. 

“I thought you two came to some sort of understanding last week?”
“Well we-ah…heh”

A coarsely-haired tree-limb of an arm swung suddenly upward, placing a stout hand on top of a glistening scalp. It remained there while its owner 

STOP


This is another one I’d like to come back to at some point. I knew more detail about these characters than I was able to squeeze into a 15-minute write. The main character is a carpenter who works across the street from his shopkeeper friend. They have this unbalanced relationship in which the shopkeeper tends to show up unannounced and unload some issues onto the readily listening ear of the carpenter. In the long range of the story, the developing troubles of the shopkeeper would be indicative of some larger scale issues affecting the entire community. The carpenter would undergo some sort of transition from helpless bystander to fated activist.

I’ve recently been fascinated by the stories of ordinary people who are thrown into the midst of extraordinary circumstances. Martin Luther King Jr. is one such figure. Sure he probably doesn’t seem like a ‘ordinary’ person knowing what we know now. He wasn’t a politician or a legislator. He was a preacher who wanted the nation and its people to live harmoniously. Nothing special there; most people share that desire and can relate in some way. But the gospel he preached compelled him to do no less than the extraordinary things we now know him for. I wanted to write about a Martin Luther King Jr. Those are real characters. Things happen in our world and our lives that act as turning points where we have to either continue being a bystander or roll-up our sleeves and do something, whether we know entirely what that something is or not.

There were a few experiments in this free-write as well. First is the sounds. I like the use of sounds words (officially known as onomatopoeias but that’s a mouthful to say and type) and tried using a few here.

Shhhick – Shhhick = The carpenter planing a piece of wood
Dee-alee-aling = The bell above door of the carpenter’s shop

The other experiment was the dialogue. I don’t have much experience writing dialogue between two or more characters (this is the first free-write that includes it). It’s fun though. Aside from the descriptions and actions of a character, I think the things they say and the way in which they say it can express a lot of detail about who they are and their general demeanor.

Do not be afraid

Don’t panic. Fear is our enemy. Not a policy, not a political party, not any one particular person. Fear is.

Fear ties the hands of those who would use them to do right. Fear binds people to their seats when it is time to stand up. Fear closes the mouths of those who would speak the truth. Fear turns the eyes and minds of the valiant away from the reality of “what is?” to the uncertainty of “what if?”

Fear plays on both sides.

Fear whips the passive bystander into active aggressor. Fear clenches the fists of those who have by telling them they have not. Fear uses one hand to stab in the back and the other to point an accusing finger at “those people.”

What great movement has ever been accomplished by anyone who chose fear over action? What memorable words have ever been penned or declared by those who squelched the fire in their belly with the safety of silence and indifference? This has never happened and it never will.

We’re all familiar with the paranoia and slander that has filled our airwaves and news feeds these past months. Some of it directed towards specific individuals and others towards entire people groups. Now that a larger, more powerful microphone has been given to some of the voices that have spread such toxic things, it is tempting to be afraid. Don’t be. Do not be afraid.

The problems of this present age are the same as those faced by our predecessors. They are dressed differently but their methods and weaponry are still the same: fear. But know this: This is good news. If the poison hasn’t changed, the antidote hasn’t either.

Fear is a commodity that is bought and sold, not an inheritance that is given or received without choice. It falls apart when people refuse to buy and it trembles in the presence of of those who refuse to believe its deceptions. The power of the schoolyard bully and the political tyrant are equally hard-pressed when even one individual has the audacity to cast off the luxury of standing by and doing nothing. To say, do, or even think differently than the status-quo of hate is to heave a boulder at the glass house of fear. Do not buy into fear or its byproduct of hate, thus betraying yourself. If you must fear anything at all, fear not the enemy at your door but the enemy in your mirror.

So no matter how the politics of our country may change, it is up to you and I to resist fear. Whether you have been unfairly exempt or included in the sweeping criminalization of various people groups during this season, you have a strength to contribute to this effort. Love and be kind to others no matter what stereotypes have been forced upon them. Be unafraid of any stigma that may come your way for doing so. Speak up and speak out for the violated, stand in the gap between victim and oppressor with a love that will lift up the one and set an example for the other, reach out to those who have been shaken by our nation’s volatile climate. Do not wait for anyone else to do it. The hate you may endure for doing so is no match for such compassion.

If you are a Christian, you come from a long lineage of fear-resisters; you are not alone in the struggle. Jesus told us “You are the light of the world…Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). Though the whole house is dark, a single light will penetrate it. Jesus’ entire earthly life was spent as a solitary light in a dark world. The world has never been the same since. If you want to be a light to others, you have to step into the darkness. You won’t be alone when you do.

Esther was a queen who used her position of influence to dismantle one man’s planned genocide of an entire people group. The words she received from a friend to help her maintain focus are just as applicable to us in our present positions of influence: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). 

What about Martin Luther King Jr? Mother Teresa? The kid in school who stood up for you when you were getting picked on? That co-worker who not only didn’t laugh at the racist jokes being casually tossed around the lunch table but said something to stop them? Each of these refused to be scared into silence and inaction. What about you and what about me? Such accomplishments are within reach. We have work to do. Today is the day to overcome fear.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). 

 

Fragments 8/10: Changes

I began a 10-day experiment on October 30th. For 10 days, I am:

  1. Setting a timer for 15 minutes
  2. Writing what I can during that time
  3. Stopping when the time is up
  4. Posting what is written without any final editing

For additional context, check out the first post in this series by clicking here.


START

A man may change and turn back again
To the things he knew before
And again might he
Morph suddenly
To be what he was once more

Whether personality or action
Or a manner of deeds
He may try one out
But come only to doubt
The fruit that would be born of such seeds

My youth was marked in a manner of sorts
With whimsy and spontaneous action
No methods, no planning
And small understanding
The garments of childhood fashion

A-ways down the road, through the passage of time
It seems that a change had set in
To consider approach

STOP


It was difficult to think of a theme for this fragment. With the election tomorrow, I had considered a continuation of “Fragment 7/10: Political”. Then I thought of writing about my earliest memory or trying to write fiction but wasn’t too attracted to the idea. It was only then that I decided on what would become the central theme to this poem.

From my childhood up until now, I’ve observed myself waiver between the objective and the subjective. There have been periods in which I operated more from a place of spontaneity and there have been others in which I’ve been very methodical and planned-out. Now, I’m trying to figure out the various parts of me that resonate more deeply with one over the other. Music is where I satisfy the spontaneous part of my brain; I play what I feel and I feel what I play. Work is where I become organized, filed, and automatic.

This poem was an attempt to capture some of that process-switching that occurs throughout life. As we get older, we become different people and yet we are the same person. If I were to meet you on your 10th and 40th birthdays (and never in-between), there would be certain qualities about you that would have changed completely while others would still be recognizable, even after 30 years. Some of that change comes about because we learn how to change. Some of it happens because we simply grow into it. Some of it is a combination of both.

Fragments 7/10: Political

I began a 10-day experiment on October 30th. For 10 days, I am:

  1. Setting a timer for 15 minutes
  2. Writing what I can during that time
  3. Stopping when the time is up
  4. Posting what is written without any final editing

For additional context, check out the first post in this series by clicking here.


START

There were two peoples once
Who tried to live amongst each other
Though differed in their trade
Yet were brother, sister, and mother

One folk used their hands
To join, construct, and build
Their knowledge of wood and tree
Guided the laws they willed

The other folk sailed the sea
To gather fish and oyster
With rules of tides and currents
They formed a close-knit cloister

They shared their hard-won fruits
And the wisdom with which they grew

STOP


I’d like to finish this one later on. It was going to be a fairly straight-forward commentary on the current political climate in America, with the central observation that nothing can separate a people more distinctly than when they must decide between each other who will govern them. But whatever words and comments I could think of were awkward and cumbersome. So I decided to try a poetic analogy. Sometimes a simple idea is best communicated with analogy that gives it a body and a personality that we can observe in action.

Analogy doesn’t have to be poetic though. The reason I chose a poetic form is because it provides a sort of template that helps guide the writing process. Each stanza above is four lines long, so I know that I can communicate the supporting details of the main idea into four-line bits. The second and fourth lines of the stanzas rhyme so once I have the second line written, my word choices are conveniently narrowed. In the second stanza, for example, the second lines ends with “build”. There are plenty of words that rhyme with “build” but as this is a political commentary, the word “willed” can be used in a sentence to describe what this people group desires. From that came the phrase “Their knowledge of wood and tree guided the laws they willed”. This template way of writing makes the process much easier by providing a sort of fill-in-the-blank form of writing. Having an infinitely blank canvas on which you can use an infinite number of words or forms of expression can be intimidating and creatively debilitating. Poetry can be a guiding form to help you narrow your focus to the words, ideas, and phrases that best suit the idea you want to communicate.