Don’t Stop This Train.

Let me share a bit of my day so far…

My beloved Macbook Pro turns three years old on Monday. This means my 3-year Apple Care plan expires and I’ve never had to use it. So I decide it’s a good idea to take it up to the closest Apple service center here in Nashville to get it checked for anything that might be wrong that could be covered.
Turns out, nothing is wrong with it that can be covered, which is good news that I’ve had my Mac for 3 years and it’s still running strong, and bad news because I used my last bit of gas money to make the trip for nothing.
Traffic is insane in Nashville on this blistering Saturday afternoon, and to make it worse they’re doing major inter-state closings all over the city. The car I’m driving has this weird thing where it likes to die randomly without warning and the hot afternoon is making it worse while idling in traffic.
This leaves me sitting on the side of the road, not being able to use my a/c, with a ‘feels like’ temp of 110.

All of this hits me as sweat rolls down my brow and thousands of cars pass in ignorance. I start thinking about my life. How this is just ironic that I make a trip for nothing to end up on the side of the road. How my life isn’t going at all how I planned it to be. How I don’t have a job. How I don’t have money. How I’ve never been able to afford a reliable car in my entire lifetime. How God has placed me on a path in ministry I hadn’t expected and truthfully don’t really want at this moment.
I suddenly prayed a prayer, not for my car to make it to the next exit,  but for my path in ministry to change to the place it was well on the path to going but can’t because I accepted a position that takes me further into a ministry that isn’t my exact calling. God, PLEASE send someone to take over this. I don’t know why you gave this job to me, but I don’t want it anymore.

After I shed a few tears and get ahold of my brother, who is a mechanic, and he advises me to try to make it to the next exit, I hobble into the parking lot of Panera Bread. Trying to mask the fact that I’ve sweated ten pounds off, I head straight into the air conditioned bathroom and lock the door.

A familiar song plays over the speakers in the quiet; John Mayer’s “Stop This Train”. I hear the lyrics:

“Don’t stop this train, don’t for one minute judge the place you’re in. Don’t think I couldn’t ever understand, I’ve tried my hand. Honestly, we’ll never stop this train.”

Not only have I known these words for a very long time, but I’ve also heard this song at the times when I most needed to hear it. It’s just like God to put a small, quiet moment into a day of disaster. It’s just like him to use a pointless trip and an outburst of a prayer to speak to me when I was least likely to hear his voice.

I walked out of the bathroom with a determination to write this thought down. To share with you the journey I’ve made in a single day. To find a still, small voice play over the speakers in a restaurant bathroom.
I know I can’t stop this train. I know things can’t be perfect right now. I know I can’t judge this place I’m in according the place I thought I would be. I can’t know the thoughts of an Almighty God who knows exactly where he’s leading me and exactly what I need. How could I have thought that he couldn’t understand this place I’m in. He did, after all, try his hand in life as I am trying right now.

Honestly, We’ll never stop this train.

Wishes of a Heart.

You don’t know me… And I don’t know you… Not exactly.

But it’s what I do know about you that makes me wish these things.

I know if you just knew me, both of our lonely existences would be gone. I just have this feeling, this aching in my chest, that you could be the one for me.

I’ve been wrong before. God knows how incredibly wrong I’ve been.

I can’t help but think about all these stories I’ve heard. Not love at first sight… but this gentle urging, this small confidence, that this was it. This person is the one.

I let that keep hope alive.

Hope. That one day, the both of us will overcome the apparent social awkwardness of our personalities… and say hello to one another in a crowded room.

That would only be the beginning.

The next time, we might carry on a short dialogue at a mutual friend’s party.
And the next, sit down in a quiet place with a cup of coffee.

Just thinking of these small steps makes me smile with an inner joy I haven’t felt in so long a time.

Maybe after you know me, you’d admire those traits of mine that so many others find intimidating.
My intelligence and wit would be a comfort to a man as smart as yourself.
My odd sense of humor would make you laugh easily.
My honest opinions would intrigue you and challenge you to think differently.
And my gentle teasing would disarm you in a willing vulnerability.

Then I could find solace in knowing I’m not smarter than the person sitting across from me.
That your gentle voice could sing me to sleep over the phone, or in person when the time is right.
I could be excited to listen to your dreams, or just to listen to you ramble.
And feel comfortable enough to exist in silence, not feeling the necessity to fill the gaps in conversation.

All of this I can now only wish.

One day things will change. I know it’ll happen.

And then I will never have to wish or want for anything again.

Hiatus.

 

I stare at the blank walls around me,
Vast, empty, looming.
They mock and tempt me,
Do something, they say, Do anything.
Don’t just stand there, anticipating!

I can’t stand listening to them,
wondering if I’m wrong.
I’ve waited for you to answer,
I’ve waited for much too long.

You’re a fool for trusting him, they say,
You’re a fool for believing.
Why don’t you get up and seize the day?
Why don’t you live your own life?
I know they’re wrong, but what if they’re right?

Where will the next road lead me?
What is the next lesson I’m to learn?
Why won’t you answer me?
Don’t you see me here all alone?

It all seems pointless,
This hiatus I’m in.
As if my life means nothing.
I feel like giving up,
I feel like giving in.

I’m so angry with you,
And yet I see you in these blank walls…
Your face regards my disdain and you reveal nothing.
You don’t smile, you don’t wink.

You simply gaze upon me, appraising me with gentle eyes,
I can’t hold your gaze, knowing you hear my every thought.
I hurriedly glance up again, but all I see are tears.
Yours and mine.
They slip down our faces in silence.

Your eyes say everything,
Your mouth never moves.
I know, my child, how long you’ve waited.
I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do.

But through everything that’s happened,
through every tear you’ve cried,
Your eyes become hopeful, endearing.
I’ve never left your side,
I’ve been right here every time you’ve tried.

Then why is this happening?
Why do I still fall?
Why have you just stood there and done nothing?
Why does it feel like it’s all a big stall?

Your questions will be answered one day,
I can promise you that.
I lower my eyes, feeling again all that I lack.
“Stay with me.” I plead.
You smile, I will stay as long as you need.

I began to feel peace permeating the walls,
Sifting up from the ground beneath me,
The walls bow and tremble ,
And suddenly I could see…

The cage I’ve lived in,
With walls that mock and leer,
It no longer obstructs my view.
The surfaces had become lucidly clear,
And I find my eyes resting upon you.

I feel your arms around me,
Cradling my broken spirit in your hands.
I peer weakly into the unknown
as you help me to stand.

“My child, my child,” you finally speak,
“I know you think you’re ready for this,
but I know you better than that.
I want you to be free from this,
I want you to never go back.”

My eyes become wider as I see the outside world,
An invisible barrier is all that keeps me protected.
“This is the only way for you understand.
It’s not my will that you should feel rejected.”

Beyond the walls I see hurt and pain,
I also look upon triumph and gain.
“This is what’s next for you,
But first you must wait.
You must first learn how to open the gate.”

“Gate?
What gate do you mean?
I’ve known these walls for so long,
And this gate I have never seen.”

You usher me towards the gate,
“It’s been there all along,
Though I’ve just chosen to reveal it to you.
Use what I’ve given you, it won’t be long,
Soon you will have the future you are due.”

“Why couldn’t I leave before?
What was holding me back?
What was the purpose of this delay?”
I question you ruthlessly, my spirit suddenly slack.

You peer back with a loving look
in spite of my tortured glare,
“Oftentimes we are worried where we will travel next
when it’s right here that should hold our care.
What did you learn here, while waiting for an answer?”

I felt a surge of revelation course through my veins,
Our eyes met again, and I knew you knew.
I felt faith rise in my demeanor and confidence take hold of my reigns.
Your all-knowing expression held the final clue.

Instead of explaining to ease my mind,
You nod towards me, asking for my conclusion.
“Oh God, I’ve been so blind! How could I not see?
In all that has happened here,
Learning to trust you is what you were teaching me.”

You nod once more, an approving smile taking hold of your lips,
“Indeed,” you say slowly, “Indeed, it was.”
Then the gate was absolved and I faced the other side,
My nerves coming alive in an electrical buzz.

“Aren’t you coming?” I say as I turn to leave.
You stand placidly, your hands behind your back,
“I am with you always. But not always like this.”
I nod my understanding, courage filling my soul,
Bit by bit the cage fades to black.

Gazing ahead to the world before me,
a wonderful and terrible sight,
I think of the journey I had while waiting,
and recall your tender plight.

I take the first step into this unexplored terrain,
Feeling the invisible strength of a hand I already knew.
I glance over to see that I’m alone,
But in my head I hear your voice,
“Take heart, my child… I love you.”

Beauty.

In case you haven’t heard me bubbling about it over the last couple of weeks… I finally finished the first rough draft of my book: Beauty.
I had originally thought it would be a short story that I could potentially share over the internet, a glorified blog post. I soon realized that this story had a lot more pages than I felt comfortable sharing over the web, or because of it’s personal message to me, sharing it at all.

‘Beauty’ isn’t just any story. It’s basically a metaphor for what I’ve struggled with my entire life. A couple of years ago I overcame some huge obstacles dealing with low self esteem and self-worth.
For the first time in my life I felt beautiful. I no longer considered beautiful as being able look in the mirror and wink at the attractive face/body staring back. I no longer compared myself to others or constantly downed myself in my mind.

That’s when I started this book. I knew what it was like to be that girl, who was beautiful in more ways than one but never saw it. I wanted to challenge the reader to examine what they thought beauty meant in a completely non-confrontational way. So I used symbolism. I wedged the inner thoughts of my journey into the story of a girl and a boy, both in search for something beautiful.

In a sense, this book mimics certain aspects of my life for the past couple of years.
Without spilling my guts all over my keyboard, I will now give a small insight as to why this book is so special to me.
I wrote the original relationship between the two main characters out of sheer emotional release from the reality of something similar in my own life. I guess you could call it wishful thinking. Then, as the characters discover, I came to realize that what I was searching for wasn’t love or success or my future, I was searching for self-worth. Even after I had come so far, I still didn’t know what I was truly worth.

I’m not sure why it took me over 2.5 years to finish this novel. For a long time I knew exactly what I wanted to write, only I could never make myself sit down and write it. I was stuck half way through the story, with no motivation to finish.
During this hiatus, the reality I drew my inspiration from sent me through a few puke rides at a carnival. I receded to a place I didn’t want to go anymore, all the while trying to judge my own self-worth again. It took one last shovel full of mistakes before I hit rock bottom.

I was finally over it.

So I picked up the pen (or computer) again. This time writing with resolve instead of longing. I was able to finish it with the correct thoughts in my head, with the true meaning of beauty coursing it’s way through my veins.

The plot of the book turns out the way I had always wished it had, but I struggled invariably for quite sometime on whether it should follow along with the reality it was inspired from or not. I chose to stick to the plan, purely because I felt it needed to.
And like the magnificent assumption in the movie ‘Becoming Jane’, Jane Austen wrote happy endings for her characters because she would never come to one. Just because this particular ending didn’t happen didn’t mean a happy ending wasn’t deserved by the people whose lives I created on paper.

I wanted to leave you with something from my book, because it’s cruel to talk about it so much and never have let you take a peak.

“Beauty is witnessing the endless sky transition from a bright glow through hues of sunset and into darkness speckled with tiny pinholes of light. Beauty is creation. Creation of art, creation of memories. Beauty is destruction. Destruction of pride, destruction of self. Beauty is finding the very thing you were looking for right in front of your eyes. Beauty is gazing into the eyes of the one you love as they walk towards you, down a path of redemption and commitment. Beauty is anticipation, endeavor, and passion. But most of all, Beauty is love.”

The Dance With Death.

“Keep your vision all-inclusive, never allowing it to lock on any one thing…look everywhere at once, see nothing to the exclusion of all else—don’t allow the enemy to direct your vision, or you will see what he wishes you to see. He will then come at you as you become bewildered, looking for his attack, and you will lose.
Instead, your vision must open to all there is, never settling, even when cutting. Know your enemy’s moves by instinct, not waiting to see them. To dance with death meant to know the enemy’s sword and its speed without waiting to see it. Dancing with death meant being one with the enemy, without looking fixedly, so that you could kill him. Dancing with death meant being committed to killing, committed with your heart and soul.”

– Terry Goodkind, Temple of the Winds

This passage comes in the context of a warrior in battle. A warrior whose only objective is to eliminate the threat. To obliterate the enemy at all costs.

As my life unfolds, I find that I possess the power to read into things way too much. This is sometimes detrimental, but other times is useful for seeing symbolism and metaphor where there is only normality. To find minute distinction in the hopelessly ordinary. Revealing the nuance in the prose if you will. 😉

Once again, I find myself sucked into another one of Terry Goodkind’s genius stories involving Richard Cypher and the Sword of Truth. And, once again, I recognize the spiritual undertones of it all.

[WARNING: The following text contains extreme nerdiness.]

In order to understand it fully, you must understand the way the sword works in the story. The Sword of Truth is a sword of magic. It’s used in it’s ideal purpose only by the noble and true of heart, warriors who are not corrupt, not selfish. It possesses the knowledge, feelings, and abilities the previous owners sustained. When the sword is used, the person gripping the hilt at once becomes one with the ancestors of the sword, using the same power those before him used. That power is his for the taking.
Richard calls this summoning of power, this art of war, ‘The dance with death’ … as it mimics dancing in footwork, and results in the impending reaping of life.

So it is in the spiritual realm.

As disciples of Christ, we already own this ‘sword’. In a previous blog, “I Just Want to be a Woods Guide.”, I explained that the sword is a symbol of the word of God, the bible (Hebrews 4:12). I also mentioned how accepting the title of ‘disciple’ opened the gateway into the power that the sword gives. Richard gains power through the sword itself, as we do with the words of God to guide us through life. He also gains power through the ancestors before him, who wielded this very sword. Those ancestors to us are not only the prophets and disciples accounted in the bible, but also those generations before us, who blazed a trail into the world we know today. We are given power by their heritage, by their strength. (Acts 1:8)

By this we know that we are fully equipped to fight the enemy. We have the power necessary to obliterate any obstacle and overcome any trial.
With power comes skill. Skills that we learn on the battle field, skills we learn through heritage.

That’s what the quote is all about. It’s advice for the warrior on how to kill.
I’ll break it down for ya.

“Keep your vision all-inclusive, never allowing it to lock on any one thing…look everywhere at once, see nothing to the exclusion of all else.”
When fighting the enemy, our first instinct is to focus on them. But when we focus too hard on the enemy we get tunnel vision, and can miss more foes on either side or even solutions to the problem. One of Richard’s favorite quotes is: “Don’t focus on the problem, focus on the solution.”

“Don’t allow the enemy to direct your vision, or you will see what he wishes you to see. He will then come at you as you become bewildered, looking for his attack, and you will lose.”
When we are focused so much on the enemy and the problem at hand, we are focusing on the exact thing Satan wants us to focus on: Him. And when we’re focused on him, we aren’t focused on God. We lose sight and direction from who we’re fighting for. Before we know it, we’re so lost in Satan’s will that we become confused and disoriented, primed and ready for yet another attack.

“Instead, your vision must open to all there is, never settling, even when cutting.”
Even when we gain ground against the enemy, it’s easy to have ourselves a little victory march and forget what’s going on. This line means to never stop anticipating the next move. If you allow yourself to freeze on even the smallest gain, it could be detrimental to yourself and those around you (Nehemiah 4). To never settle is to never become desensitized.

“Know your enemy’s moves by instinct, not waiting to see them. To dance with death meant to know the enemy’s sword and its speed without waiting to see it. Dancing with death meant being one with the enemy, without looking fixedly, so that you could kill him.”
To fight the adversary is to know the adversary. In battle we are to move by instinct, and that instinct is based in knowledge received from past experiences and by what the word of God tells us. Because we are equipped with the knowledge of the enemy, we shouldn’t have to wait for his attack in order to fight back. We know which route sin could take to get to us, and what level of attack it will be. It is up to us to be ready for the attack we know will undoubtedly come. The quote calls it ‘being one with the enemy, without looking fixedly’ … This reiterates the previous advice to not put your focus where the enemy wants it, but to keep enough focus about the enemy in order to predict his next move.

“Dancing with death meant being committed to killing, committed with your heart and soul.”
Bottom line: If you aren’t fully committed to fighting against, and ultimately destroying, the sin in your life, you will succumb to the the wiles of fleshly desire and find yourself defeated. You must be committed to the fight with your heart and soul. (Mark 12:30)

— — —

Are you ready for the dance with death?

Blog Stats for Twenty Ten.

    Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Never despise meager beginnings, right? Let’s double it for 2011! —Savannah

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2010. That’s about 4 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 46 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 52 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 23mb. That’s about 4 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was December 15th with 71 views. The most popular post that day was Week Eleven/Twelve..

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, chroniclestudiosphotography.com, en.wordpress.com, obama-scandal-exposed.co.cc, and twitter.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for chronicle studios, english nuance and prose, ellis larkins accompanist, chronicle studio savannah sullivan, and “sore throat” -blogspot.com.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Week Eleven/Twelve. December 2010
2 comments

2

About February 2010
4 comments

3

Week Two. October 2010
4 comments

4

Isn’t It Ironic? May 2010
10 comments

5

Unity is Painful. March 2010
9 comments

It’s Foolishness, I Know.

You were sitting next to me at our wedding reception.
The band was playing, people tapped their feet and joyfully conversed.
You leaned towards me and smiled.
“I feel like dancing.” I whispered.
“Me too.” a smirk in return. “You ready?”
Seriously? my expression asked.
Of course. Your eyes sparkled in confirmation.
Rising to your feet, you offered me a strong hand.
“We aren’t allowed, are we?” I said nervously.
“We didn’t plan it. We can’t control what we haven’t planned.” you teased, raising an eyebrow.
Strong hands pulled me into awaiting arms.
You led me calmly to the center of the room.
Suddenly you broke out into a tap dance, a silly grin crawling across your face.
I followed with meringue, swinging hips and puckering lips.
The Twist. The Sprinkler. The Copy Machine.
Every white man’s dance was covered.
People started watching and laughing. Shock grew into hilarity.
The wedding party joined in.
The crowd joined in.

Dancing. Some call it foolishness.
Life. Some take it too seriously.
How can there be life without dancing?
How can there be seriousness without foolishness?

We didn’t plan it.
We can’t control what we haven’t planned.

This Isn’t Goodbye.

The thunderous whistle bellows, Splintering disregard into piercing awareness.
Bitter wind licks at my brow, Washing strands of hair across my face in quiet ripples.
You turn to me and smile.
Not of happiness or contentment. Not of a teasing manner.
A melancholy smile. A smile of remembrance.
Your smile fades slowly as you grasp my hands between yours.
Your eyes say it all. You don’t have to say it.
You glance down at our clenched hands and whisper softly,
“This isn’t goodbye. This isn’t goodbye.”

Distractions bustle about us. In the steam, the cars, the people.
The quickened rhythm of haste matches the pounding of our hearts.
And yet, Only you are before me. Your presence an extension of mine.
Your eyes are liquid with dithering resolve.
Returning your gaze sends pangs of yearning to my very core.
Your eyes say it all. You don’t have to say it.
The train utters a final, foreboding wail, Tearing asunder our being.
Your embrace lingers long after you relinquish apprehension, vanishing into haze.
“This isn’t goodbye. This isn’t goodbye.”

Petty Emotions.

I had a discussion with my mom the other night about how we both throw our hearts on the table and take things too personally.
I was helping her to see that me forgetting her age on her birthday was ridiculous to get upset over… I told her how I get upset when people don’t read my blog. She laughed at me.

Isn’t it the same thing though?
We both want people to care about our lives, even down to petty things like knowing our age and reading our blogs.

I’m a non-traditional thinker, analytical and philosophical, structured and rhythmic… I put my entire heart into writing these words. So when they aren’t read it’s like telling me you don’t care about me… Because that’s what my writing is: Me.

My mom on the other hand finds that knowing small details about her is done through honestly caring enough to know those things. No matter that I’m as scatter-brained as she is, she is just as hurt by that as I am about you reading to my thoughts.

What petty emotions do you have that might seem ridiculous to others?

Lie.

Lie.
A story about a guy named Leslie.
He’s caught up in a world of lies. He’s been lied to his whole life.
So he lies to get ahead in life. And He lies to get out of life.
He lies to everyone around him. And he lies to himself.
What will it take to free him from the lies? To free him from himself?

— — —

I think God has allowed me to catch on to something here. In a previous post I told you about the title of the next book I’m going to write, entitled: “Broke”, using a play on words about a girl named Brooke.
This one popped in my head today, As I was doing exactly the same thing I was doing when the last one came to me… I was sitting in church listening to a sermon.
I’m convinced that this is going to be a series of books that can be used to be enjoyed by and to help young people. They’re spiritual, yet not in a traditional way. I really want these books to make people think and help them with issues I know they’ve all faced… The same issues I’ve faced and continue to face.