Saturday, December 24, 2011

They Fear You

Streams skip through the streets muddied

lights flash skies crash palm tree snaps
rolling waters moaning as clouds drip
drip drip for lost souls thunder
clashing cymbals clapping giants.

The water is afraid of You.

*inspired by Psalm 77:16-18

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The White Box Carries It All

The white box is exploding.
     Also it's stuck under the bed.
     My life is in that box.
Hundreds of journals
    Striped, blue, tattered edges
    Imposing to tired eyes.
I can flip through the pages,
    Climb back into the mind of age fifteen.
    Consumed with vanity.
Enraged by controlling parents
    Boring bullshit boyfriend lonely weekends
    Nervousness unnamed.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Call Me Mara

Many of my high school friends, even those who grew up in the church, have become so cynical. They've lived through broken families, a dozen fucked up relationships, multiple job losses, etc. In the past they could find humor in life's melodramas but the joke has gone too far. At 19 years old they are sarcastic and hopeless. 

It all seems so pointless, this constant drudging on and on to no end and with no purpose. They used to think things would get better when they were older, but adulthood has brought them more sorrows and disappointments. Life is no longer a melodrama because melodramas allow for hope. Life is a tragedy because there is no hope. What is the point?

The only difference between me and my high school friends is that I have a hope that transcends my circumstances. I have faith in a God who promised that if he is for me, no one can be against me. I have faith in a God who is always good and works things out for good, despite the seeming tragedies of life. 

Because of this, I know that life cannot be a tragedy because with God there is always hope. I will use the book of Ruth in the Old Testament as an example of God’s sovereign goodness.

Naomi lost her husband and her sons to death and she was left with only her two daughter-in-laws. Three women in ancient Mesopotamian society could not own land, and therefore they were damned to lives of poverty. Naomi calls herself "Mara" because she says that the Lord has dealt bitterly with her. She sees this situation as a tragedy and she forgets the goodness of God. 

Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, travel to Naomi's hometown of Bethlehem. Naomi has land there, but she needs a male kinsman redeemer to get the land back for her. The only way to do this is if Naomi or Ruth marry one of their male kinsman. Naomi is old and Ruth is a Gentile (non-Jew) in the land, so it is unlikely that they will get married. 

The story continues and God works through providential happenings. By the end of the story, Ruth gets married to Boaz, a relative of Naomi's husband, who redeems their land. Ruth gives birth to a child who will inherit the land. Ruth and Boaz’s son, Obed, is the grandfather of King David who becomes the greatest king Israel ever had, and through his line of descendants comes the Messiah, Jesus. 

God is sovereign over seeming tragedies to bring about good. Naomi's tragedy brought the line of David, the line of the Messiah who redeemed the world of its sins, and gave God's people a heavenly inheritance. Naomi knew that God was sovereign over the death of her sons and husband, but she forgot that God is not only sovereign but he is good. 

In the book of Genesis, Joseph also explains this concept to his brothers when they apologize to Joseph for selling him into slavery in Egypt.  "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today" (Genesis 50:20). 

Paul reiterates this in Romans 8:28, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

So to my high school friends, and any others who have lost hope in life, remember that there is no hope in life apart from God. This fallen world is cruel and hopeless.

However, with God on your side there is always hope no matter what the circumstances are because God is good to those who love him. How do you love him? By obeying him. How do you obey him? By having faith in him. How do you have faith? By asking for it! Remember that God is good even when you don’t see the goodness right now. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Communication is Human

"Everyone's a kid that no cares about.
You just gotta keep screamin' til they hear you out!"
- "Written in the Stars" by Tiney Tempah

Listening is one of the greatest ways to show your love for someone. To hang onto their every word and to believe that their opinions, thoughts, and dreams matter. To put aside your judgments, and your own words and truly hear someone out.

Do you really listen? So often I "listen" to others, but all the while I am just waiting for them to finish so I can talk.

That's so dehumanizing! Communication is vital to being human, that is one thing that stuck with me when taking Into to Communications this semester. As communal creatures, humans need to relate to other people and to know and be known. How can we do this if we don't listen to one another?

Furthermore, how can we grow and learn if we don't listen. Learning is also vital to being human, because knowledge brings freedom, and knowledge is a human right. Do we dismiss the words of some, thinking that they are unworthy to teach us? That they are less than us, therefore we should not have to listen to their words? What pride. Listening is a lesson in humility.

When you see a quiet person, you would do well to assume that they are waiting for someone to listen to them. Quiet people spend so much of their life listening, but people assume they don't want to talk, because if they did, they would. That's outrageous. People need to communicate, but so many are driven into silence because they have been conditioned to think that their words are meaningless and no one wants to listen.

Communication is human. Communication is a two way street. It helps us learn. It helps us love. It humbles us. It makes us human.

*This post was inspired by conversations with Karolina, and by many conversations about the evils of dehumanization while taking a class on American radical movements this semester. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Switch (short story)

Whenever he was in a public restroom and he noticed that another man did not wash his hands after urinating, he’d go so far as to follow the man from the bathroom, tap him on the shoulder, and say, “Hey mister! You forgot to wash your hands!” He’d look down at the other man’s hands in disgust. “And now you’re touching the broccoli, putting your hands all over my future dinner with your bathroom germs!” His heart would be pounding in pure rage. “Can’t you just be decent, and wash your hands? Two minutes of your day, man, maximum. Can’t you do that for me, and all your other fellow grocery shopping mankind?”
Once this got him punched. This man was passionate about hand washing, and the sight of another man walking impurely out of the bathroom rid him of all inhibitions. Sometimes he had to pay for his lack of fear with a dirty fist in his jaw, after which he would proceed to the bathroom to wash his face in the sink.
Our man calls himself Keiton Winston.
Now don’t go thinking this man is crazy. He’s actually quite regular, and if you saw him walking down the street, he’d be as good as invisible to you. Every morning he showers for ten minutes, and shaves for fifteen. In his closet you’ll find three pairs of khaki pants made for 70 year old men and a plethora of plaid flannel shirts made for Alabama hill-billies. His thick brown hair often falls into his frame of vision and he brushes it out of the way of his eyes, wishing he could get away with pinning his bangs back without looking like a homo. He never cuts his bangs, however, because the man is horribly self-conscious of the Hindu-like mole on the middle of his forehead. Those bangs are his constant bother.
On the way to work one August morning he sat in his run-down Corolla, stuck in traffic, listening to NPR, wondering why Diane Rehm wasn’t dead yet. It wasn’t like he wanted her to die. Sometimes she was interesting, like when she interviewed economists about the debt ceiling crisis. Yet enduring her old goat voice was about as miserable as listening to Disturbed, or As I Lay Dying.
He changed the station to country music, then he started craving beer and wishing he had a girl in his life. This brought him back to the 8th grade when his crush told him that if he ever wanted to get married he needed to get his forehead mole removed.  He winced at this memory. Then he thought that maybe he should call his doctor and tell him that the mole was hurting him so that insurance would cover its removal, and then he worried that maybe the scar would look worse than the mole itself. Keiton changed the station.
Sexy jazz music. Switch.
Hard rock. Switch.
Classic rock. Keiton thought of his dad, drunk on the deck of their old house, yelling profanities at the neighbors while rocking out to Led Zeppelin, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.” At the time, Keiton’s mom was already having an affair with her secretary, Thom, and she walked out on her “depressed dog of a man” two days later. With or without his wife and child, Keiton’s dad never left the deck or got sober. 
The drunk man was Keiton’s biological father, but only one out of the many fathers that walked through and through his childhood homes. Keiton used to listen to classic rock as a way to preserve his true father’s memory. But listening to “American Pie” or “Hotel California” now just made him numb, and he switched the station.
Techno. He only ever listened to techno on special occasions, which included having a personal rave in his living room, when he was feeling especially self-conscious or un-liked. Switch.
Baseball commentary. Keiton was always the bench warmer in elementary school P.E. class baseball. Switch.
He decided to just shut the damn radio off, and sing his own song. He hummed for a while, searching for words, but couldn’t get “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” out of his head. His father laying on the deck, eyes fixated on the ceiling fan, smoking a fat Cuban, drowning in Zeppelin’s scream. His face a stone. The image resurfaced in Keiton’s mind during pivotal times, like when he realized he could live just fine without Ativan, and the day before he broke up with his first and only girlfriend a few years back. In the silence of his old Corolla, he pondered his average life, wondering what to do about that mole on his forehead while at the same time brushing his bangs out of face.
The driver behind Keiton honked making Keiton jump in his seat and notice the time: 8:48 am. There was no way that Keiton would make it to work on time in this traffic. Keiton worked as the “tech guy” at a high school, which meant he mostly showed kids how to use memory sticks, helped teachers set up their projectors, or monitored the teenagers’ internet usage.  Those dirty fingered kids, telling vulgar jokes in the computer lab and picking on their pimples during class. He shuddered. Keiton never looked forward to going to work.
A rush of relief flushed over him as he realized that he would have to call in sick today. He thought that maybe he should drive down to Mexico for the day, or maybe to the beach in California. He wiped the sweat off his brow. He desperately wanted to get out of the heat and the city. He wanted to see something new. Every day he drove by the same sights, next to the same assholes on the freeway, getting stopped by the same cops. At work he wrote up referrals for the same students for the same misuse of school internet. Same.
He’d always wanted to travel, and he’d never planned on settling down in one place, yet here he was, working the same job for the fifth year, living in the same apartment, driving the same car, hanging out with the same people. Actually he didn’t hang out with people. The point is, he was bored. As he sat in traffic, he punched his steering wheel, and let out a manly yell. Keiton thought that maybe his yell sounded more like As I Lay Dying than William Wallace in Brave Heart.
He looked at his fist, and saw that it had started to swell up. He cursed. Keiton didn’t want a girl in his life, nor a beer. He didn’t want a father, or even to have lonely raves. He would never be good at baseball either. Fuck your expectations, world! he thought, holding himself back from hitting the steering wheel a second time. Why had he always thought that he needed to have a stable job, buy a house, and get married to a gorgeous little country girl? Why did he feel inadequate because he hated baseball, computers, and the idea of being a father? Why had no one ever told him that he could be a rugged farmer in West Africa with his head shaved and his mole sitting proudly on the center of his forehead? Keiton sighed and tears nearly burst from his overwhelmed heart. In the midst of freeway traffic, on that hot day in August, the world opened up.
In his rage and excitement, Keiton ripped off his tie (which definitely didn’t match his flannel shirt), and began dialing the high school’s number. As the phone rang, he mentally prepared his “I quit” speech. He breathed shallowly, wiping his forehead, but no one picked up.
Finally, “Hola? Por favor deje un mensaje.”
“Dammit Juanita!” Keiton cried. She was the school secretary who often answered the phone in Spanish accidently. Keiton was very surprised, however, that she got away with changing the school’s voicemail to Spanish.
Beep. “Hola Juanita. It’s Keiton Winston, you know, the computer guy. Please make sure this message gets to Principal Connor. I won’t be at work today because I’m quitting my job. I hate the students. I hate computers. I hate the teachers and their stupid questions. I hate how you always talk to me in Spanish. I hate being bound to this city. I am going away. I don’t know where to, but I won’t be back at the office ever again. Goodbye, Juanita. Good knowing you I guess.” Keiton hung up.
A smile spread across his lips and he began singing “Free Bird”, feeling just about as good as he did the day he broke up with his girlfriend. However, there is something you know that Keiton doesn’t. He never reached the high school or Juanita, because he dialed the wrong number that day and called a lady named Anna who would never know who Keiton was, or why he hated everything. Keiton continued his days as a hobo weaving his way across America in search for life’s meaning. Head shaved and beard grown long.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sit Quiet for a Minute

Last week the Santa Ana winds hit Pasadena at 97mph, ripping trees from the ground, and knocking over power lines. Much of the city is still without electricity. I talked to a guy named Taiga, who is Japanese but grew up in Kenya, about the situation. He said that its such a farce to see the way people react to power outages here. He told me that at home in Kenya, this happens like every other day. Not the wind, but the power outages.

Today I will discuss the technology dependent world that we live in, which I try to escape, but cannot as I type here on my laptop using my internet. Yet I want to at least be aware of it, and use technology, but not become its slave.

Last week I deleted my Facebook and Twitter, for good. I find that I am able to study, think, and write so much easier when I don't have those distractions waving at me every time I open my lap top to do homework. I try not to carry my phone with me as much, so that I can't text people when I am in an awkward situation. Instead, I can actually talk to people, or just stare at the wall and notice something new about the room. Maybe I don't need to get that $200 ipod I want so bad.

Last week I gave a speech about why Christians should be environmentalists. One of my points is that creation was made to be enjoyed, but humans destroy it, and ignore it. In my speech I quoted Thoreau, "I was as much affected by the faint hum of the mosquito making its invisible and unimaginable tour through my apartment at earliest dawn, when I was sitting doors and windows open, as I could be by any trumpet that ever sang of fame."

Is that not beautiful? That's how we should be! Discovering the intricacies of God's creation but how can we do that when we're always texting, facebooking, tweeting, playing video games, drowning ourselves in our ipods' noise! These technologies that are supposed to bring us together instead cause us to be alone, and dull our senses.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not one of those people who hates technology, and in no way would I say it is always wrong, or a waste of time. It can be useful, for example my blog allows me to publish my own writing and share it with people. I also know Youtube helps no-name musicians, movie makers, comedians, etc to share their art with the world. I understand technology, even social media, has its place. 

I am arguing against allowing technology to over take your life. How often do you g outside and watch the sunset? Do you notice the way the light hits the trees? Do you see the spider webs' perfection? Do you hear the birds? There is so much to see and to hear and to touch and smell!

So if Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, video games, etc are your default "I'm bored" activities, then maybe you should consider getting rid of them. If you don't look at the world because you're too caught up in social media, etc, then maybe you should take a break from your addiction and check out God's creation. Or talk to people face to face instead of over a computer screen. 

Can we just sit quietly?

I have long known that I was addicted to Facebook and Twitter, but now I am free, and my mind feels so much more empty and quiet. It's wonderful. 

Love is not a victory march.

Love is the dew that goes early away.
Love is a morning cloud.
Love is an unsigned contract.
Love is a one way street.
Love is a losing game.
Love is swimming across an ocean.
Love is one last cigarette.
Love blows away like summer.
Love is the first time you saw the sky.
Love is your skin.
Love is just you.
Love is what we came here for.
Love is a constant thought.
Love you make me real.
Love scream it to the nothingness.

*I composed this by using lines about love from bible verses, songs, conversations, and other poems.