Tremble

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Colossians 2:10

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.

Since Chance the Rapper dropped four (FOUR) new singles last week, I thought it would be good to talk about faith again. It just seems right, especially given the circumstances of my life right now.

It has been a difficult month, I’ve watched friends lose loved ones, the threat of lost loved ones looms over others. I’ve spent time with friends for the last time in a while, I’ve suffered in private and in public and all these things hearken back to something I don’t remember as often as I should.

I should be spending much more time praising my Lord than I do.

This week, I returned from visiting my Godmother with my girlfriend. We just hopped up to say hello and I hadn’t seen her in some time, she’s been dealing with an autoimmune disease that was hard to identify and difficult to deal with. As I laid in her living room and spoke to her for a while when we arrived, I could do nothing but thank God that we are given the lives that we are given.

Some would say lucky.

I think I could agree to that, but it is so much more than simple luck. I’ve believed in a Creator since I could perceive the world around me. There is something to be said about the terrible things that happen, and I wish they wouldn’t.

I recognize that I am in a position of privilege when I see the chaos and destruction happening in the world around me. I recognize that blessing when I see people taken before their time, when I see tragedy without definite reason, I recognize that I am blessed beyond measure, and I can’t take that for granted.

My life, despite the struggles and the hardships, is so fully packed with new blessings every moment. I can’t count them all. They number more than the stars in the sky.

It’s a difficult thing to do, when we are suffering, to look to God and still worship him. To praise him. It’s so easy for us to say we should, because that thing isn’t happening to us, but is that the case? Can we praise God with the “me before you mindset?”

I don’t think so. Not truly, not wholly. I can thank God for every blessing I have, but when I thank Him by regarding the curses or sufferings upon the heads of others, am I not inherently disrespecting the body of the church? Am I not distracting myself from the reality that we are one body in Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

To pray and to say “Thank you for not putting me through that, Lord. I would never want that to happen to me.” Is disregarding this biblical teaching.

It’s something I find myself trapped within occasionally. It isn’t the subject of my prayer, but I’ve noticed often, that I find myself thankful to God that I don’t have some suffering, because others do. I am not thankful because it’s suffering and it’s horrible. I am thankful that the suffering in question has not afflicted me, without considering the implications. It’s a short-sighted thing to pray for, don’t you think?

In essence we are saying “Thanks for not cursing me, but cursing another.”

Because when we look at our hardships in that light, we disregard the purpose of hardship and struggle. That we are to see these things for a reason.

Philippians 3:10

10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

When we look to another, we see it as a curse, a plague upon someone that, while we can feel the pain of their suffering, we are still quietly glad that it isn’t us. Yet, if this is true, then why are we one body? If we are supposed to be separated in our faith, why would we silently celebrate the suffering of another? We suffer for a purpose.

I’ve been asked why I take so many things so personally over the course of my life, why am I so troubled about the pain in the lives of my friends? Why do I care so much, when someone is plagued by something that I can’t fix? Why is it that I shed tears for the dead that I don’t know?

It is because of this. I am one with them. Each of us, children of God. When your finger is broken, your arm feels the pain. When your neck is kinked, your whole back aches. When you are blind in one eye, your hands know not where to go.

1 Corinthians 12:15-20

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

I seek to praise God when my life is going the way I want it to. I seek to praise Him when my friends and my loved ones are in good health, with good faith I sing praises when the body is celebrating, when we are rejoicing and it is so easy to praise God in these moments.

But what of those with broken hands, shattered hearts, or infected brains?

Will we abandon the praises to God then? Because we are scared? Or is it because we are selfish? When the finger becomes infected, we don’t sever it from the hand to save the body. We apply ointment, we take time to seek it out, to care for the infection and heal it that our finger might be capable of writing once more.

The dreadful knowing that I am guilty of this, makes me tremble.

But the calm knowing that my Lord is bigger than it all, that He will see to it that we will be safe and protected, the reminder every moment that those in pain, those suffering, need me to remain steadfast more than ever before. Those in moments of plague and pestilence should not halt my praises to God. They should not stop the song from my heart. They should strengthen it.

Because we are one, fulfilled in Christ. We are wrapped in the arms of a God who cares for us all. We were never meant to be left alone, to wander in silence, with no one there to hold on to us.

We are connected, and when one of us feels pain so deeply it makes us shake, the rest of the body should shake along with that pain and let it lift our voices in praise.

Because we didn’t deserve this life. We were given it.

And in awe we tremble at the King who offered it to us.

Tying The Knot

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They say you can’t stop the Dogs of War. They’ve slipped lose and The Machine has awoken.

Purpose is so easily defined for some, others struggle for most of their lives and still seek it until the day they get home. The way we sing for identity in the world is astounding to me, this encompasses even myself, to be sure.

I’ve always been just a bit put off when people identify themselves by their job or interests. Those components make up who you are overall, but the real grit in who you are is what you do with those things. The way you use your work to make a difference around you. I ask myself if we have diminished our purpose so much to a handful of titles we hold.

Certified, Electrician, Gumbo Prize Winner, Trumpet Playing Champion, Honorable Mention in the 2016 Annual Bilge Water Science Fair, Server, Wordsmith, Passion Play Predictable Penman of The Year, Two Time Lover and the Best Guy to take to Horror Movies.

The other day a stranger and myself were talking, getting to know one another for the first time and she asked what I did. I immediately responded that I am a server and an author. She asked about my books and I stammered around explaining The Darling Bones as well as I could, hopefully making a sell in the middle of the awkward conversation.

It’s interesting that I still tried to pitch the book to this girl when I had no idea what her interests were, or who she even really was. She was a phantom to me in so many ways and I still tried to convince her to buy my book. (I didn’t do a great job, either, by the way.)

It’s almost a knee jerk reaction for me at this point, someone asks about my books and I devolve into some kind of puppet controlled by a gluttonous phantasm that’s trying to steal someone’s money. Not that I don’t want to talk about my books, but I didn’t start writing to get rich. That was never the plan.

It’s interesting that it’s come to that. Instead of talking about how passionately I wrote The Darling Bones, what it means to me, I just kind of gave her a sales pitch and left it at that. I realized later that we do that with so much of ourselves. I often try to pitch who I am as a person based on what I do. I’m a server and a selfish comedian. I like to keep my jokes to my close circles. I’m an author that writes lots of books I don’t have published yet. I’m a YouTuber who hasn’t uploaded to his channel in a few months. I’m just hanging out. Long haired ruffian that hangs out, plays video games and sleeps more than I should.

This especially comes out at first meetings. I’ll ask someone to tell me about themselves and they usually respond with their job and favorite hobby.

“I’m Dolores, I work at Jo-Ann’s and I like to Knit Lifesize Horse Puppets.”

It seems so silly that we look towards our tasks and duties to identify who we are. Mothers, Kids, Bartenders, Clerics and Lawyers. Thousands upon millions of us exist and we all have to have a job of some kind, and it becomes so engrained in who we are that it becomes our identifier overall. I think that an alternative we could use would be to describe ourselves as if we were passionate about who we were. Are you a person that lives for kindness? Is your heart full of grace? Are you ambitious?

I’m ambitious. I have a lot of stuff that I want to do. It’s mostly just stuff, too. It’s important, but it doesn’t make up who I am. My purpose in life is a result of that ambition, that desire to make the world better, somehow. So I push forward with the books and the jobs I choose. I want people to smile more. I want them to love more. So I make things that reinforce those motives. Life is such a crazy myriad of events and moments that can quickly confuse you. It moves fast and it’s hard to describe.

Don’t travel through life attached to your profession or your hobbies. Absolutely appreciate them and love them, but we were meant for more than just a list of stuff we’ve done, don’t you think?

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Cut Up Towel

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Everything you do folds into everything else you do. Each moment of your life you are acting or reacting to other things, it is up to each of us to make the best out of what we have available to us.

The other day as my girlfriend and I were cleaning our house, we dragged a bunch of stuff out and cleaned up the bedroom, I worked on my office and we had decided to take a break, the following day in an effort to drum up some more inspiration to continue the cleaning project, she went to go clean my truck as how dirty it has gotten has begun to bother her. While she did this I went to work on some projects for Salt + Iron and she pulled this pink towel I’ve had for years out of a box. In it’s past life I’ve used it to wrap my consoles in when I brought them to other places. Since I’ve moved out and purchased a laptop, that isn’t necessary any more and It’s laid in the bottom of a backpack for a number of months. She asked if she could cut it up when she was cleaning and use the scraps as rags.

She went ahead and did it as I continued about my day and later that evening I went shopping with my mom, just to spend some time with her and talk about future plans for my life and my business and to get in some quality momma bear time. When we got back I invited her up to the apartment so that she could look over what we had been talking about and we talked about it briefly. Before she left, she noticed the towel still on the plastic table in our living room and turned to me. Her voice almost quivering as she asked me.

“Did you guys cut this up?”

I nodded and said yes, when she told me that it was a wedding present from her brother. 30+ years she had held on to that towel and the rest of the set he had gifted him, long after Montie had passed away and she had shared the stories of his life with her.

As she was explaining that it was a gift from my late uncle I felt a sudden burst of anger, a feeling that I should have known better. That I should have had my girlfriend rip up a different towel, or a T-shirt I don’t wear anymore. Anything but that towel.

I apologized immediately, furious with myself because I should have known better. There was a reason I dragged it around with me and didn’t ever get rid of it. I should have trusted my instincts. I didn’t, because I didn’t remember. I didn’t recall the importance of the towel, if any resided within the cotton still. I had no idea why I dragged it around, assuming at the time that it was just there because it was ratty and old and I didn’t feel a need to use it for drying myself off anymore.

Still, I apologized. Knowing how much small things mean to me, I could only imagine what it meant to my mother that these towels would remain intact. It was a physical representation of her brother and I had given my girlfriend the go ahead to slice them up.

After momma left the apartment I talked to my girl about it, she was really upset that we had ruined something that held so much intrinsic value to my mom. I was upset too, and somewhere in my heart there was this thing tugging at me, knowing the feeling of making a mistake as it clawed at the inside of my head.

I returned to my office to continue working and sat down at my desk, unable to focus on my work. It was a towel, of course, it was silly, but it wasn’t just the fact that it was a towel. Just like my grandfather’s pocket knife. It wasn’t just a knife. It was my grandpa’s. I try to take delicate care of those things in my life, because I know how much the memory means to me. I don’t often keep pictures. I keep fragments of memories that rest in shelves or in cases, between the pages of books that tell stories of my grandfather and my friends. The concerts I’ve been to reborn as bookmarks to keep the new stories I read wrapped tightly within memories. The shirts I wore to concerts worn down to slivered threads with each wash as I keep them and drag them to shreds, remembering what I did as I wore them. Hats and beanies my mother have made stick on a rack until I need them again to hold my unkempt hair together.

Memories surround me. The stone I keep in my pocket that I panic when I lose was given to me by my mom years ago. My tools a gift from my father. My words, each and every one, a composed structure that was given to me by my family. The small bead keychain I don’t keep on my keys because I’m afraid I will shatter it. The tickets from dates with my girlfriend and more all revolve around my life. Many of them hung and pinned to the calendar hanging above my main computer where I do my writing. All of them hung there as memories and keepsakes of moments in my life that I look back on often when I am lost and when I am afraid.

How could I have thought so carelessly about a towel? I wondered.

So I penned an apology to my mom. Promising that we wouldn’t cut it up and we would use it with great care in the future. When she responded, I didn’t expect the answer, though I know my mother well enough now to know that I should have.

2018.6.1- CUT IMG

It made me think about my life and how I just use things. I use people’s kindness to my benefit when I need assistance. I use their trust when I want to gossip. I use the items I’ve been so graciously given by those in my life like they are just similar pieces to an ever-expanding puzzle. I allow things to come and go freely between my heart and mind without consideration of where it came from.

I thought about the weight of the towel as I held it in my hands the next day and realized that I don’t carry the weight of what we all do quite enough. Each word we say and each thought we entertain creates who we are. As time goes on, we become worn and battered, meant to be a gift to those around us. Not one to be squandered and tossed away. We aren’t impractical. If the life we share is a wedding. We are not picture frames, not ceramic vases. We are not these things that are meant to hang on walls and be looked at. We are so much more practical. We are towels to clean wounds, to rinse the rainwater off our friends. We are rags to soak up oil and we are much more simple gifts to one another. In their eternal search for purpose and meaning. We are a simple gift, sent from one home to the next to provide a service to them that they cannot get elsewhere.

Will a bookshelf soak the tar of life from the carpet of your home? Will a cell phone clean the wine stain from your dress?

Will an unused word grow the hope of another bride or groom, wandering the soil alone and searching for purpose?

No, it won’t. It never will.

Not until we look at one another as the truly simplistic and still incredibly complicated gifts that we all are. The gifts we all have to give are wildly unique and special. We cannot see it any other way if we want to live meaningfully, with purpose and most importantly, with immeasurable hope.

The next time you brandish scissors in your hand, consider your own use. Are you a gift, practical and useful in your application? Can you survive the next 31 years doing your duty, or will you wither on the shelf as you fill your soul with temporary decorations that can easily be destroyed by a rampant fire of pain or a few days without the water of life?

If your answer is the latter, consider my uncle’s towels for a moment.

Find your purpose.

Pick the scissors up if you need to, but whatever you do. Whether you slice apart the towel or not, consider what it came from. The life that it gifted and the worlds it changed so effortlessly with groundbreaking thoughts and compassionate speech.

Cut the towel, or don’t.

Whatever your life will have you choose,

Live it with a smile.

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