Lord, Deliver Me.

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Lord, deliver me.

 

Deliver me from hatred into love.

 

Deliver me from anger into peace.

 

Deliver me from sadness into joy.

Lord,

Deliver me from

silence

when I should

speak

From complacency

when I should be

moved

From guilt

when I should be

grateful.

 

Lord,

Deliver me

 

from my careless tongue

 

my wandering eyes

 

my deaf ears

 

my hesitant feet

 

Deliver me

into love

when I feel

unloving

into mercy

when I feel

unmerciful

into forgiveness

when I feel

unforgiving.

 

Lord, deliver me

 

from

 

self-pity,
self-focus,
self-criticism,
self-harm.

 

Lord,

deliver
me
from

myself.

Lord,

deliver
me
into

You.

I believe.

Deliver me

from my

unbelief.

 

a. w.

 

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How can I make a difference?

It was the last leg of a very long trip for me. A fun and fulfilling trip, but a long one. The trip I took to Europe last year was taxing both physically and emotionally. I took in so much wisdom, so many stories, and a good amount of chocolate. Europe was full to the brim with meaning for me. It still impacts my life to this day.

We were in Eisenach, Germany, at Wartburg Castle, where Martin Luther did the unthinkable and translated the Bible into German, a language that his people could understand without having to rely on the Catholic church. His translation essentially changed the world forever. He did it all on pain of death – even his friends risked their lives for his work.

Wartburg Castle is an incredible bastion overlooking the Eisenach countryside. Set atop a high, sheer cliff, it takes a good many flights of stairs just to reach the portcullis. The courtyard teems with birds, vines, and tourists. Walking into the fortress, you feel the history in the High Middle Ages architecture. It’s almost as though you can feel its meaning, even if you didn’t know anything about it.

Now I’m sort of a medieval nerd, so I loved exploring an ancient castle with centuries of history. I loved standing in the very room where Luther lived and wrote and cried out to God. When I finished the semi guided tour I found a quiet spot at one of the higher points in the courtyard to look over the countryside past the great walls of the fortress.

I found myself in a quiet moment where I could meditate, mull over the history I had just stepped into. What was I supposed to do with all that I had just seen? In that quiet moment, I opened my heart to God. Your servant is listening. Even on that spiritually-saturated trip, I was sometimes starved from the voice of God, allowing my busyness to take me from one event to the next. Now, he had me where he wanted me. And in that moment he spoke into my soul and his words will ring in the caverns of my mind forever.

“Be a Luther.”

Those words caught me by surprise on that quiet day. What could that possibly mean? After learning all the things that Luther had done, I was dumbfounded. How could I possibly do all of the things that he did? Where would I even start?

It’s mind-boggling to think of a legacy that spans generations. Think of the people from hundreds, even thousands of years ago, that we still talk about today. I mean there’s a reason we talk about some presidents more than others. Some of them made a bigger impact than others. Did they know that their legacy would be talked about decades later? Maybe they did, because they were president. But I don’t think they thought that when they were in their mid-twenties and still figuring out who they were going to be.

There are people living today that people will still talk about generations from now. You could be one of them.

You’re probably thinking exactly what I was thinking as I sat on that hilltop – How? can’t do all the things Martin Luther did. Luther changed the way people approach God. His legacy was just celebrated 500 years later in Germany and in other reformed churches across the world – because he changed the way we do things.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was true. I could be a Luther. It started to make sense to me. Here’s what I figured out:

While he was living, Luther couldn’t have possibly known the impact he would make. Most of his days were spent thinking he was going to get killed for what he was doing. Then the Catholic church would have burned his Bible translation and it would’ve all been over. He started with faith, not this grandiose feeling of greatness. He had faith that God would use Him in any way He saw fit.

To be basic for a minute and quote from the musical Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton sings at the moment of his death, “What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden that you’ll never see.” Everyone who is walking on this earth right now is planting seeds. Those seeds will grow in some way or another – you’ll either grow a garden for your descendants or your roots will die with you. Part of that responsibility lies with you and how you live your life.

God’s hand is in that as well, as it was in Luther’s life. Luther dedicated his life to Christ after a particularly terrifying storm (that crap can get scary.) He was willing to face excommunication and even death in order to spread God’s word to more people. Luther obviously wasn’t a perfect man, but he did his best to remain faithful to the Lord. Our life ultimately belongs to the Lord, and He will use it the way He sees fit. 

Along with that, Luther stood on the shoulders of mountain-movers who came before him. Luther was born far after the Reformation had begun, he just happened to be a fairly big catalyst who helped move it along. And as he continued his work he surrounded himself with faithful people who also wanted to spread the Gospel. He certainly didn’t do it on his own.

Gardens don’t grow overnight. A tree starts as a sapling and takes years, even decades, to grow into a mighty oak. As it grows it changes the landscape around it, its roots grow deep, and its branches stretch tall. But it needs time and good soil. Unlike a tree, you have a choice in how you nurture yourself. Will you commit your life to a God who will deepen your roots?

Will you trust your growth to a Sovereign Lord?

a. w.

 

you called me

You tried to call me

by something

I wasn’t.

You tried to call me “love.”

You tried to name me.

You tried to

fit me

in a place

you thought

I belonged.

But soon,

you called me “too much.”

Or “too little.”

But you never called me

“Enough.”

I fell short.

I needed

to

“calm

down.”

You tried to name

my passions.

You tried to name

my plans.

And for a while

for a while

(oh, my dear)

for a while,
I believed you.

I did.

I was content

in a cage

singing for you

and

being fed

my name.

But when I became

too much

when my song

was too loud

you covered my

cage

to make me

sleep.
I slept.

One day,

(graciously, now I see)

you set me free.

And I didn’t

know

how

to be
free.

(Oh, dear.)

I did not have someone

to name me

so

who
was I?

I could’ve been what you named me.

I could have been “Love.”

I could have been what

you called me.

But that’s not

me.

Oh,

that’s

not

me.

You gave me crowns,

oh

such crowns

you crowned me

with tinsel

and soft words

and roses

and gentle

promises.
But all of those things

broke.

Tinsel crowns

fall off.

When I bowed my head to listen to you

it

fell

off.

So I forged my own crown.

A crown of hearty metal.

And it won’t slip off

because I won’t

look down

at you.

I won’t look at the

sandcastle

of names

I used to be called.

I call my own name now.

I name myself.

I arise and sing

like a bird uncaged.

So forge your own crown.

Wear it, and don’t let it slip.

Call your own name,

oh

call it until someone responds.

And if they don’t,

keep singing your song.

Oh, darling,

you may have to sing

alone

but

please

sing. 

Sing. 

Sing. 

Someday,

they may try

to call

again.

Call your own Name

before

you

answer.

poetry

a. w.

tasting our bitter herbs.

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In a traditional Passover meal, it’s common to partake in bitter herbs. A seder often includes an herb called maror, which literally means “bitter.” The word bitter comes up a lot in the book of Exodus, probably because the Israelites don’t really look back on Egypt with a whole lot of fondness. But they looked back on it nevertheless. And thousands of years later, their descendants are still honoring it, still remembering.

Why would they remember such a terrible time? Their entire race was enslaved by a powerful kingdom that was unbending when it came to labor and punishment. They had all but given up on God after their own newborn babies were killed in front of them. Even after Moses led them out of Egypt, the Israelites wandered around the desert for a heckuva long time. Probably not a lot of happy memories.

But every year, generations gather together and partake in a meal of six parts. A lot of times we eat food to enjoy, but this meal is eaten to remember.

How often do you think about something you’ve done and it brings a bad taste to your throat? If you’re like most people, it happens often. We as humans like to carry around regrets. We like to look back instead of look ahead. And looking back – remembering – is a good thing to do, if you do it right.

See, the Passover meal isn’t shared and eaten in order to wallow in self-pity. While the meal does involve saltwater to represent the tears and anguish the Jewish people have suffered (as well as other foods that are eaten symbolically, not out of enjoyment,) it’s not a pity party where everyone cries woe is me, woe is us, nothing has gone right. 

It’s a meal to remember the goodness of the Lord.

After Moses delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, they were far from grateful. Although they were free from bondage, they had no idea what was going to happen next. They got scared. When humans are scared, they do things they regret. The Israelites muttered and complained and lost faith in God almost altogether. They wanted sign after sign to know that God was still with them. And even when he did send them a sign (i.e., manna from heaven to provide food for them) they still got scared and stored as much of the food as they could because they didn’t trust that the Lord would provide the next day. The same thing also happened with water. Most of the Israelites literally wished they’d have died in Egypt.

Not very great memories for a people to have, am I right? “Hey kids, want to hear about the time me and your mom were so hungry we wished we would’ve died in slavery?”

So why do families gather together every year and eat a meal that represents the mistakes and suffering of their ancestors?

Because remembering the bitter times reminds us of God’s goodness.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to wait on the Lord. I hope that doesn’t sound like a complaint. I’ll tell you right now, 2018 has not been an easy year for me so far. Things have happened that have caused me to plunge deep into self-searching. That self-searching easily turns into self-doubt and then self-pity. Every day is a struggle to wait on the Lord.

And lots of people have gone through way more adversity than I have and remain faithful to the Lord. How? By partaking in a feast of bitter herbs.

There is a fine line, however. Remembering can easily become a pity party. At least I know that’s true for me. If I think about my past mistakes, I end up wasting the rest of my day by wallowing in my own suckiness. There’s no hope for me. I’ve made too many mistakes, too many regrets. 

There’s a difference between regretting our bitterness and remembering our bitterness.

Have you ever noticed how if you regret something, it really doesn’t help anything, other than making you feel terrible? Yeah, me too. Remembering is different. Remembering is feasting on our own bitter herbs, tasting the ugliness of it –

And remembering what God did to restore us.

Remember your bitterness, but also remember the grace of God that came alongside it. Remember your faults, but also remember how God has filled in the cracks of your imperfection with his love.
Remember the badness, but remember also the goodness of the Lord.

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Psalm 27:13  

Think about your bitter herbs. Be specific about them. A lot of people see the Lenten season as a time to give up something earthly, like sweets or social media, but I also see it as a time of deep (and sometimes painful) reflection. What is preventing you from approaching God on His throne? What needs to be purged from your soul so that you may open your soul to God?

You will experience bitterness in this life, in some way, shape, or form. It may come from an oppressor on the outside, or it may come from within. If you don’t confront and taste your bitterness, you will remain locked in a cage with the key in your hand, complaining about how there’s no way out.

How have the Jewish people been able to survive for thousands of years even in the face of adversity after adversity? By tasting the herbs, and remembering the Lord.

How will you, as a Christian, be able to stand the darkness of the world and still keep your faith? By tasting the herbs, and remembering the Lord.

Remember these bitter herbs. Taste them. And then remember Who was by your side all along.

a. w.

Writer’s Envy, Or, an Inch of Influence.

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In recent weeks I’ve had more time to read. I used to be an avid reader, especially of the classics, but college will do things to you. After reading a social science textbook for three hours straight, trying to make sense of abstract concepts and miles of charts…sitting down and reading a book afterward isn’t very appealing. The number of books I read for fun as an undergrad is probably in the single digits, and for some reason nonfiction was more interesting to me in the midst of my studies (I guess it made it easier to code-switch when it came to reading textbooks.)

But a few weeks ago I dove into a fantastic book – No Man’s Land by Simon Tolkien. Yes, he’s related to who you think he is. His writing takes a definite cue from that of his grandfather, but with a unique modern voice. As a fictional look into the events leading to the first World War, Tolkien is able to write about the subject with a knowing omniscience that his characters are oblivious to, especially after having a grandfather who served in that war.

Something I enjoy doing as a reader and a writer is (I don’t know if this is out-of-the-ordinary or not?) is to imagine the writer’s life as I’m reading. Try to pinpoint certain scenes or characters that possibly hinge on the author’s own experiences. Does this author fix on atheism vs. theism because he was raised by a believing and non-believing parent? Is the romantic interest based on a spouse or lover? Why did they choose these specific names? When writers read, they’re almost always reading as if the book were an autobiography. They see layers; not just the characters, but the one who created them.

For me, another thought that comes into my head while I read is: How can I write like this?

Or, better yet – how the heck am I supposed to compete with this? 

I call it Writer’s Envy. An easy enough term, and a phenomena that’s easy enough to diagnose. If you read something and wish you could write like that, that’s Writer’s Envy. Even if you’re not a “writer” (everyone’s a writer in some capacity, but not everyone enjoys writing,) you’ve probably experienced Writer’s Envy.

In recent weeks I’ve also had more time to write. Before now, the last time I truly sat down and hammered out some writing for my novel (when I say novel, I basically mean eight-year passion project that keeps me busy when I’m bored) was last August. Awhile ago. I often feel guilty about how little I write, even though I call myself a writer.

“Why am writing when they write so much better than me?” Unfortunately, this thought goes through my head often. It’s not always when I’m reading novels. I’ll read blog posts and wonder how could get that many followers, or comments, or likes. How do I get there? (Sometimes that has a lot more to do with optimization than writing, but that’s an entirely different blog post altogether.)

Whoever you are, whatever you do, this thought has probably crossed your mind before. “Why are they better than me? Why can’t I be that good?” Sometimes it seems like someone gets good at something overnight when you’ve been struggling for years to hone your craft and make people notice. And that doesn’t seem fair! (Because it’s not. Didn’t you listen to the grandpa in The Princess Bride?)

When you hit these walls, it’s easy to stop. I won’t even say “give up,” because that sounds like you’re pity-partying yourself, and that’s not always the case. You just stop, because you feel like you’re getting nowhere and your time might be better spent doing something else. Sometimes you just stop. Because it feels useless.

Fun fact: I’ve stopped writing this blog post three times. It has taken me almost a week to write this. Because I sit down to write, and I don’t feel like I have anything useful to say. Why would I write something that’s already been written before?

I’m glad I haven’t stopped though. I wrote voraciously in middle school. Then high school happened and I didn’t write as voraciously, because I had actual homework that took up actual time. Then life happened and I had other things that took up actual time (like a degree.) Now that life isn’t as busy and is a bit more predictable…I’m not writing as voraciously as I did in middle school, even though I could.

I’m going to challenge you to do something I’m challenging myself to do this year: take time to do what you love, even if you feel like it’s not worth anything. Is my novel ever going to be in front of any other eyes other than my own, and my roommates’? Maybe not. Will it be the next Game of Thrones and become a TV show that gets put out so fast I can’t turn out novels fast enough and it ruins my narrative so I have to kill everyone in the story? More than probably not. Will I have a Wikipedia page with scholarly citations? Again, probably not.

But do I love writing? Yes. Do I love looking back on what I’ve written and get inspired to write more? Yes. Do I want to tell stories? Heck yes.

Even if I’m only given an inch of the world to influence, I want that inch to be fertile, to cultivate maybe one or two people to plant their own inch of influence. It will be worth it to someone, or something, or some time. And if all else fails, it will be worth it to you. 

So write on.

Life doesn’t discriminate
between the sinners and the saints
it takes and it takes and it takes and
we keep living anyway
we laugh and we cry and we break
and we make our mistakes
and if there’s a reason I’m still alive
when everyone who loves me has died
then I’m willing to wait for it.
I’m willing to wait for it.
Aaron Burr, Hamilton

a. w.

What Art Isn’t.

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A few years ago, a critic in my hometown was reviewing a local art festival, which has become a huge community event for our city. He was complaining about how he felt the nature of the event had become somewhat plebeian, where art was subjected to the votes of regular people, and those regular people tended to gravitate toward the “fun” pieces instead of the “thought-provoking” ones. For example, one artist placed a loch-ness monster-esque creature in the river that runs thought the city. People were delighted by it, finding it quirky, creative, and eye-catching, and it of course made it into the top ten final pieces of the festival. The critic was lamenting how other pieces were overlooked, such as striking portraits or daring pieces of art that were on display in our museums. Why subject tasteful pieces of art to the insatiable desire of common people, who only want to see what’s big, loud, and colorful?

In a sense, what the critic was saying was, “That’s not art.”

I visited ArtPrize, now entering its eighth year of exhibition in Grand Rapids, this past weekend, taking in all the details not only of the art, but of the culture of my city that I never saw before. After eight years, ArtPrize has grown from a simple exhibition of different pieces of art to a celebration of the Grand Rapids community – food trucks from local businesses lining the streets, people from all over the community spreading their crafts out on the sidewalk with handmade signs boasting cheap prices, buskers galore –

But all I saw was art.

I saw art in people walking down the street, their clothes, their faces telling their stories. The air smelled like art – elephant ears, artisan coffee, pizza by the slice. And the main event, the actual art, was all around me too. The art museum was full to the brim of the quintessential and the quirky – a spaceship made completely out of household materials right alongside modern renderings of Mary Magdelene.

I didn’t walk past one person, one food truck, one painting, and say, nose in the air, “That’s not art.”

We were created by a Creative Being. When He separated the light from the darkness, he saw two huge murals, one illuminated, one in shadow. He then began to paint on those murals. Everything you see was meticulously crafted together by skilled hands.

“There is not one square inch in the whole domain of our human existence,” said Abraham Kuyper, “over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!'”

So to say something isn’t art is heresy. It’s to say that God doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as the absence of art. Leave your definition of art at the door. “Art is a painting.” “Art has to be sophisticated.” “Art is cultural.” “Art is a luxury.” Throw these away. Because everything you see is art. The people you see, the food you eat, the paintings you admire. Art.

I want you to know that my definition of art is one that you might not have heard before. Everything can become a work of art. Everything can be redeemed.

The next time someone tells you that something isn’t art, ask them, “Then what is it?”

Every square inch.

Dreams vs. Goals.

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Hello, internet. It’s been awhile since I’ve checked in on you guys. (It hasn’t been, actually. I check the internet every day to find out more about Kim Kardashian’s baby, obviously. But it’s been awhile since I’ve written.) Life has been busy for me. I recently moved, made adulty decisions like what internet service to use, found a boyfriend (!), and started my last semester of college. I set a goal for myself to post at least once a week, but…life. And also writing is stressful (will write a post about it. Stay tuned.)

Speaking of goals, you probably noticed that word is in the title, so that’s obviously what I’m going to be talking about, right? Well, that’s my goal. (Wink.) After reading through all my childhood journals, I started thinking about how much I have changed. When I was nine, I wanted to be a writer, or a spy, or a cartoonist, or a writer-cartoonist-spy. At thirteen I wanted to write novels and make money off it (ha.) In high school, I wanted to be a teacher one year and an actor the next, until I took a career assessment test and found out I’d make a great funeral planner (no thanks. I’d rather die.) I started college as a music major, then I moved to broadcasting, and I still have a broadcasting major but don’t think I’ll actually use it for broadcasting, but instead go on to get my masters in marketing (big question mark there.)

So here I am as a senior in college, and it’s safe to say my dreams have changed every year of my life. My career dreams, my relationship dreams, my life dreams. They’ve all changed pretty fluidly. In second grade, my biggest dream was to own a gold Honda van and be an ice cream lady. Big. Dreams. At 21, my biggest dream is to be able to take a nap this weekend. That’s only a little bit of an exaggeration.

My “dream,” in general, is to write and create in whatever job I end up in. But I’m not sure if I’d call that a “dream” anymore. The more I’ve thought about what dreams and what they are, the more I’m turned off by the idea of having “hopes and dreams.” I’d rather not live my life in abstracts. Dreams are fickle, and I’d rather not live a life of dreams.

For a long time, I had a dream of becoming an actress. I wanted it really badly. I’d sing through entire Broadway albums when my parents weren’t home, I’d stage musical numbers in the shower – I wanted it so bad. Wanted. But I didn’t set up a goal. I just imagined things would eventually fall into place and I’d magically find myself in New York City with a paying acting job.

But take into account how much work it takes to be a full-time professional actress. You have little to no down time. Your entire life revolves around perfecting your craft, keeping your body in immaculate shape, and do everything you can not to get sick – or worse, vocal nodes.

I totally understand that some people have big dreams like these and actively chase them. They work their tails off working, training, and auditioning to finally make it. A lot of times that hard work pays off. But it didn’t take me too long to realize that for me, that dream was just that – a dream, and nothing more.

It was the same with being a full-time writer – little more than lip service. I didn’t have anything to show for that dream. No plan lined up to make that dream a reality. Is it good to dream? Of course it is. I still hope that somehow by some turn of fate I could end up a Hollywood actress or Broadway singer. But those aren’t my goals. 

My goal is to work for something I believe in, in every aspect of my life – at work, at home, with or without a ring on my finger, with or without a child or children, with or without multiple degrees. That goal is definitely reachable, and it’s something I’m willing to work for. The saddest stories are the ones where people’s dreams remain unfulfilled. Attainable goals are easier to fulfill

All of that to say, I think we can do away with “dream” language. Dream job, dream house, dream this and that. Because your dreams are usually fixated on one particular thing: that one partner, that one amazing car, that one specific job. Goals can encompasss every aspect of your life. You can see them play out in real time. Maybe you have a goal to graduate. What can you do to expound on that goal? Start searching for jobs before you get a diploma? Make a plan to travel the world after you graduate? And what about after that? Goals are growable and adaptable. As a freshman, my goal was to graduate in four years. I’m graduating in three and a half. My next goal is to find a career by summer 2018. Who knows where that will go.

Kick the dreaming to the curb. What’s your goal?

“For those who build their life on dreams

it’s prudent to recall

A man with moonlight in his hand

holds nothing there at all.”

“To Each His Dulcinea,” Man of La Mancha

– a. w.