Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Patience

Patience.

I'm learning patience.

There are a few things that I can control in my life and many things that I cannot.

One of the things I can control is patience.

Patience is longsuffering.

Waiting without suffering is just waiting.

I am learning to suffer for a long time.

But the suffering I endure is not worthy to be compared to what other people have to suffer through.

And sometimes I wonder why my suffering is enough for me to endure.

If I am impatient with my trial, how can I overcome a larger one?

One step at a time.

God doesn't give me long range plans.

He only tells me what to do now.

And I usually can't see beyond the step I am currently taking.

I am constantly walking into the unknown.

If I knew what was going to happen, I would enjoy this step more.

It would be easier to endure this suffering.

I could be patient. 

But knowing wouldn't be trusting.

But knowing wouldn't be faith.

Faith is believing without seeing.

Do I believe that God provides for me?

Yes.

I can break it down to two easy steps.

1. God is big enough and strong enough to take care of me.

2. God is loving enough towards me that He wants to take care of me.

If I can believe those two things, and I do, then I should have no fear of the unknown.

So I don't...

still...

I'd still like to know what was going to happen.

But that's just me.

Not God.

God already knows, and He wants me to find out then.

Not now.

So I wait.

Patiently

...

The suffering I endure is not one of physical strain.

My suffering is an attack on my faith.

How long will I wait on the Lord before I try to take care of things myself?

How long will I wait on the Lord before I try to speed things up?

When is God too late?

Of course I know the answer.

Never.

He is always on time.

I think it's in the nick of time. At the last second. He barely made it.

But He does what He does when He wants to.

He planned it that way.

To keep me trusting.

To keep me waiting.

To prove my faith...

...

...or to disprove it.

To prove it.

I'm going to be victorious.

I'm going to wait...

...and be patient.

I'm not going to take what isn't mine.

I will trust the Lord to provide.

I will have faith.

My God is big enough.

My God loves me enough to take care of me.

He's going to do it.

He will.

Just watch and see.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Piper Problem Part 1

Before I tell you my story, I would like you to understand something about me. It's hard for me to explain, and I'm not sure you would quite understand, but I'm not like everyone else. My family is a bit... abnormal. We love each other and take care of each other like a family should... but we're not really blood related. In fact, not all of us even has blood. My family consists of different fictional characters that I can create and bring to life as I see fit.

I've been like this as long as I remember. I just think of someone and that person is in the room. I can think up a man, woman, boy, girl, dog, cat, or even a cartoon alien. The problem is that the person I think up isn't always nice, depending on my mood. So there are many times that I think up a lot of trouble for myself.

The first time I remember it happening, I was lost. I was wandering through the streets and I was scared. I thought that I would get mugged and before my very eyes, a mugger appeared. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that couldn't possibly be true, and the mugger just jumped out from behind a garbage can or corner or something, but that's not the way it happened. There was nothing there, and slowly, the mugger came into view. At first, it was just an outline, and then he started fading in. I could see right through him until he became solid. He jumped at me the moment he became solid and started going through my pockets. Once he found my wallet, he pushed me to the ground and ran away. I wished that Superman was real and that he would get the mugger for me and Superman appeared the same way the mugger had. He went after the mugger and retrieved my wallet. I was so surprised but relieved that Superman was there to protect me. As I walked on, he floated there beside me. He didn't say anything, but stayed with me block after block, looking around for trouble.

It had rained a few hours before and there were large puddles in the street. As a car drove by, it splashed Superman, and he vanished in a large cloud of smoke. I thought of him again and he reappeared like he did before. I asked him what happened, and he didn't know. Then another car drove through the same puddle and the same thing happened. My creations were destroyed by water!

It's been years since then and I've gotten better at creating and controlling who I create. I stopped watching scary movies after the Werewolf incident of 2004. Three people ended up in the hospital and I got a vaccination for rabies.

I've created thousands of people and sent them out into the world. I have no idea how many have stayed dry, but when it's raining, it's not uncommon to see reports on the news of people exploding in a large cloud of smoke. It was baffling the police as so many missing person reports were coming in. I actually started my own private investigator business that specializes in finding missing persons. My creations go out and live lives and make friends and get married and people who love them miss them when they vanish, so I "find" them by recreating them. I tell them all to never take baths or showers or be caught out in the rain, but they all eventually get caught or splashed. I go to the police station regularly to look over their missing persons. I recognize most of them, but last Friday, I made a mistake.

I recreated someone I never created in the first place. Piper Long was a girl that went missing two weeks ago. She looked so familiar that I thought she was one of mine, so I red the bio, studied the picture, and recreated her. However, after delivering her to her husband, I went downtown for some coffee and saw Piper dressed in rags in the corner asking for change.

I walked over to talk to her for a little and I found out that she ran away from home. She had been hiding a drug habit for some time and it became uncontrollable. She ended up running away with a man who promised to take care of her and after he used her, he left her in the cold. She was too ashamed to go back, too addicted to quit, and to poor to think of any other solution. Her husband loved her and she didn't deserve that love.

I agreed.

The Piper I created would be loyal and drug free. She would return the love that her husband had given her. This Piper couldn't. But what should I do? There can't be two Pipers. This could ruin my whole business and I don't know how I would explain what I can do to the police. In order to cover my tracks, I offered to set up the real Piper with an all expense paid trip to a faraway rehab under an alias. She would go and get clean, and one day, I'll figure out how to make the switch.

***

What should happen next? Give me suggestions in the comments.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Genesis 4:7

Mostly Fiction... just so you don't freak out.

So I came around the corner and found a girl in the alley being pecked at and eaten alive by a large black bird. As I ran closer to shoe the bird away, I noticed that it didn't have all of it's feathers. It's head was bare and ugly, the black eyes bulged out of it's head and it's claws were deep in the girls side. Even though the girl was writhing in pain, she wasn't trying to fight off the bird. I shoed it away and it only flew to a nearby fire escape and looked at me.

The girl was badly hurt, and as I knelt over her to assess the damage, she looked at me with big green eyes. Blood dripped over her face and her right eye was stained with it. Her breathing was shallow, puncture wounds were all over her body, but the freshest deepest were in her right side where the claws dug in. Her clothes were stained with dried blood as well as fresh. She looked at me as if to say thank you for a moment's peace, but as I tried to help her, she kept pushing my hands away.

I tore off my sleeves and tried to put pressure on the wounds in her side. I called and cried out for help but it seemed like no one could hear me. I laid my jacket on top of her and propped her feet on a nearby cinder block. All the while, she is pushing my hands away, pushing the blanket aside, kicking away the brick.

In a hushed painful tone, I heard her speak. "Thank you for helping, but I'll be okay. Just leave me here and I'll be fine."

I object passionately. "The bird isn't gone. It's just waiting for me to leave. I need to get you somewhere safe. I need to help you."

"No. It's okay. Just leave me here. You've done enough by giving me this moments rest." Her mouth kept moving, but her voice is inaudible."

I look at the bird, and it just stares at me. I yell at it and try to scare it away, but it doesn't move. Even when I try to throw little bits of concrete at it, it just moves to one side or the other as I miss. I can't leave the girl here. I reach for my phone, but it's not there. I must have left it in the charger this morning. I call out for help again, but no one is around. The girl is still just trying to remove my jacket from her, but she is getting weaker.

So I pick her up, wrapped in my jacket. As tenderly as I can, I take her out into the street. It's empty. I call out again and again to the nearby buildings, asking for help. The hospital is a few blocks down the street, so I head in that direction.

She's protesting, but weak. I hold her close and feel the warm liquid on my chest. I hear a flap of wings and that large black bird is following us.

"Just leave me here." Her voice is weak, but once again audible. "I don't care what happens to me." I'm getting tired. The bird is following and cawing at us. "It's okay. Just put me down. I want it to happen."

I can't. I just can't do it. I have to save her. She loses consciousness. The hospital is just up ahead. I come in through the sliding doors crying for help. A gurney is wheeled over and I set her down. After talking with the receptionist and filling out paperwork, the doctor comes out.

"She's lost a lot of blood and I don't know if she'll make it through the night."

I offer mine, but it's not the right type. I'm told to go home and rest. There's nothing more I can do for her tonight.

So I walk out the door; my face stained in tears, my clothes stained in blood. There is the bird, perched on a lampost right outside the door. It stares at me with it's big scary eyes on it's featherless head.

I haven't won this thing yet.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pastor's Quentin's Gardening Parables #1

So last week, I went gardening with Pastor Quentin. With my new van, I'm looking for a few extra dollars to help me at the gas pumps. Pastor Quentin hired me to help him with some yard work. The first day, he had me digging holes and planing ground cover. He showed me everything, but God taught me what it meant.

When your digging holes to plant a ministry, you don't want to plant it too close to another. They all need their space and do not need to be competing for space or resources.

The ministries are pretty snug in the pots they are in, but need to come out so they can be planted properly. The pots were just temporary. This requires the planter to shake it out, and if that doesn't work, squeeze the pot a little on one side and rotate and squeeze on the other. Then shake again. Ministries don't always look like they started out and although you might seem to have things organized on the start up, things tend to get shaken around a bit at first.

Once the ministry is out of the pot, the planter must take something sharp (knife, old shears) and score the roots. This means cutting up the roost system. If this doesn't happen, the roots just grow in a tight circle around the plant and don't extend into the soil you put it in. Concentrated roots means it's easy to pull out. Your ministry cannot flourished if closed off in a tight niche. New people have to be welcomed and that might mean cutting the closeness of the group for a time. But it will be better in the longrun.

The ministry must be placed where it's leaves are above ground, and special soil from the bag is mixed with soil from the ground. Ministries take money to start, and someone will have to pour money into the ministry to get it going. It may be that someday in the future, the ministry will survive off the money in the field where it is planted, but it needs help getting there. Also, the ministry can't be undercover. It needs to be seen. An underground ministry has no accountability. It breeds secrets and division and would have to work extra hard to get where it needs to be if it makes it at all.

Once the soil is in place, the planter must push the soil in around it to remove all the air pockets. The ministry leaders must let go of anything in the ministry that is just taking up space. It needs to be efficient in the way it handles money, property, and time. Otherwise, the roots can rot.

Last, the ground is watered. The Bible speaks of being washed in the Word of God. It also refers to the Holy Spirit as living water. The ministry needs both the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to flourish. If there are any air pockets that did not get removed, they will be revealed by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. If they are not immediately corrected, the whole plant is in danger.

I wonder what I'm going to learn next.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nervous

The night before the audition, I couldn't breathe. I thought I was going to throw up. I knelt there with my face over the toilet gripping the seat with my hands. The faint blue water shivers as I push air in and out of my mouth trying to get the precious oxygen down my throat. The sides of my vision have darkened and I can only see what is directly in front of me. My heart is beating in my ears and I can't feel my legs any longer.

...

The stage is dark. I'm early. The director isn't hear yet. The janitor let me in. I walk across the stage on my toes. I jump a couple of times just to hear the sound. It thumps. The echo dies out almost instantly. I reach down and feel the stage with my hands. If it were a blanket, I would grab it and draw it snug around me. I would roll in it until it was my entire world. I would...

I feel a tingle on the back of my neck. I'm being watched. I push myself off the floor and peer into the darkness. In the doorway, there is a silhouette. Whoever it is can see me, but with the lights off, I have no guess as to who it might be. It enters the room and walks towards the stage.

"What are you doing?"

"Nothing... I... I..."

The lights jump on. The man was standing by the big breaker just off stage. He is wearing blue jeans, a dress shirt, and a leather jacket.

"What are you doing?"

I rise to my feet with my head down. Sorry. As I walk past him, I hear him mumble something, but I can't make out what it is.

...

I'm backstage, about to go on. The spotlight shines down and makes a circle on the stage. My throat is caught again and I finger my chest looking for my diaphragm. I push it a couple times as if giving myself CPR. My name is called. I step into the light.

...

I'm at home again, kneeling in front of the toilet. My hands are on the seat and my breath stirs the water. The phone is on the floor next to me. I'm waiting for a phone call. My breaths are shallow, but I can feel the soft tickle of the bath mat on my legs.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Trouble, Churches, and Pain

On Trouble
Remember when you were little and you would get in trouble? What was that? There was the punishment or consequence, but that wasn't in trouble. A Mom might tell her child, "You are in so much trouble right now, just wait until your Daddy gets home." The child is currently in trouble, but the punishment or consequence is still yet to come. Trouble must be something other than a spanking or a time out. Kids will recognize that they are in trouble before they even get caught.

I theorize that "Trouble" must then be a current state of a relationship that begins at the moment of disobedience and ends at the moment of completion of the punishment or consequence. It is a breach in the relationship between a parent and a child where the child shows himself to be irresponsible, and trust is lost.

I think it's the same with God. When we sin, we are in "trouble." Our relationship with God is broken until we confess and are forgiven. The punishment has already been paid by Jesus on the cross and even though we might suffer through some of the consequences, the eternal result of our sin no longer rests upon our shoulders.

That being said, we should confess to God right away. There's nothing worse than being in trouble waiting for the punishment to come upon you. Until "daddy comes home," the child waits and fears and his relationship with his mom is horrible. They don't talk or laugh or play or do any of the other things children should do with their mothers. They just wait and fear.

We don't have to be that way. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ. Confess, Repent, and be restored. Leave trouble behind. You don't need it anymore.

On Churches
One of the things I personally believe is splitting the body of Christ is the comparison of churches. We Christians play the, "the church I go to is better than that church," and "We do things the right way here," cards way too much. (I think once is too much.) What exactly is the criteria for a good church? I believe they are the same three things that one should look for in a spouse.

1. Does the church (spouse) encourage you to grow in your personal relationship with the Lord?
If your relationship with God isn't growing by where you're going, you should ask yourself why you are going there. This doesn't mean that a church has to offer personal Spiritual Challenges and have milestones so you can prove that you're a greater Christian than you were previously. But it does mean that when you do go to church, you are going for Jesus and not because you like a music style or teaching style or display of Spiritual gifts. I'm convinced that I could be amongst any of my Christian brethren and still connect with my Jesus because I can connect with Him on my own. It's just good to connect corporately as well as individually. The Bible calls us to be a body for Christ, not a winnebago. We are to be like cells living and working together, not independent.

2. Does the church (spouse) encourage you to get into God's Word?
Jesus calls us to worship God in truth and in love. We need both. The Bible has both. It has the truth and it was written in love. We need to get into it, know it, live it. Whatever church you go to needs to be built on the foundations laid out in the Bible. There are a lot of bad churches out there. (And I'm not talking about churches that just aren't as good as the one I go to, but churches that teach lies and call them truth.) And in order to spot the lie, you need to know the truth. I don't have to memorize that a rhinoceros isn't yellow if I know that they are grey. If I know what color they are, I don't need to know what color they are not. I would be able to figure that lie out if someone was trying to convince me of anything else. If that church (spouse) is not encouraging you to get in the Word yourself, they could could be setting you up to believe a lie. (Also check everything. The most effective lies are those that are mostly true.)

3. Can you serve your church (spouse) joyfully?
You must serve. We all need to serve each other and no Christian is exempt. Service is something that people who are following Jesus will eventually enjoy and want to do, but sometimes it starts out with serving just because you know it's good. If you can't serve, you will never really be apart. Customers are never a part of the store even if that's where their money goes. They are not part of the store even though it would not exist without them. The people who work there are part of the store because they work there. They spend time and energy to make the store function. So must you be with your church. You don't have to do it all, but you have to be involved somehow. The church that doesn't need any more servants doesn't need any more congregants either. (If you have too many servants, send them my way. We could always use more over at my church.)

If you can fulfill these three criteria, I believe that you can find a home with any body of believers. Music style and Pastor personality should have nothing to do with it. Of course, if you were looking for a church, the first thing you should do is pray. If God makes the choice for you, then just thank Him and obey.

But please don't compare your church to a different church and don't rank churches on how "correct" they are. All that does is put more distance between you and your brethren. People are all different, so churches need to be different to reach them all. Some churches are more mission's based whereas others are more based on reaching out to the community. Both are needed. Some Pastors have special messages from the Lord to give so that all their sermons sound the same. God gave them that message to give so it would be going against God to complain about it. If you are not getting something from a church service, then that speaks of the condition of your heart. Even if I already know all the information that is preached, (and that is not often the case,) I still grow closer in what was reinforced from the message. The Word does not go out and return void, after all.

We all go to different churches and that's okay. Our Worship music is different and our Pastors are different and that's not only okay, but beneficial. We need to stop looking like the world and start looking like Jesus.

On Pain
We Christians try to be so tough. We don't wince anymore when people cuss in our presence. We watch movies with people sinning in front of our eyes and we laugh and eat pop corn. We allow people in our own church bodies to go through divorce and we just smile around them and try to change the subject to take their mind off.

Christians, we need to be offended again. We need to feel pain and let it show. When someone sins and I see it, I need to feel the pain of witnessing someone, or even one of my brothers in Christ, willingly separate themselves from my Savior. We put up these walls and harden our hearts because we don't want to be hurt, but Jesus got hurt for us. He showed His pain and we hide ours. We pretend like we don't care and one day, we just stop caring.

How much more would the world know us if we showed pain at sin... either our sin or someone else's. What if we cried whenever we heard about or talked about abortion and divorce. What if curse words containing the name of God actually brought tears to our eyes. Would the world notice? We might sternly tell people that they must respect God, but doesn't God live inside of us? Wouldn't they respect Him more through seeing Him in us than just hearing us tell them about what He finds acceptable and unacceptable?

The Bible says that they will know us by our love for one another. They will not know us by rules or standards or the books we carry around or the stickers on our cars. They will know us by our love, and love hurts. It pains me to see those I love in torment or anguish or anything beyond a mild discomfort. If I love someone, and they are not alright, I can't rest until I am a part of their pain. (The experience, not the cause.) But we Christians have the habit of playing the tough guy. We aren't phased by emotions or drama. Those who are must be weaker Christians. A boat may not always sail with the wind, but it always experiences the storm.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

...

I haven't written lately because the person who pinches me if I don't write is in Africa.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Prayer and Light

Sometimes, I can't think of words to pray, but my thoughts and feelings still go up to the Lord. In a sense, I'm basking in His presence and although I don't have the words, I lift up my heart to God. I know that the Holy Spirit prays for me in those times. (Romans 8:26)

I visualize it as a light shining out the top of my head going to the Lord. When I'm praying with a group of people, I imagine lights coming out of each of our heads and combining as they go straight up to Heaven. What if the world could see this light as a Christian prays. What if our lights were always on? What if it was this light by which we could see?

I think if there was an actual visual, I would pray a lot more often.

I think the Apostle John had a lot to say about light... feel free to read John and 1 John and comment your thoughts.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Forgiven

Fiction

Jeff looked at himself in the mirror. Messy hair. Messy face. Messy life. He cringed. What brought him to the mirror this week was an itch at the end of his nose that wouldn't go away. It was all red and squishy and a slight sharp pain stung him every time he touched it. He took two fingers and squeezed until it pussed.

The rest of his face was spotted. He couldn't tell if it was dirt on his face or dirt on the mirror. The room behind him was a mess. His bed was a single mattress on the floor covered in t-shirts and jeans. Past due notices from the electricity company and the phone company carpeted his small apartment. Styrofoam containers and fast food bags covered his few pieces of furniture.  Finding his nightstand would require an archeological dig.

Jeff stuck his head under the faucet and let the cold water run through his hair. He felt something sting him in the back of the head. He tried to jerk out from the sink, but hit his head on the faucet, knocking it off the sink and spaying water everywhere. He hopped up and down holding his head and sharing a few unsanitary words with the yellowing walls around him.

He pulled his hands in front of his eyes to see if he was bleeding. He wasn't. In fact, his fingers looked immaculate. He turned his hands over and noticed that his fingernails were no longer too long, but perfectly cut and shaped to his fingers. The black line under them was gone and the palms of his hands were clean. He looked down at his clothes and saw a bright white shirt and pants, whiter than he's ever seen. His apartment looked wonderful too. The bed, still a single, was off the floor on its frame and neatly made. His floor was swept clean and his furniture was polished. The sink faucet was fixed and the sink was scrubbed white. his mirror was spotless and so was his reflection. No more pimple on the end of his nose. No more dirt on his face. His hair was neatly parted and the pain in the back of his head was gone. The only thing that wasn't perfect was the look on his face. The perfect looking man in the mirror was horrified.

All of a sudden, a voice spoke. It was a soft one and Jeff wasn't even sure he heard it, but he understood what was said.

"This is how I see you."

As the voice faded away, so did Jeff's perfection. His room returned to the trench warfare he's always known. His face lost its glow while the pimple regained its shine. His clothes tattered themselves to the t-shirt and torn jean shorts he was sleeping in and his hair re-rustled itself into chaos.

Jeff didn't know what to do. He just stood there and for the first time saw the depravity of life around him.

His eyes began to water. His fists clenched as he tried to keep control but he couldn't. He started moving without really watching where he was going. He left the apartment, went down the hall, then down the stairs, then down the street. Before he realized where he was going, he stood before a large white house with a little fence around it. Two cars parked in the driveway. A tire swing hung limp on a tree in the front.

He wiped away the tears and took a step up the walk. But just one. He couldn't do it. Just one step was all he could muster.

The front door opened. A briefcase fell to the ground and the papers inside fanned themselves out on the walk.

"Jeffery?"

Shined black shoes ran down the walk and a father embraced his son for the first time in years. Tears flowed freely and knees buckled. Mom came running with her arms waving and her hair flying behind her. The three of them cried right there down on the walk, one step from the street.

Jeff tried to speak, but no words came out.

"Come inside, Son." Dad choked out. "We still have your room just the way you left it."

"Really?" Jeff asked.

"Well no..." Mom said. "I cleaned it up a little."

"Welcome home, Son."

"I'm sorry."

"Forgiven."


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Should I Get a Regular Job?


Sometimes I feel like I have so much to do, I don't want to do any of it. I have too many interests or too many hobbies or too many ministries. The thing is that I want to do everything, but I have neither the time nor the energy to do so. If I had the money, I could probably employ a handful of people full time to do all the things I want to get done.

Now I'm wondering if I should try and get a secular job. I don't want one. I want to do ministry full time, and I feel that I am, and I have faith that God will sustain me in this time, but it's a hard sell to a prospective wife.

 I have nothing against working. I wouldn't mind the extra money. But I don't really want to give up ministry or more accurately, I don't want to give up the priority of ministry to a job. People with most kinds of jobs need to work when their boss tells them and it must come before their ministry to whomever they minister to. Since I currently work at a church, my employers understand that ministry is important and allow me to have a flexible schedule. I supposed I'm afraid of losing that.

That's why I typically go for jobs like Tutoring or Babysitting or even Substitute teaching where I have the choice to set my hours or to just say no. But it's not steady income and definitely not reliable. So today, I was thinking about looking for a night job at a hotel. When I worked at a hotel... over a decade ago... that makes me feel old... the night shift was from 11pm to 7am. Well that's just three hours later than I currently stay up now. That might work... but not on Saturday night.

I just don't know.

Another option is to try and get into teaching. This would either mean going back to school to get a credential or some educational units (if I'm going to work in a preschool) or teaching at a private school. If I look into it, maybe I could open a traveling private school and go around to student's homes and oversee their work on a weekly basis or something... I don't know. I'm just throwing up ideas.

I'm praying about what to do. I've been approached by a couple of concerned friends on this issue. Perhaps my time of uber-ministry is over and I need to start backing out of a few things. I don't want to. I love the ministries I've been a part of.

Please pray for me.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Times of Weakness

It is in times of weakness where I wish I could go back on the promises I made to the Lord. I wish that the covenants I entered into were void since God doesn't hold others to that particular conviction. I wish I was younger in the Lord and I didn't know certain things were not okay with God, so I could continue to sin in ignorance.

But thankfully, times of weakness are temporary. The convictions I have that I wished I didn't keep me from acting out my heart when it is following the flesh. That's when I need convictions the most. No one has to remind me it's wrong to steal when I have everything I want. No one has to remind me that I shouldn't lie if the truth I have to tell is so wonderful that lying would only be boring. But it is when my focus is off of Jesus and on the winds and the waves around me that I start to sink. And I need His hand to pull me up and His voice to accuse me of having little faith. But I do have a little.

I do desire a right relationship with God. But I also desire others to have one too. Sometimes, when I'm in a time of weakness and listening to the flesh, the thought that other people look to me and my walk with God help motivate me to put my flesh aside. I'm not afraid that I would be judged, well maybe a little, but I'm afraid that I may lead others to stumble. I don't want to do that.

I want to set a good example of a God following, Chist Loving, Spirit driven man. I want the younger guys in my life to see that it is possible and something they can attain. (If I can do it, anyone can.) I want the young ladies to see that it is possible and that they shouldn't seek a relationship with anyone who loves God less. I want to give them a standard to compare whatever cute guy they are interested in against to see if he really loves God or not.

I want to live and love my Christ.

Some people notice that after times of Spiritual Retreats and "Mountain times," they encounter a huge trial. I would also like to suggest the reverse. After a time of weakness, a time of testing, a trial, if you hold onto the Lord, there is a Spiritual strengthening like the angels ministering to Jesus in the desert.

I usually find that in times of weakness, when I notice that I am weak... the first hour in the Word is the hardest. But every hour after that is amazing!

"Be fruitful and multiply." -God

Friday, August 26, 2011

It was a dark and stormy night.

At evening, we got in the boat to sail across the sea. The wind was calm, but we caught a slight westward breeze that pushed us away from shore. Peter said at this rate, we'd be across in a couple of hours. I had just eaten a large meal so I stretched out on the bundles of fishing net and shut my eyes. Not a hour later, I wake up to a full fledge storm. It just came out of no where. Peter and Andrew are yelling out orders and the rest of us are straining to hear them over the wind and the waves crashing into the boat. James starts handing out oars and John is bailing water. I rush to the side and start paddling with all my might. The water is constantly spraying me in the face and a wave knocks me down. I almost drop my paddle. The darkness of the storm blocks out all view of land, although I looked across the sea before we left and could easily make out the mountains on the other side. We paddle and paddle and paddle for hours and hours and hours. My arms felt like jello. I take a few seconds longer to get up after each wave knocks me down and I'm drenched to the core. I've swallowed more water than John has been able to bail and it's starting to dawn on us that we might not make it. Peter and Andrew have stopped shouting and Andrew has his face in his hands. It's all over.

Matthew was the first one to see it. He was sitting right in front of me and I heard him scream. I look behind me to see what he's looking at and through the storm but the light of lightening, there is a figure on the sea. It disappears behind a wave and then appears again. Someone said ghost and we all panicked. We were all screaming and I heard someone mention jumping overboard. But just then the ghost spoke.

"Don't be afraid, it is I"

At once we recognized the voice. It was Jesus! He was walking on the water! Though our speech was frozen in our throats at first by fear, and now by awe, it was Peter who first spoke. He asked to walk on the water to Jesus, and Jesus said He could go! Then Peter actually jumps overboard and starts walking on water! He must truly be the greatest of the twelve. None of the rest of us even dared to ask. But then, as Peter is walking toward Jesus, up and down on the waves, he starts looking around. He looks at the wind and the waves and immediately, he began to sink. Jesus grabs him and helps him up and back into the boat. Just then, the storm stopped and we were at shore. It was the most amazing night in my entire life, but life with Jesus seems to be full of surprises. Just wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Closing Hour of Vacation

As the closing hour of my vacation draws near, I feel as though I am not any wiser or any closer to the Lord than when I left. But I'm at peace. I have not worried or stressed or fought back any complaints for the last three days. I don't know if I was really expecting a change of life direction with this time, but I didn't get one. Instead I feel like I've laid down my burdens and stretched a bit. I still don't know which ones, if any, I need to give up. I'm still not sure whether God is planning on lightening my load or giving me a stronger back. But I do know He has something in mind. Guessing at what it might be is foolishness since my imagination cannot compare to the blessings God has already planned for me. Am I blessed? I am. I am truly and undeservingly blessed. And it's not because I'm good, but because the one who loves me is Good. And in His goodness and love will I forever dwell. Amen.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 1 of Not Existing

I told everyone I knew... everyone I interacted with daily anyways, that I was going to cease to exist for a few days. I prearranged to be free from obligations and turned off my phone and closed my facebook tab on my internet browser. The point was to quiet myself before God.

One of the first things I did was to look up the word bless in blueletterbible.org

It is a fascinating word. It's Hebrew word is Barak and it appears in the Bible as follows:
bless 302
salute 5
curse 4
blaspheme 2
blessing 2
praised 2
kneel down 2
congratulate 1
kneel 1
make to kneel 1
misc 8

I was surprised as it has been translated as curse four times! That's the opposite meaning of the word! I then looked up where it was translated as curse so I could check the context. They are all in the beginning of Job. Once when Job was sacrificing in case his kids accidently cursed God. Twice when Satan said that Job would curse God if bad stuff happened. And finally once when Job's wife told him to curse God and die.

I couldn't just put in the translation bless instead of curse without changing the meaning of the sentence. I was so confused and tired. It was the end of a Sunday and an especially long one at that. I hadn't slept long the few previous nights because of ministry opportunities and I was wanting to catch some z's. So I put away the computer, gout out my big white fluffy Z catcher and went to sleep.

I'm still not sure about how that word got translated as curse or why the author of Job used that word there. But I prayed about it. For most of today, since about midnight Sunday night until fivish Monday afternoon, I went back and forth from sleeping to praying to reading to eating to sleeping to praying all day long. I feel wonderfully rested and my body feels like it's recovering from a lot of physical activity... which I think is just the stress in my muscles relaxing. But just because I'm being quiet before the Lord does not mean I'm not getting spiritually attacked.

This morning... at least it may have been morning... I wasn't paying attention to time a lot, I was praying a prayer of petition when I heard a distinct spiritual no. (Meaning it wasn't audible.) At first, I thought it was God, but it sounded different. (John 10:4) That no also doesn't jive to what I understand to be God's character in the way He's been leading me recently in this particular avenue. I was really expecting more of a, "not now." So at first, as I thought it was God, I was disappointed with that answer, but as I thought about the harshness of the "voice" and the inconsistency of God's character, I was a bit skeptical. So I prayed asking for confirmation and started to sing (only in my heart, not audibly) a song of Praise to the Father, Son, and the Spirit of God, and the gruff voice that told me no started to scream and shrink away. It was not God after all, and whatever it was, it could not stand it when I praise my real God.

Now on the subject, if God tells me no, and I know it was from Him, I would accept it. No is a much easier answer than wait and I can deal with disappointment. I can deal with heartbreak. I can deal with emotional pain by the boatload, but waiting is quite a bit harder. I don't want to go without God's guidance either, so I would rather wait than assume a yes. When it is time, and God says Yes, I'll let you know, but if I'm wrong and God does end up saying no, I'll probably not exist for a while longer to seek His will some more.


I've been praying about a lot of things while I'm non-existent, and I'm not getting a bunch of answers. I know it's only been a day, but I'm impatient like that. I have had a lot of dreams though. Some were pleasant and some were attacks. I remember being chased through a building. I'm not sure what was chasing me, but I wasn't scared. I don't know why I didn't face it, but I seemed to be confident of where I was going and why. I think it was a trick of some sort, but I do remember crawling through an air duct and barely fitting. In another dream, I was helping someone. I can't remember who or what I was helping with, but it was something big and that person couldn't have done it alone.

Speaking of alone, I don't mind being it. I actually enjoyed not talking to anyone. I enjoyed keeping my mouth shut and soaking up God's Word and books about God's Word. I enjoyed praying myself to sleep and waking up in a state of prayer. I enjoyed not existing, but I know that I must not stay this way. This is a special time that I get to enjoy between my and my Jesus, and although I would love to have all my time be this special, we (both me and Jesus) are called to be in the World spreading the news of the Kingdom and growing up believers.

My ministry is to help Him do His ministry of seeking and saving. We work together. He doesn't need me, but chooses to bring me along to work beside Him. He is showing me how to be a good husband in ministry for when He provides me with a wife. (If you are my future wife and you're reading this, I just want you to know that I'm studying really hard.)

One thing that I've been praying about in my life is time away from ministry to spend with Jesus like I'm doing now. It's not good to be so busy with work you don't spend quality time with Jesus. I've been struggling with that lately, but what can I give up? I love everything I do and I want to do more. But it's only for a season. When I get married, I can't do that anymore. I will need to spend time with my wife... (I told you I'm studying hard.) She will need to be a priority so we can minister effectively together.

That part of me that I've identified as the flesh has been acting up lately. It's been screaming and yelling and making all sorts of fuss. I've been able to step back from it and keep it from influencing my actions and most of my speech, but I've been praying for God to take it out. That's part of this time away. I think it gained strength as I took on more and more responsibility. I'm praying on what to do. I would love to do everything and more, but there are only so many hours in a day and days in a week. My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak... actually my flesh has been strong lately, but it's also been a brat. Today, since I didn't exist, it hasn't been too bad. It has no power on days of prayer. Why can't all my days be days of prayer?

If anyone reading this is already married, make sure you take time to spend with your spouse. I cannot emphasize how important this is! After God, he/she must be your first priority, even before your kids! You cannot minister to your kids properly unless you and your spouse are working as one. Take time and spend it alone with your spouse! Call me if you need someone to watch your kids for you. I'll even do it for free if it's the only way you can get away. Also, in your time together, approach God together seeking His will and have it be a time between the three of you. You, your spouse, and the Almighty God! It's the best.

Oh, and for those of you who might worry that I don't exist... don't. I'm safe and cared after.

PS. I still haven't figured out the bless/curse thing yet. Google wasn't as helpful as I thought... either that or no one knows... or I just don't know what key words to search for.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Star Catcher

Step by step, the mountains approach. A half an hour ago, they looked exactly the same as they do now, but only two days ago, I didn't even know they existed. I heard about them, but I didn't see them.

Majestic. Awe-inspiring, Holding up the sky.

Man, I have to climb them!

Part of me wants to give up. Part of me wants to move off the trail and lie down and wiggle my toes in the long grass.

But I'm not going to.

I'm going to climb the mountains like I planned. I'm going to keep moving forward. I'm going to use my hands to climb and one day, with God's help, I'll stand at the top. I'll reach up and grab a star and put it in a bottle. It will be the light of my house. It will be a gift to my wife. It will be blessing that killed me to get it.

I will return a different man than I was when I left.

The old me, the one that wants to lie down and wiggle my toes in the grass, will cease to exist, and only Jonathan the mountain conquerer will be left. Jonathan the star catcher. Jonathan the light bringer. Jonathan the God truster.

One day. Just you wait and see.

One day.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Camping

Today, I became a drifter. I drifted with the current down the Feather River with beloved friends and enjoyed God's beauty and the serenity of His creation. Some people fished and there were actually fish jumping out of the water. I paddled and we got stuck once... I broke a paddle trying to get us free.

This was my first time river kayaking and I enjoyed it. I would do it again if given the opportunity.

But what I loved more was the friends and fellowship we shared. It's different doing things for the sake of doing the thing and doing things for the sake of doing something with friends. If I was going to kayak for the sake of kayak, I would have gone by myself and wouldn't have gotten so wet. But as it was, I had three people on my Kayak and there were many times when I just pulled my paddle and sat enjoying the day... until someone splashed me. Of course I splashed back.

God did not determine for us to travel though life alone. This doesn't mean look for that special someone, but love everyone that God puts in your path. He provides through people as much as He provides for people through you. Just being a friend, even if you don't feel like you did any good, sometimes, is what God is using to show that He cares.

So go camping, paddle down a river, and bring a friend along.

Friday, August 05, 2011

The Rocks Cry Out

The rocks cried out a week after Jesus said they would. When He rode on a donkey into Jerusalem, the pharisees asked Him to tell the people to stop worshipping Him. He said that if they stopped the rocks would cry out. They did.

A week later, when Jesus hung on the cross, no one worshipped Him. They mocked Him of fled for their own lives. When He died on that cross, the rocks cried out in a giant earthquake and the veil was torn. Who heard their cry? A Roman Soldier who could then proclaim, "Truly this was the Son of God."

Three days later, when Jesus rose from the dead, the rocks cried out once again, releasing from their depths the dead who had died in faith.

One day, I will ascend to heaven. I will ascend to the Glory of my Master and I will leave behind pain and sickness and death itself. My home is not of this world. If my home was of this world, I would fight for it. Instead I stand in the gap. Preaching the Gospel until God takes me home... and after God takes me home, the rocks will cry out once again.

Monday, August 01, 2011

God is Faithful

My life recently has consisted of every good thing except a goodnight's sleep. I've had great ministry opportunities and challenges as well as fruit and fellowship. I've experienced joy as well as sorrow. I've struggled with sin and have claimed my victory in Christ.

I have learned a lot about love. Stuff I already knew. Stuff I understood, but didn't have words for.

Love is a strange thing. With the love of God, we can love both a complete stranger and that special someone. Our love for the stranger isn't diminished next to the love of that special someone, but it's different.

Love for a stranger is looking at and seeing Christ in that lonely face. Seeing the Jesus that I so desire to minister to behind that flesh and that mask of eyes. Going out of your way to help someone you don't know is not only right, but joyful. It's like singing songs into the wind. No one knows what you're doing, but you know God hears.

But love for that special someone is more constant. It's giving over of your life and disciplining your body to be a slave to your will for hours on end. It's finding joy in making that someone blessed at every expense. It's knowing that my own bodily desires are even further down the list of priorities and only after every need and want of this other person is satisfied, do my own desires even dare to show themselves.

Sleep is the present reward of trust and joy is the present reward of hope. Tonight, I shall lay my head down in sweet surrender, completely believing that my God is faithful.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Literary Vomit... I'll sort through it later.

How do I begin to relate the last week? It's been incredible. God has delivered brand new believers into our body. There were about a dozen kids and one parent who gave their lives to the Lord at VBS Oroville this last week. I learned about 100 new names and spent some time (not enough) with some very dear friends.

Let me put it this way...

I woke up in a dream. It was a garden of sorts, and everything was familiar, but different. Paved paths led nowhere and dirt paths would lead me wherever I wanted to go. All the signs pointed up, and the people I met were strangers, but loved me like family. I dug, I planted, I watered, I harvested. I reached into those little artichokes and touched their little hearts. I cared and tendered along with other workers a wonderful garden. We learned the names all the plants and rejoiced over them with singing.

I dug my toes in the soil and rested in the shade of creation. I drank from the eternal well and slept amongst the sweet sweat of a hard days work. I worked alongside a most valued friend and we worked together tired continually with smiles on our faces and encouragement in our voices.

It was a mountain we cast into the sea. It was walking on water. It was raising the dead and healing the sick and setting free those who have been captive. It was living by having faith and trust in the living God.

I did the work, but God gets the glory. The work I did is just a dim reflection as in a puddle of what God was doing beyond our vision.

You know that song that says, "if we are the body, why aren't His hands moving?" I don't know who that guy is, but I challenge him to come out of the studio and serve in a VBS. He'll be singing a different tune. Maybe something along the lines of "How Wonderful Thou Art."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Don't think I'm really dead.

So I just died tonight. I bared my chest and let myself be stabbed. I fell forward and could feel the blood flowing from me and engulfing me. The empty space left inside my chest pained as the cool air rushed in to fill the space. It's so hard to sleep when you die.

I was actually lying in bed after a hard phone call. If God made me a cryer, I would dehydrate myself with sorrow. It's not so much as what was said as what wasn't said.

Diversion tactics.

Defensive maneuvers.

I am not the enemy.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under [her] wings, but you were not willing!" Matthew 23:37

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Love and Relationships

So lately, I've dealt with a lot of relationships. Not my own, but for some reason I've had a few long conversations about it recently. And although I thoroughly preach against dating, it seems to happen anyway and I'm helping people deal with their break ups or problems with their boyfriend/girlfriend.

One of the questions I ask is why. Why do you love him or her?

Answers are usually along the lines of: funny, smart, cute, pretty, hot, Christian, etc.

And although those are attributes of a person that you may like, they are weak reasons for love. How many of those things would the person have to lose before you stop loving them? How many of those things were we when Christ died for us?

This, in my waking understanding at 6something am, is love:
I'm giving you my heart, fully knowing you are going to break it and drop it and stomp on it and desecrate it, either willingly or unwillingly, but I will pick up the pieces, wash them off, put them back together, and give it back to you just so you can do it again. And I will do this over and over until I die or Jesus takes me home.

I believe we choose to love, not choose to feel love as if it were a noun, but choose to love as if it were a verb. We love when it's hard. We love when it hurts. We love when it seems impossible and we are being abused. We love when we can't take it anymore and all our friends tell us that it's hopeless. We love because we were first loved.

Now just because we love doesn't mean we get into relationships. I can love friends that way and never date them. Love doesn't equal sex. Love doesn't equal marriage. Love doesn't equal attraction. Love equals sacrifice. Love equals loss. Love equals suffering. If you are not willing to suffer at the hands of the one you love, you do not love that one. You love you.

Therefore, dating is not the expression of love. Dating is the cheaper form of marriage. People date because, for whatever reason, they don't want to commit to marriage and settle for dating. The more I deal with it, the more I hate it. The more I see of it, the more I see the destruction it brings. As I see those two who are dating grow closer together, the more I see them grow farther from others who love them and hurt and suffer for them. It's an imitation of what God made to be between a man and a woman and we are selling out. God has given us His heart, and we break it and drop it and stomp on it and desecrate it. And He just keeps handing it back so we can do it again.

How He loves us is wonderful. I love my God.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pain and being in it

There is so much pain in the world. I feel like a collector lately. People hurt, so I share in their pain. I listen and grieve and apologize for things I never did. I try hard not to excuse bad behavior, but I try to steer away from self-righteousness and blame shifting. It's all my fault.

I hurt you. I did it. Blame it on me. I took your world and smashed it with a hammer. I broke through your defenses and left you cold and beaten amongst the stones. But I also bled with you. I also died with you. I also tasted the bitterness of defeat with you.

I've been senseless and hurtful and selfish. Will you forgive me? I loved only me before but now I love you and I don't want you to be alone anymore. If you have to take it out, take it out on me. If you have to talk it out, talk it out to me.

I'm here to be the hero, the villain, the victim, or the therapist that tells you it's going to be okay. I'm the detective that helps you find the good in evil. Reverse evil and live. There is good in everything and we need to look.

I'm here to hold your hand, to brace your back, to catch you when you fall. I'm here to lead the way, to pull you through, to stay with you through it all. I'm here for you.

My heart is tender, but not weak. If feels pain, but not defeat. My victory comes from pain and through pain. It comes from the pain of the cross. I am a messenger of God with one message.

This ain't over yet. Just wait and see.

Okay... maybe that's two. But I'll wait with you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Cry of a Faithful Shepherd is For the Lost Sheep

Dawn is approaching and the watchman drowses at his post. The shift is almost ever. A hot bowl of soup is calling his name and his bed sent him a written invitation. His heavy breaths turn to sighs and his sighs turn to yawns. Between the long blinks of his eyelids, something moves in the distance. He shakes himself awake and stares out into the rising light. There is a figure approaching. Just one. An among this figure, there are moving things at his feet.

It is a shepherd and his flock. The call is made down to the gatekeeper to open the gate. The flock is thin and the shepherd is weary. Water is brought and wounds are dressed. The shepherd nearly collapses in his own tears. He shakes and convulses in grief.

The warmth of a hand penetrates his torn garment over his shoulder. A gentle Voice speaks. "Well done, good and faithful servant." The shepherd looks up into his Master's face. The Master's smile lightens with the day, but still the shepherd sobs.

"I have lost many sheep, my Lord, and the hired hands have deserted me." He wipes the snot away with his sleeve. "We've been attacked by wild beasts, and I protected the sheep. Men tempted me to leave the sheep and I wouldn't go, but they beat me with clubs and coaxed away the little ones." His voice choked and rubbed his eyes with his palms. I called the sheep to me, but many ran after these men and did not return. I've failed you, my Lord." The shepherd bowed himself to the ground as low as he could get. His shame and disgrace emanated like a fog and all who watched bowed their heads in empathy.

All except the Master.

"Your instructions were to bring me my sheep. That you have done. Through hardships and toils and deceit and temptations, you have brought me my sheep. Those that were lost will be avenged. I have already sent for that to be done, but that is no concern of yours." The master bend down and lifted the countenance of the shepherd with a single touch. "Come, be cleansed and wash up. Eat some food and regain your composure. We go to see my Father. He has a reward for you."

As the Master led the shepherd away, the watchman wiped away his own tear. He looked out past the wall to see four horses ride out to carry out the Master's will. He looked down at the sheep who had arrived safely and watched as they lay down to rest. Rest welcomes all, but some are too burdened to accept it. These sheep are home and safe and free. The shepherd is comforted and justice will soon be paid. It is a new day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Misplaced Japanese

I was reading online today about how the camps for the evacuees in Japan are getting full and although people are getting enough food and shelter, their living conditions aren't the best for long term housing. The long term housing solution that Japan does have is coming but the radiation is making it tricky.

I have a spare bedroom in my apartment. I could house one older gentleman. Do you think Japan will send me one? The price of a plane ticket must be less than it costs to feed and house him. My heart suddenly filled with compassion for the Japanese as I was reading the article and I want to help, but I don't have money or resources other than prayer and this extra room. I'm already praying. Does anyone else feel like hosting a Japanese quake refugee?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Paper Walls

Some people show their emotions openly. Others build fortresses of steel. I hide mine behind paper walls. If you tried, you could come right through, but no one tries. If you looked hard enough, you could see right through, but no one looks. If you listened, you would hear me cry, but this world is designed to distract. This world is built to block. I don't want to live here anymore.

I take it upon myself to break through walls. I can't do them all. But I've moved many. Every time, it has been ugly. Our emotions eat us alive. They ravage us until we are nothing but a slight sliver of hope. But there is hope, however small. And nurtured and cared for, that hope grows into faith. That faith grows into understanding and that understanding grows into walking. And the water that feeds it is the word and the soil that the roots take hold in is none other than the love of our living God.

Breakdown someone's wall. Nurse life into death. Feed the starved. Clothe the naked. Love the hurt and scared.

Everyone who lives, dies.
Everyone who loves, cries.
But we do it together, and that makes it better.
Us, and our Living God.

Monday, February 07, 2011

I Got Nothin'

I stand in front of large wooden doors. My fist is poised to knock. My other hand hangs tentatively at my side. I have nothing to show. I have nothing to report. Whatever is expected on the other side, I don't have it.

But there's no turning back. There's no where else to go. Whatever I would try and do, these doors and what awaits on the other side would loom over me like my own personal rain cloud. I have to go in. I have to stand there and admit that I got nothin'.

One knock.

The doors open. A bright light illuminates the crack between the doors and widens in front of me. When my eyes adjust to the change, I step in. My hands are shaking so I place them behind my back. My head is down and I watch my feet walk across the floor.

I feel that kneeling is proper so I do that with my head still down. In a small voice, I announce that I have nothing to show. I've spent it all and I've brought nothing back.

"Jonathan," a familiar voice says, "you've sent it all ahead. Look at what you have earned me."

Friday, February 04, 2011

Having bitterness removed from your heart is like...

I don't remember being shot. I woke up lying in the mud. My body is cold and wet. I'm shaking. My blood is all around. There's so much. It's hard to breathe. How long have I been lying here? I'm so tired.

There are noises over me. Pain races through my system. I let out a scream. I feel the weight of someone on my stomach. Sweat is pouring out my skin. I'm cold on the inside. My vision is blurred. The pain won't stop.

He's digging in. I feel the cold tweezers digging deeper into my stomach. It hurts. I scream. I cry. The pain is too much.

He pulls it out. The bullet is so small. Such a little thing brought so much pain. I still hurt, but I'm bandaged and under blankets. I'm still shaking, but not as much. I'm still cold, but not as much. I'm going to live.

I keep it in a jar beside my bed. I stare at it when I can't sleep. It hurt so much to get it out. I don't even remember feeling it go in. But it is poison. It would have killed me. At the time, I didn't care. It hurt so much that I would have rather died. But now I live, and that bullet in a jar is a reminder. Death is at the door, but pain is the threshold to life.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Type something! Anything! It's been too long.

It's cloudy inside. The day does little to break through the mist of the mind. I swim in the oceans looking for land. Something, anything solid. The fish nibble at my toes, I can feel them, but when I turn around, they're gone. It seems like days, but it has only probably been minutes. I'm tired. I hold my breath and float for a moment, letting my arms rest. The water is cold and it laps up my skin as if to claim me. There's a feeling of struggle and a temptation to give up. There's that nag in my stomach that says that I just can't go any further. My mind contemplates defeat. The first bit of water that goes down my throat throws my body into a violent struggle for life. I won't give up. I cannot be defeated. I must continue to swim. Land must be just ahead, it has to be. With a newfound strength and energy, I kick death behind me. With every stroke, I grab onto life itself and pull myself forward. I swim with my head down, my eyes closed, hoping and praying that the next time I open my eyes, I'll see land. I turn my head to the side and take a breath. The air is warmer now, I can feel the warmth in my lungs. I swim harder. I can't look yet. I don't. My muscles start to burn. The second wind is nearly exhausted. I don't know how much farther I can swim. I take another breath. The air is almost tropical. I can feel the sun on my back. I hear a bird cry. Now. It's time. Look.

The water is warm. I can float on my back without trying. The clouds break in the blue sky. It's tranquil. I close my eyes. I can almost fall asleep. I move my fingers upon the surface of the water. I play it like a piano. Something touches my legs. Seaweed? I don't want to get up. I don't want to look. Just let it happen. Whatever happens, just let it happen.

I look up to the surface. I can still see the sky but the clouds are gone. My breath is bursting in my lungs. My lips are getting tired of holding it all in. I let a bubble go. Then another. The seaweed embraces me like a certain couch I know. I'm sinking. Shapes block the sunlight from the surface. Hands reach down and grab my arms. I'm violently wrenched out of the water and dumped onto something hard. I cough and sputter and spit up water. The wind is cold and harsh on my skin. I hear people talking, but I don't understand. Someone strikes me on the back. Again. Again. I have no energy left. I sleep.

It's cloudy outside. It's been day for hours and the sun has yet to show itself upon the earth. I stare at the clouds from behind glass. The bed is hard. The sheets are stiff, and this tube in my arm is too short to allow me to turn over. The one in my nose is uncomfortable, but every time I remove it, someone comes in and yells at me. I don't yell back. I don't say anything. The sea has stolen my voice.

She walks back into the room. I don't know what she's saying, but she's not happy. She scolds like a mother. The clouds are still angry outside. She checks tubs and dials on the machine and she leaves again. I wiggle my toes so much that the sheet that covers them falls off. The air in here is stale. It tastes funny. The taste gets stuck in the back of my tongue and no matter what kind of face I make, I can't get rid of it. If only I could reach the window. If only I could get it open and stick my head out. Maybe I could climb out and fly away, into the clouds. Push them away to reveal the sun like pulling back a curtain on stage. Here it is world, the one you've been waiting for. Put your hands together and welcome the sun.

The clouds are so white. It's like God has a blank canvas and has not yet painted the sky. The window doesn't open. I tried yesterday. The nurse had to come back and put the tube back in my arm. I hate the tube. I think if I could, I would just float away. Not fly, just float. I would float to the clouds like I was under water, floating back to the surface. I would reach the top and then see the sky for what it really is.

They don't know who I am. I don't know who I am. They talk and they talk to me and all I want to do is go outside. But I can't. So I just stare out the window, waiting for the clouds to break. They talk loud and use their hands to gesture. I leave my body and walk around them. They can't see my spirit. They are still talking and gesturing, but I'm not there anymore. I'm down the hall. I'm riding the elevator. I'm walking out the door and feeling the breeze on my face. I feel a smile coming on. But it doesn't come. I open my eyes and I'm still back in bed with the same people talking to me and gesturing at me. Freedom is a dream.

I can walk now. I could always walk, but now I'm allowed to. I can eat food and drink liquids and I don't need the tubes anymore. I never needed them. I eat what they give me, but it all tastes the same. Some looks like chicken and other looks like beef, but they taste the same as vegetables and rice. It must be a miracle to get so many foods coming into that kitchen and turn it all into the same stuff. I'm still not talking. The sea has my voice and I haven't been allowed to go get it back. They gave up talking to me. They try every once in a while, but for the most part, they leave me alone. I'm allowed to walk the hall. There is one window there that can open. I stand beneath it until they push me back to bed. I can taste the freedom when I'm there.

I have a name, but no one knows it. They gave me a name, but I don't respond. I turn invisible three times a day. I see it when they look at me, and then their eyes lose focus and they look right through me. I move around as I wish, but the doors are all locked. I still can't escape. I stand under the window, sipping the freedom.

My back itches. I think I'm sprouting wings. I can feel them beneath the skin by my shoulder blades. Any day now, they're going to break through the skin like the sun will break the clouds. Any day now.

I can see through time. I see the past in my room. An old woman who broke her back died in my bed. She had family. They were here when she passed. It was the first time they had been together in fifteen years. Her death brought her sons back together. She died happy.

Today, I'm hiding under the bed. It's my escape day. I will hide under the bed when they come to give me food. When they see me missing, they will unlock the doors to look for me. Then I will turn invisible and just walk out. Once out, I'll take off my shirt, spread my wings, and fly away. I'll go up to the clouds and I'll be home. The sea can keep my voice. I don't need it anymore. I don't want it. I'm going home today. I know it. I saw the sign. The sun sent a beam through the clouds to my window. I'm going home.