Tag Archives: Creative

When I Think About Heaven

I think about Heaven a lot. The fact of the matter is, I am obsessed with getting there. I think it would be accurate to say that more than anything, I want to just be with Jesus. It’s also a simple fact that I like to think about the things I will do in Heaven, and the people I would like to meet. In particular, I like to think about what I call The Library of Everything. I am almost painfully curious, and if I had infinite time and money, I would go back to school and just learn about stuff.

Jesus said to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, I have to be like a child. I think I’ve got that partly figured out in that the questions “Why” and “How” are on rapid fire in my head. I won’t spend all my eternity in the Library of Everything, but I will spend a lot of it there. Obviously I won’t be alone in there. I imagine the Library of Everything is enormous. It’s easy to find what one wants in there, and there’s a cafe where one can sit, drink coffee, and read. I imagine wandering around looking for things that sound interesting, and talking to saints who are interested in the same things, or who will help me find what I’m looking for. Probably, I’ll end up talking to the saints more than reading.

I’m a songwriter. I play guitar, but I’m not the best at it, and I sing, and I’m good, but there are certainly people in the universe who are better singers than me. I want to play the drums. I want to spend a lot of eternity in the Library of Everything, and I want to join a worship band, and bang on the drums like I’m crazy. I find myself in restaurants or at home or wherever tapping out 4/4 or 6/8 time because I have to wait, or because the song that happens to be playing is catchy, or for no reason at all. I imagine Heaven, or at least parts of it are LOUD. I imagine there’s always music playing somewhere. Angels are always singing; someone is always wailing on a guitar or banging on the drums; someone is always making beautiful melodies and harmonies on a piano or violin. When someone gets tired, someone else takes up their sticks, or pick, or whatever.

There’s a third place I like to think about when I think about Heaven. It’s an empty field with trees off in the distance. It’s a hill, and I like to think of myself and Jesus lying on the hill, and sometimes we talk, and sometimes we don’t. At the bottom of the hill there’s a lake, and sometimes we just lay there and listen to the water. Sometimes I like to read, and I imagine us there, and I imagine that I’m reading to Him; usually Lord of the Rings since I’ve just started Return of the King. I especially like to think about this place.

The funny thing is that I have absolutely no idea what to expect when I get Home. Maybe there won’t be a library. Maybe I won’t be a drummer. I do know that whatever there is when I get there, it will be better than anything I can imagine, and I have a darn good imagination.

A Song To Sing In The Dark

Recently I realized that I write my best songs when I’m pissed off. Something bad happens, and I cope by writing about it. That’s true for a lot of people, I know, but I think people cope by writing angry songs. I don’t write angry songs. I write defiant songs. I recently wrote a song about the Notre Dame fire. It happened on the same day as the Boston Marathon, so I tied the two events together. The second verse goes as follows:

Cheer for the runners
They all ran the race
Run for tomorrow
A glorious day
Tested by fire
The cross stood tall
The glory of Heaven
In old Notre Dame

The cross stood tall among ruins. God is never outdone. There are still places in the world where it’s illegal and even dangerous to be Christian. Recently, there have been shootings at places of worship in our own country. The cross standing among ruins was a powerful image for me. The Lord is greater than anything bad that could possibly happen. I reflected, too, that people can’t worship in Notre Dame any more, but buildings aren’t God’s Church. The people are His Church.

For the past two weeks, the people in Sri Lanka haven’t been able to celebrate Sunday Mass for fear of another attack. The Bishop has celebrated Mass privately, and the people have watched it televised. That would be tragic for me. I live in Suburban America, and I doubt the likelihood of anything like that happening in my home town. Still, there is a chance it could. There was a time in the early Church when Christians had to celebrate Mass in the Roman Catacombs. Still, they did it. They did it because Jesus conquered sin and death, they did it because He died for us, and they did it because He’s worth dying for. He’s worth suffering for.

The cross stood among the ruins in Notre Dame because the cross is our hope. The cross is what gave us life. The cross is a promise that as messy as things might be, and as messy as they might get, God is greater. The cross is a promise and a reminder that we are redeemed, and God can bring even greater light out of any darkness.

The title of my upcoming album is, “A Song To Sing In The Dark.” It’s from a line in my song, “Nothing Else.”

This is a song to sing in the dark
This is enough, a spark to start a fire
This is a prayer you answer with love
‘Cause you are God, and you are with us

I wrote the song a few years ago and released it as a single. All I remember is that I had been watching the news a little too much, and I was feeling depressed. The world looked like it was falling apart. The fact of the matter is, the world always looks like it’s falling apart. The cross is the symbol of our faith because Jesus overcame it. What had only appeared to be an instrument of death became a symbol of hope and life, and even more than that, a symbol of God’s undying love for us, and the promise of our salvation. We can look to the cross when we need a song to sing in the dark. Remember that the cross is a beginning, not an end.

Humility Lessons

Yesterday the people working on our car got us a rental. Our piece of junk is in our driveway at the moment because they’re waiting to get an expert mechanic in from I-forget-where. Having the rental is such a blessing, though. I was able to easily get to the studio last night, and we recorded harmony, as well as a potential guitar solo down on my song Autumn Hero. We also got quite a lot of mixing done. For those who don’t know, mixing is where you take each individually recorded piece of a song and get the “levels” or volume of each instrument or voice part right, as well as putting any effects on things.

It’s really awesome that Ken, my producer, happens to be Christian because we pray at the beginning of each session, and we always end up going on ten minute long God-is-awesome tangents. The title of the album that Autumn Hero will be on is, A Song To Sing In The Dark. It’s meant to be a musical declaration that there is always hope because the God of the universe, who is infinite and omnipotent triumphed over darkness, chaos, and death.

So why do I mention the rental car? It has tie-down straps to hold my wheelchair in place. Our regular car does not. I got in a bit of an argument with my mom yesterday because it takes a minute to tie my chair down. I am impatient, and I know that. I realized something else, though. The straps make me feel like I’m on a leash like a dog. They’re a bit of a blow to my pride. I still say that the rental, and even the straps are a blessing because I evidently need to work on humility, as well as patience.

This week we had to be out of the house on Tuesday and for a few hours yesterday because we were having some work done. We’re going up to Maine on Saturday, and we’ll be staying over for the first time. By no means is the house anywhere near permanent livable conditions, so it will basically be like camping. Between working on music, and simply being stuck  out of our MA house quite a bit this week, though, I haven’t got much work done on my book. I was hoping to work on Saturday to make up some lost time. I can obviously bring my laptop to Maine, but we’re going to have company, which means I might not get a whole lot done. I think this is another chance to let God work on me. To be perfectly honest, I do think camping out in the house will be fun.

I could have worked on my book today, but I ended up spending the whole day managing my online music stuff. It took much longer than I thought it would. It was a productive day, though, and I think it was worth the time. What I do, I do for God, not for profit. If profit comes in the end, then that’s a plus. Any creative endeavor is a bit of a dangerous business, though, because it can naturally feed a person’s pride. The other day, I was working on my book, and I had writer’s block. At the end of the day, I gave up, then an idea came to me, and I knew it was from God. I thanked Him, and I later realized that he hadn’t helped me earlier because, though I had asked for help already, I hadn’t really admitted that I couldn’t do what I was doing without His help. I’m good at writing because He gave me that talent.

My Ending

I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, but I haven’t entirely known how to pull it off. I’ve wanted to write the end of the Gospels in story form, in a modern, accessible way that still holds true to what happened. I’ve written it from Peter’s perspective, and I’ve taken bits and pieces from all four Gospels to construct the timeline. I have tried to be as true to the Gospels as possible while still being a bit creative. I’d love feedback. Thanks!

“Peter!” Mary entered the room so suddenly it scared me to death.
“What,” I said. I was not in the mood for any hysterics.
“He’s alive!”
“What?”
“Our teacher! Jesus! He’s alive!”
“Sure he is.” This had to be hysterics.
“Go and look if you don’t believe me!”

I was torn. I wanted to believe her, but at the same time I didn’t want to. It wasn’t possible, though realistically, I’d seen him do plenty of impossible things. I had walked on water because of him, though I wasn’t thinking of that at the moment. Finally I decided to go and see what she was talking about.

I left the house and ran to the place where he had been buried. The stone was gone. Hesitantly, I looked inside. It was empty. Nothing. There was no body. It didn’t make sense. It must be some kind of trick his enemies were playing. What more could they do to us?

“You see!” she said when I got back to the house.
“I don’t get it.”
“Peter, what don’t you get! He’s alive!”
“Mary, did you see him?”
“Yes! Peter, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! I talked to him! I didn’t even recognize him at first! He scared me half to death!”
“What did he say to you?”
“He just told me to come and tell you and the others.”

No one else had said a word this whole time. I’m not sure anyone wanted to. Their expressions were difficult to look at, especially his mother’s. We had been moving around over the past few days to avoid being targeted. At the moment we were at John’s place. He’d been going home a lot anyway to check on her. I always saw why Jesus liked him. He was good like that.

Finally some of the other guys started talking, just quietly. Jesus’ mom didn’t know what to do. She just broke down so John and I took her to another room to calm her down. When she was at least mostly back to normal the three of us went back to where everyone else was and I suggested we all pray about this. Mary was credible. Jesus had liked her and trusted her, so I decided I did to. I wanted to believe.

Finally when we were all eating dinner Jesus walked through the door. The shut and locked door. That was fun. Nobody knew what to do. Some of the guys actually hid behind chairs or behind other people.

“That’ll do you a lot of good,” I thought.

Admittedly, I was pretty scared, too, but I had to know what was going on.

“Guys, calm down,” Jesus said with a laugh. He walked over to me; the guy who had just walked through a closed and locked door walked over to me, and said, “Pete, look.” He held out his hand. It was scarred from where the nail had gone through when they… did what they did. “Take my hand,” he said. “Touch it.” I did, hesitantly. It was real. It was a real, human hand. I looked up. He smiled, but I noticed the marks on his forehead. He pat me on the shoulder and let go of my hand. I had wanted to hold on to him. I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose him again. It was a weird feeling.

Next he practically ran over to his mother and John and hugged them both. He went around to everyone and made sure we all knew he wasn’t some kind of hopeful illusion. What had began as a very weird, tense day quickly turned into a celebration… until he informed us that he had to go, to do what he didn’t say. He said he’d be back in a week, though, and we trusted him this time. Still, it wasn’t easy to let him go. It wasn’t until he had gone, though, that we noticed Tom hadn’t been there the whole time Jesus was. When we told him the next day, he didn’t believe us.

About a week later, Tom was with us and Jesus came back at the same time. This time he knocked. I laughed when I saw who was at the door. Tom didn’t get why. Jesus didn’t even say hi to anyone. He just walked straight over to Tom and told him to touch his hands, and he showed him the place in his side where they… did what they did. To this day I don’t like talking about it. What Tom did next was really cool.

He was speechless for a second and then he knelt down, still holding Jesus’ hand and said, “My Lord and my God.” That was powerful.

Jesus stayed with us for a little over a month after that. During that time, a lot of people who didn’t believe in him before started believing, and a lot of people who already did, believed more and grew in faith. One day a bunch of us were hanging around by the lake, one of our favorite spots, and Jesus and I snuck off a little ways. It was his idea. Everyone wanted to be around him all the time. Of course it didn’t bother him, but I could tell something was on his mind.

We just stood there, looking at the water for a minute, and then he said, “Pete,”
“Yeah, Master?”
“Do you love me?”
“Of course I do.”
He must have thought I didn’t understand the question because he asked again. “Peter, do you love me?”
“Lord Jesus, you know I do.”
“Then feed my sheep.”
This time I was a little confused, but I had meant what I said. Even so, he asked me again, which was actually kind of annoying. “Peter, do you love me?”
I said, “You know I love you, you know everything.”
“You know what you have to do then, Peter. Feed my sheep.”

I don’t know why exactly, but this seemed to change something inside of me. I have to say, by that point I was definitely willing to cry around Jesus. We stayed there for a minute, and he let me cry, and then, because I knew the other guys were close by I didn’t let myself cry any longer. It was important to get it out, though. Something had been fixed.

So much happened after that, it’s hard to remember it all, and it was mostly celebration to us. It was such a happy time. Still, we knew it wouldn’t last forever. Finally, when it was near the end of forty days, we could tell something was on Jesus’ mind again, but he didn’t tell us what. It seemed like he was happy and sad at the same time. He really was a very complicated person.

Finally he brought us together for the last time, and, since we had all been wondering the same thing for a while, I asked him, “Lord, are you going to bring your Kingdom now?”

What he said next was totally unexpected. “Guys, listen to me. I can’t tell you God’s plan. It’s not your place to know it. What I can tell you is that you’ll be given power to do great things in my name. You guys have stuck by me, and you’ll be my witnesses, first in Jerusalem, then in all of Judea, and eventually, all over the world. I know I can trust you to do this. Wait for the Holy Spirit, and you’ll know when you’ll be ready.” Then, so suddenly, he was somehow taken up and out of sight in a cloud.

All we knew to do at that moment was to worship him because our friend, who was God, was going home. After that we did what he told us to do. We stayed in Jerusalem and prayed in the Temple and told everyone what we knew to be the most important and only real Truth in the world.

Holy Week (Friday)

 

I have to go away for a while, and you won’t see me. You’ll worry. You’ll doubt. You’ll wonder if I’ve really been telling you the truth, and if I really am coming back. Before I go, I need to tell you that I love you, and I need you to let that sink in and believe it. I know you haven’t understood everything, but you will. I am coming back for you.

And he did. And he will.

 

Kids And Stories

Last week my year with the fourth grade CCD kids ended. On Sunday I’ll be finished with the high school Freshmen. I think the break will be nice. This was my first time teaching younger kids, and next year I want to have a better idea of how to manage things, so I’ll take a couple of days, or maybe a week or so this spring or summer to figure out a good plan. I’ll be teaching the fourth graders again next year, and I’ll also be teaching fifth grade, so I might have some of the same kids. I’ve decided to move on to tenth grade, too, partly because my cousin will be in tenth grade, and I think I’m his confirmation sponsor. Honestly, I forget if that’s what we’ve all decided.

A couple of days ago a little boy and his friends across the street saw me coming home from my CCD lesson, so I went over to say “Hi.” I don’t know how it came to it, but we ended up talking about an imaginary world my friends and I invented when we were in middle school. We didn’t have time to “go there” on Wednesday, but I promised them I’d come back over as soon as I could and we’d build a fairy house so the fairies could take us there. So today I spent about an hour playing in an imaginary world that I haven’t visited in nearly ten years.

It was an odd experience because their idea of Mythic Island is not what my idea of Mythic Island was. Granted, my friends and I had six years on these kids when we came up with the idea, but it’s like I’m blind there now. It’s sort of disorienting. It’s not that my imagination’s going. I can proudly say that I have more imagination than most people can handle. I guess maybe part of the issue is that when we were there, there was a wolf demon to contend with. Part of it, too, is that these kids don’t understand that co-mingling stories is a bad idea, and they want to bring Star Wars into it. The writer in me cringes at the thought.

Anyway, all that aside, we had fun. We ran around, found some dragon eggs, and I told them some stuff about magic I made up off the top of my head. The weather should be nice this weekend, so they’ll probably want to play some more. I’m hoping this doesn’t become an every-day thing, though, because I’m going to get nothing done. At the same time, having to come up with stories and ideas for these kids on the fly might prove to be helpful in coming up with stuff for my Mythology.

Speaking of which, This past week, I finished one story, and am getting a lot done on another one. The one I’m working on now is pretty dark, but certainly not as dark as the next one I’m going to do. I’m realizing that several of my stories are darker than I had originally thought they were going to be. It seems like a lot of mythology is like that. Still, I’m going to try and find ways to get some happier stuff in there, and some of my darker stories do have happy, or somewhat happy endings.

The kid who I was playing with earlier and his mom actually watched my bird while my family and I were in Florida last month. His mom is friends with my mom, and she told my mom earlier that her son keeps asking her for “bear stories” every night, and it drives her crazy because she feels like she’s not very creative. Stories have always come fairly easily to me. Sometimes I get a little stuck, but something always comes along. I’m not sure what it is.

Life would be so boring without stories. When I was a kid I wanted to be anywhere but the real world. I feel differently about that now. The worlds of my favorite stories are a lot scarier than the real world. Harry Potter has to deal with Voldemort almost constantly. Frodo has to deal with the Ring of Power and the Eye of Sauron constantly. The Jedi have to deal with the power of the Empire and then the First Order, and the overwhelming power of the Dark Side.

Granted, we probably have some pretty freaky stuff going on in our world that we don’t even know about, not to mention the spiritual warfare that’s often hard to see. The thing about those other stories though, is they don’t have God in them–not just a god, but the God. They don’t have the God-who-is-Love who’s got our back no matter what; who’s willing to go as far as to die for all of us. I’ve thought about that a lot as a writer. Every time I start to think I’d rather be anywhere else but the real world because something bad happened or I might have more control, or something, I realize, “Yeah, but in that other world I wouldn’t have God.”

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Valentine’s Day

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Earlier I found myself almost reverting back to my automatic bitterness about it, which is obviously silly. I love it when people are in love. I have turned into a sucker for corn. It’s kind of pathetic, actually. I’m not lonely anymore. I haven’t been for a long time. I have no reason for disliking Valentine’s Day, other than bad memories from when I was in high school and the first couple years of college.

I got my sleep schedule out of wack again because my friend was over and we stayed up late last night. Luckily, I think I still got some good stuff written on my Mythology today. That project is still a baby, so it’s a little early to be thinking about a title, but I kind of can’t help my mind reaching in that direction. I can’t just keep calling it “My Mythology.” I’m taking a bit of a break from that right now. I’m going to stay up late again tonight, so I’ll work on that some more once my family has gone to bed. I’d like to work on my mosaic with my dad. I started it yesterday, and I think it’s going to look great.

It’s interesting to think about working with broken glass as an art form. It seems kind of counter-intuitive. How could all these broken pieces turn into something so nice? I just like to pick each piece up and hold it and look at it and put it exactly where I want it, and even if I have a picture in mind, the pieces may not fit exactly how I want them, so I have to rework my idea very slightly, or I have to reshape the pieces, and sometimes the misshapen pieces inspire me to come up with something better than what I originally had planned anyway.

I’ve been waiting to hear back from a woman who I was in touch with a while ago because she is a consecrated virgin. We were thinking about meeting the day after tomorrow. I haven’t heard back from her, and earlier today I had kind of a funny thought. I thought, “She’s probably been planning something for Valentine’s Day.” Then it occurred to me that she’s not married. Then it occurred to me that, actually, she is–just not to a “regular” man.

I was sitting in my kitchen, looking out the window, maybe drinking coffee or something and thinking about the whole thing the other day. As part of the ceremony, like in a “regular” wedding, a woman gets a ring, and I realized I want that. At the same time I found myself asking, “Am I allowed to want that?” And then of course I realized that was a stupid question. I think sometimes, in fact, probably more often than not, God wants me to be bolder than I am. Wanting to be that close to God could never be a bad thing.

So tonight and tomorrow I’ll write and pray like I always do, and I’ll work on my mosaic like any other day, and I’ll probably watch 24 with my dad. We do that, too. It’s not very warm and fuzzy corny, but my bird is warm and fuzzy. Anyway, my mom was going to make heart shaped chocolate chipped cookies for my CCD students on Wednesday. It’s a day late, but who cares.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!