Tag Archives: Music

Who Are You?

One day this past weekend I hung out with a twelve-year-old kid who lives on our street. He was playing in his driveway with his six-year-old brother and their five-year-old friend. I was going for a walk and I heard U2 playing. The two little kids left after a little while, and one thing led to another. The kid in question plays, as far as I know, four different instruments, and is a much better guitarist than I am. He also knows how to use protools, which is an audio engineering software that professionals use. I can’t decide if it’s laughable or annoying or scary or what. Anyway, we had fun. He’s a really polite, pretty mature kid, for his age. After the little kids left I actually scurried back to my house and got my guitar so we could mess around for a while. I have no rules about who I’ll hang out with, as long as they’re cool.

I didn’t used to be like that. When I was in high school especially, I hated kids. I don’t think that’s an understatement. Kids were annoying and stupid, and that was it. Of course, at that time, a “kid” was anyone under the age of eight. Now I refer to the high school freshmen I teach as “kids.” It’s kind of disturbing. I think I used to have a much higher view of myself. I used to think I was the queen of the universe. It was entirely undignified to associate with such plebeians as children.

I think I understand kids better now as a writer, too. Kids are much more willing to believe things, so long as their capacity to listen holds up. I think you have to be able to believe something in order to enjoy it. You have to be able to pretend, and be willing to enter into a different universe.

A friend of mine who is older with kids once asked me what I thought about allowing his kids to read the Harry Potter books. He’s Christian, and he wasn’t totally inclined to let them because magic is seen as the highest power, and the battle between good and evil is entirely up to human ability. There is no mention of any kind of God (though the Christian holidays are mentioned offhandedly), and though there is a general sense of morality, like in any fantasy story, it isn’t directly spelled out. For example, I’m re-reading the series now, and I’m actually surprised at just how much the characters lie. Ultimately I advised my friend to let his kids read the books because it’s simply another universe that isn’t governed by the same rules as this one.

As I reread the Harry Potter books, I find myself laughing a lot. I’ve seen the movies a thousand times, but they’re not nearly as good as the books, and I’m finding they cut out a lot of humor. Maybe my sense of humor has changed too, but I think the movies tried to make the story too dark in places where it didn’t need to be, and not dark enough where it’s really creepy. I’m excited because I’m almost halfway through the fourth one now, and it’s after this one that things get serious, and in my opinion, the series gets more cohesive from book to book.

I don’t want this to turn into an analysis of the Harry Potter series, so I’ll make my point. I like these books. They’re meant for a younger audience, but I don’t care. My dad taught me a rule when I was in high school, and I have faithfully lived by it: growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. I used to get thoroughly annoyed with myself when I did something embarrassing. I used to think I was so dignified. I have no idea why. I’ve gotten used to the fact that I’m clumsy and silly. I spell things wrong and say ridiculous things. I make dumb mistakes. My friends laugh at me about this stuff, and that’s okay.

Mistakes are part of life. Messing up is part of life. Silliness is part of life, and being wrong is part of life. I’m writing this down because kids used to annoy me for the same reasons that my friends laugh at me (not in a mean way). In the past several months my mom and I have been listening to audio books in the car. We started doing mostly contemporary realistic fiction and moved, really by accident, into science fiction. We went for a few weeks without a story because I know she’s not a huge fan of sci-fi, and we couldn’t think of what to listen to. Finally I suggested The Brothers Karamazov. We just started it yesterday.

My point is that it’s okay to love Dostoevski and Rowling. It’s okay that my favorite foods are fancy pasta dishes and fried buffalo chicken wraps (for the record, yes, I also eat healthy food). I’m getting comfortable joining in events at my church where most other people are at least in their fifties, and hanging out with kids on my street who are under ten. The teenagers I teach think I’m kind of weird, which is probably at least a little true, but that’s okay. Lately I’m becoming more comfortable in my own skin. Weird is more fun, anyway.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Winter

In looking through the titles of my last several blog posts I’ve realized that winter puts me in a bad mood. I’ve known that for years, but I’m not sure it’s been so strikingly obvious. I guess it’s just kind of funny. Anyway, at least for now there isn’t really a point to this post. I had meant to work on my mythology when I got home from teaching my CCD kids, but my cousin came to visit and then I answered an email from another cousin, and now I definitely have writer’s block. In other words, I am definitely procrastinating.

I’ve been re-reading the Harry Potter books. I’m a little way into the Chamber of Secrets now. I know I mentioned before that I gave up TV and movies for Lent, and I have to say; Lent has never felt so long. It’s also been cool, though. I’m praying more, and even though the waiting is a giant pain sometimes, by now I know that I didn’t bite off more than I can chew, and that’s kind of awesome because I LOVE a good show or a good movie. I also love a good challenge, and as long as it’s not going to actually hurt anyone, I kind of like picking fights, so I figured I’d pick a good fight with myself. So far, it looks like I’m winning.

This past weekend I bought a present for my brother. This past Christmas he got me a present and I didn’t get him anything because we don’t usually exchange gifts, so I figured I’d get him something for Easter. I got him a loop machine. He plays guitar and bass, and after an annoyingly short period of time, he’s a much better musician than I am, even though I’ve been playing much longer. He’s more technically skilled, but only plays covers. I’m not super skilled, but I write songs, so I guess it depends who you ask. I just thought the loop machine would be fun for him to play with.

I did go to Universal with my family last month. There are some perks to Muscular Dystrophy. I get to skip lines to get on the rides. I’m kind of an idiot. I went on all the scariest rides as much as I could. It’s quite possible that my version of heaven is just an absurd never-ending roller coaster madness. Of course while we were there–at the park I mean–I was a huge Potter nerd, too, but let’s face it, if there’s magic or aliens or weirdness involved, I’m all over it, whatever it is.

Lately I’ve been wanting to sing. I just want to sing. I’ve been wanting to be in a band or a duo or whatever for an insanely long time, but I can’t seem to find anyone to team up with. I think part of the problem is that I’ve really wanted to stick to the same or a similar genre that my original album is, but at this point, I just want want to sing. I’ll sing for pretty much anyone. I’ve had serious musical writer’s block for a long time partly because I’ve just found playing by myself boring at this point.

In my world guinea pigs can fly!

 

Bring It On

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking about when Jesus talked about building a house on a rock versus building a house on the sand. Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I see a lot of cynicism and a lot of pessimism, and I wonder what this has to do with where one chooses to build their house. I remember at the beginning of Advent, going into my church and being surprised to see the purple on the altar and the Advent wreath by the entrance, but I was also excited.

A week or two later I was asked to explain the meaning of the Advent wreath to my fourth grade class, and honestly, I had to google it. The wreath itself represents eternity. The three purple candles represent love, peace, and hope, The pink candle represents joy, and the white candle which is lit on Christmas Eve represents purity. My godmother came to visit during the first week of Advent, and she drew an advent wreath on our chalkboard. Even though it’s just a drawing, it’s been exciting each week to draw a yellow light on each of the candles.

In scripture, God is referred to as our rock, our fortress, and our refuge. He has been that for me over and over. This weekend is Christmas. All the candles will be lit. There won’t be any more darkness. Still, scrolling through Facebook, I see darkness, sadness, and bad news. I heard once from someone who went to a therapist that they were told every ship needs a sail and an anchor. Some people are sails, and some people are anchors. Some people lead to new adventures, risks to take, and experiences to delight in or learn from. Others lead home. Using that analogy, it seems to me that so many people are sailing ships with no anchors.

Last week I finished a song about the aftermath of the election. Don’t worry, this’ll be quick; I know we’re all sick of talking about it. Both Clinton supporters and Trump supporters have been unfair and unkind, and in some cases, violent. I supported neither candidate. I didn’t vote. There’s a line in my song that says “I have one king.” The chorus of the song says:

I dare you to lose
Stare down your own defeat
And defiantly believe
That it’s true you can live on hope alone

I think a lot of people have lost hope. I think Trump won because people lost faith in the government, and I think the people who didn’t support him lost hope because they still had faith in the government. Either way, everybody lost. Everybody lost if we’re only talking about the present, the immediate future, and the reality we know apart from God’s part in it. Everybody lost if we forget to hope.

Jesus is king no matter what, and he will always be king no matter what. There is no reason to lose hope at Christmas time. It’s not about whether or not one has amazing decorations, or can hold extravagant parties, or can afford the newest, greatest gifts. What matters is the reason for celebrating. Last week I spent an hour with my fourth grade class as usual. I brought my ukulele and a bag of cookies my mom made. We sang a few songs, and my assistant teacher read a couple stories to the kids. It was one of the most worshipful hours I’ve spent during Advent, and I spent it with eleven little kids.

For some, Christmas is one of the only times to get together with family. For some, it’s a good excuse to eat junk food. One of our favorite traditions is to get my parents, brother, aunt, cousin and me into the car, get some hot chocolate or coffee and drive around and look at everyone’s lights. It’s fun to make our neighborhoods look pretty, and Christmas is a good excuse. For some, however, the weeks before Christmas are not fun. While everyone else is enjoying themselves, some are simply stretching themselves too thin. Some are reminded of bad experiences connected to this time. Some go hungry. Some are cold. Some spend the holiday alone.

The first Christmas wasn’t a party. The first Christmas was dark and dangerous. Jesus’ life was in danger from the moment he was born. I don’t think he would want the world to forget that for the sake of having a good time. I think he might find it easier to identify with the people who aren’t having a good time. For those of us who are, it’s important to remember why, and to invite the Lord to have a good time with us. It can be as simple as remembering to pray before Christmas dinner, and making sure we get to church.

I’ve seen so many posts about how 2016 has been a really crappy year. Okay, in many ways I can’t disagree. Maybe it’s just been another year for me, but we’ve had political unrest in our country, and the Middle East is still in turmoil. There have been terrorist attacks in various countries all over the world, and sometimes it looks like the world is going to end. As we fight for a better life for ourselves and others, we are dished out more problems. Yes, 2016 has looked bleak in many ways. We’ve had to stare darkness in the face.

We have two options this Christmas and in the weeks to come. We can look at that darkness, often disguised in songs about snowmen and sleigh rides: candy and chaos: we can look into that darkness and see only war and death; or we can look into that darkness and defiantly say, “bring it on. I have the Light of the World inside of me. Jesus is with me, and that’s all I need.” We can live on hope alone.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Random Banter

Humans, as I write this, you should see my hair. My bird is sitting on my head, my hair is all over the place, including in my eyes, and he has made a nest. Every time I go to move it out of my face he growls at me. I am harboring a demon bird.

Anyway, spoiled animals aside, I have good news. I started a new medication a few weeks ago to better deal with my epilepsy, and it really seems to be working. I’ve had two or three little problems within about a month, which is nothing compared to what it had been. The beautiful thing about it is that I can do things I couldn’t before. Before I literally could not be hungry without having problems. Now I have to be pretty famished to have any trouble at all. I can also turn the water on as hot as I want in the shower. I don’t know why the hot water messed me up, but now I don’t have to worry about it.

The other good news is that I’m going to start working with another songwriter and producer in the near future. She and her boyfriend are working on a project centered on love and, in her words, “positive energy.” The nice thing is that, I asked, and worship music is totally on the table. I’ll do a little bit of everything. I like to be subtle when I write worship stuff anyway. I haven’t done a whole lot of songwriting lately because I’ve been reading and writing everything else. It’ll be fun to get back into it. I don’t expect this to be a super serious project, but the style of music is one I usually don’t delve into, so I think it will be good in general to get outside my comfort zone. Plus, you have to write to defeat writer’s block. Go figure.

I don’t really have much else to report. I’m kind of in that weird position where I have too much and not enough time to kill. My dad should be home soon, and my godmother is coming to stay for a few days, so that should be good.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Thursday Night

On Monday I got an email from a guy who is friends with the youth minister at our church. He’s a seminarian, and has spent most of the summer at a church one town over. Brad had told him that I play guitar and like worship music, so he contacted me regarding a service he was putting together on Thursday. I said I’d be delighted to play, but I’d need a few details. He didn’t get back to me until Wednesday, but he wanted to meet in person. I invited him to my house, and we talked about what music we would do. We decided on four songs, only one of which I knew, so I had just over twenty four hours to prepare. A rookie mistake when it comes to music is to sign up for something like this on ludicrously short notice. I’ve done it before, and it hasn’t turned out well.

Luckily the songs were very simple, one of them we decided to do acapela, and I learned them very quickly. I also had an epiphany when I went to bed Wednesday night. My epilepsy started acting up a bit, and when it does this I try hard to pray. The problem is that epilepsy inhibits me from using words, so I had to figure out a way to pray without them. Interestingly, I can still process visual ideas, if you will, and that includes the shape of words, so I traced Jesus’ name on my arm over and over. All I need is to know that he’s with me when I’m having problems, and that did the trick. My epilepsy is the one thing that really scares me these days, but I think I figured out how to fix that. It was a darn simple fix.

Last night I arrived at the church a few minutes early so Aaron could set me up. The purpose of this event was to call on the Holy Spirit to give us new energy and new excitement for the Gospel, and also to give us whatever gifts we need to share our faith. This was his first time organizing something like this, and it was my first time actually leading worship. Before people started arriving we prayed, and our prayer was: “Jesus, we don’t know what we’re doing, but you do, so you lead us.” As expected, we made a couple mistakes, but overall, I think the whole thing went well. I think Aaron will be a phenomenal priest. His prayers were genuine and faithful, and I could tell that something amazing was happening in that chapel.

I read a thing the other day about how God doesn’t expect us to be “good enough.” He wants us to rely on him to be good enough; strong enough; smart enough; eloquent enough; brave enough. He is enough. There’s a line in one of the songs I played last night that goes: “You are hope, you are hope, you have covered all my sin.” I don’t even know how to explain how much that means. Once again I’m realizing just how much God loves me, and how beautifully unfair that is. It used to vaguely bother me that his love is unfair; that I can’t equal it, but I’ve come to realize that I don’t want a God whose love is fair. I love him more because I can never equal him. The fact that his love is infinite means that I can always grow in love; I can always change; I can always do better because he is always leading me. It also means that now matter how bad I mess up, he will still love me, and that especially makes me want to do better.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

I Have An Ending!

Yesterday I figured out how to finish my book. I’m rather excited about that. I’m not actually very close to the end, but I’ve felt like I have no idea where I’m going, and if I have a “destination,” I’ll be more productive because I’m writing more with a purpose. I’ve had several ideas for an ending vaguely bouncing around in my head for a while, but I didn’t really love any of them. Part of my problem was that I needed an ending that would allow my story to be a stand-alone thimg, while still allowing for potential sequels, and yesterday I figured it out. It’s hard for me to write about this because I can’t give the ending away before I’m even done writing it.

I actually didn’t get to write a lot yesterday, but I got a lot of scheming done, and I’ve realized that I’m a rather violent author. I keep doing mean things to the nicest characters. It’s not necessarily because I want to. They just happen to be the most vulnerable. I find them to be the most interesting, too, though. One of them also happens to be one of the most powerful psychics in the story, but she’s a little messed up in the head. The guy I’m presently being mean to is going to have his share of vengeance, but it probably won’t come about until the next book. I’m really hoping I get a chance to write at least one or two sequels. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with this story. It’s hard to write, but I love the characters.

I also still don’t have a title. Titles for songs are easy, but nothing seems to fit for this book. It’s still saved in my computer as “Fantasy Story,” and it ended up being science fiction. I feel like a title is the one last conclusive thing I have to figure out for this book. Now that I know how to finish it, I feel like I know, at least a little better, how to fill in the details. The title doesn’t really mater until it’s done, but I just want to be able to call it something other than “my story.” This whole process feels surreal to me. My dad and I were eating lunch two days ago, and I was talking about my most recent additions, and he started talking about making this into a movie. I haven’t even finished it yet. My dad says I’m too cautious with my art. He says I just have to run with it and assume I’m going to be the next great sci-fi writer. Yesterday, while I was eating lunch with my mom, she said “When this gets published you’ll be at book signings in Tennessee and all over the place.” Evidently, my parents have more confidence in my book than I do.

I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve written so far in just over two hundred pages. There are a few specific scenes that I think probably need work, but I mostly feel like I know what I’m doing at this point. I’ve given up on trying to predict how long it will be. I’m just really excited because I feel like I have real direction now. One thing I seem to have the most trouble with is timing, particularly when I’m trying to write intense, fast-paced scenes. It’s almost like my mind can’t keep up with the story. It’s hard for me to visualize large scale battles, in particular. I’ve only had to write one so far, and I think it turned out okay, but it’s definitely one of the things that need work. It had to happen the way it did in order to further the plot. I’m just not sure I love the style.

I think I’m going to have to get my friend to read this and tell me what needs fixin’ before I send it to any publisher. I’ve talked about my story to basically everyone, but I want to get a reader’s perspective. Something I learned in various classes, both about music and any other form of writing is that you have to figure out who your audience is and write for that audience. I found out by accident that most of the people who like my music are old… or at least my parents’ age… so old. From the beginning I decided that I wanted the audience for my story to be people like me. I wanted to write a story that I would read. This is partly because I took every creative writing class my school offered, and the closest I got to sci-fi was a (realistic) fiction class. I’ve come to understand that science fiction and fantasy are seen as illegitimate or unartful genres in the hoity-toity literary world, and I intend to change that. I will write a darn good, interesting, thought provoking story, and everyone will have to read it (evil laugh ensues).

The Language Of Love

Words are very powerful. They can change our entire outlook on life. They can inspire us. They can make us feel good. They can change the world. Words spoken with authority make things happen. Words spoken with love can make you fall apart. Words can move us even if we don’t understand them initially. Still, sometimes words cannot express the beauty or tragedy of certain situations or artistic expressions.

I spent four years of my life essentially studying words. I learned how to write poetry and stories. I learned about the difference between heard and read language, and its emotional impacts, as well as its artistic value. I learned that words really can make someone immortal. I discovered my love for Seamus Heaney the year he died. His poetry is perfectly put together, even when its subject matter is ugly. It isn’t always fluid, but even when it seems stylistically cold or even rude, there’s some kind of life in it. I still find it beautiful.

I’ve been trying to make sure I work on my novel every day now, and I’m getting a lot done. I like what I’ve been coming up with, both in terms of where the plot is going, and in terms of style. There are parts of my novel that are intentionally very technical. Admittedly, I like sounding smart, but these very technical explanations are also simply necessary for the potential audience to understand what’s going on in the world and how things like psychic abilities work. I’m very grateful for what I learned at school, through practice, and for all the great writer’s I’ve been introduced to. Not all of them are well known. These include fantasy writers, movie script writers, and songwriters, as well as some of the “greats” I was exposed to at school. As a science-fiction writer, some of my greatest influences have been amazing, underrated movies.

As a songwriter, poet and composer, I’ve also come to realize that sometimes words have the most meaning in their absence. In my latest musical composition, there’s a lot of silence, but it’s certainly not dead space. The meaning is in the silences. Truthfully I haven’t thought a whole lot about it, but I think it’s evocative of the idea that we don’t realize how much value something has until it’s gone. The leading part of it is the violin. There is a part of this piece that is meant to be uncomfortable. All other instruments cut out and the violin part seems almost faulty, like a flickering light that could go out at any moment. The point is that the light doesn’t go out. The piece is called “Love For You.” True love doesn’t die. True love is immortal.

Over the past year I read the Bible cover to cover. From an artistic standpoint, it’s not pretty. From an artistic standpoint, it seems downright chaotic. If one were to put it into musical terms, it might turn out to be something like free form Jazz with lots of augmented and diminished chords. It would probably sound rather jarring. This is according to a strictly aesthetic reading. Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God. This is particularly important for someone who calls herself an artist and a writer. Quite frankly, I can’t stand Jazz, particularly free form. I don’t read the Bible from a strictly aesthetic standpoint. If I do, it sounds like free form Jazz. However, the Word of God isn’t simply what’s written in a book.

A lot of things about God, and quite frankly, about life in general are paradoxical. For one thing, spirituality is both objective and subjective. It is an individual striving for objective Truth and Beauty. In a Christian context, we believe that Jesus is alive and that he is the Word of God, and we believe that the Bible is the Word of God. We also believe in the Holy Spirit who works in us individually and collectively. God is one nature in three people: Father, Son, and Spirit. The Church is the body of Christ, so ideally, it’s one nature in a heck of a lot of people.

What does all this mean for an artist, particularly one whose main medium of artistic expression is written word? What does it mean in a broader context? Language matters. There’s no way around it. We can’t relate to the world outside of language. We can’t really even think outside of language. I’ve noticed that Saint Paul emphasizes the impact our use of language has when relating to other people. We’re meant to speak wisely and not offensively. At the same time, we’re meant to relate to other people in order to teach by example who Jesus is. This presents an odd dilemma when it comes to writing my novel. Most of my language when I speak is pretty mild, depending on who I’m with. I hardly ever swear, and when I do, it’s because I’m making a joke and I know the person I’m with will find it funny. On the other hand, some of my characters have very dirty mouths.

In some ways I find myself in my characters. It’s probably impossible not to. In fact, I initially intended to model Kithryd, my first character, very much after myself. However, I think she had absolutely no intention of being me. At some point, probably even earlier than I could identify, she took on her own identity. She’s very assertive and vocally bitter about things, but she is like me in that she’s introverted. I find myself more in another character I had not even entirely intended to create. Iris has a great love for her friends and her little brother, and she greatly desires to work for the greater good. However, she deals with a lot of mental illness, which simply isn’t a problem for me. I find myself least in Tabby. Tabby has no real love for the world as it is, but does keep the greater good in mind. However, she’s a generally angry, pessimistic person. She’s also very impulsive and does not care who she offends. For some reason I find her to be one of the easiest characters to write.

I created Tabby. I created an angry, offensive woman. She came from me somehow. She is somehow part of my soul. All of my characters, in one way or another, represent some part of my soul. They’ve all lost someone or something very important to them. They’ve all been shunned for one reason or another. Some of them are angry. Some of them are scared. Some of them, like Aven, are peaceful and unafraid. My novel as a whole presents the world as a dark, scary, Godless place. I don’t view the world in this way, but I know a lot of people do. I’m writing this for a few different reasons. I’m writing because I can and because my parents told me to. I’m also writing because I think God wants me to, though why he wants me to write this particular novel I don’t know. “Why” isn’t a question he often answers. In some ways it’s a thought experiment.

I don’t know if we become our words or our words become us. Maybe it’s both. The same could be said for any art form. Jesus is the Word of God in the most literal sense. This means a lot. For the record, I’m stealing several of my next points from Bishop Robert Barron because he’s smarter than me. Jesus is alive. In other words, he is active in the world. What does it mean for the Word to be active? It means he is causal. He is authoritative. He’s making stuff happen. Two points that Bishop Barron brings up are that God’s Word is active by nature. God creates simply by speaking things into being. He also emphasizes the opening lines of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” This means that whatever Jesus does and says is necessarily true in an active sense.

Words, like music are significant and often causal in their absence. The absence evokes ideas and emotions. In fact, we can’t have language without the absence of words. The Word of God is living language. It is the Language of love. What is significant about this is that a language can only be “alive” if it is shared, i.e. spoken among living people. Jesus said that after he went up into heaven he would send his Spirit. Bishop Barron suggests that the best way to understand the Holy Spirit is that it is the love of God, both between the Father and the Son, and between God and humans. This love can never die because it is shared in the Trinity. We don’t have to participate for this language to live. Jesus allows us to participate when he introduces the Eucharist. John 6:56 says, “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are one with me and I am one with you.”

Just before this, he talks about how one has to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. God is eternal and infinite. Jesus is God. If we share in the Eucharist we are one with him. We become one with him in the way that a family can be seen as a single unit, for example. If we are one with him, we have eternal life. If Jesus is the Word of God, i.e. the Language of Love, then by extension, the Eucharist is the Language of Love. I said that words can make a person immortal. The words of Shakespeare endure to this day. The difference is that Shakespeare’s words are not truly “alive” in the sense that they do anything other than entertain and perhaps inspire good writing. However, Jesus invites us to speak his language.

Language is not simply expressed in what we say or what we write. Ideas are conveyed through body language and actions. A principal I learned at school is that in good writing, less is often more. In order to convey an idea, we should show, not tell what a character is feeling or what’s going on in a particular situation. We know that certain facial expressions, for example, can be understood and translated into actual words, but they are not needed. Love is like this. A feeling or a spiritual prompting turns into an art piece or an act of charity. Love has no reason. It just is. Because of its nature it cannot simply be expressed in words. Love in words alone is empty. It isn’t love at all. True love entails action, and on some level, it always entails sacrifice. To truly love someone one must give one’s self to the other. This always means different things to different people at different times. John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Jesus is referring to his very literal sacrifice of love for all of us. However, because God’s Word is eternal, he is also telling us what we must do as his friends for the rest of humanity. Love entails some kind of sacrifice. Maybe it means sacrificing some comfort. Maybe it means sacrificing some excess money. Maybe it means sacrificing time we could be spending having fun. Maybe it means sacrificing our pride. As I said, it means something different for every person.

Love and life are synonymous. Without love, life is not worth living. The fact of the matter is that everyone is loved, and this is why it’s so important that people know Jesus. It’s not about where we end up when we die. It’s not about judgment. It’s not about religion or where we’re supposed to be on Sunday morning. That stuff is secondary. It’s about knowing that we are loved. When Pope Francis was visiting the U.S. a little kid asked him, “What did God do before he created the world?” He answered, “Before God created anything, he loved.” God created the world because he loved the world. He created each of us because he loved us first. That’s the message Jesus wants us to tell the whole world. That is the most important thing in the Christian faith. Without love, nothing else matters.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

What I Know

It’s taken me a long time to write this post. I’ve been feeling for a long time that God wants me to tell people about him. I didn’t want to tell people what they’ve probably already heard a thousand times. This is simply what I know about God.

I know that God answers prayers.

Truthfully, he doesn’t always do this in the way I expect or the way I want. The cliche is true. God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes I have to wait, and sometimes I even forget about what I prayed for, and he answers anyway. I try very hard to be a peacemaker. Because of that, I haven’t got into too many fights. I’ve witnessed some pretty deep resentment among people I love, though. I’ve prayed about it, and the problems have been resolved. God always provides. I have epilepsy, and while my medication prevents me from having full seizures, I still have symptoms. Usually this is because I’m too hungry or I’ve spent too much time on the computer, so most of the time I can get rid of them just by changing my behavior. However, sometimes it’s out of my control. In these situations, I often pray, and the problem often goes away. Sometimes I just need something small. I need to make sure I wake up on time or I do something stupid and get my wheelchair stuck and need someone to rescue me. There are so many examples I simply can’t list them all. When I pray for small things, however, God often answers those prayers almost instantly. I have to mention however, that sometimes God’s answer to a prayer is “No” because it’s the best thing for you. It’s also important to remember that God works in real time. God can make difficult, complicated things happen, but because they are difficult and complicated, they will take time–sometimes years. One example I do want to mention, though is that when I was in middle school, my cousin had Cancer. It was treatable, but it definitely wasn’t easy. One night he told my aunt that he really felt like he was going to die. I desperately wanted him to live, so I prayed hard, and soon after, things changed drastically.

I know his love is intense.

I was born with Muscular Dystrophy. Because of this, I couldn’t run around and play on the playground with the other kids when I was little, so God gave me a playground in my head. I constantly made up stories and characters and drew pictures and made up better reasons for why snow fell instead of what science told me. This playground in my head is always getting bigger and bigger as I continue to write stories and learn about philosophy and contemplate my place in the world. Eventually, however, I realized that my imaginary playground wasn’t enough. I am asexual. In short, I find sex repulsive. This was very confusing for a lonely high school student who wanted love and didn’t understand it. I thought I needed a boyfriend. At the time I believed in a god, but not necessarily a God one could have a relationship with, so I prayed that I would find love. In retrospect, I realized that a part of me, though not necessarily a conscious part of me, knew that I needed God. I was confirmed as a Catholic in the first few months of my Junior year. Though I had not exactly intended to, I kept going back to church for no real discernible reason. It wasn’t until October of my Freshman year of college that I knew he loved me. I went to a very Christian school and as a requirement, went to chapel services three times a week. It was the first time I had heard contemporary worship music, and that made something click. Still, I was lonely, but one night I prayed and the part of me that needed God somehow became conscious and I said “I love you” basically by accident. As soon as I said it, I felt an overwhelming feeling of love and peace.

Over the next several years I learned many things, though how I learned some of them isn’t entirely clear. It took a while for it to sink in, but I learned that Jesus loved me and had me in mind when he took on the sins of the world. He took on my sins, too. I learned that it’s not enough to love God. You have to trust him, and I do. I learned that God loves us no matter what, and he always will. Jesus hung out with people that his contemporaries literally wouldn’t talk to and wouldn’t even touch. He said that he didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save it. That means a lot. I learned that the more time I spend with him, and the more I come to know him, the more I need him. I learned that his love is unfair in the most perfect way. Most importantly, I learned that God made a way for us to literally see and touch him in the Eucharist, and this will last for all time until he comes back.

I know that God has a sense of humor.

If you had told me in my Freshman year of high school that I would be considering being consecrated to God, I would have told you that you were crazy. If you had told me that I would start going to Church every day, I would have told you that you were crazy. I didn’t know God. I didn’t like the Church. It was lame and boring, and Catholics were all old and annoying and judgmental. If you had told me that I was going to go to a Christian college and major in English, I would have told you that you were crazy. Even if you had told me what kind of music I would be writing, I would have told you that you were crazy. I wanted to be in a punk rock band. If you had told me I was going to write a novel, I would have told you that you were crazy. I tried twice and gave up twice. Among my closest friends, I am the only practicing Catholic, and I was the first to graduate college. I find irony hilarious. You would be laughing too, if you knew just how much irony I’ve lived through.

I know God’s voice.

Some people at my school said that they felt a connection to Jesus from the age of five. It took me literally twenty years and then some. I know God is infinite, and I know God is love. Love is patient, and love is kind. God has infinite patience. His sense of time is not like ours, but he still had to watch me wander around without knowing him for what, to me, was a long time. God’s call is not like a voice in my head. It’s more like I feel him pulling on my soul. I can resist. I can ignore him, but I don’t want to. At the moment I’m feeling the pull, I can’t always put it into words, but I usually can eventually. After I was confirmed I felt the pull, and it was like he was saying, “Stay with me, okay?” The pull has become more and more obvious as I’ve come to know him better. It’s not the same for everyone. He relates to everyone in the way that makes the most sense to them.

I know that sometimes God gives us more than we can handle.

You read that right. It’s a matter of trust. The month before finals in the second semester of my sophomore year of college was a nightmare. I was overworked and got very little sleep. On top of that, the dosage of my medicine wasn’t right and I was dealing with some nasty epilepsy symptoms. During that time I had one prayer: “Get me through this.” That year Tenth Avenue North released their album “The Struggle.” Through the month of April I practically had their song “Worn” on repeat. That song made me feel like I wasn’t alone, even though it’s about a completely different kind of struggle than what I was going through. The point is that I knew I couldn’t make it through on my own. I trusted God. It was my turn to say “Stay with me, okay?” and he did. I passed all my classes, and after finals, went home and slept. On occasion God has asked me to do the impossible. He has asked me to do things that I am terrified of doing. I’ve found that I can’t do these things unless my answer is “I’ll do it, but I need your help because nothing else is gonna make it happen.” If I don’t do the impossible for him, I often can’t do the simpler things that I want to do. This may seem unfair, but God wants what’s best for us, and he wants us to be happy. If we want what God wants, and if we do what he wants, we will be happy. This doesn’t meant that we’re robots. God has an individualized plan for each of us. We are all unique, and God uses and relates to all of us differently. He understands our quirks and desires and fears and preferences and works with us in the way that will cause the most good and the most happiness for us and for the people around us.

I know that God is emotional.

Jump to any part of Scripture, and you will find that things people do please God or make him angry. In the Gospels we see Jesus having fun at a wedding celebration. Later on, he gets angry at the people who were buying and selling animals in the temple. The night before his death, he stays up and prays because he’s afraid. God feels what we feel, and what we do matters to the Father who knows us and loves us more than anyone else ever could. He loves us even though we’re broken. He loves us despite everything we’ve thought or done, and he forgives everything. He’s willing to go to extremes for us because he wants us to love him back. To many, the story of salvation sounds unbelievable; crazy. To me it often sounds unbelievable and crazy. I don’t understand all of it. It’s not possible to. That’s the whole point of faith. God is way smarter and way more loving than any human ever. He gave us stories and metaphors and teachings in his Word, but he also gave us the Church so we would never be alone in our faith, and he gave us souls that will lead us to him if we allow them.

Something New

I’ve been blogging a lot lately because I guess I’ve been doing and thinking a lot lately. My dad and I started watching Dr Who last night. I’ve been into very weird stories lately, and I Dr Who is just the right kind of weird. This morning I finished the first preliminary composition of an instrumental thing I’m making. I’ll be working on that with my violin teacher today. Also this morning I went to daily mass at my church. I am not a morning person, but I wanted the Eucharist. It’s just mind-blowing to me. I can’t even explain it.

My instrumental thing is called “Love For You.” I’m trying to create a musical expression of God’s love for humanity. I recently also had an artist create a pendant for me that reflects the same idea. I’m obsessed with this. I think it’s safe to say that I’m obsessed. I just have to create to show this love in any way I can. I know God wants me to tell people about him, and I’m going to find every possible way of doing that.

Last night God tested my faith. I wanted to get something done and I didn’t think it was possible, so I said, “I don’t doubt you, I doubt myself. I worry about the limitations of the world.” I rarely feel like I get a concrete response to prayers, but this time I did. Three words: “Do the impossible.” I said, “Okay, but you gotta get me from point A to point B because no one else and nothing else can.” I’m happy to say that we got it done.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Why I Sing

I have to close my eyes a lot in church now. It’s odd to me, but I kind of have to block the world out. Part of it is because of my relation to music, and how music and faith are tied together for me. At the beginning, I would sing because I liked to and because I could, and maybe because I just thought I was supposed to. After learning more about God and the Church and the reason for meeting together to worship, I sang because very few others did and because I was trying to encourage them to. Now I close my eyes. I pray and sing as if there’s no one else in the world but me and Jesus. Even when I have to look at the sheet music for a song, I sing as if there’s no one else to sing to.

I usually go to church on Saturdays because I’m not much of a morning person, and I came to understand; I came to actually feel something yesterday. After taking the Eucharist, I usually sit in my spot and pray. I pray for my friends, I pray for peace, I pray for our country… So probably all the stuff anyone would pray for at that time. Yesterday I just sat there and, to the best of my ability, thought of nothing except God.

On the way to the car, I found myself involuntarily grinning, and for a moment, it was difficult for me not to cry. I had touched God. Earlier this week I read some prayer tips. One of the tips was (in my words): “Shut up.” Prayer is supposed to be like a conversation. I know I talk a lot when I pray.

Last night I was having issues with my epilepsy. It sometimes doesn’t agree with my girly hormones and… You probably get the idea. I was trying to pray and couldn’t. The only thing I could get out was: “Father!” My brain wouldn’t let me think coherently. Eventually it got a little better and I was able to pray. Then I went to sleep.

This morning I came to an important conclusion. I have to learn how to pray without words.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!