Tag Archives: Peace

Sanctuary

Last weekend my dad and I flew halfway across the country to attend my friend’s wedding. It was absolutely amazing until that night after I had said my prayers and gone to bed. At the party, it passed through my mind that I could forgo marriage for God, if that was what he was calling me to. The emotion behind that thought was not unpleasant. When I went to bed, however, I felt like ash. I could see my sin, and though I knew Jesus still loved me, that love was painful. I couldn’t understand what he saw in me; why I’m worth saving.

This past week, that feeling has been haunting. On Thursday, though, I went to Adoration, like I always do. During Lent, at Adoration, we go through the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary as a group, so I prayed the Rosary, and I knew the Lord was there. That night, when I went to bed, I read through Luke’s account of the Lord’s passion, and then I started praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. About halfway through, I felt the Lord tell me, “You’re worth it. You were worth it.” When he tells me things in my heart, I have to believe him. I still don’t have a reason, and I still don’t understand why he loves me, but I don’t need to. Sometimes I need to be reminded, and I thank God that he’s patient.

A while ago, I was just sitting at Adoration, and I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular, and he asked me, “What do you see?” I was a little stressed out at the time, so I thought about it for a second, and then I said, “I see a forest, and it’s raining, and it’s really quiet… but it’s not dark rain, or cold. It’s kind of bright… and there’s treasure in the rain… but you can’t own the treasure.” That rain has become my sanctuary in a way. There’s something there, and I can’t quite figure out what it is, but it’s something apart from the noise and chaos of life. I’ve tried to build on what I saw in the sanctuary, but I can’t. It’s something he gave to me. It’s something special to think about when nothing else makes sense. I think God probably has a sanctuary for everyone, and it’s worth taking some time to be quiet and let him show it to you.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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When The Sky Does Fall

My last post was about how I didn’t lose my book and my sky did not fall. I believe that my sky didn’t fall because I trusted in God. But what if I had lost my book? I had made the choice to trust God before I knew what was going to happen. I had chosen to trust him even if the worst did happen. Trusting God and losing a book would have been one thing. It would have sucked, but I would have been able to recover from it. God wants our trust. He wants to be our family, and that’s what family is about. We entrust the most important parts of our lives to our God, and sometimes we do so because there’s no one else we can trust.

I saw an absolutely terrible thing on the news a couple of days ago. it was about the orphaned and neglected children left without resources or comfort or love in the aftermath of the war in Syria. I haven’t forgotten about them. I’ve made sure to include those kids in my prayers because they need someone to take care of them, and I don’t know how many people changed the channel because they didn’t want to hear or see the sad story. I am trusting God with the lives of those kids who aren’t even mine, but they need help. Still, there’s only so much that can be done, and some of those kids will die. In that sense, the sky will fall. Blue diamonds will be lost. I would just like to ask that anyone who might be reading this to join me in praying for those blue diamonds.

Sometimes our skies fall much closer to home. Relatives or pets die. We get sick or injured. Students end up not having enough money to finish a degree. Relationships end badly. Trusting God is a choice, and we have to trust him with these issues before the sky falling is even a possibility; before it even crosses our minds that something bad could ever happen. Reading this here will not help anyone do that. Writing it down doesn’t make it any easier for me to do it. The ultimate question is, what do we do when the sky does fall? Do we continue to trust?

Think about this: Jesus’ whole life was a series of falling skies, both for his friends, but mainly for his mother. When the angel Gabriel came to Mary and asked her if she would be the mother of the Messiah, it was up to her. She had to make that choice. She had to trust God that this would turn out okay. She knew that the Messiah would save Israel, but she didn’t know exactly how he was going to do that. She chose to trust. Then again, when she went to the temple to present Jesus to Simeon, she was told that because of her son, a sword would pierce through her own soul. She didn’t know what that meant, but it couldn’t have sounded good, and again, she chose to trust. Jump ahead a few decades, and she trusted Jesus all the way to the cross. The sky fell hard, and still she trusted. Most of his friends couldn’t handle it, but she trusted, and luckily, John trusted, too. Three days later, everything turned out okay. We know how the story goes.

We have to make the same choice. We have to choose to trust God, and in a way, it’s harder for us. Mary was born without sin, so it was easier for her to know and to trust God. On top of that, she had some inclination of how things were going to turn out in the end. In our lives, that often doesn’t happen so much. We still have free will, though, and trust is a choice we have to make in the end. We know the story of Jesus’ life on earth. We know what he’s done in our own lives. We know he can do anything, so before anything happens, good or bad, choose to trust. Choose to hope. Choose faith. Choose love. Choose peace, and know that the God of all that is good loves you, wanted you to exist, wants what is good for you, wants the best for you, and is coming back in the end. The sky might fall. The sky might have already fallen for you, but know that Jesus can take a fallen sky and make a blue diamond.

I wish you all countless blue diamonds in the coming year, and a very merry Christmas.

-Katie

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Advent Reflection Notes (Week Two)

I’ve already watched the videos for week two, and I didn’t find them that insightful, except for one done by a priest named Father Nathan Cromly. These are a few points that were in his video that I’ll expand with my own thoughts a bit.

1: God prepares us by making us wait, and making us thirst for him.
-I think this touches on one of the points that stuck with me from last week. It reminds me of the quote from Saint Padre Pio: “I’ve been praying for something for twenty years, so I’m beginning to have hope.” Father Cromly says that it can be very tempting to despair and give up on faith in our current culture, especially if we don’t know many or any others who practice our faith. It’s easy to look at the problems in the world and wonder where God is or what he’s doing, but God wants us to dare to hope.

2: God isn’t afraid to disturb our sense of peace.
-In a recent post, I talked about how I really don’t know exactly how one would prepare for the coming of a king, let alone the King of the Universe. This point is definitely true for me because I’ve grown a lot spiritually in the past few years, and as I grow, I feel a desire to be holy very strongly, and sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to put the things I like into terms that make sense, or even to know if they’re dangerous to my spirituality. For example, I’ve been watching the show Daredevil with my dad on Netflix. The story is super interesting, but the symbol for the superhero/protagonist is the devil, and there’s a lot of problematic language in the show. Granted, the protagonist is Catholic, so I’m assuming the irony in that was meant to be simply amusing and innocent, but it still strikes me as possibly problematic. I have a harder time overlooking the language, but part of my problem is that I can’t help watching this show from a writer’s perspective, and in that sense, it’s really good. The point I’m trying to make is that figuring out how to take on the world is exceedingly complicated.

3: God comes into our lives to expand what we think is possible
-Yesterday I was still wrestling with the feeling that what I had to offer the Lord would never be enough. Again, this hearkens back to the parable of the goats and the sheep. Out of the blue, while my mom and I were in the car headed somewhere, I sort of felt him ask me, “Do you doubt what you can do or what I can do? Do you doubt my mercy?” I was speechless for a minute, then all I could manage was, “Sorry… I don’t doubt it any more.”

4: What does it mean and what does it take to unconditionally say “yes” to God like Mary did?
-This is a tough one because I know from experience that it often means being totally socially weird. For me, at least, it has meant getting used to being weird, accepting it, and celebrating it. I know that it also means doing things I don’t like sometimes, or doing things I could never initially see myself doing. When I first volunteered to teach fourth graders, I never actually thought I’d like it. Actually, I like teaching the little kids more than the high school kids. I started with high school kids, though, and even then, it was kind of on a whim, and I just went with it. If it weren’t for my epilepsy, I might consider trying to get a teaching degree and teaching theology at a Catholic school.

I would also just like to mention something I read the other day. Jesus appeared to Saint Faustina several times, and in one of these apparitions, he gave her a prayer that would greatly help in the salvation and conversion of souls. The prayer is, “O blood and water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a font of mercy for us, I trust in you.” I’ve been praying for a few people for around four or five years at least. Ultimately, I guess that’s not really a very long time, but sometimes it feels like forever. Still, this revelation to Saint Faustina kind of reminds me of Saint Padre Pio’s quote. I like to tell people that I can swim a mile. After the first half mile, I’m exhausted, but I make it the second half because I’m more stubborn than I am strong.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Agape

Earlier today a question occurred to me. Why, or how do humans love? What is love, anyway? I thought of this question because I keep coming back to the question of why God loves us. Ultimately, that’s an insanely difficult question to answer, so I decided to try and dumb it down for myself. The obvious next step was to “Google” this because I wanted to know what experts, whether they be spiritual or scientific, had to say. First I got scientific answers that really didn’t seem very helpful. They only really touched on romantic love, which wasn’t what I had in mind.

Then I rephrased my question and got the answer I somehow knew I was looking for all along. There are four different types of love according to Greek philosophy: Eros, or a love that is deeply related to the body and the senses; Phileo, or affection towards people and sometimes things; Storge, which is a loyal love, generally towards one’s family, friends, a cause one believes in, one’s country, etc; Agape, or an active, sacrificial love that is chosen simply for the good of others for no reason. Agape love cannot be understood in a passive sense. Agape is always a verb. Agape is to will the good of the other.

Agape is perfect love, and it is the kind of love that God showed us when he died for us on the cross. God is love. This is why he is a Trinity. He is a lover, beloved, and loving. The Father and the Son love each other, and the Holy Spirit is the love that they share. A human relationship is shared between two people, but if there is no love between them, there is no relationship. People need other people because we need to experience love, and we can’t fill our need purely on our own. God doesn’t need, nor did he ever need humanity to exist because the Trinity was already experiencing perfect love.

God created us knowing that we would betray him. He saved us even though he didn’t have to, and even though it would mean experiencing the worst we had to offer. The crazy thing is that even though God doesn’t need us to love him, he wants us to. This is revealed over and over in the Scriptures, and also through the writings of the saints. In fact, Jesus says that the greatest commandment is simply to love God. Loving God means a great number of things, and can be anything from enjoying and appreciating nature, to imitating Jesus and doing good for others, to stopping to pray or participate in some form of worship.

Jesus said that to find one’s life, one had to lose it. He also said there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. To lose one’s life does not need to be understood in a literal sense. It is meant that one is to give one’s self away freely, and in doing so, one finds out who they really are. Similarly, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends means to sacrifice for people without expecting anything in return. To make sacrifices for God’s Kingdom is Agape love. It is the kind of love that God wants from us.

The Moment Of “I Love You”

I’ve tried to write this several times over and haven’t been able to. Partly, I haven’t known where exactly to begin, partly I haven’t known what to include, partly, I find this kind of thing a bit cliche, and partly, it’s a bit of a novel. All that being said, I’ve decided to start with a preface. As I said, More often than not, I find a lot of “coming to faith” stories at least somewhat annoying. A lot of them have the same, or at least a similar notion that the writer was so terrible before, and drastically better, morally speaking, immediately after their conversion. I also find it problematic when a person shares their story and neglects basic rules of writing style, spelling, and grammar. While it may be more important on some level to simply get the story out, the neglect lessens its credibility. More could be said, but I think those are issues for another post. Now I will share my story.

I grew up Catholic, largely because of a promise my mom made. When I was a year old I was diagnosed with a kind of Muscular Dystrophy (MD) that would kill me by the age of five if I was lucky. I don’t really know the time frame for all this, but when my parents got the news, my mom started praying like a maniac. I had tests done, and the news continued to be bad. I need to pause for a moment to explain a Catholic peculiarity here. A common misconception is that Catholics worship the Virgin Mary. The truth is that she has a very high place of honor, being that she is Jesus’ mother, and we recognize that her prayers are helpful and influential. Now to get back to my story, the news was bad, and eventually my mom gave up. Rather, she stopped praying to God, and asked Mary to pray for her because if anyone in the world knew what it was like to lose a child, it would be her.

Circumstances continued like this for about six months, if I remember correctly until one day my dad called my mom. He had taken me to an appointment and inexplicably, things had drastically changed. What had seemed like a ritual reiteration of a death sentence for six months had suddenly turned to a promise of life. Somehow the test results had drastically changed. I had a kind of MD, the effects of which were not entirely certain, but I would grow up, go to school, and do “normal kid stuff.” I did mention that my mom made a promise. When she asked Mary to pray for me, she promised that she would raise me as a “good Catholic girl,” so CCD was included in the “normal kid stuff” I ended up doing.

The truth is I have always been a believer in the sense that I want things to be true; I’m a bit gullible; my natural impulse is to trust people. As a child I believed in God, but when I was very young I knew him only vaguely as the Creator of the universe, and even then, not necessarily one who had a conscious mind or paid any attention to us. Eventually that changed. I came to believe that he paid attention to us, but mostly like someone watching an ant farm. As an older child, particularly in my middle school years, I just lost interest in God. I got busy doing more “normal kid stuff,” as does everyone.

In particular, my friends and I became very busy defending Mythic Island, an invented universe that was under siege from the wolf demon Agorauth. One of my friends and I created a comic for the school newspaper. I wrote the story and she drew the pictures. Every Friday night we would all congregate at my house, eat terrible pizza and play Star Wars Battlefront. Of course, since it was middle school, it wasn’t all fun. We can only assume that our group was comprised of the most unpopular kids in school. We all got picked on in one way or another.

High school changed things drastically and quickly. The summer before our Freshman year, we ended our Mythic Island adventure. That same year, one of my closest friends got incredibly busy with sports, so much so that we could hardly hang out. He also got a girlfriend, and I realized that boys could be more than just friends. Towards the end of that year I got a guitar who I named Francisco. You can probably imagine why.

At that time, I was still in CCD, and for a reason that was inexplicable at the time, I was hating it less and less. Most of my friends’ parents had allowed them to drop out years earlier, but my mom was not going to break her promise. CCD classes in ninth and tenth grade were structured towards getting students ready to receive the sacrament of Confirmation, should they choose to receive it. A “Yes” signifies that a person is an adult and active member in the Church. The odd thing was, though I was becoming more receptive to what we were learning, there was little emotion in it. It was just another class.

Another friend of mine was enrolled in the program after his parents divorced in the middle of our Freshman year because his dad thought it would be helpful for him. He hated every second of it. He had changed after the divorce. It had made him a completely different person. He was dispondent and reclusive. He stopped doing homework; wouldn’t hand in projects; intentionally failed tests. He was also rather disrespectful to our teacher in CCD, which I did not appreciate. I only mention these details about my friend because in part, I think it made me want to make up for it, so I participated more in class and I really listened. I wasn’t passive during that time.

We completed the Confirmation class at the end of our Sophomore year. It concludes with an all-day retreat at which we had discussions, weird spiritual activities which I didn’t exactly understand, and a mass, if I remember correctly. There was also a lot of free time, and my friend and I spent that time silently playing cards. At the end of the day we were given a letter written by our parents. I don’t remember much of what mine said. I do remember them saying they were proud of me, and that from this point on, my spirituality was my business. Finally, we were asked, “Will you be confirmed?” I said I would.

At the beginning of my Junior year I went through the actual ceremony, and I did keep going to church, but had I been asked at the time, I would not have been able to tell why. For the next two years I can, I think, accurately say that I was a Catholic in practice, but an agnostic in belief. I still didn’t really know who God was. I knew what he did, but that was it. During that time, I had begun to feel an increasing sense of loneliness. One of my friends had already had a girlfriend and a break-up. My other friend had been in a relationship for three years. I had never dated. However, this loneliness was more complex than the desire for a partner. I constantly needed to be around people. If I couldn’t find someone to be with on Friday nights, I would sit alone and cry. I felt unneeded, and I hated it.

Inevitably, we all graduated, and my friends went away to college. Because I need help with a few basic things, I commuted to school and lived at home. It so happened that I applied to two schools, and was only accepted to one, so that’s where I went. I had hated the school search. The whole thing felt wrong to me, but something about Gordon was different. Their campus was really nice. The people there were really nice. They had a creative writing program, which sounded really nice. I somehow felt at home there. Gordon is a Christian school, and I think normally I would have had reservations about that, but unlike every school I looked at, it just felt “right.”

Starting classes at Gordon was like stepping into a whole new universe. We started classes by praying. We were required to attend chapel three times a week, and I enjoyed it. People freely talked about having a relationship with Jesus. This was all great, except that it made me more lonely. The one thing I hung on to was that my classmates and teachers and chapel speakers had taught me to pray in a way my church hadn’t. Don’t get me wrong, now that I’ve been Christian for five years, I appreciate and use the more formal Catholic prayers quite a lot, but first I had to learn how to talk. It was shortly after we had begun classes in mid August that I had begun praying that God would help me find someone to love me. I prayed this almost every night before going to sleep with increasing desperation.

I don’t remember the exact date, but I can conclusively say I truly became Christian one night in October, 2011. I was lying in bed, and I was crying. I was praying from the darkest, lowest, smallest, loneliest part of my being. I don’t know what would have happened had it passed like any other night, but for some reason I said, “I love you,” and I felt an overwhelming sensation of comfort and peace and warmth, and I felt like I wasn’t alone in the best possible way. It was spontaneous, and my only explanation is that he was saying, “I’m not going to find someone for you. I love you.” A lot has happened since then. I almost left the Catholic Church, but have since fully embraced it for a number of reasons, which I won’t explain here. I’ve never dated and have become perfectly content being single. What was sparked at the moment of that “I love you” has turned into a real relationship. I have a writing career, and am studying theology independently. I don’t necessarily know where it will go, but I trust God.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly

What Christianity Is Not

To figure out what Christianity looks like, I think we have to figure out what it doesn’t look like. What actually makes someone a Christian? What are the duties of a Christian? What does it mean to practice what we preach? Why does it sometimes seem like the church is dead or ineffective? As I said, I think the best way to answer these questions is to first figure out what Christianity is not.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christians have to prove that God exists, yet the Church spends ludicrous amounts of time, effort, and sometimes money to do just this. The fact of the matter is, it’s not our job. It is our job to tell people the “Good News.” However, I think even Christians themselves have lost their sense of what this actually is. Salvation is not about where you end up when you die. It’s about knowing that you are a sinful person, and that you are forgiven, you are loved, and you will never be alone.

Being Christian does not give you license to judge anyone. Look at the U.S. in particular, however, and you will find that some of the most judgmental people call themselves Christians. In fact, many will judge other Christians very cruelly because they belong to the wrong denomination. The Church is supposed to be the unified body of Christ, not a house divided against itself. Every denomination has something about it that is imperfect. We can not adequately emulate Christ if we are fighting among ourselves or even being downright cruel to people who adhere to different ideologies than us.

Christianity is not at war with philosophy or science. It can and should inform our understanding of both, and both can give us a more concrete understanding of how God works in the world. God wants to be known, and the fact that the world and the universe can be studied and understood by the human mind is a testament to this. He can never be known completely in this life, but he gives us clues through philosophy and science as to what he is like. For example, Jesus says that he is the light of the world. Genesis says that the universe was created when God said, “let there be light.” I once read that at the moment of the big bang, there was most likely a tremendous flash of light. I also recently read that scientists discovered a zinc spark–a kind of flash–that occurs at the moment of conception. Every human mind is unique. It’s like it’s own little universe. Chew on that for a bit.

In a similar vein, Christianity should not be afraid of art. I am unashamedly very Catholic. I am also a science fiction writer, I hang out mostly with atheists and agnostics, I watch movies and play games in which religion is out of the question, or other gods exist and have real power. Art never, under any circumstances, brings God’s  truth or omnipotence into question. Some genres portray sinful behavior as normal or even good. It’s up to the individual to decide whether these portrayals are personally problematic on a spiritual or emotional level. If they are not, then there’s no reason why the story as a whole should not be appreciated and enjoyed. Art should be primarily judged for its artistic quality.

Lastly, Christianity is meant to be personal, but it is also meant to be active. The reason why the Church often seems boring, outdated or “dead” is because many have completely internalized and abstracted the faith. It is true that Christianity encompasses a philosophy or a set of “rules” by which an individual should live. However, Jesus said that the most important thing is to love God and to love our neighbors. Love is communal and concrete. At the very least, two people must be actively involved. Love obviously can take many forms, whether it’s a work of charity, the act of forgiving someone, or a selfless personal relationship with another. Love involves giving of one’s self, but it is often misconstrued as something like an abstract, impersonal respect, particularly when it comes to acquaintances or strangers. Put simply, people just don’t pay enough attention to each other. Christianity demands that we start paying more attention.

People have lost faith. There are plenty of reasons for this, but I think the simplest is that we are no longer willing to believe the unbelievable. Why don’t we see miracles happening anymore? It’s because we doubt their validity. We see them as “magic,” and magic is directly opposed to what we know and are capable of through science. We have more faith in doctors and engineers than we do in God. I am absolutely guilty of this, so while I’m pointing the finger, I’m pointing at myself, as well.

Further, society has lost its sense of what sin is. Sin is a refusal to do what is right, and what is asked of us by God. By extension, it is separation from God. God is the ultimate good, and the true manifestation of love. Therefore, separation from God is separation from love. Sin isn’t always as concrete as people might think. It’s complicated. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “Be perfect….” Obviously no one is nor can we be perfect, but it is something we must strive for. Union with God brings peace and joy. I’ve realized that something I have to overcome is impatience. Sin does not only refer to specific actions. It encompasses sentiments and ideas as well. What I want to emphasize is that being sinful does not make someone a bad person. It just means that one is imperfect and therefore, apart from God.

So what does Christianity look like in an actual, practical sense? We are given specific duties. I think these duties can be summed up in three commands.

1: Love God. Worship him and honor him, and pay homage to his kindness and greatness.

2: Tell people about God and about salvation.

3: Be kind. In other words, be self-giving.

It sounds straightforward, but actually, the way in which we do these things involves some creativity. This makes the task more personal, but can also make it more difficult. Furthermore, they are all intertwined. In doing one, we tend to accidentally, or intentionally do one of the others to some degree. Truthfully, we can’t love God without loving other people because God has infinite love for all people. Therefore, worshiping God involves spending time with people and being kind. Then there is communal and informal worship. Communal worship is what we do in church. Informal worship is more personal. Prayer is a kind of worship, and again, this is somewhat structured, but is still more personalized. Completely personal worship is when we do our work or create something in order to honor God. Loving other people and loving God requires that we tell about salvation because we should want people to know about the greatest love there is.

This is often difficult because people have been force-fed the wrong message and mistreated by those who claim to be followers of Jesus. The message that we ought to be spreading is actually rather simple. All we really need to tell people is, “What you believe is between you and God, but I want you to know that the God of the universe loves you, and you can know him and he will always be with you because Jesus paid for all the evil in the world and he is alive now. Everything will be made right.” The point is there is nothing negative in that statement. We can’t start with sin. Starting by telling a person that they are sinful does not work in a relativistic society. People have lost their concept of objective morality. We have to start with love and move towards a concept of sin, emphasizing all the way that we must strive for the good, but that we are safe.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Red

My favorite color is red. I mean bright, LOUD, obnoxious RED!!!! It’s followed by blue-purple, then black. Apparently only 10% of women in the U.S. say their favorite color is red, which I thought was cool. I was bored one day, so I looked it up. If you looked at all the stuff I own, you’d know my favorite color. My mom got me a new bag for my birthday, and it’s delightfully red, and significantly bigger than my old one. I was running out of room.

I was thinking about why my favorite color is red the other day, and I think I have an interesting reason. I’m just one of those people who have to have a reason for everything. Generally, I think, most colors have at least vague connotations for different people. To me, red exemplifies power and energy, but also love. Of course it’s also the color of blood. Interestingly, I got into an argument about this with a friend on Facebook. Red has negative connotations for him because it mostly represents blood and, therefore, death. For me, it can also represent blood, but I generally associate this with life.

At various times in my yet short life, I’ve been obsessed with things. When I was a little kid I was obsessed with dragons. When I was in middle school I was obsessed with a mythical world my friends and I created that, of course, we had to rescue from Agorauth, the evil wolf demon. When I was in high school I guess you could say, in a sense, I was obsessed with myself–or rather, the fact that I was “alone.” When I was in college, for the most part, I was obsessed with school, partly in the pursuit of Truth.

These days I think it would be accurate to say that I am obsessed with art; with creating things. I feel like my art–in whatever form it takes–has to have a reason behind it. I don’t think you can create art for art’s sake. At the very least, artists create because we want to. Even if one isn’t trying to say anything in particular, there is something of the individual in every created thing.

Most of my art isn’t visual. I mostly work with music and written pros. I don’t create in color per se, but I definitely live in color. Everyone does. How we dress, how we decorate, and what we carry with us say something about who we are. Most of my important stuff is red and, in some cases black. These color choices have musical, not just visual connotations. I grew up on 90’s punk and alternative rock. From the age of eight I wanted to be in a band, and when I started guitar lessons at fourteen, I knew I specifically wanted to be in a punk band. That didn’t happen, but it translated to how I carry myself. Red and black are very 90’s punk.

As I said, I don’t usually work in a visual medium, but about a year ago I designed a piece that, until recently I didn’t do anything with. I can paint, though not incredibly well, and it takes me forever. The design I came up with was complicated, so that was out of the question. I thought about getting a tattoo, but no one would see it, and it’s important to me. Finally I was able to create a digital version of my design and I’m having it made into a pendant. I’m rather proud of that. The design is a butterfly on top of a rose that is being held by two hands clasped together. The butterfly is supposed to be white and the rose is supposed to be red, but I’m having the whole thing made in silver.

The colors were symbolic in my original design. The white butterfly was meant to represent redemption and change. The red rose was supposed to represent life and sacrifice. The two hands together represent togetherness with God. I think the design will look nice in silver, but I still think it would have been nice to find a way to make it into something with color.

I don’t think you can have too much of a good thing. We just haven’t found a thing on Earth that doesn’t end up being not-good after a while. Everything eventually ends up being boring or unhealthy. When I was in middle school I ate pickle-and-mustard sandwiches for lunch every day. Eventually I got sick of them and, to this day, I hate pickles.

During Lent I’ve been taking a class about knowing Jesus better. Last week we learned something interesting. People tend to replace God as a priority with four basic things: power, honor, wealth, and/or pleasure. The thing is, none of these things will ultimately satisfy us. We’ll just always want more. This is definitely the plight of the artist… or at least for me. It’s never quite good enough, so I keep creating, or I keep editing. Sometimes I hit a home run and I can consider a project finished, but it isn’t often, and I throw a lot of material away. Part of it is that I’m much more careful with my novel than I am with my songwriting lately. I haven’t written a really good song in a while.

It’s hard to write a really good song about a specific person or thing. I find it’s easier to write about ideas and invent specific details, or to start with something random off the top of my head and see where it goes. Some of my best songs have been the result of what started as “mind spew.” I have a new musical project in mind. It’s an instrumental piece because it’s supposed to convey something I haven’t been able to express in words (and trust me, I’ve tried). In a sense, it’s supposed to be synesthetic. You’re supposed to feel it as you hear it.

I find I can much more effectively convey emotion through sound than any other medium, whether it’s musical sound or something else. Specifically, I’ve only really been able to convey a sense of peace through music. A lot of my visual art actually tends to be angst-ridden for some reason. My favorite color is red, and while it represents love, I never really think of it as representing peace.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Solutions

I am happy, and I want to tell you why. It’s not the kind of happy that you feel when you get some free time after a busy day or week or year. It’s not the kind of happy you feel after getting a really nice gift. It’s not the kind of happy you feel when you accomplish something great. It’s not the kind of happy you feel when you’re with your best friend. I know I just covered a whole bunch of different kinds of happy. The happy I’m talking about is the kind that lasts. It’s the kind of happy that can get you through the worst times; the worst situations in life. It might be more accurate to describe it as peace. I am peaceful.

People are angry, lately, for various reasons. They’re sick of hypocrisy in religion, or a seemingly stagnant economy, or corruption in the government, or discrimination that we just can’t seem to get past. I get it. The trouble is that anger and decisions made because of that anger don’t solve these problems. They perpetuate the problems. The solution is a lot simpler than people might think, and it has absolutely nothing to do with politics. It’s comprised of several parts, and it isn’t exactly easy, but I’m convinced it will work.

Anger feeds anger. Forgive everything, and make sure to forgive yourself.

Be helpful in any way you can. Indifference perpetuates injustice.

Be kind to those who don’t expect or don’t deserve it.

Be positive. Emotions generally dictate actions and decisions. Don’t let anger, fear, or sadness control you.

The solution starts here. Politicians and institutions will inevitably fail to live up to what we expect from them. People are innovative and creative and smart. If we work from the bottom up in small ways and in love we can fix the problems we face. It will force the people and institutions that create these problems to take a second look at us. They will see that we are happy and forgiving in ways that don’t make sense, and it will force them to change. It will make you happy and keep you happy, and it will do the same to them.

I am happy; I am peaceful and I know these things because it worked on me. I have experienced relentless love and forgiveness that was inevitably contagious. I was angry and fearful until I learned how to simply feel differently. I learned that I was loved, and I had to love back. More importantly, I had to spread that love to people who didn’t know it. Love is ultimately the solution to every problem imaginable. It is the strongest force in the universe, and in love, we the people will succeed.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

I Get It!

Over the past year I’ve been working on reading the Bible cover to cover. Right now I’m in the book of Jeremiah, and man, that is not a happy thing to read. It’s all about how God is going to punish his people for betraying him and not adhering to his laws and teachings. He’s angry, and he speaks of his anger through the prophet Jeremiah. There’s not a lot of hope to be found there at first glance, especially if you don’t know where this story is ultimately going, and it’s literally scary to read. What I’ve found, though, is that God’s anger is relatable. There are little moments in what he says where one finds genuine hurt. In these moments he’s really saying: “I love you, and I just want you to love me back. I love you so much, but I don’t know what else to do. You’ve abandoned me, and the only thing left for me to do is to show you what that feels like.”

Today I found this: “I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering. You will turn back to me and ask for help, and I will answer your prayers. You will worship me with all your heart, and I will be with you and accept your worship.” Jeremiah 29:11-14. God repeats over and over in this book that he will punish his people, but he makes sure to promise over and over that he won’t punish them forever. Even in his anger, God’s love shines through. He likens Israel and Judah to an unfaithful wife. I don’t know a whole lot about infidelity, but I have witnessed it from a distance, and I’ve seen how it hurts people. Forgiveness in that situation is hard.

Still, God wants, more than anything, for his people to love him back. He refuses to give up on them. He makes this very clear when he goes so far as to sacrifice himself and suffer real, physical betrayal and pain. Jesus took God’s judgment on himself. Said differently, he took on our betrayal. We can never pay that back. I don’t think it has ever hit me quite this hard. It is a love that cannot be reciprocated. I found myself actually thinking, “That isn’t fair…”

I guess that’s the point. No one will ever love God the way he loves us, no matter how hard we try; no matter what we do; no matter how nice we are; no matter how much we scripture-spam our Facebook friends; no matter how much we talk about God’s love, we can never come close to what he’s done for us. That’s just not fair, and to be perfectly honest, it’s a little hard to process. It’s unthinkable. There are no words to describe it. I can’t even say “Thank you,” because that would be inadequate. The only thing I can offer is genuine worship, and I think I understand a little better now what that is. I’m not sure I can put it into words yet.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

 

Why I Am Against Extensive Gun Control

A few summers ago, my dad, little brother, godfather and I took turns shooting at a pineapple with an assault rifle on my godfather’s property. It was completely pointless, hilarious, and innocent. It was also the first time I had ever shot a gun. We were very safe about it. My godfather owns a lot of guns and has plenty of experience from hunting or going to the shooting range. To make a long story short, we decimated the pineapple and then put the gun away.

I have to assume that most peoples’ stories with guns are in a similar vain: it’s just fun. Do I deny that these are dangerous weapons? Of course not, but I firmly believe that it’s your intentions that matter far more than what a weapon is capable of. Why does my godfather have assault weapons? He just likes to collect them and occasionally do pointless, hilarious, innocent things with them.

Many believe that if we had more gun control, or if civilians were not allowed to own guns at all, we’d have a safer society. This, at least from my estimation, is just not the case. If civilians were not allowed to own guns, the criminals would still find ways of getting them and the rest of us would be completely at their mercy. Last night there were gun shots and a bomb threat at my friend’s college in D.C. He and his girlfriend were evacuated from their apartment building across from campus and taken to a safe place. It seems like this kind of news is almost constant these days. My dad takes the train into Boston every day for work, and he carries a knife with him, but what if something really dangerous happened at North Station? What if something happens when I go see Star Wars with my friends? Whether we like it or not, these are dangerous times, and I personally would feel safer if more reasonable people had weapons.

Admittedly, I’m biased. I’ve lived very much on one side of the argument, and I’ve seen how guns can be used safely and reasonably… although blowing up pineapples isn’t exactly reasonable. I think it’s also a matter of knowing yourself. Though I am against more gun control, I don’t think I should have a gun. I’m clumsy, and I don’t trust myself enough to know what to do in a dangerous situation. If you asked me if I tend to have a “fight” or “flight” or “freeze” impulse, I think I have a “fight” impulse, and I know that can be dangerous. That being said, I still would feel safer if I had some way of defending myself and others.

The sheer amount of mass shootings and death and bad news lately is staggering and really discouraging. Perhaps my stance on gun control is partially in response to all of this. I want nothing more than peace on Earth. I want everyone to love each other. I am an idealist. Maybe I’ve become cynical, but I’ve begun to believe that you can just wish and pray evil away. There is a part of me that is a fighter, and though I don’t want to have to, I am willing to fight evil. It has to be fought. I will fight it with words because that’s what I can do, but I think the people who can do more should be allowed to. At heart I’m a pacifist. I will never start a fight, but if it’s a fight worth having, I will finish it.

To some this will sound violent and scary, and you could probably use my words as an argument for gun control. To be fair I’ve heard ridiculous, super conservative people say things that sound similar, but I’m not them. I believe in people, and I believe in freedom. At my core, I’m a Christian, and I believe in peace. In a perfect world there would be no guns. We could get rid of them, and I’d be okay with that. Put them in a box, and send them to the bottom of the ocean. We have much more constructive things to do with our time. To me it’s a matter of allowing a lesser evil to fight a far greater, far scarier one. I don’t believe that guns are necessarily a good, safe thing to own. They are simply a necessary evil that might keep our people a little bit safer for the time being.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!