God help and forgive me, I wanna build something that’s gonna outlive me.

Hamilton.

A life-changer. Full of fun and humor, but its effect is no joke. I think it really might have changed my life. Hard to tell, after only five days. But… Non-Stop. The Cabinet Battles. Hurricane. It’s Quiet Uptown. I didn’t just hear these songs, they moved through me, and I was not the same woman when they were done.

Lord, guide the change, and keep it well in your own hand. I want no empty mark, I want no hollow legacy. There is important, and there is truly important. There is good, and there is your goodness. I would not tangle the threads in my fumblingly human fingers.

But what am I to do? I am no genius. If I held in my hand the power to shape the nations and shake the world, would I even have the vision to shape them? Would I even know which way to shake? I have no passionate vision for solving the world’s ills, or even aiding one ailing nation. What am I to do, even if I were to “write day and night like tomorrow won’t arrive, write day and night like you need it to survive”?

I feel more like:

I don’t even know what to do with those Romanian people who ring the bell and ask for money and food in broken German and if you give them anything they press for more and try to edge into the house. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do for them, what’s right to do about them, so what am I supposed to do for or about the world?

I know what I want. I know I want sex slavery to end. I know I want to crush it. I want the situations that create fields ripe for the slaver’s harvest to cease, or to be better seen to afterwards. I want people to know what sex slavery and coercion can look like in a person. I want those who purchase sex to be driven to empathy, to compassion. I want refugees from any kind of disaster to know what exploitation looks like when it confronts them. I want exploitative brothels to be busted, and the workers to be freed. I want the freed workers to be looked after, cared for, to be given healers for the body, mind, and soul, and to be granted passage to a new life—which means being situated with a new community, and/or a new career.

I want to solve war.

I laugh, you laugh, we all laugh ‘til kingdom come, because until it does, there will be war and it won’t be solved.

Screw it. We are to see your will be done and your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven, and if we only pray it and never move towards it, are we in imitation of Christ? And therefore, are we Christian at all?

I want to solve war. I want to end it. I want peace. I want to change the way the nations think about conflict. And for that–for that to be a want, not a wistful wish–I must be educated. I’ve got to understand what’s actually happening, at every level. And total comprehension is impossible, but that doesn’t mean a person shouldn’t try to understand. From the trembling underpinnings of the universe, to the crux on which human history hangs, to the blood on the ground today, to the bird’s eye view, to the street-level view, I’ll seek understanding. What is wisdom, what is knowledge, if it can’t be applied to corporeal situations? I’ve long played in the ethereal and the theoretical, but what if the catch-22 questions and the big-picture dilemmas had real lives in the balance? Can I find a way to save any? Can I find the wisdom to cheat the questioners’ cheating questions?

God. God! I want to do something. I want to learn enough to do something. I don’t want to go before I’m prepared; to create more chaos. I want to be ready to do the right thing when I go. Go where? Go for what? We’ll see, we’ll see. What will I be true to in the weary light of morning? What resolution will hold past tonight? God! Let me be true. Let me seek your face, let me seek you here, and if this is the next way you’ve given me to do it, let it not slip through my fingers when this first burst is through.

And so now, days after I wrote the first passionate, nervous burst of words that formed the meat of this journal-letter, I still wonder. But I’m pressing in. How can I help the refugees? In the grand scheme, I don’t know yet, I’m still thinking. But I’ve discovered where I can help put care packages together. Would that be enough? I’ve written thousands more words of a novel, a novel that matters. Does it matter enough? Is it big enough? It’s what I can do. I’ve edited and posted this piece, here. On a backwater blog? A piece that doesn’t even know if it’s a prayer, or a call to action, a Hamilton advert, or another buzzfeed pop culture gif set-beset list? What will that do?

I don’t know. But if I can but do all things I can do, through Christ that strengthens me–that would be enough.

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No High and Fluting Sentiment

I’d do it o’er, I’d do it o’er,
If only time could be undone
My now dragged back into the past
My words unraveled, fights unwon.

No high and fluting sentiment,
No deep and luted sorrow,
No thought or heart or wish or word
Makes yesterday tomorrow.

I’d say it better, put it right,
Not put you down like seed in ground,
Not hold my peace when called to speak
Nor speak when peace would not be found.

No high and fluting sentiment,
No deep and luted sorrow,
No thought or heart or wish or word
Makes yesterday tomorrow.

With wisdom earned of time now lived,
Another chance, a blotted page–
Turn back the cost, but leave the wage;
I’d walk to circumstance a sage,

No high and fluting sentiment,
No deep and luted sorrow,
No thought or heart or wish or word
Makes yesterday tomorrow.

What little insight I have gained
Cannot be spent on past poor takes,
Nor can the scene be shot again
Nor what’s spoke now be what I spake.

No high and fluting sentiment,
No deep and luted sorrow,
No thought or heart or wish or word
Makes yesterday tomorrow.

These bits and mites of priceless coin
So pinched from moments lived a-wrong
Can but be spent on moments met
Once one has walked from thence along.

No high and fluting sentiment,
No deep and luted sorrow,
No thought or heart or wish or word
Makes yesterday tomorrow.

And then—and then!—I cry my woe,
So small indeed is knowledge known,
When held to wisdom yet unwon
To thoughts unthought, unreaped, unsown.

No high and fluting sentiment,
No deep and luted sorrow,
No thought or heart or wish or word
Makes perfect now and morrow.

So day by day, I earn my way
The stumbler seeking feet like hind’s,
The fool by wise-ish foolishness
Seeks understanding, nearly blind.

No high and fluting sentiment,
Can halt past rents from tearing
No deep and luted sorrow now
Buys morrow’s faultless bearing.

And much is hurt and healed and made,
Is broken, beaten, lost, and found,
But though the road dips humbly low,
I move through time to higher ground.

Though thought and heart and wish and word
Cannot make perfect now or then,
I’ll think, and feel, and speak, and hope,
And hold my peace, and step again.

Happiness is “In.”

I just came across this quote in my facebook feed.

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I started really meditating on it. And I thought, there’s some truth to that, there really is. 

There are those who will take the strands of their observable reality and sit in their heads, laboring to weave a miserable moment, day, or entire existence out of it, however lucky or unlucky the base substance. And that… well, you really want to steer clear of that. You want to try and spot it if you’re doing that, and if you are, striving for some form of psychological overhaul would probably be wise.

But then, it got me thinking about the way so much pop philosophy is leaning today. In a lot of circles, suffering is getting a bad rap, like, really bad. It’s not popular to suffer.

^ This is not okay.

That’s not actually a ridiculous observation; there are ages and places and subcultures in which suffering is or has been cool, commonly among artists of eras past, actually. Being an artist who is commonly happy to the point of obnoxious perkiness, the history books would suggest I could hardly be great as well.

Now, though, it’s rather “in” to be a happy person. It’s “in” to find your inner peace, work through your childhood issues, find mental and emotional stability, employ mind-over-matter, come to peace with relational turmoil, embrace your journey, and for heaven’s sake, if you’ve managed none of that, to seem as though you have!

And I thought, again, there’s a lot in all that, a lot that’s good and valuable and true or touching on the truth. But it also sets up a distraction.

Because it makes idols out of peace and joy.

This is very easy to do, because peace and joy are good things, aspects of God himself, gifts he would love to give us. But as C.S. Lewis points out so adeptly, the brighter and more beautiful a thing naturally is, the more likely we are to set it up in place of God.

“But you and I must be clear. There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. And the higher and mightier it is in the natural order, the more demoniac it will be if it rebels. It’s not out of bad mice or bad fleas you make demons, but out of bad archangels. The false religion of lust is baser than the false religion of mother-love or patriotism or art: but lust is less likely to be made into a religion.”
-The Great Divorce, Chapter Eleven

Peace and joy are not all. They are not even ends. They are results, side-effects; they are, in fact, fruit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
-Galatians 5:22-23a

All of these are things we should want to find in ourselves. But none are to be idols. They are the fruit of the Spirit of God, and if our lives show that they are lacking in us, there is only one way to turn–to God. 

Which brings me back to the idolatry of happiness and the eschewing of suffering.

I see upon the cross a man who perfectly manifested the perfect fruit of the Spirit. I see upon the cross a God who suffered, and suffered perfectly. That was not just physical pain. It was certainly not physical pain that had him suffering in Gethsemane at the very thought of impending Calvary. So, what, was Christ failing to be the psychological ideal? I daresay not! He would not have been a man if he had not been subject to suffering.

So it would seem that the highest ideal is not happiness. It would seem that the fruit of the Spirit is not the psychological capacity to eschew all suffering.

But if Christ, our only perfect example of absolute Spirit-filling, was subject to suffering, then it implies that suffering can coexist with love, joy, and peace, and in fact with that whole list up there. In fact, in other translations, “forbearance” reads as “longsuffering,” the very word implying that suffering will occur. And that is the least of the New Testament references that would suggest suffering as an expected part of a godly life!

So we don’t want to idolize peace and joy. And we are to accept suffering as a part of life. But we’re to be peaceful and joyful, as well. We’re to suffer, yes, but to learn how do it without throwing pity-parties and melodramatic fits (within or without!); those things run in the face of what the Holy Spirit is trying to produce.

This is all ridiculously difficult to manage, an impossible balance to strike. Fortunately, managing and balancing it is not the task set before us. Pressing closer to Christ is the task set before us.

Seek first God. To be near him, to be with him, to let him course through you.

And then, he will suffer with you, and you with him. And in the midst of your mutual suffering–what? Joy! And what’s this? Peace!

And of course. Because the nearer you draw to God, in suffering or pleasure, the nearer you come to suffering and pleasuring perfectly.