Turn, turn, turn!

Oh God, my God, how long is it since I have written so to you?

When the ebbs and flows of life leave me churning and restless, exhausted and sleepless at night’s middle, why do I not immediately turn to you, One Singer of life’s song, One Water for my thirst, One Friend for my loneliness, One Grace for my sins, One Physician for my ills, One God and Lover who can reach into the tossing, turning depths of my soul, and heal the crying breach.

Man shall not live by bread alone, nor anything this plane may readily offer, nor anything my body and mind might beg for. For is it not so, that even gorged, we are hungry? Even sated, we want? And when we lack and desire with depths of passion but loss of direction, why do we wander this plane—even we who have known better—in hopes that something upon it will fill our soul’s gape in the dullness and the dark.

Oh God, my God, I entreat you to be once more my first answer, my first thought, for you are the first responder to my needs, if I would but look to you, see the hand in which you offer more than e’er I sought.

When I know not what I seek, let me remember that it is you. When I know not why I thirst, let me remember that it is for you. When I know not what is missing, let me remember that it is the fullness of your presence—only to be missed so long as it is turned from, for even misery is rich when you will grace it with your touch.

Pain becomes a portal to bliss; loneliness turns up the corners of my mouth when I remember my Beloved. Longing is our lot in this world, but not without comfort. And then, our souls’ very scream for you becomes a prayer of thanks for your presence. Even when I cannot sense you compassing me about, nor hear you in the silence and all creation’s groaning, I know your Love, and I know you’re Love, and I know it enough for me.

Oh God, my God, how long has it been since the fullness of my spirit bowed down before you, laid down before you all its pent-up miseries, put aside the world’s insistent distractions and the flesh’s insatiable desires, and simply begged for you?

It grows and grows, the pain and pressure, ‘stress’, it’s called, or weariness, or lack, or fun; frustration; satiation; habits; needs; amusements; callings; obligations; all of it dust worrying dust. All of it is vain distraction, idolatry and idolatry’s consequence, when it keeps my mind from you.

I’ve turned to you as a touchstone, brushing my fingers over the thought of you, knowing you deserved more, hearing my soul’s growing scream, but caught in the whirlabout land called “life” which is Death if you are not in it, my Lord, my Love, and my Salvation.

I knew I needed you, but my fingers were busied and my mind a-rush, whisking from one thing to the next, even if that thing was rest, calling it a necessity of so-called life, but when I do not take the time to deeply drink of your presence, my soul becomes ever more agitated, and nothing will settle it, not all the joviality and satisfaction and accomplishment in the world, for are you not greater than all these things? How, then, do I forget you? Forgive me, Greatest Calling and Highest Joy.

And Highest Joy you are, and Deepest Love, and Sweetest Peace, but I must tread the path of delayed pleasure to find it, and to my twisted human psyche, this often seems too great a sacrifice to make. Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of sin?

And when I so long forget to turn from these, so long forget to turn to you, I must also tread the path of the torn heart and the beaten breast, the path of tears and repentance as all the pettiness of my soul breaks against your Beauty and sees itself for the straying, pitiful wretch that it is. God! GOD! How do I do this time and again? Bless this restlessness that drives me from my bed like an iron against my soul, for without it, it seems that I would rest at an ever-emptier discontented status quo.

Drive me! Drive me quicker, drive me harder, in the future, to return to you! Let my mind, heart, and body burn as one with the horror of looking away from your Face! Let me know my want for what it is; a Want for what the seed of sin first tore from me long before my conception, a Want for the fellowship of the Cross, in its magnificence and mystery, restored.

All else I find upon this earth is a piece of your Story, all that you have created to sate the surface of my body, mind, and soul—that is the satisfaction you offer, seen through a glass darkly. And so long as I see you through it, so long as my daily bread is to me an echo of the Bread of Salvation, so long I know pleasure as an echo of Joy, art as an echo of Truth, and friendship as an echo of Communion, then these things will sate, for I will be asking no more of them than you set them here to give me.

Oh, let me cling first and ever to you! Let me set aside all to pursue you! Let me sacrifice all to seek your face! Let me remember the joy of your Kingdom before all! Let me turn from shadows and mirrors unto the Real, and by so doing, see Reality winking from the shadows and the mirrors.

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The Empty Brainchild

There are stories wandering purposeless circles in the wilderness of my mind. There are emotions devoid of meaning playing like a handful of broken records in my heart and belly. There are neural pathways of entertainment worn so deeply in my mind that they have become muddy ruts in which my imagination can only spin its wheels.

Let me explain. I want a constant stream of entertainment in my head. I want never to be bored. I want a ceaseless stream of emotional stimulation. I want to feel something, and then another thing, and then another.

In order to accomplish this, I tell myself stories. Now, plenty of good has come out of self-story-telling. I’m a writer; I would not have become such a one without a love of stories. But there is love, and there is… dependence. There is enjoyment, and there is… addiction.

These little machinations of my imagination have become to the emotional what masturbation is to the sexual. I’m in it for a hit of feeling, a high of intensity. I’m in it for the sadness longing love loss joy amusement confusion fascination awe hope despair anger fury forgiveness bitterness happiness connection friendship pain hunger intimacy sensuality fear shock wonder glee gloom ANYTHING, anything, so long as it comes to a climax of intensity.

It’s fan fiction, usually, cross-fic, often but not always with self-inserts. I play with my favorite characters from all fandoms, and put them in situations that make them feel things, and ride those surrogate waves of emotion. I shoot up with little stories I tell, and retell myself, in my head.

I wouldn’t describe it in such harsh terms, would not even think that any kind of a problem (just such mucking about has in the past turned into the stuff of novels and blog posts) except that–

–I have come to see that it’s a button I hit in favor of participating in God’s greater reality. All the time. Dozens of times through the day, even more lying abed at night or in the morning.

And then one night, I thought, “Nay, I’ll set aside my bedtime stories this once, in favor of praying for those I love.” And like a toddler denied the same, my inner self started pitching a royal, screeching, panicking fit.

BUT I NEED MY STORIES. I WANT MY STORIES. I’M BORED WITHOUT MY STORIES. I WON’T SLEEP UNLESS YOU GIVE ME STORIES. I CAN’T SLEEP WITHOUT STORIES!

The irony of that being, it’s these very scenes that I play out, searching for the next emotional climax (it’s never really enough) that keep me awake for one hour after another.

That scared me. That internal insistence that I was dependent on these fictions. That it was no longer an activity that I chose to participate in, but a habit that had dug its roots so deeply into the matrix of my mind, my brain went into full-scale, physically-wracking withdrawals when I chose to do something else.

And I believe I was frightened rightly.

BUT IF YOU STOP TELLING YOURSELF STORIES WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO YOUR CREATIVITY? IF YOU STOP TELLING YOURSELF STORIES YOU’LL STOP BEING A STORYTELLER. WHAT KIND OF WRITER BRIDLES THEIR IMAGINATION? 

The irony of that being, so much of what I do is repetition of the same old idea. I’m not in it for the creativity; I’m milking what little creativity I began with for every last drop of emotion I can get out of it. I only look for a new idea when the last one cracks like parched earth. I don’t want to have to work too much for it. I want it cheap and easy.

If my mind didn’t run to this pattern almost without fail, I would have more time to dedicate to creativity in my actual works, actually. I’ve found myself having to work to drag my mind away from “What would happen if Sherlock Holmes encountered the Doctor, take 227–this time with John wearing a green sweater?” to figure out what happens in the stories I’m actually writing, in the work I have actually been given to do!

But more disturbing than even that is what set me upon this recognition: that when I try to turn my mind to loving the Lord my God with all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength, and loving others as myself, this gets in the way.

It has become an impediment to not only my sleep, but worse, my work, and worse yet, my relationships with others, and worst of all, my relationship with God himself.

I have fallen into dependence upon the shadow of the great Reality. It is time to turn towards that I truly desire, the natural longing that beget this unnatural degradation of desire.

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
-II Corinthians 10:5
(Contextual? No. Meaningful? Heck to the yes.)

And so, this coming Lent, I am denying myself all of what I’m calling “extracurricular” storytelling. If it’s part of my work, I can mull it over. A lot of being a writer is staring blankly out the window as gears spin this way and that in your mind. But 95% of what I’m doing is the other thing.

This Lent, the wind-up-toy-stories stop. And I can only beg God to fill the daily-dozens of cracks in my being that those hollow-eyed creations were failing to fill. Minutely grace for minutely need.

Pray for me.

A True Valentine

Will you be my Valentine?

Head on the block,

Life on the line.

Will you be

A saint for me

The heart of a dove

With a lion-heart’s blood.

Serpent-wise words when it matters the most

In the face of those ready to parry, riposte,

And meet passionate speech with a sword.

Will you be my Valentine?

Valiant heart

Beating so true

Red as a rose

And black and blue

Soul rising sweet as fair crushed bloom

True to the truth to the last.

The Wisdom of Loki

KNEEL!

Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state?

It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation.

The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity.

You were made to be ruled.

In the end, you will always kneel.”

So much truth, Loki. One might almost think you wise. But like all Tricksters, you twist the truth. And for your purposes, you twist it foolishly.

Something is missing. Something you seem ignorant of. One vital element of our makeup.

Yes, we were made to be ruled. But we were made to choose whom we will serve.

You see this throughout history. Yes, many followed Robert the Bruce that they might be free of England’s rule. But in that very act, they submitted themselves, they subjugated themselves, to Robert the Bruce. And they did so gladly! It was almost as if… as if it was their natural state.

FREEDOM is the constantly recurring cry. Yes, but freedom to do what? Freedom to choose our masters. We don’t always choose wisely, but we’ll be damned if you don’t let us choose! (Heck, we even get to choose if we’ll be damned.) Few and far between are the true anarchists–and even if all governments broke down, people would naturally find and huddle together under masters of one sort or another.

But a master whose subjects hate him is a master whose power is in grave jeopardy. A master whose subjects choose and love him is a greater master.

Because it is given to us to think and feel, and to will, and to choose according to our will.

We want who we want. We want someone who listens to us. Someone who understands us. Someone who knows the difficulties of our life and will be fair with us–or perhaps less fair and more merciful. We’d like Someone to defend us against our enemies. It would also be nice if this Someone gave us things. We’d like to be able to look up to this Someone, to call them a Hero, to hail their flag proudly, and proudly name ourselves their subject.

(Not that I’m talking about Anyone in particular, of course not, whyever would you think such a thing.)

The Marvel universe has a god who kills a man in front of a crowd, rounds them up like frightened cattle, like frightened chattel, then shouts them into submission. Of course a man stands against him, and of course this man is a hero. As it should be! Loki would have stomped upon and stripped away their God-given wills.

We have a God who allows himself to be killed in front of crowds of men, just to save a bunch of frightened sheep, just to be a good shepherd, then asks for their submission–because they’re going to run headlong off a cliff if they don’t turn around.

“Kneel.

Is not this sweeter? Is this not your natural state?

It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave to pour yourselves out to someone, even as I pour Myself out to you.

You think you see the bright lure of freedom in all the darkest corners, and you diminish your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity.

I am the only One with freedom and power and identity, and I give it freely to all to look to Me .

You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel:

To your empty selves, to your empty sins, to your empty oppressors, or to Me.

Choose you this day whom you will serve.”

And those men who stand, those who defy him, he allows to walk away. To walk away into Hell. To walk away into nothing. To run  away from God into everything that is the opposite of God. To break his heart. To hurt themselves.

But our God did not make us automatons, he made us beings with free wills to choose our rulers, and that means allowing us to choose rulers to our detriment.

Just think of it; what if Loki had known even a little piece of that wisdom?

What if Loki had come to earth and said, “Hey babes, Loki from Asgard here, just a lonely little trickster god looking to rock–and rule–your world. Who’s with me?”

I’d bet that much of the world’s female population, at least, would have waved signs and guns on his behalf from the outset.

…Did I mention we don’t always choose wisely?