Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

What is Love?

Dear Darling,

Do you find it unthinkable that anyone who writes letters of love to an unknown bride for a half-decade still question its definition? On its face, the question seems rudimentary.

But if we look beneath the face of love, the question is anything but. Our native tongue is woefully inadequate to define love; you cannot love cake with equal avidity as you love your job, or summer, or friends, or parties, or your mother, or your spouse, or your country.

To Scripture we must first turn, to find that God created love and God is love. When we love, we are like God, but only because love makes us like Him, not because we have approached Him or belong to Him. All lovers may for a time become better for having loved, more godly and virtuous in their behavior, more charitable and patient in their demeanor. The blessing of love is not confined to those who belong to God; He is generous enough to bestow its blessings even to the unrepentant. Because God is love, and loving makes us like Him, sometimes people mistake the two for each other. God is love; but love is not God.

1 Corinthians 13 famously expounds on its virtues by telling us that love is patient and kind, without envy, boasting or pride. It doesn’t dishonor others, nor is it self-seeking or easily angered, nor keeping records of wrongs. It rejoices in truth, not evil. It always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.

All of these describe love, as we ought to aspire. But do they define it? The same may be shown to a sister as much as a wife. Nor can a list of mere descriptors fully define love, any more than the words “swift” or “beautiful” define a horse.

What does the world say?

The scientist says love is in our chemistry, neurons firing in the brain.

The teacher says love is in our actions.

The preacher says love is a commitment and service to others.

The mother says love is in the heart.

The philosopher says it is a force of nature, irresistible and untamed.

The hedonist says love is God, obeyed heedless of cost. The lover says it is a feeling; you have to go there to know there. The cynic says it is an illusion; the sensualist that it is sex.

This also is true, that some loves we choose and some loves choose us. After all Darling, you could not guarantee you would seek out and love every member of your blood kin had you not been born into their family. Families love each other, even when they don’t like each other. And some loves endure long after reason says they should.

The Greeks find greater variety of descriptors for love; in their tongue, there is ludus, the playful and unripe love among children. Then there is agape, the unconditional love and charity we show towards the world and its natives, a selfless Christian loving-kindness and altruism. There is philia, a deep affection, friendship and connection between comrades, which may be only friends or may be romantic partners. Of course there is eros, which may be the primal and passionate fire which presses towards any physical consummation, and the sense of being romantically in love with one in particular. There is storge, the natural love between family. Finally, there is pragma, the abiding devotion brought about through mutual understanding and longevity.

Why should such a question arise after so long? My Darling, I ask because I wonder how I’ll know that I love you. Such revelations take time, but may dawn suddenly or gradually. Some say there came a specific moment at which they suddenly decided, or realized that they loved. Others say it was a gradual process. Love (philia), I think, cannot come suddenly and spontaneously, not for me. I’ve inoculated myself against such uncontrolled sentiment. Reason has built walls and buffers to ward off such insensible emotionalism. (Though make no mistake, much of me still devoutly longs for surrender to such passions.)

It worries me, you see, because some say that love is putting someone else’s needs before your own (agape), and I think I would not be overly generous to myself if I say I tend toward this already. It’s hard not to be charitable of deeds when your life’s work is with the sick. Nor do I say this to congratulate myself; half the time I hate it. I hate feeling responsible for others, I hate feeling their pain and mistakes. I hate that people won’t listen. I hate that I am only human, much less others. I hate that “only human” is the excuse so many conjure in defense of their wanton misdeeds. I hate that I give so often and receive so little. I can’t deny this is just how I was created, one of God’s built-in cushions of the universe to balance out the selfish. I just have to make peace with it. That is, after all, one of life’s greatest blessings: to carry the burdens of others without breaking. To break, and only be kinder for it.

So Darling, how does a Christian discern between agape, eros and philia? How much play do we allow Venus and Cupid? What happens when you decide to spend time with someone, and resolve to model the behavior you hope is characteristic of yourself as a husband (why else would you date?) and you can’t tell between the deed and the feeling? It’s second-nature to me. More than getting doors or paying for meals, it’s an ongoing “how was your day” or “tell me your troubles.” It’s reading someone’s face to see what hidden meaning lurks behind polite formality. It’s being willing to get up at 5am if necessary to take you to the airport. It’s coming over and nursing you back to health if you’ve taken deathly ill. It’s sacrificing sleep to come help you change a tire. Within reason, it’s basically being available 24/7, and dearly hoping the same is offered in return.

Now don’t mistake me, Darling. I can be a selfish pain in the neck as well as anyone. That’s what will make our love last, a resolution to put behind us the parts which make us intolerable towards one another. But my inclination is towards serving as I describe above. You see how that already looks like love? Add to that a physical chemistry, which can present its own quandary by posing the question “do I like you for you, or do I just like having anyone to be with for a change?”

When do you choose to love someone, and when do you “fall” in love? How much is controlled and how much is loss of control? When do you possess love, and when does love possess you? To one who places high value on maintaining control of one’s senses and faculties, it takes a great deal of trust to be willing to let go. When do you love someone for what they do for you — for their mind? Do you need someone because you love them, or do you love someone because you need them?

You might say I’m an overthinker. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been accused of such. But asking too many questions? Nonsense, my dear. The secrets of life are reserved for the one who never ceases to ask questions.

Here is what I know. Love is priceless. It cannot be bought.

Love is a flame that cools us, and an ice which thaws.

Love is the sixth sense that makes no sense.

Love is needing someone, as well as wanting them.

Love is more than a feeling, but it isn’t just all the bolstering spiritual intangibles. There’s head spinning, heart racing and blood pumping, and it’s here that I need the most work.

Love is a Verb. It isn’t what you think and feel and say. It’s what you do that defines you to another.

Love is a Command. God said to love one another, no options, no exclusions. That means even when you don’t feel like loving someone, you love them anyway. Love is a Commitment.

Love is a decision. It’s an act of will and sometimes runs counter to all our instincts.

Love never looks the way you wanted or expected. It will change us and shape us and transform us. In time, it will define us. Love is a force and a power, and like any power, it must be controlled. We must change and shape and transform it ourselves. We channel it.

Love is unconditional.

Love is a multiplicitous, jumbled, wonderful mess, one in which I can’t wait for us to become entangled.

I will meet you there. Someday. Somehow.

 

I remain ever yours sincerely,
Beren

May 26, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Questions | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Conceal, Don’t Feel

Dear Darling,

How cold it is outside! This winter was far too unforgiving not to sneak up from behind while the sunshine warmed our faces. I don’t mind so very much; a cold soul welcomes a cold night. With jackets and blankets making their return, it almost makes one miss the late months of autumn already, and almost want to skip summer to have them back. Almost.

It’s been a long work week, but a productive one. I seldom settle on one floor from shift to shift, so having three of them on the same floor, and with colleagues I consider friends was gratifying. They trust and even consult my judgment on occasion, knowing that in only a year I will be equally credentialed, and as some of them are new, I have more experience in the hospital setting.

But when I’m not working, the emptiness creeps in. I’ve tried to pick up extra hours a couple of times already this week, to no avail. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your kisses would, if not defeat the hollowness, at least neutralize it, numb it, stave it off. I walk the neighborhood blocks again, surrendering this emptiness to God in hopes He can do the impossible by making something from nothing, repurposing it to His will. If given no one with whom to spend time when I’m not serving, then in my opinion I need more missions. That’s what I ask for; more assignments. Fill up this time, don’t let me stop long enough to let my thoughts catch up. School keeps you always off-balance with continual deadlines and expectations, and severe penalties for failing to live up. And it is a rough way to ride. But it does help fill the space. Some nights, I wind up going to bed uninspired. And of course, I have no claim on any right to be inspired every night, but it’s like going to bed hungry. I’d rather sleep on an empty stomach than an empty mind. With cold days and long nights, all I can think about are the times past when I had someone with whom to spend time, and the times to come, when we’ll be together.

I’m struck again by how many TVs are on in this neighborhood. It’s a drug of choice for my people, and I see its allure, nor do I view it as wholly evil. But I do see a disturbing trend of desensitization to every evil and vice the devil could contrive. These dramas are good at what they do, creating compelling stories and intricate plots that hook you in. They make you want more in your life, and give people something to talk about. But they’re infused with forced moral quandaries, casual sexual flings, subtle promotions of the enemy’s agenda. They make these characters your friends, and then make you more okay with their behavior because they’re your friends. If you were the devil, wouldn’t you subtly exploit this medium to its fullest and quite insidious potential? To pity the sinful, praise evil deeds rendered under the guise of virtue, and mask the consequences manifest in the real world?

Ah, and how do you convince the dreamer that he dreams? Can the sleeper be persuaded that he slumbers? Unfathomable to me is this drive I see in people to seize this world and milk it for all its benefits and pleasures. People don’t understand that satisfaction pursued for its own sake seldom fulfills. Far better to be useful to the world, pursuing the interests of others rather than our own.

I’m not particularly bent out of shape by the ill favor of others, only, it’s a poor witness to be continually disgruntled about the evils of the day, or to call out the sins of their participants.

And so, gradually I’m learning to withhold these opinions. It’s helped because the people with whom I talk on these subjects are drifting away. No one wants to share the weight of the world or the torment of wickedness. People don’t comprehend a soul weighed down by that. Increasingly, the theme becomes “conceal and speak less” on these matters. It’s selfish to add to another’s troubles anyway, especially if that person is accustomed to bearing them. That’s why I hesitate when someones suggests talking to a pastor. This is part of their job, and they are already under such pressure as it is. Nor is it within their power to change, nor do I pretend they can contrive a solution. Why should I contribute to pastoral burn-out? But, it does make me wonder at what point do I accept that few others share this perspective, and at what point do I stop looking for that depth of understanding in a mate?

However, I know there is a line. Miluihun has a multitude of friends she has made at a very large and very shallow church which thrives on fostering a die-hard sense of commitment and loyalty among its denizens. Thus, oblivious to its perils, they simply adore the church and worship its leader.  I need to stop hanging out with this group of friends, because most of them come with baggage, and are broken or overweight, or all three and quickly put moves on me. You know I hate a perceived need to put up walls and be less friendly so as not to lead a girl on, and so far three of them have sent strong signals. A fourth essentially asked me to spend more time with her. How do you tell such a person that you’re 95 percent sure you’re spiritually incompatible? How do you avoid elevating yourself while still recognizing there are different levels of spiritual maturity? I’m sorry my dear, I simply don’t know how to treat such women appropriately, and it seems there is no clear and easy answer. Furthermore, it’s hard to confide these concerns with others, as they often lead to teasing or snorting that my life is so difficult if I have to worry about turning women down. It seems to create an all-or-nothing circumstance where, because they show attraction, I must now close the door entirely, where I wouldn’t have before, just to avoid furthering the honest hurt I’m already obligated to inflict.

After a movie last night, I figured out why happy is sad. Happy movies, proud moments, pleasant holidays…these are the times when you want to reach out and hold the ones you love. I’ve got nothing and no one. I just inscribe these dreams on a page and send them across the wires hoping one day they won’t return void.

I read somewhere that the one thing women want most is comfort. That’s one thing I’m trying to improve on, that and being positive and encouraging to others. (You’d never guess it by reading here, eh?) The author said that women are dying to show their true selves to someone. I’m not sure that’s how you feel, but you should know that I’m dying to see your real self, and dying to be trusted enough to see it.

Stay warm tonight, dear. If I were there, I would resolve the matter myself, and can only send my regrets that I am not. God go with you on this Lord’s day.

Yours,
Beren

May 18, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , | Leave a comment

Ode in May

Ode in May
William Watson

Let me go forth, and share
The overflowing Sun
With one wise friend, or one
Better than wise, being fair,
Where the pewit wheels and dips
On heights of bracken and ling,
And Earth, unto her leaflet tips,
Tingles with the Spring.

What is so sweet and dear
As a prosperous morn in May,
The confident prime of the day,
And the dauntless youth of the year,
When nothing that asks for bliss,
Asking aright, is denied,
And half of the world a bridegroom is,
And half of the world a bride?

May 15, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Help Me Lose My Soul In Your Song

Framed by MoonlightDear Darling,

It occurs to me that in unburdening myself from the plurality of doubts or questions that assail me, it’s possible I’m only adding to your sadness. Could it be that sharing the loneliness and darkness which lurk in between the hours only makes me a sort of emotional parasite?

I certainly don’t mean it to be. I mean it to be the sharing of my innermost thoughts, a reflection of the things I will find precious in you. It’s a demonstration of trust. Most secrets are a burden to the soul, but for now only you can be trusted with this, that at times, blackest night fills my soul.

Now you may rightly suggest such trust is diminished if yours aren’t the only eyes that can read them. And perhaps those eyes too turn away, like humanity does when it observes a plight upon which it cannot improve. But I believe in setting an example in all things, and you should know that I have received letters from the other souls who were inspired to create the same treasures for their future spouse, and to better themselves in the meanwhile. And I hope you’ll accept that in fair trade, knowing that there is only one person in all of humanity for whom these words are written.

Who do you inspire, being the lovely creature I know you must be? Being someone’s inspiration is always gratifying, and for me it seems to be occasioning more often of late. It happens when I’m not trying. Miluihun has taken up swimming because it was something I suggested. I’ve been cooking up enough food for a week at a time, as well as working out, both of which are habits to which Alegfast has expressed interest. I think we should always strive to be someone that inspires others…if for no other reason than because in so doing, we inspire ourselves to become better. We never know who is watching and imitating.

So tell me, how was your day? Was the weather as opulent for you? I spent most of it sleeping off last night’s shift, an exciting night fraught with people trying to die. And as I wander the neighborhood tonight, I find myself settling into a feeling of contentment. Correctly I judged that restlessness rears its head when I’m not caring for others. The night was exhausting, and fulfilling, and educational and gratifying. It doesn’t hurt that school is out and I’m free to perform these labors; I’m glad to break free of days yet again, no longer thrall to the sun.

I think it’s important to enter the throne room each night. (Of course, I also think it’s also important to approach God’s Word every day and on that matter I’m less faithful.) That’s one reason I take my walks. It’s a form of meditation…it allows you to step outside of your own head (or perhaps inside of it) for a while. When you walk into the throne room, you realize how much you’re carrying from the day, how much you need to unpack and sort, what to throw away and what to hold on to. Sometimes I realize I haven’t really thought about the Lord for a lot of the day…much less you or even myself. But I’m not always sure that’s an evil.

It’s the perfect temperature out here tonight, with silvery clouds framed by a burgeoning moon. (The photo you see above.) The streets are silent and vacant. A blended host of fragrances wax and wane during my walk, earthy moisture, soothing winds, pungent shrubs, fertilizer. And although I try to pray, or compose letters in my head, I find silence serves me better than anything. I think perhaps this was even the Lord’s doing…to compel me to be still and know He is God. God wouldn’t have left us those words, “be still and know I am God,” unless our human natures inclined to the opposite of both. (I think if there were only two words I were permitted to travel back and give my younger self, it would be “talk less.”) Sometimes prayer or worship takes work…but sometimes there’s a restorative peace in these silent walks, and I hope you have the opportunity to duplicate them.

I booked the band for our wedding tonight, by the way. Now don’t get ahead of me, for you’ve final veto authority if you’d like. But of course such are always in the back of my head somewhere, and tonight I attended a live jazz concert outdoors, and as the music poured over my ears like so much honeyed brass, strings and reeds, I thought of you and wished for your presence. We’d have danced, I think — not particularly gracefully, though I daresay it won’t be vain if we learn together some day. (Few things lift my heart like live jazz, much less the renditions of the songs from a bygone era.) I approached the director afterward to inform him that I would like him to play at my wedding. He asked when it was, and I explained that with my first sentence, he now knew as much as I did. They gave me the going rate, and as far as I’m concerned, they are hired. I can already see you swaying in my arms to the gentle sounds of big band romance.

They played this one song tonight, Darling…I think you’d have liked it. Rio De Janeiro Blue. “Months go by,” went the third verse. “I wonder why, I’m left here on my own. Could it be my destiny, is to live this life alone? These dark and rainy days have turned me cold; long and sleepless nights, gettin’ on and I get a feelin’ that I’ve seen the last of you, Rio De Janeiro Blue.” (Aye, more of the blues than jazz in that song, but ’twas here especially that it plucked the chord of loneliness in your absence.)

All around, I see the continual reminders of the advancing years. I’ve told you about the marriages and engagements and such, but even within my friends and younger family, job interviews, graduations and drivers tests abound. A foreshadowing, perhaps, of how parenthood will speed by in the unfolding of the years, and as we watch our children grow. For all practical concerns, all of the life we’ve lived before now has taken place in a second. Every year we’ve lived is now compressed into what has passed, existing now only as a memory. I’m a sad frown, adrift in a sea of smiles; couples and dancers and young love’s romancers, all whirling and gay and if they look at me, it’s with the unspoken question, what’s wrong with him that he finds not the love we found with such ease?

And yet, I think we may rightly console ourselves that the best of the years are still in store. It is with this hope that I close this letter, sealed with a kiss blown onto the night air. There may it be carried to where you sleep, and there may it warm your dreams.

Love always,
Beren

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Nights Like These | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And Rain Will Make The Flowers Grow

Dear Darling,

I’m afraid it’s another one of those drained nights where I’m not in much shape to do much good for anyone.

It should be a day for celebrating…it is. It’s only that sometimes, especially when weary and sleep-deprived, I find it hard not to let petty things like jealousy take over. People graduated today, people are getting jobs, engagements, pregnancies. (I’m grateful that the one young lady in particular who expressed a steady but not overdone interest finally found her mate elsewhere, as she has announced her pending nuptials, and thoroughly happy for her and the invisible stress her unrequited attraction placed on our friendship.)

I’m still fighting that feeling that everyone else is ahead of me, and better off. I expect that makes me rather weak in your eyes, and perhaps that’s well-deserved. There’s a lot of pressure on men though, my dear. (“Pressure on men…!” you must justifiably snort in disbelief.) But there are expectations that force a constant inner dialog on whether or not they’re being met. And on nights like tonight, the tired frailties and insecurities, all the sore and tender places that bear hiding, are stretched thin and come out all too easily.  Not having the best grades, the best intellect, the best memory or appearance or voice, not having the best body, best handwriting or the best car, or even career. I chose not to pursue law for a host of reasons, but for friends who went on to get their law degree, I see prestige and success for them where for myself I saw none. The tiniest fraction of my mind will always wonder if that was the right decision.

I see people winning awards and acknowledgements for their academic prowess, and the pall is cast over my own. (They aren’t hard to overshadow.)

I worked tirelessly for years in the one wing of the political industry, yet it’s others who came along and reaped the results, or the adulation. Of course, these doors are all doors I closed for myself (or if you like, was led to close) but they still leave me wondering. I could have been in on campaigns, could be working PR right now, could be practicing law right now. Instead, I was led down a lesser-known road. I have to trust in that leading, but sometimes I don’t find those decisions to have been validated. While others stay their course, and receive awards and accolades, I never wound up standing in the light when it was time to be recognized and applauded. (I can think of one speech locally where I presented, and the fellow who spoke after me made certain the crowd knew I had worked hard, and should be applauded. This is the same speech I gave directly after a man who is now a leading contender for President.)

What do trophies and awards matter anyway? Aren’t they just the perishable tokens of human recognition? The appreciation of heaven is all I should need. The relieved looks and grateful expressions from the sick ought to be enough to fill my cup. The privileges of working behind closed doors to improve the lot of those who suffer and ache, to make them laugh and rest more comfortable…isn’t it enough to be an unsung hero? Yet, how else does one assure one’s self of heaven’s favor? Is work, even work among the ailing, the same as working for the Lord? Didn’t Jesus bless Mary for learning at His feet rather than Martha for her tireless and frenzied preparations?

I want to be the best for you. And when foolish character flaws such as these arise, I realize it must be my fault, not to have drawn closer to Christ, the better to have these infirmities of the soul expunged. The only expectations that matter should be the Lord’s…and of course to a lesser extent, yours. Ah, but if only there were eyes as pretty as yours to look up at me with inexpressible gratitude. If only I knew I was making a difference, or could feel the warmth of my heavenly Father’s pride and favor just a little more.

Well, these dark musings are only the byproduct of another 34-hour marathon, minus the three-hour nap. (What? Oh now, don’t give me that look. Now that studying is through, it was time to jump back in to the swing of things!)

And driving home from a graduation celebration, the lightning lit up the sky and the rain began to fall. So of course, I rolled back the moon roof. And, I went for a walk in it when I came home, apologizing to the Lord for these petty insecurities. They’re not pretty to look at, are they? And yet, I’ll wager that every other man on earth has them too. And which would you rather have, a man who holds back and hides himself from you, or a man who owns his weaknesses?

I really don’t want to miss you tonight, Darling. Anymore, I don’t even want to remember that you might exist. It hurts too much.

I guess I’ll always have a little darkness in my soul.

Yours,
Beren

May 10, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These, Questions, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Doubtful Gleam of Solace

In Memorium XXXVIII
Alfred Tennyson

With weary steps I loiter on,
Tho’ always under alter’d skies
The purple from the distance dies,
My prospect and horizon gone.

No joy the blowing season gives,
The herald melodies of spring,
But in the songs I love to sing
A doubtful gleam of solace lives.

If any care for what is here
Survive in spirits render’d free,
Then are these songs I sing of thee
Not all ungrateful to thine ear.

May 10, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunsets and Finish Lines

Dear Darling,

Another finish line crossed. Another summer set free.

I’ve written about finish lines before but it’s the same lesson realized again every year…once you approach or cross that finish line, you remember that there is one, that you can do it. The same goes for your long wait. Perhaps you bear up under it more bravely than I. For your sake I hope so.

In the midst of preparations this morning, I jotted this on one of my many pages of notes:

At times like this, times of stress and testing not just of your mind but your mettle…you want someone in the trenches with you, or at least writing you  from home, whose picture you can hold or letters you can read and reread, whose words echo in your ear as you rush the enemy line: “You’re going to be fine. Look how far you’ve already come. I’m proud of you, and I love you, no matter what happens. Now go get ’em!” Why else do men fight in wars, or push themselves to be better, if not for their women?

Otherwise, there’s nothing. Today’s success defines the entire day, the entire term, and if dire enough, the entire year’s outlook. It’s a be-all and end-all. I will rise or I will fall.

It does seem a pity there’s no one standing by to wave the flag and welcome me in. And it’s fine, I’m no more deserving than the hundreds of other pupils doing the same. Alegfast told me good luck, my sister messaged me the same. I’m old enough not to need banners and a welcoming committee when I come home, war analogies notwithstanding.

Ah, but you should see the to-do lists! So many affairs to set in order, neglected areas of life to straighten. Then there’s the camping and biking, the boating and hiking, the traveling and the triathlon I’m planning for. Last summer may well have been the best ever, and I’m hoping for this summer to be equally as epic. I would welcome your presence for this one.

I spent some time on the front stoop these past few evenings. It’s a great time to watch the sun set behind the trees and the line of houses. It’s the cool of the evening, which, right on schedule, is turning pleasingly mild. Runners pass, and cyclists. The birds are loud and proud to salute the approaching night. Spring’s honeymoon phase is ending; the white blossoms are fading away, replaced by budding greens. I’m glad we have sunsets as a finite reminder that our day has a dawn and a dusk, just as our lives will. It gives us time to reflect on our takeaways and if we spent our hours wisely…on the decisions of the day and how they shape our tomorrow.

I’m liking this pastor, and he’s reminding me once again that mankind doesn’t often need to be taught about what is right or wrong, but we do need reminding. For example, God is the source of our strength, don’t you agree? For believers who have made any study of the Psalms, this is common knowledge. Yet to observe over and over in the Word how success was not necessarily the result of a person’s character or heroism, but because the Lord blessed it. Working out? Studying? Training? All very helpful to mortal eyes, but it’s God who determines the outcomes. In the ancient days, people actually developed a reputation because “his God is with him.” I’m not sure how best to quantify if God is with you, and Christ’s name is Immanuel, God with us. But it does mean picking sides, causes and allies fairly careful doesn’t it? And furthermore, does the sovereignty of God ever sometimes seem frightfully convenient to the church? All the good that you do is God’s doing, God’s blessing and your own skill and decisions, the work and stress you put into them to affect a better outcome, are but the tools He uses. But if something bad happens, it was your fault? (Overlooking the obvious fact that sometimes God teaches best through adverse outcomes, and that our own skills exist only by the grace of God.)

Other points reaffirmed on Sunday: Nothing takes God by surprise, ever. Harmful spirits can come from God. The righteous can expect to suffer for doing what is right.

Of further consideration my dear…Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

On this I wish to address two points. First, to spur each other on. I have thought of opportunities for how I might be spurred on, how we together might find opportunities to stretch ourselves in outreach. How else can we grow if we don’t stretch? But outreach is tricky; I have encountered the “poor” many times, done what I could for them. But in trying to satisfy both the dove and serpent requirements of Psalm 18:26 and Matthew 10:16, I’ve often questioned these people closely in the process, or observed their response. Many are honest in saying they ask only to support their vices, not their daily needs. The hand of charity must be guarded closely, nor dealt too lightly and quickly. Greater harm can be done if care isn’t taken.

But I have been evaluating the situation here, wherein you and I have not found one another. As well, it’s been brought to my attention that healthy role models for boys and young men are needed. And I am beginning to contemplate involving myself in these places, with or without you. But for when your opinion can affect these outcomes, what do you think of  helping run a prison bible study? What of a babysitting night for kids, even special needs kids? What about mentoring children whose parents are in jail, or fostering children whose parents don’t care? What about sponsoring a child, or children overseas? (I plan on doing this already this summer…related not so you will think better of me, but to spur you on to greater deeds of love yourself!)

On the second point, to encourage one another. There are certain people who seem extremely capable of this, as if it truly is their gift to be happy and positive most of the time. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you sometimes I wish I was more disposed to be like them, inclined to look always at the brighter side, and possibly even feeling that inner cheer. I’m sure clouds darken their sun as often as any, but it is their impact on others that I want to replicate. But then, maybe they don’t see the things I see. Maybe they haven’t been through the same darkness, or feel the weight of loneliness and drive to achieve. Maybe the world really does need some people who are a half-cynical, half-caring, and who know what darkness is and how to carry it. Sometimes…sometimes I’m attracted to darkness, not because it is dark, but much the same way a firefighter runs towards smoke or a soldier runs to the battle. Sometimes I’m attracted by the darkness in someone’s eyes that tell me they too have seen darkness and know what it is, the eyes that have faced the same demons and are a little wiser for it.

There’s always a little conflict between “be yourself” and “better yourself”, isn’t there?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between fertile thoughts and frenetic ones, but regardless, the thoughts are set free by a reduction in stress and obligation. I write them not just because I find them interesting or because I want to read them and remember, but because I am interested in the poetic clockwork of your mind, and could not ask for anything I cannot willingly give in return. These years may be dark, but let them not be silent! Let them at least produce a harvest of letters from the past for when we meet.

For you my dear, I write the pictures I cannot paint…the pictures which I’d like to see through your eyes.

Yours,
Beren

May 7, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Which We Burn

burning-time

Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day
Delmore Schwartz

What will become of you and me
Besides the photo and the memory? …
Each minute bursts in the burning room,
The great globe reels in the solar fire,
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)
What am I now that I was then?
May memory restore again and again
The smallest color of the smallest day:
Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.

May 4, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Downtown

Church StreetDear Darling,

I’ve been meaning to go down there for a while now. Tonight, it seemed the best way to solve the silence — or at least pretend.

After all, I can’t just haunt country back roads or lonely parks. I may as well venture downtown and see what there is to see. Not that Saturday night after the races is the ideal time. It’s not like I don’t know who I’ll be seeing…the same inebriated and the partiers I saw trackside earlier, the stags and drags of the town who’ve shuffled through another week and are ready to tender their wages into drinks. They’re loud. They’re inappropriate. And they look like they’re having a darn good time. I guess those sorts of things just aren’t marked out for me…I don’t want to surrender my caution or senses to the bottle. I would be less useful to people if I did. Don’t envy the wicked, right? Don’t desire their company. Be zealous for the fear of the Lord, right? Aha, and who is fearful or zealous for the Lord anymore?

For good or ill, we’ve gotten away from who we used to be. Feminism in its more extreme sense arose in response to the perceived insult on women. But I read an intriguing theory on this construct recently. It says that the concept of male and female equality only emerged because there was no longer hardship or competition in the land. Men no longer commanded respect for founding the household, providing the food and shelter or protecting the family from danger. Man has become weakened through his success.

None of that is on my mind as I stroll passed the eateries and pubs. The landmarks are of greater interest to me. I’ve been here before, last year. I may be haunting the city, but its bittersweet memories haunt me back.

The fountain in the park presents a fetching portrait, as does the courthouse by night. As I walk along the row, I spy a lit church steeple a few blocks over, under a crescent moon. The music and frivolity are fast to die away as I make my way to the base of the church. I’m sure there was a time when a restless and world-weary fellow could walk inside and be welcomed there, and meet with his Lord silently. I do love a good empty sanctuary. But of course, it’s Saturday night in the city, and nobody’s home. Those lights are just for show. (I’ve known Christians like that.)

It doesn’t last long. ‘Tis no place can quell the dissonant vacancies that stir my heart night after night.

I know one reason why I’m restless. It’s not just the weather. It’s that I’m not useful. I’m not really caring for anyone. Today I worked, but I only put on band-aids and tended drunks, not the truly ailing. Nor do I mean just patients. I guarantee I’ll be restless even through the summer as I work. I mean you. I keep thinking of places to go or things we can do. I keep thinking of nice things to do for you, and then those inspirations just sit unused.

It’s my job to make sure you’re okay, and I’m not able to. There’s a lot of things in this life trying to make sure you’re NOT okay and I’m sorry I’m not there to balance those out. Such a mystery God would create a heart bent on giving, and then withhold the soul who would receive it.

Rest well tonight, love. See you soon.

Beren

P.S. Did you know that humans glow?

May 4, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These, Restlessness | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time is a Fire

Darling,

It’s been said that time is the fire in which we burn.

But increasingly, it’s a wearisome fire, and with no warmth to those who walk alone.

Today was just a bad day, and I don’t even know why. How many more ways can I describe to you this restless, wandering, pent-up feeling that gnaws within day after day? I’ve reached that point of the year where I should study the books and would rather burn them instead.

I thought some of that restlessness would drain from me with the blood I donated today, but it didn’t. They tell me today’s made one gallon that I’ve given over the last year or two. The woman was newer at her job, I think, because it hurt more than it ever has. I pictured myself on a beach, or in your arms to keep from showing the pain…I didn’t want to make her feel bad.

I took myself to a movie tonight too, thinking it would help me escape. Instead, vicariously living a brief romance through the character’s relationship, that relationship was ripped apart in death, and it left me rather out of sorts. They weren’t the people I would have chosen to sit with, but God provided some companions, an officer I’ve worked with and his two sons. They both seem to look up to me.

I need more than movies to make passable the fires of time. I’m burning my time now to write to you, but there’s really no one else in whom I can confide. Increasingly I write out a thought or an opinion to share, and then erase it because I quite firmly remind myself no one cares. I invited anyone who could read to join me in donating blood and no one did. I posed a provocative discussion question and no one replied. (But post a picture of an orphaned kitten being adopted out…!)

Okay, so people on the internet are shallow or busy or both. What did I expect? What do I want out of them? What do I want out of life? I suppose in the end, there’s a small part of me that’s frustrated because they aren’t you. Mind you, I care about them and their troubles without it being returned, so I still wish they would grow to be more attentive to their world. So what do I want? Someone to care. Someone to ask me what I want, and care about the answer. Someone to say “You know what YOU need…” and help me figure out the answer when need be. To remind me what I’m doing, what I’ve done, who I am, matters, still matters, is appreciated.

I believe I’ve told you before, the downside of becoming unflappable is that the world becomes mundane. Nothing seems new anymore, and while I’m not much to seek a thrill for its own sake, it’s enough to force me to seek out new experiences.

Part of my identity, my dear, is to be a safety net. I’m part of the network of people that act as a barrier between them and disaster. What does a safety net do? It stands there, stretched taut and under great strain, always ready to catch the clowns and sequined fools who overcharge people for their silly antics and tricks. You spend a lifetime under pressure, under obligation, knowing that when the moment comes you have to perform and if there’s one weak link at one moment in time, the whole thing was for naught. I’m doing that trackside tomorrow. Suited people who have too much money and drink too much alcohol. And as part of the safety net, it’s my job to fight anything from a skinned knee up to and including the Grim Reaper. And what’s more, we lurk unseen. We live under that constant pressure, behind the scenes, forgotten and unappreciated but enabling people to risk their lives because they know someone will be along to save them. They forget people train and learn and study. That we become familiar with Death and study his ways so we can counter them.

Sometimes it’s quite a strain. Maybe it’s a self-imposed strain, but someone has to do it.

It’s funny. We worry about the behavior of our warriors and soldiers, the aggression of our officers and the extremes of our firefighters and emergency medical workers. But truly, that’s who we need them to be. Their behaviors are expected byproducts of who we ask them to become on our behalf…and then we forget about them. We move our cars out of their way and our minds offer just the tiniest self-congratulation that we expedited the process. If I had a dime for every time someone’s told me they could never do that…

I’m sure I sound bitter. And self-congratulatory in my own way. I don’t know what I need anymore. If you ran down the list, I’m far more blessed than I deserve and all my basic needs are met. I just can’t fight the feeling, even as final exams loom ahead of me that I should be doing more, that I’m missing something, that there’s a calling just out of reach. I’m great about work and school and exercise, packing them into a day. I’m good at speed. I’m not so great on the slowdown.

Ah Darling. For all I know, this is one of the many days to come where “yeah, well, you know I have problems too!” will be the retort you have to letters like these. I’d grow weary of them too. And I hope you have someone in your life to call and announce you’ve had a bad day so they can listen. I sure would. And tonight, and on any of nights like these…I just need that from you.

Will you pray for me tonight, my dear? Please.

Your lonely knight,
Beren

May 3, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment