Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

Asylum of Solitude

Weeping Knight

Solitude
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all,—
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.

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July 5, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Poems | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sundry Summer Thoughts

Man Alone by the Sea

“The urge to run, the restlessness
The heart of stone I sometimes get
The things I’ve done for foolish pride
The me that’s never satisfied
The face that’s in the mirror when I don’t like what I see
I guess that’s just the cowboy in me.”

Tim McGraw

Dear Darling,

I’m not entirely sure my little vacation did me the good it ought to have. I think instead it was a respite without requiescence, disrupting the restless and sometimes reckless pace that I love — and hate — to maintain. The past couple of nights at work I’ve struggled. There were patients who offered a meaningful thank-you when I was able to console and relieve their pains; a tender reminder of exactly why I’m in this business. Of course, tonight I must needs reshuffle the sleeping arrangements for church tomorrow, and the hours of night already fly.

1) I went walking tonight, but I find my walks less productive of late. Perhaps they needn’t always produce fervent prayers or glimmering revelations, but it does seem as though desire and inspiration have trended downward. Perhaps I am in a holding pattern at the moment, biding my time for studies to resume, and until I find you. Perhaps desire smolders and inspiration is subdued through some disuse. I haven’t found you to live for and care for, nor anyone to render like compensation in my name. I think I’ll always need something for which to struggle, even though it weighs heavily at the time. I’ll always need something to which I can look forward as well. I hope you’ve likewise set goals for yourself? If not, I hope you will. I hope to learn archery, to ride a hot air balloon, and to once again straddle a horse. Then of course there’s the travel I mentioned, and the time to pursue more outdoors sports such as biking, canoeing and kayaking.

So my walk seems devoid of true purpose. The thoughts aren’t so loud as the often seem, nor so pressing. The silence seems a poor gift to lay at the throne, but so do the same names I’ve brought before, or the nameless, selfsame bride to whom I write.

2) There are nights where yours and my words will run dry. Ah, but that’s why they invented kissing.

3) I’ll write more about this one day, but as you might imagine, there are a great number of women who think shedding the majority of their raiment for seaside recreation is perfectly acceptable. By society, it is. (And what man wouldn’t approve of a woman feeling herself “liberated” from clothes?) By myself, it is not. Please remember, my dear, the simple reality that you can either cover up, or contribute to the constant battle of a man to look at women honorably, no matter how dishonorably they dress. Some men still wage such a war, and I greatly hope you will want to air on his side.

4) On my travels back, I sat between a Buddhist and a lesbian. I struck up a conversation with the former and, being a dabbler myself, was able to instruct him about some of the more technical points of photography and camera operation. The woman to my right paid some attention, and when our plane landed, we all sat down for a bit before our connecting flights. I was able to share the gospel with both of them at that time…perhaps the most gratifying moment of my trip. At a time when I felt like I’d neglected the things of the Kingdom, or that I wasn’t shining bright enough, it seems He sent to me the opportunity to shine for Him, and for that I was thoroughly grateful.

5) Within two sunsets of my having returned, I prevailed upon a friend to temper his urge to move, and accompanied him on a thirteen hour excursion into the deep south with a load of furniture and possessions. He is an intellectual, and he understands fully the perilous direction society is trending. Our conversation was heavy with topics ranging from Catholicism and transubstantiation to farm subsidies and taxation. Before we left, I had occasion to play with, feed, change and then rock to sleep his infant son. It reminded me again that although there are things I hope for us both to accomplish before we begin our own family, I will be gratified when the day comes. On our car trip, his father noted the Catholic enjoinment that marital intimacy was reserved strictly for reproduction. This reminded me that I am most certainly not Catholic.

6) I wonder what excuses I will find when I am finally out of school and fully commissioned, but this summer has afforded the opportunity to resume some reading. I’ve put away the Diary of Anne Frank, The Last Lecture and am currently working through Oliver Twist, to say nothing of the poetry I continue to peruse. (That last bit comes from a volume I found tonight in the shop, and is best read with a crisp Scottish brogue if you can manage it.)

7) Did you ever stop to wonder when you became “the smart one”? I’ve noticed an increasing trend here of late. A comment on the subjugation and colonialism of south African nations (and how diamonds are a marketing trick) led one nurse to look at me and ask, not entirely without sarcasm, how I got so smart. I’ve reached a cruising altitude in my job now where some nurses ask me questions. A friend asked me the meaning of a word. Naturally this makes me check myself to make sure I’m not swaggering knowledge. But of course, I forget not everyone is on the same page as I.

8) Do you ever evaluate in your own way whether or not God is happy with you? Of course, we are all made perfect in the sight of God, but if that is the only standard by which to measure, then there is no incentive in striving to please God passed the shadow of the cross. For example, does it make God happier that I sponsored a child than if I hadn’t? Would be be more pleased if I paid more? Not, of course, that the favor of the Almighty can be purchased, nor that scales such as the widow’s mites can be ignored. But I do find myself wondering, asking, hoping, that God can smile down from heaven in pride, knowing that His son is seeking and striving to better the world as often as may be, and imploring others to repent and be saved when he can. I do know that I need to work on grace and forgiveness, love and acceptance and patience. I think the prayer we must all pray is that God may make us more like His Son each day.

9) In olden days, men of valor performed great deeds and the minstrels sung of them. Now as a rule, neither men  nor their deeds are great. They sit idly by and revere the minstrels. I live to see the most amazing things, working with the warriors, the guardians and sentinels, the menders and the healers, preservers of peace and keepers of health. We don’t ask for admiration. But on nights when I venture out among friends, I often harbor a hidden disbelief that they laud the vapid and insignificant stories and brush aside those who stand on the front lines of all that has meaning in this world.

10) Often it’s the saddest and heaviest of emotions that drive me to process them in a letter to you. I think it’s the same with God; we hear him best when hardship drives us to Him for answers. And so, when I seem to unburden the gravest of loads, I hope you appreciate that these are not the sum total of my thoughts or experience. Much of it means I’m only unhappy in your absence; that I don’t have someone else to live for, and that when I have entertained such hopes in the past, I’ve been far more pleasant to be around. My dearest, you’re the answer to this problem. You’re the other half. You’ll mellow me out. You’ll make me okay either with relaxing or with not being relaxed.

There’s more, Darling. There’s always more. But for now, the loose ends have been threaded through honesty’s ink-jar and arranged in a way which I hope you will find agreeable. Doubtless you’ll be rising before long for worship, and I hope you find it meaningful.

Yours,
Beren

June 29, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Comfort

No Comfort
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

O mad with mirth are the birds to-day
That over my head are winging.
There is nothing but glee in the roundelay
That I hear them singing, singing.
On wings of light, up, out of sight—
I watch them airily flying.
What do they know of the world below,
And the hopes that are dying, dying?

The roses turn to the sun’s warm sky,
Their sweet lips red and tender;
Oh! life to them is a dream of bliss,
Of love, and passion, and splendour.
What know they of the world to-day,
Of hearts that are silently breaking;
Of the human breast, and its great unrest,
And its pitiless aching, aching?

They send me out into Nature’s heart
For help to bear my sorrow,
Nothing of strength can she impart,
No peace from her can I borrow.
Her rose-red June and her billing tune,
Her birds and blossoms only,
Mocked at the grief that seeks relief,
And leave me lonely—lonely.
If I might stand on the treacherous sand,
And know I was sinking, sinking,
While the moaning sea sang a dirge for me,—
Why, that were comfort, I’m thinking.

June 15, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Poems | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is That Okay?

Dear Darling,

There is much that I would speak of in these past few days, in the spirit simply of continuing the narrative of my life in hopes that you should find it pleasing to read one day.

Friday night found me restless again. For the past several weeks, if not months, I find very little that is new or exciting, fiery or passionate in my life. Helping people wears even the best of us down, so that I was even too footsore to gun my engines for a good run or workout as I’d have liked. I may walk in the nighttime province of the moon, but the stores are closed, the roads are clear, and all sane folk are abed. I spent part of the night celebrating a family member who just passed boards and will become a nurse quite soon now, but the night later took me wandering down the road to find an open sky and quiet lane. The road I chose was too close to the road, and the cars proved too noisy and distracting. I chose a hiking path on the northside, which proved even worse due to its proximity with the interstate. So that evening was less meditative than I’d have liked. I returned home to inscribe some thoughts for you before sleep took me.

I more than made up my deficit of sleep the following morning and into the afternoon, after which I joined Alegfast and company at the pool. We spent some hours there; an excellent reminder for me that oft’times I must force myself, quite literally, to relax. It was an afternoon of solid rejuvenation, and I must take greater caution in the binge-and-purge nature of my work and sleep schedule, as well as budgeting for the off-times. I was able to read, and swim, and take in the sunlight (in cautious doses, but we night-shifters have greater need of it than most!) and spend time with friends.

I ruminated once again on the subject of being different from the world. A classmate sought to offer advice to me about women over lunch…very little I hadn’t heard before, such as relaxing my standards, or relaxing my approach toward women. He has no spiritual inclinations, though I did share the gospel with him. There were some points he made that seemed worthy of consideration. Even prophets have been advised by donkeys.

But fundamentally, he will not understand where I’m coming from. Very, very few will. And why bother explaining to the world why I’m different? It sounds either egotistical or dramatic, and if I am secure in my disparities, I will have no need to defend them. But of course, I continue to question which parts are my own frailty and mistakes, and which are simply the ever-hastening speed with which our culture descends.

I am immensely grateful for my times of walking, of silence and prayer. I don’t escape into nature to have a theatrical brawl or an intellectual wrestling match with God. I come before Him a tiny and broken soul — just big enough to know how truly small I am, and living in a world of people too small to know how small they are.

There’s an old 10th century Norse poem entitled The Wanderer, which reads in part:

“Ever it has been my lot to bewail my sorrows in solitude in the twilight of each morning. There is now no-one left alive to whom I dare tell frankly the feelings of my heart. I know truly that it is a mark of nobility in a knight that he should fasten securely and keep to himself the treasury in which his thoughts are stored — think what he will! For all his grief of heart a man cannot resist Fate, nor can his troubled spirit give him any help. And so those who are eager to be of good report generally keep their sorrow imprisoned in the secret chamber of the heart.”

“Beren, you’re not happy,” they say. “Perhaps you should fix that before you expect to find someone else. There’s no one that can fix you!” “There’s seven and a half billion people on this earth,” my colleague told me over lunch today. He has a good heart, though not a redeemed one. “Don’t carry them all.” Of course, not, but who will? Every man for himself, is that it? And how few are the solutions offered for such problems! They call me cold because I’m awake. They say I despair because I’ve seen the truth. In some ways, I’m hardened by a battle few others see or heed; a battle for the mind. At times I feel as though watching from afar, speaking the truth and being ignored. Only fools think they are immune from the deceptive arts of the evil one.

Darling,
I balk at the term “sensitive,” but there are some indications that I could be described this way. You should know, very few people who encounter me professionally or socially would suspect such musings stirring in the murky depths of my soul. I don’t advertise this. Nor even in my private moments do I break. I don’t collapse. I don’t melt down, or have panic attacks. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God made me strong, and makes me strong.

Yet, even saints have dark nights of the soul; a chronic fatigue of the world’s weight, and a desire to carry it heedless of the cost.

And increasingly, I struggle to find the balance between becoming a better man, the man I know I am becoming with each passing day, and remaining true to myself, not losing my identity and conforming to an image and unrealistic expectations of the world. I dearly hope you are doing the same.

And so I find myself wondering, on the times, however brief, that I want to fall apart, will you let me? Is it okay for a man to have wounded wings, and need a little saving grace? Or shall you scorn the violent honesty of a man who uncovers his wounds? Is it okay if I need you and want you, and know I cannot be happy until we’re no longer apart? Or will you toss your head at such poetic nonsense? There are things husbands need from their wives, and I feel it’s important that you know.

Ah, and Darling, though the wounds be from a friend, they still bleed. What if I have missed the big picture? What if women don’t want to be adored? What if they want me to be strong, to sit down and shut up about the silence within? What if a woman’s lacklustre treatment of me was secretly how she expected me to treat her? What if I’ve failed to communicate my needs in the past, instead of simply hoping to find latent compassion within a good-hearted woman’s soul?

How should I conceal a love so great as to give it in small and disinterested doses? Shall I not lay my cards out, speak plainly, avoid games?

I don’t know the answer to these questions. Yet I know this for certain, that my God is sovereign. Not even my own stupidity or cluelessness can thwart His plan.

And so, we may entrust this as in all things, to our Savior and guide.

The morning birds are beginning their sun-conjuring, my dear. Lightly may your head rest on the pillow tonight! Lightly may your labors alight on your shoulders tomorrow.

Yours,
Beren

June 9, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These, Poems | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If That Were Us

DancingDear Darling,

May I have this dance?

I told you I don’t do a lot of things for my own sheer pleasure, but this outdoor jazz concert series is one of them. They’re playing All of Me, and Stardust and In the Mood…the sounds of our grandparents’ generation. This is classic and classy; art with a melody breathed into it. Musical history come alive. Music let us say the things with song that we might not say with words, and in these tunes are many of the things I’d like to say, or have already written you.

It’s a quaint amphitheater, not as much amph to it as the name suggests, but the saxophones and trumpets are in full force in the light of a setting sun, and there are several couples and a handful of children dancing by the stage.

There’s maybe a hundred here, but it’s mostly older couples, with some younger couples who bring children. So far as I can see in scanning the crowd, I’m the only one flying solo. Some of the parents are younger than me, but look older, as though having children made them grow into parents.

If that were us, we’d have brought camping chairs because you know my long legs don’t fold up well under me when sitting on the ground. We’d have stopped somewhere to eat before coming, or we would have brought dinner here.

If this were us, we’d have a steady appointment with frozen yogurt after the music ends. That Golden Retriever over there? That could be ours. Our children would be the ones running around the grounds, dancing in a circle down by the stage.

If that were us, I’d invite you to join me in faking our way through a dance or two.

If that were us, I might be playing catch with our son like that dad is. Our child might be the mischievous one whose father grabs him just before he sneaks backstage. You might be the woman leaning on one arm and looking with affection at her man laying beside her, like that woman is doing.

We might be like that older couple that just got up to dance. His hair looks like it came from the 70’s but he knows his moves and clearly enjoys them. I creep down front and snapped the picture of them as the sun set. That’s them that you see above. I approached them afterward to compliment them and send them the picture.

I wish I could describe it better to you. The vendors. The rhythms. The faces of people enjoying the simple pleasures rather than plugging in to the television. But you have to be there.

It could be us. It will be us. Some day.

I think I found our first dance song by the way, if you’re in agreement. Etta James’ At Last

It started to rain as I headed out to walk tonight. As the skies emptied, my heart felt just a little more full, and I couldn’t hide the broad smile, soaked though I was. You know I love a good storm, and walking in it made me realize that along with things rare and old that please me, it’s often the simple things that suffice. Some simple jazz songs and a rainstorm are enough to rest my heart in the belief that our days are coming, and may be closer than either one of us dares hope.

Yours,
Beren

June 4, 2014 Posted by | Nights Like These, Our Timeline, Our Wedding | , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Enough

Dear Darling,

The fireflies are back.

I know I’ve described the creek and bridge to you plenty of times, and always inadequately, but I find myself in hushed awe again tonight as I cross the bridge and see the muted glimmers of a thousand twinkling fireflies along the tree line, the meadows and beyond.

It’s such a blessing that my eyes alone are awake to observe this silent spectacle. Were I absent, still it would be beautiful, and yet because I’m here, it’s no less than if it were meant only for me. And to think, how many other sights like this go unobserved each night? Even a blessing like this strikes the lonesome chord of my inner heart, because my instinct is to share it with someone, and of course there isn’t anyone. What good is it to stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon alone?

As always, I am beset by a disquieted restlessness, wondering whither now can I go to find peace. I’m struck again how I can be blindsided by the blanks in my schedule. Dizziness comes about when you feel as though the world is moving even when it isn’t. Me? I feel the weight of inertia…the feeling within that the world isn’t moving and should be. In laying plans for this weekend, I realized that in essence, no one can give me what I need or desire and no activity would satisfy me in your absence. That rendered everything else null, bland and quite nearly meaningless.

They say enough is as good as a feast. But sometimes it seems people have different definitions of what “enough” should mean. That is, they set a feast with which they would be pleased, not realizing such foods don’t satisfy others. I think those who would peer into my life would, on the merit of their own appetites, suggest I have almost enough, and should certainly be grateful for what I have.

But if I’m being honest, as I take stock in who I am and what’s around me, even if it should be, it’s just not enough.

I don’t get enough sleep. That’s my fault, I have a lot to save for, and as you already know, time is not on my side.

I have friends who care, but it’s not enough. They still don’t understand me, and at the end of another long week of shifts, there’s still no one with soft voice and tender compassion to say lay your head down honey, tell me about your day.

I benefit greatly from the preaching at this church. But the worship isn’t enough. Quaint and bouncing little melodies, not a one of which was composed longer ago than a decade. It leaves the soul parched for the old and strong.

I’m grateful for the experience of drawing near to the throne, to feel the pain of conviction and know the weight of my sin as I set it before the cross. I’m not enough, and as strange as this sounds, it’s good to feel that weight.

I’ve waited a long time. I’ve worked a lot, and planned a lot. I’m becoming a better man every day. But it’s not enough. I’m not where I wanted to be in preparation to meet you. My wait isn’t over yet, even as the restless fires flare up within. I’ve gone this long without truly botching things, and now it’s a long way up…or down. Sometimes the pressure itself makes you want to fall.

Every night I can manage it, I go walking to find some peace. The other night, it was something like two miles. I think how someone once said that Dwight Moody, when asked to pray, simply said “God, stop.” Sometimes I think my prayers are just a fumbling attempt at eloquence in repeating the same sentiment. It’s funny that I learn about myself and others as I pray, thinking and reflecting. I’m not sure if it’s right that I skim off the top from those thoughts and confessions to God and put them here. There may be the slightest intersection between that which I tell the Almighty, and what I put here for you to find.

Time goes by. Someone observed the other day that I’m an old soul. You and I already know this, but it was the fact that she deduced this that made it unique. Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong decade, maybe century. Such stock placed on luxury and pleasure nowadays! Such incompetence and dishonor. My people aspire to so little any more…they want greatness, but make little provision in their lives for the tools or training that would enable them to perform deeds of which men would tell stories.

The boys now take little initiative; they’re drifting and listless. Instead of cooking like their mothers, girls nowadays drink like their fathers and swear like sailors. We’ve gone from “I loved you the moment I first laid eyes on you” to “I loved you the moment I first laid on you.” The other night I impressed upon Alegfast’s friend Gladhbrui the importance of women not stripping down to the barest of clothing for their poolside escapades. She suggested I was too sensitive to the whole affair, that I should accept society’s evolving context of decency, and that even though her friends have come dressed in bikinis, they’re not immodest people by nature. Modest is as modest does though, Darling, and if I’ve never commended this to your attention, please hear me now. So much as it depends on you, please understand that it is very important that you keep yourself covered. We men…our eyes play such tricks on us. So easily awakened are the passions within us, and while the burden lies with us to wage that battle of discipline, if you are not careful in what you show, then you lend strength not to us but to our carnal appetites. You will not always be so fortunate that the eyes whom you bless are waging a war of honor within. You have not been privy to the locker room conversations as I have.

Enough on that subject.

Most people you know would ask “did you have fun?” if inquiring after someone’s day or experience. That’s what sets me apart; if asked, “did you have fun?” I’m at a loss to respond. That’s the peculiar thing about it; I can’t answer such questions. I don’t live for my own pleasure. I weigh matters by their benefit or utility, not their frivolity or amusement. Sometimes I envy those who can easily make up their minds what will bring them pleasure, and then set about doing it. That’s something else that makes me different. They make quite the sport of me among the halls of the healers for bringing in food (chicken, vegetables, fruit) which they don’t find appetizing. But I’m eating with a specific purpose, to last the night, to gain nutrition, and to continue my fitness pursuits. I don’t mind it so much, because as I look in the mirror, I’m pleased with my results.

I’m not sure I was born for evil days such as these. Can you see it growing, Darling? Do you hear the rumblings of the land, see the world turning to greater evil? I can. I see acceptance of evil which men call tolerance. I see the pervasive displays of vice acted out as our nightly entertainment. I see the moral degradation, the decay. I see the cascade of instability lurking beneath the surface of all we think to be true and steady. I see sloth and inaction.

And somehow, the fault is mine for noticing.

I feel quite often like I’m on a pedestal overlooking others. I didn’t earn this position, but it did arise as a result of many decisions I’ve made, and it’s a peculiar vantage point of humanity. I try to be congenial and cheerful with people, but still find it strange that I find such favor with them. One night last week, one of the doctors took note of my initiative during a resuscitation attempt and asked if I was a medical student. I explained I was in nursing school, but he didn’t let that stop him from commending me and offering to help me out if I needed anything. This week it became apparent, even though I’m no longer in my role with politics, I still have major play with people in the industry. The article of which I spoke before created such a local stir that it was reported by every media outlet in the region, prompting the interview subject to hold a press conference. An editor for the organization called me to ask if I might lend some insight as she prepares her own interview.

And then, the group I once headed is now making poor decisions and drifting, but they’ve decided to call a conference of their own, largely ignoring me in the process. And yet, the people they call upon to speak are calling me to inquire my advice!

Normal people would share these impressive developments and flattering events as they unfold. I withhold it. The people with whom I work…they just wouldn’t understand.

I suppose what I’m telling you is what I’ve already told you before. I’ve never met anyone like me, and that’s as flattering as it is disturbing. How then can I find someone like you? The odds now aren’t in our favor. I’ve always had in my head this idea that you’d just absolutely need me, much the same as I need you. But the passing of the years means we each will have learned how to get by on our own merely to survive. You aren’t going to need me quite so much as I’d have thought. It may be that the darkening years have infiltrated your own thinking and clouded your perceptions of society versus the Word.

And of course, I’ve built up my own guard up too much now for love at first sight.

Funny how my overthinking brain lands so heavily on each of these thoughts, rather than enjoying nature or friendship or weekends like I ought. I cannot ask you to make sense of this. It wouldn’t be reasonable to expect you to fill such a gap. I suppose all I ask is that you try to understand, take it into account, and respond accordingly.

I’ll take you out to the bridge some time to see the fireflies, Darling. If time and limb permitted now, I’d be out here til morning.

Yours always,
Beren

June 2, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

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