Tag Archives: God

A Quest for Identity

A Quest for Identity

Susan walks into the supermarket looking for some tomatoes. A few paces past the doorway gives her a good view of the grocery. In there, the vegetables and fruits are grouped in different boxes, each labeled so she can pick the one we want. She hurriedly picks one from the box of tomatoes.

“I’d like to buy this tomato,” she says.

The attendant stares blankly at her for a moment. “That … is an onion.”

She blinks, apparently realizing her error. Sure enough, she was holding an onion! The whole box was full of onions. “Oh, dear me! For a moment there I thought the box said ‘tomatoes’.”

The attendant notices that she was right. There had been a labeling error. But he tried to shrug it off. “Well … one man’s tomato is another man’s to-mah-to–”

“An onion’s not a to-mah-to–”

The attendant folded his arms. “Look who’s talking. You thought it was a tomato.”

“You can’t accuse me. The customer is always right.”

“But–” he sighed. “I’m sorry.”

“See? That would’ve saved you a lotta time, wouldn’t it?”

———-

Labels are a good thing. They keep you from accidentally putting salt in your tea, instead of sugar. We like to sort our fellow humans that way. We stack people into certain culturally accepted groups and relate to them based on the generalized stereotype of the label we’ve given them. Of course I’ve since learnt that people are a lot more than their apparent labels seem to imply. But that did not keep me from yearning for a label.

While we give labels to other humans, we subconsciously find security in appending labels unto ourselves. Once we find that we fit into a particular stereotype we feel secure knowing that we belong somewhere. We conform to the prevailing conceptions and norms of those labels until we somehow forget that we actively tried to become that way in the first place. When we can’t find where we fit in, what our appropriate label is, we feel queasy and set about finding out what our true label is. We all do it.

Stories and movies these days tend to depict that fact, with humans grouped into classes, expected to conform to the prevailing expectations of those classes. That’s what endeared me to stories like The Divergent Series and The Giver.

I know better than to define people by labels and as such I knew that there was no sufficient label for me. But that did not keep me from thinking that lacking one meant I was missing something.

I had made it an ambition not to conform to any predefined notions since I was young. I wanted to zig when everyone else was zagging. For example, while my entire family was in the medical line I chose to study a course that was so not medical because … reasons. In church it was years before I raised my hands in worship or did or said anything everyone else was saying, because I wanted to understand why we had to do those things and what they really meant. But I could not openly defy the status quo due to fear and bashfulness, so I rebelled in private. I listen to rock music in secret, screaming my heart out with the tunes in my head. I embraced my eccentricities because they helped me feel special, different from the clones I saw around. Call me a skeptic. I wanted to be a radical. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t become the ‘Rebel’ I wanted to be. For one thing, I did not have the right clothing; the dark gothic piercings and tattoos. Really, I didn’t even want all that stuff. I might as well have gone about holding a giant sign that read: PLEASE, OH PLEASE, NOTICE ME OH CRAZY WORLD! Also, I love God above all else and any life outside of Him just seemed pointless. So I found my Rebellion in this: while my mates gave their time to youthful pleasures and stuff, I gave myself to God, studying His Word and getting to know Him better. I still love Rock music, though, because the screams, loudness and fast-paced tempo give expression to some of the rage and emotion I love to express. But all the Rock music I listen to is Gospel rock, so while I express raw emotion when jamming out in my room, it’s all to God and in God because it’s the cry of my heart that’s in those songs.

I tried to be a geek.

I thought I saw the qualities of a geek in me and I really wanted to be related to that way. So I beefed up my interest in movies and comic books. I got into the world of Marvel and DC Comics, their movies and TV series, their characters and their backstories. Right now I can say I’m an authority on them all, but that’s a discussion for another day (P.S.: I sooooo can’t wait for Legends of Tomorrow, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, Daredevil Season 2, X-Men: Apocalypse …ALL IN ONE YEAR!!! AAAAHHH!!!) I still haven’t watched all the Star Wars movies, but I’ve caught up on the lore and everything. It was fun. Still is. I think what attracted me to their stories was the consistent theme of uniqueness, of flawed people with supernatural or abnormal qualities that set them apart from the rest of humanity and their desire to fit in or use their uniqueness to help others. I saw myself in that, somehow. It resonated deeply within me. But I could not live a life that was all out for these things alone.

But, you know what? Geekiness never did it for me. Sure, I’m also into computers, but I never got to learn programming. I love and am good at computers and such, and sure I probably spend more time with my laptop than with other humans (and I know that is SO wrong) but I guess what turned me off from going through with it all was the dissatisfaction with the expectations of geekdom. Once everyone sees you’re a geek there are certain expectations and limitations they place on you. I liked geekdom, but I knew I was not a geek.

I tried to be a writer. I’d been writing stories since I was a child and I’ve never stopped wanting to. Creating new worlds and new characters gave me an opportunity to retreat into my imagination, to create a world where everything turned out right, where everything turned out the way I wanted it to. If I had no control over the world outside, I could have control over the little ones I created. I loved it, and everyone called me a writer. But then when you put yourself into the jar of ‘writers’ it places certain expectations on you. When you read the works of others and behold the darkness, loneliness, gloom and bleakness their words are coming from, you wonder if you could ever live up to that, or if you’re in the right room. I understand where they are coming from, and I’m there a lot of times. If that’s what being a writer means, I’m outta here!

I tried to be a comic. To make people laugh every chance I got. It was depressing.

I tried to be an academic.

I tried to be a revolutionary.

I tried this…

I tried that…

I even tried being a romantic, whatever that means. Didn’t last.

I kept trying to fit into a mold, and trying not to fit into others. In the end I never fit into any. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t measure up to some standards and expectations I had placed on myself based on the stereotypes I tried to conform to.

But they never did it for me.

The Labels Just Don't Fit

And it made me feel, somehow, less than others. Not belonging anywhere. I would be walking down the road, trying to convince myself that I’m not the idiot I was certain I was. I felt I deserved crap and so I did not expect the best things to come to me. I’d get into friendships, places and associations and expect things not to work out. Expecting the worst kept me from getting into many things. And when they did work out, if they did work out, I kept expecting things to turn out badly. With no sense of belonging or acceptance, I felt like a vagabond, though I was in no way related to James Bond.

But looking back, you know what I see? I see God walking with me through it all, showing me Himself and in so doing, teaching me more about myself. What I thought was my ‘Rebellion’ in leaving youthful raves and embracing Him was His way of setting me apart for Himself and for His use. My love for cartoons, comics and movies embodied an even deeper love for stories that depict the human situation and our quest for something bigger and something better. He teaches me and shows me how He is turning our stories around so that we can see our need for Him and how He changes us and makes us live as His people in a fallen world, in this world but not of this world. My love for comics and stories also birthed a passion for producing godly and wholesome entertainment.

He used my love for computers to help me get better at computers and to help people with their tech issues. Oh, I get great joy when help someone solve in 5 minutes something that they’ve been trying to solve for hours or days on end. No, I don’t love the misery they’ve gone through, but I love the joy and relief they get when they find it’s solved.

And through my quest for a good jar to jump into in this grocery store, for a good label to tack unto myself so I can belong somewhere and so that people can relate to me in a particular way … He’s been there.

He’s been here.

I see that the labels really just don’t do it. They’re just words on cards that can be taken off. It’s the substance, me, and you, that really matters. You are much more than the labels anyone can give to you.

Nerd, Geek, Slut, Jock, Neanderthal, Liberal, Republican, Conservative, Hippie, Bohemian, PDP, APC, Ajepaki, Ajepako, Ajebota, Ajebo’a, Yuppie, One-Percenter, Klutz, Butterfingers, Four-eyes, Ne’er-do-well, Idiot, Casanova, Area.

Labels.

Labels based on observations, and nothing more.

If you think you are nothing but what the labels say you are, you limit yourself to only a small percentage of all that God made you to be.

Even worse, the labels may just be a lie. A big, fat, blatant, lie from the armpits of the pits of hell.

I see myself as one loved by God. And because I have received His love, I can love Him and love others too. I see things in a bigger, better and brighter perspective. I have a bigger heart and can take anything from anyone. I can take crap, but I can also take a compliment. I can expect much more and I can expect better because God has made me His son. He has given me a life that transcends all mistakes and limitations that once held me down and held me bound. Every day I learn more about who he has made me to be.

So while I’m done with labels and am content with who I am in Christ, I still struggle with insecurities once in a while. Sometimes, simply saying hi, making phone calls and taking phone calls feels like a chore when I’d rather just be left alone. I used to think it was fear of rejection, but it’s just downright rude. I still prefer to stay in the background when I don’t know what to say to people. I still make eccentric wisecracks and artsy quips to conceal all of that, making everyone smile and laugh to avoid exposing myself or feeling vulnerable.

I still zig when prevailing sense says to zag.

I still love Rock Music.

I still read comics, and make some too.

I still write (as in, DUH!)

But beyond all that, I live a life that’s bigger than all that. The life God made me to live, that I may be a blessing to all. And that is how I get better, how I grow into the person He already sees me as.

 

I am ME.

And God loves ME.

I can’t think of a better label than that.

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THE ARCHER

‘For sin shall have no dominion over you, for you are not under the Law but under Grace.’
ROMANS 6:14

Lately my mind has been on archery and the movement of an arrow. For the arrow to go far, the archer must pull its tail and the bowstring in a direction directly opposite to its projected trajectory (just follow, I’m unto something here, don’t worry). With his/her target set on the bullseye, the archer releases the arrow and lets it sail through the air. Its path is influenced by prevailing air currents, physical laws such as the downward pull of gravity, and the material the arrow is made of. All of these forces active, the archer’s attention and input is in that initial pull on the arrow. And he/she fires. If it misses it’s intended target, he/she misses a few points. In ancient Hebrew parlance, this scenario is a ‘sin’ (not in the ‘religious’ sense, just as a term, for now), meaning ‘to miss the mark’.

Our lives can be like that arrow. The Ultimate perfect good life is everyone’s target. But our getting there is influenced by conditions within, conditions around, and the downward pull of the Law of Sin and Death (like gravity), which makes man miss the target. That’s what sin is. But you know what, sometimes we don’t even know the right target. God does.
His intended bullseye for us all is much better than the targets we all want to achieve. It’s called ‘The Glory of God’. It’s a life that’s so awesome, it’s victorious over all spheres of life. It’s the Life of God, Eternal Life, and that’s His target for us all, His Plan for us all. So not only do our arrows fall short of that target (Romans 3:23: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God), sometimes the life of man may be focused on the wrong target altogether.
That’s a life under the Law of Sin and Death. With an arrow pointed away from the target, it has no choice but to result in ‘sin’ over and over again.

But then God’s Grace…oh, how Amazing this is!
God’s Grace is God’s energy directed towards us, working through us, helping us, making us reach His bullseye! And you know how He exercised it? He did it, like the Archer, by focusing on the initial pull of the arrow in a direction directly opposite to its projected path: to give us Life, He died.
His Death and Resurrection dealt with every single thing that could have held us bound to sin. He made us free from the Law of Sin and Death and gave us a Life that operates under a new law: the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, i.e. Grace.
So He pulled the arrow (died) and when He released it (resurrected), He rose with us, now we’re in Christ. Identified with Him, we’ve been released with a force so great, no physical laws can stop it. It’s the Power that raised Christ from the dead and set Him far above all principalities and power (Ephesians 1:19-23). And with all those laws silenced, we’re given a Life that reaches God’s intended target for us at all times!
I pray you see and comprehend the depth in this.
This is a Life where sin (missing the mark, and all that could make you miss the mark) has no dominion over you, for you are living a life under the Grace (enablement) of God. It’s His strength, His power, His Life at work in you (Galatians 2:20: I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me).
Whenever, if ever, you feel weak and these things don’t seem true, if it seems your career or family or academics or any other sphere of life seems not to exhibit this life, look again into what God has done for you in Christ. That’s where your victory lies through all eternity. It’s through His death that we have life.
And your faith in His work is what gives you access into this Life of Grace (Romans 5:2: By [Christ] also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God). It’s established in Scripture that when you recieve this Gospel message, it comes with faith, and you have the faith required to gain access. (Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God…Romans 10:17)

So don’t live life as if it’s one hustle to another that helps you survive. Acknowledge and thank Him for His grace at work in you, assured that He’s the one that taking you forward, closer to Him, closer to where He wants you to be.
Let all you do and all you are be identified in this, and you will see His Grace at work.

🙂

Audience of One

Audience of One

It’s the best day of my life; it’s the worst day of my life.

I haven’t decided which yet. Its fate would eventually be determined by the seventy-nine year old man sitting beyond this window right now. Sir Hugh Wright.

There he sits, his brows knotted in a frown, his hands resting on his cane, leaning towards to the big screen before him.

It’s always been my dream to meet my favorite author. I grew up loving Wright’s stories, following every new novel he wrote, purchasing each new one as soon as it came out. His sci-fi and space adventures were the in-thing back when we were kids in the Star Wars/Star Trek generation, with an added bit of quirky humor and deep values. I became a filmmaker so that I could make stories like his. Forty years of my life have been invested in this journey, working for the big studios just to get a tiny place on previous space operas like this one. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Akpos in Space…

That last one, a comedic piece about an African ‘Mr. Bean-type’ character on a space adventure, had been a financial risk, but it had surprisingly done well at the box office, even garnering a Golden Globe nomination for Best Independent Picture. I had loved the script as soon as I read it, and had taken it to a couple of studios, but I was initially turned down. Some of my filmmaking friends and I put some money together to make this into the best of movies possible. My work on that last one finally gave me a voice in Hollywood, and it was then I heard about the studio that had purchased the rights to Wright’s novels.

Did I submit a script? You bet I did! My tenth submission was accepted, after some modifications by the studio. Some changes to the setting were necessary, especially in adapting a novel from the ‘70s for a 21st century audience.

It was a dream come true. The first of the best-selling Space Junkies series was finally headed for the big screen. And I would be producing it. No one could understand all that I was feeling in those moments. From the casting, through preproduction, filming, and post-production, my dream was taking shape.

It has all been headed toward this very moment, as Wright himself accepted our invitation for a special screening of the movie. There he is now, watching it alone. Per his preferences, the room is dark and the only lighting comes from off the screen. He’s got a glass of water beside him, and he just sits there with his fingers crossed under his chin. The movie has been over for minutes now, but he just sits there staring at the rolling credits.

I wonder what must be going through his mind.

What does he think about the changes we made?

Oh, man … he hates it. He really hates it.

He has not spoken to us in the last two hours. His eyes are fixed on the screen.

Behind me, the door opens. It’s Ryan, my intern. “You OK, Boss?”

I rub my eyes. “Well … you know how it is … Kid.” Actually, he doesn’t, but what can I say? Ryan is as close to me as any friend I’ve ever had, despite the generational gap between us. He never quits making me feel my age, and I never stop making him feel younger than his.

He pulls up a chair and seats beside me. “So, this must be like Christmas for you. You taken a selfie with him yet?”

I chuckle. “You kids and your selfies. I’ll never get what freaks you out about those.”

“Selfies are cool.”

“Yeah, and they’ll die a natural death with time, just like bell-bottoms, muttonchops and disco.”

“C’mon, think of the fans. You can even tweet it, they’ll love it. Lets ‘em know you got the author’s approval. They’ll accept the changes we made in the story better. Least, it’s not as if you pulled a Tauriel or anything.”

I stare out at the man. “Right now, the only approval I care for is the approval of that man over there.”

Ryan arcs a brow. “What’s he still doing in there? The movie’s long been over.”

“I knew he’d hate it.”

Ryan stares at me. “Dude, what’s your deal? You’re a star! Kids come to Comic-Con every year just to get your autograph. Those Akpos guys are still grateful ‘cause you brought their idea to the big-screen. And you’re here, fidgeting, expecting this guy to trash your work?”

I shake my head. “It’s different. I never gave a hoot what anyone cared about my work before. Now, it’s different. You won’t get it.”

I can see him smile in my peripheral vision. He pats my lap. “Hey, you’ll be fine. You put your best foot out there with this. He’s gotta appreciate that.”

“I hope so, kid.”

“I know so.” Ryan pats my shoulder and stares out at Wright past the window. “Sir Hugh Wright. Hey, If I get to meet him, I’d go, ‘Sir Hugh Wright, you write … right?’“

Ryan is not as funny as he thinks he is. “What he’d probably say to that is—“

“Samuel,” a gravelly voice comes in over the speakers. “Can I have a moment with you, please?”

It takes me a moment to gather my thoughts, savouring that old British accent. Hugh Wright has just called my name! “Ah, yes. Yes, of course. I’ll be there in a moment … Sir.”

Ryan gives me a fistbump. “Break a leg. Hey, Francis called. He’s waiting out back to take you both to lunch once you’re done. You tell him that when you get in there.”

“And you pick now to tell me that?” I put on my jacket and adjust my cufflinks. “How do I look?”

“Dude, I’m a guy! What, you expect me to say you look hot?”

I just stare at him. “You’re fired.”

“Yeah, like I haven’t heard that a billion times already.” I keep a straight face as I open the door to the screening room. “Wait, you were joking, right? Sir?”

It’s like I’ve entered into another world in the second it takes me to enter and shut the door. The darkness reverberates with a still buzz that fills my ears. The stillness is eerie and foreboding, with the man still seated ahead, facing the screen.

He hates it, man.

With quivering steps, I approach his seat, never taking my eyes off the bald spot on his head. Now I get to speak with him. Not through a studio rep or anything, but to Hugh Wright himself!

He turns to stare at me, his eyes hidden in the shadow of his brows. “Please, take a seat.” There is only one couch and he is seated on one end. He expects me to sit beside him.

I am Frodo going to meet Gandalf. I am a Pevensie walking up to Aslan. I take a seat beside him.

I should ask him what he thinks. I should ask him if he’s comfortable. I should take control of the conversation. But when I open my mouth to speak, nothing comes out.

Proposing to my wife had not been this difficult.

He inhales loudly. “I take it you wrote the script?”

Does he expect me to respond? Oh, he does! “Yes. Yes I did, sir. Well, not really. Not the final product. It was actually a group effort. I mean, I laid the groundwork, and a couple of other screenwriters pitched in, the studio made some modifications—“

“But you wrote it?” Staring into those ancient eyeballs, I can be nothing but honest.

I nod.

He turns back to the screen for a second. And another second. The seconds that follow are driving me nuts.

He takes off his glasses, wiping his eyes. When he turns to me I finally see that they are moist. “Samuel … there is something I need to tell you.”

No conversation that starts that way could possibly end well.

“Have you ever wondered why it took decades before I finally sold the motion picture rights to my books?”

A thousand responses whizz by in my mind. Because of budgetary constraints? Insufficient CGI? Bizarre hairstyles? But he does not let me respond before he continues. I actually prefer it that way.

“When I started writing, all those years ago, I took my work from a place deep inside. My experiences, my childhood, my agonies, the questions I grew up with, and the future that I desired. My faith. My heart. There was just too much heart in there. They were all like a part of me. I hold my stories in such high esteem, like my own children.” He pauses. “Not that I love them more than my real children. Far from it. Though, on occasion, I did forget my late wife’s birthday.”

I chuckle at his attempt at … self-deprecating British humour? Is that what it’s called?

“I did not want that to be lost—the heart in the story, I mean. I know the procedures that occur in the journey from book to screen … and I just could not afford to let it … go. Apparently, not all books were meant for the cinematic world. I’m sure you would agree.”

I try to read between the lines. He is telling me that this sucked big time, isn’t he?

He expects an answer. “I … agree.”

“I could not afford to let my stories lose that heart in the cutting room. It would be tantamount to suicide.” He turns to the screen. “And I was right to fear.”

Adrenaline runs down my spine. I feel as if I’ve been doused with ice cold water. I have failed…

“Thank you for not letting that happen, Samuel.”

I’m confused. “Sir?”

“Past the special effects and necessary changes to the subject, I could see the hand of someone fighting, trying to save the elements of what made my story … my story.” He smiles, and no smile has ever been so reassuring. “That was you, wasn’t it? You knew what was important and you made sure it was apparent in the picture. And for this I am very grateful.”

I’ll be honest: I was not expecting this. Not at all. I nod, smiling. “We loved your story, sir. It had to be told.”

“You just had to comment and ruin the moment, didn’t you?”

“What? I’m so sorry, I—“

He laughs, patting my back. “You’re a good lad, Samuel.” I haven’t been called ‘lad’ in decades. “What do you say we go get that lunch we were promised?”

“I was just about to tell you, the driver’s here. He’s ready for us. Whenever you’re ready, that is. And it appears you are.”

“Come,” he stands, leaning on his cane. “I feel we’ll have much to discuss, Samuel. Much indeed.”

But, in this moment, I feel on top of the world. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. He thinks it is awesome, and that’s what matters to me.

I could leap through the roof.

As soon as I open the door, I see that Ryan has been listening. He pretends to have been working on something over the phone. He stands awkwardly. “I … I wasn’t listening,” he says. “Scout’s honour.”

I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed or not.

But Wright saves the moment again. “You never were a boy scout, were you?”

 

Six months later…

“Of course, the movie was a total failure,” I say as I turn to Lisa. She lies beside me, staring at me with those magical eyes. “The studio called it a ‘hit-and-miss’ and refused to make sequels. My generation had mostly moved on from the series, and it just didn’t resonate with the new generation. You know how it went. But all that didn’t matter to me. Once Wright loved my take on his work, it was all that mattered to me.” I stare up at the ceiling. “I just wish the whole world saw it that way.”

“No, you don’t. You know that’s never going to happen.” That’s my Lisa. Always blunt to a fault. An adorable fault.

“I guess you’re right. But it would be nice if everyone saw it that way.”

“So he said he liked it all?”

“No, he said all that just to be nice. Over lunch he explained the changes he didn’t enjoy. But, in his own words, it’s not as if he was the one acting it out onscreen. Changes were bound to be a problem.”

For a moment all is quiet. I’m thankful she takes the time to listen to a story she knows already. Perhaps I just needed to talk about it again, because no matter how much I say about how it doesn’t matter, the truth is that it really does matter to me. I still feel hurt that the movie did not perform well out there. It was just one major blip in my career that was better left forgotten. Not to mention all that time and money wasted that was wasted.

“You know what this all makes me think of, though?”

I turn to her. “Hm?”

She inhales and stares at the ceiling as well. “It’s just like how the rest of our lives are. Everyone’s going to have their own opinion of what we do and how we do it. But they didn’t write the scripts we live by. God did. It’s His opinion that counts.”

I smirk at her metaphor. “God wrote our scripts?”

“Uh-huh. He made us, didn’t He? He knows how we should live. Just like Wright knew how the story should be.”

“Hm…”

“The Scriptures are like … well, God’s script for us. A guide to live by. We’re all actors on this stage, but there’s a standard. God’s script.”

“So we’re like movies acting out this script. But not so well, apparently…” I smile as the picture forms in my mind. “You know you’re quite right. You’re very right. I never saw it that way before.”

“Quite smart, aren’t I?”

“No, you’re Lisa.”

“What?!”

“And you know the best part? He doesn’t leave us to try to please Him on our own, or to try to figure out how to act His script well enough. He’s right here with us, in us through His Holy Spirit, helping us live lives that are pleasing to Him. Through Jesus, He’s given us a heart that wants to please Him, and that can actually please Him.”

“So when we do our best, and no one else is pleased…”

“It doesn’t matter, as long as God is pleased. That’s what really matters.”

“Exactly.”

I nod, knowing she really understands how I feel as she holds my hand. “Thanks, Lisa. I’ll never forget. You are smart.”

“I thought I was ‘Lisa’.”

“You’re smart, and you’re Lisa. In fact, you’re the smartest wife I’ve ever had.”

“Right. I’m the only wife you’ve ever had.”

“I know.”

“I should write a book.”

I laugh. “I’d read it.”

“Would you make it into a movie?”

“Well … it depends. Let’s finish this next project with PureFlix, and we’ll see how it goes…”

 

END

 

 

Thanks for reading. Before you go, I’d like to share the lyrics of one of my favorite songs. Its themes are similar to those of the story above.

OPEN BOOK

In the evening, when I start to pray

I think about this day

Another page is turned forever

Another yesterday.

And as the story of my life unfolds

I know You’ve read it all.

Another line to be continued

Will I stand or fall?

Open Book, to You I am an Open Book

You know every page by heart

From the ending to the start.

Open Book, my life is like an open book

As I read between the lines

It’s Your Love that truly binds this Open Book

When the cover of this book is closed

The final chapter read

I hope You find it worth the reading

I hope ‘well done’ is said

Open Book, to You I am an Open Book

You know every page by heart

From the ending to the start.

Open Book, my life is like an open book

As I read between the lines

It’s Your Love that truly binds this Open Book

Cover to cover, Lord, You know me

And what I want to be.

As You read the pages of my life

Please tell me what You see.

(By Petra; Album: On Fire! [1988]; Words and Music by Bob Hartman)

Why so Puddleglum?

Puddleglum-COLOURED_labelled

What do you do when all you’ve ever known to be true suddenly doesn’t feel so true anymore?

NOTE: If you want to read about the Art of Puddleglum, i.e. the picture up top, you can follow this link.

Puddleglum is a character in The Silver Chair, the sixth book (or fifth, depending on your point of view) in C.S. Lewis’ series, The Chronicles of Narnia. He was a marshwiggle, a weird creature who lived by a swamp, and had a mildly amusing pessimistic outlook on life. In the story, he joins Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole on their quest to find the lost Prince Rilian, following a set of clues given to them by Aslan.

I would have told you the story, but I feel that it’d be a mega-spoiler (and you’re like, “C’mon! The book’s like 50 years old already!”). Let’s just say that by the time they find the prince, he’s the brainwashed prisoner of the evil Lady of the Green Kirtle. They release him, but then the Lady walks into the room.

She doesn’t snap at them, but she cheerfully hypnotizes using the enchanting tune of her harp and the whiff of a secret powder she dumps on the fireplace.  With every word she speaks, with every strum on her harp, she almost fully convinces them that everything they’ve known to be true was made up, all in their heads.

First, they knew that they were in the kingdom of Underland (yes, it was literally miles underground). They knew they had come from Overland, the land above the surface. Or had they? Were they really sure there even was such a land among the rocks and mortar in the roof of the cavern? (Another character later comments on how weird it would be to live in a world like ours, a world without a roof, with just open sky above) She made them believe there was nothing beyond the dreadful world underground that they could see at the moment.

Then they asked about the Sun. About Narnia. About Aslan the Great Lion. And she convinced them that those concepts were merely flights of fantasy based on things they could see around.

Her words (however enchanted they were) made them reconsider their beliefs in these things; things they had always accepted to be true. Sure they had fleeting memories of daylight, of their home world, of the Lion, and of words spoken to them before. But these memories were fading as she spoke and strummed on her harp (or maybe it was a ‘lyre’ … see what I did there? 😉 ), the mist of the ‘Decepto-powder’ filling the room.

Until Puddleglum stomped out the fire and ended the enchantment, to the Witch’s horror.

Here’s that part of the story and what he said:

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a playworld which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”

Wow.

 

I like Puddleglum because of his decision to believe in the Truth –to fight for it— even when his mind did not agree. Even when he was being convinced otherwise, he still held on in faith. It was not easy, but he did.

Life may present us with a couple of facts. But that’s what they are: Facts, and nothing more. But don’t let them make you doubt the Truth. The facts are like holograms, translucent 3D images in space. They last for a while, but they only appear under certain conditions. They would change with time. They look real, but they are not necessarily real. We may feel them, but our feelings are really subjective neural experiences (OK, enough geekspeak from me).

The Truth, like Ted Dekker (one of my top favourite authors) loves to say, is just beyond the skin of this world. Beneath and beyond all we can see is another realm where everything is the way they really are. It’s the Kingdom of God, a world where everything is in obedience to God. You’d see that something actually happens when you pray, that something happens when you speak, and that there’s a lot more going on around us than we can see with these eyes.

Jesus is the Truth, and what He says is true. No matter how the facts appear, don’t make the mistake of thinking the facts are the Truth.

You may have no family with you now (FACT) but that does not mean you’re abandoned.

You may not have money in your pocket at the moment (FACT), but that does not mean you will never be successful in life, financially or otherwise.

You may have failed a course or two … or more (FACT), but that does not mean you’re a failure.

You may have prayed for the sick and nothing seemed to happen (FACT) but that does not mean Jesus was lying when He said you would pray for the sick, and they would recover. It doesn’t mean that your salvation is inferior, either.

I guess Faith counts when its feels like there’s no reason to believe. That’s when it counts. And that’s when it’s hardest. We can’t do this on our own. We weren’t made to. Hang on. Ask for His help. He will help you. You’re not alone in this.

I should know. I’ve been there. A lot of times, actually. One of such times I cried and cried for strength, but it didn’t seem to come as suddenly as I expected. I was too scared to let anyone in on what was bothering me, so I slapped on my trademark smile. I didn’t want my doubts to bring them down too. I felt so alone deep down, desperate to scream, to breathe. Trusting in God suddenly felt futile. I know I encourage others to remember that He is always with us, but I didn’t feel Him near right then. I didn’t feel Him at all, period. I felt like a fraud, like I was just going through the motions. I gotta tell you, it was scary.

But He was there. Is here. Man, He is. He’s been here all along.

You know what? I guess I got used to feeling that way. I preferred to ignore God. And when I didn’t, I felt as though I was the one person in all history that He had wronged. It felt easier to ignore Him and His things. But He had not wronged me. What had just happened was that, like the kids in the story, my ears were filled with the wrong tune and that’s what I was listening to. The Liar’s lyre.

So what did I do? I don’t know, really. I’m supposed to tell you that I prayed more and studied the Bible more, and that that’s I got more strength, but that’s not what happened. To be honest, I didn’t feel I’d get anything from praying. When I read the Bible, it was as if there was no life. That’s where I was. I was supposed to stir up strength from my spirit within, but I felt too weak. Worn. Tired. And because my mindset was warped, so were my decisions. And, sure enough, somewhere deep inside, I blamed God for all of this. To most readers this scenario may sound weird, especially to those that know me personally. But I hope there’s someone out there that understands. Even if no one does, it’s OK. You don’t have to go through that. Just keep your mind on the right stuff. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I thank God for exposing me to the right words. Like that verse that talks about how God is our Hiding Place, Who surrounds us with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7). Though I was blinded to see His faithfulness towards me, I could see His faithfulness toward others, so I knew He was still out there somewhere. It’s like being in a dark basement, with a few pinpricks of light stealing in through cracks in the wall. I sought those spots where the light was peeking through, ‘cause that’s where I felt safe.

I realized that though I may be special, I’m not so special that His loving kindness would extend to all except me. I was hearing His words, but I wasn’t listening. For the longest time, I wasn’t listening. But He got through. Ha! He made sure He did. No matter how long it took, He hung on.

Why did it drag for so long? I guess I was a hard nut to crack. God did not leave me be. He kept making sure His words broke through the thick clouds around me, until I could finally really hear His songs of deliverance again. His words of Truth and encouragement.

He was trying to get to me all along.

That’s the annoying thing about Grace. No matter how hard we try to earn points on His scales, He shows us that He’s the One that gave us whatever points we’ve got. He’s the One helping us up.

I still have lots of questions, I won’t lie. I still do. But I’m learning to trust.

I’ll trust.

Man, I don’t usually get so personal in my writing. I prefer using a character in a convenient story to pass the message across, but I guess I just wanted to do this. Hope it’s worth something, though.

This is real life, man.

But, enough about me. Back to the point.

 

Sometimes the lies look like facts. Sometimes it’s easier to accept the lies than to fight to listen to God’s Voice of Truth.

We may be walking in caves as dark as Death with no light in sight (FACT), but we must not let that make us forget that there ever was a Sun. That there is still a Sun out there.

Don’t let circumstances make you forget that there’s a Son, either. And He’s not just ‘out there’, He’s ‘right here’ with you. The Son of God that died and rose to make you fully free – free to live, free to be! He’s alive! He’s broken the chains and blown the prison doors and nuked the concentration camp and placed you in another country, so you have no excuse for allowing the tunes of the Liar’s lyre to become your reality. God is holding you up, so trust Him. Let His words, His songs, break through to your heart. They are working on you. He’s working on you.

You may not feel it, but He’s after you. He’s surrounding you. Ah, if you could see His hands around you, trying to squeeze the darkness away. If your eyes could be opened so you can see what’s really going on!

There’s a battle going on, my friend. A battle for your soul. There’s a wooing going on, and each side is desperate for your heart.

One in seduction, One in Love.

One for destruction and One for Life.

The Liar wants to keep you shrouded in a cloud of darkness. The Truth wants to make you free, and truly free at that.

His words are real and true. Let them be your reality. Keep on studying what He’s said, and talking with Him. It’ll change your mindset.

Your feelings may not all change in an instant. But they also could. But whether they do or whether they don’t, you’ll be fine. Even when you mourn, Jesus says you will be comforted (Matthew 5:4). It’s not His desire for you to mourn, but even if you do He’s got you covered.

You see, the lies may be like those holograms. Holograms are particularly crafted to appear through some optical hijinks, subject to the directed lighting in the room. But the Truth has always remained. It’s the Pure Light that drives away all illusions.

And the Truth is that God loves you, and He’s got you. He would not let any evil come to you, and He would help you make an impact so great it would blow your mind (in a good way J ). His plan is for you to be satisfied and fulfilled in life. To thrive, not just to try to survive. What’s waiting beyond is so much better than anything there’s ever been. We can’t even imagine it, but He reveals it to us by His Spirit in us, His children.

So trust Him. He can be trusted.

And when you do, that’s when you’ll find the strength to stomp out the lies and shine Light into the Darkness, to encourage and comfort others.

To remind them that our Father has never left us. He’s right here.

Even in the deepest throes of Underland.

 

‘Where can I go from Your Spirit?

Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend into heaven, You are there;

If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there…’

PSALM 139:7, 8

The Love Revolution … TODAY

A year ago, on this day, I posted the first of what would become a trilogy up on my blog: The Love Revolution: http://www.emmanuelpresents.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/the-love-revolution/ It was one of my most intense stories, and I still cringe anytime I read it. Imagine living in a time and place where using the word ‘love’ was forbidden. Weird premise, eh? Check it out, it’s pretty cool. And dangerous.
Love is one of my favourite themes in stories (hey, I said ‘love’ not ‘romance’) and I enjoy portraying it in my characters’ stories. I believe our lives are one big love story, about God’s pursuit of us and our response or rejection. He woos us, embraces us, saves us, forgives us — He loves us. He leaves tiny Love notes around for us to brighten our days, like a beautiful sunset, a satisfying meal, a timely kind word, or even a contagious smile from a stranger passing by.
And in the most overt way, He showed it by dying in our place for our crimes. He rose to life, and gave us a new life, with a clean slate, to live with Him for all eternity.
In the year since the Love Revolution, I’ve learnt that everyone of us desires to be loved. Go ahead, deny it; say it’s too mushy. But really, we do! We want to be listened to, to be appreciated, to be understood, and even to be cut some slack even when we don’t deserve it. We really want to be cared for, deep down.
And then there’s God, Who burns with Love for us, and we don’t even realise it sometimes because we don’t see Him. So here’s what He does: He makes love packages out of the willing.
Imagine that: being God’s love note to someone. Imagine being a living retweet of God’s Message to the world: I LOVE YOU. Imagine being willing to listen to someone who doesn’t know when to stop, but who needs someone to listen. Imagine being a blessing to someone in need. Imagine being the reason someone smiles.
Truth is, it’s not going to be easy. We have needs to, don’t we? How can we keep on giving without expecting anything in return? Can we?
When we recieve God’s love to us, it fills us to overflowing. We can love with abandon because we have been loved by Love Himself. We would be able to love anyone, anytime, whatever the circumstance.
That’s what it means to be a Light in the Darkness.
It may not always be easy, I know. But with God in you, you can be the embodiment of His Love. Ask God to love others through you, and watch Him do just that.

The Love Revolution continues today, through you and I.
Would you dare?

P.S.:
Thank you for reading this to the end. Here’s a special teaser for you: I’ll be posting another ‘love’-themed story this season. Will it be like the Love Revolution? Maybe not. But I can tell you that it’s creative, and ”It’s gon’ be GANGSTUH!”
😀

God LOVES you SOOOO MUCH!

SO WHAT HAVE I BEEN UP TO 2.0

Hi there! Emmanuel here!

This is that feature where I talk about what I’ve been up to.

The past few weeks have been quite interesting, thanks be to God. I’ll be resuming at work soon, but I am thankful that with God I have been able to do quite a lot during this break.

First was the story, TASER. This thriller has been on my heart for a long time, and writing it has been a blessing to me. It tells my story and your story. In the midst of the intrigue and story, the Truth was interwoven in ways I love. It explores themes I love and always want to show in my work: Light, God’s grace, wonder, and an expectation and delight for and from Another World. Perhaps I’m telling. If you have not read the story, I think you should. They’re just six episodes. No biggie, right? 😀

I also got to do some cartoons. Not many, but quite a few. I’ll be posting all my cartoons under the VeriTOONS label on this page for now, until a full website is done. VeriTOONS are a group of cartoons that spread the Message of God’s Truth, and I’ve always loved to make cartoons. To make these VeriTOONS has been my desire for quite some time now. For now, these are the ones I’ll post, and more will be coming soon. My hope is for these toons to turn your gaze Up to the one who gave these gifts, and to give you reasons to recognize His gifts around us all. His Grace. Here are a couple of my latest ‘toons, and they are all explained in the VeriTOONS page. So go there sometime, hmm? 😀

Judge Not

 

Pride goes before a fall_edited

 

Left Behind Fan Art

I also made this as a piece of fan art for an upcoming movie. Have you guys read the bestselling Left Behind Series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins? The first two books in the series were made into a series of three movies about a decade ago. But now, the movies are being remade in a bigger budget theatrical release. The upcoming Left Behind movie would feature Nicolas Cage (yeah, the same Nicolas Cage) as Captain Rayford Steele, Chad Michael Murray as seasoned jpurnalist Cameron ‘Buck’ Williams, Cassi Thomson as Chloe Steele, among other big names in the movie industry. That such a wonderful message is coming out now in a really big way is so amazing. When it comes out, make sure you see it. It’s gonna be totally amazing, I can tell you.

 

So, there’s a whole lot going on with us. With me and with you. Sometimes, we may not see the big picture, but you can be sure of this: God is not through with you yet. There’s a whole lot He’s got planned and prepared for us. We just have to hold on and stay connected to Him.

And that’s what I gotta do. I have not figured it all out. There’s a lot I still need to learn. As long as I stay faithful and teachable to my Father, He will perfect all that concerns me.

And the same goes for you. Trust Him.

He’s got a lot going on for you.

Thanks for coming by here, guys.

God bless ya!

😀