Monday, September 29, 2014

Howl

Lone wolf, that's me.
I run alone.
I beat my own drum,
And write my own song.

My coat is dark,
My teeth are sharp.
Get in my way and you'll find,
The bite is worse than the bark.

Don't try and figure me out,
My path is my own,
Don't stand between me and my goals,
If you want to ever get back home.

I sit out at night,
Look at the moon.
If I see another soul,
It'll be too soon.

I don't want to run with a pack,
I don't want to have someone's back.
I want to be on my own,
I want to set my own tone.

So get out of the way,
Don't try and get me to have fun.
I've got my own game,
Lone wolf's gotta run.


Friday, September 5, 2014

The Song of Pain

It never stops.
The chorus keeps ringing.
It sounds all around, just waiting for you to listen.
August said to follow the music,
But this is different.
It's pain.

Everyone feels it.
They all cry out because of it.
Some people can't fight it.
They let it take over.
They let it win.
It ends.

Their only sound is silence.
Their only presence is emptiness.
The space where they should be calls out.
It cries louder than any voice ever could.
It screams through the night.
No one answers it.

We walk on eggshells.
We can't talk about it.
No one will understand.
It makes you a bad person.
Lies, all lies.
It makes you a person.

Some people fight.
They lash out.
They cry out for help.
Sometimes, no one ever hears them.
But I hear them.
I can't help but hear them.

Their scars beckon.
Their downcast eyes call me.
They know what it's like to be dark.
They know how it feels to be on the bottom.
They look up.
I look up.

We look up together.
We've been there.
We've been dirty.
We've been bleeding.
We've looked through tearstained eyes.
Wondering, when will help come.

We reach out,
Hoping for a hand to hold.
We cry out, and all we're met with is silence.
People cross over.
They walk on the other side.
Because it's the easy thing.

We wear our pain outside like a medal.
Some wear it by how they look.
Some wear it by how they dress.
Some sharpen their tongues to cut.
Some sharpen their skills to kill.
They pull themselves up because no one will help.

But if we reach out,
If we quit fighting ourselves.
A hand comes down.
A hand bruised and scarred.
A hand bloodied.
A hand pierced.

It reaches through the black.
It reaches to the bottom.
It grasps ours and pulls us up.
The blood runs down.
It washes the dirt away.
Our voice is silenced.

Our voice is silenced by a cool drink.
Raw throats from crying out are quenched.
Eyes red from weeping are dried up.
Arms scarred from cutting are smoothed over.
Ears jarred by laughter are quieted.
We hear no mocking.

This my cry.
This my passion.
There's no reason to give up.
There's no reason to lose hope.
Our plight is heard.
Our call is answered.

Quit struggling and look up.
Quit fighting and call out.
He will not walk the other side.
He will tend our wounds.
He will hear our cry.
He will heal our land.

If you or someone else you know has ever considered or participated in self harm, or attempted suicide, don't lose hope. We have a way out, that is eternal, and it doesn't come at the mouth of a gun barrel, the end of a rope, the edge of a knife, or the bottom of a bottle of pills.  Reach out.  Keep seeking.  He cares, I care.

You are not alone.

~Levi


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Faith Worth Losing For

This summer has been an interesting one to say the least.  At first glance, I would say that I both loosened up, and became more of a loving person, and an accepting one, but then I would also say that I became more cynical and less trusting.  Those to things don't really go together, and I realize that.  Because here's the thing.

It has taken me 21 years, to actually be able to put a value on my faith.  I have spent so long try to figure out what I believe in, that it isn't until now that I realize what I am willing to sacrifice to continue believing in it.

To say that I am surrounded by happiness is an understatement.  I had over 30 dear friends who have either gotten engaged or married this summer.  These tying togethers of families follow countless hours spent talking or walking, days spent with broken hearts, and months spent with joyful ones.  I wish them all the best and pray that their happiness continues for generations.

But along with this happiness comes a kind of restlessness that I haven't felt before.  It's a desire to love and be loved and to belong with someone.  This kind of feeling isn't healthy, as it can make me lose focus on what is important at this stage in my life.  I begin to look around me at possibilities and where/who I can pull my happiness from.  I begin thinking in terms of maybes and chemistry and possibles and my thoughts get all sorts of jumbled, but it wasn't until now, that I realized that my faith is important enough to me, that I'm willing to give all of that up, if someone doesn't love Christ.

Christ and my faith in Him, is the reason that I have made every good decision I have ever made.  Now I didn't make these decisions on my own, to be sure.  God led me to them, through his spirit.  Whether it was the decision to come to Patrick Henry, the decision to walk away from unhealthy relationships, the decision to relinquish "control" of my life to God, or even the decision to come to Christ over 4 years ago.

I don't take any of these decisions or life changes and choices lightly, but rather want to give God the glory for the results of all of them.  I also want to thank Him for making faith real to me.  When I am willing to walk away from things that may promise temporary feelings of pleasure or happiness and give them up because they do not come with a love of my Savior, that is where I need to be.

Paul said it best.  "I do not consider myself to have already taken hold of it, but one thing I do.  Forgetting what is behind, and striving for what is ahead, I press on to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of me."  I only hope that I continue to be willing to die to myself and my own desires, if it means a growing faith in Christ.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What Makes You Matter?

As the clink of crutches hitting the ground filled my ears, I couldn't help but think that people's pity hurt more than the original crack of my kneecap grinding over the bone that held it in place.  Between my inability to use my usual quip about having a strong body and weak mind, or even being able to carry anything for my team, I felt completely worthless.  I could feel the gaze of opposing attorney's as I took the stands, knowing that they were asking themselves if I was just using the crutches for sympathy points with the judges.

That was the second time I felt this way.  The first was during the few minutes of the football game that I injured my knee in.  As I sat on the sidelines, I thought back to the time I spent on the gridiron in high school.  I was what you could call a try hard.  I decided that if I ran harder, lifted more, and put the most work in, my coaches would realize how valuable I was to the team and be forced to play me.  This ultimately led to me being obsessed with football and dedicating about 30 hours of my already busy weeks to the game.  I was always in the weight room or on the field.

This tendency to try hard to prove my worth pushed its way through all of my growing up years.  I was always attempting to lift more, run faster, be smarter, and have more friends than anyone else.  And trust me when I say this, it all backfired.  People don't want to be friends with someone who always is trying to be smarter than them.  People don't want to be around someone who wants to make them look bad.  Not that I wanted them to look bad, but I wanted to make myself look better so that they would understand that I was someone that they wanted to know.

That's what this little post is all about.  The question of "Where do you find your worth?"  In today's world and society, we're surrounded by the mentality of keeping up with the Jones'.  We have to have better test scores, get into a better college, be better at sports, and have the biggest friends list, longest list of followers, and the the most "likes" on the worthless drivel that we have to offer.

For years, I tried to find worth in how athletically talented I was, when athletics had left me behind.  People began to say that I was tough.  I took comfort in that, because it meant that I was "better" than them in some way.  I tried to find worth in my grades in school, but when that didn't happen I either turned to dishonesty, as was the case in high school, or to apathy, which is the case in college.  Do I want to do well?  Absolutely.  Do I work hard at studying?  Absolutely, but if the grades don't show up, I turn away from them in the hopes that maybe something else will work out.

So where do you find your worth?  Do you find it in grades or being intelligent? Do you find it in looks, whether that be from the gym or from the latest styles? Do you find it in work, how many hours you put in and the size of you bank account?  Do you find it in possessions; the nicest car, house, phone, etc.?  I've been there. I've been caught up in all of those things and suffered the consequences.

What happens when your grades start slipping? What happens when you can't work out, have a horrible acne breakout, can't afford new clothes? What happens when you can't work or your bank account begins to run dry? What happens when your car gets totalled, when your house needs work, when your phone dies?  I've been there too.

If you continually find your worth in the things around you, you will always be searching, and always in need of an upgrade.  That is no way to live.  However, if you live to love others, if you find value in serving, and you know that value comes because you are a child of the King of kings, then you and I are starting to get it.

We have worth and value, because Christ says we do.  We have value because His blood covers us.  Without it, we are as filthy rags, but He has washed us white as snow.  The hymn writer Bill Gaither once said, "Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there's something about that name."  It's the power of Christ's name that tells us who we are.  The Romans used to use the word "Christian" as an insult, but we should wear it like a badge.

His name is that which offers life.  In THAT we can take comfort and find value, because when everything else goes away, all our possessions, physical abilities, friends, wealth, and everything else that this world puts stock in, the one thing that will never go away, is the redeeming power of the blood of Christ.

You want to know something interesting?  If you use your imagination, the sound of crutches hitting the ground sounds an awful lot like a hammer driving spikes in.  Just a little something to think about.  Because to spikes are one of the things that make you matter.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Drop in the Bucket.

This is a bad idea. I can just about guarantee it.  See, I'm laying in bed, having just taken a dose of hydrocodone so that I can hopefully sleep through the night.  And yet, like many other things, it has the opposite effect on me.  I'm a little bit foggy, when it comes to motor skills and technical aspects, but it got me thinking about a lot of deep things.  Mostly about dreams.

I sit on my bed, trying to keep my leg from getting stiff.  With a partial tear in the ACL, too much movement can make me gasp from pain, but not enough movement has the same effect.  I'm not sure how bad the tear is, because there was too much swelling and fluid surrounding my knee for the orthopedic doctor to get a good test on it.  Within a week, I'll hopefully know for sure, whether I'll be moving back to South Dakota to recover from an ACL reconstructive surgery or whether I'll be able to stay out here in Virginia.

And yet that week holds so much more that just news on a surgery.  I think that tonight is the first time it really hit me.  This could make or break my plans for good.  I don't know if I'm going to be able to run or juke again.  I don't know if I'll be able to teach a young person how to plant and throw a football, or jump and catch it.  I don't know if I'll be able to make it through OCS, or maybe SEAL school without ringing out.  I don't know if what I've dreamed of will become a reality.  More importantly, I'm not sure if I'll be able to hopefully chase my kids around the front yard before catching them and running inside for lunch.  I don't know.  And that's what scary.

That not knowing has caused me to lay here assuming that I have to have surgery and that it's going to take forever to heal.  We serve an awesome God. He's been known as the Great Physician for long before I've been around.  He spent time walking among lepers and making paralytics into leapers.  He spat in the dust and rubbed clay on a man's eyes and gave his sight back.  What is a ligament to our God?  It's nothing.  Just like the plans of a man.  Or a boy.  Proverbs says that the heart of a man plans his way, but that the Lord directs his steps.  I may not ever go through hell week.  I may not play football again.

That doesn't matter, though.  Will I be able to stop and say, "Taste and see that the Lord is good."  Will I turn to those around me and say that "I know my redeemer lives."  What really matters?  Being able to give people a solid 10 year plan for when you are out of college or being able to give people a testimony of the goodness of the Lord even in a difficult situation.  What is the most important?  "I plan on..." or "Though He slay me, yet will I praise Him?"  Christ took nails for me. So what is a torn ligament in this case?  It is a drop in the bucket of my eternity with Him.  I will trust in the Lord and I shall see His glory in the land of the living.

So if you ask me how I'm doing and I say that I'm vertical, or that I'm above ground and sucking wind, that's the steroids talking.  The doctor said that they may cause mood swings.

I am so much more that vertical.  I am thinking vertically, and I am blessed.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Wanderlust and Rising Above

Wanderlust.  Everything you do seems pointless, food tastes like ash in your mouth, and even the most enjoyable music sounds like a funeral dirge.  I get restless a lot.  When my mind decides to treat me like an outlaw and hunt me down with a posse of horrible possibilities, my only option is to run.  Not a feet pounding the pavement, racing the clock sort of running, but a shamed shuffle into the arms of the wilderness or even the heart of civilization.

Sometimes when you're walking through small neighborhood, seeing the faint blue flicker of televisions through half drawn curtains, there is something comforting about everyone being to busy to notice you, hunched back, neck tucked down into an upturned collar, the faint glow of a pipe sticking out of the corner of a hard lined face.  They carry on with there simple lives, never knowing the war raging in your mind, and good battles evil, truth clashes with lies, and hope pits itself against doubt and misery.  Their quiet suburban homes shelter them from the conflicts that fill the bubble of world surrounding you.

But sometimes, you must flee to the desert, or more appropriately, an abandoned cornfield, surrounded by tree rows.  The dead crushed stalks don't care how loud you sing, or how ragged your screams.  Your voice can carry for miles, and no one will care to know why it calls out.

That, beloved, is the cure for wanderlust; that feeling of being alone.  One grain of sand on a surf-pounded beach.  One blade of grass on a wind-blown prairie.  You bend your back to the wind and raise your face to the sky.  Sometimes tears fall, sometimes a song bursts forth, heard by no one but yourself.  And there it is.  The whisper back.  The knowledge that no matter how far you run, or how deep into the crowds you skulk, you will never be alone.

Whether you live a life of the warrior, riding from battle to battle, accompanied only by your weapon and driven only by the fire of a desire to protect, or you live the life of a missionary, moving from village to village, feeding the hungry, and tending the sick, preaching the good news at every turn.  Your love for the gospel need be your only motivation.  Never do you ride a dark trail.  The Light of Life accompanies you, filling your ear with the wisdom of the ages, whispering truth into your spirit.

So let that truth fill your actions.  Let it lift you from having your face down on the floor.  Blood dripping, nose smashed from yet another fall and more crushed hopes.  Let it give strength to your backbone, allowing you to rise, knowing that whatever those around you say, you are whole in Christ.  You cannot control their actions.  You cannot choose their words.  They will wound you.  You will give them your trust, and they will turn it against you.  Rumors will fly, and those you love may or may not believe them.  You have no power over that.  All you can do is be still.  Let Him who you serve fight for you.  His truth will proclaim your innocence and fill your heart with sustenance.

It is then that you must push forward.  Reach out and grasp the passion that His might offers.  Rise above the noise and the bitter words.  Turn away from the lies and the treachery.  Build the wall that you are called to build, grasping His Word in one hand, and the tools of your trade in the other.  The Lord will repay those who sow deceitful lies against you, and He will honor those who seek Him and know your heart.

So rise above.  Fight the battle we are in.  Focus on the truth of His gospel.  We are at war, so live in that war.  Serve Him and His forces, and soon you will rest in peace.  He will give you rest for your soul, and wanderlust will trouble you no more.  Hold on beloved, as I am learning to do, and you will be filled.  You will run to the desert, but you will not thirst.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hurry up... and wait.

Sorry this one is so long.  Please bear with me.  God really wrote this one out on my heart.

Let's be real, y'all.  Waiting sucks.  We're on such busy schedules, that we don't want to wait for anything.  Think about it.  From the time that we're born, we learn that waiting isn't a good thing.  Babies cry so that they don't have to wait for food, or wait to be taken care of.  No child wanted to wait to open presents.  And high school?  Let's be real.  Who wants to wait for a diploma?  We rush through things, anxious to get to the next thing in life.  


This is a dangerous business.  We are in such a hurry and desire to get through things so badly, that we miss the special things that can come in the midst of waiting.  When was the last time that you struck up a conversation with a stranger in a doctor's office?  Yes, it's uncomfortable to talk to someone that you don't know.  So instead of reaching out to someone who is potentially hurting, you reach for the latest copy of Sports Illustrated or People Magazine, aimlessly flipping through it.  You glance at the pictures without reading the articles, hoping to God that your name is the next one that gets called. 

We wait impatiently on a daily basis.  Whether at a red light, on a plane, in front of a microwave, sitting in class.  You name it.  The toe taps, the finger-drumming, the pointless texting.  It's all around us, and we even take part in it.  

But think about the dangers of not waiting for a moment.  What happens if you don't wait as the mechanics inspect that airliner for the last time, pre-flight?  What happens if you don't wait for that long red light to turn green before going?  What happens if...  I think you get my point.  If we are too impatient to wait for those things, what about the young man and woman who are too impatient to wait until marriage.  Their few moments of pleasure bring a life into the world and force them to make a snap decision.  Take a life, or change theirs.  Waiting is a big deal, friends.  


Waiting can be the difference in doing God's will and having the Lord's pleasure taken away from you.  Just think about Saul in the book of 1 Samuel 13.  


135 The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand[c] chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Mikmash, east of Beth Aven. 6 When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. 7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. 8 He waited sevendays, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. 9 So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel.Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lordyour God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”15 Then Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred.

Saul couldn't wait for the Lord's command.  He got impatient and offered the sacrifice himself.  This displeased the Lord and He turned His face away from Saul as the king of Israel.  

You may not have a kingdom promised you, but you may have a family, or a career that you are waiting for.  If you jump the gun, who is to say that it will happen the way that it should have.  We cannot control God, and while He is a patient God, sometimes all it takes is a disobedience on our part to redirect what is best for us.  

Don't get me wrong.  I'm terrible at waiting.  I hate it.  I can't stand it.  It drives me up the wall.  I'm waiting right now.  I don't know what or who God has planned for me.  I know what I would like and how I want it to go, but who is to say that is His plan for me?  I would love to be able to fall in love with that certain young lady, graduate college, join the military, and start a family, all the while having a steady pay check.  If it were up to me, I'd get right on that.  But it's not up to me.  I have to stay patiently where God has placed me and seek His face.  He has a plan for me, that is better than what I could imagine... And I have a pretty good imagination.  So what do I do?  I wait.  I focus on the here and now.  I focus on the joys that I have daily.
I have the opportunity to minister to those others who are waiting with me.  They are waiting on that word from the Lord, showing them where they are to be going today.  And we're waiting together.  So it's time for me to reach out and get prepared.  Waiting is a tough game.  You have to be ready for the wait.  Think about the virgins in Matthew 25.  

25 1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

It is my job to be ready for the wait.  My Lord is coming and when he arrives, I must be ready to take His hand and follow Him out, wherever He leads.  That may be to a wedding feast, it may be to a monastery (I sure hope not. I'm not cool with that oath of celibacy thing), or it may be to a dirt hut on the mission field somewhere very different than I am used to.  But that's not for me to decide.  It's for Him to guide me to.  He already knows what it is.  


So here I stand.  And here I am.  And here I shall be.  If we're waiting for the same flight, please. Put that magazine down. Walk up to me. Shake my hand. Give me a hug. (I'm a hugging kind of guy) Sit down, and have a chat. I'd love to wait with you. And who knows, maybe the time will pass a little faster if we wait together. Maybe we're even on the same flight. Wouldn't that be a coincidence.  But no matter what, please wait. Your call, life, and choice is important to you.  And it's important to Him. After all, He's been waiting for eternity for you to follow and take the road He's mapped out for you.  And for me.