J8: Reflections on the Mid-Semester

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It’s mid-semester in my beloved Creative Writing class, and now the assignment bids me reflect on the wonderful writings of myself and my fellow classmates, who have named ourselves The Writers of the Round Table.

  1. Which Journal entry is your favorite and why?

I’d have to say my favorite journal piece I’ve written is His Power Made Perfect in My Shyness, because I really put my heart into that one, which made God’s power seem to work through my writing! I’ve noticed that the more of my heart I put in my writing, the more people seem to relate to my message.

  1. Which Creative Writing assignment is your favorite and why?

My favorite Creative Writing piece I’ve written would probably be my short story retelling of the Prodigal’s son. I actually didn’t realize till later that it was supposed to be a modern retelling, but I ended up really liking it anyway. I love to tell stories from the perspective of Bible characters, because it helps me to appreciate those stories better and understand more fully the message God is trying to bring across. If you’re interested, I have several other short stories told from Bible characters’ points of views on this blog:

Abigail the Intelligent – story of Abigail wife of Nabal and how she changed King David’s mind.

Anointed – story of Mary sister of Martha and Lazarus when she anointed Jesus’ feet.

The Girl Who Died – story of, well, the girl who died… when Jesus was in town.

The Samaritan Woman – story of the woman at the well… when Jesus was at the well, too.

  1. Do you have a least favorite?

Yes, I’d have to say I really didn’t especially like my Four Men in a Furnace poem. I wrote that on a trip, so I was just trying to get the words on paper, and adding metaphors and other wonderful poetic elements was in a land far, far away from my mind… 😉

  1. Do you admire anyone else’s work?

I really do love my classmates’ works and I’m really excited to be in a class with so many amazing writers.
I didn’t get to read all of them, but from what I’ve read I really admire Queen Guinevere’s Trials of Character, which showed how one Bible verse can change your whole perspective.
I also loved Morholt’s Affliction and Glory—I’m going to think of that verse in a totally new way now!
King Arthur, Owned It was such an awesome, creative piece, told from a unique perspective. Well done!
I’d have to say I thought your fables were really clever, Lancelot, and the illustrations are so good!
Ywain, I loved your journal piece An Interesting Connection—it truly was interesting and very insightful.
Elyan, Here’s My Everything was just so beautifully written and inspiring. The picture you put with it is perfect!
Finally, Taylor, I loved your poem Purest of Peace. Amazing word choice and creative formatting—it draws you in and conveys God’s peace really well!
I loved each one of my classmates’ work; sorry if I didn’t get to yours!

If you are having trouble with remembering the names of the Writer of the Round Table like I am, here’s Morholt’s awesome post that explains everything. 🙂
I am just realizing how many of these our journal 7 assignemts, lol! Anyhow, I really have enjoyed sharing my writing as well as reading my classmates’ writing so far.

Hope you have an amazing week and second half of the semester!

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CW8: Insecurity vs. Security

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(Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash)

Insecurity
Trapped in an endless position of fear,
I don’t know what to say.
My mind blanks as I stare at the questioner,
and I cry in my heart, “Someone do this for me!”
because I want this curse of insecurity to end,
but I don’t know how to stop it—
this embarrassment,
gripping my throat and telling me
who I am—
a somebody that no one understands.
Help me, help me,
but there’s no one who hears me;
everyone’s stricken in panic,
groping for a rock
in their own little worlds.
In the same room
we all cry for somebody who will understand.
In the same room
we’re all standing alone,
wishing we could lay down and die.
Security
Struggling free from my endless position of fear,
I try to think of what to say.
My mind blanks as I stare at the questioner,
and I cry in my heart, “Jesus, do this for me!”
because I want this curse of insecurity to end,
and He’s the only one who can stop it—
this embarrassment
gripping my throat and lying
about who I am—
when the Author of me can only understand.
Help me, help me,
and I’m sure He hears me;
everyone looks up in awe,
seeking the Savior
in their own little worlds.
In the same room
we cry for the only Somebody who will understand.
In the same room,
we’re all lying down together,
getting the courage to stand up and live.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
Psalm 27:14 (ESV)

CW7: The Wayward Son– A Retelling of The Prodigal’s Son

I raised the bucket of my employer’s leftover dinner and poured the slop into the long trough. The herd of pigs ran giddily to their meal, snorting as they pushed pass my ankles.
I watched the plump hogs gobble down the slop, shoving one another out of the way as if they were still piglets hungry for their mother’s milk. My stomach rumbled. I didn’t want to admit it, but I could go for some of that rotten meat and barley right now. I hadn’t eaten for three days straight, and I was ravenous for food, for anything… That famine, that cursed famine!
No. I shook my head and laughed bleakly at myself. No, I couldn’t blame my misery on the famine. It was me. All me.
What would my father think if he saw me right now? My clothes were ragged, my beard tangled, and my whole body a walking pig pen. And that wasn’t even mentioning the incessant hunger that gripped my stomach.
A small pig snorted for my attention, the runt of the group, who was always pushed away from the trough by the larger swine. The runt whimpered as he laid with his belly up on the filthy ground. I bent down and stroked the thin layer of fur on his lean stomach, feeling his rib cage. He was just like me. Hungry. Alone. Unwanted.
I clenched my teeth together. Why had I ever been so foolish as to run away from my father? I’d used up the money I’d taken from my father weeks ago, blindly chasing after pleasures which my father had so long sheltered me from. I wanted freedom, but I ended up in a pig pen. What had I been thinking? There was abundantly more freedom in my father’s house.
I set the pig gently aside and rose to my feet. There was no sense in just standing in this filthy pen the rest of my life. My father was probably going to hate me, but I would gladly bear the shame if it meant a dinner in my stomach.

As I trudged on the road home, deliberating on what I would say to my father, I heard a shout in the distance. I looked up to see I was nearing my father’s house, and my father was running toward me. My heart pounded, for I feared he would reprimand me harshly and whip me for the foolish thing I had done. Perhaps he would treat me as a slave the rest of my life, holding an eternal grudge against me and never calling me his son again. And wouldn’t I deserve it?
But as my father drew closer, his expression grew more distinct—and it was full of joy.
Soon he threw his arms around me and kissed me. I could only feebly return his affection, for my throat was thick with grief. How could he love me after what I had done? Did he not realize I had squandered his wealth on prostitutes?
Guilt gripped me as I spoke to him: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
But my father called his servants to come and told them, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”
We celebrated my return all that day, my heart overjoyed by my father’s compassion. What had I done to deserve it? I had given him nothing, but he had given me everything; I had run away from him, but today he had run towards me with open arms.
Later I heard of my older brother’s jealousy. Unlike me, he had remained loyal to my father, yet he did not receive such a grand celebration.
My brother complained to my father: “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!”
My father told my brother, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”
I did not know what my brother thought at my father’s words, for he did not say another word on the matter. But he treated me with the utmost respect from then on.
After that day, I never wanted to leave my father’s side. I walked with him, I talked with him, I ran joyously to obey his orders. I did not mind feeding the pigs either. For not only did my father give his loyal son all that was his, but he gave the same blessings to me. He loved me, his wayward son, and all I could give him in return was myself.

Dialogue taken from parts of Luke 15:21-32 (ESV).

J7: Cling to Belief

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“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Paul, speaking to Cephas, who separated himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of the Jews who still lived by the law/circumcision (Galatians 2:21)
The idea permeating through this gospel-centered verse blew my mind last Sunday. God’s grace is so baffling that you and I will take a lifetime to even begin to understand it. Sometimes I am so afraid to believe that Jesus is all I need to enter heaven. I think, “But He wants us to serve the poor and to tell everyone the gospel and sacrifice our time and money for others, doesn’t He?”
And that’s absolutely true.
But our focus needs to remain steadfastly on Jesus, because without Him, we are trying to make our own way to eternal life. It’s so easy to get caught up in doing things for God, as if we could do enough things for Him to actually break open heaven’s gates.
Maybe we don’t realize we are believing this, but the truth is, reluctance is a sign we have the wrong focus.

Reluctance is a sign that perhaps our half-hearted attempts to serve God reflect our half-hearted belief that Jesus has paid the ultimate price for our sins.

If we only half-heartedly acknowledge that Jesus is the sole reason we can worship Him eternally, we are dismissing the whole truth of the gospel. If we say, “Yes, Jesus made the Way, but now I have to be good so He doesn’t change His mind”—who are we? Why is it so hard to fall prostrate before our King, admitting that He truly is the One thing keeping us alive? Why do we think God is so weak that Jesus wouldn’t be quite enough to save us?
It’s so hard for me to believe in the goodness of our Savior sometimes, but we can’t let uncertainty bring us down when we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us (Rom. 8:37). Cry out to Jesus like the father of the demon-possessed boy, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
Make believing that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, more important than doing things for Him. Spend time in His Word, pray to Him, worship Him. Jesus delivered you from the snares of death and bore your shame on a cross so you might live. Be in awe of that.

Here’s how my pastor explains it: Jesus + nothing = eternal life

Once we believe that His grace truly is sufficient to cover all our sins, true joy and motivation will blossom in the deepest parts of our hearts.

 

My God Saves

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A poem I wrote last year that I completely forgot about, and I don’t believe I’ve ever posted it. Enjoy!

Sometimes I am afraid,
Sometimes I doubt the truth that makes me who I am;
I believe confusion is inevitable,
But God is a God of peace.

So one reminder of His love, His inconceivable power,
One glance at the Bible and I am free again.

I am nothing without God—I have no purpose for eternity;
I am a sinner without a cure drifting in the sea of false hopes
And empty dreams.

Without Jesus to die away each sin,
Without His love to rise up again—
Well, I’m dead.
I might as well forget, because
Nothing matters.
Without Him I am ashamed beyond repair.

I guess that’s what helps me believe what’s right in front of me;
I have no hope without God,
I have no peace.

Sometimes the fears and doubts entangle me,
I fail and sin and forget about His grace.
But please believe me when I say—
I know in the inner parts of me,
The Lord is good, His love is great;
And He is mighty to save me from a life of shame.
“At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you. I will rescue the lame; I will gather the exiles. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they have suffered shame.” – Zephaniah 3:19 (NIV)

Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

Little Obediences: Everyday Actions that Matter to God

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Introducing my cousin, Amy Caylor! She wrote this essay that I thought was too good and true not to share. 🙂

 

I have a quote on my wall that says “You need to give your life to God in the little ways too, not just the big ones. —Waiting for Your Prince Charming.” I don’t remember much else about that book, but that struck me as something I needed to remember, so I put it on my wall. Now, four years later, I came across the idea again, in “The Man Christ Jesus” by Bruce A. Ware.

When people think of giving their life to God, or obeying Him in everything, they often think of the big stuff. Accepting the call to be a missionary. Selling everything, and giving it all to the poor. Refusing to deny Jesus, and being martyred for it. While following Jesus might mean that, it isn’t everything to obeying Jesus. Following Him truly means obeying him in the little ways too.

This could mean deciding to have a good attitude at work. In the context of the book I read about purity, it meant being patient and trusting that God’s plan was best for your life, whether you married or not. These “little obediences”, as Bruce A. Ware called them, can be harder to do than they sound, because we don’t necessarily see these things as important, or “little sins” worth being conquered. Being snappish because “Can’t you see I’m reading?” doesn’t feel or sound like it is something to overcome, but in a life that is suppose to be characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, it isn’t honoring to God. We should “be imitators of God, as beloved children” as Ephesians 5:1 says, and Jesus was sinless.

We don’t truly understand what that means. Jesus was sinless. He repressed both the “big” sins and the “little” sins. He followed His Father’s heart in every single way. He both forgave the Pharisees as he hung up on the cross, and refused to roll his eyes at his earthly parents, even when He knew how superior to them He was. Every single time. Every time temptation hit He prayed and struggled and didn’t give in for the whole duration of the temptation. What an amazing Savior!

We need to follow God. Not only in the big, life-changing ways, but in the small, daily, moment by moment ways. How we act and how we treat others should show glory to God. It is really hard to do, which makes it even more amazing that Jesus did it. Though we could never be sinless in this life like He is, we are called to follow His example.

Four Men in a Furnace

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When a king demanded his subjects to bow

To idols made of wood and stone,

Three Hebrew men stood tall and proud,

Which upset the ruler on the throne.

Angrily, he ordered his men

To burn a fire in a furnace.

He yelled, “Make it hotter than it’s ever been!”

As he glared at the Hebrews and shook his fist.

But the Hebrew men weren’t afraid at all,

Though when they marched in the fire the guards fell dead,

Those three good men stood proud and tall,

And the fire didn’t even burn their faces red.

As the king looked on his eyes opened wide,

And he declared at what he saw,

“Not three but four men are standing unharmed inside,

And the fourth looks like he’s a son of the gods!”

So the king called the Hebrews to come out of the flames,

And he saw that neither smoke nor ash had singed their skin.

Amazed and awed and perhaps ashamed

The king praised their God and blessed the men.

J6: God’s Love – An Ever-Fixed Mark

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“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.” – William Shakespeare’s Sonnet CXVI
This poem always brings a stirring to my heart, awaking that longing that lies within each of us for an affection that lasts forever.

Too often, we humans fail to meet Shakespeare’s idealistic standard of love. We are shifting, changing creatures who one moment give sacrificially to a person and the next moment glare or yell at them for not taking out the trash.

Sometimes, when we see a flaw in a person, we’re shaken with frustration. Other times, maybe we’re simply tired of seeing that same old face, however beautiful, and we just search for that adventure and excitement we used to feel in those good old days.

But that isn’t love, according to Shakespeare. And yes, my friends, that isn’t love according to God either. God doesn’t intend to stop loving us, His plan isn’t to leave us as soon as He looks on the tempests’ of our wavering hearts:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35-39

Our Creator’s plan for us has always been for us to consistently be in a loving relationship with Him. When we believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection has made that possible, we truly are “more than conquerors.” We can grow in Christ and follow Him to the ends of the earth, because of what He has so graciously done for us.

With eternal love in our hearts, we don’t need short-term bursts of infatuation or excitement to keep us alive. God’s “love alters not with [its] brief hours and weeks.” If we trust in Him, God keeps us alive with His unfailing love, no matter what season of life we’re in and no matter how we’re feeling.

So when you’re staring straight at disaster in a God-ordained relationship, don’t run away. Plunge through it with the armor of God and “[bear] it out even to the edge of doom.”

Because isn’t that what true love is all about?

CW3: Brer Rabbit’s Giant Table

Creative writing assignment: write an original Brer Rabbit story using colloquialism, repetition, things coming in threes, the harmless trickster Brer Rabbit who always wins, etc. This was a stretch for me, lol! Enjoy!
Brer Rabbit was off his knocker, or so his friends said. He’d created a giant table in his rabbit hole and invited a gang of rabbits and foxes to come for a party to celebrate his birthday.
“Bring yer favorite food to the table so we c’n all take a bite!” he wrote on the invitation.
Brer Fox thought the idea so strange that he almost didn’t come at all. “He thinks we can all be friends—foxes and rabbits alike?”
The sour fox knew of only one thing he wanted on his table—that rascal Brer Rabbit.
And so that Brer Fox rounded up his old fox pals and they all agreed that Brer Rabbit had no business trying to get the foxes to be vegetarians. And they most assuredly agreed that this too-friendly rabbit would make a fine feast for them all.
“We’re gonna turn the table on ‘em!” Brer Fox laughed. He meant it in more than one way, so his pals laughed, too.
So on the night of the party, Brer Rabbit sat in his old hole and greeted the guests that came in with bundles of grass and leaves to feast on. Soon each rabbit he’d invited had arrived, but not one fox had made his appearance.
The rabbits began feasting happily on the vegetation, when Brer Rabbit suddenly looked up to see Brer Fox arriving. The rabbits stopped their chatter and watched him come in with their jaws dropped wide.
Brer Fox brought out a pitcher and set it on the table.
“Welcome, Brer Fox,” Brer Rabbit said politely. “What have ya brought to share with us?”
The fox sat down in a chair. “A pitcha’ of water—and how are you, Brer Rabbit?”
Brer Rabbit ignored Brer Fox’s toothy smile. “Will ya pass me the pitcher, please?”
The rabbit guests’ handed the pitcher to Brer Rabbit, who poured himself a cup.
“Looks a little reddish to me, Brer Fox,” said Brer Rabbit.
Brer Fox gave a toothy smile and turned in his chair. “Oh, yer just seeing the beet juice I added for more color.”
Brer Rabbit took a sip and gagged. “What is this, Brer Fox?”
Brer Fox turned in his chair and gave a toothy smile. “Oh, yer just tasting the salt I added for more flavor.”
Brer Rabbit’s eyes began to water. “It’s stinging my eyes!” he cried.
Brer Fox whistled and his fox buddies came rushing into the rabbit hole with nets and knives in tow.
“Beat ‘em, boys!” Brer Fox shouted out to his crew.
The foxes turned that giant table over with all the good vegetation the rabbits had been feasting on. Then they tied Brer Rabbit up and scared the other rabbits straight out of that rabbit hole.
“What did ya put in that water, Brer Fox?” Brer Rabbit moaned.
Brer Fox chuckled. “Jest some poisonous root I found—you should be out in a minute or three.”
“You c’n chop me, you c’n fry me—do whatever ya like to me! Jest don’t eat or drink from my new table. After I die, my nephew inherits it, and I don’t want nothin’ spilt on it!”
Brer Fox eyed him curiously. “Don’t want us to have a little drink at yer table, eh?” Then he had his fox buddies push that giant table back up so it stood tall and proud again.
Brer Fox found a cup full of a juicy-looking drink that had outlived the fox’s raid. Tipping it to his mouth, he drank it and spilt it right on that giant table. One by one he made each of his old fox buddies drink from that cup and spill some of it on the table, to mock poor Brer Rabbit.
But Brer Rabbit didn’t get scared. He watched as one by one, each of the foxes dropped to the floor like wilting tulips.
Well, then that Brer Rabbit cut his ropes with one of the knives a fox had dropped and began dragging each fox out of his hole one by one. He knew the poisonous root would only put them to sleep and they’d be awake soon enough.
Brer Rabbit grinned at himself in the dead silence of his old rabbit hole. He’d switched those cups around and Brer Fox didn’t even know it this whole time.

J4 – A Difficult Decision: A Fun Time vs. Pure Thoughts

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Recently I was at my friend’s house, and her brother and his friend started to watch a movie. The scene I came in and saw depicted a bad guy kidnapping some girls. The movie was rated PG-13 and was created by a director I trusted, so I thought it might not be too bad. My friend asked me if I wanted to watch it, and I hesitated, unsure if the film was definitely an appropriate movie. But excuses popped up, like, “he’s a good director,” and “there’s nothing else to do,” till the excuses won over the Spirit of Christ inside me.
So my friend and I joined in the “fun” and watched the film with the boys. And just as I had suspected deep inside my heart, it wasn’t an appropriate movie. Throughout it I wondered if I should say something or go away, but I was too afraid of what they’d think.
My mom happened to come early, so I didn’t see the rest of the movie. When we came home, my mom looked up the movie. Apparently, the violence sky-rocketed during the last thirty minutes—so I was glad, at least, that I had left early. God must have coordinated that “coincidence”!
My mom told me more of the inappropriate things that the internet site wrote about the movie. I had already realized my mistake, but now I was even more ashamed of myself. These verses kept blaring into my mind, making me more certain I had made the wrong decision:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

The movie’s violence was certainly not “pure” or “lovely,” and neither were the many other inappropriate scenes. What had I been thinking? Suddenly I was calling myself a wimp and an idiot and many other self-deprecating things.
But I continually had to remind myself of God’s endless bucket of grace, for “[His mercies] are new every morning; great is [His] faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:23) I couldn’t beat myself up because of what I did; God wanted me to come to Him because of what I did, so He could lift me up!
With the Holy Spirit’s help, I will make a better decision next time. I will boldly speak out and tell my friends that I can’t watch a film like that. I won’t let them be my source of validation; I will look to God for His approval, since His opinion is what matters in the end. Because who am I if I say I love Jesus, but keep giving into the pressure of those around me?
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2

(Photo by Ravi Roshan on Unsplash)