Names That Fell

It’s funny how I’ve been working so hard to become a robot for the past year, yet I only listen to music that will illicit some sort of emotional response.   All the signs of an emotional person were there. Now I find it humorous how I ignored something so obvious, but I digress.

Music has to really move me before I get really into it, the lyrics and melody. This makes me kind of picky. I even find it difficult to listen to “workout music” while I’m working out. I know it’s supposed to get you “pumped”, but is pumped an emotion? “I am feeling pumped.” I guess it’s slang for excited. Anyway, that kind of music doesn’t really do anything for me. I have to be able to listen to the lyrics and hear some truth that is not about topics such as big booties or making fat stacks of cash, both of which are quite unrelatable for me.

Upon discovering a new band, I will play their songs while reading their lyrics. I’ll analyze each line and try to figure out what the songwriter is trying to say and how it relates to my life. Sometimes I’ll realize something about myself that I hadn’t realized before. It’s amazing how someone can take a feeling and turn into something with rhythm. Once I’ve done this for every song, I will pretty much listen to the same band over and over until I find another one I can do the same thing for. Ideally, I’d find a new band immediately, but I usually have to stumble across or be introduced to new music. This is mainly because I prefer to listen to something that I know will give me what I seek rather than start searching for it again. I’m afraid of trying something new and wasting time, so I like to play it safe. It’s silly, I know. I’ll work on getting over that.

So I didn’t make any new years resolutions this year. I never do, but I will right now, a month into 2016. I want to be known better, which means being voluntarily open about your life. I’m going to use a song to get my point across. It’s called “Names that Fell” by Zach Williams, the lead singer of one of my favorite bands The Lone Bellow. This is one of those songs I had to sit down and study for a second. I didn’t really know what it meant, but I was pretty surprised once I looked into it. Zach is basically looking at a tower filled with 14 men. Each man is a sin that has plagued him or his fathers, but the tower falls, killing all the sins that so desperately wanted to have a hold on his life. He watches gladly. What I’m going to do is write a letter to or a story about all 14 of these men. Vulnerability, yay.

So here’s the song. And here are the lyrics.

I got my eyes pealed on a watchtower
That bent then broke four years ago
Their were 10 to 15 men inside
That screamed their story were untold
And I looked one right dead in the eye
While two more said please don’t let us go
But the truth be known I didn’t mind
Watching that old belfry fold
One was vengeance
Two was hate
Three was envy
Four was rage
Five and six was lust and lies
These were the names
The fell when the bell chimed
Their knuckles white
Their faces red
And all in unison they said
“You’ll never win
You’re way to old
Your father’s sin gave us your soul”
But two men stood up beside me
We stepped back to watch and see
That belfry start to sway and lean
All in unison we screamed
One was vengeance
Two was hate
Three was envy
Four was rage
Five and six was lust and lies
These were the names that fell with the bell’s chime
Upon a rock on which we stand
I see that belfry in the sand
Four years have gone
The sand is old;
It’s covered all my sins with mold
And steady comes the midnight tide
To slowly crack the belfry’s pride
Three men and I tell stories told
Of our father’s sin still trapped inside
One was vengeance
Two was hate
Still we pray they’ll never wake
Three and four was envy and lies
These were the names that fell with the bell chime
Five was greed
Six was lust
Seven was the name I’ll never trust
Eight and nine was envy and Pride
Ten was jealousy that binds me
Eleven and twelve was pride and betrayal
Thirteen was the sloth that killed me
Fourteen was the judgment that tried
These were all the names that fell with the bell chime
Now that I have posted it, I have to do it. Have fun getting to know the worst parts of me.

A Threshing Sledge

This will be kind of a part 2 to my last post, so check it out if you haven’t. I’ve realized that I use music to process my thoughts/emotions, so I will once again be using lyrics by The Oh Hellos to tell my story since I’m all about that band right now and they inspired me to write this. Enjoy.


 

If I were to describe the person I wanted to be by the time I left college, he would be buff. His eyes calm, yet they pierced your soul with his caring gaze whenever he looked at you. Mature beyond his years. He was a good friend, always lending a shoulder to cry on and dropping wisdom to sooth weary hearts. His words carried much weight. Above all, he was spiritual, every day striving after things not of this world. He never worried, for he knew all of his afflictions were temporary. He could slay his struggles so well that he may not even have had any, almost sinless, yet humble. He stood atop a mountain, doing all in his power to help those still stuck in the valley get to the top also.

I was young and naive
as I was told, so I believed
and I was told there’s only one road that leads you home

and the truth was a cave on the mountainside
and I’d seek it out until the day I died

The four years of college came and went, and I grew to know the person who emerged from it very well. Success, right? I found what I was looking for and became a man, yeah?

Nah. Unfortunately, the me I knew was nowhere close to that image I had of myself. That image was still only real in my head, but I wanted to believe he was the true me. Despite having absolute knowledge of my struggles, I wanted to believe and live like I was more capable than I actually was. My solution was simple: don’t tell anybody. Not my friends. Not God, like He didn’t know. Just pretend and try to figure it out by yourself.

When you live a life like that, knowing yourself doesn’t matter. It’s useless, actually.

I was bound and determined
to be the child that you wanted
but I was blind to every sign you left for me to find

I so desperately wanted to be that person other people looked up to and God was lucky to have on His side. The eyes of super Daniel were always on me, glaring with disappointment. The weight of his gaze was crippling, and I became so frustrated with myself and with God. I wanted this process of sanctification to be easy, but it usually involves swallowing your pride. I didn’t want it to cost me anything. I hoped that I would just become better without having to lift a finger, just like everything else in life (sarcasm).

and the truth became a tool that I held in my hand
I wielded it, but I didn’t understand

I got tired of giving more than you gave to me
and I desired a truth I wouldn’t have to seek

I finally realized that I had wasted four years of college and then some pretending to be somebody I wasn’t, and it truly cost me. I missed out on deeper relationships and lost friendships and intimacy with the only One who can perfectly love me. I finally let go and decided to be honest with myself, my friends, and my God. I allowed myself to be known. Every struggle, every insecurity, every sin, every joy. My relationships have not been the same since. I’ve never been so close to my friends. Sometimes I feel like I barely knew any of them until recently, yet I have lived with them for years. With God, I had to realize that He is not “lucky” to have me and won’t be. I don’t say that out of self-depreciation. I say it out of truth, which I spent my whole life proving, yet He delights in me. I allowed Him to take His rightful spot on top of the mountain, and He watches. His eyes calm, piercing my unworthy soul with nothing but love and compassion. The weight of His gaze is light and so gracious.

but in the silence I heard you calling out to me

Since then, I’ve had the privilege of getting glimpses of who I used to be. I thought that it would cause me to crawl up in shame, but instead all I could do was rejoice. The person I was is unrecognizable to me now. I can actually see that I am a new creation, and for the first time in my life, I am pleased with who I have become. I don’t mean to sound prideful. It’s just the truth. The valley is now far behind me, but still, I shall not grow content with my current view. Slowly, but joyfully, I ascend.

we were born in the valley of the dead and the wicked
where our father’s father fell to the crimes he’d committed
we were young when we heard you call our names in the silence

still you lead me, never leave me
never leave me


Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge,
new, sharp, and having teeth;
you shall thresh the mountains and crush them,
and you shall make the hills like chaff;
you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away,
and the tempest shall scatter them.
And you shall rejoice in the Lord;
in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

Isaiah 41:15-16

on the mountain

Courage, Dear Heart

I have this thing about feelings, which is that I don’t really like having them.

Up until this past year, I think I lived the lie that seeking what made me feel good was what was worth chasing. As it turns out, this can lead to living a very selfish life. It can cause a lot of pain and very bad decisions, but by the time I realized that, it was too late. In an attempt to not repeat the past, I tried not to ignore what I felt.

The Oh Hellos will help me tell my story.

Hello, my old heart,
How have you been?
Are you still there inside my chest?

I’ve been so worried,
You’ve been so still,
Barely beating at all.

It became a beast I was unwilling to let loose again. I rationalized this, thinking that it could protect other people from what I found I was capable of doing. I was being selfless! I could do anything and make any decision not based on emotion, flying around, hoping to protect people from me. Spock! I was Spock.

I give myself too much credit, though. People don’t need protection from me. I was really just trying to protect myself, being selfish and trying to pass it off as being righteous, but it kept me safe, invincible, though a little cold.

Every day I add another stone
To the walls I’ve built around you
To keep you safe.

Hello, my old heart,
how have you been?
How is it being locked away?

Don’t you worry.
In there you’re safe.
And it’s true, you’ll never beat,
But you’ll never break.

I’ve had lots of conversations with a good friend of mine about how we deal with our emotions. What we usually conclude is that hers overflow from her, which, to me, sounds exhausting. I, on the other hand, just ignore them, which, in retrospect, sounds unhealthy. I did not want to admit that feelings need to be dealt with whether or not a decision is based on them, but that would have required more self-examination than what I was comfortable with… which is usually none. I was placing feelings in a space outside of reality, like they were something that was optional and should not affect everyday life. Unfortunately, this does not prepare you for when that box you keep so well hidden starts to overflow and becomes very real.

I’ve come to see that I can’t just ignore this. When I’m hurt, there’s a real, bleeding wound. Ignoring it will be life-draining. I want it to be tended to, perfectly sewn, made stronger. That cannot happen if I’m ignoring this core part of who I am. I want to become a man who loves radically, weeps unashamedly, laughs uncontrollably, agers without sinning. There is joy in all these things! There is life and freedom, even when it hurts. Indeed, it comes with that risk of suffering, but even then I pray that I consider it pure joy. What a marvelous opportunity.

Nothing lasts forever.
Some things aren’t meant to be.
But you’ll never find the answers
Til you set your old heart free.

Til you set your old heart free.


Relevant Quotes:

“…for the first time, let’s just allow ourselves to be whatever it is we are and that will be better. OK? I think that will be better.” – Andrew Largeman, Garden State

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” – God, Ezekiel 36:26

Daniel vs. the Slope, and Life

I was sitting at the airport in denial, hoping that airplanes can fly straight through blizzards.

They cannot. Our flight was canceled, and the next one was two days later, which would cut deeply into the trip. After several hours, those of us stuck at the airport miraculously caught flights leaving later that day. Some lucked out on standby, while me and another person were able to take the seats of people who canceled their trips. We were on our way to Denver.

My friend and I were twelve hours behind schedule and the last ones to arrive at the cabin in Breckenridge, but we made it. There was fresh snow covering everything, a rare sight for a Texan, but there was no time to play. Our cozy beds were calling. We needed our energy in the days to come.

Two days later, we’re taking lifts up the beautiful snow-covered mountain, snowboards strapped to our left feet. Countless YouTube videos had prepared me for this moment. People say that everybody falls when they get off the lift for the first time, but I would be different. I would float off that mobile bench and blissfully slide atop the fresh powder. The moment for me to jump off comes and… I actually don’t remember what happened, but for the sake of the story and probability, I’ll say that I fell.

Minor setback. I got up and strapped my other foot onto the board. I stood up the way that the YouTube videos showed me, and I was ready. I gazed upon the slope before me, ready to conquer this mountain that had been calling me for the past two days. I slowly made my descent.

The next several hours were series of hard falls, some done intentionally to prevent a collision with a tree or person. I sat in the snow, cursing and punching it for doing this to me. The YouTube video made it look so easy. I considered signing up for lessons, but my friend who is a seasoned snowboarder gave me some pointers. Once again I stood up, determined not to let this mountain defeat me.

By the end of that day, I could leaf down the slope heel side without falling. The next day I tested my ability on the steepest of green (easiest) slopes. I flew down that mountain, still only on my heel side, but I was feeling confident. My goal was to move up to the blue slopes the next day, but I still had to get my toe side down, which I decided I would practice for the remainder of the day.

For those who don’t know, when you are on your toe side, your back is facing the bottom of the slope, so you are basically going down the mountain backwards, meaning that if you fall, you flip over and land on your back. This happened to me many times. I had to take my helmet off a few times in order to clear the holes of the snow that was packed in them from having fallen on my back and hitting my head so many times. I fought off my frustration, knowing that I would get it down. Little did I know that my zeal would be my downfall.

Once again, I found myself getting off the lift at the top of the slope, this time with ease. I felt that my boots could be a little bit tighter, but I wanted to waste no time getting back on the slope. It would have taken a few seconds to turn the knobs on my boots that tightened the straps, but instead, I specifically remember thinking these words right before what would be my last slope of the trip:

“My boots are tight enough.”

I started down the slope with exceptional speed. I was going quite fast, which was starting to scare me, but I thought it was time to put my toe side brake to the test. I turn, but I am not slowing down enough. I leaned even harder into the mountain to the point where my face was only a few feet from the snow. I could feel the snow being violently scraped by my board, yet it seemed to do nothing to slow me down until my board finally caught some snow that it could not move. My board stopped in its tracks, but I kept going. I flipped all the way over and landed onto my back harder than I ever had before.

I laid there for a few seconds before sitting up. My left ankle hurt, but not enough for me to stop. I stood up, and then it hurt enough for me to stop. I decided that my snowboarding endeavors would have to continue the next day, so I started walking down the slope. With each step, the pain grew more severe. I probably walked about ten or twenty feet before I had to sit down. I knew it was bad, but it couldn’t have been that bad. Snowboarding boots are incredibly rigid. They prevent any movement of the ankle. It’s pretty much impossible to break your ankle while wearing them.

Unless the boots aren’t tight enough.

Somebody passing by saw me hopelessly sitting there and went to get help. People on the lifts above me started to shout at me and ask if everything was okay. It was not too long before a worker came on skis, pulling a medical sled behind her. I laid on the bed of the sled, and the worker wrapped me in a yellow tarp. My face was still exposed, so I could see the hundreds of people who stared at me as we passed. It probably looked like she was relocating a corpse.

I arrive at the medical center. I was too banged up for them to do anything, so they were sending me down to the clinic in town. I was given the option of either walking to the bus or getting put in a gurney in the back of a van. My denial and pride led me to choose the walk to the bus, which lasted me about two steps.

After the van ride down the mountain, I found myself lying on one of the many beds at the busy Breckenridge medical clinic, awaiting a doctor to show me the results of my x-ray. My ankle was broken. They didn’t have any cast boots in my size, so they had to make a splint that I would not be able to take off until I got back home. But before that could happen, they obviously had to remove the boot I was still wearing. They had to pull my broken, swollen foot out of the very narrow, stiff hole of the snowboard boot. The pain was so excruciating that I made them cut me out of my sock.

Needless to say, the rest of the trip was not that great. I appreciate my friends’ efforts to try to pump some life back into me, but being on crutches at 10,000 feet makes you too exhausted to enjoy much. We left after a few days, and the next few weeks were Vicodin.

That whole experience played into a lot of fears I still have. Snowboarding was something I really wanted to do. At first I was really bad at it, but I worked past that, which is something I seldom do during the initial difficulties of any new challenge. I guess I could say that that is a victory in itself, but once I found out I was more capable, I set a higher goal which I was determined to reach. I fought so hard for it, but in the end I failed. I did. I was defeated, and it hurt both emotionally and physically.

I’ve been asked if I regret going on that trip or it I’m scarred for life. The answer to both is no. Would I do it again if I knew the outcome would be the same? Definitely not. But I can never know that, and assuming that I’ll fail at everything is keeping me from doing anything. This trip was two years ago, and my ankle is fully healed. It’s actually my good ankle now, and I’d definitely be willing to test it out on the slopes once again. I’d be putting myself in danger of more falls and risking more broken bones, but that’s the truth with anything we want to do. I will not be so easily discouraged, and I believe it will be worth it. It took me too long to realize that. God, help me.

broken ankle


Forth, and fear no darkness.
Arise, arise, riders of Theoden!
Spears shall be shaken. Shields shall be splintered.
A sword day, a red day, ere there sun rises.

 

Sick In San Francisco

Vacations and I do not seem to get along very well. The first actual vacation I went on was in 6th grade. My family and I traveled took a two week long road trip from Houston to San Francisco. We stopped in Yosemite and saw sea lions. That’s about all I remember from that trip. That was the last vacation I went on until last year. January 2014, I went on a snowboarding trip in Breckenridge, CO. I broke my ankle a few days into the trip.

Right now, I am sitting in my bed in my hostel, barely strong enough to walk downstairs. Besides my cold/flu-like symptoms, I am suffering from an extreme case of FOMO (fear of missing out). I tried to tough it out, but the last of my strength was spent waiting in line for a Sushirrito. Yes, it’s exactly what you think it is. It was delicious. Afterwards, my friends went cycling across the golden gate bridge and ate at Chinatown. I sat in my room and caught up on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

I’m not going to lie. I’m pretty upset. I’m copying my friend’s video about her trip to Peru by making my own little travel documentary. The Golden Gate Bridge was going to be the money shot of San Fran. I wish I could just have a vacation without any ailment befalling me. Luckily, I had a very successful trip to Yosemite for three nights before coming to San Fran. That is most likely where I got sick because it was freezing, but it was well worth it for the view. More on that later. Right now, more bedrest, and hopefully I will be better by tomorrow when I leave for Vancouver. Something called Poutine is calling my name.

The Death of Chicken Moreno

The first pets that I ever had were hamsters. After pestering our parents enough, we went to the store and bought two furry little rodents and decided to name them Chip and Dale, based off the popular cartoon depicting the adventures of two crime-solving chipmunks, or rescue rangers, if you will. They lived around two years, the average lifespan of tiny rodents. I remember the exact moment when I was told of the first one’s death. My mom picked me and my next door neighbor, Josh, up from school. I was probably in first or second grade. I hopped in the passenger’s seat of our van (is that too young to sit up front?), and my mom immediately starts like this:

Mom: Chip died.

Me: *bursts into tears*

I remember that she didn’t look at me and immediately started driving after she broke the news. In retrospect, I don’t know why she didn’t wait until we got home to tell me or why she told me like that. Maybe she didn’t know how to approach the whole telling-your-kid-his-beloved-pet-just-died thing. After all, she never had to do it before. We had the funeral that day, but we made a couple mistakes. First, we didn’t put the hamster in a box. Second, we didn’t bury him deep enough. The following day we found the burial site dug up, and the corpse of Chip was nowhere to be found. Some cat or possum got an easy meal that night.

I don’t remember too much about the death of the second hamster. Probably the same amount of tears, but I do remember that we made sure to dig deeper. However, it was disappointing that the two siblings wouldn’t be able to rest in peace together. They did get in a lot of fights in their old age, so maybe it was better that way. Despite the tears, I did learn a lot from the death of my two furry friends. I do think having animals with short lifespans at a young age is a good, healthy way to introduce the concept of death and loss to a child, but even this could not prepare me for what was to come.

Fast forward a year or two. We had attained two baby chickens from my older brother’s 6th grade science teacher, who had a box filled with chicks for some reason. He gave them to us to care for temporarily since my mom had raised many a chick when she was growing up. We did a good job until tragedy struck.

We had a neighbor named Michael who lived across the street. He was shorter and slower than Josh and I were. One day, all of us were playing with the chicks in our backyard. We were holding them and discovered that they would always run away immediately upon release. They were pretty fast, but not faster than the average elementary schooler. Being mean children, we bet Michael that he couldn’t catch one. He insisted that he could.

“Prove it.”

Oh, he proved it, all right. We released the chicks, and they took off as expected. Michael bolted after them, and then…

it was over.

The next thing that could be heard for miles was my wailing and screaming for my mom. She arrived, and I begged her to rush the chick to the vet. She told me that it was no use. Michael had accidentally stepped on the chick while he was in hot pursuit of it. Its neck had been broken. I remember looking at the chick during its last few moments on earth. I will never forget that feeling of hopelessness and dread as I saw its life slowly slip away. After a few long minutes, he had passed.

I was beside myself. The neighborhood kids gathered for the funeral. Had I owned any black clothes, I certainly would have worn them. We put the deceased in a box that we had adorned with pictures and notes. Michael wrote “sorry” on the cardboard coffin, but Josh and I knew that we were to blame. We shouldn’t have mocked Michael and used the poor poultry as bait. Later that day as I was processing the loss of the chick by looking pensively out my window, I saw a mocking bird and sparrow fighting in my backyard. To prevent more death, I ran toward them to break up the fight, but my shirt got caught on our patio chair, causing me to lose precious moments. I got there and scared off the mocking bird, but it was too late. The sparrow’s body was on the ground, lifeless. More tears. Too many bird deaths in one day. I buried this little guy in the same deep hole as our chicken. At least they would have the company that Chip and Dale didn’t.

Sometime during high school, I brought up the chicken incident with my mom. After the first chick died, we returned the second chick, so I asked what happened to him and the rest of them. It turns out that the teacher gave them to a farm, and a raccoon got in their crate and slaughtered all of them. Nature. She didn’t tell me way back then because she didn’t want to upset me more, but telling me actually made me feel better. Meeting the bottom of Michael’s foot may have been the best thing that could have happened to that chick. I think that I would prefer getting my neck broken to getting ripped apart by a pair of ravenous jaws, but that’s just me.

I Was A Crybaby

I’m not sure why, but I used to cry a lot as a kid. But crying as a kid is normal, right? Yes, but one might say, if he were a mean and hateful person, that I was a crybaby.

There were emotional reasons for starting the waterworks. The death of my hamsters and my pet chicken (that post to come later) definitely left my little, elementary school heart broken and the flood gates open. The majority of the time I cried, however, was from pain. Any shot, scrape, bruise, bump, you name it would set me off. Maybe it was because I had a naturally low pain tolerance. Maybe it was because I was coddled. Whatever the reason, I grew up thinking that I had to cry. Crying was just something that you did when you got hurt. There were several occasions in which I would get a scrape and carry on perfectly fine until I saw that I was injured and then start crying. Nobody taught me that it was possible to just not cry if you got hurt. It’s similar to how nobody teaches you that you can just watch each Lord of the Rings film separately. I used to think that you could only marathon them1.

Anyway, it wasn’t until I was 9 0r 10 that I realized I didn’t have to cry if I got hurt. The epiphany came through my best friend’s little brother. He was a scrappy one, indeed. This kid was six years younger than I was, and he seldom cried. They lived next door, so he would often come outside and play with us, the big kids. I specifically remember his arm getting run over by a wagon filled with kids. One time, he decided to stand underneath the basketball goal while we were shooting. Somebody made a basket (probably not me) and the ball went from the hoop right into his head, knocking him to the ground. Looking back, this actually would have made a good America’s Funniest Videos moment. I ran over to ask the little booger if he was okay and prepared to get him to stop crying, but he ignored me, got up, and kept trying to make a basket. This kid never seemed to cry2.

I would compare my life to this kid’s and think, “Why the heck isn’t he crying? I would have cried for sure.” Then it hit me: I could just try not crying. “Next time I get hurt, I will not cry. Next time.”

I was so proud of myself the first time I got a shot and didn’t cry. I started getting scrapes and cuts and learning that most things don’t hurt as bad as you think they do. My crying has leveled out since my childhood. The average man cries about 7 times every year. That seems about right, unless he watches Marley and Me. That will bump it up to 8 for sure, unless you’re a mean and hateful person.


1One of my good friends has never seen any of the Lord of the Rings films (I know, right?), so we had been trying to set a date to watch all of the extended editions. That’s 12 glorious hours of LotR. Eventually she asked if we could just watch one at a time. Up until that moment I hadn’t realized that that was a possibility.

2Okay, this actually isn’t completely true. I remember one time specifically when his family came over for dinner, and he was bouncing on my bed. In an attempt to get him to stop, I tackled him and accidentally hit his mouth with my hand, causing him to wail in pain. When his mom and my mom came up to see what the commotion was all about, I lied and said my brother did it since he has ADHD and thus didn’t know what was happening and was also still too young to get into any trouble. I confessed to my mom that night, but never to any of the other parties involved. Sorry, guys. That feels good to get off my chest after 12 years.