My Dominican Christmas

Tradition is: beliefs from our ancestors handed down to us in customs and rituals. Out of the many traditions that make their way into our everyday lives, Christmas is one of the few that we can trace back to its true origin. But regardless of origin Christmas is celebrated in almost every way imaginable, from fat men with white beards dressing up as Santa to native Dominican's sticking a wooden pole through a pig and roasting it over an open fire all night; Christmas is a season both of unity and diversity. Unity in the sense that people from all around the world recognise it as a holiday season and a time for family and fun, diversity in the way that it is celebrated (traditions) and for the reasons it is a joyful season.

The clock has just struck 12am and it's officially the 25th of December. There is snow on the mountains on my desktop picture, but that's only on my computer, and I am quite at ease enjoying the tropical 66°f weather the Dominican Republic offers me for Christmas. The tree didn't make it up this year but I'm content to watch the days slip by with some of Falling Up's new Christmas album (Silver City) and the warmth of family nearby. 

I've been investing a lot of time in thought and reflection upon the past 2 years and it never ceases to amaze me how God leads and provides. As I look back I can see a trail of events that led to where I am now, but more importantly that shaped, who I am now. As I gaze intently at what may lie ahead, I can't help but feel a rush of excitement and anticipation for 2014 and beyond! I'm excited because I can see where God has brought me from, but more so because regardless what comes my way, I'm not alone. I have Jesus and I'm learning that is enough, in little or much, he is enough. 

It is my desire to always be improving my skills and growing in new areas, so I've been working on filming some stories and putting them together. I filmed this piece last night and spent most of my day editing it. I've been poking around in Logic Pro X some, and this is my first project with an original score that I created! It's pretty simple but I've got to start somewhere. 

This experience got me thinking about how cultures follow different traditions and I've come to the conclusion that regardless of tradition, we have reason to celebrate because: 'Deity endured mortality, so we could enjoy eternity.'

Merry Christmas!  

Rest

Despite the dreams, tears are never far. Laying on the floor in the midst of company my eyes become heavy and release, slowly down my face. I'm the character and I've met my conflict. You may not see it because this war is fought within, deep beneath the skin. Stuck in a world inside my head, searching for rest. But rest is not something I can do but the ceasing of all doing, the abandonment of task and the warm embrace of simply being. Change is coming and I've never wanted it so bad! But the cross comes before the crown and He promises his strength to the weary, I'll take it. Goodnight.

-Neal 

Small Beginnings

"Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin...” -Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)

I've been on this journey for twenty-one years now and I've come a long way. When I think back even a few years; the memory is often accompanied with a feeling of disgust. 'Who I am, hates who I've been.' The childish egoism that dictated the majority of my early life is something I can't take back, and the time I used pursuing my own selfish interests is time I will never see again. I'm not the kind of guy to hold on to the past because I don't see the point in using this time in the present to try and undo what has already been sealed into the vaults of history but there is great wisdom to be found in reading the part of your story that has already been written. If you can't change it, learn from it. But most importantly, don't repeat it.

So often I find myself dreaming about what's to come. I am caught in the tension of reality and what I hope for.

I recently read this in, "The Children of Húrin" by J.R.R. Tolkien (speaking to Túrin):

"A Man you seem in stature, and indeed more than many already, but nonetheless you have not come to the fullness of your manhood that shall be. Until that is achieved, you should be patient, testing and training your strength...fear both the heat and the cold of your heart, and strive for patience, if you can."

I may appear as a man in stature but the truth is, even though I've come a long way; I still have a long way to go. It's hard to measure success without comparison because everyone has their own journey, but I for one am committed to give myself fully to the plans and purposes God has for me during my short stay here on earth. Not to be the best at whatever it is that I do compared to others, but to be faithful with what is in my hand and work diligently to establish God's Kingdom here on earth, in me, as it is in heaven. It sounds elegant but what does it look like practically? It actually starts in my bedroom where I spend many hours mostly in a state of unconscious dreaming or long periods of assessment and study (when I'm not on my computer). I love this place because it is here that I begin my day every morning and end at every night. It is here that I am completely transparent, here that I let my guard down, and here that I dream of the future. It is my own portal into God's presence, where I meet with Jesus in His Word through the Holy Spirit. It is here where battles are fought upon my knees, here where tears flow freely as I learn to let go, here where I am reminded this world is not my home.

I am convinced that God is doing a new thing in and through me, so I submit myself to his work. I will trust more in his ability to lead me, than my own ability to follow. I walk forward, expectant of all that is in store knowing that for those who trust in Him, the best is yet to come. For where I came from is not where I'm going, and this is just the beginning.

Dawn

This time in the present is but for a season, for summer is coming and with it the warmth in my heart. The rain can't fall forever so I rest calm, more sure than ever, that he who abides through the perilous night will have for himself the dawn of the light, and with the new day, a hope that remains. I am convinced nothing is too great for the Lord of Heaven's Armies is with me. Peace to my soul, all is in his control. This mountain I face is insignificant compared to his unending grace. I will not chase shadows and tastes for mine is the King and his glorious face!

 

Counting Sheep

On the saddest nights I'm all alone, you can find me in the midst of falling tears. Troubled by this lonely place, I'm waiting for the dawn to break. What I want is out of reach, maybe that's why I'm still counting sheep. Brush the falling rain away, it'll all be worth the pain someday. Chasing shadows far away, it's time I let the Master mold this clay.

Memory

There are moments when the memory is enough to bring back the pain. Delirious fragments of a world I created inside my head. It's all a dream until reality wakes me with a blow to the gut, I double over from the wreck and stumble through the shattered dreams gasping for air. I try to pick up the pieces as I make my way towards the light but there's no point anymore, the truth has dawned upon my imagination and all I'm left with is a feeling of regret.

Give Up Yourself

"The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him and with Him everything else thrown in."

-C.S. Lewis

King David and Captain America

After recently watching the movie Captain America for the 3rd or 4th time I couldn't help but observe some of the similarities between the character Steve Rodgers and the greatest king of Israel, king David.

Both started out as the underdog. David wasn't even fetched from the fields when the prophet Samuel arrived at Jesse's place looking for his sons (because he was the youngest). Rodgers wasn't deemed worth the trouble of being admitted into the army even if they were only going to ship him over to die in the war (because he was the smallest). 

Rodgers was chosen by the doctor, David was chosen by the Lord. Both men experienced a transformation; David was anointed with oil and became filled with the Spirit of God, Rodgers was injected with cerium and became extremely strong. But in the end both David and Rodgers were chosen for their outstanding character.

Both guys ended up serving in ways they didn't expect or dream about.. Rodgers became a show boy to raise money to support the war instead of fighting it, and David started out playing the harp to calm king Saul's troubled mind. Both guys were aware of their calling but still chose to be faithful with what they had been given instead. 

A handful of everyday tasks given to him by his father takes David to where the giant Goliath is, and some orders and a tour abroad takes Rogers within range of what seems like a hopeless mission. Both guys take up the challenge with all odds against them. Both defeat their giant and become the hero.

David is loyal to the Lord, God of Israel. Rodgers is loyal to the United States of America.

David hates the enemies of the Lord. Rodgers hates bullies. Both of them allow their passion to move them into action when the opportunity presents itself. Both have prepared themselves with smaller challenges; David killed a lion and a bear to protect his fathers sheep, Rodgers would confront bullies all the time even if they would beat the hell out of him for it.

Both men lived their lives with courage and strong convictions. Both men were more concerned about doing the right thing than their own safety or well being. Both men counted the cost and were prepared to lay everything down for the sake of the mission. 

Both guys had their failings, but both guys sacrificed much to live for a cause greater than themselves. That's what makes them leaders, and that's what makes them my heroes. 

 

Flawless Complexion

All your perfect complications and silly actuations makes me wish I knew the real girl. I am enchanted by the ghost of who you might be, hidden beneath that flawless complexion, you intrigue me beyond expression.

The Father of the Trees

Something tells me I should go for it. "Forget the risk, take the fall" is what they say. The sounds of nature awakens in me a sense of not belonging, it's like déjàvu except I can't remember what I'm reminded of. Gravity begs me to bend but something inside me won't relent. The meadows green strewn with sheep and the crystal breeze wrapping around me whisper endlessly of a need to meet the father of the trees. Could it be that he can silence my hearts feeble bleeding? I stumble through the trees and crumble at his feet. The depth of his love from the branches it hung, willing to die for me. Every inch of my skin stands at attention before him. My breath is shallow but hope grows deep as I begin to understand how much he cares. My worth was clear as they cursed his name, for in silence I betrayed him but with a cry he forgave them.

Recesses of My Mind

You were never mine except in the recesses of my mind where I dreamed I could find the way inside your heart.

The Burglar of My Dreams

My thoughts remain unspoken for you are pristine and far too gorgeous.

So what you are to me, is the burglar of my dreams. For you deserve the best, and I cannot compete, for I am so much less than what you should desire.

Though fate would play this way, in my world you'd stay. Where every lonely night I turn out all the lights, and sink beneath the skin to caverns barely lit, and there begin to swim until I reach the shore; I'll never know for sure if you'll be there again, walking on the sand, holding my hand.

The feeling goes so deep, I'm waken from my sleep, and perceive it was a dream. 

A dream brought to light, by the enchantment of your life. 

Fragmented Reality

There is a place in my dreams that I wish to bring back from  my unconsciousness. Everything is green there except her golden skin that illuminates the place. Names are the game and my heart the price. There's something about her charm that leaves my judgement paralysed. My guard is up but her footsteps are light, and there she is walking in the moonlight. Hair down and eyes searching, if only she could see me. Lullaby's repeating, I love her secretly. My vision lies in her decision, do I suggest the question? Dreams conspiracy is useless apathy that feeds me reality's pre-conceived candy. Is it a matter of knowing that will bring the harvest of what I've been sowing? But then again it's just me, sitting in my dreams waiting for the real world to catch me.

McDonald's & Pitbull

Today I was in McDonald’s browsing on my phone and sipping a Caramel Mocha when I glanced over at the TV and happened to notice a Pitbull music video playing. As TV students often do, I began to analyze the cuts and techniques, but my analysis didn’t last more than a few seconds as I was presented in HD; images of beautiful girls stripping, bikini-clad girls kissing, women sensually dancing while removing their tops, countless shots leaving a small fragment for the imagination. All this is too much but the part that really got to me was that there was 4 or 5 young children sitting with their families eating breakfast, all with a clear view of the screen. Something stirred inside me and I knew I shouldn’t remain silent, so I didn’t. I asked to speak with a manager and a tall female in her mid-twenty’s asked ‘what she could do for me.’ I described some of the shots in the music video and asked ‘do you think that’s appropriate for children?’ She abruptly said “I can change the channel for you!” I replied ‘It’s not for me… I thought McDonald’s is a family restaurant, I wouldn’t want my kids seeing that.’ She said “I understand, I’ll change the channel.” I thanked her and walked out the door. Our whole conversation was short but I could see my comment took her somewhat by surprise.

January 23, 2013.

 

Unknown

For some time now I have been trying to put my finger down on ‘what’ it is I feel so vividly within the deepest part of me, but it seems that whatever this maddening consciousness may be it is always lingering at least one step beyond my furthest reach. I have concluded that no matter what it is I feel, the single most defining element of it is— how real and alive it is within me. Despite my most determined efforts I can’t seem to shake it, it surrounds me but more than that it resides within my very being. I realise that the closer it is, the less I see clearly so I desperately seek to outdistance it and escape just long enough to get a look at what it is I’m up against. My heart stops and a ghost of a thought crosses my mind before I am abandoned with the strangest suspicion; that if by chance it was possible to outdistance this retched sense, and see it for what it is, I would surely come face-to-face with a reflection of myself. For I know that what I’m running from is part of me. 

The moment when you’re caught between what you feel and what you fear

The seconds spin on but time stands still. I begin to wonder if perhaps the silence says more than it should. A pen drops but all I hear is a numb quiet. My train was delayed so I don’t mind the rain. The drops on the window reflect the cabins interior, I don’t like what I see but then again it’s only me. I breathe in the past with the moist, dreary air and turn my attention to the journey ahead. The motion of the train is sluggish and almost sleepy except for my heart's constant beating. I close my eyes and slowly begin to drift off then awake with a jolt and see it’s you, it’s you that I miss.