“you were just practice”

Raphael Williams.

I am so sorry. You do not deserve this. No child deserves this.

It’s been six years and we still don’t know if we should tell you the story. Or how much of the story to tell. Is it ever the case that the truth can be more damaging than a lie? I have always wanted to protect you but this… this is something else. What am I protecting you from? Truth? Or the illusion of it?

There is too much at stake. Too much… power.
What story do I tell? The pen is in my hand but my hand is shaking. Violently. This is another breed of writer’s block. I have the tools to sculpt your reality. The rasp to shape and form your identity and who you think you are. One wrong move.

Who chose me to bear such a burden… no. Honor. What great achievement did I accomplish to merit such a privilege of carrying this responsibility? Coke still runs through my veins. The stale stench of alcohol still garnishes my tobacco-flavored breath. Who am I?

You may not ever know your father.
I don’t know if he actually loves you. I’m still figuring out whether or not he loves me. Is it possible to be born with a broken heart? I suppose that’s up to me. Damn.

I know he’s said things about you… to you.. but you can’t let those things affect you, okay? Never believe anything he says. I pray every night that you are too young to remember. Do you think I’ve messed up too bad for God to listen to me? I think that all the time but… it’s all I got.

They might not play with you during recess. They might bully you. They might not sit with you during lunch. They might make fun of you because you look… different. You may not learn as quickly as the other kids but there is nothing wrong with that. With you. You gotta be strong. Don’t let their words sink into your mind.

Raphael. You are beautiful, you hear me? There is nothing wrong with you. You are loved. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. You are not a mistake. Even if your father says so. Even if the doctors say so. Even if the kids at school say so. Even if the teachers say so.

I naively believed my sheltered, Christian upbringing would automatically make me invulnerable but… it may have blinded me more than anything. Now, I have to pay the price. Now, you have to pay the price.

Your father and I are the mistakes. We are the screw-ups. And I hope you can forgive us for the debt that you inherited from our failures. We were young. And foolish. Drunk on “freedom” and high on “life”.

We wanted to try it. Just because we could. So we took our chances and bit down deep. It was far too enticing.

And that is what pains my soul the most.
This harrowing truth that you… you were just practice.

 

 

Raphael Williams was not real yesterday, but is very much alive today. He was born on October 23rd, 2016 as a pre-mature baby to a young woman who just began her first year of college. Raphael suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, along with an array of permanent birth defects that will serve as merciless obstacles for the rest of his life. 

The story of Raphael Williams is real, yet fictitious. To be frank, I just wanted to practice my writing. You know, character-building, storytelling and stuff like that. Now, Raphael will live a painful and burdensome life. I’m so sorry, bud.

quoteworthy – the return

“‘Aslan is on the move. The Witch’s magic is weakening.’ And Lucy felt running through her that deep shiver of gladness which you only get if you are being solemn and still.”

–C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

 

R.C.: Well… who exactly is he?

E.B.: That, in itself, is still a mystery that continues to unravel even as we speak. Pray it does so quickly, lest the world is lost before it happens. […] needs to find himself soon. Time is short. People are dying everyday. We need him.

 

 

Come swiftly.

candy bars – zealots of stockholm

Heathen, it’s a struggle just to keep breathing
Existential asthmatic,
puff puff pass addict
Craftmatic, making moves but they sleeping on me
We can kick it like it’s FIFA, homie

Whoa. Slow down, Gambino.

I often think of Childish Gambino whenever I hear Kendrick rap, “Look inside of my soul and you can find gold and maybe get rich“. He is the small lighter and he done burned bridges. The way he spits is.. straight-up weird, yet undeniably powerful. His visceral lyricism is raw and sardonic, delivering harsh and sarcastic criticism to the inauthentic world of imposters that he is tired of living in. Yet he delivers with such casual finesse, as if he is indifferent about the issues he is speaking on. His flow is borderline monotonous yet oddly hypnotic, which somehow adds potency to his incredibly dense bars. Picture an 8-year old kid blowing a spitball at the Great Wall of China. If this kid spitting was Childish Gambino, the Wall would crumble. And he would probably shrug it off. Whatever.

**If you still haven’t heard Childish Gambino’s freestyle on Sway in the Morning, do yourself a favor and give it a listen. It will give you a better idea of what I’m talking about.

In today’s rap scene, Gambino’s lyricism is close to unparalleled. His bars are oozing with clever wordplay and style, as this short excerpt from “Zealots of Stockholm” clearly demonstrates. Each phrase is masterfully crafted and Gambino carefully injects an absurd amount of meaning into every word. Double entendres everywhere. And he raps them with such a “get-on-my-level” fashion, not waiting on anyone to keep up with him.

This is to give you an idea of how difficult it is to listen to Gambino’s work, aside from the fact that his hit album, Because the Internet, is just straight-up disturbing. Gambino has a lot of haters and his reviews has always been mixed. But I see him as a deeply insightful guy who’s often misunderstood because he poses honest questions that no one can answer. He’s tired of being tired of the world. And how can we blame him for it?

TMJ or TMI, it’s a lie that you’re living
I never understood the hate on a nigga preference
When every marriage is a same sex marriage
Same sex everyday, monotonous

Lost God, never prayed, forgotten us
Lost love, never say just like our parents

Rap and poetry aren’t the only places where Donald Glover expresses his challenging opinions; over the years, he’s found a variety of different channels to creatively upset our comfortable worldviews, such as television, acting, stand-up comedy, screenwriting, producing, and directing (just to name a few). Also, can we just acknowledge how rare it is for artists to rap, sing, and produce their own music, and do it well?

If it wasn’t clear in the past, it is now that Donald Glover is the Renaissance Man of the modern-day entertainment world. While he showcases an impressive arsenal of distinct skills, perhaps his most formidable weapon is his ability to weave together his seemingly compartmentalized talents into one hauntingly beautiful universe. The deeper we immerse ourselves into his works, the more we see that the many faces, personalities, and characters of Donald Glover are all strangely interconnected in the same dimension in some twisted way.

I’m pretty sure if we fully unlocked the mind of Donald Glover, the earth would implode or something. If this is the observable universe, I really wonder what else lives inside his imagination. I want to explore his brain and see the things that haven’t actualized yet, but maybe the world isn’t ready for that yet. His storytelling has transcended single art forms and perhaps art itself. You don’t have to like him but you’ve got to have some level of respect for him. Because to invent such an intricate, yet massive universe, and then to capture it in the languages of art requires nothing short of genius.

And anybody can walk into any Denny’s
And wait until I’m walking in it
With a gun that they 3D printed and finish it

Kinison said if you gonna miss heaven…
Why do it by two inches?
Old money and new bitches

 

 

Excerpts from “II. Zealots of Stockholm [Free Information]”

stone the prophet

God uses those whom we hate the most to teach us how to love.

 

Who do you think has nothing to teach you about God?
Drug addicts? Prostitutes? Atheists? Dear God, the Liberals? Your own family? Baby Christians?

It is no surprise that Jesus used a poor, Samaritan, promiscuous woman to teach his ethnically-prideful posse of Jewish men how to be a missionary. It is no surprise that the Spirit sent Peter into the hands of his Roman oppressor to show him that even his oppressors were invited into the Kingdom. It is no surprise that God sent Jonah to the city of Nineveh, for the Ninevites, of all people, had something to teach him about the depth of God’s heart.

He could have used a witty parable but he didn’t. He could have invited a critically-acclaimed megachurch pastor with a riveting sermon and fancy powerpoint slides. But he didn’t.

 

They’ve stripped me of my dignity. Beaten, broken, and marred. They disowned me so I responded in kind. I ran and ran. Not looking back. I can’t. But I was eaten alive. I crawled upon the shores of which the sands were all too familiar. You’re meaning to tell me that I am to learn from the one who dealt me my deepest scars? What could he possibly teach me?

 

If we follow Jesus, we must pass the mic to those we assume have nothing to teach us about Him. To those whom we refuse to believe have the authority to do so. To those whom we have learned to tune out. We need to give them permission to speak truth into our hearts. We need to believe that they have just as much Jesus to offer us as our beloved, hip youth pastors.

Where is your Samaria? Where is your Nineveh? Whom have you forgotten how to love? Go. Go to them, for that is our mission.

 

“The delivery of the message must be as good as the message itself.”

grip strength – an excerpt from “#gettrekt16”

If you hold the ashes, how can you find new flame?
If you cling to your scars, how will you find healing?
If you embrace death, how can you receive new life?
If you stay in the grave, how will you rise again?

 

Wake up, Lazarus.
Let it go, Justin.

 

I can’t. At least not yet.

If not now, then when?

 

 

 

 

Why am I here?

#gettrekt16

fight fire with fire

Last week was deep emotional pain. This week, I nearly cut two of my fingers off with a chef knife.

Losing consciousness is terrifying. As much as I love the ocean, I can’t stand swimming in it, especially when I have to stare down into the seemingly bottomless abyss. As my friends hastily carried my limp body outside, my mind struggled to stay afloat, but my attempts to tread water were futile. As much as I thrashed, I really had no control over the waves. They would wash over me, envelop me, and the frantic soundtrack playing in the background would grow disturbingly silent, save some muffled voices. The world would turn eerily dim. No goggles.

Is this what it feels like to die?

 

The hospital visit was one of the best workouts of my life. One of the first questions the nurse inquired of me was this: “Intentional or unintentional?”

What the hell..?

“Unintentional”, I responded.

I think my grip strength is getting pretty good by now. The best types of exercise involve not only all of your body, but all of your mind and soul. So much of it is a game that is played mentally. How much can you take? Where do your limits lie and do you have the strength and willpower to trespass them?

Fighting pain is exhausting.

One of the most memorable highlights in our workout routine was when my doctor shot anesthetics into my finger. As soon as the word “stitches” was mentioned, I entered an episode of internal frenzy. Mental game level up. Boss level. I could hardly stutter through the pain but in my mind, I frantically demanded, Just give me the damn anesthetics.

Getting the anesthetics into my finger was ironically the most painful part of the process but the payoff was well worth it. Man. The things you do and say when you’re in pain amaze me. When you’re hurting that much, the mere absence of pain can feel like pleasure. Yet my body did not receive even that degree of relief. I was still very much in pain but it felt like euphoria and I was content with it. It strikes me how when one is in agony, he will settle for lesser agony, rather than actual healing.

But what happens when the anesthetic begins to fade away? Apart from passing out, feeling the painkillers wear off was one of the most fear-inducing moments of the day. Wait. Can you give me more? I’m not ready to go back there.

It has been a rough week, being limited in my activity and having the rhythm of my life forcibly hindered behind everyone else’s. But when I come to think about it, it wasn’t all that bad. At least I didn’t have to think about all of the heavy pain weighing on my heart from the previous week. I only had so much energy and mental capacity and I spent all of it on my lacerated fingers. I didn’t have enough space to even think about other scars.

I think I understand why people cut themselves now. It distracts them from deeper pains, the pains of the heart. And I can now attest, it is surprisingly effective. In fact, it works like magic. (Great. Now my heart is breaking for more people.) Sometimes, the emotional suffering is so unimaginable that it only makes sense for someone to resort to physical self-harm. Sometimes, the pain is so unbearable that the greatest anesthetic to pain, it would seem, is pain itself.

But alas, like all anesthetics, pain inevitably subsides and wears off. And the scars of the body usually heal faster than the scars of the soul. My stitches get removed this upcoming week. Panic. Internal frenzy. Doctor, I need more anesthetics. Please. Can you give me more? I’m not ready to go back there. I can already feel the sting of my deeper wounds slowly creeping back. Oh God. I’m scared. What do I do? Need I apply more anesthetics?

 

Fight fire with fire.

the art of good news

Why is it that when I am exposed and surrounded by nature, I feel an urge to write?

There is this phenomenon that occurs in the world of artists. When one painter indulges in the works of another, the painter feels an urge to return to his paintbrush. When a musician listens to another’s compositions, the melodies and rhythms of an un-birthed song are already playing in her imagination. When a dancer sees someone sway and move to the beat of the song, he can’t help but to join in.

Inspiration.

Beauty begets more beauty. Inspiration inspires more inspiration.

When I am in nature, I’m surrounded by God’s artwork.  A walk on a trail becomes a tour through a holy art gallery. A good art gallery takes multiple visits to appreciate fully. With so many pieces on display, I sometimes miss a few on the first visit or I fail to see the full beauty of each piece.

God, the unrivaled Artist, has an infinite collection of art galleries, each of them constantly shifting and in perpetual change, like the waves of the ocean or the clouds of the sky. Like the family of deer stenciling footprints into the snowy winter canvas. Like the twinkling “star-covered tapestry plastered on a clear night sky”. Like black holes distorting time, matter, and even our perception of reality itself. Like the birth of galaxies that we cannot see until they start to die.

There is simply too much beauty. When I am in nature, I not only feel inspired, but compelled to write. I need to create art.

God made it such that good art not only inspires, but demands a response.

Is that not the gospel?

Is not the gospel God’s finest art piece?

 

“Good art doesn’t give answers. Good art asks questions.”