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Category Archives: Love

Last night, Jamie announced via a bulletin on MySpace that a few shirts from To Write Love On Her Arms which have previously been available only online are now being sold in Hot Topic. Jamie hasn’t written the “official” announcement of it, however, so we haven’t heard the full story…like, what’s the plan, why exactly they decided to take this route, etc. So, it goes without saying, I think, that the reaction has been mixed so far, according many of the 500+ comments so far. They range from angry cries of “sell out” and worries that people will just wear them to be trendy without regard to the meaning, to excitement at the new opportunities and literally (from a few) shouts of joy that they can finally have these shirts since they can’t/don’t like to order things from online stores.

My response to the bulletin is below…it was too long to post on MySpace, so I’m putting it here:

So…yeah…this is gonna be loooong…..

I really appreciate everyone’s comments on this, even the upset comments that are little more than words expressing anger. I have to admit that I’m quite conflicted about this, as I see both the ups and downs. At first, it seems it’s at once needed and undesirable. But, reflecting on this brought a quote by C.S. Lewis to mind.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to 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.”

I think this fits here, because the purpose of TWLOHA _is_ to spread the idea of love and hope to everyone, not just a select few. And, what better outlet than HT, since so many supportive bands sell merch through HT? (Paramore, Boys Like Girls, Jonzetta, Gym Class Heroes, Panic! at the Disco, Bayside, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Hawthorne Heights…) And, honestly…when was the last time any of you saw anything that so plainly spoke of love or promised hope at Hot Topic?

The hard thing about Love is that it must be shared; otherwise, it isn’t love. But, in sharing it, you open yourself up to that same love being misused, misunderstood, ignored, or even rejected. Surely, all of these things might happen to the message of TWLOHA with some people who buy the shirts. But, a) that’s not TWLOHA’s fault, and b) you can’t change that, because it’s bound to happen eventually if this movement is to penetrate further into the public eye. But, though this is certainly a risky thing to do, riskier still is to hold onto this love and keep it for ourselves. For, if we do that, as Lewis so eloquently points out, the love becomes dead and useless.

So, in the end, I have to trust that, as they’ve shown in the past, Jamie and the staff at TWLOHA have approached this very carefully and are planning every step of the way to the best of their ability. I doubt they would intentionally do anything to damage the image or effectiveness of their organization, so I think it’s pretty fair to trust them. And I do.

Remember that this movement started with one girl’s story, and it continues every day with our stories. If you see people with the shirts on, kindly start conversation with them about it, whether they know about it or not. If they don’t care, you can’t help that. And there will be those who don’t and won’t no matter what. But, let that encourage you (and me) to be even more bold and honest with the sharing of your story (or your friend’s, or Renées, or whoever’s) with those who will listen, and to even more humbly love and serve those who feel the most unloved.

I hope all is well. Take care.

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Q: What’s the one thing you think could be done that would change the world the most?

A: People really grasping what is possible with this word “love.” It is not small. It is not cheap. When it’s lived out, it has the power to change.

–Jamie Tworkowski in an interview with Mammoth Press about To Write Love On Her Arms

A few thoughts…

–Last year, I wrote about my Charlie Brown Christmas and the possible end of a 30-something-year tradition in my family. Well, I’m actually quite content in reporting that it ended this year (that is, we didn’t have it), though for reasons different from what threatened it last year. It was brought about by a certain needed movement in our family life, and for that, I’m grateful. I’m also thankful that it precisely isn’t because of the issues I discussed last year. Essentially, it was caused by someone’s personal progress and not someone else’s personal tragedies.

–The 2008 OCF College Conference is coming up in two days. Wow. It seems that just yesterday I was telling some friends that I would be seeing them in 10 days. And now it will much sooner be upon us. Last year, I was a first-time attendee and was awestruck at what I experienced, being so impressed by the love and friendship and spiritual focus and unspeakable “other goodness” (for want of a better term). (Oh…and, did I mention that’s how I was introduced to Sheetz? 😀 ) This year, I’m a member of the OCF Student Advisory Board and someone who is hoping to be involved in an upcoming object called the OCF Podcast (until something catchier develops…), something I proposed to our executive director this past summer. To my knowledge, I was the first person to seriously mention it in as much detail as I did. I assume this because I didn’t hear back, “We’re already working on it,” but “Hey…that’s a great idea. Let’s talk more about this in a few days when I get back home.” For once, I’m in a place where people listen intently to the ideas I have and are brave enough to explore, rather than putting me off and assuring they’ll “get back to me.” I can’t wait to tell this to our fellow students at the conference, because it’s what our organization is built on: listening to the students and shaping OCF to serve them and the greater community to the best of everyone’s ability. If they will listen to me, they’ll listen to anyone. I hope someone is encouraged by this, has some spark of an idea, and runs with it…and ends up blowing us all away. What a joy that would be.

At any rate, we’re going to try and record as much of the talks as humanly possible, as well as gather some photos and other randomness throughout each day and and post it all either to ancientfaithradio.com or ocf.net. If we post anything, I’ll link to it here.

–I’m grateful for super cheap airfare, enabling me to jump down to Florida shortly after my return from the conference so that I can meet Tiffany’s family. Though, the idea of it being warm enough to visit the beach in January slightly weirds me out.

–For the first time in years, the grades I’ve received so far for my semester’s work do not go below a “c”. I still have an incomplete in one class, but that will be dealt with shortly, and I’ll likely do fine. Also, there are no plans whatsoever to change majors or schools anytime soon. In fact, I’m adding a minor–in journalism. 🙂 Couple that with the news I discussed about OCF and the Podcast and so on, and you’ll have an idea of where I’d like to be heading as far as career preparation.

–In semi-related computer comments: If you’re a writer of any type who is easily distracted, and your computer of choice is Mac, I highly recommend a little app called WriteRoom. It makes your entire screen black and puts a little blinking green block-style cursor in front of you, making it easy to just write. No distractions, no menubars, no Firefox windows in the background…just the appearance of typing on an old Apple //e. It’s what I used to write this and my last post on being lost in Virginia, and I’m very pleased with it.

–Speaking of writing, I want to continue to thank the people who read twelve:one, whether regularly or just passing through. And thanks to those who have put me on their blogrolls. Honestly, I am frequently surprised and humbled by the stats that show up in my dashboard when I check it. Someone from China viewed one of my entries through Google translator the other day. How cool is that?!? Also, the fact that I average roughly 20-35 hits daily for one entry alone (“To Write Love On Her Arms“) is indicative of a) the growing amount of exposure for the organization, and b) the aching need many have in our society…and communities and workplaces and households…for signs that hope and rescue can be something they can experience. If you’re one of those people, I hope you can find such signs in the joy of this season—which, I know, isn’t joyous for everyone. If you’re not one of those people, then, please, be that sign to someone. Smile, or offer a hand or an ear or your time this Christmas and into the New Year.

Anyway, back to the writing…:) Thanks for reading and for your comments made both on and off the record. It is through your encouragement that I’ve decided to look into media production for OCF and to minor in journalism. Basically, you’ve helped this writer get a slightly better handle on his future than he would have had otherwise. Thank you.

–It’s Christmas. It’s the celebration of when love and grace and redemption broke into our chaotic world. By the Incarnation—and the Resurrection—we are moved to freely love, serve, and forgive. Even if you’re not Christian, I ask that you consider allowing these things to break into your life. Let go of bitterness and malice and rage and slander and vengeance…and let go of yourself. Embrace the unspeakable wonder that is selfless love. For those who want to lengthen their days, it’s an imperative. (Research actually shows this time and again.) In fact, some say you can live forever if you desire that your life be transformed by Love. But, even if you’ve no interest in true Christianity, give love a shot. It’s amazing how much your existing world, with all its bitterness and cares and worries and vendettas, can crumble, while a new one is built up in the place of the old one. Yeah, you’ll likely still have some of those things for a while, maybe as long as you live. But you’ll be a million times better the more you can let go and forgive in love. Try to be a humble example of redemption to someone you know.

–Ill leave you with this hymn, one that we Orthodox will hear plenty over the next week:

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,

Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.

For by it those who worshipped the stars,

Were taught by a star to adore Thee,

The Sun of Righteousness.

And to know Thee the Orient from on high,

O Lord, Glory to Thee!

Troparion for Christmas Day

Merry Christmas. Christ is born! Glorify him!

Thanks to my friend Ksenia for this…

“To You, Whoever You May Be”

by Archimandrite Lev Gillet

Whoever you are, whatever you may be, says the Lord of Love, my hand is resting upon you at this very moment. By this gesture, I am letting you know that I love you and that I call you for my own.

I have never ceased loving you, speaking to you, or calling you. Sometimes it was in silence and solitude. Sometimes it was there, where others were gathered in my name.

Often you did not hear this call, because you were not listening. At other times you perceived it, but in a way that was vague and confused. Occasionally you were at the point of responding with acceptance. And sometimes you gave me that response without any lasting commitment. You were deeply moved to hear me. You recoiled from the decision to follow me.

Never thereafter did you finally submit, totally and exclusively, to the calling of Love.

Yet now, once again, I come to you. I want to speak to you once more. I want you wholly for myself. Let me repeat: Love desires you, totally and exclusively.

I will speak to you in secret, confidentially, intimately. I will place my mouth close to your ear. Hear, then, what my lips want to speak to you in hushed tones – what they want to murmur to you.

I am your Lord, the Lord of Love. Do you want to enter into the life of Love?

This is not an invitation to some realm of tepid tenderness. It is a calling to enter into the burning flame of Love. There alone is true conversion: conversion to incandescent Love.

Do you wish to become someone other than you have been, someone other than you are? Do you wish to be someone who lives for others, and first of all for that Other and with that Other who calls all things into being? Do you wish to be a brother to all, a brother to the entire world?

Then hear what my Love speaks to you.

My child, you have never known who you really are. You do not yet know yourself. I mean, you have never really known yourself to be the object of my Love. As a result, you have never known who you are in me, or all the potential within yourself.

Awake from this sleep and its bad dreams! In certain moments of truth, you see nothing in yourself but failures and defeats, set-backs, corruption, and perhaps even crimes. But none of that is really of you. It is not your true “me,” the most profound expression of your true self.

Beneath and behind all that, deeper than all your sin, transgressions and lacks, my eyes are upon you. I see you, and I love you. It is you that I love. It’s not the evil you do – the evil that we can neither ignore nor deny nor lessen (is black actually white?). But underneath it all, at a greater depth, I see something else that is still very much alive.

The masks you wear, the disguises you adopt might well hide you from the eyes of others – and even from your own eyes. But they cannot hide you from me. I pursue you even there where no one has ever pursued you before.

Your deceptive expression, your feverish quest for excitement, your hard and avaricious heart – all of that I separate from you. I cut it away and cast it far off from you.

Hear me. No one truly understands you. But I understand you. I can speak about you such wonderful, marvelous things! I can say these things about you. Not about the “you” that the powers of darkness have so often led astray, but about the “you” who is as I desire you to be, the “you” who dwells in my thoughts as the object of my love. I can say these things about the “you” who can still be what I want you to be, and to be so visibly.

Become visibly, then, what you already are in my mind. Be the ultimate reality of yourself. Realize all the potential I have placed within you.

No man or woman is capable of realizing any inner beauty that is not equally present within you. There is no divine gift toward which you cannot aspire. Indeed, you will receive all those gifts together, if you truly love, with me and in me.

Whatever you may have done in the past, I will set you free, I will loose your bonds. And if I loose your bonds, who can prevent you from rising up and walking?

Clingman’s Dome 3

Written late last night…

So many days and nights have passed since my last entry. Some held things worth writing about, though I didn’t feel motivated to write. Some held very little importance. Well, for whatever reason, here I am, writing…

University of Tennessee, round three. Taking 12 hours, and I continue to struggle. I know in the back of my mind that it cannot go away overnight. Yet, I expect to—not change—but to have already changed, to be perfect now. I know I will never be perfect; that is, that I will always struggle. Why do I go on living without struggle? I don’t—but it’s the delusion I clothe myself with every day.

But, I haven’t dropped below full time for the first time in two years. And I have no reason to. So, all is not lost…

I have met a girl. Wonderful, delightful, cute, funny, precious, beautiful, smart, witty, thoughtful, sweet, kind, and lovely are her names. But, for short, I call her Tiffany along with the rest of the world. She is unlike any human being I have had the pleasure of sharing my life’s moments with. She makes me undeniably happy.

Differing religious views abound within her. This is perhaps our greatest difference. No—it is our greatest difference. Though, I understand (as much as I can) her place in life. I don’t think for a minute that I can enter her world and touch her and watch her become a Christian before my eyes. Foolishness wouldn’t even begin to describe that mindset.

Any change would be long in coming, if at all. More importantly, I accept this. Yet, I’m the guy that always has to skip the adventure and peek into the Endgame scenario. When I do that, a question mark appears, and that scares me, makes me want to run. But this has always been the case: I HATE the unknown in life. It scares me. So, this is no different, really.

She deserves my patience, love, care, kindness, and understanding every minute of every day—nothing less. And I wish to give these things to her so much. She is a wonder.

A marvel.

A Godsend.

It’s time to sleep…I suppose I’ll write more when the mood strikes.

Some people really irritate me. If they find out someone isn’t a Christian, or that the person was a Christian but has left the church for some reason, they think they have the job to start evangelizing outright to the person. Many assume that they know all the answers, and that all the person needs to do is just listen or something like that. I’ll admit, I’ve been there.

Surely, sometimes it is all that’s needed. But this isn’t always the case. I would imagine that it’s rarely the case, in fact. Often, people have been turned off by false gospels such as that of the Health and Wealth movement in the Evangelical church. As Fr. Thomas Hopko puts it, these are the people who teach that all you have to do is believe in Jesus and you’ll be healthy, you’ll have plenty of money, and your color TV will work.

Some have been utterly disgusted by the antics of people who call themselves Christians while shouting messages of hate, all in the name of expanding the Kingdom. Recently, here on the campus of UT, there was a demonstration staged by a travelling ministry called Soulwinners International. How did they go about “winning souls”? By preaching on the pedestrian walkway in front of Hodges Library with signs and t-shirts saying “Homos Go To Hell.” This went on for a couple of days, and eventually escalated to a shouting match with the UT chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance.

As a Christian, this disturbed me. It’s entirely contradictory to preach that “God so loved the world…” and then say that someone who is gay is going to Hell, simply for being gay. Now, I’m not going to debate the concept of homosexuality being a sin or not. But, if you consider it to be a sin, then bear in mind that it’s no worse than any other sin. Cheats, liars, thieves, and adulterers are also sinners, and I don’t see anyone condemning them to Hell on the sidewalks of my campus. So often, evangelicals will say “Sin is sin. No one sin is worse than the others.” Yet, when it comes to that sin, they’re all going to burn without question. I don’t get it. Besides…have they forgotten verse 17 of John 3? “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world…”

When it comes to presenting the Gospel to those who don’t rightly know it, we are commanded to do it in love and patience. (cf John 13:35, 1 Cor. 13:4-8) The God that is revealed by Christ, who is our ultimate model, is one of love and not judgement. Is he the Judge? Absolutely. But, as Fr. Stephen says, we know nothing of God’s judgement, only his mercy. If we are to show what we believe is Truth to others, we have to do it within the truth that is contained therein, that “God is a good God and loves mankind.”

St. Francis of Assisi said, “At all times and to all people, preach the Gospel. Use words if you have to.” If someone is really looking for answers, searching for truth honestly, that’s all you have to do. I’m utterly convinced of this. If they really are running hard after the Truth in spite of their preconceived notions and the junk that they carry with them as a result of whatever previous misrepresentations or abuses of the Gospel message, then they’ll respond to it if they can manage to have an encounter with it. That encounter doesn’t need to include a list of everything wrong with them; many of them already know all of that and hear it from the rest of the world, making any such approach no different from what they’d find elsewhere. Instead, that encounter should be filled with honesty and love. “I don’t know” and “I don’t really understand why you feel that way, but I understand that it’s where you are in your life, and sometimes things like that take time to deal with,” and like assurances are essential. And it shouldn’t be done duplicitously, just so you can say you’re being a good witness. It takes grace to do this, and we should all seek it daily and moment by moment.

Moreover, you don’t even have to quote scriptures or the Fathers or the homily you heard last week. Sometimes it’s just enough to take someone in and tell them that they’re human beings and worth attention and love and grace, and that you want to give it to them as best you can. By what I see on TV and have heard from some minsters and just everyday people over the past few years, it’s a rare occasion that this happens anymore.

In his first epistle, John says to love “not with words or with tongue, but in action and in truth” (3:18) He also says that “God is love” (4:8). So, it seems to me that, if you can love someone in what you do for them, they will see God. I’m starting to believe this is the only essential task. (Of course, along with things in our spiritual lives that serve to change us more and more into the image and likeness of Christ.) Their conversion is between them and God. But, as I said, if they’re looking for it, and this really is the Truth, then it just follows that it’s what they’re looking for, so it’s only a matter of time, however long that period of time may be. More to the point, we evangelize and God saves in His good time.

I’ve been reminded of the simplicity of this several times recently, and I felt it was worth saying here. I hope it makes sense. 🙂

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, via the “Hearts and Minds” Podcast

This is a tragedy.

The title of the article: “Start Now, Retire Early”

“February 1998–
Bob and Penny took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot troller, play softball, and collect shells.”

That’s a tragedy! That’s a tragedy!

And there are people in this country who are spending billions of dollars to get you to buy it. I plead to you with all my heart, don’t buy that dream. The American Dream: a nice house, a nice car, a nice job, a nice family, a nice retirement collecting shells, as the last chapter before you stand before the Creator of the universe to give an account with what you did.

“Here it is, Lord: my shell collection! Look, Lord! My shell collection! And I’ve got a good [golf] swing! And look at my boat!

God?

Look at my boat, God…”

John Piper, message at Passion: One Day, given on Memorial Day 2000 at Shelby Farms, Memphis, TN

It’s much easier to fight for ourselves and to strive for goals and dreams which are tangible and which benefit us than it is to serve others. I imagine that’s why we all tend toward the former as opposed to the latter. But, at the end of the day, financial success and social success will have come and they will have gone. Right now, opportunities to love others and die to ourselves are all around. One selfless decision, action, conversation, or even one selfless word can make a lasting difference.

Do you have time? Give it away. Do you have excess money? Give it away. Do you have talents or skills? Give them away and use them for the good of the community, whether local or distant. Do you have a wealth of knowledge? Give it away and teach those you come into contact with. Do you have a past (or present) filled with suffering and hardship which you conquered or even merely survived? Give it away and share your story with others in the dark places in life, even if their situation doesn’t match yours.

Do you have love?

Give it away.

On Saturday of the ACAAC, I attended a lecture by Nun Katherine entitled “Repentance as a Gate: Will the Prodigal’s Big Brother Enter?”  She was reading from her booklet of the same title.  Toward the end, she went into a territory that would likely unease many of us.

“As always, change begins with self, the only person we can really change. I invite you to think for a moment of one person in your life who seems to be in need of major life healing, of repentance, of a return to the Father.  if this were miraculously happen today, how might that make your life harder as well as easier?  What might it be like to have this person enter as a more equal partner in your shared relationships?  What might you lose in terms of power and status in your group if this person had a more equal voice?  How might you have to focus on your own problems rather than on theirs? What might you see in yourself if free to do this self-examination?”

Hearing this troubled me a great deal.

It got me thinking about my family’s own prodigal son, my older brother. Over the last 10 years or so, he’s sobered up and relapsed time and again.  Each time he sobers up, it’s getting harder and harder to discern his genuineness.  When he says he’s sorry, does he, deep down, really desire or believe in the ability to change.  If the answer is no, then logic follows that he doesn’t want to.  As I say all the time, why try and attain something which you deem to be unattainable?

Yet, what if he were to truly repent and succeed in healing?  How much would that turn my paradigm upside-down?  Would it shake me, or would I simply rejoice?  More than this, however, I wonder if I would be able to recognize the true victory.

It’s been posited that “maybe redemption has stories to tell.”  If he experiences true redemption, he’ll definitely have some stories to tell, I have no doubt.  But, I can’t help but wonder if I’ll want to listen to celebration and joy as he shares them, or if I’ll pass them off as the same fables he’s told before.

I hope I get to answer this question someday.