Last Year at this time

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This is a poem I wrote last year at this time. Praise God He has brought me through it and has blessed me with so many things this year.

“A New Year’s Introspection”

I cannot stand outside my own house and look in my window.

When gazing inward there is no mirror to reflect what is real.

Phantoms of pains past haunt me.

Resolutions fall lifeless to the floor.

When I take the next step into darkness, what will I bring with me?

Scars. Memories. Consequences. Fears.

Moments I cling to like handfuls of smoke.

And grieves too heavy to bear.

Lord, speak to my heart and remind me of goodness.

Map out where you kept pace with me on the path.

Show me what could have been worse.

And where I strayed from you.

Help me walk away from the echo of my own regrets.

Weave meaning into memories on my guilt eaten soul.

Motivate my heart toward good today.

And give me the strength to venture on.

 

 

Overcoming Fear

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I love to write deeply. By doing so I learn about myself.

Yesterday, I was writing when I chanced upon things that I had written down from my inner searching to discover motives and characterization for my novel. I ran across a question I had asked of myself, but I have yet to answer. I wrote, “by that time dad was gone… there was no more putting cans up at that point… so I wonder at what point did I stop being afraid in my life?”

Someone told me they didn’t understand my post. Some background story was necessary. Basically, my father was an alcoholic. We feared his coming home so much that we would stack food cans in front of the door to alarm us. He is gone now. I should no longer be afraid. At times, I still am.

I have worked with teens who have been through the horrible trauma of abuse and even though the threat was gone, they still feared Dad would come home at any moment, or that he was around the next corner waiting to harm them. At what point does someone like that give up those fears, and by giving them up, do they become more vulnerable? I asked myself if there will be a time when my book’s character no longer fears. How do I show that? How do I show it in my own life?

There are actual fears such as the fear of my dad when I was younger. The terror I would have when he would come into the room and the threat of danger immobilized me. But not only that, I also had of the fear of pleasing others. It is basically a fear of rejection, the fear of what life, or others, may do to me.

Fear distorts our thinking. We fear what we cannot overcome or what we cannot control. We fear that what is in front of us is far beyond our abilities to conquer. We feel powerless. We feel impotent. The enemies seem all powerful. We fear death. We even fear our own happiness and success. We are uncertain that our own resources—our own strengths—are not good enough to overcome the problem.  We want to escape. Fear produces flight. Anger attacks, but fear escapes.

Fear is not wrong. The question we must ask is which way does fear move us? Yes, fear produces flight, but what is the direction of our flight? In the book, “The Princes of Albion,” the young twin boys, Jachin and Boaz, play in a Wheatfield. They call it their “sanctuary.” That is because it’s the place they escape to hide from their father and his drunken rages. While they are in the field, a bird suddenly flies into Jachin’s tunic. (his shirt) His brother doesn’t believe him at first. They hear the cry of a hawk up above and realize that the bird is trying to escape danger.

When we try to protect ourselves, what we should do is fly to the protector. Fly to something that is greater than us. In our life, we either fear the world or we fear God. God is not impotent as we are, God is omnipotent.

It is okay to feel fear. Big fears make small ones go away. For instance, my daily fears of doing my work well to please my boss, or whether my bills are going to be paid are real fears. Will I say something that will make someone not like me? Those fears go away if someone in my family is in a car accident and I fear for their life. Big fears make small ones go away. I guarantee that when my mother was in an accident I wasn’t thinking whether my bills were going to be paid. Fearing God is a big fear.

We are terrified of love. We even fear God’s love. Love is a scary thing and a lot of times we don’t believe that God loves us enough to take care of our little problems. The Bible says that love casts out fear. It’s God’s love toward us and his willingness to be concerned about our lives that we forget and focus on our small fears instead. We forget that It is His power that can take care of our problems and give us peace over our fears. When we trust in him, we are no longer helpless. We are no longer powerless. Fear is a flight away from harm to a safe place without hurt just like the little bird in Jachin’s shirt.

When you fear, submit to God instead of demanding control or success to overcome the thing you fear. Acknowledge it it’s real. There’s something to be afraid of. Acknowledging it tells us something about ourselves. We should then struggle with why we do not trust God in this matter. Is God all of a sudden not powerful? Are we looking to ourselves and our own lack of ability?

We need to remember God’s acts and the things that He has done in the past. Such as those miracles in the Old Testament and in our lives. Remember the testimony of friends of the things that God has done for them. Let God’s love remove our fear.

What do I mean by fearing God? I don’t mean a “reverential awe.” I mean be afraid of Him. God has the ability to do whatever he pleases. He has the ability to cast us in hell. It is the great fear of separation from God for eternity that moves us. He loved us so much he sent Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins (The things that separate us from God). He desires a loving caring relationship with us as our protector and our provider. You will either fear the world or you fear God. Fear Him.

I certainly don’t negate the fact that fears linger and are triggered when least expected. Some may do things to overcome them. Take Karate, do meditation, push it aside, years of therapy. But when something big happens, that is beyond your control, such as your wife dying or someone you love being diagnosed with cancer, where do you fly to then?

So, the question was… at what point do you give up your fears? The answer is… the moment that you trust God with the circumstance. You fly into his tunic with the feeling that the thing that you are afraid of, can be overcome by Him. By giving those fears up would you become vulnerable? You already are. Recognize that. By giving up your fears to Him, you give it to the One who is all powerful and can handle any problem. Let His love conquer your fears.

Jon Hopkins

6/15/2017

Blue Tennis Shoes –Part two

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I have reviewed what I wrote as “part two” and it skips to where I have been in the last year. It is revealing and… more than I might be ready for. I will work up to it. Not wanting this to be a memoir, I thought that I would in this post connect some of the dots that led me to where I am today…

Mexico changed me. Aware of God’s loving kindness to me, my attitude was transformed. I no longer had plans to kill myself. That is probably why to this day I have never owned a gun.

I got more involved in church, even had a girlfriend—briefly. And, I didn’t even resent the bully-target of taking my Bible to school. A Mormon friend saw my stance and decided to bring his books to school as well. He had more to carry than I did.

In gym class the bullying continued. The worst of the gang was a pastor’s son of all things. When we started a class in gymnastics I knew I would never be able to climb the rope or do an iron cross on the rings, but I could do a backflip.

One day, I jumped hard on the trampoline, flipped high and landed goofywompus. The angle sent me shooting out into space. I knew it would leave a mark when I splatted on the gymfloor. But to my surprise, a big guy was standing there and he caught me like I was a baby in his arms. I began to sit next to him in choir. For some reason the bullies left me alone. I don’t know if Phil Vineyard ever knew I used his friendship as protection. He has been there when I needed someone most.

During a church youth canoe trip, I still wore my blue tennis shoes. Things were going well for me. As I was running to my tent, the shoes fell off. (they were so worn.) It would be many years before I owned another pair.

I went with the Youth group on another Mission’s trip. This time to Peru. It was an amazing experience. One day, several of us got left behind. Waiting for the group to come back and pick us up, I sat with the Missionary and Pastors as they told funny stories of their ministry. Then Dr. Bill Dowell from Baptist Temple in Springfield, Mo. shared his heart for ministry. He gave me much to consider. I was amazed at his courage and boldness.

Later on the Peru trip, we visited an old Monastery. A flock of sheep driven by a young boy passed us. A little lamb straggled behind. I picked it up and turned. Someone took my picture.

The next summer, the Youth Pastor asked if I and another young man wanted to drive with him to Lynchburg, Virginia, to a Youth Pastor’s Convention. I agreed, thinking it would be a blast. For several days, I sat and listened to messages aimed at Youth Pastors and heard them share their burdens. When they cried, so did I. That burden was somehow passed on to me as if Elijah himself had given me a mantle.

The last year of High School I had a difficult time walking the halls. I kept looking at the other kids wondering if they had had such pain as I had experienced in my life.

I gave up my goal of being an artist and applied to Baptist Bible College before the year was out, not knowing what waited there for me.

To be continued…

Blue Tennis shoes

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Writing the second book in my series The Long-aimed Blow, coauthored with my twin brother, is harder than I thought it would be. The first book talks about trauma. Book two is how the characters responded and deal with the trauma. It has brought back many memories and has thrown me into a deep depression. Let me explain. No, let me summarize….

As an identical twin, it is always difficult to get individual attention.

One day as a child, I was sick—and my brother wasn’t. He went on to school and I got to stay home. Mom brought me soup and put a cool rag on my forehead. I felt loved. It was not long before I had learned to fake being sick and would be sent home from school for more individual attention.

One day, waiting in the nurse’s office for mom to pick me up, I overheard the principal tell my mother, “He’s not really sick. We know that. But what can we do? It is such a shame, he has so much potential. If only he’d just stay in school.” I felt so ashamed. I thought that was the last day I would equate sickness with love.

I looked for the attention in other ways. I found that I could get praise for drawing and art and was kinda good at it. (so was my brother) I could sing and wanted the solo in the Christmas program, but some girl got the part. I failed at a spelling bee when I couldn’t spell the word “dirt.”

Much of the trauma from my fifth grade is seen in the Princes of Albion. I won’t take the time to tell that story now. I walked away with only the clothes on my back and a pair of blue Converse tennis shoes.

I was never good enough. Never as good as the other guys. Never strong enough. I once cried because I had little arms. In sixth grade, the other boys knocked me down on the playground, took my shoes off and my white socks, then lifted me up and paraded me around the school yard waving my socks like flags.

I intently watched the other boys and saw that they got attention from girls by saying something funny. I had been using my sense of humor to escape bad feelings for a long time and I started being a wise guy/clown in class. People laughed when I told a joke or a good pun. But the laughter never felt like love.

In high school they dumped my blue tennis shoes in the boys’ toilet, put a jock strap over my head, and a punctured can of Right Guard down my gym shorts. At the church youth group, I nominated myself for the Spiritual Council. I got one vote—mine. (They read the results out loud). I did art for the youth department and tried my best. I was in the ninth grade play… but forgot my lines.

But, I didn’t feel loved. I would look at myself in the mirror at home and tell myself how much I hated who I was—until I blacked out. My brother had a girlfriend, but I was too shy. No one loved me. Oh, mom did. But she was mom. I began to seek ways to commit suicide.

That summer the youth group was going to Old Mexico for a missionary trip. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay home and die. But my brother was going, so I reluctantly went. I remember stepping on the bus. I looked down at my worn out tennis shoes and said, “God, I’m so tired.” That trip we built a building from the foundation to the finished roof. It was hard work. We handed out Bibles in the afternoon. In the evenings we would hold meetings. I was asked to give my testimony. I made one up.

I met an old Mexican who spoke a little English. He asked my name and I told him.  He called me “Jaunisito.” I asked what that meant and he said, “Little Jon with love.” I gave a scoffing laugh and gave him a Bible.

By Thursday of that week I was exhausted. That evening–very late–the Youth Pastor gave a Mission’s message on God’s love for all mankind. I heard him say, “God loves you.” And I broke down. I did not believe him. He was very wrong. I walked to the back and fell to my knees and sobbed.

Then, in my despair, I somehow felt God’s arms enfold me and He whispered in my ear, “It is true. I do love you, Jon.”

…to be continued…