Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Have to Confess

So God gave me a kick in the pants today.

Allow me to explain...

Since Sunday I've been trying to get a blog post written. Once I was finally in the writing mindset with a mediocre idea, it was already 3 o'clock. The InterVarsity Christian club was about to start, and last week, after my first time participating, I had said that I would try and make it back. I decided that I would go again and see what happens. After all, wasn't I just telling my 4th grade catechism class last night that we need to become "BFF's" with God and give him more time?

I mean, what kind of friend ignores you all the time, except for maybe an hour or two once a week- and even then they tune you out? What kind of friend takes all the gifts that you give them without ever uttering "thank you" or showing any appreciation? What kind of friend is embarrassed to say that they know you, and act like they don't when they're with other friends?

Honesty time. ...I'm that friend. That's how I often treat God. I've been so caught up with school, teaching, studying, friendships or whatever other excuse there is to insert, that I find myself saying, "I don't have time to pray right now, I have to get this done." In church, my mind is on my to-do list, or that girl's shoes, or what I'm going to wear tomorrow. ...He's talking. I'm not listening.

He gives me gifts EVERY  day. Heck, He gives me the gift of every day. Here I am, not saying a simple "thank you"- not even recognizing the gift, but just taking it for granted like I have some deserving right to it. HA! Right, like I deserve to be alive more than that woman who battled cancer, or the man who was killed in a car accident, or that child who was lost to leukemia, or the one who was lost in the womb, or the one beheaded in Iraq.* ...What am I doing with my life?

That's a scary question. No, that's not true. The question isn't terrifying me. My own answer is. I don't like it. I don't even know what my answer is...what is it I'm doing besides the routine items listed in my Sherlock planner. That's not how I want to use my one life- my one gift. Sure, school and whatnot is important (no worries, I'm not dropping), but I need to change my focus. I need to reevaluate why I am doing what I am doing with my life. I need to make more time for the Maker of time.

Finally, and this one hurts most of all to admit- I'm a friend that pronounces my love to Him, and then turns around and acts like I don't know Him. A backstabber. Sure, I've mentioned to people that I'm Catholic/Christian and I've had conversations about God. But most of them were Christian themselves- where is the courage in that? And even when speaking to those who do not share my same beliefs- I may say that I know Him, but I sure don't always act like I know Him.

So...despite finally getting somewhere with my blog post, I would pack up and go to the Scripture study for an hour. Who knows, maybe I'll get some extra inspiration or something. (<or...just write an entirely new post.)

I arrive. The lights are off. There are three people in the room, but it was supposed to have started two minutes ago. A member comes informing us that instead of doing Scripture study we were going to invite others to join us.

Automatically I start saying to the other person, "Ohh, well if we're not meeting, I reallyyy should be getting this blog post done...so I don't think I can."

Excuses. (I mean, I did have an overdue blog post to write, but truthfully I was not so disappointed about missing out on talking to "random" [lol, so NOT random] people about faith, joining the club, "and all.")

As I was returning to the library, hunched under the weight of my backpack, I was about to pass their table. I guess I could join for a little bit. After all, I did block out my hour for this. They were asking passing students "What is love?" (baby don't hurt me...nah just kidding.) Well instead of hanging out for a couple minutes, I stayed for a couple hours, having an in-depth, insightful, and dynamic conversation with some pretty awesome people.

After the table was packed up, and most of the members gone, a few of us stayed around talking. I noticed a girl sitting at the table closest to us seemed to be listening to our conversation. At first I couldn't tell how she felt about it, but regardless she seemed interested. I kept looking to her, hoping for a break in the conversation so I could invite her to join us. After we had made eye-contact a few times, she did join us. She explained that she had a bit of anxiety talking to people, but then said, "I just love God..." and shared her incredible story. I'll just say that she's a walking miracle with some pretty unshakable faith. (I don't want to share her story here without her permission. Plus, I don't know it well enough to possibly do it justice.)

In the end, I was put in the position to practice what I preach. Somehow in just two hours, I rekindled and strengthened my friendship with God (He's that sort of Friend with whom you can just pick up where you  left off ;). I also made some brand new friendships. My reluctance turned out to be the spiritual kick-in-the-pants that I've needed. Will I grumble about doing stuff in the future? Of course! But maybe I'll be more inclined to take a chance and do something even if I'm not overly-excited. I'll tell you, every time I do, it changes my life one way or another. And after all, I was given this life. I want to do something great with it.

So my words to you- when you are feeling reluctant or not in the mood to do something...pay attention. It could end up being life changing. Perhaps in a major way, perhaps in a minor way, and perhaps in a way which changes the life of someone else. There are actually people and things to do here outside our comfort zone and hobbit holes.
Stop making excuses. Start making time. Thank God. Listen. Share. Do something with your life. It's is a gift. You only have one.

lord-god-courage-trust-quotes-pics-holding-on-life-quote-sayings-pictures-images.jpg 480×650 pixels

*I know God doesn't work in a "you do good-good things happen to you" way. That's a different conversation.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Worst Blog Post Ever

Don't expect much.

Yes, that's what you read. Yes, that is arguably the worst way to start a piece of literature. Yes, I'm feeling rebellious. Who knows. I may even break some other grammar laws. Maybe use a fragment. Or two. Perhaps I'll use some nonstandard English or somethin' just cuz I wanna.

(Okay, that last "sentence" is making me twitch.)
One may ask, "Are you trying to make your readers Mom and Professor Soper uninterested in reading your post?"
I'm just being honest with you. I sort of forgot about my blog post being due for English tomorrow (well- today). Thus, you're getting the product of this sleep-deprived procrastinator. I'm not even going to bother editing out the little comments I make to myself while writing. This is unedited. Raw.

 I totally understand if you would rather go youtube cat videos. In fact, I encourage you.

So I just finished my very rough first draft regarding how martial arts has molded me into who I am today. (It's due Monday too. Yeah, we already established that I suck at time management.) Martial arts has formed me into a person who seeks self-improvement, loves a challenge, knows how to fall, and will do whatever it takes to reach a goal. *Cue "Fanfare for the Common Man"* (Actually, I think I may have just found my thesis statement.)

Whoo hoo. Don't we all.

All of that sounds find and dandy,  but it's really not all rainbows and butterflies. Not when you become fixated with doing your absolute best, and are unable to call something "complete" until you're satisfied. Ah yes, "perfectionist," that's the word. And as Miley Cyrus said sang (Oh lawd I'm quoting Miley Cyrus. This IS bad.) back when she wore the blonde wig and clothes, "Nobody's perfect."

So why the heck do I set myself to false expectations? (Maybe Freud would say I have too strong of a superego...oh look my psychology lessons decided to join us. I'm going off on a tangent. <and there's my math pun.)

It just all goes back to my stupid pride. I'd rather stay up until 3am and deprive myself of sleep than not meet that goal or let people see something of mine before I feel satisfied "enough" with it. That's why I'm not going to edit this post. (well that...and I'm really tired.) You could call this a self-intervention. I know I have a problem. I know I'm not perfect. I know that's not my problem. My problem is- I need to know that I don't need to be "perfect." For once I need to cut myself some slack. (I feel like some moderator between myself and myself.
MeMod:"Now, what do you say to yourself?"
MePerfectionist: "I'm sorry."
MeMod: "And?"
MePerf: "You did pretty good today with what you got done. That was a challenge in of itself."
MeMod: "Good. Now what do you say to yourself?"
MeSleepy: "Thanks. Let's schedule our work better next time. And get some sleep."

Wow. Some people talk to themselves, but a three-way conversation? I need psychological help.)

Okay, I actually had a half-decent idea for this post about the blank page waiting to be filled, but apparently I just decided to go completely downhill. Face first. On broken skis. Into a giant cactus.
I apologize for letting my mind wander without a leash.

. . . 

I'm really going to regret this.
Well. Here it goes.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Scars of the City

September 11, 2001. A day we shall never forget.

Thirteen years... Today is the annual day on which I cannot write the date at the top of a page without pausing, reflecting, and feeling so...so many things. For a moment, everything around me is silent, and I feel numb. As I stare at the date, a plane crashes into the the two penciled ones. Eleven falls. Black smoke rises. My heart twists, and I feel angry, sad, and still in shock. I was five years old when it happened. But I remember it so clearly. I just cannot even fathom what this day induces in the hearts of all those who were there- those who witnessed and who lost.

I visited New York City with my family three years ago, in 2011, ten years after the horrific event. As we stood near the not-yet-completed One World Trade Center building, our tour guide informed us different facts regarding the tower. He mentioned things such as that it would stand 1,776 feet tall (note the significance of that number. Hint: it's a year ;) making it taller than The Empire State Building, and the new tallest building in NYC. Then someone asked, "Where were you...when it happened?"

A graveness passed over his face and immobilized him. He no longer spoke in his tour guide voice, but with one that was very distant. "I was in my apartment on the twentieth floor...watching. I saw it all."

He then cleared his throat and pointed out different places of damage. There was a large cross-walk structure above us. On its side was a large scrape. The tour guide explained that what was destroyed was replaced, but those certain damaged sections were still able to serve their structural purpose, so they were left as they were, defiled.

He told us how the 18th century chapel, St. Paul's, just across Dey street from the World Trade Center, though blanketed in debris and soot, somehow still stood, untouched.

Then he pointed to a large, round chunk of metal, that looked like it was dug up from a junk yard. However, once he explained what it was, it became so beautiful and moving. The battered bronze orb had been the sculpture at the very center of the World Trade Center. It was salvaged from the rubble.

The Sphere by Fritz Koenig. My photograph taken 10 years after 9/11.
Before 9/11, The Sphere, by Fritz Koenig. Photo credit: Mark Lentz
The artist, Fritz Koenig, designed and created the sculpture as a "monument to world peace through trade.If only he had any idea, as he formed his piece of art, how much it would fulfill that meaning; and how it would become a memorial and symbol for so much more.

Of course, not only was Koenig's Sphere bashed and scarred by the events of 9/11, but God's Sphere as well. We too, as a nation, have been rescued from beneath the collapsed towers and debris. We too, have a gouge in our heart. We too, still stand- indivisible and scarred.

Image source: HuffingtonPost

Photograph of The Sphere after 9/11 is my own. Photograph of The Sphere before 9/11 is by Mark Lentz. Source: http://www.pakistanartreview.net/Rashid_Arshad.html

For more of the story of The Spherehttp://www.percyadlon.com/film_and_stage/koenigssphere_1.html
Regarding St. Paul's Chapel, I referenced this map, and this National Geographic article.
Information on One World Trade Center: http://onewtc.com/press-center/press-releases/one-world-trade-center-surpasses-empire-state-building-reclaiming-honor-as-new-york-citys-tallest-skyscraper

Here is my Never Forget story and remembrance of that frightful day. (click link)

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Bequeathed Death

This is the first of two writing submissions which earned me the Distinguished Artist Award in Creative Writing at Hope College. I hope you enjoy it!

The following is an excerpt from my short story, “A Bequeathed Death.”

"CLIP-CLOP-CLIP-CLOP." My shoes responded to the hard wet pavement. The thunder rolled and raged, while the rain unsuccessfully ordered the bellows to silence- "SSHHHHHHHH" I was on my way to the Manoir Mortelle for the distribution of my deceased wealthy uncle's possessions. As I approached the grand, cold, iron gates, I noted that although I had gained a good foot or more in height since my last visit, the unwelcoming gates still towered well above my head. While one would expect gates of a property and house of this size to keep trespassers and criminals out, I always had the sensation that these bars served to confine something in. For not a soul with a bit of sense would dare to place their foot onto those grounds, across those boundaries, by their own will. I frequently visited as a young boy in obedience to orders or for family occasions, but never of my own want. I suppose I had grown accustomed to the spectral surroundings- that is- as accustomed as one could be, yet I never ceased to tremble as I unlocked the stiff, gloomy gate. I thought this as I cast my glance to my aged hands, which trembled all the more. I began to apply pressure to the lethargic wall of spears, which squealed as they reluctantly created a gap just enough for me to pass. "SLAM! CLUH-CHING!" They locked me in. Although many years had passed, I was still startled by that rushed latching and locking of the black iron fence. I slowly turned my attention to face the once-dwelling of my late Uncle Audon. The mansion could very well have been the house of Usher before its fall; perhaps Mr. Poe found his inspiration in passing this house one similar day. My shoes continued to click and clack against the weathered cement as if they were a metronome. The walkway to the entrance was long, yet it never seemed long enough. I dreaded the moment of having to stand once again on the cold, heavy, fractured slab. I raised my hand from its warm pocket to the chilling brass knocker. "THUD. THUD. THUD." It struck the tall ebony door three times. Nothing. After a moment of hesitation, I began to raise my hand to repeat the action. "CLICK. CREEEAAK." The door unlocked and opened enough for a cat to pass. I touched the massive door lightly. It gaped some more. "Hello?" I searched for someone or something with life. The patch of light entering the mansion from the doorway slowly increased, and there stood Mariette. She nodded her head towards me. I stepped off the cold wet slab, through the threshold, and onto the cold dry slate. After closing the large door behind me, Mariette stepped in front of me and motioned me to follow. Her short, black heels rhythmically echoed as they percussed the stone. My own steps echoed as well, although not as precisely as the maid's. She had lived in the manor ever since I could recall, yet she still to this day had neither changed nor aged one bit since I had first met her, forty-some years ago as a young lad. It did not cross my mind initially, since she always seemed a part of the old house, but as she walked I could not help but ponder her age. She wasn't a young woman now, nor was she then. Her gray hair was still loosely pulled back into a bun beneath her white lace headpiece. Her long black skirt reached down to her ankles, her black blouse reached up to a white collar around her neck, and her black sleeves reached down to her wrists, ending in white cuffs. She wore a white apron which began at her waist and ended a few inches above her long black skirt. Her feet walked in simple yet sophisticated, black, leather, one-inch heels.
I followed her into the grand, once extravagant, dining room. Held by massive marble Corinthian columns, the two-story ceiling towered my head. I walked across the antique, heart-pine wood floor, and onto the rustic, regal, rug. Around the long walnut table, in chrisom, tapestry, chenille chairs, sat my mother, brother, aunt, cousin (whom I had not seen in decades), and a man whom I presumed to be the lawyer. There was a plethora of scattered papers in front of him. I received nothing more from my family than nods acknowledging my presence.
Although my uncle had died six months prior to our solemn reunion, all of us present had each received a copy of his will only the week before. The lawyer explained the delay was due to the probate process, to ensure its validity.
"Now that we are all present, we may begin dividing the estate of Audon Ruelle Voclain according to his last Will and Testament. Under most circumstances, I take it upon myself to retrieve and deliver the bequeathed property to the beneficiaries. But I simply can neither find nor gather all of Monsieur Voclain's belongings and requests. Thus, I have asked you all to come here today to seek and divide his property according to the orders on this will."

enter, if you dare

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