Tag Archives: life

Sidelined

“So, are you home for a while now?” Pastor Chris asked, sitting in the chair to my left as we waited for the service to start.  I nodded, the implications of the question playing through my mind.  Pastor Chris is a Moody alumnus, so he knew that school was already in session, that since I was here and not there I must be missing out on the semester, and his face held a look of knowing sympathy.  “It’s got to be pretty tough to watch everyone going ahead without you, huh?”

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Song of the Week: “100 Years” by Five for Fighting

“100 Years” is one of the only songs that has ever moved me to tears (and that was before I even saw the stirring music video).  Musically, it is almost unbelievably gorgeous, but the beauty of the instrumentation is inconsequential in comparison to the raw emotional power delivered in the lyrics.  “100 Years” captures all of the frail, fleeting beauty of life, from the unbound joy and potential of 15 to the reflective silence of 99 and everything in between, and it begs us to stop and think about how we’re spending what time we have.  After all, today only lasts for a moment, and when it’s gone we can’t have it back.  Every day is a new day, and it may be the only day you have left.  Either way, whether you have just one more moment or a hundred years to live, there’s no time to waste.  Make something beautiful out of your 100 years.

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Glory Bowl

I’d rather be writing.  I’d rather be sleeping.  I think I’d even rather be back at work than here.  At least at work I was doing something.  As I sat there in the grass at Glory Bowl listening to campers tell everyone about the decisions they’d made during their week at camp and trying not to be distracted/terrified by the sparrow-sized bee sweeping the area, I thought about everything else I could be doing and sighed.  I love Glory Bowl, it was always one of my favorite parts of the week when I was a camper, but the last thing any sane person wants to do on a Friday night after a twelve hour workday and an hour of chapel is sit silently on the side of a hill for an hour and a half and listen to more talking.  I listened to the testimonies halfheartedly for a while, then a boy stepped up to the microphone in Ken Riley’s hand and took us all by surprise.

“My name is Josiah, and a week ago I was ready to kill myself.”

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Interview with the Newton Part 2: Questions from Tek

I finally watched that Daniel Ingram interview (which was splendid, by the way), so now my subconscious seems to be content to sit in the corner humming the new Coldplay single and let me write in peace.  Hooray!  Now if I can just stay away from Hyperbole and a Half for more than fifteen minutes at a time…

Anyway, since I answered all those stellar questions from my friend Adam Swensen in yesterday’s post, I’m finishing off our little interview today with some equally inspired queries from the broniest of bronies, Tekaramity!  Let’s do this!

1. What do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your life? Yes, “God’s plan” is an answer, but I’m looking for a certain specificity. Have you established yet any goals you’ll be looking to reach long-term? Do you know yet what approaches, tools, talents, and allies you’ll need to reach those goals?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a best-selling author.  I still have a book bound in cardboard that I dictated to my mom when I was three years old.  It featured a brave knight and a princess and a baby named Penelrocker, and at the end I told her to write “look for more adventures of the prince and princess coming soon!”.  Sadly, that series was discontinued, but I held tightly to my love for  storytelling and my desire to be a famous writer.  As I matured, however, I realized that becoming famous is never an end, it’s a means,and if I were to gain all the fame in the world and use it as a means to make myself feel good then I would have utterly wasted my life.  In God’s hands, however, fame becomes such a powerful tool for influencing the culture, and as I caught the vision of how He could use me if I were both a best-selling author and a sold-out, fully-surrendered Christian I knew that that was what I wanted to pursue.  In many ways, I’d like to live a life much like that of John Green, a successful author who leverages his fame to, in his words, “decrease worldsuck and increase awesome”.  I want to proclaim the gospel, help the hurting, challenge the apathetic, and encourage the disheartened, and I want to use my passion for writing to do it.  I want to reach the world in big ways, and the only way I can do it is through perseverance, dedication, the support of my friends and family, and the power of my God.

2. Why do you write this blog? Put simply, why do you believe what you say matters to your reading audience? This isn’t a confrontational question, mind you, nor is it an assault on your writing or mindset therein. This is simply opening a venue that allows you to explain the blog’s purpose and the dedication driving it.

This is a question with which I’ve been wrestling for some time.  I started this blog as a place to post samples of my writing, and it’s slowly evolved over time into the eclectic mixture of posts that it is today.  Lately, I’ve really lost track of what exactly I’m trying to do here, and my writing has suffered as a result.  I’ve been overcritical, like if there’s any chance that someone might not like what I’m writing then it’s not good enough, and I end up spending hours writing stuff I don’t even like.  Finally, I sat down and thought about it for a while, and I realized that I’ve lost sight of why I started writing this blog.  I don’t write to impress anyone or to garner a lot of views or to become some kind of Internet celebrity.  I write to practice, I write to stretch myself creatively, and I write in the hopes that, by sharing my life and my experiences with others, I can bring them some measure of the encouragement or inspiration or laughter or guidance that God has given me.  This blog’s purpose is to brighten the day and nourish the soul of anyone who happens to stumble across it, and the best way that I know of to do that is to be myself and love God with all of my heart, and to let that come out in every post I write.

3. Suppose there exists someone you’ve personally known for quite a while (preferably much of your time alive) whose contributions into your life you really ought to acknowledge verbally more often. Acknowledge that individual, describe what that person has done for you, and explain what you hope you can do to return the investment. Be bold.

As it just so happens, someone like that really does exist, and his name is Pastor Derek Max.  Pastor Derek, I first came under your leadership as a cripplingly insecure Junior Higher.  I had almost no friends and even less confidence, but you saw that there was more to me, and you gave me the encouragement I needed to open up and overcome my shyness.  As I grew as a person and as a Christian you took time out of your life to study the Bible with me, to take me out to lunch and talk about life, to push me to reach for more.  Even when I couldn’t make it to youth group for two years in a row because of other responsibilities, you made it your mission to include me in your life.  I remember one year when I didn’t want to come to Fall Retreat.  You called me up at home and asked me why not, and you wouldn’t take any of my weak excuses.  That weekend turned out to be one of the most important of my high school years.  You gave me opportunities to use my gifts to serve the youth group, and you worked alongside me as I wrote and taught and offered me advice on how I could be better.  Your love and guidance have been fundamental in making me the man I am today, and I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever thanked you for it.  So let me say it now: thank you, Pastor Derek, for showing the love of Christ to a loner and helping him to become a leader.  I know that the only way I could adequately return your investment is to pay it forward, to invest myself in the lives of hurting youth and give to them the same gift of friendship that you’ve given so abundantly and selflessly to me.

4. Why is Photo Finish so amazing!? (I want lots of mature analysis on this one!)

One ridiculous accent + one pair of fantastic sunglasses + several quotable catchphrases + epic personal background music that follows her around everywhere = best secondary character of all time (sorry, Luna fans).
In layman’s terms, she has… DE MAGICKS!

And now, it’s time for me to sleep.  After all, tomorrow I have the thing at the place, and I don’t want to be late.  Thanks for the great questions, Tek and Adam!  I GO!

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Out of Control

What is it about chaos and stress that drive us closer to God?  Why do I so often find prayer and Bible study a chore when all is well, but then I crave quiet time with God passionately when my life is stretching out of my reach and out of control?  When I’m faced with the reality that I can’t handle all of the challenges that face me, there’s no other response than to give up or to find shelter in the One who can handle anything.  Suddenly, I’m reminded undeniably just how indispensable my relationship with God is.  When I’m forced to admit that I have no time to waste, my mind focuses in on priorities and shuts out the desire for the unnecessary.  Gone is my appetite for the idols of entertainment to which I used to sacrifice my “spare time” under the pretense that I had nothing better to do.  The thought of spending an hour and a half watching a movie seems ridiculous now when I thought it perfectly normal just days ago, and yet now more than ever I feel the need to pray, to read the Bible, to be with God.  I only cling to God like my life depends on it when I can no longer ignore the fact that my life depends on it, but how different would my life look if I lived under the knowledge that my life really does depend on God whether it’s painfully obvious or not?  I may not live to type the rest of this sentence, and you may not live to read it.  I’ve got plans for tomorrow and next week and next month but they could change in an instant and leave me reeling.  No matter how in control I feel, my life is never under my control and I am never strong enough to handle it on my own.  My life is entirely in God’s hands in every possible way, I’m just too arrogant to admit it most of the time.  What would change if I let go of my pride and my desire to feel strong and successful and filtered all of my words and deeds through the truth that God is the only One who is truly in control and that knowing and loving Him is the only thing that really matters?  I think I’d begin to value each moment more and more accurately and to honor God, whose worth is beyond measure, more and more fully, and I know for a fact that it would be the start of a new, more beautiful, more meaningful kind of life.

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Connection

I still miss people.  They tell me I can always be connected with my friends and family because I can go online and see a string of words that they typed in a box on their screen several hours ago, but I don’t feel connected so much as cheated, like someone offered me a scenic safari and then drove me through the Sahara at eighty miles an hour.  I don’t want to read that my little brother is having a bad day, I don’t want to type my condolences in emotionless black letters.  I want to see his face and know without words that he’s hurting, I want to put my arm around him and listen to him tell me why.  I don’t want to read that my friends are listening to their favorite music, I want to hear the notes and feel the beat and dance with them.  I don’t want to be connected by a cord and a screen, I want to be with the people I love the most, to taste and smell and see and feel life alongside them.  I don’t want to miss people, but I’m glad that I do, because it shows that we truly are connected with bonds deeper than sound bites and comments.  We feel the strain when we’re apart because we’re meant to be together, and nothing can stop that aching, but it’s comforting to know that no matter how much life pulls us in different directions, the connection between two souls is one that will never break.

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Unexamined

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
– Socrates, as quoted in Plato’s “Apology”

They say that art imitates life.  I’ve always thought they meant that people create pictures and stories and music based on things they’ve really experienced, but when you combine their platitude with Socrates’ adage a whole new definition comes to the foreground.  Consider an artist sketching an outline.  He starts with a line and adds one detail at a time, each one building off of the last.  He is fully immersed in the minutiae of his portrait, but everyone once in a while he has to stand back, tilt his head the way artists do, and consider if everything is right so far.  His eyes take in the big picture and the little flaws stand out.  Maybe the eyes are too close together, maybe the hairline is too low on the brow, but however big or small the issue he makes sure to fix it before continuing with his creation.  The good artist knows that it’s best to correct problems as soon as you see them, and it’s always better to check than to plow ahead.

The same is true for novelists, architects, engineers, lab technicians, mathematicians, chefs, accountants, and doctors.  The more often you take in the big picture the sooner you can catch all of the tiny flaws, and the sooner you can catch all of the tiny flaws the easier it is to clean them up.  A simple difference of one in the figures is not a big deal if you catch it right away; you can just run the equation again and set it straight.  If you leave the answer to that equation off by one, though, you’ll have an unrecognizable mess just a few more equations down the road.  If the chef notices that he used half the flour he should have while he’s still in the mixing stage, he can just add more.  Once that cake is baked, there’s no going back.

In every job, hobby, sport, and activity the principle of self-examination is necessary for excellence, so why do we have such a hard time applying it to our lives as a whole?  When was the last time you sat down somewhere quiet for a while and prayed and meditated on the course your life is taking and the way you spend your days?  How often do little disobediences and minor inconsistencies create major problems in our lives because we’re too caught up in the lightning-fast details to be bothered with the big picture?  The unexamined life is impervious to change, because we never see the need until too late.  Stop for a moment and compare the life that you’re living with the model we’re supposed to be imitating: Jesus.  Ask Him to show you all of the little details, the closed eyes and the deaf ears that are holding you down.  Invite Him to erase the marks you’ve made with your own ambition and strength and trace over your life with His master design.  Let Him lead you into the life that is worth living.

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