Middling

The fancies and reflections of a loquacious ninja

Category Archives: Original

Beauty and grace in His body, my siblings

I have been back home from my first year of college for roughly three weeks now, and have (obviously) neglected to post anything until now. A time for confession and some reflection on the future trajectory of this blog will come, but for now, here is the best I can do as a wrap-up reflection on my first year. I apologize if it sounds a bit too polished or refined in an impersonal way; it was for an essay contest after all, though I’ve made a few changes. All the same, I hope you enjoy reading it.

It is amazing what God can do with a mustard seed of time. In the span of two short semesters, the Lord has intercepted my mind and life with a throng of worthwhile ideas and experiences that continue to resound within my being and shape my thoughts. Yet towering above the rest stands one special, ongoing lesson: the beauty of the body of Christ – or more specifically, experiencing the richness hidden within the individuals who make it up, through the intimate vehicle of fellowship.

Even before coming to school, my journey in learning how to know and experience people has been an eventful one. Through the examples of several key influencing people in my life, God taught me the gift of reaching out to others in everyday conversations, and to seek to build friendly relationships with whoever might intercept my path. Because of these dear friends, I developed and cultivated an inclination for what might be called broadcast relationships. I want to know everyone’s name, remember details about people’s lives when they share them, and cast my social net wide enough so that no one is left out. Though I still have ample room to improve, I believe that this skill has served me well in my time thus far at college.

Yet even as God was guiding me through these lessons, He began offering me tastes, little foreshadowings of a greater prize awaiting my pursuit. I witnessed another dear friend whose friendships seemed an entirely different sort of creature from most of my own. This friend excelled in cultivating deep, one-on-one relationships with people; such intimacy felt foreign to my experience, but fascinated me. By this example, I realized many of the friendships I had (rightfully) sought to nurture were more broad than deep, and I soon yearned for deeper friendships. In several of my relationships back home, God indeed granted me a meaningful and satisfying bond, friends with whom I shared an intimate connection that pushed far below the mere surface – and by God’s grace, those treasured relationships have endured even while I’ve been away living the college life. Yet my longing for richer, one-on-one relationships has been fulfilled most substantially since my arrival at school. I did not go seeking for them, but God poured them into my lap; and by their presence in my life, even those relationships back home have seemed to take on a new and fuller tenor.

Intimacy is both to know and be known. The friendships God has blessed me with since going to my college have penetrated new reaches of intimacy and fellowship because of both of these factors. Vulnerability has been my teacher lately; under her tutelage, I have gradually been able to lower somewhat the walls that have always naturally surrounded the depths of my interior. Yet perhaps the greatest reason I have been able to do so is that others have opened their hearts to me. Since joining in the life of my school, I have known more than ever before the depth of a human soul.

In this area, senior testimonies have been an especially meaningful pedagogue to me, especially this past spring. A great number of seniors – many of whom, tragically, I’ve only been able to forge at best a hasty connection with – have laid bare their souls from that pulpit for the entire campus to witness, some with trembling voices and tears. I walked away from many of those encounters with my world altered; you cannot see everything the same way after being made aware of such an unseen wealth of struggle, growth, pain, victory, failure, healing, loss, and redemption. After one particularly poignant testimony of deeply internalized pain and the salve of fellowship that ultimately brought healing, I later returned to my room and penned a few reflections. I called each individual soul a cistern, “fairly narrow yet nearly bottomless,” its dark waters obscuring its secrets to all but the most perceiving eye, and only ever known in its fullness by the Lord who created it. “We are deeper than we ourselves know,” I wrote to myself.

Yet these semesters have been more than merely hearing accounts of the soul; I have also been given the opportunity to venture beneath the surface of some of my fellow cisterns. Almost by accident, this past semester I began the practice of informally, almost spontaneously meeting with my dear brothers and sisters one-on-one over a simple meal in the dining hall. Sometimes there was a particular item to be discussed, sometimes no reason to meet existed but fellowship. Several times, I built up my expectations unrealistically to anticipate some kind of life-changing conversation, and disappointed myself when I merely found another soul like mine across the table from me. Yet the simple act of fellowship over food, a type of breaking bread together, helped me to both open my soul to others, and to plunge beneath the mask of the abyss into the hearts of my brothers and sisters in Christ (though only with their permission). As of now, I have only barely been underwater; yet I have gone deeper than ever before.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful ways I have experienced the richness of fellowship with my brothers and sisters at school has been in our partnerships in meaningful things. The forms have varied, but I have been a blessed participant in several endeavors where we have been able to encourage one another in worthwhile ways, because of our engagement alongside one another in truly worthy pursuits. With Christ ultimately as our center of cohesion and the common object of our fellowship, our interactions have ever brought me to new heights of life and growth in Him. By the examples of my brothers and sisters, by their humility born of profound wisdom and maturity in the Spirit, my steps have often been checked from the prideful pitfall of Satan, and been washed instead with the grace of the Most High. To date, I have found no greater expression of the beauty and grace bestowed through the body of Christ than this.

As a product of a society and culture where the almighty appearance can spell the fate of a job interview or advertised product’s success, where the individual is emphasized over the community, and where many have all but forgotten the immortal soul of man, I can easily forget that the Lord placed a piece of Himself within each human being, in His breath and image. I can easily neglect the beauty of His Bride, the body of many parts sustained by His goodness and manifesting His grace. Yet by that very grace, I have come away with a far greater understanding of the depth of each person made by Him, and the overwhelming privilege I possess of intimate fellowship with my siblings in Christ.

If these lessons, though merely begun and received by an unsatisfactory pupil, are what God can give me a glimpse of in my first year of college alone, I stand in eager expectation for what He will do with my future time. May I learn to seek Him all the more as He continues to teach me with my brothers and sisters in Him.

By His grace,

  ~ Timothy

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An Odyssey in Journaling: Seeking the Grey Eyes of Providence

I recognize the cheapness (as a blogger) and possible danger (as a student who’s heard warnings about plagiarism all his life) of posting here something I wrote for school. But blogging time is wanting, and I find myself compelled to somewhat venturesome (if not quite desperate) measures. At any rate, even though I wrote this for a lit class, it is a piece I would have shared even if I’d written it under different circumstances.

An unlikely parallel inspired this story.

The Odyssey is undeniably filled with celebration of man’s tenacity and cunning in the face of trial (as manifestly embodied by Odysseus); yet as I read it for class, I found that it did not glory in man alone. I was struck with a strong appreciation of Athena’s providential role throughout Odysseus’s many exploits and struggles, and this sparked a memory from the ending of Lewis’s classic, The Horse and His Boy. As I wrote, I saw additional parallels of Odysseus’s story with certain biblical characters; these I wove into the fabric of the Homeric world as best I could.

Below, you find the result of my work. Enjoy!

*     *     *     *     *

To the journal,

Many years ago, a stranger came to my home in sunny Ithaca. As a god-fearing man, I welcomed him in, fed him well, and bathed him. Then I asked him his name, his parentage, his homeland and how he came to Ithaca, for I hardly supposed he had come all this way on foot.

He called himself Sallapiddes, hailing from the broad island of Crete far across the sea. Though I insisted, he oddly refused to receive any gift from my hand, and left my palace as swiftly as he had come. Before he disappeared, however, he left me a gift of his own – a small book, or journal as he called it, bound with a rugged skin much tougher than a bull’s hide. A sturdy strap of leather hung from its binding, to fasten it securely to my thigh; for he said that were I ever to go roaming beyond the sea and over the lands of men, though passing through scorching heat and raging seawater, this small book would know neither ruin nor tatter. If I kept it with me, I would never be at a loss to record all that became of me – my adventures, thoughts, triumphs and hardships.

Not many days later, mighty Agamemnon and bold Menelaus came to my palace, and soon after we departed for Troy. Since then, I have had many opportunities to write in this journal, and even more of which to write. Long hours have been mine of late to look back upon what I have written, the path I have followed since leaving the battlefields of Troy.

And I long to curse Sallapiddes for giving me so fine and useful a gift.

Night and day, I weep here on the shore of this wave-washed island, sick at heart for my dear comrades – all of whom I have lost. I remember the fury of the Cicones we raided, the savage son of Poseidon, the lawless Laestrygonians, deadly Scylla and those fateful herds of the Sungod… and it sharpens the anguish of my heart. Each of my men, my friends-at-arms, has gone down to the House of Death in turn; I alone have escaped their fate.

And yet, what have I escaped to? I sit here on the rocks and beaches, my eyes blinded by tears as I strain for even a glimpse of hearth-smoke drifting up from my homeland… How shall this end? Luckless man that I am! Am I fated to die here, far from my people and loved ones? Must I remain to be tormented on this accursed island – I almost say god-forsaken, except that I grieve as the captive of a goddess, the seductive nymph with lovely braids – for the rest of my days?

Oh deathless Zeus who marshals the lightening! Mighty son of Cronus! Did I not win your favor with the sacrifices I burned to you besides the ships on the broad plain of Troy? Have you forgotten the many thighs I offered before you, the many strangers and wayfarers whose sacred rights I never neglected because I feared your name?

And Athena… Oh bright-eyed Athena… why have you forsaken me? Have you no care for me in your lofty heart? Has my wile and wit ceased to impress you? Were we not two of a kind, man and goddess, partners in intrigue and craft, the best alive among gods and men at spinning tricks and displaying our wisdom?

Dearest Athena, daughter of Zeus who knows all… you were so kind to me in those years during the war. We men of Achaea soldiered on against King Priam’s craggy city… and you were there. You strode along my decks, the very goddess of cunning and wile, in person! You kept my men safe from disaster, you cheered me with your words, encouraged my fighting spirit and strengthened my hands when I needed you most. And yet since then, I have caught no glimpse of you, no sign that you are still with me, no assurance that I am favored by you still.

My soul weighs me down in anguish, I draw near to the grave. I long to die… and what then would come of all my cunning, my guile?

How long, O daughter of Zeus? Will you hide your grey eyes from mine forever? Where is your former favor? Will your displeasure rage like the foaming sea? O Athena, goddess of my past deliverance! Why so dead set against me? Why stand far off in my time of greatest need? Why… why abandon me?

I rend my heart, I blind my eyes

With tears of grief, I wound my soul.

I lift my prayer to the skies;

No answer comes to make me whole.

In vain I weep, an empty breath

Still pleading from my lips depart.

I live, and yet the House of Death

More happy stands than my own heart.

The thunder-lack, false eyes of grey

Confirm my purposed, wretched name.

Twas aptly giv’n that cursed day –

The Child of Wrath and Son of Pain.

~ Odysseus

*     *     *

Dear journal,

I know not what to think, much less what to write… Can such fortune be true?

Several days ago, as I wept on the shore in my usual way, my lustrous captor approached me and bade me grieve no more. Without warning or reason, she claimed a willingness to send me off her island at last; she even promised bronze tools to construct a broad-beamed raft for myself, provisions for the long journey, and a stiff traveling wind to speed me homeward.

Naturally, I could not believe her at first. What had I ever known but capriciousness, unfaithfulness and trickery from the gods? Even after she swore a binding oath to not plot some new intrigue to harm me, I fed her smoothly spun words to assure her of her beauty as my desire to be with Penelope could not be contained. I even shared the nymph’s bed one final night to appease her, in case her mind took a turn for my destruction.

To cross the wine-dark sea afloat a raft is madness. Even deep-sea ships, well rigged and crewed by the best of men, cannot guarantee a safe journey across its vast gulfs, so full of peril and mortal danger. Neither have I forgotten that the god of the sea-blue mane, the lord of the sea, still seethes against me for having blinded his son.

Yet my heart pines for Penelope, mortal though she be… I long for the good, green earth of my native country, I yearn for the dawn of my return. My raft is nearly ready. Should the earth-shaker wreck my craft, I know that I can bear it. Already have I suffered much, in violent waves and raging war; my fighting spirit has learned to endure. Let the trial come! Let Poseidon do his worst – for I go to my native land at last!

~ Odysseus

*     *     *

Journal,

Will I never learn the end of pain?

I departed from Calypso’s dark-wooded island dressed in her fine gifts and well-rationed with ruddy wine and choice meat. Seventeen days I sailed without incident, daring to hope that I might escape the notice of the earthshaking god who rules the seas.

On the eighteenth day, my peaceful voyage ended. The lord Poseidon of the sea, terrible in his power and might, saw my humble craft upon his domain… and unleashed his fury upon me. Fearsome thunderheads grew overhead, grey storm clouds rammed together with such force that the rain alone could have drowned me. From every corner of the earth, he stirred up the fiercest winds and roiled forth breakers that would have sent mountains cowering.

For all my brave talk to the nymph with lovely locks in the safety of her den, I knew fear then as I had never felt on the battlefields of Troy… Knees slack and heart paralyzed by terror, I would have gladly traded a death on those broad plains for the sure doom I was to suffer here.

With one resounding crash, a single wave as furious as Poseidon himself descended on my craft, hurling me into the sea. A nymph took pity on me… Even then, with the promised scarf immortal round my waist, I was sure of my death in those heaving waves.

Surely the god of the sea-blue mane could have ended my life then and there; then a new trick occurred. All at once, the raging winds ceased… but one remained, tossing me for two days. Again and again, I believed myself to be a dead man.

But on the third day – and I cannot explain why – this last wind died down as the rest had. I raised my head… and saw land. Never had I been so eager to plant my feet on solid ground. I swam for the coast as fast as my wearied limbs could take me.

Yet new dangers welcomed me as I neared the shore, perils more fatal than the first. I heard the boom of the boiling surf echoing as it crashed against the jagged reefs and ironbound coast, and my heart failed within me. My knees became as the water which surrounded them once more, and I choked with fright; for I knew to draw nearer would not be the embrace of safety, but to be flayed alive on the rocky coast. A steep, smooth rock face afforded no place for my two legs to stand, no foothold secure to guard me from death. Were I to clamber out, a heavy roller could well have dashed me to bits against the reefs – all that struggle for naught. And yet, I equally feared swimming further down the shore in search of some safe harbor, for a gale could easily snatch me up and hurl me back into the fish-infested sea, or some monster from the deep be set loose on me. Ready to retch in despair, I lingered in the waves that threatened to consume me, my mind tormented as the waters.

As I faltered, a colossal breaker swept me in towards the jagged cliffs of that grim coast; death was never more certain. I know not what could have inspired me then, but I lunged out and grabbed hold of a reef with the strength of desperation. Though the skin rubbed raw off my hands, I stayed on until the great wave’s fury had subsided. Yet even then I had not escaped death, for the backwash of the wave barreled into me full force, hauling me back into the heart of the sea!

A heavy wave fell over me, the billows enclosed my struggling body, and I went down, down into the watery depths… Weeds were wrapped around my head, and the deep surrounded me on every side. I had no will left to fight, no strength left to struggle, and I sank to the very threshold of that place where there can be no return.

And yet… I did not stay there. It is beyond my explanation how or why. All I know is that my dampened fighting spirit suddenly arose within me once more. Though tossed and beaten down on every side, I fought my way out of the depths and into the midst of the violent breakers. I struck out for the shore, scanning the shoreline for a sheltered seabeach, a sanctuary, a cove where I would be safe. By some great mercy, I found one…

I prayed to the god of the river, and he mercifully held back his surge and calmed the swelling tides. Washed ashore more dead than alive, my powerful body limp and swollen, my heart ready to burst, my mouth and nostrils filled with the brine of the sea… yet was I alive. I flung the goddess’s scarf back into the sea and forced myself to abandon the coast where I lay in search of a wooded shelter, bone-weary and fearful of becoming the quarry of some wild beast though I was.

Here I now lie. Exhausted, caked with brine, with nothing to cover me but the branches of this shady grove… Calypso’s gifts I forsook to the wine-dark sea. I have lost all but this infernal journal, which I found still stubbornly strapped to my side. Sallapiddes spoke truly, for it has fared through the seawater unharmed and with no sign of wear – a fate far superior to mine. Yet what has it become but a testament of my suffering? I yearn to hurl this wretched book back out into the fish-infested sea, as if that would drown my miseries! Instead, I pour my heart into its pages…

Already have I written too long. To think of writing after nearing death so frequently and terribly within the past few hours! But now… I feel a welcome sleep coming on.

Let the beasts have me if they will. Let me rest my weary self…

~ Odysse…

*     *     *

Dearest journal,

Can fortune be true? Can the lion change his mane, or the Son of Pain alter his title?

I awoke from my blessed sleep startled, unharmed by beats and yet fearful of what I would find. Too many times had I seen how violent and savage the lawless inhabitants of an isle could be. Yet it was the music of girlish laughter that woke me… Were they nymphs? Or people who eat bread and speak with a human tongue?

Compelled by my need, out I went in search of compassion. Only the modesty afforded me by an olive branch accompanied my steps. Soon, I came across the source of my awakening – a company of maidens, tossing a ball and laughing to their heart’s content on the rippling riverbanks. My heart sank; for though these were daughters of civilized men, how long could I hope to keep their audience in my current state? Legs made fleet by terror and shrieks of alarm would doubtless speed them down the jutting beaches to safety the moment they caught sight of me.

And so they did, scattering from my briny wolfishness like panicked sheep… all but one. The tallest and most shining among them stood her ground, petrified – her face told no lies – yet unmoving. Naked and terrible to behold as I was, she stood fast! I know not whether she is truly a daughter of man, or a goddess in glory, for she seemed almost too wonderful to behold; I cannot imagine what compelled her to remain while her maids fled. But she took pity, promising that for however long I abide on this soil, in the land of the Phaeacians who love their oars, never would I be wanting for food, clothing, or any other gift. She herself was a princess, the daughter of King Alcinous of the land.

The white-armed princess called back her maids. Teasing each other on in awkward obedience, they laid down a cloak and shirt for my shoulders, and oil to rub myself down once I had bathed in the river. I reassured them of my modesty, asking them to retreat a ways down as I bathed, scouring the brine from my hair and the brackish scurf from my shoulders and back.

As daughter and maidens of the king’s court, the princess and her maids with lovely braided hair have doubtless seen many impressive men before, those who excel in strength and beauty. Yet as I emerged from my bath, refreshed and glistening, they regarded me with such awe that I wondered if my stature and manliness had suddenly increased in their eyes. The princess herself – lovely in form and wise beyond her tender years – praised me as a deathless god! Surely a simple bath and rubbing of oil could not have changed my appearance so drastically? No matter, for then came that highest gift of the gods, of which it seemed I had been deprived for years: food.

Blessed princess, with bearing and grace that rivals those of the immortals who rule the vaulting skies above… In my hideous state and direst need, you drew near! Your face will I ever adore, and all my gratitude is due your name.

Already has she driven back to the city, for in good sense, she recognized the scandal it would cause were a stranger like me to return by her side. But before her mules felt the touch of her shining whip, she gave me clear instructions, entreating that I wait for a time in a sacred poplar grove nearby. Then, once she and her shining maidens had reached her generous father’s palace ahead of me, I was to walk to the city and journey there myself. As for directions, she assured me the place so unmistakable that an innocent child could guide me there.

I write this now as I linger among the poplars, gazing on the bubbling spring and wide meadows as I ponder my turn of fortunes. Neither is it not lost to me whose sacred grove I walk in; these fine trees and spacious meadows belong to no other than the clear-eyed daughter of Zeus herself. I meander among Athena’s blessed forests, and yet… she does not come to me. Again, I see no sign of her presence, no assurance of her favor, even as I walk through her holy place.

With each pondering step, I long to lift my prayer to the vaulting skies in the hopes that her ear shall hear me at last. Yet I cannot help but burn with this ever-growing question: Athena, where have you been? Where were you as my craft was shattered by the famed earth-shaker out in the brine-filled sea? When I drifted on the surface of the deep, battered by the waves and awaiting my death for three weary days? Why did you stand afar? Poseidon is a mighty god, terrible and not to be trifled with; yet even so, could not your cunning have rescued me aright or spared me of a portion of my misery? Do you mean to hone the suffering and anguish I bear within me?

I do not neglect the assistance I received from the sea-nymph of the immortal scarf, nor from the river god in whose cove I took refuge. But I ask not what they have done; what of Athena? She is the one I long to see and hear. Is she not, in some fashion, my goddess? Where then has she been in the midst of all this turmoil and fortune?

But these questions have escaped my lips often enough since my trials began. Instead, I offer the following for the grey-eyed goddess’s consideration:

Dearest Athena, daughter of Zeus who wields the thunderhead, my helper and shield in times past – though bitter to my mouth and heavy to my stomach, I have learned to swallow the reality of your absence while I stood stranded in the embraces of Calypso. I have accepted that you abandoned me to the watery depths and the wrath of the fearsome earth-shaker while adrift on the broad back of the sea… Yet still I remember your kindness to me in the years of Troy. So as I have done so many times before, I turn to you with a strong plea – grant now that I shall find a vestige of compassion and mercy in this land, amongst the oar-loving people of Phaeacia!

Athena… heard you my prayer at last? Or is your face still hidden? Have my pleas finally turned your bright eyes in my direction? Or do I stand alone?

No matter; I have prayed. Even if Athena has truly left me, the time now is for action, not supplication. The princess of grace and compassion has surely reached the palace by now, and it is time I followed the route she has set. I only hope no trouble will spring up from amongst the old sea-dogs and coarser sailors tending their trim ships in Phaeacia’s fine harbor. I shall have to pass through their midst as a stranger garbed in the king’s laundry, and they cannot but notice me. May I find the compassion I seek among such a people!

Through many dangers, toils, harms

And violent sea god’s mighty wrath

A princess bold with whitest arms

Now bids me to a kinder path.

She trades my cloak of filth and brine

For oil smooth and modesty.

O Nausicaa! Perhaps divine

I give my thanks and praise to thee.

Again – though not from wine-dark sea

My prayers to Olympus rise.

I see no sign in poplar tree

Yet still I seek grey Wisdom’s eyes.

~ Odysseus

*     *     *

Most blessed journal,

Much has happened since last I wrote.

As I strode to the Phaeacian’s welcome city, I naturally feared that some swaggering islander would cross my path, rouse my fighting blood with taunts and end his life. Such an incident would greatly impede my journey to the palace, and even put me into a state of disfavor that would end all hopes of finding compassion. Yet none challenged me. I know not how often the Phaeacians encounter strangers in their land, but they acted as though they never even saw me.

As I entered their gates, a young girl came to greet me. A perfectly ordinary little girl, holding her mother’s water pitcher, no doubt… I asked for her guidance, and with a sparkle in her eye, she promptly replied that she would gladly lead me to the halls of wise King Alcinous and his good queen, Arete. She then sped down the streets with me in pursuit; no one accosted us, all ignored us.

Soon, we reached the resplendent palace. Here the girl rapidly related to me more of her beloved queen, and declared that with her favor would come hope that I might see my native land again. Then, as quickly as she had come, the girl sped away.

That vitality, that brightness in that young girl’s eyes… I have seen it before. And now I remember, the color of her eyes… that familiar color. Could it be?..

I quickly entered the magnificent palace court, and after gazing my fill, sought the queen. It was not difficult to find her, as the white-armed princess had assured me. Still, none took note of me; not until I had grasped the knees of my princess’s mother. Then did all marvel as though none had seen me until that moment. Regardless, I made my plea to her, entreating her mercy and begging her compassion in light of all I’d borne.

I shall spare the details; except to say that truly, truly have I found compassion among the kind people of Phaeacia. Even before I proved to them my strength in the contests or made known to them that I was Odysseus, man of exploits and raider of cities, they looked upon me as though I had the bearing of an immortal. They have embraced me warmly, treating me ever so kindly…

As I write, I board their swiftest convoy, loaded with more plunder than ever I might have gained from sacking Troy and manned by the best of oarsmen, ready to speed me homeward. I know not what I shall find there, what new trials and worlds of pain await my return. Yet at long last, I shall be in sunny Ithaca once more, the land I love and the land of my loved ones…

Again, I feel the strangest sleep coming on, as if that of death… These crewsmen know their craft, and my treasures are safely stowed. For now, I shall sleep, though I know not what lies before me. Perhaps Athena shall be merciful… perhaps I shall see her face at last. Her eyes, I may have glimpsed already…

~ Odysseus

*     *     *    *

Dearest diary,

At long last is my mission complete. The man of exploits, Odysseus, has reached his native home at last. I was there to welcome him myself.

He could not recognize me of course, nor his beloved land; not until I had stripped away my clever mist and unveiled my winning disguise. Oh that wily man… How suspicious he was! How careful and exacting! He trusts me above all the other gods and goddesses of the vaulting heavens, yet still he asked if things were truly as I said, if this land shrouded in mist was truly his cherished homeland. Even after I revealed my face, my long-sought face… he could not allow himself to lower his guard. Ever the cool tactician, he hid all signs of wonder and joy at seeing my face and form, the signs he strove after so frequently and so fervently all his years of trial.

Joy and wonder were not the only affections he sought to hide. The thinly masked bitterness of his voice did not escape me as he quietly accused me of all he has believed true since the fall of Troy – that I had abandoned him, left him in time of greatest need, forsaken him to survive by his own strength and cunning alone. I know he feels all this; have not his questionings and prayers reached my ears all along?

For all his cunning and cleverness… Odysseus is a mortal after all. I understand that he is so. I understand his questioning and his doubt; yet he fails himself to see how little he understands. For I have not been deaf to his prayers as he supposes, or blind to his journal’s woeful tales. Neither have I ever left his side or abandoned him to a cruel fate.

Does he not know?

It was I who persuaded my father Zeus, he who loves the lightening, to set him free from lustrous Calypso’s captivity. My winning words liberated him from pining away all the days of his life on that rocky beach, and allowed him to turn homeward once more, as Fate had decreed…

It was I who calmed the winds when the god of earthquakes destroyed his craft at sea, who silenced all but the boisterous northern gust that drove him to the Phaeacian’s land, and I who stilled it on the third day.

It was I who inspired him to take hold of the jagged reef when death was most imminent, and I who filled his fighting spirit with courage when the roiling breakers swept him back into the open sea, little better than dead… Contrary to the will of Fate, he would have perished then and there had I been absent.

It was I who sealed his eyes with welcome sleep in his bed of leaves amongst the olive trees, where no beast did touch him…

It was I who sent the white-armed princess to the shore. It was I who stayed her heart and dissolved the fearful trembling of her limbs, though a naked man caked in brine stood before her – I gave his cunning the chance it needed to calm her fears and sway her compassion. I made him taller, more massive to the eyes once he had taken his bath to further the motion. I was the reason she saved his life.

It was I who cloaked him in a hidden mist as he walked through the Phaeacian’s city, allowing him to reach the king’s palace and the queen’s very knees unseen. I was the chattering, eager, bright-eyed girl who showed him the way to wise Alcinous’s palace. I lead him on, and by my craft did I incline the people of Phaeacia to embrace him with such warmth and reverence, encouraging their sympathy and awe and creating opportunity for him to display his marvelous strength. I heard his prayer amidst my sacred groves, and did not put him to shame.

I know that he is not fully ignorant of what I have done; our meeting on Ithaca’s beach seals this truth. This alone did I tell him, that I had prepared the Phaeacians to accept him so amiably – that I had answered his prayer – and this alone did he show me, that he knew the identity of the grey-eyed girl who had lead him to their city. Yet still is his knowledge a mere bud, a beginning of the perfect reality.

Through all his struggles, I preserved him. I protected him. I was his helper when all his best efforts and cunning were powerless to deliver him. Elsewhere, I aided him – crafting careful details to ease the way, setting his feet securely in a place of honor. Still have I strengthened him in a thousand ways he does not know.

And it was I who gave him the journal.

He does not yet know truly how I have helped him. But he will look back upon what he has written, over all the woes and hardships he has recorded. When he reads this journal over, he will not forget the inkwell of tears that flooded from his soul, nor the quill of sharpened anguish with which he wrote. Yet he will also see the many, many happenings and instances that have preserved and aided him, both in his times of most dire need and in the most minor of challenges. He will see that his path has been riddled with the strength of deliverance, and shielded by the might of steadfast protection. And perhaps… perhaps he will one day see that I never did abandon him. Not once did my grey eyes fail to trace his steps, or my wisdom falter to defend and strengthen his way. Not once did I forsake him. Perhaps when he speaks to his son Telemachus, with whom I made my role much more manifest, he will see it at last.

Odysseus sleeps peacefully now in the swineherd’s hut – clad in the disguise of my making. As I have shared with him, I plot with him now to ruin those suitors who bleed his house white. No longer will I walk in shadows behind and before him; now, he shall have me by his side, my thunder and form as ready proof.

There is much to be done still. As before, many things lie at hand which his own strength and cunning must accomplish if he is to succeed, even with my aid. Even here will he find a world of pain to endure and hardships to overcome. Even here must I hone the anguish within him once more.

But I am here to help him. I will be with him to the very end, and though it take him yet another twenty years at last to see… he will know.

Though stranded long in nymph embrace

In pain conveyed o’er sea and land

The man of sorrows flints his face

Yet ne’er forsaken did he stand.

Through stormcloud sea, in forest green

O’er sandy beach, pavilioned yards

A helper steadfast, yet unseen

Thy every footfall safely guards.

Though visioned not in poplar tree

Though futile seemed the anguished cries

Yet e’er my ear received their plea

Nor vainly did thee seek mine eyes.

          ~ Athena

Graduation: A Study in Cliché

Originally, this long overdue message was intended to be given as a charge to my classmates at graduation, before I realized that it was far too long and that a slightly different message was more appropriate for that occasion. Now, I present it here to you in unabridged glory (and as is to be expected, it is now about three times longer than when I first started writing it).

If you are also a recent graduate, I especially dedicate this message to you — though frankly, these ideas are applicable to just about anyone. As always, I apologize for the excessive length, and also for the fact that it reads more like a speech (that should have been given during the graduation season) than a blog post. Enjoy!

The Problem with Our Graduation Clichés

PART I: THE COMPROMISE

“As we go forth…” “Looking forward, let us also look back…” “Life/success/education is not a destination, but a journey…”

More than any other time of year, graduation seems to be a special season for clichés; a time for them to grow hard and ripe that we may gather, bring in a full harvest, and bounteously distribute the spoils to all our friends, our families, and especially our graduates.

Every year, in commencement speech after commencement speech, we as graduating seniors are spoon-fed an endless plethora of quotes and platitudes (most of which have been canned for decades) from the podium. We’re congratulated for “all the hard work we’ve put in to get to this point” and for having “made it!” We’re asked “hasn’t time just flown by,” because “why it seems like just yesterday…” but “look at where we are now.” We’re told that “this is the time of our lives” and that we’ll “look back on these days as among the best of our lives” (giving us much to look forward to), but we’re also reminded that “it’s not the end, it’s only the beginning,” that “this is the first day of the rest of your life,” because after all, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and “as one door closes, another opens”; “We’ve only just begun!”

If you’ve attended multiple graduation ceremonies already or will be in the coming weeks and that was painful to you, I apologize. Isn’t it interesting though, how much we resort to these same sayings and proverbs year after copycat year? It’s certainly something I didn’t fully realize until I had to write a graduation speech of my own. Why we play this game of perpetual recycling is something worth discussing later, but first, it leaves those of us who must write graduation speeches with an interesting dilemma: Do we buy into the it’s-not-graduation-without-graduation-clichés trend, follow the unnamed tradition and freely sow our speech with platitude? Or, do we mercilessly purge our work of these writing impurities, as Strunk, White, and Zinsser might have us do, and be as absolutely original as possible in everything we say?

Obviously, that’s a false either-or situation. At any rate, I’ve already saturated my opening with cliché galore, and I doubt my originality would take me quite so far as to never quote another one. But to blindly and thoughtlessly litter a speech with overworn, overrated, and overused phrases and sayings would result in a monster not worthy of daylight.

So I struck a compromise: I would incorporate as many graduation clichés into my speech as possible, but only as an opportunity to explain what I dislike about each one of them. I’ve already used quite a few as examples, but rest assured that there remains a well plenty deep enough for our supply.

Let’s begin:

PART II: THE CLICHÉS

Cliché: We are, “the brave, the bold, the beautiful,” each with “incredible talents” and “a capacity to greatness.”

For the most part, perfectly good sayings that have simply been parroted far too often, so much so that they’ve lost their color. Now they sound pretty trite.

This past year (and in years previously), I have walked among my fellow seniors in all sorts of situations; and yes, I have seen bravery, boldness, and especially beauty, in ways I never expected to. “Incredible” really doesn’t go far enough to describe the breathtaking, God-given abilities and time-honed skills I’ve caught glimpses of over the years.

As for “capacity to greatness,” to my ears that ignores two things: 1) Though still imperfect and growing, we can and perhaps already have achieved greatness, and 2) The root of that present greatness and the greatness to come.

We are not great because of what we have made ourselves to be; we are great only because of who we are as God’s new creations in Christ. In fact, it is only by His grace that we can learn from the essence of Bravery, Boldness, and Beauty, what those things really are. It is only by His mercy that we can learn to apply those incredible talents He has given us to proper use. It is only by His will that we have our “capacity to greatness” in the first place. And it is only by His power that our “capacity” can be, is, and shall be made a reality.

Our greatness is both a finished reality sealed by Christ’s work on the cross, and a coming reality that will be completed in full when we are with Him in glory. It is the righteousness we can live now by faith (Gal 3:11/Hab 2:4), and the coming righteousness for which we eagerly wait, also by faith (Gal 5:5). And our faith is properly placed not in ourselves and our wonderful talents, our bravery-boldness-beauty, and our awesome capacities, but in our Maker alone; the One who gave us these things.

Cliché: “As you go out into the world,” strive to “make a difference,” to “make the world a better place,” to “turn the world upside-down.”

Whenever politicians state that they will bring about change if elected into office, I know what they mean; but I can’t help wishing that they would be more specific. Because simply put, not all change is good (more corruption, for example, is a change that we could all do without). The same goes for the “difference ” we make in this world. Of course we’re all going to have some effect, however small; there’s no guarantee, however, that it will be a positive one.

Making the world “a better place” isn’t much of an improvement because the meaning of “better” is rarely defined. What do you mean by “better”? Contributing to world peace? World happiness? World equality? (Which would inevitably make some people very unhappy, and probably require disturbing the peace of many others.)

To my fellow, graduating seniors: As you go out into the world, please don’t try to turn it upside-down; it’s lost enough. Our job as believers, as ambassadors for Christ, isn’t to just shake up the world more by flipping it upside down, but to turn it right side up again. By pointing it, in all of its darkness and unbelief, to our God.

That is the way to change the world for the better. That is what will make not just any old difference, however positive; it will make an eternal one.

Cliché: “Follow your dreams. Pursue your passions. Be true to yourself. Trust your instincts.”

Use the force, Luke. Let your intuition guide you. Or as the song by 98 Degrees says, “True to your heart, you must be true to your heart.”

Have you ever noticed how self-centered that sounds? Your dreams, your passion, your instincts, your heart. Where is the focus of these sayings? On the creature or the Creator?

But don’t get me wrong. These things — dreams, passions, heart’s desires, intuition and so on — are not evils in and of themselves. God gave them to us for a reason, and He made us individuals for a purpose. I just referenced how uniquely gifted I’ve seen my fellow seniors to be. Well, they are no less unique in their personalities, interests, abilities, flaws, what makes them laugh, how they relate to others, how they respond to certain situations, and what their passions and dreams are.

God hand-crafted each one of us to be weird; to be different from the other faces in a crowd of millions and billions of others. Heaven knows we each have gifts and dreams and strengths and weaknesses that are very similar to someone we might know (especially relatives…), or someone a friend of a friend knows, and to possibly thousands others across the planet. He didn’t make us that unique; otherwise, we might never have anything in common (and we might never experience, as Dr. Seuss called it, that “mutual weirdness” we call love). And yet, God did make us unique; certainly by the way He formed us but also by the way He placed each of us in our own spot in history and the world; so much so, that I can state with no hesitation whatsoever, that you are different, you are set apart from every other person who has ever walked on this earth… or ever will.

Perhaps I’m dipping a bit into the cliché well myself, but your dreams, passions, gifts, and so on are part of what makes you unique. They are a part of the purpose for which you were created. So by all means, follow your dreams, pursue your passions; but only as a means of following, pursuing, and glorifying the One who put them in you. Be true to yourself; but don’t be true to the old self that was crucified with Christ, that used to lie dead in transgression. Be true to the self that was raised with Him in new life, dedicated to His Kingdom and His righteousness.

And be careful about following those instincts willy-nilly. God gave us an intuition, but He never said it would tell us no lies. I like how the movie Fireproof put it: “Don’t follow your heart, because your heart can be deceived. You have to lead your heart.” Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also, so be careful what you make your treasure. Don’t ever make the mistake of making your imperfect, broken self the treasure, instead of Christ. In fact, perhaps the easiest way to make this clear is to take yourself out of the picture entirely and put the proper owner in His place:

Follow His dreams. Pursue His passions. Be true to your Lord, and trust in Him with all of your heart, leaning on His understanding over your own instincts and wisdom. Acknowledge and glorify Him in all you do, and He will take care of the rest.

Focus not on your dreams, passions, wisdom, and so on, but His. After all, if you’re walking in Him, they should be pretty similar anyway.

Cliché: “You are the future. The future is in your hands.” (So is the national debt…)

The problem I see with this one is the same as with the whole “capacity to greatness” thing. It makes it sound as if us young fry will one day mature, join the ranks and then, we can go out and “make our mark upon the world” (another well-worn cliché).

Are we the future only? Are we not also a part of the present? Can we not begin to live lives worthy of remembrance and honor right now? As is often quoted from Paul (or in this case, grossly paraphrased by me), don’t let anyone despise you because you haven’t hit your growth spurt yet. Because you’re still in school. Because you still can’t legally drive a car, own a home or buy alcohol (why that’s a standard of adulthood in our society I’ll never know… but that’s a whole other issue).

Instead, you set the example. You show people who think they’re mature and wise just because they’ve lived longer (which is to be hoped, but certainly not assumed) what it means to live a life of integrity, in how and what you speak, in how you go about your daily life, in the way that you love your Lord and your neighbor, in what you put your faith in and how that faith lives through your deeds, and in the way you keep yourself undefiled by this world, pure in the sight of God. I guarantee, no matter the age of whoever happens to be watching, that will get people’s attention in today’s culture and society. That will lead people to the questions that can eventually lead them to the Lord. That will do something real for the present; and by extension, for the future.

Cliché: “Today is a bright day, full of hope and promise…”

Or how about this one? I actually saw this at the graduation ceremony of a friend I attended last year. The girl giving the charge is talking, almost finishes her sentence, pulls out a pair of shades, puts them on and declares, “Our future is oh so bright!”

As I’ve already made pretty clear, I do have hopes for the members of my graduating class, and they are high ones. Yes, we certainly have potential, both for the present and the future, and there’s nothing wrong with being excited and optimistic about what is to come. But calling the future a bright one so confidently seems a bit presumptuous to me. Because as we’re reminded in the book of James, none of us knows what’s coming. None of us knows what the next year, the next day, the next hour will bring. We don’t know, and frankly, there isn’t much we could do about it even if we did. Captains of our souls though we may be, we are far from the masters of our fate. We can adjust our sails all we want, but we can’t control the seas, we can’t redirect the wind; we can’t keep the storms from coming. And let’s face the truth for what it is: many a better captain than you and I has been sunk before by the tempest. I hate to put a raincloud over the celebration and festivities that always surrounds the graduation season, but let’s be honest: this very moment, we may be headed towards the darkest days of our lives.

Thank the Lord we do not sail alone. We might be poor, lost, inexperienced, battered captains, but we have a light to sail by even in the darkest of nights, the fiercest of gales; and if we but learn to sail by that Light, we will come to harbor. Our Master has the power to command the winds and waves — “Peace, be still” — and they obey. And when, for reasons beyond our knowing, He allows the tempest to rage on, He has promised to be our refuge and our guiding light still if we but turn to Him. Sometimes He calms the storm, and other times, He calms His child. He is good, and it is He who shepherds us. He is all we need.

Our hope is not founded in how bright the future may look for us, but in our King and the promises He has made. So whether the days ahead are as lit as the brightness of God’s own countenance, or as dark as the Valley of the Shadow, my charge to and my prayer for each of you is that you would not forget the promises of God. That you would remember His faithfulness and run to Him, regardless of where you are walking; through mountaintops of abundance, through valleys of suffering, even through plateaus of mediocrity.

We say all the time in our graduation speeches, that our parents, teachers, class, cat, whatever, has been such an inspiration to us and that we couldn’t have done it without them; yet another cliché. But without God, we have nothing. By His grace alone do we wake each morning, take each breath, walk each step.

Let our focus then be not on ourselves, but in Him alone.

PART III: THE QUESTION, THE REASON, THE DANGER, & THE CALL

I could go on, but the general point has been made. Clichéd sayings concerning graduation abound. Some are groan-worthy or worn out with use at best, others are misleading or simply untrue at the worst.

So the question remains: Why do we do this? Why do we continue to quote and recite these sayings, regardless of how awful some of them have become, to our graduates year after year? And perhaps more importantly, is it really that much of a bad thing? Should we avoid these overused proverbs and platitudes at all costs? Or is there value in these sayings that can be redeemed?

To answer the question in part:

Several weeks ago, as my class prepared to hand down the senior class journal and Bible to our successors, the Class of 2013, we read through many of the bits of advice given by seniors in years past, and wrote encouragements, notes, and bits of advice ourselves. And do you know what the most overused, oft-repeated, clichéd word used there was?

Cliché.

Everyone had to acknowledge that what they had to say – don’t procrastinate, start early on your thesis, respect your teachers, cherish the memories you have here, and so on – had been said countless times before. And yet, we still shared these worn-out, well-repeated pieces of advice, being as original or personal as possible, and yet still knowing that there was nothing new under the sun in what we had to say.

Being cliché is not necessarily an indicator of poor substance (you may have noticed that I’ve already admitted to being somewhat cliché several times now). Is it cliché to thank teachers and parents at graduation ceremonies? Yes, every school in the country does that. Does that mean we shouldn’t, just to be original? (Please don’t bother answering that question. It’s rhetorical.)

One of the phrases I abhor the most during graduation season refers to “the next phase in your life” or “a new season for you,” or (worse yet) any cutesy reference to “a new chapter in your life” (and about turning the page, writing the next part of your story, etc.). The reason that I didn’t include it in my list was because, besides the fact that I think it’s terribly overused, I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. It’s true. Going from high school to college is leaving something old and entering something new. I may hate hearing those phrases, but believe me, I’ve used them plenty of times myself because I can’t escape it. Call them what you will, they’re still true. Or, as the cliché goes, “that’s why they become cliches.”

In every worldview and (almost) every belief, a grain of truth may be seen. And sometimes, these overrepeated sayings capture that bit of truth so perfectly or so naturally that we simply don’t have the desire or ability to come up with another way to say it.

And yet… there is a very real danger in using these slogans and truisms, simply because we are human. In fact, I see two dangers we face, each of which can be amply illustrated by a quote from author Anais Nin:

1) “What we are familiar with we cease to see. ”
When we resort to phrases that are not newly conceived, but merely recycled from yesterday’s originality, our familiarity grows, and so does our contempt and our apathy. We cease to see these truths for what they are because we have allowed a trite saying to rob it of its meaning and power. Several of the sayings I dealt with had no fault but this.

2) “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
We are fallen. And when, as fallen creatures, we see the world through our imperfect, soiled eyes, we give ourselves the impression that life really is all about us. And too often, our idols appear through our proverbs, and soon they all start pointing inward instead of up. We go from being God-centered to being self-centered. Remember: your dreams, your passion, your heart, your future.

The temptation is always before us to conform to the well-beaten trail, to ride along in the current the way a corpse or a creature too weak to swim would. Ultimately, to the world this means buying into the idea that the self is all that really matters; and to those who wish to think differently, the world cries in a vehement roar, or whispers in a soothing reassurance, “Conform.”

Yet that is not what we were made for. As esteemed author and poet Dr. Seuss once so aptly stated, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” When you were called to stand out, to live counter-culturally and swim against the pull of the river, lest you be dashed on the rocks like the rest. The words of Paul on this matter may have become cliché themselves within Christian circles, but they are worth repeating; regardless of how dull a heart may become to their potency, their truth will never die: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We know what the will of God is. That we not fall into the self-seeking, self-centered, self-destructive pattern of this world. That we stand firmly in and for the faith, whether we stand in a crowd or on our own. That we use the gifts He has blessed us with, applying them and using our imaginations to help make known the truth, goodness, and beauty of our Maker to a world that has grown too familiar with hearing about it and seeing it daily. That we let go of the fact that we don’t know what the future holds and rest in Him who holds the future. That we take up our cross daily, dying to everything in us that is darkness and striving to live as children of the day. That we walk as our Savior Christ did, following His teaching and living by His example, and making ripples in eternity by being His ambassadors.

To my dearest classmates (and by this, I mean anyone who has graduated alongside me): I will be praying for each of you in the days to come, and I sincerely wish you all the best. No… no that’s not right either. Rather, I hope and pray that you will never forget that you already have the best.

You have Christ.

Now go share Him with the world.

Interruption

We interrupt your regularly scheduled life to bring you these recent events and lessons:

As probably most of you are already aware, Friday night brought a sizable storm that traveled across quite a few communities, downing many trees and leaving many homes and establishments without power. My house was one of these places.

One feature of my house worth noting (during a power outage at least) is that the well pump needs electricity to operate, meaning no running water, not to mention no electric lighting or climate control. Staying in our powerless home didn’t strike me as unbearable, but my family decided to accept the gracious invitations of our friends who were still blessed with electricity, so we visited a few homes. We shared a meal or two, slept over once of twice, and just spent some quality time together with them. We were also repeatedly told that we could stay for as long as we needed to (and longer).

Our church was also out of power, so Sunday morning found us out under the sunlight-lit trees and birdsong of a graciously offered backyard. Our acoustic accompanied worship mingled with the birds’ that morning as we both sang to one Creator. We listened from our lawn chairs to a sermon on a hillside, from a well-known passage of the Sermon on the Mount. “Salt’s value is in its saltiness,” said our guest preacher, with one hand holding open his Bible to the book of Matthew and the other hand holding his notes down from the wind’s pull. “And light’s value is in its being seen.” During the communion that followed, one of our elders talked briefly about how God sometimes likes to allow interruptions to our plans, our schedules, our lives, so that we may dwell all the more on Him, and appreciate Him more.

Later, we had a short congregational meeting followed by a picnic, with many good-natured conversations and much laughter (“So, where do you belong today in the great crowd of have’s and have-not’s?”). Then came clean-up, hauling some chairs, tables, and communion plates back to the church, and a number of us headed out to some of the homes of a few families whose houses had been completely waylaid by fallen branches (and even tree trunks) to help clean-up.

*tangent*

A few days before the storm took away the blessings of Internet and computer, I noticed an issue on my desktop. Whenever I tried to view a video of any kind online — be it a dance video, Skit Guys sketch or random Youtube creation — my computer wouldn’t allow me to watch it, probably due to lack of some new Flash Player thingummy that needed to be installed. Undaunted, I still went to website after website for entertainment that I knew would never happen; and without fail, I would be disappointed.

And yet, I never went to my dad and asked him to help me fix it. Because I knew that videos are the number one reason I waste away my life while on the computer, especially while on the web. Are all videos evil, and a gross waste of time? No. But where these miniature black holes were concerned, I had largely forgotten the virtue of temperance and moderation. And even though my flesh continually and futilely drove me back to those websites, it was ultimately a relief to not have that drive gratified.

Oftentimes, during major trials and even minor inconveniences, we tell ourselves and one another, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away” (or for the more solemn types, “doth taketh away”). Without fail (at least when I’ve heard that quote), the giving refers to blessing and the taking away refers to the taking away of blessings (even though God assuredly can and does take away things like disease, injury, heartache, etc.). And yet I’ve found that God can also most certainly bless us by taking away the very things that we perceive to be, and may well actually be, blessings. Electricity, running water, air-conditioning, Internet and online videos may be blessings in their own way (generally speaking). But taking a break, however involuntary, from these conveniences for the sake of other things, such as the opportunity to spend time with good friends, is also assuredly a blessing to be thankful for.

Another blessing that I often find slipped in is a heightened appreciation of the blessing that was taken away. We never did use any salt to preserve the food in our refrigerator (as they did in the old days, when salt was considered much more valuable than it is now), but we did use quite a few portable lights to compensate for not having our usual lighting when it got dark. You’d be surprised at how much you appreciate having even just a tiny light to guide your way when the space before you is cloaked in blackness. Running water and air-conditioning are definitely also things that you appreciate much more when you don’t have them than when you do.

We saw some crews working on the power lines outside our neighborhood earlier today, and by evening we had electricity and all of its conveniences once more. I’m grateful for the return of these small blessings (especially running water); but at the same time, I feel many times more richly blessed to have gone without these little things for a short, short while, to better enjoy the company of friends.

Wishing you and your family every blessing (be it convenience or interruption),

~ Timothy

P.S. Many, many people are still hard at work because of all the downed trees and power lines. And from what I last heard, 13 people lost their lives during that storm. Their families are in need of prayer, so regardless of how your family is faring right now, please do not forget them.

P.P.S. In case you were wondering: no, this post was not in my neat little planned progression of posts; but some interruptions are worth making.

*   *   *   *   *

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.
An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.”

~ G.K. Chesterton

“A blessing is often only an interruption rightly considered.
An interruption is a blessing wrongly considered.”

~ Me

A surprise for a friend

No Great Proposal

From what I’ve heard, throughout the years
It’s been done in many ways.
Some with a sudden question,
Some with planning that takes days.
Some brave humiliation,
And act for all to see.
From on a raised up tabletop
Or down on bended knee.

Some ask a simple question,
Some hold an ornate sign;
Some draft their friends to spell their plea
While standing in a line.
Some write their invitation
Using paint or candle’s glow.
Some fashion songs or dance routines
Or make a video.

I have no flowers in my hand
No candles at my feet.
I have no guitar-led serenade
No flash mob on the street.
I have no great proposal,
No rose or plastic ring.
But as a friend I treasure, Ellen,
Will you go to Prom with me?

*   *   *   *   *

Two years ago, this guy was invited to prom by a good friend of his, but being the guy, he decided to turn the tables and “ask” her in a special way (as seen in the link).

Incidentally, I am that guy’s younger brother and the friend I’m going to prom with is the girl that he went with’s younger sister. (They have a younger sister too, about the same age as my younger brother; but that might be a bit much.)

As depicted in my poem, multitudes of people have done prom proposals in a plethora of ways; sometimes publicly, sometimes indirectly (and sometimes both, such as through a video posted online). While public displays and indirect messages may be cute, in my opinion they either put way too much pressure on the one being asked (to make the crowd-pleasing decision), or can act as a cop-out for asking the person face-to-face. For those reasons, I personally think that prom proposals (or any other kind of proposal for that matter) are best done privately and in person — generally speaking.

But when the real asking has been done (as it had been in my brother’s case), I like the idea of doing something creative and thoughtful. So following my brother’s example somewhat (though I chose poetry over dance as my medium), this simple poem is what I came up with.

I hope it gives her something to smile about when she looks back on being asked to prom.

Cheers,

  ~ Timothy

P.S. By the way, in case you’re wondering if she’s seen it yet, I already sprung the surprise by asking her to “preview” this post before publishing it. So this post has been approved. I hope you enjoyed it too!

More Dancing Lights

The moon... a marginal success I'd say

The third in the series! (Here were the other two: #1 and #2)

Admittedly, my “technique” (if you can call fooling around with a camera at random an activity involving technique) at this point is still pretty sloppy, but I still got some cool pictures I think. After that historic car ride where I rediscovered this concept (what I call “dancing lights,” officially known to the rest of the world as “light-painting”), I went home and looked for objects that could become victims of my new obsession hobby.

One night, I was outside and I noticed we had some lovely garden decorations that light up in the night (some of which changed color every few seconds). I couldn’t resist taking a few; and as awful as I am at it, I also couldn’t resist trying to give them elegant names, as if they were worthy of hanging in an art gallery somewhere. Anyway, here they be:

"Tesla"

These were just plastic globes with a small light in the center, but they reminded me of plasma globes when in motion.

"Colori Vivaci"

I’m afraid this one doesn’t quite live up to its name. This was the only one I edited to try to bring out the colors (they were just too dim), and it still wasn’t overly successful.

"Dragons! Or sea slugs..."

Always get them confused.

"We Three Kings"

Does anyone else see the resemblance?

"Hummingbird with shadow over pool"

So much for creative naming…

"Portal magic"

Step through, and you’ll probably end up in some strange neon-colored land.

As always, more to come in the future!

~ Tim

A song for Christmas

Warning: Cheesy Christian version of a popular Christmas song below. Proceed with caution.

Recommended: Listen to original first for maximum enjoyment.

Note: Not to be merely read. To be sung with great gusto (or at least sung mentally in such a manner).

All I Want For Christmas Is You

Intro

I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
I don’t care for lots of presents
Underneath the Christmas tree

I don’t need to hang my stocking
There upon the fireplace
Santa’s nice, but he won’t be my
Joy when it is Christmas Day

I just want here for my own
One who’s more than I’ll ever know
The One who makes me new
All I want for Christmas is
You

Instrumental

Oh I won’t ask for much this Christmas
Only to be white as snow
Only to be right here waiting
For Him to make in me His home

I don’t want to lay my treasures
Here where moth and rust destroy
I just want to celebrate the
Birth of Mary’s baby boy

‘Cause I just want a silent night
To remember angel’s tidings bright
What more can I do?
All I want for Christmas is
You

Short Instrumental

Oh all the stores are crying
For shoppers to buy their wares
Still the sound of mankind’s
Sorrows fills the air

But I hear angels singing
News of great joy they’re bringing
Lord won’t you bring us to the One we really need?
Won’t you please bring us to our knees?

I don’t want a lot for Christmas
This is all I’m asking for
I just want to praise the baby
Born within the stable door

Oh I just want here for my own
The One who makes me white as snow
His promises are true
So all I want for Christmas is
You, baby Jesus

All I want for Christmas is You

Picture from http://www.wgy.com. Apologies for the rampant cheesiness and plagiarism shameless borrowing.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas,

~ Timothy

Dancing Lights (continued)

Light graffiti

More pictures from that historic car ride of rediscovery.

(Here’s the original post if you don’t know or remember what this is all about)

I tried to name them all too, a challenging and somewhat foolish endeavor. See what titles you can come up with!

Curly Q's

Blue Lightening

11:11

Whiplash

Ghost convention

Fast Food (sorry for the pun)

Fire Wave

The Strangest Wicket

V Art

All photos original and unedited.

More to come later!

~ Timothy

A poem for thanksgiving

Note about the following poem:

My mom asked me to write a poem for Thanksgiving to send out to her real estate clients, and here’s what I came up with. Please take it in all goodwill; otherwise, I’m afraid the tone gets rather preachy. Apologies for the convoluted language, abrupt stanzas, and Yoda-grammar (the price of writing poetry that rhymes). Enjoy!

How Do You Show Your Thankfulness?

How do you show your thankfulness
For all you have received?
How is your gratitude expressed
And through life daily weaved?

Are you thankful for possessions yours
Whatever they may be?
Does your gratitude then man the oars
Of stewardship, and generosity?

For the wealth you own, be it small or great,
Do you show your thanks in full?
Do you wisely spend, in prudence refrain
And respond to the needy’s pull?

If you’ve a job, is thankfulness
Evident in all your work?
Are your peers and boss, to have you, blessed?
Do you give no cause for irk?

Health is a blessing of unfelt bliss
However much we bear.
How do you show your thanks for this?
Does your body receive due care?

What of close friendship’s sturdy hill?
How displays your gratitude here?
Do you listen, encourage, and practice goodwill
Among friends you hold dear?

And for the gift of family
How is your thanks made known?
Is time spent in loving quality
Are seeds of kindness sown?

For freedoms paid for and received
Of belief, and petition, and speech,
Do you exercise them with gravity
And about them others teach?

For the glories of a wondrous world
And a Nature of great beauty,
Do you gratefully heed all of her pearls
And all her miracles see?

And for life itself, that blessed gift
Renewed with each today,
How do you show your thankfulness
For each borrowed breath and day?

A study in personification

This post obviously needs some explanation. This is the best I’ll be able to give you.

Please note that this was written within a very short time period, with minimal editing, and less logic than is usual in mind.

Yes, I know it’s long. But believe me, it could be worse.

Enjoy!

My Enemy and Me

Recently, my life got infiltrated by an enemy I’ve been (successfully, til now) avoiding.

Cell Phone. We finally meet.

I don’t need you, I don’t want you. I know you’ll just be an annoyance to me, and that I’ll just lose you when that’s exactly what I’d like to do, but I’d get in trouble for it because you’re expensive.

As if we should never dare to do away with the stuff that torments us just because it cost a wad of moolah.

But that’s probably something I’ll understand better when I start paying for gas.

Anyway, back to my enemy, who’s now sitting next to me on my desk as I write, feigning innocence rather well by pretending to be off.

But it’s a lie. I know it is. He’ll still chime if a text comes through or blare a song if someone decides to call even if the screen is deceptively blank right now. I could turn him off for real (and hopefully for good), but I know I’m not free to do that. Once again, I’d probably get in trouble.

Trouble with whom? Perhaps that’s the worst part. My trouble would result with none other than the people I love most. My family.

They know perfectly well my feelings towards my foe here. At least they think they do. But for reasons that are perhaps better to not ponder… they are on his side.

I don’t know how, I don’t why. But they weren’t the only ones either. Many of my closest friends turned traitor and told me to, even begged me to let my enemy come into my residence and live beside me. I don’t blame any of them. I know they get along perfectly well with their Phones, some of them perhaps slightly obsessively. It’s not their problem. They simply cannot know what it is like to have such an enemy lurking in your pocket or backpack.

But they are not responsible for the infiltration. Sadly, it was my family. They simply and cheerfully informed me that they would be letting down the drawbridge and letting my foe in, and there was nothing I could do about it. They’d threatened to do it before, but until recently, I had been spared, partly because I was able to ward off the attempt using skill honed over a lifetime, and partly because the Fates had been indispoed to let me suffer so.

But recently, the Fates high-tailed it for Djibouti and left me without much-needed protection. I was out of maneuvers. My enemy got in.

And so, I was forced to open up my home and welcome in my foe, like a guest that you know will set fire to the furniture the moment your back is turned and blame it on the cat (if I had one… I guess he’d blame it on the fish). He sauntered in (as best a Phone can saunter), trying not to look smug, and utterly failing, but not looking too disappointed at failing. Certainly not as disappointed as me.

The problem with guests is that if they get lost or stolen, it’s your fault. Your responsibility. Maybe you couldn’t care less. But if they spill coffee on themselves, set their hair on fire, unleash a banshee or get left behind on a trip to China, someone gets in trouble, and it’s not going to be them.

I’ve always been on slightly shaky terms with Electronics. The Computer and I get along pretty well, except when he’s got a connection down and I have no cure, but at least we try to help each other. The Radio downstairs is pretty cooperative. The Radio upstairs is a jerk and likes to make me guess what I have to do this time to make him turn off. Electronics that are strangers are usually very cold and unwilling to do anything, or downright hostile. But a Cell Phone is a whole new breed.

He’s like a map of uncharted waters that look prime for sea monster breeding season. Thankfully, I’ve already had several run-ins with his kind already, in which my ignorance and complete cluelessness finally lead my younger brother (who is on very good terms with the Electronica Mafia) to pull me out of the murky depths and rescue me (with some amusement and completely justified we’ve-been-through-this-before scorn), so I’ve watched them in action close-up before. But still, my foe seems fathomless. He could pull out any weapon, any trick on me if I’m not careful; I know he’s capable enough with all those little icons and buttons, five-sixths of which are unknown, mystery boxes of death to me (or maps with none of the roads labeled and the compass upside-down).

But it’s more than just my uncertainty about his inner workings that makes me regard him the way I would regard a mosquito with fangs that I’m forced to house-sit. I know he’ll try to run away (they always do), and I’ll get blamed for it. It’s happened before. Thankfully, I can cage him in a zipper pocket usually (it’s annoying, but I suppose it’s wise to keep my enemy so close), but sometimes I have to transfer him between bags, and I know that each move is a prime opportunity for him to escape. I’ll have to watch him…

I could go on. Making sure he’s charged is like feeding and cleaning up after a pet you don’t like that needs way too much of both. Remembering to turn him on and off for classes is like trying to remember that one pronunciation difference in a foreign language that changes “I need bathroom now” to “Your kiwi is fat” (which would certainly insult someone in the wrong country). And so far, his behavior is already making me wary. He can delay a text I need to hear from someone for over a week if he wants to; he already has more than once, and I bet he’s planning something bigger soon too. And with an arsenal his size, I think I’m justified in considering sleeping with a staple gun under my pillow.

But who knows… perhaps if we learned to get along, life could work out… If we do, it’d have to be through his effort, it’s not my fault we’re at odds, I’m not the one being difficult. But maybe… just maybe…

I guess we’ll have to see.

But I still refuse to let Facebook in my house. He stays out.