Category Archives: Everyday mysterires

Heaven

I’ve been thinking a lot about heaven recently.

“What’s the matter with you? Are you suicidal or something?”

No, of course not! Stop interrupting!

“But you’re the one typing this.”

Cut it out, you’re breaking my train of thought.  Anyway, to be thinking about heaven isn’t even close to wanting to die.  It’s just looking forward to an event that is going to be awesome!

First off, why do people think that heaven is going to be a small bunch of clouds, cramped together with nothing to do but play harp and contemplate the molecular structure of your halo.  It’s as if they thought Heaven was going to be boring or something.  Idiots.

Heaven is going to be fantabulous!  (No, that word is not shorthand for getting fat off soda.) Dinosaurs, no pain, (“Watch me jump off this cliff!”) eternity to fly into space, all your Christian buddies to hang out with day after day…it’s a dream come true.

And it’s going to be humongous!  The capital city is going to be 1,400 miles wide, long and TALL!  That’s some skyscraper!  I guessing that we can expect everything to be bigger, and by that I mean a whole lot bigger.

“But how could they build anything that tall?  That’s ridiculous.”

Oh really? By what, earth’s standards?  Face it buddy, that’s not in Kansas at all!

Honestly, one of the things I’m most looking forward to is heavenly pizza.  I imagine it to be eight feet wide, four inches high, the crust stuffed with gorgeous cheese, pepperoni and bacon, and not a vegetable within miles of it.  And guess what?  The Bible says I can’t even begin to imagine how great it’ll be.

PepperoniPizza-full
Think this-only bigger, greasier and MORE CHEESE!

Let’s face it, we’ll eat.  And our bodies will be so amazing that we can keep eating as much as we want and never get fat!  (The local hotdogs should also be excellent.)

Heaven  is a spectacular thing to daydream about, but it’s also a great reason for living.  What is it that allowed prophets, priests, missionaries, and and ministers to keep the faith, despite the brutal attacks waged against them? (And no, the answer is not pizza.)  Was it solely their love for Christ that kept them going?

Yes.  But another very legitimate reason to follow Christ, is the reward of Heaven that was waiting for them.   Even Moses had faith because, “he looked unto the recompense of reward.” (Hebrews 11: 26)  I’m not saying that Christians are selfish pigs who when they die are going to stand before God and say, “Okay, I did what you wanted, so now gimme, gimme, GIMME!!!”

But it’s still a motivator.  When confronted by earthly temptations, it’s often easy to forget why we say no to them.  But there are reasons.

Reason #1: God could get angry and easily blast you to smithereens with a lightning bolt, and send you to hell in less than a nanosecond.

Reason #2 (the much more plausible version):  You know that the pleasures in heaven are so great that the greatest sensation you can experience now is practically worthless, like the tiniest hint of pure, peanut butter fudge in you brownie.

Reason #3: You love God and simply want to follow all his commandments, you perfect Christian!  (Show offs.)

So that’s it.  Heaven is what helps keep us going in the here and now, by giving us something to look forward to.  No matter how hard of situation we might have to face, it’ll be over in less than a blink of an eye.  After all, eternity is going to last a bit longer than a basketball game.  Or a football game.  Or even a soccer game.  Okay, maybe not that last one.

So as you go about life, minding your own business, I invite you to think of heaven.  Not as a dull, boring thing that should be avoided, but as a fantastical ride that will last forever.  The best description I’ve ever read of it is actually for C.S. Lewis’s The Last Battle.  Such beautiful of picture as in the chapter “Farewell to the Shadowlands” you will not find elsewhere.

The Purpose of Darkness

Despicable Me.  Army of Darkness.  Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Barbie and Friends. Can you tell what’s similar about those titles.

They all share a theme.  Evil.

Why is it that it seems like every modern teen tale tries to glorify “the dark side”?  Vampires, witches, barbies, zombie gore fests…has anyone else noticed that the word “bad” seems to pop up in book and movie titles with alarming frequency.  In fact, when was the last time you saw a true hero onscreen, instead of the omnipresent antihero.

Darkness exists in all story, albeit with the children’s ones getting off pretty easy.  It also exists in real life.  But should we glorify it, putting evil men up on a pedestal and saying, “Boy, I wish I could be like them.”  Or short of that, so much of evil is made out to look ‘cool’.  Whether through savage stylized violence or whatever other means, people walk away thinking how awesome it was.

Now I’m not saying that evil should be ignored in storytelling, but quite the contrary.  Darkness can and should be present in great story, but it should have a purpose, and only one purpose fits the bill.  The only real purpose of evil in life, and what should be the only purpose in storytelling, is in fact to glorify good.

Instead of making the good guy’s negative traits be the what you admire about his character, have his heroic qualities stand out instead, using the undesirable antics of his friends or enemies to help the reader (or viewer) realize just what really is so amazing about that character.

Please don’t ride me out of town if I mess up this quote, or cite the wrong source, but I believe it was Tolkien, probably in the Silmarillion, (or possibly Lewis, it’s been so long since I read it).   Paraphrased, what the author had written was, “Good will be better for evil having been.” That’s the whole purpose of darkness and evil in stories.  And in reality, that’s the reason God allowed evil to take over for a time.

Eden was perfect, it says that in the Bible.  But because Satan was allowed to be successful in tempting Adam and Eve, when heaven and earth are remade, we’re going to get something better! Better and more beautiful, fulfilling, and joyful than perfect!

Absolutely Nothing

My fervent readers (a.k.a. Mom) know that I attempt to construct at least two blogs posts per week.  However, due to an astoundingly deep and twisted eighty page paper on Hamlet due for school, I really have nothing to say.  (This opening paragraph is about to become obsolete.)

Funny isn’t it how things that seem so important at the moment tend to dissipate before hardly any time at all.  Toys received with joy by small children are often within a week destroyed, or video games o sought by their older siblings end up being just another bit of junk, instead of the awesomeness their imagination said it would be.

That’s true not only for kids but adults.  Everything is more desirable if you can’t have it, but once you do, you wonder why you wanted it in the first place.  Frankly, this definitely seems to be due to greed, but it also stems from the lovely world of imagination.

When I was a kid, to hear all these high school students talk about Lord of the Rings and Star Wars (amazing how nerds can work those sagas into every conversation) made those franchises seem simply amazing.  More than anything, I wanted to watch them so that my visions of grandeur could finally be realized in front of my eyes.

The whole topic of denying yourself so that when you do receive something it’s all that more amazing could fill an entire book, but I’m going to try to ignore it in this improvised post.  When I first watched Star Wars, needless to say, to my mind it was spectacular, completely unlike what I had imagined, and yet not as grand.  (Lord of the Rings on the other hand still amazes me every time.  Love those films.)

Now, I don’t regard the Episodes 1&2 as being all that great in the first place.  Once that barrier that was holding me back from watching them had been removed, the desire to watch them dissipated substantially.  (Which reminds me: never use a big word when a diminutive one will suffice.)

Undoubtedly, this phenomenon is partly due to humanity’s fickle nature, but also it is due to our active, incredible imaginations.  Hmm.  I honestly didn’t mean to write anything, but this kind of fell out of my brain you might say.  So in that case, sorry and you’re welcome. 🙂

Learning From It: My Life as a Crier and Sitter

Recently a friend of mine was cast in a high-end local production as the main villain. His phone was buzzing through the night with all the congratulatory texts from most of the other cast.images

Once I was cast in a role that was considered by some to be a ‘lead’. As a matter of fact, I played Jacob in a stage production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The only text I got read, “Sucks to be you!”

Two other people I know auditioned for a show once, people who had never tried out before. For their inexperience, they were awarded the leads. The first show I was in, I had to wait three hours before coming out for my twenty-seven seconds of glory.

When it comes to interviewing for a job or auditioning for a play, one tends to put their entire soul’s happiness into the balance, pouring out their heart so that someone might see them and think they’re worth something. Nerves get frayed while waiting for callbacks, your entire body feels on pins as you sit down at your screen, the final moments before the cast list is announced dragging on…and on…and on.

Finally, the list is posted! You had the feeling that you did pretty good during callbacks, so you scan for your name, and seeing it next to one of the starring roles, your heart gives such a leap of joy that you feel ready to burst!

That’s never happened to me.

Before you go off thinking that this is the rant of some lonely, pathetic blogger, (some truth) let me say that the times I have been most disappointed in the role I have received are the times when I gained the most out of being in a play production. Let me tell you why.

Easily the worst role I have ever had was the aforementioned role of Jacob. My attitude was awful for weeks, a distinct feeling that the directors must have had it in for me haunting my thoughts. A image that kept pooping up in my mind was the directors in some back room laughing at my discomfort.

“Okay, so we have the role no one wants,” one would chuckle evilly. “Let’s give it to Jack! Muahahahahahaha! That’ll teach him! Maybe we’ll break his mind and send him to a insane asylum, or make him become a lawyer!”

Out of nearly 20 scenes, I was on for 3 of them, the only thing I was allowed to do being sitting and crying. Therefore, during Saturday rehearsals I would spend six hours doing nothing while all the other cast danced and sang and laughed, and then I would have thirty minutes to practice…can you guess?

Crying and sitting. Thrilling, isn’t it.

I couldn’t help asking myself, what did I do to deserve this. To further understand my  utter despair, this particular production company had a policy of not making stars, so anyone with a lead role could count themselves out as far as getting a decent role in the near future, except of course for the chosen favorites. Since this minuscule role was in fact considered a lead, they had dealt me a double whammie.

And yet, I gained two things from that role that has made not only future audition processes easier, but practically everything else in life as well.

The first valuable lesson I learned from that was that everything wasn’t about me. My role images2had no importance, no one cared whether I did a good job or not (besides my family) so what could I do?

Two options lay before me: weep, wail and give in or use the extra time I had to help others, cheering them up when they felt down, or getting to know some other cast members who, for whatever completely incomparable reason, felt the same way that I did.

My role in that play was not on the stage, but behind it…supporting, listening, encouraging, caring. No one else could have done it, simply because no one else had the time.

I made some valuable friendships that year, some that I still have today. And always being backstage gave me the opportunity to help out those who may not have it down yet, while occasionally being able to use my talents in others ways as well.  It’s a lesson that frankly I couldn’t have learned any other way.

Secondly, the role you get, whether in a play or a job, doesn’t determine who you are. Just because I was cast as a wimpy old man doesn’t mean that’s me. That’s just how the directors saw how I’d be used, not how my friends or family or the people who really matter to me view my character. And that’s definitely not the way God sees me…I hope.

So if you’re the star on the stage of life, all I can say is…sorry dude, I got nothing but jealousy for you. But if not, and most people are not, than realize that it’s not a punishment, but an opportunity. Make the most of it. Otherwise, you’ll be miserable, tired, and you’ll have wasted some of the most valuable time of your life. ‘Nuf said.

Why the Destination?

Every path we take, every goal we set has two distinct components, the journey (how we accomplish our goal) and the destination (the goal itself). With this in mind, let me ask you a question. Which is more important: the journey or the destination? Now most people would consider this a trick question (it is, kind of) and so, after thinking about it, would answer, “Why the journey of course.”

Correct!400877_488041701219435_761434801_n

Now I’m going to ask you a different question.  Which is better to be focused on: the journey or getting  to destination? Not so obvious now, is it? Is there even a difference between the two choices?

Far too often, we focus on the journey, thinking that it in and of itself has meaning, and in a way it does. The journey shapes who we are, and the people we will be when we reach our goal. But remember this: THE JOURNEY WOULDN’T EXST IF THERE WAS NO DESTINATION.

During the holidays, the airports are packed like you wouldn’t believe. Hundreds of thousands of people traveling. Would they be traveling if they didn’t have a place to be, a family waiting for them with pumpkin pie and the most delicious drink in the world, sparkling cider? Of course not. The ONLY reason the travel is to reach hose people. Think about it. No one without a family travels at Thanksgiving.

The destination is the only thing that gives the journey purpose. Without it, life would simply be a purposeless and endless series of meaningless bumps. (See what I did there!)

For instance, have you ever been to a middle school sports basketball-rim1-226x300game? (Yes, they’re boring, I get it.) It’s a grand idea, allowing middle schoolers to practice teamwork, discipline and competition.

The destination; a good character and position as an adult. The journey; every practice, game and tournament. So if each middle school basketball game is only a means to an end, why is it that parents have the tendency to go nuts?

“Fred shoot the ball, slam it into his face!”

The trouble starts when people begin to think the journey is significant in and of itself. I’ve seen, you’ve seen, we’ve all seen the disastrous effects of putting too much emphasis on any game or tournament. Brawls erupt between friends, cruel, underhand shortcuts are taken in the game, and cheating can become rampant.  Do any of these things mentioned above help and/or assist the person involved in reaching his/her destination or goal? Not at all, and they cause trouble and possible torment for all parties.

We all make the same mistake at some point or another, to varying degrees. Teenagers focusing on trying to impress the opposite gender instead of preparing themselves to be a godly husband or wife. College students focusing on “living it up” and embroiling themselves in situations they will regret as adults, instead of using the time to prepare themselves better for their occupation.  Adults engrossing themselves too much in their job and missing out on time with family, simply because they forgot that the PURPOSE of the job was to SUPPORT their family.

On a personal level, one journey that has taken precedence over the destination in my life is this blog. Let me tell you why.

writing-novel

The reason I started this blog was two-fold: 1. Gain more writing experience, and 2. Get credentials and possibly an audience for my yet-to-be-published book. Therefore, I have devoted much of my time this last week to working on this blog, writing, polishing, and worrying about my lack of readers.

Now this may seem like a fine and good use of time and effort in and of itself. But remember, the point of this blog is to help my book. And by focusing too much on this blog, I have actually ignored working on my book completely. So now this blog, the journey, has hindered my book, the destination.

So why is it that we dwell on the journey, instead of the reaching the destination, so much. Perhaps because we’re in the journey right now.  Let’s face it: the past is safe, the present seems pressing, and the future is far away and frankly, pretty scary. Sometimes we’re afraid we’ll never reach our destination at all, and therefore we focus on what seems to be the only thing that we can control. We end up pouring all our energy and time into it, instead of using it to propel us forward.

As a Christian, I know that my ultimate destination is out of this world, Jack! And yet, I can’t help worrying about my journey getting there. What’s going to be my career, what do others think about me, what about the global economy…the list goes on.

Frankly, I don’t have to worry so much about all that. Not that I mean this life should be spent as a pushover, not caring what happens because it “doesn’t matter”. 1 Corinthians 9: 24-25 tells us that.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

Use the journey as a means to end. Don’t get me wrong, the journey’s important. But don’t let it make you forget where your going.