Thursday, December 01, 2005

November 30th

November 30th

If you don't read anything else in this post, read the last entry for the birthdays and the message at the end.

Famous Events that occurred on November 30th
1887--The first softball game was played in Chicago, Illinois. The game was first called "indoor baseball". A broomstick was used for a bat and a boxing glove for a ball.
1922--Sarah Bernhardt (perhaps the most talented American actress of all-time) made her last appearance on the stage during the final performance of Daniel in Turin, Italy.
1940--Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez were married.
2004--the episode in which Ken Jennings 74-game-winning streak on Jeopardy! first aired.

Famous People Born on November 30th
1554--Sir Philip Sidney, author of Arcadia, statesman, soldier. While dying after battle, Sidney gave his water bottle to another dying soldier and uttered these immortal words, "Thy necessity is yet greater than mine."
1667--Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels.
1835--Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens). He needs to further explanation. However, it should be noted that on the day he was born Halley's Comet could be seen.
1874--Sir Winston Churchill, the greatest British Prime Minister ever.
1924--Allan Sherman, actor and comedian who penned the famous song "Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh!"
1929--Dick Clark, America's oldest teenager, game show, music, and television host.
1930--G. Gordon Liddy, politician, radio host.
1936--Abbie Hoffman, activist, hippie leader, author.
1937--Robert Guillaume, actor who is most well known for his work on t.v. shows (Soap, Benson), despite the fact he is a great dancer and theatrical talent.
1937--Ridley Scott, film director. Can you say Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down? Good, I knew you could.
1947--David Mamet, playwright and director. Despite the dark and depressing settings, set-ups, and situations of many of his plays, he is probably the greatest living American playwrite and most of his works do have substance.
1952--Mandy Patinkin, an unbelievably talented actor who will be forever remembered as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride.
1955--Billy Idol, musician, singer: "Mony, Mony" "Dancing With Myself" "Cradle of Love".
1962--Bo Jackson, former MLBA player and NFL player. The guy did them both simultaneously. How amazing is that?! Do you know Bo?
1965--Ben Stiller, actor who started to breakout with a role in Heavyweights of all films (he later reprised that same role with a different name in Dodgeball).
1976--Tom Varner, actor, author, educator, film director: wrote the Tony Award-winning play, Nice Guys Finish Last? He wrote and directed the Academy Award-winning remake of Lord of the Flies. Got his start working in community theatres in the Midwest and while auditioning for reality game shows (Survivor, The Amazing Race, Jeopardy!)

Famous People Who Died on November 30th
30 B.C. Cleopatra committed suicide.
1900--Oscar Wilde
1979--Zeppo Marx

You Know You Grew Up in the 80's If...
1. You've ever ended a sentence with the word "psyche".
2. You ever watched the Pound Puppies.
3. You know that "WOAH" comes from Joey on Blossom.
4. M.C. Hammer
5. If you ever watched "Fraggle Rock" when it first was broadcast.
6. You had plastic streamers on the handlebars of your bike.
7. You can sing the entire theme song to "Duck Tales".
8. You remember when it was actually worth getting up on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons.
9. You saw the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in the theatre.
10.You got super-excited when it was Oregon Trail day during computer class in school.
11.You played the game MASH (Mansion, Apartment, Shelter, House).
12.You know the profound meaning of "Wax On, Wax Off."
13.You wanted to be a goonie.
14.You ever wore fluorescent clothing.
15.You can remember what Michael Jackson looked like before his nose fell off (and before his hair caught on fire during the Pepsi commercial--that's when Michael started to change; I think the fire fried some brain cells in addition to his hair).
16.You have ever pondered why Smurfette was the only female smurf.
17.You ever took a Lunch Pail to school.
18.You remember the CRAZE, then the BANNING of slap bracelets.
19.You still get the urge to say "NOT" after every sentence.
20.You thought Sheera and He-Man should hook up. (the coolest thing about He-Man was the He-Man role).
21.After you saw Pee Wee's Big Adventure you kept saying, "I know you are, but what am I?"
22.You remember "I've fallen and I can't get up" and still laugh about the old lady in the commercial.
23.You remember going to the skating rink before there were in-line skates.
24.You had or attended a birthday party at McDonald's.
25.You remember Popples.
26."Don't worry, be happy."
27.You wore socks scrunched down.
28.You remember boom boxes vs. CD players.
29.You remember watching both Gremlins movies in the theatre.
30.You know what it meant to say "Care Bear Stare!"
31.You either watched Rainbow Brite on your own or with your sister (or other female relative).
32.You watched ALF when he first landed on Earth.
33.You knew all the character names and their life stories on Saved By the Bell, the original class.
34.You knew all the words to Bon Jovi's "Shot Thru the Heart."
35.You remember watching Magic vs. Bird.
36.You can still sing "We Are the World."
37.You rolled your jeans.
38."Where's the beef?"
39.You know what Willis was "talkin' 'bout."
40.You know that another name for a keyboard is a "synthesizer."
41.You once were able to sing the McDonald's "Big Mac, Filet-O-Fish, Quarter Pounder, and French Fry" song.
42.You know who Mr. T is.
43.You knew who Fat Albert was and drew Picture Pages with Bill Cosby.
44.You wanted to be The Hulk for Halloween.
45.You believed that "By the power of Greyskull, you HAD the power!"
46.Partying "Like It's 1999" seemed so far away.
47.You knew that Transformers were more than meets the eye.
48.You knew that knowing is half the battle (from G.I. Joe, yo).
49.You wanted to be on Star Search.
50.You remember Garbage Pail Kids.
51.You remember when ATARI was a state of the art video game system.
52.You owned any cassettes (and still do).
53.You were led to believe that by the year 2000 people would be living on the moon (I had a teacher tell us that by 2000, probably 1/4th of the Earth's population would be living on the moon).
54.You remember or owned any Care Bear glasses from Pizza Hut or Muppets glasses from McDonald's.
55.You knew who Ben Stein was before you could win his money.
56.Your Lego collection began with the free sets in a Happy Meal.
57.You remember when Happy Meals came in a box instead of a paper bag.
58.You remember when Saturday Night Live was actually funny.
59.You wore Wonder Woman or Superman underoos.
60.You hated Scrappy Doo.
61.You wish you had a light saber.
62.You have ever said, "Gag me with a spoon."
63.You had to get up to change the channel on anything.
64.You remember the first time you went to a video store.
65.You remember life before mini-vans and SUVs.

When I was a kid, people listened to music on the radio and on records. There were no CDs and cassettes didn't become bigger until later. There was no Internet (public access was circa 1994) and only rich people owned a computer. There were no cell phones. People wanted to get cable so they could watch movies without seeing a commercial. You could go to the movie theatre and watch a show with only seeing the previews and the movie itself. The national speed limit was 55 mph. Gas routinely cost about 70-80 cents a gallon. Things have changed a lot in the past 29 years.

If you couldn't tell, today is my birthday. I'm another year older, though I don't know if I'm any wiser. I've learned a lot in the past year and my life has changed in ways I could never have imagined. Despite some difficulties and a recent struggle with melancholy in my soul, it has been a great year. The past few days I've felt great, and even though I haven't done anything all that exciting, it has been a wonderful day. It's my birthday, damn it! So go have a good time and enjoy yourself. And if you get really bored, give me a call. I'll probably be bored, too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Dragon's Teeth and the Internet

Once upon a time there was a boy. The boy had great dreams, dreams of changing the world into a better place. But the boy wasn't just a dreamer: he had the potential to achieve those dreams. Not only that, but he was a young lad of action and began following a path that would allow his dreams to become a reality. The boy grew up and become greatly admired and respected. He became a young man both loved and envied by all those around him. The boy, now a young man, went off and did some pretty extraordinary things. He left his surroundings and saw parts of the world that people from his home had never even knew existed. Somehow during his journey, the young man became a hero.

But, he never wanted to be a hero. The life of a hero is hard. The life of a hero is difficult. The life of a hero is lonely. The life of a hero always ends heartache and death. The life of a hero is not something he wanted, but it became the life he lived. He traveled from town to town, from place to place, from one world to another. Always doing good. Always helping others.

One day the hero met a beautiful woman. Red flowing hair, green enchanting eyes, buxom body. She looked like an Irish queen. The woman enchanted the hero and before he knew it the woman was trying to literally steal his heart by ripping it out of his chest. He pulled out an M-16 and blew her away. Moments later a red dragon came out of nowhere, roasted him with his fire-breath, and swallowed him whole.

Dragons might be ancient, but they can be really dumb sometimes. Dragons should always remember that if you swallow someone whole, you should make sure they are dead first. Otherwise, you'll end up with something much worse than heartburn. Such was the case with the dragon who swallowed the hero. Moments later as he was flying through the sky, he began to convulse and fell to the ground dead. Seconds after that, the hero ripped his way through the skin of the dead dragon. He was burned a little, but the dragons blood had mysteriously healed his wounds. The hero then took his trusty Swedish Army knife and cut out the dragons heart and ate it raw. Then he went up to the dragons eyes, plucked those out and ate them too. Next he began plucking out all the dragon's teeth. All total there were 58.

The hero went to the local library and began listing the dragon's teeth on Ebay. He kept 6 for himself, but sold the rest. His auction of dragon teeth fetched him a profit of over $10,000,000 (dragon teeth are so rare to find nowadays). The hero paid a contracter to build him his dream house. Then he went out to Hollywood, hired a camera crew, and filmed a small independent film. The film became the biggest undergrown success in movie history. The hero started his own studio (Stronghold Studios). He wrote some books and hit the lecture circuit. With all his fame and fortune, he went to the girl he loved, the girl who kept rejecting his proposals for various reasons, proposed to her. She said yes. They flew to the Virgin Islands and were married. On that same day, the hero retired from being a hero because he finally got the girl and he didn't want it all to end in death. And in the end, the hero and his wife had many other adventures and lived happily ever after.

Moral of the story: Real dragon teeth can net you a fortune on the Internet.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Writing Again

I started writing again last night. Not that I haven't been writing in some form or fashion everyday for the past several years. But, outside of journaling and the occassional treatise, poem, or essay that I compose I haven't done any writing for myself. I have started so many different projects (novels, children's stories, play, screenplay), but I am a terrible undisciplined writer and am easily distracted and so have only finished one major work (the 1st part of a sci-fi trilogy) in the past 10 years. Several years ago I started writing a play. I stopped writing it because #1 I got distracted and #2 I didn't know how the play was going to end. Last night, I finally figured out how to end the play. The play is called Nice Guys Finish Last? I said I would never be able to finish the play until I could answer that question for myself. Last night, I figured out how to answer the question and present it on stage. In about 30 minutes I completed a couple of scenes. It felt so good. Besides the play, another project that I started was this homage to C.S. Lewis. I have the story completed in my head and have told it for the last three years to most all the cabins I have counseled. However, even though I haven't even finished writing the first story, I have a sequel planned. I know how the sequel is supposed to begin and end, but I could never figure out what is supposed to occur in the middle. Last night, I figured out a huge chunk of the middle section! I know now what Queen Stephanie's greatest challenge will be on her quest to find the Element of Hope that is supposed to save David Lewis.

Granted, most of these ideas are still in my head and not on paper. Granted, I'll probably be so distracted from now until the end of the semester that I won't be able to sit down and revisit them and start to write them down. Still, it feels so good to have finally figured these things out. Even if I never do completely finish writing my play out, I have seen the thing unfold once and even if the world never learns what happens to David Lewis and Queen Stephanie in the Land of Ainran, I know how it turns out. Stephanie has already faced her greatest challenge and my play has already been performed on the grand stage of my imagination. That's the best place to perform in anyway.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Chuck Hit One

During the last year that Charles Schulz drew PEANUTS, Charlie Brown hit a home run. For nearly 40 years Charlie Brown had gone to the plate dreaming of hitting a home run, but he always struck out. But Chuck never gave up. He kept trying, and trying, and trying. Finally, after a lifetime of striking out, Charlie didn't strike out but hit a homerun. It was only one, but it was enough. The lovable loser finally came through, he wasn't quite the loser everyone had always thought he was.

Charlie Brown is the cultural icon that most resembles me. Like good old Charles, I finally got an opportunity to get up to bat and didn't strike out. For one brief moment in my life, I found myself in complete happiness. For a few prolonged seconds, a few minutes, I knew totally happiness and utter joy. And then it was gone.

I don't know if I'll ever have another moment like that in my life. Reflecting upon my life and all that has gone before, the chances are pretty much nil. I've felt so much internal pain and suffering the past few weeks. It's bound to only end bad for me. It always does. That's the nature of a hero.

I once was going to write a book entitled ALWAYS THE SIDEKICK, BUT NEVER THE HERO. I still might write that book, but the title will be ironic, because it's not true. You see a true hero never gets the girl and ends up dying at the end of the story. The sidekick, on the other hand, always ends up with the girl of his choice and goes on to live a life happily ever after. I don't want to be a hero. I don't want to be the lovable loser anymore. I want more than a fleeting moment of happiness. I'm tired of being the hero. I want to be the sidekick for a change. But, that's probably not going to happen. Instead, I'll once again be the guy who saves the day and rides off into the sunset alone, leaving behind those he loves most because he's too honorable to do the thing that he really wants.

I'm a monarch in exile and it hurts like hell. I long to be free from this new-found pain that has been tormenting me everyday, but I know it is something I will probably have to live with everyday of my life until I finally leave this life behind.

Still, I'll still have that one moment of happiness. One moment of happiness to keep me company amidst a life of internal pain and anguish.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I Hope That Something Better Comes Along

"I Hope That Something Better Comes Along"
written by Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams

(Rowlf & Kermit--both voiced by Jim Henson--sing their laments about women after Miss Piggy just walked out on her date with Kermit)

Rowlf: Evenin' Rowlf. Rowlf the Dog. Sit yourself down.

Kermit: Kermit. Kermit the Frog.

Rowlf: Please to meet ya.(Rowlf plays a rapid musical scale across the piano's keys)

Rowlf: I'm no Heifetz, but I get by.

Kermit: That was...that was very nice.(Rowlf notices Kermit's sad mood)

Rowlf: Whoa, hey, broken heart, right?

Kermit: Does it show?

Rowlf: Listen, when you've been tickling the ivories as long as I have, you've seen a broken heart for every drop of rain, a shattered dream for every fallen star!

Kermit: Exactly. She just walked out on me.

Rowlf: Ah, typical. That's why I live alone.

Kermit: You do, huh?

Rowlf: (starts the song's intro) Yep. I finish work, go home, read a book, have a couple of beers, take myself for a walk and go to bed.

Kermit: Nice and simple.

Rowlf: Stay away from women. That's my motto.

Kermit: But I can't.

Rowlf: Neither can I. That's my trouble...

Rowlf:You can't live with 'em, you can't live without 'em.There's somethin' irresistabullish about 'em.We grin and bear it 'cause the nights are long.I hope that somethin' better comes along.
Kermit: (spoken): Yeah, I know what you mean...
Kermit:It's no good complainin' and pointless to holler.
Rowlf:If she's a beauty she'll get under your collar.
Kermit:She made a monkey out of old King Kong,
Both:I hope that somethin' better comes along.
Rowlf:Ah, but what could be better than a saucy Irish setterWhen puppy love comes on strong?Or a collie that's classy, a laddie needs a lassie,A lover and wife gives you a new leash on life.
Kermit: (spoken): Uh, Rowlf, was that a new 'leash' on life?
Rowlf: (spoken): Oh yeah...sorry about that.
Kermit:I don't mean to scare ya, my friend, but I betchaCome "Father's Day", the litter bug's gonna getcha;
Rowlf:The urge is righteous, but the face is wrong.
Both:I hope that somethin' better comes along.
Kermit:Still, it's fun when they're fetching,And agree to see an etchingThat you keep at your lily pad.There is no solution, it's part of evolution,
Rowlf:The pitter-patter of soles,The little feet of tadpoles!
Kermit: (spoken) Ah, Rowlf, tadpoles don't have feet!
Rowlf: (spoken) Oh. Sorry about that.... 2, 3, 4!
Kermit:There's no limitation to mixin' and matchin'
Rowlf:Some get an itchin' for a critter they've been scratchin'.A skunk was badgered the results were strong.
Both:I hope that somethin' better,I hope that somethin' better,I hope that somethin' better comes along!!!
Rowlf: Beep bop bidder da dum dum bum bum bum!
Rowlf: (spoken): It's not often you see a guy that green have the blues that bad!

Friday, October 28, 2005

A Lost Coin and a Found Ring

"Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, I tell you, there is great rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Luke 15:8-10

I own a ring that I wear on an almost daily basis. The ring consists of two silver circles banded together at the base. It has a small cross on one of the bands, balanced by a small dash on both sides. From a purely material and profit perspective, the ring is not worth much at all. If I sold it I would be lucky to get more than a few dollars. However, to me this ring is priceless. It was given to me by my best friend in college as a gift for being one of the groomsmen in his wedding. He was going to dental school and took a jewelry making class and made the ring himself. He created it especially for me and everytime I look at it, it is a reminder not only of my friend and the memories we shared together, but also of all the good times and wonderful experiences I had when I was first in college.

The last 7 summers I have worked at a church camp in Wisconsin. Until this summer, I had always kept the ring at a safe place at home for fear that I would loose it amidst all the craziness at camp. This summer I decided to bring my ring along and wear it. After having worked at the camp longer than some of the children coming there were old, I knew it would be safe when I wore it and on the occassions that I would have to take it off I knew I could keep it in a safe place.

There was one day this summer when I woke up in the morning and I couldn't find the ring. I had placed it on the shelf the night before in the same safe spot as I had done almost every night that summer, but the ring was not there. I began searching all over the place. I looked in every bag and container in the cabin. Then I relooked. I made and unmade the bed three times. Later in the day I explained to my campers what had happened and they searched all their bags. We took every piece of trash out of the trash cans, but were unable to find it. We eventually gave up. The ring was gone, presumably forever. The next day I was still concerned and during free time began looking through my bags one more time. I emptied my laundry bag onto the floor. The day before I had done the same thing, but this time I felt every piece of laundry instead of just dumping out and searching through. During the search, I found the ring. Somehow it had fallen into a pocket on a pair of work-out shorts. I was filled with joy. I immediately told my campers when I found them what had happened and that night I gave a devotional on what had happened.

God loves us all and whether we choose to accept that or not, it is true. God rejoices over us and wants the very best for us. But many of us have no idea how much God loves us. We turn our backs against Him and despite his gentle words and kind touches, we turn a deaf ear. Even those of us who are believers and have accepted His grace, mercy, and love are no better. We know that in the long run sin is destructive and that it has consequences, but we love our sin and it makes us feel so good. God's heart grieves and groans over us when we reject him. Yet, God also rejoices over us. When someone first realizes their true nature and turns from their ways to Jesus, He rejoices! When we realize our sin and confess it to Him, He rejoices. Jesus rejoices in the same way that I rejoiced on the day I found my lost ring.

We are all sinners, tainted with the soul-sickness until we die. But, we can have an abundant and joyful life. So, if you know of the grace of God and how He has redeemed you, rejoice! And when someone who has never known Jesus begins to accept His gift and starts a relationship with Him, rejoice! Rejoice in the same way that the woman rejoiced when she found her coin and in the same way when I found my ring. God is rejoicing and so should we.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Curse of Odin

In Norse mythology, Odin was chief of the gods (Thor was his son). He was the god of both war and wisdom and it was said that there was none as wise as Odin (that's why he was in charge of war--war shouldn't be rushed into rashly). However, in becoming wise, Odin had to pay a price. He became wise from drinking from this fount of wisdom (the name mistakes me) but in order to do so he had to sacrifice one of his eyes. It was a painful choice, but Odin believed that the only way he could properly rule the heavens and the earth was if he was wise. He chose to give up one of his eyes. As a result, he was able to drink from the fount, but he lost an eye and for ages after, every now and again, his socket would burn like crazy.

Wisdom does not come easy. It comes with a price. This is something I am continually learning as I travel through life.

I know there are many much more wise and knowledgable than me. There is so much that I do not know. But I have gained some wisdom over the years and it has come with a price. The past couple weeks I have been doing a lot of reflecting. I've looked back on my life and seen some times where I could have made a decision totally different than the one I chose. No one (except perhaps God) would have faulted me had I made the other decision. These other decisions would often have been the more safe choices, the choices with the least risk, the choices where I could have had a lot more fun. But, these decisions would not have been the wisest decisions. Wisdom comes with a great price.

As I have been reflecting, I know in my heart of hearts that the choices I've made and the life I have been leading has been the right one. I have no regrets. But, yet, I've been tempted. It would be much easier to live in ignorance and foolishness and in many ways it can seem that it would be much more fun. But, I would be lost then. Not only that, but even if I wanted to go back now, I can't because the knowledge is deeply rooted within me. I might be able to put on a good front for awhile, but I wouldn't be able to live very long with myself, let alone before God if I lived a lie. Once you put your hand to the plow there is no turning back. And in all honesty, I don't want to go there. I don't want to live like that. The life I know, one that is rooted in Truth and Wisdom, is the most abundant life I could possibly have. Yet, the temptation is there and the struggle for temperance continues in my soul. I'm tempted to look at this as the Curse of Odin. In reality, it is a blessing instead.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

On The Day After Seeing the Astros Kick Our Butt

Well, the Cardinals lost last night. I've never been so emotionally tied to a sporting event as I was last night. I actually feel down today. I so wanted the Redbirds to pull through. It would have made a great fairy tale story. It was, after all, the last season of Busch Stadium. Pujols historic home run in game 5 would have taken its place as one of the best hits in the history of baseball. But, alas, it is now over. They've already started tearing Busch up this morning. It'll be brought down piece by piece over the next 2 months. Pujols homer will be remembered, but eventually forgotten. And another wild card team will be playing in the World Series.

I predicted at the beginning of the season that it would be the White Sox and Cardinals in the World Series. I was wrong. The Cardinals only played 3 of the 6 games decently. The other 3 (including last night's game), the Redbirds didn't even bother to show up. Maybe next year.

I'm rooting for the White Sox to win it all (in 5 games). The curse of the Bambino is gone, it now should only be fitting that the curse of the Black Sox be erased as well. And just maybe, then they'll pardon Shoeless Joe and restore him to his proper place in Baseball.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Couple of Saturdays Ago....

This past Saturday was a very strange, spiritual, and surprisingly uplifting day. For those who don't know, I've been a fairly busy person lately. I'm student teaching, working on a very limited part-time basis, and was acting in a play. I haven't had much down-time, Tom-time as I like to call it. I've been in a state of almost constant movement, interrupted only occassionally by moments of sleep and stagnation playing a video game. I've only been reading and trying to meditate on one Bible verse a day and most of my prayer life has been these quick shout-up send-outs that are extremely heartfelt and sincere, but also very short. At the same time, I've haven't felt distant from God. I know that I've been doing the things I'm supposed to do. I know I've been following closely at His side, though He's had to lift me up and carry me a lot more than I would like. Things have been going well.

But on Saturday, I got mad at God. For starters, the play I was in closed Saturday. It's almost always bittersweet when a show closes (usually more bitter than sweet) and this past Saturday was no exception. My emotions are usually always tuned up on play days and on a final day even more. There was also emotions I was struggling with, concerning a girl (perhaps I'll write about tomorrow) that I was wading through, that I really didn't want to deal with. In the morning I was supposed to mow my family's yard only to discover that my brother had emptied all the gas cans and I had to drive 14 miles to the nearest gas station to buy gas to mow the lawn even though I haven't been able to afford putting gas in the car I drive to school and work each day. I was listening to the radio and the speakers were talking about the earthquake in Pakistan and my initial reaction was, "Who gives a f***. This is how it starts, the world coming to an end. What do I care if 10,000 people died in some earthquake 9,000 miles away. I just hope some of them knew Jesus." I couldn't believe the thoughts I was thinking and that's when I started to ball and hot tears ran down my face.

Had I really become so calloused? Is this what I'm really like? Why was I thinking these things? I had to look deep inside myself and quite frankly, I discovered things I didn't expect to find. Without Jesus in my life, those initials thoughts are perfectly normal. If the universe has no purpose, if our lives are truly devoid of meaning other than to perpetuate the human species and not destroy the world as we are taught, then why should we care about human angst and anguish half-a-world away? Better them than us. Better 10,000 poor Muslim Pakistanis than 10,000 afluent Americans. Sin causes us to think these things, to sometimes feel this way, and every once in awhile to even act on these thoughts and feelings.

But I'm not really that way. I hurt just about everytime I see someone injured, just about everytime I hear about someone abused, just about everytime I talk with a student or camper who is hurting deep inside. Most of the time, I feel like John Coffey in Stephen King's THE GREEN MILE who talks about when he sees a person suffering, it makes his head hurt like shards of glass poking in his mind. That's how I feel most of the time. Most of the time when I look around at all the pain and suffering around me, I feel like there are shards of glass poking in my mind. There is so much pain. So much anguish. So much despair and suffering. And most of the time, I think that John Coffey (yes, I know he's a fictional character, but stick with me) was lucky. Coffey actually had the ability to heal people. He could touch people, to take their suffering inside of himself and exhale it like a quickly evaporating noxious gas. It reminds me of the Apostles and how Peter and Paul and Phillip and Thomas and Andrew and all the others walked around with the same suffering around them, but were able to bend over, touch the outcasts, meet them where they were, and say, "In the name of Jesus Christ, you are healed." Then those people were healed: the blind could see, the lame could walk, the deaf could hear, the lepers turned to normalcy. So often in my life I have begged God to give me that power. I see so much pain and suffering around me. I see so many people hurting. I just want to (and sometimes have tried to) lay my hands and cry out "In the name of Jesus Christ, the one and only son of the one and only God, be healed." I guess I don't have the faith of the mustard seed because as far as I know, Jesus has never physically healed anyone through me. In fact, I know more people I have prayed with and for who have died or gotten more ill or who have suffered more than people whose lives suddenly improved.

The revelation that hit me was this. Despite how far I've come in my life, despite the fact that I've walked beside Jesus since I was a child, despite the fact that I've seen God do some incredible things in my life and I have and do testify about those things, despite the fact that most of the time I think with and in the Spirit, I am still a sinner. There is still sin within me. No matter how long I live or how much work God does in and through me during this life, I will always be tainted with sin. Remember all those "just abouts" and "most of the times" I mentioned? Yeah, most of the time, I'm aligned with Christ. But, there are times (more times than I'm aware) when I'm not. Sin, which causes so much pain and suffering, taints my life just as much as anyone elses. Thus, grace truly is amazing.

After realizing this, I felt totally in despair. The hot tears continued to run down my cheek. I gave up the most reasonable opportunity I ever had to make a break in the motion picture business and all the dreams I ever had since I was a kid to follow God's leading into teaching. When He told me, "Follow me, Tom. I know how much you want this, but not in your time, in My time," I believed Him. I wrestled every night with God for almost 6 months, but I accepted. I chose the path I knew God was calling me down: one of service and sacrifice in a place where I could for the moment be most used. C.S. Lewis once said that we don't know what sacrifice is until it hurts and I have to admit that the past few months I've been sacrificing and it hurts like the dickens (it really sucks not knowing exactly what or when you're going to be eating each day) and I don't like the way it hurts, but because of all the pain and suffering I've seen elsewhere, my pain has been diminished. Through my outburst and the revelation I had, I was reminded that even though I am still a sinner and will always be tainted by that sin, God still loves me. Not only that, but even though there is so much horror happening in the world, the little things I do each day--the student I cheer up in my classroom, the outcasted girl in the theatre who I befriend, the small amount of grace I try to show before I eat my food, the dime I place in the offering which might not seem like much but actually does hurt me financially, these things do matter. I was reminded that I, we, should keep doing these things. Big things will come along some day, but if I am not faithful in the small things, I won't be very faithful in the big things either.

Then I mowed the yard and created the Internet. :)