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The Great and Terrible God: an Analysis of the Greatest Great Awakening Sermon and its Impact

This is my latest research paper. Hope you enjoy!

Fear as a preaching method has been popular for hundreds of years in evangelical circles. For many years, we have seen preachers and priests tell scary stories from the pulpit, presenting a gory and terrifying image of hell, which would be the eventual destination of any poor soul who chose to ignore their message. One of the chief proponents of the “Hellfire and Brimstone” method in Colonial times was Jonathan Edwards, a preacher and philosopher in Northampton, Massachusetts. He presented fiery (no pun intended) sermons about the desires of God and the failures of humans, and one of the most important of his sermons, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” is no different. This classic sermon, delivered at a church in Enfield, Connecticut in 1741, fell on receptive ears (his first attempt to deliver this sermon occurred at his home church in Massachusetts, and it was of no consequence. He felt lead to present it again at Enfield, and the congregation responded favorably), and had a great effect on the people in the congregation. This sermon also had long-term effects, most notably being an incredibly important moment in the First Great Awakening, which was the beginning of a set of religious movements in early American religion and thought. I believe that this sermon is illustrative of some very important tenets of Jonathan Edwards’s personal beliefs, and my hope is to discuss some of those beliefs in my analysis. Three key elements to this sermon stick out, and I believe they show us a great deal about his religious background and beliefs:

  1. The common view of God at the time was that He was all powerful, and absolutely terrifying. This aligns with an Old Testament view of God, as a plague-bringer and death monger. It did not seem like many pastors were preaching God’s sufficient grace, as much as His desire to send people to Hell.
  2. Humans are absolutely and totally incapable of creating their own salvation. Without the grace and power of God, all of humanity is bound for hell, without any sign of stopping. We are inadequate in every way, and only an act of God can even bring us to the point of understanding God’s love. We have to die to ourselves daily in order to be a vessel for God’s work.
  3. Fear is an important part of the conversion process, according to Edwards. It is also an incredibly important part of Edwards’s sermons. We must fear and admire the great and powerful God, and then we will see just how insignificant we are and how much we need His love. We can also see a great deal of Edwards’s success coming from fear appeals in his sermons.

These three concepts come together to provide a decent picture of how Edwards believed, and what he preached to the congregations at Northampton and Enfield. In the following pages, I hope to discuss each, and provide insight on the man that was responsible for New England’s First Great Awakening.

Brief Biography: Who was Jonathan Edwards?

Born in 1703, Jonathan Edwards was one in a long line of clergymen. His father Timothy was a popular pastor in Connecticut and a stern parent, who was meticulous about his children’s religious education. Jonathan’s grandfather was Solomon Stoddard, who was an incredibly popular pastor and commanding leader of Northampton and western Massachusetts congregations. This led to Edwards being pressured to succeed on several fronts, because he was expected to take the role of his grandfather, and assume the same level of force and intellect common of the men in his family. Luckily, Edwards was up to the task. He was a great thinker and writer, and eventually found himself at the Collegiate School (Yale College) in 1716 (Kuklick, page 16). Edwards proved to be a perfect fit for academia, as described by his personal disciple Samuel Hopkins, who said that Edwards’s joy for reading John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) was more “than the most greedy Miser in gathering up handsful of Silver and Gold from some new discover’d Treasure (Kuklick, page 16).” Edwards was a life-long learner, and his love for study and deep thought would help him in his later academic and theological efforts. Edwards would bounce back and forth between different pulpits and Yale, eventually gaining the Northampton pulpit in 1729, as a “reward for his youthful achievements and illustrious ancestry (Kuklick, page 23).” He replaced his grandfather Stoddard, who left the bar high for him as a pastor and theologian. Naturally, this did not go well for Edwards, who suffered for the first several years of his ministry. It wasn’t until the 1730’s, when Northampton experienced a great revival, that Edwards’s teachings were really accepted as authoritative. Another great revival occurred in 1740-1742, which was a Great Awakening in Puritan philosophy and religion. Edwards constantly wrote his thoughts on these revivals, doing what he could to defend them in his writings and to discern whether or not people were truly saved during his ministry.

During The Great Awakening, Edwards preached what could end up being one of the greatest sermons in history. In 1741, Edwards was invited to speak to the congregation at Enfield, Connecticut, which – until his sermon, had largely rejected the revivalism that had swept across Connecticut (Kuklick, page 23). His rhetorical skill overwhelmed the audience, and the sermon he preached went down in history. Several elements of his sermons are important to understand, before we can consider the implications of such a powerful work.

Hellfire and Brimstone

Because of preaching methods in the early 1700’s, many people were scared of hell, and scared of God. Often, congregants would faint upon hearing some of the more gruesome descriptions of the doom sure to meet unsaved individuals. Jonathan Edwards was another proponent of this style of preaching, filling his sermons with appeals to the emotions of his congregation. In “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, he spoke of a God who had unsaved individuals at the edge of a string, only letting them live because He felt like it. Edwards portrays God as an all-powerful being who is bent on the destruction of all that goes against His nature. He describes God’s wrath as “great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given, and the longer the stream is stop’d, the more rapid and mighty is it’s course, when once it is let loose (Edwards, page 7).” It is clear that Edwards believed God to be a vengeful God. He tended to believe that the fear of God’s wrath is one of the keys to salvation, as well.

The Ineptitude of Humanity

Edwards believed that the human race was incapable of saving itself, which is key to the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity (Calvinist Corner, 2012). Humanity has no hope of salvation if they are trying to be saved on their own. Even Edwards struggled with this doctrine and his own faith, saying that “‘God’s sovereignty, in choosing whom He would to eternal life, and rejecting whom he pleased; leaving them eternally to perish, and be everlastingly tormented in hell.’ ‘It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me (Bushman, page 355-356).’” The idea of God’s power to decide who to save and who to ignore is a terrifying idea, but it is one that Edwards believed. We can see his portrayal of God’s will for the unsaved in his sermon, when he says

The God that holds you over the pit of hell much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire…You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it and burn it asunder (Edwards, page 8).

This is not the picture of a loving, patient God that we see in our Sunday School classes. Edwards is a master of painting a terrifying rhetorical picture, and according to Kuklick, the assembly in Enfield was “‘impressed and bowed down with an awful conviction of their sin and dangers’; there was ‘a breathing of distress and weeping (Kuklick, page 24).’” It seems like Edwards’s appeal to the natural fear of hell in his congregations gathered great but frantic results. Many people began to see the sense of urgency in Edwards’s messages, and they took it to heart. When they realized their inability to be saved without the Lord’s help, they began to understand that self-sacrifice was the only way to gain a relationship with the Lord, and safety from hell.

Edwards’s relationship with God was tumultuous at times, saying that he often went between times of great joy and times of great sorrow (Bushman, pages 348-360). He believed that the only way for him to experience true and passionate joy was to annihilate the self, and only pursue the things of God. Edwards often mused about the idea of the battling wills, and how he was almost always in an internal conflict. He was stuck between wanting the desires of God and wishing he could have the desires of his heart. His goal, then, was to make his desires the same as God’s. This self-sacrifice was the key to his spirituality, and he did what he could to espouse that view at every opportunity.

Scary Story Evangelism

Much of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is what professor Brian Jackson describes as argumentum ad baculum, meaning the practice of appealing to fear. He uses a definition from a different source on rhetoric, which describes argumentum ad baculum as “the form of a warning that some bad or scary outcome will occur if the respondent does not carry out a recommended action (Jackson, page 44).” Edwards uses vivid descriptions of hell and God’s wrath as prods for a resistant congregation, and his skills as a rhetorician played to his advantage. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is almost entirely an appeal to fear, which is wildly different from sermons that were preached even a few years before The Great Awakening. Jackson quotes Stout’s book The New England Soul in his article, saying that

Before 1740, hellfire and brimstone sermons – the kind that employ argumentum ad baculum with zeal – were rare, appearing occasionally in dramatic settings like fasts, funerals, or public executions. ‘More common,’ he explains, particularly among Boston’s more liberal clergy, ‘was the theme of God’s love, patience, and mercy to ailing sinners (Jackson, 44)

It is interesting to see that these tactics were not truly popular until Edwards began employing them during his pastorate. He used these methods with great success, but I don’t believe that he was interested in salvation for numbers’ sake. Edwards did all he could to discern between true and false salvations, and tried to disciple those who sincerely followed the God that Edwards preached about. He did not have to report numbers of salvations to the state convention when he was in his pastorate, so my guess is that he took great care to figure out who was truly saved, and who was feigning salvation for a blessing and protection from the evils of hell.

Edwards spends a great deal of time in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” discussing the “world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone…extended abroad under you (Edwards, page 6).” Based on the response of the congregation at Enfield, Edwards’s sermon word choice was effective. He declared that it was likely that some congregation members would be headed straight for the pit, and that statement, among others, nearly incited a riot in the congregation. This fear epidemic in the Enfield congregation was similar to the overall tone of The Great Awakening, which was a time of great hysteria for people who were unsure of their eternal destinations.

What Can We Do With This Information?

From what we’ve discussed, I think it is reasonable to declare Jonathan Edwards a Calvinist. This theological shift occurred during his time of conversion, from the ages of 16 to 20. He was initially interested in religion for its intellectual and philosophical value, but after conversion, he seemed to have a great deal of interest in Calvinist theology and its religious implications. He wrote a great deal from an academic and a spiritual perspective, often combining the two for a well-rounded idea of Puritan thought in his time. We can thank Edwards for his preaching and his scholarship, because many of his musings are well-regarded to this day.

Jonathan Edwards grew up in a home that valued commitment to the scriptures and a life full of study and learning, and he lived up to the standards set for him. He grew into an incredibly smart young man, and an effective preacher, who is considered the father of The First Great Awakening in New England. His books and sermons are still available to this day, and thousands of books and scholarly articles have been written in response to different elements of his rhetoric, personal beliefs, and writing style. Interest in Edwards’s life and work will always be strong, because of his effect on his congregation and the history of American religion and thought. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” was the perfect sermon for the perfect congregation at the perfect time, and it was delivered by the perfect orator for the nature of the text. Jonathan Edwards was just the preacher and philosopher that The Great Awakening needed, and his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” holds weight with congregations all over the world, even now. It all comes down to this: Edwards, while his methods were occasionally questionable, was an honorable man with a great skill for preaching and writing. We can remember him as a passionate orator and author, and we can only hope that his memory will live long beyond our lifetimes.

Works Cited

Edwards, Jonathan. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God and Other Puritan Sermons. Dover ed. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 2005. 171-184. Print.

Jackson, Brian. “Jonathan Edwards Goes to Hell (House): Fear Appeals In American Evangelism.” Rhetoric Review 26.1 (2007): 42-59. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 31 Oct. 2014.

Kuklick, Bruce. “Jonathan Edwards: Philosopher and Pastor.” Churchmen and Philosophers. New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1985. 15-26. Print.

Slick, Matthew J. “The Five Points of Calvinism, TULIP.” The Five Points of Calvinism, TULIP. The Calvinist Corner, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://www.calvinistcorner.com/tulip.htm&gt;.

Vaughan, Alden T., and Bremer, Francis J. Puritan New England: Essays on Religion, Society, and Culture. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1977. Print.

Why Long Distance Relationships Never Work

Well, thanks for coming over to my blog! I haven’t written anything in quite a while, but that’s because of college term papers and life in general. Now that I’ve had time to sit and contemplate life, I think I’ve found a topic worth considering. Today, I want to write about an idea near and dear to my heart, which is the thought that – on most occasions – a long distance relationship is doomed from the start.

(A disclaimer: I am not speaking directly to any individual. I have experienced nothing but love and support in my growth and my relationship, but I have seen others who weren’t as lucky. I love the people who have been around me, and my hope is that you will see both sides of this topic and come out of it with understanding.)

Sadly, long-distance relationships are doomed from the outset.

You want to know why?

It seems like it fails because people decide to make it their personal ambition to destroy the idea that two people can care for each other from a distance.

Guys.

Really?

Why the lack of faith?

Did someone do something to cause you to see distance as insurmountable?

I’m of the mind that love can work across any distance, if it is real, and the parties who are in love are willing to work their hardest to make the relationship work. It isn’t an issue of money, and it isn’t an issue of distance. It is a matter of the heart, and if it’s right, it’s right.

I have my own opinions on what it takes to make a long-distance relationship work, and I think it takes a concerted effort on the part of two different parties for a successful experience to occur:

1. Friends and family (the outsiders) that are observing the relationship develop, and

2. The people in said relationship.

First, I want to offer three concepts to understand for the person who comes from an outside perspective:

1. Yes, the people in this relationship are gluttons for punishment. They wait for days, weeks, even months, do see their significant other, and often, those visits only last but a few days. Do not think of them as childish, because it takes a great amount of composure and maturity to keep from crying like a baby every time their S.O. leaves (I know this, because I was in a long distance relationship for two years and nine months before I was able to see my S.O. consistently). These are two people who work very hard to maintain loyalty and constant contact with their S.O., so my hope is that you will honor the fact that they are doing their best to care for a person who they find to be very important.

2. No, it is not easy for your friend to bring their long-distance S.O. up for a visit at any time. This is tough, because naturally, if your friend could have their S.O. with them at all times, they would do anything they could to make it happen. Sadly, most people are in long distance relationships because they can’t find a way to shorten said distance. Not a major complaint, just something to remember.

3. Yes, this relationship does not make sense, but try to be encouraging anyway. I know it’s hard to believe that people would subject themselves to such deep hurt every time their S.O. leaves, but I promise that the person in this relationship thinks it’s worth the hurt. If this person didn’t feel like being in this relationship was right, they probably wouldn’t have ever decided to pursue it. (Another disclaimer: if your family member or friend’s S.O. is clearly hurting them and they can’t see it, just be honest. But be loving at the same time. They will never hear you if you are a jerk in your approach. Help them to understand that their relationship is damaging in a kind and gentle way. And if it isn’t, stay supportive.)

Remember, you are key in the success of this relationship! If you do not commit to encouraging and supporting this individual in his or her endeavors, then there is a chance that their relationship will not succeed. Be good to one another. That should be obvious.

Now, I want to offer three ideas to the person who is in a long distance relationship:

1. It will be okay! Remember why you are doing this. When it gets hard, just know that your S.O. is probably feeling the same way. Long distance relationships are hard, but they are tremendously rewarding. To think that this won’t work out is to hamper your chances at success. You have to either be fully committed to the relationship, or you shouldn’t date this person at all. Half-hearted people have a hard time succeeding when hard work is necessary.

2. Understand that the people around you may not be able to make sense of your relationship decisions. I’ve been in a long-distance relationship, and I can’t even make sense of my own decisions! Be willing to explain the dynamic of your relationship, and just what about your S.O. really makes you want to press on.  Just a thought: if you are willing and able to explain just what makes you happy about your S.O., then you might find out some interesting things about that individual and yourself. For me, talking about my girlfriend actually makes me love her even more (as if that’s possible!). Communicating your thoughts clearly shows a maturity that is hard to discount, and it is a skill that helps you avoid being labelled as “immature,” or “angsty.”

3. Something my dad told me as he was going to bed today (I am writing this late at night in my living room) really struck me. This advice is multi-faceted, and very applicable in this context: Stay focused, stay on the narrow way, and avoid heartache. Being in a long-distance relationship is tough. It is like a long road race. You prepare for this race, but there is no experience like actually running it. You hit bumps and potholes and bends in the road, and sometimes it gets so narrow that you are not able to run side-by-side. When you get to those points, you can be confident in your Heavenly Father and your significant other, who will support you in different ways. A key to this analogy; however, is that you are willing to support him or her as well. Long-distance relationships do not succeed if you do not work at them, so you must understand that constant effort is key. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Be aware of just how quickly you are moving, and how quickly your partner is moving. Finding success is all about finding the right running mate.

Long-distance relationships are doomed to fail.

If you don’t have faith.

Work hard, and love even harder. Don’t give up, and know that – if this person is the one you are meant for, then you will someday find your joyous reunion.

A quote:

“Distance is not for the fearful, it is for the bold. It’s for those who are willing to spend a lot of time alone in exchange for a little time with the one they love. It’s for those knowing a good thing when they see it, even if they don’t see it nearly enough…”

This is the girl I dated long-distance for two years and nine months. We are now happily dating face-to-face!

This is Tori, the girl I dated long-distance for two years and nine months. We are now happily dating face-to-face!

 

What is important in a relationship? Chapter 1 of 10 – Why it is okay to be single…wait…what?

Before I write anything on this topic, I must offer a disclaimer: I am only human. My views are not universally constant, and to be totally honest, I am still figuring this relationship thing out. I just have a few ideas, small and big, that might be workable for others, so I want to present them. Feel free to hear me out, but if you think you have it all together, go ahead and move along. If you’d like. 

Well, here is something I haven’t done before; a self-help series! I want to offer you, as the blogger, some tips that might help in the topic of dating and singleness. These, as previously stated, are not umbrella concepts. They are just concepts I’ve mulled over in my own relationship, and hopefully they, in some way, might have some sort of application to your life, single or not! I have ten tips, and I will present each of them over the next few weeks, hopefully ending on December 31st, so you can start a new year with your significant other, trying some new things. 

Today, I will present my introduction, and my first tip!

Introduction: Dating is a weird aspect of human life. We dance around people of the opposite sex, hoping to impress them with some odd cocktail of pheremones, eventually to commit only to them, get married, and procreate. Why in the world do we do this? It makes no sense at all sometimes, until we go back to the beginning of time, and look at the world’s first couple. In the Bible, Adam was the first man, and he was alone – one man to name every animal on Earth. That job seems massive, right? God decided that no animal would do any good for Adam as a partner, so he created Eve (from one of Adam’s ribs – SCIENCE!), and Adam finally had a partner suitable for living with. God said that this partnering of Adam and Eve was good, so all was well with the world upon this pairing. I think if you were to look at the triune Godhead (Father, Son, Holy Ghost) and the very first relationship on Earth, you would probably begin to see that it was okay to be in community with others, whether in a romantic sense or otherwise. I think God desires for us to have companionship. It doesn’t have to be romantic, but I think we need to establish that perpetual isolation is not the best option. We must pursue interpersonal relationships with other people, and I think personally that the way we think and feel will improve because of more interaction. In this series I will probably focus on the romantic side of a relationship, but hopefully, you will find that some aspects I’ll discuss will transfer over into the world of friendship as well! All relationships are important, whether good bad or otherwise, and hopefully these conversations will help us understand that a little better. I want to discuss some misconceptions about relationships over the next few days, and hopefully provide insight that might bring you all some peace, new understanding, or reaffirmation of an idea that you already had! Are you ready, because I’m not! This will be fun. 

1. IT IS OKAY TO BE SINGLE. Really. I promise. 

This post goes out to all of the friends and strangers that – like me, have felt struggles to feel right in their singleness. For the longest time, I couldn’t deal with being single. All of my friends were pairing off, and it seemed like I would move to a place of “Old Maidhood,” in which I would just be a crazy old single friend that no one wanted to be around anymore. I felt lost, and I felt lonely. It felt like, without a girlfriend, I wouldn’t be able to make it. I moved from affection to affection, seeking some sort of satisfaction, but never experiencing any. It was really hard to look at my friends who were in relationships, and honestly, I just felt like sitting alone was the only thing I could do in peace anymore (totally counter-intuitive. If you feel lonely, don’t go be alone. That does no good. Just for what it’s worth), so I would try to do that. What I didn’t realize at that time was that it is okay, sometimes advantageous, to be single. (Let me throw in another disclaimer: I am no longer single. I’ve been in a committed relationship for over 3 years, and I couldn’t be happier! I just know that this relationship only started after I came to understand the benefits of singleness, so I feel as if I must bring forward the idea that it is indeed okay to not have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Just for what it’s worth.) Being single has several benefits, but for time’s sake, I will choose three:

1. Singleness can, on occasion, be beneficial for ministry efforts.

This is very much a contextual idea, but if you think about it, Jesus and Paul were both single. I think Paul especially was confident in his singleness, as it allowed him issue-free travelling, with no responsibility to provide for a family while on mission. This fit his ministry well, as he traveled all over the known world, sharing the Gospel with anyone who offered an ear. It is reasonable to think that this kind of travel and punishment (several jail trips, numerous other persecutions), would have been very exhaustive/damaging to a family, so it was better that he was single.

It is not always better to be single while doing ministry, as there are benefits to doing mission work alone, or in partnership (Going to save that idea for another post). As I mentioned earlier, I think singleness fits in many ministerial contexts, if you feel called to a ministry that requires singleness for effectiveness, I would encourage you to pursue that lifestyle. It may lead to a freedom and effectiveness in ministry that you might never have imagined. 

2. Sometimes it is okay to spend time just getting to know yourself. 

Let’s be honest – do you really feel like you know yourself? Do you? When you are in a relationship, your significant other will learn things about you – small things, sometimes things you didn’t even know – that may spark some very interesting conversations/arguments, and if you don’t know things in your life that are stumbling blocks or quirks that would cause relational problems, then you should probably take some time by yourself to learn about those things. No human on this Earth is perfect, so we all could probably use a time of reflection to figure out things that we don’t like that might be in our control. Our significant other should love us for our imperfections as much as our good qualities, but we can’t expect them to be perfect either. Our responsibility is to become the best us that we can be, in order for our relationship with our future significant other to be even more special, and even more successful. 

3. Dating for the sake of dating is not the best method for success. 

Dating is fun. I get it. Seriously though, don’t date unless you have prayed about it and prepped for it. Dating is a prep for a life together, so if you date and break up many times, then I would venture to say that you would struggle eventually with a lifetime commitment like marriage. Playing games with a person’s heart is unfair to that person’s future spouse. You can only imagine what that young person is going to go through after you break up, so it would almost be better if you never dated in the first place. I am not saying that not dating is the best option, but I am saying that you need to be very careful with the heart that you do decide to pursue. If a person is willing to put their feelings in your hands, then it is your responsibility to hold tight to them, and respect them, whether or not they end up in your possession or not. If you are not ready to handle a commitment like that, then you must make sure that your priorities are in the right place. Singleness is not a bad thing in this context. Until you are ready, wait. Pray. Think. Let the Lord work in your singleness, and pursue Him in all other aspects of your life as well. When you do that, you will find that He will bless and honor your relationships in a new and vibrant way. 

Singleness is just fine. Isolation and loneliness are not. Seek out community with other people, and let the Lord work in your relationships, and if all goes according to His plan (it will), then you will experience exactly what He wants for you, which is best. Sit tight, and hold onto Him. That’s all that matters. All of this relationship stuff will happen on His timing. I hope you all will learn to become the best you, and things will improve in all aspects of life! I hope this blog held at least a little insight. If not, tell me now, and I’ll discontinue the series. If it did hold some worthwhile ideas, let me know, and I’ll keep it going! Thanks for reading this far, and I wish you the best as you look through some of the muddled thoughts that I like to present on a page. God bless!

Tomorrow’s post: Five Ideas for Application in Relationships. 

See you then! 

Jesse

A Typical Day in the Life of a Student Janitor…I Promise This isn’t Horribly boring. I promise.

Well, a lot of people might not know this, but I moonlight (literally) as a night shift janitor in the Chickasaw Business and Conference Center in Ada, Oklahoma. This is one of two of my jobs (the other being a tutoring gig in the afternoons), and added to plenty of coursework (I’ve written over two hundred pages of papers this semester. If you’d like to read them, tell me and I will post them), I have been kept pretty busy. I thought today, I would post five (arbitrarily picked. Don’t ask why I chose that number) lessons I’ve learned while cleaning,  and hopefully, you will see that janitors can have a little personality. lol. If you are uninterested, here is a joke for your entertainment, and you can click away if you see fit.

Q: What do you call a kid who doesn’t believe in Santa?

A: A rebel without a Claus.

For those who are curious, here we go!

1. Girls’ bathrooms are straight nasty. 

Like..seriously? I am sorry to ruin misconceptions about girls’ bathrooms being pretty, nice smelling, and having all the things guys wish they had in their bathrooms, but it has to happen. I have cleaned numerous bathrooms in the brand-new conference center, and, much to my chagrin, they were…icky. I can’t say much, but yeah. There’s that.

2. People have the capacity to put their chairs back in, but don’t. 

Because, who puts their chairs in? It’s not like the janitors do anything anyway.

3. People also seem to be dirt magnets until they sit down, when the dirt releases onto the floor of the classroom. 

I’m not even mad, I think this is kind of funny. I could swear that Pigpen from the “Peanuts” series  or the guy who always dives in the mud in the Brett Favre Wranglers commercial took classes in the business building. Lots of dirt. Everywhere. Always. It is honestly kind of impressive. Go you, you dirty man.

4. I am very much an expert with a broom now. 

Not quite as relevant to my post, but because I often sweep several thousand square feet in a shift, I have gained some skill in sweeping (I call it dirt hockey…because, well, I can). I like to think that I am the Sidney Crosby of janitors, without the lame injuries. Sometimes I’ll even narrate my sweeping dirt into a dustpan, like I’m scoring a goal. I think my boss doesn’t like that.

5. If you are going to clean, do it to the tune of your favorite song. 

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell seem to know me on a deeper level. When I clean a lobby to the tune of “Ain’t no Mountain High enough, I clean faster. Who doesn’t mind getting something done quicker? My dancing skills have also improved vastly, but that’s for the day I decide to start a vlog (never). Until then, you will only be able to imagine me dancing to the tune of that song, singing “Ain’t no bathroom nasty enough,” without seeing.

6. The ECU custodial staff is incredible. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed working for my school! I feel a great sense of pride in my work, and because of my experience with a group of hard-working people, I have learned a lesson about work ethic. I feel so great about the completion of my first semester, that’s for sure!

I hope, that after seeing this post, you will see that custodians have a little personality! We love to have fun, and we like to keep things clean. Next time you see a janitor. Thank them for working hard, and for cleaning up your crap. Literally.

Beautiful Words

Since I am in a haiku mood, I thought I would write a cycle called “What is beauty.” It took me a while to write this, and since it is late, I ask that you grant me a reprieve for anything you find particularly egregious. Thanks for reading.

What is Beauty?

Is it a social construct

or open for change?

 

Beauty is not on

the outside but within you.

Embrace what’s inside.

 

It is not defined

by someone else from outside

it’s up for debate.

 

Beautiful is not

new or pretty or showy

it is heart and mind

 

Beauty is thinking

It is moving to action

love epitomized

 

It is in small things

like roses, smiles, and hugs; moments.

little ideas

 

Big dreams, successes,

failures, and in between, all

can be beautiful.

 

I tell you all this:

If you think that you’re ugly

you are wildly wrong.

 

You are beautiful

Just as everyone else is.

Embrace confidence.

 

Find someone who loves

you for who you really are.

Not for an ideal.

 

When you find people

that you want to spend moments

with; make memories.

 

You will then see what

beauty truly is, and that

is no lie; truly.

 

Beauty is no joke.

It is not a thing messed with.

Beauty is our dream.

 

We desire beauty

like milk, keeping us awake

at night, pushing us.

 

So we go on; restless

wanderers in faithless chase

after an ideal.

 

Beauty lies within

the sacrifice of a Dad

who sent baby Boy

 

To die hard for us,

a lamb to the slaughterhouse

all for salvation.

 

That is the beauty

we seek. A life with the Son

who came to save US.

 

Young Carpenter, hung

on a wooden stake for me.

Because of His love.

 

So I sit in my

ineptitude; pondering

the grace that abounds.

 

This is beauty also.

The love of a father, too

great to comprehend.

 

I guess beauty lies

in all things, big and small; we

just have to find it.

 

My Entry for the Creative Writing Challenge

Well, I saw a haiku contest, and I wanted to enter. It is as simple as that. I will post all five haikus here at once, and hopefully they will be rather good! I call this “Haikus on a rainy Monday.” I will post a link below for anyone else interested in the little game.

Here we go!

1. I wake up

I wake up sad; angry.

It is snowing out my window

And I still have class.

 

2. Time to get ready

I get out of bed

And throw some pants on, I’m rushed.

I don’t want to leave.

 

3. Class

British Lit, why not?

Sense and Sensibility

My mind; worn to mush.

 

4. Work

I sit at my desk

Pondering mysteries of

Blogging or sleeping.

 

5. Bed again

Sweet sleep, so far gone

Time to catch up with you now.

Close my eyes sweetly.

They may not be great, but it’s a start! Hopefully you will be able to get your creative juices flowing. Here’s a link! http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/challenge-haiku/

The Miracle of Successful Time Management (and why I am Living on a Prayer).

Well, I have to be honest. I am bad with my time. This week in particular, I have really struggled with productivity, especially when it comes to doing homework and writing papers. I’m learning again, as I always do at this time in the semester, that time management is paramount to success as a student or even more broadly, as a human being. These are the proverbial “Dog Days” of the semester, when students decide to put down Hemingway and pick up a new series on Netflix. Every college student has felt this at one time or another, and that is almost a proven problem. In my case, my time management issue comes in my literature classes (I love these classes, and the material is fantastic. Just not staying on track very well. lol). Instead of writing papers or reading my assigned book, I’ve been killing time on Facebook, and distracting myself with anything within reach. This has not inhibited me greatly, but it will if I am not careful (I learned this lesson last year, so I am taking precautionary measures). All of this rambling aside, I am going to give you all a few ideas for battling boredom and staying on track (in a collegiate context. When I learn about adult life, I’ll blog about it too). Here they are!

(Another disclaimer before I begin this list: I understand that in the previous paragraph I mentioned my issues with time-management. I am no authority, but every pointer I am putting up here will be applied in my life at some point in the semester. Just food for thought – not the golden rules.)

 

1. You don’t have to overschedule in order to succeed.

I find that there is a healthy balance between overzealously blocking out every single minute and not keeping a planner at all. I think that if you were to keep and check a planner, you would be more effective, but you must also allow time for flexibility. As a college student especially, campus activities will take up time on a pretty consistent basis. These events are scheduled in a seemingly arbitrary way, so if you want to remain involved on campus, you must allow a little bit of wiggle room in your schedule. No need at all to be blocked up down to every minute of every day. Living that way makes life a pain.

2. Do NOT get over-involved. Just don’t do it.

I know this sounds really weird, coming from a guy who at one time was in a campus activities committee, working two different jobs, and taking twenty hours in a semester. Trust me. Getting involved is great, but it comes at a cost: time. I would submit that in order to enjoy college more, you must at least go to events put on by campus committees. You know the activities fee in your tuition costs? Yeah. You are already paying for it, just go get involved. It is a waste of money to not show up to events. My warning for you comes connected with the idea of involvement: if you do too much, you will burn out. Guaranteed. It is incredibly difficult to stay on track with homework and work (two things that are kind of important…) if you are busy at the Pizza Hodown or Shaving Cream Slip ‘n’ Slide (ficticious events). Again – involvement good, over-involvement, bad.

3. Make time for the things and people you love. After your homework is done.

I sound like your dad. I’m sorry. Seriously though, make your degree your priority. The frat boy can finish school by the skin of his teeth, saying that he networked like crazy, but friends does not a good person make. The key to success in this area of time management is a balance between social activity and academic focus. These sides can intermingle, but as long as they are somewhat evenly balanced, success should be at least a little easier. It may sound weird that I think homework should come first, but as I’ve done all the college nights out (stay at McDonalds till 4 A.M., IHOP till about the same time, etc.), I can say from experience that too much social activity hurts grades, and too much studying hurts social skills. It is good to come out of college a well-rounded student. Not someone who wasted time on any one thing.

I am not an authority. At all. I hope that these are only a short list of some pretty wonderful ideas for living a little more efficiently, and if you feel I am either off-base or lacking in my ideas, submit more! I’m always in need of more blog ideas. Just a few thoughts for you, from a college kid who is still on his way around the block. Love y’all. Keep readin’.

 

 

 

 

 

The  challenge of work-life balance is without question one of the most significant  struggles faced by modern man.
Stephen Covey

My Lady, My Main Squeeze, My Good Ole’ Southern Belle.

Well, today is pretty special. My girlfriend, who I love so dearly, has successfully tolerated me for three years. Three whole years! Isn’t that pretty wonderful? She still loves me…unbelievable. Today, I am posting what is essentially a shout-out to her: I am going to tell you three reasons why I like her, and then show you guys all a poem I wrote about her (for what it’s worth, I am waiting to know if it will be published – would add to the excitement). Here we go!

1. Tori loves Jesus way more than she’ll ever love me, and that is great. I firmly believe that the way to grow closest to your significant other is by pursuing God together, so Tori has provided me a challenge, being someone who holds me accountable, someone who helps me to see what I need to see in order to become a more Godly young man. 

2. Tori isn’t afraid to laugh at my jokes. For gosh sake, couples are so boring! People love each other madly, but don’t seem to have any sense of humor sometimes. They look like they have lost interest in each other. Tori, whether fake or not, laughs at my jokes, and I laugh at hers. We both find each other fascinating, and I pray that never ends. Humor is enormously important to success in our relationship!

3. Tori loves Jesus, but also loves me. I cannot understate how wonderful it feels to have someone who desires to spend time with you. It really is great. You could say our love is sweet like poetry…heh heh. 

 

I love her, as you can tell! Here is the poem:

 

Beautiful blonde girl sitting across the table from me,

Deep blue eyes staring into mine.

She holds my hands and we tell wonderful stories,

Another night

Where she is looking divine.

I love her

I think of her all the time

The way she loves, the way she can make a moment out of a subtle

Pause-

She gets me so excited that sometimes I forget how to rhyme.

She means the world to me but I don’t think she’ll understand the gravity

of it all.

Her red like roses lips, her diamond-shiny smile, how she walks about effortlessly.

The way she laughs: not loud, not too soft…just as it should be.

A cacophony of melodies singing straight from her beautiful

soul.

This girl, she’s perfect.

Perfectly passionate about those less fortunate,

About a God who provides,

One whose love she reflects like the moon does the sun.

From the moment I saw her five years ago, I knew

She was the

One.

She is also perfectly

Imperfect.

Not afraid to admit flaw or failure,

And

always ready to embrace mine

And that’s why I love her above all else on this Earth.

She is wonderful, and just what I need.

And best of all

 

 

She loves me

 

 

 

 

 

Happy 3 year Tori!

My First Published Paper…Exciting, Eh?

Well, for the first time, I am a published author! Kind of. I got the opportunity to submit a cultural reflection essay for publication on the ECU Literary Blog, and they liked it, so it is now on the page! I am so happy, and God receives all of the glory for this experience. I thought I might post it on here, in order for you to see what you think. This is a paper all about me, and what makes me who I am. I hope you can relate to some of the ideas in this work. This started as an assignment in Ethnic Literature, so some of these references are from our textbook. I found this paper pretty therapeutic, so I hope you all appreciate it. Have a wonderful day, folks. 

Here it is: 

                                                                     Why Being Lost is Okay: My Story

     To be totally honest, I am really not sure who I am, or why I am here. As I thought through ideas for this reflection paper, I was thrust into a great existential crisis of sorts. I don’t really know who I am or where I am from, so naturally, reflecting on my ethnic origins would be difficult. As far as I know, I am of both Eastern European and Choctaw descent, with a little bit of Nova Scotian thrown in for good measure. My family has been in America for a couple hundred years, since before the Civil War, so a lot of my Non-American ancestors lie so deep in my lineage that they are really untraceable. My seeming ignorance of my heritage was brought forward as this assignment was put before me, and I am sad that I didn’t contemplate what makes me who I am a little earlier on in life. As a part of this reflection, I decided to think over some family traditions that have shaped my upbringing, some major ideas that have helped me grow into the man I am today, and some beliefs I held that being in a diverse area have challenged greatly. I have learned a great amount about myself and my “culture” in the last few weeks, and I hope to make my life more transparent in the next few pages.

     In order to better understand who I am today as a nineteen year old college student, you must first understand some of the traditions and beliefs that my family adheres to. We are a family that believes strongly in the Christian faith, each and every one of us pursuing Jesus and a life full of love for Him and others. Normally, I imagine that my personal beliefs wouldn’t be very well accepted in a paper, but as this is telling you about who I am, I feel it most important to tell you who I care about the most. I have been a Christ follower for over ten years, so naturally my love for Jesus and other people really has a great influence on my life. I have really been battling recently with what I believe and how I believe it, but I really do feel like Christian faith, if expressed in love, really is a beautiful belief. If I didn’t pursue my theological beliefs like I do, I would be unsure of what to do with myself. I also have struggled recently with the idea of acceptance and love, in terms of religious v. non-religious. I am learning that people sometimes are all-too-critical of others, when they themselves are not living in an honorable way. People who are religious are okay, and people who are not religious are okay. There really are not many differences between these groups of individuals.

     As we begin to understand the faith that holds my family together, we can take a look at a few family traditions that are linked to this core set of beliefs. The first and most important tradition that our family tries to hold to is the idea that a family who goes to church together stays together. My dad is a minister, so I have been in church since I was in my mother’s womb…literally. We try to go as often to the local church as possible, in order to recharge and refocus for the week to come. Church is much more than a social event for my family; it is an opportunity to grow together as a unit and to study the God we pursue so intently. I firmly believe that without church, our family wouldn’t be as close as it is. Church is the common thread that ties our family together, and it is vitally important to who I am as a human being.

     Another major set of traditions come in the form of holiday celebrations. Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or any other major holiday, my immediate family and I always try to celebrate together. We believe that family unity is incredibly vital to success in life, and little things like dinner together and family moments really contribute to growth and successful maturation in each and every one of us. Our family is very strongly focused on unity and oneness, and I think my childhood and youth have been better for that fact. We have faced numerous hardships, but through it all, we have each other. That is all that matters.

     After understanding a little more about my upbringing, I think it is fair to set the focus squarely on myself and who I am. It sounds a little self-centered, but this paper is about me, so we will move on. I think understanding who I am comes down to seeing three key lessons learned in my life: first, everyone has a different story, so learn to listen before you speak, second, if an older person has something to tell you, listen; it may profound, and lastly, love is not something to be trifled with.

     Throughout my life, I have come into contact with many people of many different ethnicities, genders, and beliefs. These people all have lived different lives, yet, sometimes I would struggle with projecting their problems onto my culture, which did not help them solve those problems. As I have grown up, I’ve learned that listening and being appreciative of someone and their plight can be the best way to help them solve a problem. My intricacies are not the same as my neighbor’s, or my brother across the globe. If I were to take a more open perspective in looking at them and their lives, I feel like I would learn better how to act around them and interact with them, thereby making things easier for both parties. This lesson was hard for me to learn, having not really been exposed to the idea until my teens.

     In Robert Hayden’s poem Those Winter Sundays, our speaker is reflecting back on his time in the house with his father, and how he seemed to regret treating him rather poorly. In the last stanza he says:

 

…Speaking indifferently to him,

who had driven out the cold

             and polished my good shoes as well.

           What did I know, what did I know

                                  of love’s austere and lonely offices? (lines 10-14)

 

 

     Hayden seems to express in this poem the lesson that I have been learning since I arrived on my first college campus: parents know more than we think they know. My parents have been trying to instill some ideals and lessons in me ever since I could understand, but as most teens do, I resisted or rejected some of the ideas they tried to teach me. As I have grown into young adulthood, I’ve come to the sad realization that my parents were right in just about every situation where we butted heads. As times change, so do our understandings of different concepts and lessons that we learn. Hindsight really is 20/20 (forgive me for use of cliché, but it is true), and as I look back on my parents’ and grandparents’ teaching points, I see a lot of lessons and character ideas that have proved to be true in many ways.

     As for love, I don’t feel like anyone truly understands the depth of meaning held in those four letters. Love can fit in many different contexts, whether it’s family love, the love of a friend, or the love of a significant other. The relevance of love became more important to me recently, due to the fact that my parents’ relationship became very strained a few months ago. Some bad news came, and all in one week, I nearly lost both parents because of it. The depths of love were really tested as they worked through recovering from this issue, and so now I take the word love very seriously. I feel as if people throw it around flippantly, talking about how they “love that burger” or how they “love this movie.” I feel as if people have lost track of the meaning of love, and I hope that someday soon, they will learn why love is both wonderful and vital to life as we know it. This lesson, along with the two previously discussed, has had a great impact on my life, and how I have become the man I am today.

     The final area of life that has really influenced me comes down to some of my understandings of culture that have been greatly challenged. I grew up in a home of white Americans, in suburbs full of white Americans. My first exposure to diversity really didn’t occur until elementary school, when I was going to a school in the middle of the longest running desegregation in history. I was in a place where people were forcing themselves to love others of different colors and beliefs, and I do firmly believe that that experience distorted my understanding of race relations and interaction. As I grew up, I saw people who feigned love for others, only to hate them behind their backs, all because of the color of their skin. I had to learn from my family and others that true love for another individual comes from within, and that it has no skin color. I did not have any preconceived notions of how to handle people of other cultures, I was just taught to love and love unconditionally. This lesson came after leaving Louisiana, and I am so glad I was able to learn it. Another part of that lesson was coming to the understanding that racism is still alive and well in a lot of areas in America. As it turns out, we really never were truly free from the plague of hate and race frustration. I hope that lessons I’ve learned will hit others as they have hit me, hopefully helping them to understand how good it feels to love truly and compassionately.

     The idea of loving people and embracing diversity was only confirmed and empowered by my trips abroad to London and the Dominican Republic. In those places I saw a lot of elements of life that were similar to American culture, whether it be class differences, or just the way people interacted. People in other countries were very similar to the people I met here, which really caused me to think even harder about how I imagined other cultures and how the media portrays those cultures. I have really learned to embrace diversity and to appreciate people of other beliefs and upbringings, because without them, the Earth would not be what it is today. We are a diverse planet, and the perspective of the whole can really change the living dynamic of the few.

     Well, this is me. This is the reality I face: I am an American who doesn’t really know where I come from, or why I am here. I am a conglomeration; a mixing of hundreds of people and thousands of beliefs. Sure, I’m a little bit out of sorts, maybe even lost, but I know who I am. I am a man, almost twenty years old, seeking to understand my roots, and why I am who I am. I am living the only way I know how: passionately. I will pursue things that may seem out of the ordinary, only just to see if they are worth trying. I am myself, and confident in that fact. As I am writing, I am progressively feeling more confident in the identity that I am assuming, and why I am where I am at this time. My identity isn’t something that I will allow my culture to throw on to me, it is a set of beliefs and characteristics that I will choose for myself. Part of this identity will come from an acknowledgement of my past; the time of reflection that I took to write this paper has helped me tremendously in understanding some of the basic building blocks in my life, along with the reminder of why they were the chosen building blocks in the first place. This paper proved to be a sort of throwback for me, like in Mixed Blood by Phillip Carroll Morgan, when the speaker states that the back roads cause him to feel like he is “slowly changing/ from white man to indian/ like eroding wood” (lines 43-45). I did not change ethnicities as I wrote this paper, but I felt an odd sort of empathy with the speaker of this poem, as if he and I were feeling some of the same ideals. I felt a sudden connection to my roots, a sudden transformation, perhaps to what my family was, to who I am, and to what I belong to. I feel closer to understanding who I am than I ever thought I would be, and remembering where I came from has been great for helping me to understand where I need to go. In contrast to Natasha Tretheway’s poem Flounder, where the speaker feels an inner conflict stemming from her mixed-race, saying “I stood there watching that fish flip-flop,/ switch sides with every jump” (lines 27-28), I feel fully confident in who I am and what made me who I came to be. I have learned to respect others, love unconditionally, and listen before speaking. I have learned that the best way to help someone through an issue is to love them through it, and I have learned that the best hope in my life comes from Jesus Christ and Him alone. My hope is that people would see my life and find in it examples of how to love people and show great compassion, and maybe that example will spur them on to action. Maybe, as in my life, people will start loving each other and the world will see exactly what it claims to desire, change in the hearts of each and every individual. Maybe people will understand what true brotherhood really means. Maybe people will realize that being lost is okay, as long as we do it together.

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Hayden, Robert. “Those Winter Sundays.” reprinted in Poetry: An Introduction 6th edition.

     Edited by Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Marin’s, 2010, p. 21

 

Morgan, Phillip Carroll. “Mixed Blood.” The Fork-in-the-road Indian Poetry Store. Cambridge,

     England: Salt, 2006. N. pag. Print.

 

Tretheway, Natasha D., and Rita Dove. “Flounder.” Domestic Work: Poems. St. Paul, MN:

     Graywolf, 2000. N. pag. Print.

 

Birth, Death, and all things In-between.

Human mortality is a weird aspect of life. When someone goes, the people they leave behind are always on their backs. They are forced to think about how one day someone was there, and now they are not. The most disturbing thing about this sad event is the idea that it is so regular. I’ve got news for you, every person who has stepped foot on Earth has left. It’s unavoidable, sadly. I heard a quote some time ago (I forget who said it) that really put this into perspective: “We as humans are dying from birth. When we come out of the womb, we begin a race towards death, whether we are ready for that or not.” When people have to contemplate their impending “doom,” they begin what really is one of the most intense varieties of existential crisis possible: did I live my life to the fullest? Did my time on Earth go down as a waste, or will my actions be remembered as worthwhile? These questions are what inspired me to blog today, as I am in the middle of such a time.

This weekend, I went to a funeral. Not just any funeral, one for a friend who lost her life earlier than she should have. Well, by my opinion anyway. She was an eighteen-year old senior in high school, and was killed in a tragic car accident on October 19th. This girl had potential. She was prepping for college, and a pretty vibrant adult life, only to be stopped by a man who couldn’t put away his phone to drive twenty minutes. Understandably, everyone was shocked. A lot of people got really mad, a lot of people were really sad, and just about everybody had to take some time to work through this problem. This was a weird week for me. I have lost friends at young ages. I can think of five or six off the top of my head that went before they should have, but none of them hit me quite as hard as this loss did. It may be that I was a lot closer to the situation this time around, or maybe it was compassion for the family of this young girl. I’m not really sure, and honestly I don’t think I’ll ever know. This loss just hit me like a ton of bricks.

As I went to her viewing, I really started to think about the reality/inevitability of loss and how beliefs can change the responses of people around the situation. I watched people who were notoriously anti-religion question how a “God who was so just would let this happen to a poor girl,” or people on the other end of the spectrum who were incredibly hopeful, saying that eternity for her would be a time of great peace and wonder in Heaven. Responses were all over the spectrum. I understand all of them, oddly enough. I’ve had days where I really question what God’s plan is for loss like this, and I’ve had days where I just need to drop to my knees and have faith. I have learned that in these situations, reliance on God is a lot better than questioning Him. I think to a time where I was reading about Job, a man who lost everything. Instead of cursing God, he had faith. He questioned why this happened, as any human would, God put him in his place, and then he began the process of embracing the plan that God had for him. It is hard to think that God is using loss, but I can confidently say that loss almost never ends in a way that destroys someone. Every time I have experienced loss, I have come closer to God. Death puts you on your knees, and helps you to see reality more clearly. Death helps us to understand the importance of life, and the importance of eternity.

As we gain this perspective from loss, we see the need for hope. We see the need for something to hold on to, something to lean on. I would submit to you, the reader, that the best source of hope is in Christ Jesus. You can stop reading now, if you feel like this is so greatly going to offend you. You may have other coping mechanisms, but I feel pretty confidently that this one is pretty great. If you do decide to keep reading, however, I would really appreciate it. When it comes to loss, or really any other aspects of life, leaning on Jesus has its advantages. Having an infinite source of hope provides a sense of security that doesn’t come otherwise, Having a source of hope like that can allow us to walk through our lives without fear of the future, because we know that there is a security in our eternity. As I looked at the girl during the viewing, I remembered that she was a Christ-follower, and a passionate one at that. She was gone, and I believe firmly that her soul is in Heaven for all of eternity. Knowing that brings me a great amount of peace.

With the understanding of death and its inevitability, we must pursue a full life. We are not given an excuse to live like fools,  but I feel like we must pursue God and ask Him to use us to the fullest before we go. We must live, laugh, and love, and make sure that we don’t have regrets when we leave this earth. Carpe Diem, or seize the day, is the phrase that comes to mind as I contemplate life. My hope is that when we leave, we are known for having lived a vibrant life, full of passions and excitement, and a hope that can only be found in Jesus. When I die, I want people to see how God used me throughout my life, and how His power impacted the people I was around. I hope that people will see me as someone who lived and died well.

Existential debates are okay, everyone needs to understand what they are doing. I pray that as you see life and loss, you will become more aware of your own existence and how to live better. As you look at a grave, you see a date of birth, and a date of death, with a dash in-between. As cliche as it may sound, the dash in-between those two numbers may be the most important aspect of a tombstone that isn’t discussed. My question for you as the reader is as follows: when you die, what will the people you left say about what you did with your dash? Will it matter? When you are in eternity, what will the people on Earth remember you by? I remember Heather for her tenacity, and for her passion about the different elements of her life, mainly for her faith. Will people remember you for what you did, or what God did through you?

Food for thought:
I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening,
I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken
life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the
quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the
gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure
the most precious gift I have – life itself.
” – Walter Anderson.