To the Next Mountain

Life is about striving and achieving goals. Whether these goals are set for us or set by us, goals give our lives purpose. When we lack purpose, we seem to wander aimlessly. People who have lost purpose also seem to lose all sense of self-worth. Speaking personally, I am goal-driven. When I have nothing to work towards, I lose momentum and drive.

We all need a mountain to climb. So what happens when we’ve reached the top? The fact is: there are always more mountains to climb. When we’ve conquered this mountain we need only look to the horizon and select the next mountain. So you may ask: what is your mountain? To which I would answer: Publisher Peak.

Damnatio memoriae

Memory is one of the most important ways history influences our world. The way in which we remember events of the past can shape our perceptions of present and future events. The historical manuscripts, artifacts, statues, and buildings that our collective history is based upon also influences our cultural identity. The destruction of the same aforementioned articles and structures would rob us of part of our identity. The Declaration of Independence of the United States has been copied and reproduced over and over again. It appears in textbooks, and is readily available online, so why do we take such care to preserve the original. Many in this nation have not nor will ever make the pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. in order to view the original. The loss of such a document would not endanger the nation of being reabsorbed into the British Empire any more than Canada or Australia would. So again I ask: why is the original document so important to the people’s collective memory? Those who wrote the document are long since gone and buried, but we as citizens of the United States base our identity on the “inalienable rights” found within the document. We assert our claim on the God-given rights outlined in the document, including “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Another, not so pleasant, example is Auschwitz Concentration Camp, a site that depicts one of the most heinous acts and depressing periods of human history. Whether complicit or not, the preservation of Auschwitz is an embarrassing reminder for the German people of one of the darkest periods of their history. They pass this memory on to their children, and their children’s children. So why preserve such a site, when it casts such a black shadow on the people? Why not destroy it and erase the embarrassing mistake from memory?

During the Roman period, the Senate or emperor could order the removal of a public official from memory for the good of the empire. Modern historians call this damnatio memoriae, which literally means “condemnation of memory.” This included the total erasure of the person’s name from public documents and faces from statues and other visages. The Romans were not unique in wanting to destroy the embarrassing memory from their history. Every culture has tried to cover up or erase the painful and embarrassing events from their history in order to promote consensus and maintain national pride. This is unfortunate because we often learn most from our mistakes. The memory of mistakes like the Holocaust is paramount to future generations. We must realize that we cannot fix the mistakes of the past, but we can prevent them ever occurring again.

Vigilance against evil sometimes requires knowing what to guard against. Tyranny, mass murder, genocide, and a world at war came from Nazi Germany. The demand for equal rights and representation led to the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence. The memory of those time periods, passed down from generation to generation, can prevent the reoccurrence of such evils, but only if we don’t shrink from the pain and embarrassment and embrace our heritage whether good or bad. Fight against the destruction of history and memory or we may be doomed to repeat our greatest mistakes.

What Am I Talking About?!

I’ve been blogging for exactly three months today. As I look back on my literary contributions to the World Wide Web, I would liken it to a mouse squealing with all his might in an empty warehouse. The echoes may help, but who really hears his cry. I would also liken it to a blind bull set loose in an empty pasture. He stumbles around, but has no idea where he is going.

So whether a mouse or a bull, this blogger has some thinking to do. I’ve written about blogging, faith, physical injuries, more faith, writing, physical illness, and so on…   I am forced to come back to the real question: why am I blogging? As a writer, what do I have to say that people need to hear? Hmmm…

Stressed

You’re on your way to a meeting and your boss stops you to ask if you would explain the latest project to everyone; or you get to work and realize that report was due yesterday, or your boss decides to saddle you with another project on top of all you have already, or you’re sitting in a doctor’s office waiting for the bad news.

Stress visits each of us on a daily basis, sometimes plaguing our every step. Sometimes it is caused by others and sometimes we bring it on ourselves. Even the most patient and placid can be overwhelmed by stress and succumb to its influence.

So if stress is an inevitable occurrence in our lives, it is not about avoiding stress but how we decide to respond to it. A common response is frustration, yet this often solves nothing. We need to identify the causes of stress and prepare defenses for when it attacks. The best defense that I have found is a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Is your stress from work or other demands placed upon you? In Matthew 11:28 it says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Is your stressed caused from worry? Also in Matthew 6:34 it says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Is your stress caused by fear or anxiety? In Psalms 118:5-6 it says, “From my distress I called upon the LORD; The LORD answered me and set me in a large place.” It also says in Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The Bible contains many more versus about dealing with stress and most of them deal with giving it to God and letting Him take care of you. The world teaches us that we are supposed to try and handle everything ourselves, but that is not what the Bible teaches us. The question is: do you want to keep trying on your own and stressing yourself out, or do you want to take Jesus by the hand and let Him help you and guide you down the paths of life?

Sand Castles and Vapor

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14 NASB)

Have you ever built a sand castle on the beach? It’s a lot of fun and work to make all the walls and towers; you stand back to admire your toil…and the tide rolled in to wash it all away. Lately, I’ve contemplated the verse from James 4:14, realizing just how futile all my efforts will truly be in the end. So I ask myself, what am I building? When my life is over, what will be left of my life that people can point to and remember? Will it be a positive legacy or will I have left negativity and pain in my wake? I am just a vapor, but I ask myself what kind of impact will this vapor have on others. In the end, the only thing that truly lives forever is your influence and impact on people. Not how much money you made, or what kind of car you drove, or the size house you lived in, but how you influenced the people that crossed your path.

Though I know I’ve made many mistakes in my life, I pray that when I arrive at the pearly gates (hopefully a long time from now) that my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, welcomes me in with: “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21 NASB)

REJECTED

He sat staring at the computer screen; the most recent email was pulled up and glaring back at him. He’d read the same line over and over again: “Thank you for the opportunity to read your [story]. Unfortunately, your story isn’t quite what we’re looking for right now.” Those soul crushing words that quantified all of his hard work and creativity into a couple of sentences. He slumped back in his chair; his mind transitioning from one despairing thought to another. Maybe the desire to become an author was just another misguided dream. He looked up and as if in answer to the question whispered in his mind, he shook his head defiantly.

He reached for the keyboard and punched up the next publisher on his list, unwilling to be deterred. Maybe this is what separated authors from everyone else: the willingness to keep seeking a “Yes” in spite of all the “No’s”.

Got my first rejection letter this past week for one of my short stories, but I’m not letting it dash my hopes. Pressing on for the prize. For those of you who are looking for the continuation of Rad the Pawn, I’m sorry but I’m having to push it off for now. I will get back to it so please keep visiting my blog.

I Can Still See

About a month ago I got a corneal abrasion on my right eye. As an update, I’ve just recently been diagnosed with Recurrent Erosion Syndrome due to the original injury. Just last week I had another re-occurrence which caused more pain than the first time. Some of the most debilitating pain I’ve ever experienced. I actually missed a few days work because I could not open my eyes. Thankfully I was able to get in for an appointment with my ophthalmologist and after a week of putting ointment in my eye, the pain has subsided and my vision is returning. Though I no longer have 20/20 vision and must now purchase glasses, I thank God that He is healing my eye and that my injury was not any worse. In my humble opinion, there is nothing quite like the fear of losing one’s ability to see. Yet in spite of all that has happened, I count my blessing and know that my God is watching over me. Even if I am to lose my vision entirely, He is still in control and will sustain me through it all.

Change: How to cope with it.

Some days I feel like I’m on a ship on a calm ocean day; the water is placid and the ship cruises along with barely a ripple in the water. Life seems like a dream and nothing is wrong in the world.

Other days I feel like I’m in a lifeboat in the midst of a storm. The waves pitch and turn my little boat every which way until I am completely lost and bewildered.

As each morning dawns, I thank God that I live in a free country where the people’s voice can be heard and change can occur. I know that there are people out there right now who disagree with some of the changes, myself included, yet we as a people cannot lose faith in our God or in our nation. What many people forget is that our nation has gone through periods of apathy towards God and even turned away at times from His law and His will. Yet He remains faithful in the midst of the storm and has never forsaken us. Even when our leaders chart a course out of God’s will or even the majority of our people express disinterest in Him, God remains faithful.

Faith is what helps me through difficult times of change; faith in the one person who has remained steadfast in the midst of a turbulent history. God was there in the midst of famine and drought. God was there during the worst battles in history. God was there when governments fell to tyrants. God is ALWAYS there. Even when we can’t see Him or understand why things happen the way they do, God remains in control.

“…The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind,

And bestows it on whom He wishes

And sets over it the lowliest of men.” (Daniel 4:17b NASB)

Christianity has survived two thousand years of tyrants, false religions, anti-Christs who have misled the faithful, and many other trials that are too numerous to document here. Why? Because God is greater than all and faith in His Son, Jesus, will survive to the end of days…even if the United States is conquered or tyrants overthrow our republic, our hope and faith remains in Jesus.

This is not a call to apathy. We still should voice our opinions and take part in our democratic government, yet even when Christians find themselves in the minority just remember that our hope should be in God, not our country. Remember the Great Commision (Matthew 28:19-20): “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

(P.S. I know I said I was taking a break, but when inspiration strikes you must take advantage of it. Don’t worry. The short story will still be published here over the next several weeks!)

Is it really worth it?

The most precious commodity given to us on this earth is time. Fairly often, I stop and consider all my efforts and try to gauge what the final outcome of those efforts. For example: how much am I contributing at my job and am I compensated enough for my time and effort. Am I investing enough in my family, my friends, my church? I think about all these things quite often, but there are things that can be even more significant that I frequently overlook. Things like: have I forgiven someone for what they did, or am I still hanging on to hurt feelings? What have I done to encourage reconciliation? Are there people in my life for whom I’ve failed to pray?

Even as I am writing this blog, I am overwhelmed with the fact that there are people who have hurt me and people that I have hurt with whom I have never tried to reconcile. Sometimes it just seems easier to hold on to the hurt feelings, but is it really worth it?

Check out what Jesus says in Matthew 5:23-24, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

Jesus commands us to forgive and be reconciled with each other even before we worship Him. Why? Check out what He says in the next chapter (Matthew 6:14-15): “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” We are commanded to forgive; pure and simple. If we fail to forgive others, then we are disobeying God (i.e. sinning against Him). Do you ever feel distant from God, but you’ve confessed all your sins? Maybe the problem is that you still haven’t forgiven someone, or maybe you haven’t tried to reconcile with someone you’ve wronged.

Okay, I didn’t mean for this to become a sermon or Sunday School lesson, but I am burdened by this topic. I hope that if you are reading this blog, it has made you consider any lack of forgiveness and reconciliation in your own life. I truly hope you ask yourself: “Is it really worth it?”

(Next week I am taking a break, but stay tuned because I am working on a short story that will be published here over the next several weeks!)

Waiting for a Particular Moment

I sat there at my desk, the anticipation building in my young mind. The moment was quickly approaching; it was only one minute away. I stared at the clock as the teacher continued to talk despite the class’s limited attention to anything she said. None of it mattered as I watched the second hand steadily making its way around the clock face. Fifteen seconds…I had waited all morning, listening to the teacher go on and on about books and numbers until my brain literally ached from it. Ten seconds…it always seemed the closer it got, the longer it seemed to take the clock to tick off each second. Five seconds…every muscle in my body began to tense up, like a cat ready to pounce on its unsuspecting prey. The teacher seemed unconcerned as I silently counted off the remaining seconds. Three…two…one…just when I thought I could not endure one more factoid of information, the clock struck noon and the lunch bell rang. The magnificent melodious sound of the lunch bell, which signaled my release from state mandated incarceration and release to the food and fun of the cafeteria…and the glories of the playground.

Waiting for a particular moment sometimes seems like an eternity; as if time itself has been stretched to an unbearable length, turning hours into years. No one likes to wait, but some things are harder to wait for than others. One of the hardest things to wait on is God. So many times we pray for people, or events, or needs and yet God seems to remain silent. People extend well meant platitudes, yet it often brings little comfort for the person waiting. The only solace you can find when waiting is to learn to trust. The Bible says, in Psalms 27:14, “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.” (NASB) It is a constant struggle to wait on God, as our human nature tells us that we should do things our way; that our timing is best and the God is constantly late. I just have to keep reminding myself that God is all knowing and as Jeremiah 29:11 states, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” As hard as it is to wait, I’d rather walk with the Lord, than try to get out in front of Him. I’m not trying to be preachy, but rather to encourage all who read this of God’s grace and His love for you. Even when it seems He’s ignoring you or forgotten you, just remember His promises and His love. “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.” God’s moments are perfectly planned, and worth the wait.