Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Homely Hunchback

Ah, yes. It has been awhile since I wrote one of these...but trust me, I've been cooking up several ideas. Today, I'll regale you with the tale of lies, lust, and a boy who was beautiful on the inside, but slightly less than mediocre looking on the outside.

Today I'll share with you the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The story begins with illegal immigration.

One dark cold night, an incredibly shady-looking ferryman is sneaking a small band of gypsies into Paris. Any viewer can feel the tension, the need for secrecy...except the baby one of the women is carrying. He just starts hollering like it's no ones business.

As they dock, the ferryman tries to collect for his troubles, when all of a sudden a troop of soldiers materialize from nowhere! A trap! They put all the men in manacles and hall them off to the infamous "Palace of Justice," the woman remains behind, and the bundle in her arms arouses suspicion. No doubt causing the leader of the soldiers, the evil judge Claude Frollo, to think it's illegal narcotics. He orders the remaining soldier to confiscate the bundle/baby, but somehow the woman escapes.

We find her running down the back streets of Paris, being hotly pursued by Frollo on his evil looking horse. As I watch this scene, the theme music from COPS definitely popped into my head at least once or twice. Can't you just see it?

The gypsy woman manages to elude Frollo long enough to make it to Notre Dame where she bangs on the door repeatedly, calling for sanctuary. But it's too late! The judge curb mounts with his horse, and rides it right up to her. He grabs the "bundle of stolen goods", they struggle, he gives her a Chuck Norris kick to the face, she falls and hits her head. She dies....on the steps of the church.

Pigs: 1
Gypsies: 0

In a strange plot twist (that isn't really a plot twist to the viewers, 'cuz we know it's a baby), Frollo is shocked to find that the bundle he's holding isn't crack, but it's a living breathing...thing. Apparently the baby got some ugly genes, which is kinda surprising given the mom isn't all that bad looking!

He looks around frantically for something to do with this monster-child. There's a well conveniently located across the courtyard. We, the viewer, can just see the idea light-bulb go on in Frollo's head. But just as he stretches out his arm over the great black opening, and prepares to drop our (spoiler alert) protagonist into the well, we hear an urgent cry of "Stop!" coming from the church.

Apparently it takes the priest a while to get out of bed, when someone is frantically calling for sanctuary at his door, but he did come out. And now, in true clergyman fashion, it's time to lay some guilt on the simple common person.

The Father tells/sings to Frollo about how he's just a bad person 'cuz he kicked a lady and she died on the steps of a holy cathedral. And he also tells Frollo that, should he drop that baby in the well, he'll probably burn in Hell. 'Cuz you know how those Catholics feel about baby killing.

Granted, killing a woman carrying a child probably already got him a spot there, but Frollo is shaken. He asks the Father what he's to do. The Father (who obviously doesn't have a social services degree) tells Frollo to care for the child, and raise him like his own.

Yeah. Great idea Mr. Priest. That won't be an awkward conversation someday.

"Uh, son, when you were a child...well, I'll just be frank. You were so ugly I almost dropped you down an icy well."

Yeahhhhh.

Anyway, naturally Frollo is repulsed, but acquiesces under one condition; that the child live hidden away, in the bell tower so no one can see how ugly he is.

Enter opening credits.

We find ourselves next in the bell tower, with a grown-up Quasimodo. Our hero sings a song about how cool it'd be to leave the bell tower, and one can't help but warm up to the guy. I mean, yeah he won't be doing modeling for JCrew any time soon, but he seems to have a warm heart that glosses over the less than stellar outer shell.

It's here that the viewer begins to see the theme running through this movie. I'll keep it a secret till later. ;)

After the song we see Frollo come up to have a meal with Quasi, and they start rehearsing the alphabet, each letter synonymous with some sort of horrid thing that Quasi is to believe about himself. Remember what I said earlier about the priest not being educated in social work? Yeah.

Unfortunately, Quasi let's slip that he wants to go to the Festival of Fools, thus pissing of his Master. He's told to forget it, and to never think of it again. If anyone saw Tangled, you know how well this'll work!

Quasi ends up going. He also manages to stumble in on the lovely Esmeralda who is prepping for her show. Atta boy Quasi! First/ only day out right? Go big or go home!

She helps him up, and as he's leaving she tells him what a great mask he has on. Ohhh snap. Course he's too hung up on how beautiful she is to realize, he just got burned.

As the festival kicks into full swing, it comes time to crown the King of Fools. Basically this festivity works the opposite way of a beauty pageant. You gotta have one ugly mug to win this one.

Quasi wins. And when people realize that "mask" is his real face they flip shit! Best Feast of Fools ever right?! Our boy wins a crown, and a cape, the crowd is happy...oh yeah, and Quasi's master knows he's out of the tower. Cover blown.

Soon the party turns nasty though; I guess all good things have to come to an end.

The drunk carnival goers decide it'd be fun to have a food fight. Everyone, against the King of Fools! They rope him down and throw a bunch of crap at him, Frollo does nothing to intervene. It's actually his new friend Esmeralda who does. She defies the presence of law, and frees Quasi, doing some social justice speech while she's at it.

Thus stirring the wrath of the law, and capturing the interest of the Captain of the Guard. Phoebus. You can imagine the job stress it will create for Ol' Phebes, as his job description entails "helping Frollo root out, and rid Paris of the gypsy infestation." But, eh. C'est la vie.

The next sequence of events is mostly a blur, building to the climax of the movie. Let me sum up for you...


Esmeralda is trapped in Notre Dame, soldiers guard every door waiting for a chance to take her into custody. She hangs out with Quasi a bit. 
She begins to see what a beautiful person he is...on the inside. 
Quasi gets the hots for Esmeralda. 
Helps her escape. 
Phoebus looks for Esmeralda 'cuz he has the hots for her too. 
Quasi and Phoebus have alpha male issues. 
Frollo starts burning the city down in pursuit of Esmeralda, 'cuz he has the hots for her. 
Phoebus and Quasi have to team up to save Paris...and Esmeralda.

What is this?!!?  General Hospital?

The film climaxes when Quasi and Phebes find the fabled "Court of Miracles." Which is apparently gypsy that translates to "hideout in a French crypt." No lie. This entire city is in the catacombs. Ew. They try to warn the gypsies of the coming danger, when all of a sudden Frollo shows up with a battalion of soldiers.

They arrest all the gypsies, and all of Paris is told to come see Esmeralda burn for witchcraft. Nothing like a good old witch burning to raise the spirits of a city huh?

Frollo offers Esmeralda one more chance to "repent" which would mean marrying him, 'cuz let's be honest, this old man wants to get him some!! She, of course, spits in his face. As. She. Should. Seriously, creeptastic old man wants to marry her? He ain't Hugh Hefner folks. So Frollo lights the fire.

All the while Quasimodo, chained in the bell tower, is standing by, pouting because she only thinks of him as "just a friend." Ugh. Hate it when that happens. But suddenly, maybe at the prospect of seeing his friend burned to death, he pulls a Samson and breaks his chains, swooping down at least fifteen stories on one rope. And pulls her out of the flames.

Frollo is pissed, naturally. Some people break out of their cages, and the battle of Paris begins.

Needless to say, the good guys win. Evil Frollo plunges to his death and, in all likelihood, burns in Hell forever. And justice prevails, without the loss of any major characters in the process.

But the end of this story pisses me off to no end. I'll tell you why, since you asked.

Quasi, doesn't get the girl.
He doesn't.

He helped her escape the law. Put his life in danger trying to warn her of the coming attack on the Court of Miracles. Broke some seriously heavy chains and swung down the face of a cathedral, fought of guards, and saved her from burning to death...and he doesn't get the girl.

Who does?

Phoebus. The Captain of the Guard. A man in uniform. Which is not to say this guy doesn't have his moments. He's downright heroic at times too. So why does this ending annoy me so?

Because the whole theme of this movie is that "it's not about how you look on the outside, what matters is what's inside." BS. See the end of this movie, and you'll find that natural selection won out. Esmeralda went with the better looking genes. I mean, who's going to impress mom and dad more when she brings him home for dinner? The guy in shiny golden armor? Or the homely hunchback?

And, let's be honest, if the guy who single-handedly rallied Paris to stand up against oppression, has sweet acrobatic skills, dreamy forearms, and saved a woman from burning to death, doesn't stand a chance with the ladies...

Where does that leave plain-ol' guys like me??

I sigh as the joyful townsfolk carry Quasi off into the sunset in the closing scene. I think of the last time they did something like that...the feast of fools, and shake my head sadly. I just know that he's going to end up with another face full of fruit...

But isn't that just how life is?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fear of God...

I want to preface this post, first and foremost, by saying that I have a lot of wonderful friends. They are all uniquely gifted, and incredible in their own ways, so this is not intended as a diss. If you're one of these people, and you're offended by what I have to say...I welcome conversation, anytime.

I want to talk about freedom tonight.

Being a Christian, I dwell a lot on this concept. It's really central to the message of the gospel, if you think about it. What was Jesus' sole mission? To free us from ourselves. To bring peace with God. To give us the permission to be called his children. That kind of thing.

So, naturally, it disturbs me when I see my friends forget this.

See, I believe, when you accept Jesus you're freed from yourself. The things you've been enslaved to, the things you've felt shame over. You're free. I've experienced this personally, and seen it in the lives of professing Christians over the years.

But there are a handful of friends of mine who, from what I see, still find themselves slaves to themselves. Now, by no means is a life in Christ perfect here on earth. We all have bad days, and I completely understand that, but these friends of mine seem to have a cloud of fear over their lives.

They try to live the best life they can and then, when they trip up (as we all do) I see it bring about a depression, and stress upon them that's awfully painful to watch. They carry this shortcoming, until they're weighed down, and can't move forward anymore. After awhile they recover, but jump out of their spiritual skin every time something remotely challenging comes their way next.

 This isn't living in freedom.

Living in fear, and living in sadness, isn't the life Jesus offers us.

I recently read the book of Galatians, and the entire book is basically the apostle Paul telling those in the Galatian church, that there is absolutely nothing they can do, short of fulfilling every commandment in Jewish law to earn God's favor. He goes on to say that if we try to live governed by law (aka "do this", "don't do that"), that we are separating ourselves from the work Jesus himself did.

That by trying so hard to be so good, is actually nullifying the work Jesus has already done.

Add that to the fact, that living according to the Jewish law, is the equivalent of failing daily. Because we aren't perfect. We'll never, ever, be perfect.

Sadly, the Pharisees of Jesus' days aren't the only one enslaved to the law.
Many Christian people our age, well intentioned though they may be, are still slaves to a legalistic code of conduct.

You know the ones I'm talking about:

Don't smoke
Don't drink
Don't have sex before marriage
Don't swear
Don't hug your friend of the opposite sex too long

All these things and more. They live in fear of "stumbling" and being cut off from their "walk" with Christ. As if, when they stumble God is gunna lay the smack down on them.They're already more cut off than they may know. Is this is not unlike the Jewish faith in Jesus' day? 

I don't believe that a Christian life is a life of fear. Is it a lifetime of screw ups? Of course!

Jesus loved the screw ups. God loves the screw ups.

Sometimes, you have to be at peace with your imperfections, your shortcomings and failures. Sometimes you need to be like: "Yeah, I fucked up, but Christ caught me as I fell. Just like he did the time before this, and just like he will the time after."

When you surrender control completely, and stop grieving the past, you can full embrace the bright future God has for you.

I want freedom for my friends. I want them to live without constantly battling every day to just live.

I've been there. I know what it's like to struggle just to get through the day. It isn't worth it.

Leave the sins to Jesus. Start living in the freedom he offers!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Life Half Empty?

You've heard the old adage; "Glass half full, glass half empty," right?

If you haven't, you may want to spend some time around...well...people. Someone. Anyone. It's a phrase that's old as dirt.

Simply put, it illustrates two common ways of looking at life, and experiences around you.

I used to be a cynic...

Well, first, let me say that there's a difference between being a cynic, and being a realist. I've mentioned this in a previous post. I would identify as a realist now, but I used to be a cynic.

I guess when you don't believe in anything, there isn't really much to hope for in life. And when there isn't much to hope for, I guess it's easy to be pessimistic about just about everything. I can honestly tell you, from being there myself, that when your glass is half empty for too long, you begin to feel your life itself follow suit.

It isn't just an absence of optimism. It's an absence of hope. I can remember clearly what it felt like to have no hope. A disconnect. No room for even a hint of longing for...anything. I remember feeling exhausted all the time...

If that's you, I want to share something with you today...
This doesn't have to be your story.

In the last two years I've experienced an awakening of sorts, and seen the glass go from half empty, to half full.

I think, if I'm perfectly honest, that the reason behind it all is God, and his personal workings in my life, but it also stems from how I choose to look at my circumstances. This is what I'll share with you today...

What it all boils down to is this: View each experience (good, bad, or downright ugly) as a test. And with each test we face, in this short life of ours, there's a lesson to be learned that we can take with us to draw on later in life.

I'm not joking. It's as simple as that.

Like I said, I'm a realist. Being a "glass half full" type, doesn't necessarily mean adopting an attitude of naivety. I'm painfully aware that life is hard. I know it can be tragic, and damn near impossible at times. I understand that...

But what do you do with this life, when it comes at you?
What do you choose to do with that tragedy?
What do you do with your injuries, your pain, and the nonsensical things that come out of nowhere and blindside you?

Do you curl up? Do you let these things beat you down? Do you fail to take anything from these experiences?

Or...

Do you get back up?
Do you choose to let the lessons you've learned, shape you and your future?

Thing is, that even the most painful experiences I've faced in my life have taught me incredibly valuable lessons. Even the darkest places I've been to in my mind, and physically have changed me into the person I am today.

Some of those dark times, have brought me further as an individual than any good time will.

It sounds cliche'. It's the truth, though.

One of the defining moments of my life was finding myself, through poor life choices, in the hospital. It was in that time, that I began to see so much of my life with a clarity I'd never had before.

Maybe you're in a dark place right now.
Maybe not. 
Maybe your low isn't as dramatic, but it's just as real.

Let me tell you, even in the place you find yourself in, there are good lessons to be learned. Don't hesitate to look for them.


The relationship failed, and the fallout is painful?
Understandable, but you're one step closer to finding someone who is much more compatible with you. You've learned to stick up for yourself. You've learned how you don't want to be in a relationship.

You didn't get the job?
Sucks. But now you can step back, and honestly evaluate yourself. What was strong about the interview? What wasn't? Does your resume' need a bit more work? How can you go in and straight up nail the next one?

Your dog died?
The memories you have will last a lifetime. Celebrate the time you had.

It doesn't matter where you are, there is always something new to be learned. There's hope to be found. And there's a new tomorrow waiting for you, in which, you have the opportunity to make it something worth remembering.

Life doesn't always give us ease, comfort, or happiness. That's just the reality.

What this life does give you, and I, and everyone under the sun the chance for is the opportunity to make something out of the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Tomorrow is a new day, with new potentials. Life can change in a second.

Question is: What will you do with it?
Because, at the end of the day, life is, and always has been, about our choices.

You Matter!



I don't care who you are,
Where you're from,
Where you've been,
Who's hurt you,
What you feel about yourself.

I want you to know, you matter. Your story matters. You are loved beyond what words can even begin to express.

Fight for your story. Fight for yourself. Every day.

Even when it doesn't seem worth it.

It's worth it!

It's worth it.

Know that you're loved.
Know that I care.
And so does He.

More than you'll ever know...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Inevitable

This just inspired me, don't know why...

 The Inevitable
 
By Sarah Knowles Bolton
 
 
LIKE the man who faces what he must
With step triumphant and a heart of cheer;
Who fights the daily battle without fear;
Sees his hopes fail, yet keeps unfaltering trust
That God is God,—that somehow, true and just        5
His plans work out for mortals; not a tear
Is shed when fortune, which the world holds dear,
Falls from his grasp—better, with love, a crust
Than living in dishonor; envies not,
Nor loses faith in man; but does his best,        10
Nor ever murmurs at his humbler lot;
But, with a smile and words of hope, gives zest
To every toiler. He alone is great
Who by a life heroic conquers fate.
 

Friday, June 22, 2012

What Happened Along the Way

Do you believe in Karma? I do.

I know that can be kind of weird for a Christian to say, even though it shouldn't be, but I do believe in Karma. I think that our actions, or our behaviors factor into what we get out of life.

I also think that our actions draw certain kinds of people to us.

Cause and effect.

I want to talk about relationships today. Not because I'm so great at them, but because I've been thinking a lot about what's gone wrong in this aspect of human life, and I need to puke these thoughts out of my mind. So here goes...

I've noticed that it's extremely hard for individuals to stay in a committed, monogamous relationship these days. Really. The divorce rate, I believe, is over 70% and not going down any time soon. Facebook relationship statuses change, almost daily, followed by months of brooding statuses until a new one comes along.

People don't seem to be able to get to know each other very well any more.

I hear all kinds of explanations for both of these observations.

Technology gets in the way.
Monogamy is an antiquated ideal.
It started great, but we just weren't meant to be. It was like they became a different person.
We had great sexual chemistry, naturally I thought we were compatible.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

I get it, ok? Life wasn't all peaches and cream back in the days when the divorce rate was lower. There have always been skeezy guys, and crazy girls. Monogamy isn't the way to go for every one.

I get it.

But what honestly happened to romantic relationships in the span of a half century?

Why is it so difficult to find real, honest love?
Why is it so easy to leave now?

I think the problem begins with our understanding of what love is.

I would bet the farm that you think you're a pretty good person, am I right?
I might even go so far as to say you probably believe you're a fabulous person.

And that's just the problem.

I'm the main character in my life's story. Naturally, I'm my own hero. This isn't an egotistical statement, it just comes naturally to us. We're conditioned to understand our situations as they apply to us. We're, by nature, the center of our own universe.

And when you're the hero, your own faults are tough to see. I would wager that, in 95% of rehashing relationship conflict to close friends you are telling the person you're confiding in just how unreasonable they were, and how simple things could be if they just saw things your way.

Self is the number one difficulty when it comes to relationships. Or, to put it another way, we end up hindering ourselves by our inability to see our own flaws... 

Now some people are able to see both sides of the coin better than others. I'm not saying we're all completely blind to it. But we, more often than not, tend to believe that we're in the right, and the other party is in the wrong.

The second biggest disconnect that I've noticed in romances now, is when valuing our Self too highly becomes Selfishness.


I've been noticing that in the dating realm we seek first, myself included, someone who can meet our needs.

Well what's the problem with that? Isn't that the end goal? Isn't that what a marriage needs to survive, someone who can give us what we need?

Well, yes...and no.

When I actively pursue someone who meets all my criteria, I'm looking for a specially tailored being. The reality is, no such person exists. People are people. They're going to come with flaws, and little things that annoy the living crap out of you in the same box as they great character qualities.

Many people can find extreme disappointment when things start out great, but they discover these character flaws. It's almost a bit like false advertising, even though it isn't the significant other who is at fault. It's the unrealistic expectations we've adopted prior to the dating relationship.

Another thing to consider, is that the Bible talks about love in a different way. It speaks of love that meets the needs of others before the needs of self. It talks of humility, and the bravery it takes to admit your shortcomings.

Isn't this counter intuitive to our thought process? Isn't love about finding self fulfillment? Isn't it about finding a person who will be there for you when you need them?

The Bible says no.

It says repeatedly that love is shown by serving, and meeting the needs of another. Putting them before yourself. Giving grace for shortcomings, abundantly. Asking for forgiveness when you find yourself in the wrong.

The more I think about these characteristics of love as, I believe, God intended us to love others. It all makes sense.

It makes sense why romance is broken.
It makes sense why people can't stay together for a lifetime any more.
It makes sense why it's so hard to find a connection these days.

I've been going about it all wrong!And that's where Karma comes in, I've been reaping everything I've been sowing in romance.

Something happened along the way, and it hijacked my understanding of what it means to love, and to be loved. Maybe this understanding is the reason I'm so at peace with singleness right now. Because I'm no longer looking for a flawed human being to fill me up as a significant other.

Now I know why I'm not worried about whether I'll get married or not, or if it's going to last.

Romance, chivalry, longevity...all these things and more are possible. Some may think they're antiquated. I don't. I think they're real, and very, very attainable.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Success?

As I noted in the previous post, much has happened since I last blogged with some regularity. To those who read consistently, I apologize. You do mean a lot to me, and I do miss writing, and your comments, and all the fun times we have together. :p I promise I'll try to write more!

One of the things that has gotten in the way of blogging is work. Ah yes, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Well, I've basically been working three jobs since the summer started. I was hired full time at a company called Hydrite, where I do cool things like mix chemicals and shit. I work 20-30 hours a week at my previous job Red Robin (Yum!). Where I make delicious burgers, for your tasting pleasure. And, I also work part time (10-20 hrs/week) at World Relief.


Needless to say, it's been a lot. I do sleep, sometimes.

Now that you know where I've been, I'll skip right to the point of the post today.

Success.

I've been thinking about success a lot lately. What it means to be an accomplished individual, or what kind of life qualifies as a life "well lived." There's a lot of opinions about what this means. 

Growing up, I've always understood success as:
1) Graduating high school
2) Getting your 4-year degree from a liberal arts university
3) Getting a job that makes a lot of money
4) Buy a house
5) Get married
and 
6) Leave a chunk of change behind for your kids so they can bury you in style, and have a little leftover for themselves.

Now, with the economic collapse that happened several years ago, and with unemployment still pretty darn high, I've begun to question if these goals are attainable, but more importantly, if these things we champion in society really, truly equal success.

Right now, I'm on a break from school. I went for a year, and then began to work. Many friends, upon hearing this, have spoken to me in cautionary tones. Essentially they've warned me that if I work too much, I'll never go back and finish my degree. 

'Cause, you know, without a degree I have no real credibility as a person, or an employment prospect for that matter.

Here's the thing though, many of my friends, who are graduating around now,  are having all kinds of trouble finding decent paying jobs. Many of these same friends are in 40, 50, or 60,000 in debt because of their loans. 

I have a relatively small amount of debt, which will be paid off by then end of the summer (hopefully).

I'm looking into buying a starter home. While the market is prime to buy (which it currently is). Many college friends of mine are moving home, trying to figure out the next thing.

I make a decent wage at my primary job. I'm certainly not rich, but I'm not in trouble, or lacking when it comes to money. In fact, I'm incredibly blessed. I have enough to meet my needs, and to give to the charities that I've felt moved by. I find myself shaking my head in amazement at how good God can be to me sometimes.

As far as the married, and kids thing goes...well, that can wait for now. I'm happy single, and looking to the next thing. I'm excited about the prospect of owning property (the American dream), and having my only debt be for a mortgage.

The most important thing, however, is that I'm happy and content where I am right now. I know I'm here for a reason. I know that I have an incredible family and friends. I know that I'm blessed with a job, and a steady income, that I can hopefully use to bless others with.

I guess what I'm saying is this; I feel very successful. I feel very accomplished as an individual, and comfortable with where I am in life, and the direction I'm going.

There are others who probably would disagree with me, and say that to "get places" in life, I'd need to finish my degree, do the internship route, and work my way up the corporate ladder like every other student I know.

That's not me though. At least, lately I've been concluding that that isn't me.

So what is success?

Is it attending to a prestigious University?
Is success that fancy piece of paper you've slaved for, for about a half decade or so?
Is success making a six figure salary?

Or is success being happy with the person you've been created to be?
Is it that real, tangible grasp that you have on the reality of how blessed you are?

Society, your peers, or even your family (although I hope this isn't the case!) may tell you that, without certain things, you don't add up. That you're a failure, a disappointment, or that you've come short of your potential.

Don't buy it.

Success isn't about attaining. There's always something new to attain in life.
Success, to me, is about being true to yourself, and finding contentment in the things around you here and now.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Stand

Hey blogspot! It's been awhile since my last post. Stuff's been super crazy, but I won't bore you with all the details.

One huge thing that has happened, however, was a recall election in my state of Wisconsin. If you follow American news at all, odds are you may have seen something on this drama that's been unfolding for the last year and a half.

It's been a huge deal in the state of Wisconsin. People have gotten into arguments left and right, relationships have been fractured, and laws have been questioned.

Now, I don't normally mention politics too much here, but I will talk today about what I took away from the last year and a half.

I've learned just how important it is, not only to have deep seated convictions, but to stand up for those convictions when they're challenged.

Conviction is a hard thing to find nowadays. We live in a very relativistic society. On a daily basis, I'm submersed in a culture that tries to tell me that right and wrong are relative issues. That truth is subjective, and that believing in one truth without acknowledging others equally is intolerant.

But the problem, if that's true, is then the statement that everything is in fact relative can't even be taken seriously.

There are very true, very real actions that are right and wrong.
These concepts, as we understand them, form our character as we develop into adults, and that character determines how we act in situations when our convictions are put to the test.

Why are convictions, and a developed character important?

The answer is simply this, standing for your convictions makes you a more complete person.

I've found that, in not backing away from voicing my political opinion in this election period, and by engaging those who don't see things the way I do rather than shying away from confrontation, that I'm more assertive in the smaller interactions with others as well.

I've never been good at saying "no" to things. Never have.

I like to please people. I like to make everyone happy. Problem is, I can't make everyone happy. I'll do what I can, but I'm bound to encounter those who I'll have to agree to disagree with. If, and when that happens I'll do so in a respectful manner (of course), but will do it firmly.

Realizing, and fighting for your convictions will improve your life.

Having strong convictions will deepen your sense of self in relationships, at work, and at social gatherings. You'll no longer be a pushover. You'll find that people, even those who disagree with you, actually respect you as a person.

All because you find the importance of clinging to your convictions in a culture that is rapidly becoming void of the ideals of truth, morality, and right and wrong.

Is it still important to see multiple points of view? Of course. There will even be times when your opinions on certain things might readjust. But without an anchor, you will be blown about by just about anyone who has an opinion about a particular issue.

Knowing what you believe, why you believe it, and being ready to stand for it when the time comes, makes you a stronger individual. You become more assertive in your interactions with others. You're able to say no. You're able to stand up to bullies, and take care of others who can't stand up for themselves.

In this, I find a deeper understanding of God too.

I don't think that any lesson, or experience that I have is separate from Him, or His plans for me, and those around me. God desires us to be confident, I think. I also believe that it is the Christian's duty to stand up for the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the injured. How can we stand up for these groups, if we ourselves don't know what we believe, or why we believe it?

How can we stand up for these people, if we're constantly backing down to those who trash our convictions?

I'm not advocating militant religious faith. That isn't what I'm saying at all. But I do believe that my faith is worth fighting for. I do believe that there are times, and places that we need to engage others, rather than adopting a passive aggressive attitude.

Followers of Jesus boldly love the world, and actively fight to relieve it's suffering.

We can never do that if we lack the courage it takes to stand for our faith if, and when it comes under fire.

Even in the midst of a state in chaos, and the passionate drama that has accompanied it, there are still lessons to be learned. One of the most important of these lessons is that taking a stand for something, no matter what side of the argument you find yourself on, will make you a stronger person, more assertive person.

Ask yourself what the things in your life are that you'd never compromise. You may be surprised at the answers you come up with!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Stories that Inspire: The "Erin-Half"

We all have giants in our lives. Mountains that loom over us. Choices placed before us.
We can choose to battle these giants, or to scale these mountains. We can also choose to turn around and leave, and to live permanently in the shadows they cast.

Erin, by her own admission, was never a runner. In fact, she had several key people in her lifetime tell her she lacked the focus, and that she couldn't possibly finish a significant race.

Anyone can run, apparently, but if an athlete lacks the stamina, and mental toughness, they'll never be a true runner. That's just how important the mind is in the sport of running.

Both a coach, and an ex-boyfriend maintained that Erin lacked this characteristic, and thus couldn't, and wouldn't, ever be a successful runner.

After a tumultuous pregnancy, Erin began to find an escape in running. After a while, words from the past began to tug at her.

"You couldn't run a half marathon."

Why not?

"You lack the focus."
"Running is about endurance."
"You wouldn't make it through, especially not after this last pregnancy..."

Erin was at the end of the path. In front of her loomed a mountain, and now it was time to choose. Looking up, defiantly, at the mountain she simply said: "You're wrong, and I'm going to prove it."

Looking into registration costs, Erin realized that many of the local half marathons would be too expensive. With a family of three young ones to think about, registering for a run may not have been the most fiscally prudent move. Instead, she decided to do her own half marathon.

In February 2012, with the support of her women's group at church, she began to train for her very own half-marathon.

Four months later, on June 2nd, the Erin-Half began. It was comprised of fourteen miles, and toured many of the emotionally significant landmarks from Erin's past year of discovering her passion for running, the pregnancy, and the aftermath.

I must admit, watching her breeze through the fourteen mile endeavor was one of the single most inspiring things I've ever had the privilege to witness.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has a reason they do the things they do. We all love stories that tell of a courageous few who face down their giants, and scale their mountains. Why?

I believe that these are the stories that cause us to regain faith in ourselves.
These are stories that give us courage to fight the battles placed in front of us, on a daily basis.
They're stories that embolden us to stand out, and to dance to our own song.

The Erin-Half is a story of overcoming. Of proving those who would doubt wrong.

It's a story of courage. It's a story of strength. But mainly, it's a story that, ultimately, pushes spectators, such as you and I, toward greater things...