Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Worth Living For - My Novel

            The following is an excerpt from my novel-in-the-making, Worth Living For. It's still rough, but I thought that you guys might like to read it. : )

            It was dark. From the moment I regained consciousness, I knew that this darkness held power. It was much more than the lack of light; it was a substance, and it was draining the life out of me.
            I sat up slowly, as though moving through a thick fog. Where am I? The words bounced around in my mind as I strained to see through the darkness. My head was pounding, my hands trembling. I pressed them against my knees in an attempt to steady them. I was scared.
            C’mon Nick, keep cool. I chided myself. Get up. Walk around. Figure out where you are. And find a light.
            I shakily got to my feet, my arms stretched out in front of me. I took a shuffling step forward, then another. My arms continued to probe the darkness, but they came in contact with nothing.
            As I walked, I could hear a faint whispering, like wind. But as I listened, it twisted into a fiendish laugh. It raced up my spine and tingled in my ears. I placed my hands over them to try and block out the sound, but to no avail.
            Something latched onto my throat. I desperately clawed at my neck, but nothing was there. My throat continued to constrict - I could hardly breathe. I dropped to my knees on the hard floor, gasping and choking for air.
            “Let go!” I whispered, my voice hoarse.
            The invisible fingers loosened their grip. I greedily sucked in air. I’ve gotta get out of here, I thought to myself, heart pounding. I got to my feet again and continued to walk through the darkness.
            There was another chuckle, deeper than the first. It was followed by a whole chorus of them all around me, taunting me with their wicked glee. Blinking lights flickered on and off in the black, disorienting me. I stumbled forward, then staggered back. My head was reeling, my ears thrumming, my body weak and trembling. The air was so thick…I could hardly breathe.
            Oh God, get me out of here! My mind cried.
            There was an ear-splitting shriek from one of the voices. A gush of air slammed into my chest, knocking me to the ground. I could hear wings, pulling whatever creature through the air. I remained where I was, mouth dry in terror.
            God, please-
            Something ripped through my chest. I let out a scream of agony and fell back, hitting my head solidly against the hard floor. I gasped frantically for breath as I felt the thing moving around inside of me. It was like a horrible dream, where someone else comes and takes over your body. Only this was real.
            The creature stilled in my chest, and I was suddenly filled with intense, burning anger. I jumped to my feet and began screaming and swearing and cursing God. My fists flew through the air, which was growing thicker by the second. I could feel sweat pouring down my face, and my breathing was ragged. But I continued to yell and swear like a madman, trying to soothe the incredible rage. I felt like a monster; out of control, beyond the realm of reality.
            My first collided with something solid. I staggered back, gripping my hand. Blood dripped from between my fingers. I took a deep, shaky breath, trying to steady my heart-rate. I felt…empty. No anger, no creature, no words. Just…empty.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Everyday Life

            Finding joy in the little things can be a hard thing to do. Sometimes, you just don’t feel like looking for joy; you’d rather wallow in your misery. That’s kind of how I was feeling yesterday.
            Allow me to start from the beginning.
            Considering that we have guests needing to stay in our guest-apartment at the end of this week, we decided that it was time to pack up Josh’s belongings and finish putting in the bathroom. On Friday, Mom and I packed up Josh’s stuff (we both had a good cry while going through his clothes). Saturday, Mom and Dad went out to work on the bathroom – and left me in the house to babysit my five younger siblings. Which was okay – for the first ten minutes.
            The 12-year-old has [seemingly] endless questions concerning schoolwork. The 11-year-old is asking to do every kind of craft under the sun. The 9-year-old is being ridiculously loud while playing with the 4-year-old, who is so emotional that he bursts into tears every five minutes for no apparent reason. The 2-year-old is running around in the midst of it, alternately between shrieking with joy and squalling with rage, or crying because he got a “bomp-bomp”.
            Talk about insanity.
            And to top it all off, I haven’t been sleeping well lately. Every night, I’ve been waking up at least 3-4 times throughout the night (no clue why). So needless to say, I wasn’t in the cheeriest mood to take care of a bunch of monkeys.
            So here I was, cranky, tired, irritable, and on the verge of screaming, when the phone rang. I answered it: it was Andrew. He and Tianna were going to the church campsite that night to visit everyone, and were asking if I wanted to come. I just about melted with relief. My salvation!
And then he said that they were leaving in ten minutes.
My heart sank.
            Dad was still working in the bathroom in the apartment, and Mom had gone to Grants Pass to take Caleb somewhere. Which left me with the kids, who couldn’t be left alone.
I talked to Dad to see if there was any chance he could come in and watch the kids until Mom came home. And, as I thought, he said sorry, but it wouldn’t work out.
That’s when I lost it and indulged in my self pity-party.
I deserve to go to the campout, I thought angrily, putting dishes away none-to-gently. I’ve been sitting around all day watching the kids. I deserve a reward. Why do I have to miss out on everything?
I could have blamed it on the fact that I was an emotional wreck, but I knew that I was just being selfish and unreasonable. Dad had good reasons for not letting me go to the campsite. And I didn’t miss out on “everything” – just some things, when the timing was bad. It was silly of me to be so upset about it.
And I knew it. I was mad at myself for being ridiculous. I prayed for God to help change my attitude, and shifted my thoughts to a different topic. The disappointment was still there, but I wasn’t dwelling on it.

So, why am I writing a blog post about this? Because so much of life depends on our attitude. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. The reason my Saturday turned so sour was because I was focusing on the bad; how irritating my siblings were, how frustrated I was, how my feelings were being ignored.
            Notice how all those things are about me? We are so selfish, on a regular basis, without even realizing it. But that’s a discussion for another time.
            Rather than focus on the little annoyances and pet peeves of everyday life, why don’t we focus on all the joys? At first glance, there may not seem to be many (if any), but if you look closely, you will find them. The way the baby’s face lights up when he smiles. Leaves trembling in the breeze. The throaty hum of a vacuum. Juice squirting as you bite into an orange. Mud oozing between your toes. The bubbly laughter of children.
            This is finding beauty in the little things. So often, the little things are what go unnoticed. God has given us innumerable blessings, each one wrapped carefully in something to bring us pleasure. Why don’t we tear into these gifts and embrace the joy? They’re there for us.
            Here’s something to remember: There is something beautiful in every moment. So let’s try to find out just what that gift is.
            The wind is blowing hard, knocking windchimes clumsily together. Music floats on air…
            Thank You Lord, for this moment.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

One Another

              Recently, I watched a sermon by Francis Chan called Is This Really Church? It was an amazing sermon, but probably the most convicting part was when he listed the one another’s of the Bible. Wow.
              Francis Chan’s goal with the sermon was to show how even we, those of the church, fall so short of what God calls us to be. What if, he asks, all we had was the Bible to go by? How would we then live?
             That really stuck with me. Because of it, I’ve started studying the New Testament to see just Who God is, and how He wants me to live (I’ll post more about that later). But the first thing I did was look up all the one another’s. There are quite a few.

Be at peace with one another
Wash one another’s feet
Love one another
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love
Honor one another above yourselves
Live in harmony with one another
Stop passing judgment on one another
Instruct one another
Accept one another, as Christ accepted you
When you come together to eat, wait for one another
Have equal concern for one another
Serve one another in love
If you keep on biting and devouring one another you will be destroyed by one another
Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying one another
Carry one another’s burdens
Be patient, bearing with one another in love
Be kind and compassionate to one another
Forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven you
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ
In humility, consider others better than yourself
Do not lie to one another
Bear with one another
Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another
Teach one another
Admonish one another
Make your love increase and overflow for one another
Encourage one another
Build one another up
Encourage one another daily
Spur one another on to love and good deeds
Do not slander one another
Don’t grumble against one another
Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed
Love one another deeply from the heart
Live in harmony with one another
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others
Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another
Greet one another with a kiss of love

             Okay, so did you read all those? If you didn’t, please go back and do so.
             Looking over that list, I found that I don’t do the majority of those things. I don’t love the way I should, I grumble when I shouldn’t, I often think of myself before others, I don’t encourage people enough, I don’t greet people with a kiss (okay, I think we’re free from that one, but still).
            These are sin issues, not something that we can discuss passively. This is something that needs to be dealt with. So what about you? How many of the one another’s are you practicing in your life? If you’re anything like me, you have a ways to go.
           Which is okay. That’s why we have a Savior. He’s there to help us when we’re not strong enough to do it on our own (and when are we ever really strong enough?). Let’s face it: that list is hard. Those things are hard to do. But we are called to do them, and God promises to help us.
            So here’s a challenge. Pick two or three of the one another’s and deliberately try to live them out for the day. See what happens.
            But don’t forget to pray. Because without God’s help, we cannot become more like Him.
Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord. We lift up our heart and hands toward God in heaven.
                                                                                                                                     -Lam. 3:40-41

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Least Of These

            A man and a woman come together. Their bodies interact, and a sperm and egg cell are miraculously brought together. A new life is conceived. Already, the woman is a mother – although she remains unaware. Days pass, and the baby grows, safely tucked away in the womb. Within three weeks, a tiny heart has formed and pumps life through the small body of the fetus.
            Over the following weeks, the baby continues to grow. At eight weeks old, it has reached one inch in length. Tiny fingers and toes have already formed. The baby keeps growing, cozy and comfortable in the warm uterus, unaware of the decisions being made on its behalf.
            Several more weeks pass. The baby can see dim light through its closed eyes. Everything is still. The baby moves its arm, bumping something. The instrument touches the baby’s side. Alarm pulses through the fetus. It begins to kick its legs, struggling to get away. The forceps mercilessly chase the fetus. They open like hungry jaws and close in around the baby’s head. The body freezes, caught. The jaws clamp shut, crushing the baby’s skull. Ending that perfect life.


            Today, I've been thinking a lot about abortion. While writing the above paragraph, I literally had to stop and take a deep breath. I felt sick.
             It is no longer a question of whether or not the fetus is alive. That is known and accepted almost universally. The question is: what is the fetus?
            I know the answer: human. What else could two humans produce? The fetus can’t be anything but human. Yet rights are withheld from this little baby. Such as the right to life.
            People claim that the baby isn’t fully human because it is a fetus. What do they mean by fetus? A fetus is a baby; the word fetus is simply a term used to describe that time of the baby’s life, such as toddler and adolescent are used. So how is a baby not fully a person just because it is a fetus? Do people become more human the older they get?
            Another argument is that because the baby is dependent on its mother for life, it is not a true person. So now we base someone’s humanity on their degree of dependency? What about when the baby is six months old? One year? Three years? A toddler is still almost entirely dependent on its parents, yet we don’t argue about whether or not it’s all right to kill it.
            I think that probably the biggest problem with abortion is that people don’t think about the baby. All they think about is the woman, and her rights – what sounds appealing to them. They don’t know (or choose not to think about) what is happening to the baby.
            People, this is murder. Blatant, sick, deliberate murder, happening all around us. Thousands of babies are killed every single day, and we’re doing nothing to stop it.
            It’s another Reality we must accept. Abortion is real. The lives of these babies are real. The fight is real. We can’t stand on the sidelines and watch as children are ruthlessly slaughtered. To do so is wrong.
            I’m preaching to myself here. I have been merely standing by for to long, using lame excuses to soothe my conscience. I’ve wanted to fight, trust me, but never put enough energy into figuring out just how I could aid the Pro-Life cause.
            But we have to fight this. We must speak on behalf of the helpless. Wear Pro-Life gear. Go to rallies. Write articles. Give speeches. Help your local PRC. Something must be done. Even if you only save one life, you’ve done something tremendous. And God will be pleased.

           Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.
~Proverbs 31:8-10

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Beauty Of Love

            “You may now kiss the bride.”
            He gently took the veil between his fingers and flipped it over her head. She smiled at him, her blue eyes sparkling with joy. He took her face in his hands and guided her towards him. She closed her eyes. Their lips met in their first kiss.


             I am once again rendered speechless at the beauty of love. There is no way to fully describe it; words can’t do it justice. I know that love is more than a feeling, but it is a feeling in the way that there aren’t words to describe it.
            Yesterday, we celebrated my brother’s wedding. It was such a beautiful, joyous day. He looked incredibly dashing in his suit with tails. She was gorgeous in her ivory wedding gown. Both their faces were glowing with joy.
            Love is such an interesting thing. The way it makes you feel. The way it expresses itself. It’s mysterious and beautiful.
            When I think of those I love – the intensity of that love – it makes me think of how Christ loves us. Despite how much I may love my friends or family, God loves us that much more. When you really sit down and think about it, it’s mind-blowing. Sometimes, I wonder why my friends even like me, much less God. The fact that He would love someone like me brings tears to my eyes.
            Sorry this has been kind of a rambly post. I’m running on high emotions and little sleep. J Now to the newly weds:
            Andrew: Wow. I love you so much, bro. You have been a wonderful brother to me. Thank you so much for all that you have poured into my life. I’ll never forget all those hours spent playing Playmobil and Cowboy Town (perhaps someday the Sheriff will succeed in rescuing the Yoshis :P). All the late-night talks and singing Broadway at the top of our lungs. I’m going to miss you. But I am so happy for you and Tianna. You guys are truly a beautiful couple, and God is going to use you to do amazing things. I love you so much, Big Boy. <3
            Tianna: I am so happy to have you for an older sister. In the years that I’ve known you, I’ve seen you to be a strong, beautiful woman of God; kind, faithful, loving, and considerate of others. You and Andrew make such a wonderful couple. You truly are the delight of his heart.

            May God bless you and your marriage in years to come. I love you guys so much.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Little Things I Miss

           I miss how he used to leave his socks all over the house. I miss watching him pretend to breakdance. I miss how he used to walk around singing Broadway. I miss how he’d check the contents of the fridge every five minutes. I miss the sound of him sharpening knives. I miss all his crazy antics. I miss cleaning his room with him. I miss him saying “mmhmm”. I miss fighting with him about who gets to use the computer. I miss his plaid shorts. I miss all his camera talk. I miss his enthusiasm over his pictures. I miss the way he would squint when he was thoughtful. I miss the way he would close his eyes when he laughed silently. I miss the way he used to cock his eyebrow. I miss his somewhat lopsided grin. I miss the sound of his voice. I miss those nights when we stayed up until two in the morning talking about life. I miss the attentive way he listened to others. I miss watching him practice his signature. I miss how obsessed he was with his hair. I miss dancing with him.

            Some days, I just flat-out miss him.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

I Will See You Again

Three months ago, I never would have thought that I would be sitting beside my brother’s grave writing this. I remember vividly the day we buried him – the way the sun glinted off his metallic coffin. The tight feeling in my chest. The dull thud of that first shovelful of dirt.
            As I sit, gazing at the mound of dirt trimmed with stones, I feel a familiar ache. Yet another reality I have to face. Josh is gone, and I will never see him again. Burning tears fill my eyes.
            It’s not that I haven’t accepted the fact that he’s gone; I have. It’s just when I really think about it…the fact that I will never see him again on this earth…that’s when the pain hits hard.
            But God’s grace has sustained me. I have been through some very dark times since May 5th, but God has always been faithful to pull me out. If it wasn’t for Him, I would have despaired long ago.

 I would have despaired unless I
Had believed that I would see
The goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

                                                ~Ps. 27:13-14

             Wow. That verse is so true to me. It is only the hope I have in Christ - the knowledge that I will see Josh again - that has kept me strong. With that hope, I will continue to run the race that God has set before me, content in the knowledge that Josh finished his.

             I love you so much, Joshy. It hurts. You were a wonderful big brother to me, and my life will never be the same without you. But I know that I will see you again.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012


            Reality has struck again.

            There are certain moments when the reality, when the realness of life just hits me. I’m thrown into this kind of shock, where I can’t stop thinking “This is all real. My life is real.”

            And it frightens me, to be honest. I’m terrified at the thought of reality. But I believe that I need to confront myself with this reality more often.

            Perhaps I should define what I mean by reality. I mean the fact that we are eternal beings, handcrafted by the God of the universe, destined to live with Him in paradise. I mean the fact that He died for us – that He loves us with an all-consuming love. I mean the fact that every thing we do, everything we think, everything we are, needs to point to Him and give Him glory. I mean the fact that my life could end at any time.

            That’s the reality I’m trying to face right now.

            Yes, I’ve always known these things. But I haven’t lived like I believe them. I haven’t let their truth soak into me and change who I am and how I live. And that’s not right.

            Last night, I felt…overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the love of God. I was reading a book, and in it, the author said that we are the joy of God. We are the joy of God. I am the joy of God. The enormity of that statement just blew me away. Let that sink in for a minute. We are…the joy of God. I started crying.

            The love of God is so mystifying to me. Why does He love me? Such a filthy, ugly, wretched sinner? And yet He does. He loved me enough to die for me. He loves me constantly, even when I don’t love myself. And that leaves me awestruck.

            We cannot go through life without remembering these simple truths. They are absolutely vital to the Christian life. We need to walk with them continually in front of us, encouraging us to press on and fight the fight.

            So remember. What we do (or don’t do) in this life counts. There is an eternity waiting for us. There is a Judgment Day coming. And there is a God who bought the pardon for your sin. This life is real. Believe it. Revel in it. And let it change who you are.