Sunday, August 31, 2014

Maleficent: Antithesis

Matthew 6:7 - "... for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."

In my post from a few days ago, entitled "How to Spread," I talked about how to properly use your works to uplift and inspire others.
Then, I saw Maleficent.
Something people quickly learn about me is that, generally, I complain about things I like. In fact, generally, the more I can complain about them, the more I like them. If quiet disdain is all I'm able to muster for a creative work -- I'm looking at you, Phoenix: The Firestorm -- that generally means I find the work entirely without merit. Oh, sure, I can still list some things I hated about that book, but I won't analyze it to a pulp. On the flip side, some things about the massive epic I just finished reading really infuriated me, and I plan to rant and rave about it, but only because I like it so much.
With all that in mind, let me backtrack to the beginning of the story.
Yesterday, my former mission comp and I decided to hang out and go watch a cheap movie together with various members of his family. For a further glimpse into the brotherhood we share, I've actually allowed him to become one of currently two test readers for my novel. Anyone who knows me knows that's big.


The movie we all chose to see was Maleficent, a choice I still don't regret, because of the fascinating experience of criticism I was able to find.
I could really rip this things apart, but I want these posts to be brief and consumable, so I'm going to break my criticisms down among the possible audiences the film might have reached.
Children/Adolescents: This film got dark, very fast. In a matter of minutes, we go from frolicking fairies and hogsnouts to plans to brutally murder and/or maim said fairies and hogsnouts. We have trees smashing things, people dying quite dramatically, and post-graphic mutilation. The main antagonist's scenes portray bloodlust, madness, and quite disturbing threats. Many of the scenes featuring Maleficent at the very beginning, after her fall, are downright terrifying. To hit the point home, I think I heard a different kid crying in the theater at least once every five minutes after things got real.
Teens/Young Adults: This group would appreciate the darkness of the film a lot more, but would likely fail to overcome the random dark scenes the movie does try to hide. Why cut away right before the mutilation? Why are the battle scenes mostly comprised of people flapping their wings and running into each other? Are those soldiers ever going to learn to use their swords instead of tackling people? The buildup into the violence, the start of which surely would have captivated any teenage audience, becomes less than satisfactory when you realize that all the 'violence' is about as violent as a game of NFL. The violence and mayhem is certainly downplayed for the sake of the prior age group, but when you consider that the prior age group would be far less scared of a knife than of a nice lady turned into a mad, cackling psychopath, you realize the movie just cuts down both age groups.
Adults: Now, this movie was really made for you. After all, who doesn't like the scathing social commentary on various world governments and how they need to stop threatening to nuke each other? Or, even better yet, who can miss the fact that the main conflict is nothing more than an extended metaphor for overcoming rape? Sure, it's all wrapped up in stuff obviously designed to visually appeal to kids, but they won't understand, right? You may feel uncomfortable about what you're watching, but when Jimmy starts crying when Maleficent starts cursing babies, you realize that this movie wasn't made for your kids, either. And then you start to barf into your popcorn at the total vapidity of 95% of the cast, most notably Aurora, before realizing that you've actually been watching a remake of the Disney movie you haven't seen in 21 years but still find more universally appealing than what you're currently watching.
And, finally, what's the moral? We the gang who went and watched the movie agreed the moral was probably something along the lines of, "If you get wronged in life, kill the person who wronged you."
The moral of my story is, the writers failed. Not at creating a compelling world, which they did. Not at creating believable characters, which, I agree they did, with the possible exception of Aurora. No, the writers just didn't do what I suggested all writers do in my former blog post: Teach a divine truth. Uplift, inspire, and encourage those who are partaking of what there is to share. I understood the metaphors and analogies, but I failed to catch that they contained any real lesson to learn. I don't know what I was personally supposed to learn, but I didn't get it.
In the end, though, I really enjoyed the experience, both movie and palling around with my good ol' mission comp. Our dinner at the end was freaking awesome.
Hopefully, I can give you a good example of how to uplift your audience sometime in the near future.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Invitation Challenge

Doctrine and Covenants 58:9 - "Yea, a supper of the house of the Lord, well prepared, unto which all nations shall be invited."

I have a challenge for all my readers on this day!
If you're doing something fun today, make something fun happen. That's not the challenge, actually, but the challenge is that, whatever fun things you're doing, invite someone on the outskirts of your life to have fun with you. Whether it's a neighbor, an old friend, a new acquaintance, call them out! Let them join in with you! There are a lot of people in this world who just aren't ever invited to things, and any invitation will honestly just blow their mind and make their day.
I say this all because I was personally invited to a giant volleyball game among all the RAs yesterday. The invitation blew my mind and made my day, and I had a blast! Not just because I realized how much I enjoy playing volleyball, but also because I was touched by the invitation and the rising camaraderie among fellows.
So, invite someone! Then post in the comments below how it went!


Friday, August 29, 2014

How To Spread

2 Corinthians 5:17 - "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

One major flaw in my creative writings before my mission is they had no goal, no end purpose in mind. I didn't write to expound or illustrate truth, fact, or opinion; I wrote merely to entertain, nothing more. It was while I was on my mission that I recognized I was squandering a large potential for my talent. Why not use these stories and worlds that swirl around in my head to help teach or expound upon a matter of truth? Why not use my talent to build someone's faith and trust in God or some of His teachings?
Even in writing my novel, which is about anthropomorphic rabbits casting magic and performing rituals, I am trying to illustrate two noble truths concerning the way of things. This will be the first book I ever write with such a focus on making a point, even two. First, I desire to show how change and repentance is never impossible for anyone. Second, I desire to show the flawed mentality behind the ever-prevalent theory of neutral morality.
Hefty tasks, to be sure, but as I wrote one of the most important scenes in presenting the second truth yesterday, I felt proud. Proud and even convinced that what I'd written could help someone see what I was trying to explain, even using the most unlikely mouth of a rabbit. My writing, at that point, stopped being just telling a story. It was becoming a way to help.
I smiled a lot today, thinking about the minor successes I was having in cultivating this talent for good. As I spent time with my new-found friends at the end of the day, enjoying a rousing game of Quelf, I kept thinking back to the secret I'd stumbled upon, what I'd been missing. I wasn't worried about my dreams. I wasn't frustrated by my imperfections. I saw what I needed to improve, allowed myself to prepare for that improvement, and relaxed, fully enjoying myself. And it was enough.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

HANDS UP! PAH-TAY TIME!

Ecclesiastes 3:4 - "...a time to laugh ... and a time to dance ..."

In anticipation for the incoming freshmen, we threw on a Luau for the lot!
After I sat at the desk for many long hours, checking in new students and answering lots of questions to which I couldn't possibly actually know the answers, I grabbed my uke (for the scheduled open mic night) and an exercise shirt (to change into for the dunk tank) and booked it over to the Cannon Center for CRAZY TIMES!


I had a blast! I manned the limbo stick for a while, becoming quite impressed by several individuals' limbo prowess. We really should figure out a way to monetize the limbo talent. I made sure to dance like a crazy lunatic. I got in the dunk tank and sat up there for a good ten minutes before a ball hit the target. I remained dry, however, and so threw myself in to placate the crowd when the crew figured out I'd somehow broken the mechanism. Open mic night had been cancelled, but some of my new-found RA friends requested I give them a small uke performance, which I so did. In the end, it was an AWESOME party.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ramble On

Doctrine and Covenants 112:10 - "Be thou humble, and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers."

In a twist ending, I had yesterday all to myself!
It was bizarre. I can't remember the last time I had the option to literally do whatever I wanted, free from any outside influences or pressures. From morning to night, I was completely in control of my activities.
First of all, I slept in as long as I could. Noon was a nice time to wake.
Then, I blogged a bit, typed up a portion of my journal, and wrote my book.


I filled in the time with bank inquiries, conversations with family and residents, ukulele jamming, and visits to Jamaba Juice.
By the time 6 o'clock rolled around, I was, for the first time in a long time, completely and totally bored.
Bored? I thought. You're never bored. You are the master at self-entertainment. What do you usually do to stave off boredom?
Well, I replied. I usually blog or type or write or play the uke or run errands or ...
I decided to go for a walk.


It was beautiful, actually. Moisture was in the air, that sharp, pleasing sensation filling my nose, the sky initially gray and gloomy, eventually turning dark and ominous. I threw on a thin hoodie and stepped out.
I needed that walk. I ended up kind of half-praying, half-reasoning with myself about some of the internal struggles I recognized I was avoiding. My enthusiasm for my scripture studies had dropped, turning more into a mere reading or a skimming. My prayers had become more rote. Since my return home from the mission, I've been struggling with the concept of doing things for myself. My purpose then was to help others; now, it seems to be more largely focused on myself.
I thanked Father at the end. I had a heightened resolve and a determination to push through these things, to improve in that which I've let slip.
Here we go.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Working the Corkscrew (with Added Commentary)

How Firm a Foundation - #85 (Verse 3)
Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand

I started out my day with a whole heap of things to do to finish up my responsibilities from last week. First of all, I got dressed and escaped my apartment to avoid the scheduled fire alarm. When I reached the central office, the fire alarm went off inside, helping me remember that the drill hadn't been scheduled for my building after all. Having failed to avoid alarms of any sort, I set to work gathering supplies for further hall decorations and a giant tiki mask, the latter of which to be used for the Hawaiian luau party thing we're throwing on Wednesday.


I worked a good three hours on that stupid mask (I'm apparently very slow at arts and crafts), and then, after I went to just two last hours of training, finished my hall theme, "BE AWESOME."
My goal in choosing my simple theme was to encourage the residents that, no matter where they come from or who they are, they can accomplish their dreams and goals and become the kind of person they desire. It's a simple truth that should banish many of our own doubts and fears away, that should encourage us to take risks and make chances. I saw that a couple of times yesterday among my friends, where an apparent impossible hurdle was successfully leaped. True the verse at the top of the page. We are not alone.

In what ways have you recognized that you are not alone? Be sure to comment below!

I wrote a commentary about this post on March 5. 2015. Click here to read!

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Hunt for Sactuary

Acts 7:46 - "... and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob."

First Sunday on my own at Provo in over two years, and I have no idea where to go to church. In regards to my own ward, our information packets told us to attend sacrament meeting on the third story of the JKB at 10:30 [Location 1]. However, I was told that, since only a handful of students were on campus, we weren't holding services at all.
One of the other RAs told us we would be meeting in the Benson building [Location 3] at 11:00, which was way on the other side of campus. Not super thrilled about the prospect, another RA and I gathered our people together to make the exodus.
Then, one of the freshman went and told us that their professors had informed them that they would be meeting on the second story of the JKB [Location 2] at 10:30. That was a much more reasonable hike, and seemed to suggest that our wards might be meeting regularly after all, so we decided to risk it.
Once we reached the JKB, I ran upstairs to check Location 1. Nobody. Into Location 2 we trooped, about fifteen minutes early. My fellow RAs and I saw other RAs and some of our residents that had escaped us, though we saw no priesthood leadership at the front. We sat down and waited for a bit, chatting among ourselves.
When 10:30 rolled round, there was still no priesthood.
Fifteen minutes later, the same still applied.
My fellow May Hall RAs and I were sweating. Even though there was no way we could be responsible for what was going on, we still felt as though we should be given some accountability considering our positions. Finally, someone stood up and announced that they'd heard services were being held at the Conference Center at Heritage Halls at 11:00 [Location 4]. Off the crowd went.
My fellow RAs and were still sweating, worried we would fail to find a service at the conference center. We breathed sighs of relief even as we squeaked in a few minutes late. Even I'd forgotten what a hike it was from Location 2 to Location 4.
The stake president stood up at the pulpit, noting the addition stream of students. We all knew we were from Helaman, but he was none the wiser. "Well," he said. "It's been a long time since I've seen this many students on early check-in week!" He then welcomed all to the Stake.
It was exact Stake none of us were supposed to be in.
What to do? We shrugged and enjoyed the next three hours. Sacrament is sacrament, right? Better luck next time.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Carry Me

John 21:18 - "... but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldst not."

Being an RA is a lot of work. I've been doing training all week to prepare me for everything from organizing floor meetings to helping facilitate the improvement of damaged relationships to figuring out how to decorate a corkboard. I have been introduced to a myriad of faces, I have found myself jarringly thrown into a world where being romantically interested in someone is perfectly acceptable, I have been inundated with tasks and responsibilities, and I have just been feeling overwhelmed.
My moy droog (Google claims this is how you say friend in Russian) and I were walking down right before my check-in shift started yesterday. I, quite honestly, told him that while I was looking forward to the overall experience of being an RA for the upcoming year, I really wasn't sure I would want to do it again. I, of course, recognized I had a whole year ahead of me to make such a decision, but I was just feeling overwhelmed. I found myself asking, Why am I even here?


Well, then my shift started. I was the highly uncoveted designated 'rover,' meaning that I was to run around Helaman Halls (perhaps not literally, but I did so anyway to make up for my lack of exercise in the morning) and solve the new students' crises wherever and whenever they occurred. I unlocked doors, answered questions, talked about fire safety, gave keys, met residents, made new friends, and just played the role of happy helper all through the day.
I recognized, during the day, that this job will be just what I need for this year.
All training aside, I recognized that my role here is to serve. I saw many parallels between my service yesterday and the service I gave on my mission, and relished the opportunity to lift a heavy suitcase here, answer someone's call there, help another feel comfortable in their new environment. I was glad I was able to say, "If you need anything, I'm here," and mean it. What started as a responsibility I didn't really want turned into an opportunity to share a smile all around the complex. For the first time, I thought that, perhaps, God didn't just aid me in my interview so he could bless me with something I personally wanted for myself. After today, my new hypothesis is that I got the job because God knew this was a position I not only needed for my own personal progression, but also so I could share my talents and strengths with others around me. I am more eager for the semester to begin now than ever.

Has there ever been a time when you recognized that God led you somewhere for reasons different than you originally anticipated? Be sure to share in the comments below!

Want to receive news whenever Change and Cherish is updated? Be sure to follow updates by using any of the new tools on the left-hand side of the page! Becoming a follower can get you featured on the site!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Acceptance

Joshua 24:15  - "...Choose you this day whom ye will serve ..."

While I was on my mission, my mission president, President Brown, challenged me to take two hours out of every week to ponder and ask the Lord questions about who I needed and who He wanted me to be as a person.
I pondered questions from, "What qualities should I look for in a wife?' to "How generous should I really be?" One of the questions I asked myself was, "What should my top priorities be?" It was a very long and spiritual process, determining the order of my own priorities, but when I came to my final conclusion, I was surprised. Of the top five things I knew I would be facing in the near future--Education, Dating, Work, Callings, and Creative Projects--it seemed very obvious to me that, if anything was to be put on the back burner, it was my creative projects. I couldn't let one of the others slip in favor of that.
It was only yesterday, however, when I actually had to make that choice.


It hurt. I let my journaling and novel writing slide as I worked all day, training from morning to the evening and then fulfilling my assignment to decorate the hall before tomorrow. I was drained and frustrated when I finally finished after midnight, but there was no way I was going to even attempt to accomplish any portion of my projects. So, I let them lie.
Callings keep my mind and heart focused and in tune with the Savior.
Education helps me prepare to provide for my family in the future.
Work helps me provide for my education.
Dating will help me find a family.
Unfortunately, my creative projects are just that: a hobby. At least for now.

Want to receive news whenever Change and Cherish is updated? Be sure to follow updates by using any of the new tools on the left-hand side of the page! Becoming a follower can get you featured on the site!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Give Said the Little Ice Bucket

Mosiah 4:21 - "...O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance ye have one to another."

So, I became aware of the ice bucket challenge only days ago. Like, Tuesday! I still am barely aware of what charitable organization this activity is supposed to be raising awareness for, ironically enough, but I was able to witness several of my fellow RAs take the plunge yesterday.


Alas, I was called out along with several other individuals, so later in the evening, I also took the plunge.

video

Honestly, even though I'm a broke college student who really doesn't have the means to support the organization with the large amounts of cash the minimum offer is being set at (I was told, like, $25!), I truly do appreciate the outpouring of participation, pun intended. The selflessness behind such acts, even from celebrities who are portrayed as being selfish jerkwads by the media, is proving to the world a grand truth: It is neither difficult nor politically incorrect to show someone you care. That's hard to remember sometimes, but I think I'm getting there.

Want to receive news whenever Change and Cherish is updated? Be sure to follow updates by using any of the new tools on the left-hand side of the page! Becoming a follower can get you featured on the site!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Climbing the Wall (with Added Commentary)

Thomas S. Monson - "I encourage you to reach out to those you serve and to love them. ... True happiness and lasting joy will come to you and to each one you serve as you take a hand and reach a heart."

As part of RA training yesterday, we went to a ropes course to help build team unity. I'd say it worked! I felt pretty bonded with the various members of the team, and I really enjoyed facing my extreme fear of heights. One of the activities I did was to simply jump off a platform about 25 feet in the air to grab hold of a metal ring dangling over nothing some nine feet away. I thought that would terrify me more than the rock wall, but when I found myself several stories off the ground, hanging nearly backward on a very difficult course, I felt cold panic consume my being like few other times in my life. It's funny; I've faced down men threatening to knife me with no sweat, but holding on to small plastic handholds over empty space gives me the jeebies.


A lot of you have heard a lot of analogies about rock climbing and how having an anchor in the gospel keeps you safe and all that. As I defied my imagination's interpretation of my death, I was struck by a different sort of gospel analogy pertaining to rock climbing. 
An inexperienced climber, like myself, cannot scale a wall safely without some sort of help in the form of an anchor on the ground. Growth upward is dependent upon the support of my friends on the bottom. I, as a missionary for life, will always be in a position to act as someone's anchor to help them along. Oh, sure, they could climb on their own, whether without ropes or by repeatedly tying knots in their lines during their ascent, but the safest and quickest path is through ... a friend. I want to be that friend.

I wrote a commentary about this post on February 19, 2015. Click here to read it!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Climb

4 Nephi 1:2  - "... and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another."

Yesterday, as part of RA training, we travelled to Salt Lake City to receive instruction at the BYU center there. The experience wasn't that much different than it was back at Provo, leaving some to wonder why we'd bothered making the commute in the first place, but no one complained when they let us loose on the town to dine at various restaurants ... for FWEEEE!
Again, I was pleasantly surprised by the camaraderie I experienced among us RAs. We all barely know each other, but by golly, we're in it together, and that prompted a lot of fast-budding friendships and unity. Of course, given our trainings in communities, we are still definitely in a pseudo-community atmosphere, so I'm still bunkered down for the oncoming chaos, but I nonetheless feel comfortable to be myself, and have even got several different group of people laughing at times at my long-practiced sense of humor.


I still have a habit of wasting time, unfortunately, whether I like it or not. I wanted to accomplish several things last night before bed, which I did, at least in part, but the extent of the accomplishment was less than what I'd originally hoped for. Instead, I was beset upon by distractions like Wikipedia, YouTube, TVTropes, webcomics, and the like, leaving me with far less time than I should have had and forsaking the things that will last. It seems each time I enter a new environment, I have  to rethink my time management skills. Ah, well. At least I always make time for my prayers and scriptures.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Beginning Again

Psalms 102:17 - "He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer."

Today I started work for the first time, which was a really cool experience. Sure, it was basically just a big training camp for me and all the other RAs across campus, but it was still memorable for a lot of reasons.


At the very beginning, I still didn't really know anyone in the program besides myself and my Hall Advisor, who I'd already managed to leave a bad first impression with during one of my first few nights at the dorms. Walking into the first training room, where breakfast was being served and enthusiastic RAs gathered in joyous throngs, it seemed as though everyone knew someone but me. Contrary to popular belief, I can be a serious introvert at times, particularly when I am in an utterly foreign environment and know nobody at all. As I observed my surroundings, I began to fear that my own insecurities, coupled with the newness of the situation, would prove crippling to gaining any sort of social ground. Desperate, I offered up a prayer, pleading for help.
Within minutes after I'd closed, I'd started up a conversation with two other RAs, the three of us having a serious blast. Since then, I've made numerous acquaintances who will undoubtedly become friends come the end of the coming weeks, and I look forward to seeing where it all goes.
I truly do love my Father.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Family On Earth

 
Families are the single most important unit in life. Like I mentioned in yesterday's post, it is them with whom we shall reside for eternity. As it is, however, in my own individual family unit, since I departed for Jamaica, we have only had the opportunity to spend time together as a whole for less than a week.
 

I know I personally took this sacred unit for granted while I was out and about, and, regrettably, I even did so again yesterday, at least in some aspects. I don't know when I'll have the next opportunity to see some of them again, though Thanksgiving and Christmas are distinct and set plans. I know I haven't been the perfect son or sibling, but I was able to recognize, at least a little yesterday, ways I can improve when we all meet again. As I write this, I have already started my training for my new job, and school starts in a few weeks. However, I am comforted in that even though I am slowly becoming independent, I will always have somewhere to go.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Reunion

Moses 1:4 - "... For my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease."

I think it's easy to forget the magnitude of the mistakes I've made. I feel it at times, splitting my cracks, enlargening my vulnerabilities, reversing my progress. I swallow words, concepts, and ideas.
And, then, I glimpse what heaven will be like.


Heaven will be heaven because we will be reunited with our families and friends, revitalizing relationships from our pre, present, and post-mortal lives. It will be a grand gathering as those who have spent eons apart will rejoin together to catch up and reminisce about their eternal exploits, to make new friends as old friends are introduced to them. It will be a near impossibility to tear everyone away from each other, but we'll have time to spare. We always will, at that point.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Landing

Alma 34:17-27 - "...Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks ..."

Yesterday began the day of acclimating to my new university life experience.
It was funny how right it all seemed. I had no real understanding as to what was ahead of me, even despite having lived through a freshmen year. I'd never really been inside Helaman Halls, my new dorm complex. I had to reorient myself with the massive construction overhauls that built new buildings and destroyed certain roads. I had to figure out where all the new offices were. I had to remind myself how to log on to the wifi. I had to check in at a new central building, and I have absolutely no idea what my job is really going to be like come when I start Monday.


Despite the unknown, however, I was confident. I felt sure. I'm sure a lot of my readers don't know I seriously considered not coming back to BYU so I could go live in the mission field and have the opportunity to share the gospel with others, which will be far more difficult, if not impossible, here considering the demographics. I knew this was a big life decision, so when I knelt down and prayed about it, I prayed so hard I thought my bones might melt into the floor. I just felt ... peaceful about coming here. And so I came, and even though I was bumbling through at times, I still felt confident and peaceful.
Let's do this.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Leavin' on a jet plane

Matthew 28:19 - "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations..."

Yesterday, I bid farewell to my family's home and started up on my journey to the Y. A lot of factors surrounded my apparent chill about leaving. For starters, I had nearly been driven mad by my solitude the day before, and finally having a change of pace spiced me up a bit. It still hadn't really hit me that I was going to be living on my own again, that I wasn't just traveling to work or on another mini-trip. This was for real.


And for real it was. The day was an adventure, from riding in a taxi to balancing suitcase weights to squeezing in between two long-armed silent Steves to eating Baskin Robbins and Chinese food while discussing Ammon and his ministry to driving through unfamiliar roads in rain to arriving at a crazy stranger's house to pondering the long run-on sentence I would write for my blog the next day to crashing on an air mattress. I was just grateful the Lord saw us through to the end.



Thursday, August 14, 2014

O Wretched Cats

2 Nephi 4:17 - "Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities."


It's probably a good thing I'm leaving for BYU today. I felt a little bit like a crazy cat lady yesterday, masquerading myself, frolicking with felines, and napping, naturally. I'm not sure if this strange behavior is a sign that I really want to leave, or that I feel wholly unprepared for this next step in my life.
A theme seemed to frequently repeat itself in the recesses of my mind yesterday, whether I was writing in my journal, blog, or novel, whether I was watching Doctor Who or sleeping, whether I was trying to buy new ukulele strings or reading my scriptures. There is always another chance. Christ always has His arms stretched out to us. Always. I have seen so many individuals' lights go out because they gave up, because they are overwhelmed by the frailty of their humanity and erroneously conclude that their oft repeated mistakes have doomed them for the last time. I cannot allow that to happen to me, though I feel that way at times as well. Do not give up. There's always a brighter step.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Location of Truth (Poem) [with Added Commentary]

Doctrine & Covenants 25:12 - "For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart ..."

There was nothing ever gained
except through discovery
yet truth is often declared
through opinion and deceit

What one thinks is sharp wisdom
Is arrogance to the core
It doesn't take their intellect
to know two plus two is four

If we look beyond language
and meaning, knowledge, and time
if the equation is true
it mankind did only find

Truth embedded in our minds
Was there in the beginning
claiming we thought up such things
is sour arrogating

And yet we still find many
who claim understanding pure
dictate God's own acts and will
hide their fog 'neath sepulcher

What is there must have always been
What is found was not determined
God has placed truth for us to find
It's our job to go and find it



Hey, there! I wrote a commentary about this post on December 4 of 2014. Click here to read it!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Journey

Moroni 10:34 - "... to meet you before the pleasing bar ..."

Yesterday was my last day at my internship.
It was interesting. Considering all the good-natured hazing and ribbing I received throughout my stay, which I'd anticipated and relished throughout, I was surprised that it seemed as though some of my coworkers were actually disappointed I was leaving. Several of my friends there said quite encouraging and complimentary things throughout the day, and leaving proved more difficult than I'd anticipated. Even though I had the option of ducking out early, I chose to stick it out to the very end.


Leaving seems to be a recurring theme in my life. I build friendships and relationships and then find myself presented with the reality that I'm going to have to abandon them. This happened in three ways here: work, home ward, singles ward. Poof. What helps me stomach through such times is the reminder that, one day, all of us will have eternity to spend time together in our individual families and circles of friends, that no good-bye is forever because we will all see each other again. It isn't perfect now, but then again, what is?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Putting the Ward in Singles (with Added Commentary)

How Firm a Foundation, Hymn #85, verse 3 - "Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed..."

I went to a singles ward for the first time in more than two years yesterday.
It was a completely bizarre experience. There were, like, couples everywhere, hugging' and kissin' and back-rubbin' up and down and all the way through the promised land. The wife of a newly-called member of the bishopric said it was 'sexy' to keep covenants right over the pulpit, prompting outrageous - and, in some cases, absolutely horrified - laughter. I didn't really know what to think, honestly, but I felt a little out of place at times, like a fish who left the sea, got stuck in an aquarium, and then escaped through a dentist's office.


All references aside, the experience was good in that it gave me a sneak peek of what I have to look forward to in a few weeks and that I'm not completely unfamiliar with the game. Indeed, I was heavily reminded that being single is not really a lonely time. Really, the Lord is always there to help you out and give you guidance. When you're gunning for eternity, someone is reaching for you on the other side.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Him in Mind

Alma 29:10 - "... then do I remember his merciful arm which he extended toward me."

It's a bizarre realization that I'm leaving for Utah in less than a week. In anticipation of relinquishing my work computer over to PeaceHealth at the end of my last day tomorrow, dad and I began a quest to find me an economical, reliable computer for school. After dealing with pesky advertising techniques (who on earth displays three copies of a certain brand of a computer and fails to have them stocked?), laughter-filled rides, and teeth-grinding software bureaucracies, I finally had my prize ready to go.
Of course, just like my phone, I was immediately frustrated by how many pointless and trivial things were clogging up the system. I pulled all the nonessentials away from the spotlight, leaving only the bare essentials. This included, in essence, the internet, word processing, and google drive. I removed the distractions of the world away so I could focus on the most important things.
In addition, I made sure to change my backgrounds to help serve as a reminder just whose side I'm on.


He's easy to remember when I put in the effort.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sticking to it

Ezekiel 22:14 - "Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong in the days that I shall deal with thee? ..."

I think the main thing I can be working on right now is my prayers. That a sentence is a grammatical nightmare, but I'll leave it as is. Prayer is supposed to be both meaningful and frequent, but it's easy to slack on one or the other. I think it's one of those things I can't ever really stop improving, an act of devotion that takes a lifetime to master. It's true for my conversations with my loved ones, too; I'll spend my life talking to them, constantly seeking new ways and topics to connect and come closer to them. Why should I expect any different with my Heavenly Father? Relationships, in any form, require work, an effort. I think that's why God doesn't come down and talk to us directly. He knows the perfect way to communicate with us already. If he initiated all communication right now, then we couldn't grow or develop in that regard.


Dad decided to teach me how to drive stick yesterday, and oh man was I terrified. I felt the most comfortable inching along the road in first gear, I stalled out numerous times, including three or four times at an intersection, the car kept lurching back and forward, I was making the most inhuman shrieks as everything collapsed beneath me, dad was laughing hysterically ...
I had a great time! I just hope I don't have to, say, drive a pregnant lady going into labor to the hospital through a zombie-infested wasteland with motorcycle-riding velociraptors riding on my tail. I would probably get killed by the lady.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Wimbledon

Doctrine and Covenants 64:8 - "... and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened."

I had two really great opportunities yesterday to settle into Washougal a bit more comfortably before I get violently uprooted next week.
First, in the morning, one of my new-found friends and I went out to go play tennis and eat salad at Panera Bread. It was super fun! The record goes to show that, for each game, the score went as follows: 7-6 (her), 11-10 (me), 9-8 (me), 21-19 (her). Turns out, I could be a lot better at tennis, particularly in knowing what sort of vernacular I should use. I know the pros don't use numbers, but what is love-30?


I also had the chance to swing around town with the missionaries again. I appreciate their willingness to let me tag along with them, especially since I seem to be some sort of bad luck charm that keeps them from accomplishing anything productive. Regardless, we all have fun, they teasing me about my future life, I teasing them about how awkward they can be while trying to talk to the people we do. And, as a bonus, I get immediate blessings no matter what I do.
Honestly, though, I think I'm looking forward to at least a semblance of stability.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Bowling at Al's

2 Corinthians 12:7 - "... there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me ..."

I wonder what your thorn was, Paul. Thank you for what you've taught me.


I went bowling yesterday, right after institute, after my friend from the home ward invited me to tag along. It was a really cool experience, gathering with a group of people I barely knew and building relationships, in most cases, completely from scratch. I haven't spent much time with many people beyond my family and coworkers since I got back from Jamaica, so I went into the thing feeling pretty nervous, worried I might completely fail at being social. And I totally did at first! Oh, man, my inner psyche was having a blast, constantly dropping one-liners and frank appraisals of my complete and total ineptitude at contributing to the atmosphere. Determined, I thought back to that Doctor Who episode, "Love & Monsters," with Elton taking the charge.
Step 1: Engage your target. Find some excuse to start a conversation. "So, uh ... you ever bowled here before?"
"Nope."
"Oh."
"Yeah."
Step 2: Without provoking suspicion, get on first-name terms with the target. "Oh, yeah, so my name's Zac."
"Oh. Jack?"
"... sure."
Step 3: Ingratiate yourself with a joke or some humorous device. "J. K. Rowling? More like J. K. Bowling, amiright? Let's get some toad chorus playing and wingardium leviosa some steeee-riiiikes up in here!"
Silence. Awkwardly so.
"Heh heh... right."
I just skipped step 4 at that point. That's what I get for trying to use Doctor Who to improve my social skills.
Regardless, things turned out well. I found some similar interests with each of my bowling fellows, I helped lead cheers for each bowler as they tried their hand, and we were all laughing and having a great time as I drove the lot of them home after filling up on Jack in the Box. What a great time.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Once More, Round the Bend

2 Corinthians 8:7 - "Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also."

Yesterday was my last 'real' day at work. I say this because my supervisor won't be in the next time I work, and I'll simply be doing some wrap-up before clocking out the last time.
As it was, yesterday was a day of reflection, a chance to ponder what PeaceHealth is and why I was so blessed to work there. That process developed further when I wrote an article, around the middle of the day, detailing the hospital's Mission and Core Values.


"We carry on the healing mission of Jesus Christ by promoting personal and community health, relieving pain and suffering, and treating each person in a loving and caring way."

I was struck by this. I am no doctor. I never healed or helped anyone while I was there. I didn't save a life or even extend it. I was just a lowly intern, working on some articles for an internal audience, hoping someone might appreciate a smile or a break in an otherwise monotonous day.
And, yet, as a cog in the machine, as a part of the larger picture, as I sat at my desk, I felt hope. Hope that, in some little way, like the drummer boy of yore, I am able to offer some little gift through my insignificant actions, both in and off the clock. Even if I don't do something amazing for someone every day, I hope I can give them something to go off of.
And I think that's the biggest blessing I got from PeaceHealth. I have new experience, a more defined writing style, a professional reference, and a honest-to-goodness list of published works, but perhaps living the example of incorporating Christ into every aspect of our lives is what is most important.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Of Ink and Steel

1 John 4:9 - "In this was manifested the love of God toward us ..."

Yesterday was all about literature.
Indeed, I seem to be thriving in a sort of natural habitat for myself. I have gotten it all worked out that I can be doing something with words in some form in just about every second of the day. A quick rundown of what I did yesterday:
1.) Woke up and turned on Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians audio book. Exercised throughout.
2.) Read my scriptures during breakfast.
3.) Turned audio book back on for drive to work.
4.) Resumed reading Interesting Times ebook as I walk into office and wait for computer to boot up.
5.) Begin writing a series of three to five articles for internal and external audiences.


6.) Reward myself for a job well done between articles by reading a few paragraph blocks in ebook.
7.) Listen to ebook on way to meeting and back home again.
8.) Write blog post.
9.) Start typing up my personal daily quota of eight pages out of my mission journal.
10.) Sit down with Pops to watch The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for the first time.
11.) Bachelor scripture study following the rollicking adventure.
12.) Finish typing journal quota.
13.) Touch novel a little bit. Review some notes for a particularly difficult upcoming scene.
14.) Play audio book while preparing for bed.

In thinking about it, I realize just how blessed I am to be living here, at this time, with the ability to push my work forward immediately, to be able to enjoy literature while doing other things, and, most importantly, to be able to really enjoy it. I have met so many miserable people who don't grasp just how awesome this time is! And, the thing is, it's not just me. God is allowing so many marvelous inventions in the world, that soon, I'm sure everyone will be able to do what they love, even playing football, even while driving to work. And that would just be groovy.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bachelors

 Mark 13:33 - "Take ye heed, watch and pray ..."

It was an event that had been oft spoken of in our household.
"So, youngest sis, bro, and I are leaving to go to camp this summer," mom had said.
"Cool."
"Youngest sis, mom, and I are going to be gone for two whole weeks before we meet you in Provo at the beginning of the semester," bro said.
"Uh-huh."
"Bro, mom, and I are leaving really soon," youngest sis said.
They'd been saying that all summer. "Yep."
Then, comes Saturday. Saturday evening. It was dark.
"So, we're leaving tomorrow around noon, and ..." mom began.
I jolted with surprise. My fork slammed against my plate, and my tachilenchiladarito thing exploded in all directions. "WHAT?!"
So, yesterday, right after sacrament meeting, they were gone, leaving just dad and I on our own.


It's going to be an interesting experience. I work Monday and Tuesday this week, and then I'm all by myself, all day, every day. I got a friend date and a bowling party lined up somewhere in there, but beyond that? I get to learn what it's like to not have constant companionship. I haven't even had that in large doses since I came home from Jamaica, only for maybe an hour or two at most at a time.
Here we go, then...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Thank you, Arthur Dent

Alma 12:37 - "... seeing that we know these things, and they are true, let us ... harden not our hearts ..."

Boom! First thing in the morning, I'm out on a lawn, tearing it up. Quite literally, in fact.
We and the crew dug, tore, uprooted, supplanted, hauled, operated, and frankly destroyed a nice member lady's yard in the name of service. She asked us to do it, after all, so who were we to deny her our fun?


It was quite strange, actually; I was feeling quite unnaturally despondent toward the end of the day yesterday, a feeling that is still weighing me down to some extent. I don't know what it is. Perhaps I'm just exhausted, though I've let myself sleep as long as my body wants the past couple of days. Perhaps I just am having one of those slumps. In general, though, the experience is helping me turn to God more, to find out if the strangeness I'm feeling is a sign of estrangement from Him. While I most certainly am not perfect, and I make mistakes every day, I don't feel like I did anything I haven't already talked to Him about. Regardless, maybe God is allowing this small trial - indeed, simple uncomfortability - to plague me just so I have something else to talk with Him about. Who knows! Either way, I look forward to determining what's next.

Oh, and happy 42nd post.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Oh, deer, did I do that?

Doctrine and Covenants 84:62 - "...from all the world unto every creature."

Some days, I just want to spend it doing one thing.
There are just too many options in the world, in my personal opinion. Once upon a time, your entertainment choices included milking Betsy and watching Betsy lick the flies off her face. This meant you were far more productive because it was real easy to get everything you wanted to get done done and still have time for some good ol' nothing. Doing nothing is, of course, a most essential aspect involved in stabilizing your sanity.
Nowadays, however, all we have is stuff to do. Even for someone like me, who has an irregular job and no real responsibilities, I manage to fill every day with unrelated somethings, barely leaving enough for nothing.
Yesterday was a prime example. I decided I needed to buy the books I promised to send to some of my friends in Jamaica. Unfortunately, the bookstore, Deseret Book, was way out in Portland. Thinking I could beat rush hour traffic, I got in the car about 2:00pm.
Traffic was still a nightmare! I cursed under my breath as I made my way through the crowded town, turning a thirty-mile jaunt into an hour-long ordeal. Finally, I purchased the books, printed some photographs, gave up on a few other plans, and started home. I even had to pull over for an ambulance. It was around 7:30 by the time I pulled into my neighborhood.
Some days, I think God just likes to throw us a bone amid our frustration. Even despite all the setbacks I could see, had I not come home exactly when I did, I would have missed out on seeing this guy.


I relished in the opportunity to do nothing by simply watching the majestic creature and snapping some photos. 
No day is ever a total loss. It's easy to forget that sometimes.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Uplifting Tweets

Articles of Faith 1:13 - "... If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

Yesterday was pretty uneventful. I went to work, wrote a couple articles, and did my regular stuff.
Of course, youngest sis and I also went to go out and see a movie for mom and dad's anniversary. It was more a gift to them than a gift to us, but we enjoyed it.


We actually went to a cheap theater and watched Non-stop, starring that one guy everyone says I look like. Despite the less than favorable critical reviews it received, we actually really enjoyed it. I was obviously put off by the gratuitous swearing, of course, but, if there was one thing I would have added, I felt like the movie lacked truth. There was no real moral, no real lesson to draw from, no unanswered questions to ponder. It wasn't a movie that used its art or story to build my relationship with God. Unfortunately, that is how things currently are in entertainment. The opportunity to uplift is often spoilt. I want to avoid that. Even in my novel about magical rabbits, I am attempting to uplift my audience. I think we all should, even in the most trivial of tweets.