Saturday, January 31, 2015

Pay it Foward: Familial Visit

Luke 20:36 - "... and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection."

Certain of my family came to visit me on Wednesday. Their specific visit with me contained no express purpose or goal beyond simply catching up and granting us all the opportunity to enjoy each others' presence.

Sitting among these choice sons and daughters of God, with whom I was lucky enough to be familied with, I thought about the love each of them had for me. Seriously, coming to visit me was out of their way, added an extra layer of stress to their overall trip, and still they did it. I didn't even have to ask; they came. I certainly didn't feel like I deserved the attention, but I earned it regardless.

The opportunity gave me chance to reflect on how many different times others have done similar for me, expressing love in little ways that mean so much in retrospect. I was reminded of God and the ways He helps me, even when I'm doing the best job I can in serving and worshiping Him. His unconditional love is undeserved for my behalf, and yet, still, He continues to aid and guide me.

Of course, anyone we meet or pass is still one of our spirit family members, regardless if they're strangers or not. So often I pass people destitute, in mourning, or otherwise afflicted, and pass them by with nary a nod. In pondering God's relationship to me, and how much He's willing to give despite all, encourages me to do better.

How have you helped one of your spirit siblings? Be sure to report in the comments below!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Your Story: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Psalms 25:12 - "What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose."

A long time ago, as someone once put it, Charles Dickens did the world a disservice by dying before he could complete his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Strangely enough, its unfinished nature has apparently given it a lot more notoriety in literary circles than one might expect from an unfinished manuscript. This is, perhaps, partially due to the fact that ol' Dickens himself left no notes as to how the story would end, leaving any proposed ending to pure speculation.

Last night, a few of my friends and I went to go see a theatrical performance of this very novel put on by a nearby University.

The play itself was interesting for a variety of reasons, one being the fact that it featured actors playing actors playing characters playing characters in some cases. Another was that audience participation was key in shaping the final product. Once the play reached the conclusion of Charles Dickens' draft, we, the audience, got to vote on who was the murderer, who was the detective, and who fell in love, much like a rousing game of Werewolf or Mafia. As it was, the solution turned out to be, at least for that night, a case of mistaken identity and an incestual relationship, neither of which I personally voted for, but whatever.

Despite the fact that my personal beliefs concerning the ending were not presented to me as an option, I harbored a desire to watch the play several more times to see which different sort of endings the company had thrown together. However, it still seemed apparent to me that the playwright's best attempts at explanations couldn't ever fully capture what Dickens was originally intending. As it was, the mystery, in my mind, will probably always remain just that: a mystery.

Still, though, the open-endedness of it all, the lack of a need to find a conclusion, reminded me of real life. Not every story wraps up so succinctly. Not every tale has a proper ending. Even as you're reading this, I'm sure you can consider many stories in your own life without current resolution. I can think of some in my own that may be eternally without.

However, just because things aren't wrapped up doesn't mean you can't be happy, doesn't mean you can't enjoy waiting for the next plot twist coming up on the next page. Life is a journey, to be sure, but it is also your chance to raise your hand and vote for the best possible outcome.

I promise, you have that power.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Throwback Thursday #9

Today's blast from the past comes from July 22 of last year.

It's said that Shakespeare invented over 1,700 words during his tenure as the greatest wordsmith of all time. Sure, just because those words never appeared in any manuscript before his doesn't mean he actually invented those words, but given how prolific his output was, he had to have done something for that final number.

Either way, it's every writer's dream to add a word to the English lexicon. Even Russian writers want to add words to the English lexicon. And on the date so aforementioned, I made a word for a niche not currently filled by our modern dictionaries.

The word is 'thinkjoust.' 

To know how to use this fabulous word, click the link here and visit Calling All Wordsmiths!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Starting Over

Matthew 18:22 - "Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven."

I have a lot to complain about. My work and calling have been colliding, which has pushed back my schoolwork, and while I don't really care about schoolwork all that much, my desire to do well this semester has only shoved my creative projects, with the sole exception of this blog, completely to the side as I struggle to catch up. On top of all this, my computer decided to all but die on me, forcing me to clean the entire drive, reset it to its factory defaults, and set my own schedule back several days.

However, I didn't go into running the reboot with complaint. Well, OK, that's a lie, I definitely went in with complaint, but I left with a different sort of emotion.

Yesterday, I recognized that some things just need to be, well, refreshed. This is especially true of my current quarter-life crisis. One of my current classes (yes, that six-credit one) has really got me pondering if I really want to be an English major all the way through, and I have made plans, done research, and scheduled appointments with various individuals to determine my best course of action. I know that, should I decided to change my major, I will be subjected to opening a lot of wounds again.

But, I think that's the point. I could have kept on with the way my computer was acting. It still worked, to an extent. Sure, there were annoyances and glitches, but at least it was running, right? Sure, I can go on with a major that may not be a perfect match for me. At least I enjoy some of it, right?

I don't think so. If my life will be more enriched and with less stress in the long run, then I think it is an amazing opportunity to be able to call a mulligan. Indeed, that's the point of the Atonement. If we make a mistake, we can clear it off our board through repentance, and try, try again.

So! For now, let's see where I wander.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Charity: Hospital Trips

1 Corinthians 13:13 - "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."

Over the past three days, three of my residents have been hospitalized.

I have been entirely impressed by those currently healthy members of my hall, those in the same Quorum as the injured. Many have consistently given up time and energy, waylaying homework and socialities to show their support for their friends and brothers.

Since I've seen these men at work, I've had the opportunity to consider my own heart, my own charity. How willing am I to give of myself for another?

My challenge to you today is the same. However long it's been, go out and help someone! Today!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Prophecy Fulfilled: Three Mission Calls (VIDEOS)

Mark 16:15 - "... Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."

On Saturday, two of my residents and friends had the chance to open their mission calls.

It was just another fulfillment of the prophecy made by Christ long ago.

I would say more, but there isn't much to. I'll explain my general brevity tomorrow, though.

Ready to rock. I guess.

And, as most of you know, I received my own mission call just over three years ago. Unfortunately, blogger is being dumb and not letting me upload the preview, but here's the URL for the video I made all that time ago. Check it!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

At Yourself: Stand-up Comedy

Matthew 5:39 - "... turn to him the other also."

Two of my friends, my sister, and I all went on a double date to a BYU-sponsored stand-up comedy event! IT WAS SICK!

The guy in the center is the MC. He changed into the shirt halfway through. It was so bizarre, he had the following comedian he introduced completely speechless before the beginning of his act.
There are a lot of directions I could take this sort of post, though. First off, I could talk about how impressed I was by how the comedians shined their light, thereby uplifting us with good humor. I could also talk about their willingness to get up there in the first place, overcoming any anxieties and qualms to bless their audience.

Honestly, I do so many of those in a week, I'm starting to suspect this blog is turning into a self-parody.

Thankfully, a couple of the comedians gave me the opportunity to throw down a different sort of post. The experience was quite anecdotal, and will probably be remembered among the four of us date-goers for quite some time. Either way, I may misquote someone or fail to describe an action properly, but the below account is nonetheless true to form.

As we were settling down in the front-row seats, mi amigo said something along the lines of, "You know, if they pick anyone to take up there to make fun of, it's probably going to be Zac." I doubted such a thing would happen, but the rest of our group murmured their assent.

Sure enough, about halfway through the show, the MC asked for a volunteer. Wisely, nobody raised their hands. I nudged mi amiga, suggesting that she go up. Without warning, the MC pointed at me. "You!" he said. "Come on up here!"

I remembered the conversation from the beginning of the show. My voice was flat.

"Are you serious."

Taking it in stride, I went up and joined the MC on the stage, unable to contain my trademark cheesy grin. I was informed that I would be participating in a trivia contest against a Mr. Hobbs, who would be the night's next comedian. Whoever got the first three answers won the game.

Sure enough, Mr. Hobbs came up, and I was asked my name, upon which the microphone was lovingly shoved into my gut, chin, and nose before finally settling unsettlingly close to my mouth. The audience chuckled heartily.

"Zac," I said.

"Sure, whatever, I'm going to call you precious," the MC said. Laughter again, not only from myself. "All right, first question. Because Precious is our guest, he gets to go first, right? So, Precious; in what year was Mr. Hobbs born?"

I'm terrible at guessing ages, as many can attest, but I thought "1990" was a good guess. Mr. Hobbs was so touched by the gesture, he interrupted the MC to shake my hand and say thank you.

"Precious, you're incorrect!" the MC said. "Mr. Hobbs, can you steal?"

"1985," came the reply.

"Correct!" the MC declared. "Because Precious is trailing behind, he gets to go first for the next question." The microphone was again lovingly rubbed all over my face before landing somewhere near my lips. Still, the laughter continued. "Precious, what was the name of Mr. Hobbs' favorite childhood stuffed animal?"

I thought I was really clever with this one. "Calvin."

I actually got some impressed cheers from the crowd with that one. I was a little distracted by the wandering microphone exploring my face, but I think even Mr. Hobbs himself was surprised. The MC, however, was not. "I'm sorry, Precious, but that is incorrect! Mr. Hobbs, will you steal?"

Mr. Hobbs, of course, did, leaving me trailing two points behind with one point to victory.

"And the final question." The MC was smirking to himself. "Again, because Precious is behind, he gets to start." The microphone resumed its tender embrace with my facial orifices. "Precious, what is the pin number for Mr. Hobbs' garage door? I'll give you a hint."

Oh, I thought. That's surprising.

"It's four numbers."


Well, I'd already heard one four-digit number tonight, so given certain experiences in my life, I went with it again. "1985," I said.

Mr. Hobbs' eyes widened, and he started laughing. The MC was unfazed. "So close!" he said grandly. "Seriously, so close. What is it, Mr. Hobbs?"

Mr. Hobbs, still laughing, answered, "1984."

So, given a fixed competition obviously at my expense, I walked away feeling pretty good about my performance.

Anyway, I tell this story just to illustrate, mainly, how much fun I had laughing at myself. It would have been a lot more uncomfortable for me and for everyone else had I not gone along with everything and even tried to get a few jabs in here and there myself. As it was, it proved a memorable experience for everyone, one of which I was grateful to be a part.

As you go about this week, try to find reasons to laugh at yourself, too. You don't have to be in a crowd to do it; just remember none of us are perfect, and laugh! I'm fully prepared to be laughing hysterically at my English exam grade that will posted in the upcoming week; rather than focus on my failure, I'm determined enough to focus on maintaining my good spirits throughout. And that, in the end, is all that matters.

So! My challenge for you this week is to get out there and laugh! I expect to see a lot of smiles out there this week! Go get 'em!

And here's Mr. Hobbs. It was unfortunate I totally failed to get a picture of us on stage together, but here's a nice body shot instead!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Unity: Trivia Night

Mosiah 18:22 - "... Having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another."

On Wednesday night, Helaman Halls put on a program designed to enhance the academic potential of the residents. I was on the committee in charge of planning and executing the final deal, and it was a serious success.

The competition was fierce as people slammed down answers while chugging soda bar mixes and slamming back pizza and pork sliders. I didn't participate myself, having some prior knowledge of the questions, but it was still fun to watch the rest of the crew get worked up in a frenzy and enjoy the resulting ambiance.

As the committee in charge of the event exchanged high-fives and compliments about our various roles in the execution of the event, a mild debate sprung up over who'd done more. Now, don't get me wrong; not a one of us thought we'd done more than the others. On the contrary, we kept trying to convince each other that everyone had participated far more than we, ourselves, and that it was their contributions that had been the real key for success.

I was thinking about this later on, and I think, in a way, all of us were right. The assignments we were each given played to our strengths in ways they might not have with other individuals. Had I been given the charge of getting the food, I might have inadvertantly poisoned the entire crowd. If I'd been in charge of trivia, it might have evolved into some sort of geek pop culture game. If I had been assigned to passive programming, I might have conveniently forgotten all about it.

It's in that sense that I think I forget sometimes why different minds are able to produce something greater that one mind could not. Being a writer, I rarely like to work on projects with others, preferring my own personal vision. However, there still comes moments when I have to bring my work to bear with my audience. Inevitably, the audience has suggestions and insights about things I didn't previously pick up in my first drafts, and our different minds produce something more grand than before.

So, I was complimented by some for my own contribution to the program, they saying, "I couldn't have done that." In return, I say, "Right back atcha."

My own contribution involved designing the event's logo.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Throwback Thursday #8

Today's Throwback Thursday come from Wednesday, July 16 of last year.

I originally intended to write more of these so-called 'Parables' you see featured in this particular post. However, for whatever reason, I eventually decided to abandon the concept. I believe the concept eventually turned into what is now known as my bi-weekly poems.

All in all, abandoning the parable concept was probably a good idea, seeing as how I no longer quite remember what incident I was referring to to begin with. Even so, I think it's demonstrative of my favored, more fictional writing style. Maybe I'll try my hand at another parable in the future, though I'll have to be sure to leave the moral less ambiguous.

Click here to visit A Thinly-Veiled Parable!

Oh, and if you figure out what I was talking about in my parable, be sure to leave a comment below.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pause: Poetry Contest

Psalms 119:105 - "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."

One of the traditions that popped up in this here blog of mine is that, every month, I write one or two poems. I'm not much for poetry, nor am I much of a poet, but I find the practice liberating and strengthening, both in terms of my capacity to write and in terms of my closeness to God.

Recently, I received word of a poetry contest via a screenshot coming up in the next couple of days.

Since I've heard about the contest, I've prepared to use one of the days I would usually spend writing a poem for the blog writing a poem for the contest. If I fail horribly, then I'll definitely be sure to put the poem up here, so you can see what I ended up accomplishing.

Today is the day I've selected. As it is, the challenge I leave you all today is to enter the contest yourself! Even if you're a terrible poet, what could it hurt? So get on it!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Give Yourself a Break

Genesis 1:11 - "And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so."

A few nights ago, I was feeling really cooped up. What with my personal project work, my schoolwork, my work work, and my not doing work, I was feeling a bit of cabin fever. The only times I'd gone outside in the recent past were to walk from one building to the other, and I needed an escape.

Unfortunately, my lap around Helaman Halls didn't really cut it for me. Knowing the holiday was coming up, I determined to do something about that.

So, yesterday, my best mate and I traveled to the nearby canyon just to escape the buzz and fervor of the world, to cut ourselves from civilization and technology and just appreciate all that God had given us. Deep into the mountains we wandered, just simply enjoying the road less traveled by.

It's all too easy to get caught up in the world. Even good things, like education, sometimes keeps us from really remembering who we are, as children of an endlessly creative God. I think there's something remarkably recharging about getting away from the confines of modern life and just breathing in everything He's created, however and wherever you can.

Of course, my challenge for you all today is to make time this week to do just that. Get out of your house. Put down the books, calculators, and Netflix subscription. Rise and be. I promise it will be worth it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

In the Light: Divine Comedy Perf.

1 John 4:7 - Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

I wasn't sitting in the best place for pictures or catching flung glow-sticks, but as it is, I went on a triple-date to BYU's sketch comedy group Divine Comedy last Saturday!

I don't have too much to say about it--such a performance requires immediate observance or, to a lesser extent, watching their YouTube channel--but I will point out that I usually talk about how much people should shine their lights to bless others. Rarely, if ever, have I talked about how someone else's light blessed me.

There's just something about live performances that sparks the imagination and determination of those who see them. At least, that's how I feel. Seeing those outgoing actors, all of whom assist in the writing, plotting, and execution of their various sketches, re-inspired me to do a lot more with the free time I've been given. While my study habits are much improved from last semester, progress on my novel has become quite slack. Some of my other projects and ambitions have fallen under the bridge as well. At the same time, I've had some new ideas I want to work on, some even inspired from the performance itself.

Most importantly, the performance encouraged me to go before God later that night and utter one of the most effective prayers I ever have in my entire life. I sincerely doubt the performers anticipated that they would affect anyone beyond prompting fits of laughter, but they helped me see things in the way I needed. And they wouldn't have if they'd refrained from shining that light.

What light will you shine this week?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

All He's Given: Chuck-O-Rama

Ecclesiastes 5:9 - "Moreover the profit of the earth is for all ..."

My best mate and I were out on the town, buying a electronic keyboard so poor in quality I'm going to return it sometime this weekend, and we decided we wanted to go eat somewhere before heading back home to indulge in our various interests. After some debate and hesitation, we agreed to go visit the Chuck-O-Rama buffet.

Well, we were less than impressed. We'd been expecting something similar to Golden Corral, featuring a wide variety of low-quality food rather than a few spotted tables of low-quality food. What made matters worse was that the food was even less quality than we'd expected; shoot, even the ice cream had much to be desired. And, of course, the price was far greater than anything we'd come to expect from other buffets.

In the end, though, I couldn't help but enjoy the experience, namely because I knew that my curiosity about Chuck-O-Rama would never be fully sated until I'd actually experienced the real deal. Of course, what with all the food options we chose from, our final decision reminded me of everything I haven't seen or experienced on this planet, even right here in my home town.

Of course, I was only choosing between a few human-made restaurants. The world is much wider, especially when you consider all that God has made with his hands.

What are you going to explore next?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Even More Light: Karaoke Night (VIDEO)

Psalms 98:4 - "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord ..."*

This last Wednesday night, the dorms hosted an area-wide karaoke night. I, of course, was all about it, and hogged the mic more than I probably should have.

It was a really cool experience, seeing the different ways people let their talents shine. Some sang like opera stars, while others were probably better at dancing. Some weren't that great on either front, but at least demonstrated a courage in front of a crowd, anyway, a courage in and of itself. I at least demonstrated the last one.

It again reminded me that we all have something to share. If each of us were made in the image of God, then any talent we have must also, at least in part, be in His likeness. And if that's true, then that means each of us have the potential and capacity to be just as skilled at anything as anyone else.

Even so, I, too, enjoyed the small role I played in encouraging a few of my fellows to get up there and rock out despite their hesitance. With that in mind, be sure to check out an amazing clip featuring me burning the mic. At least, from someone's perspective ...

*Notice, of course, that it said 'joyful' noise, not 'talented' noise. ;)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Throwback Thursday #7

Today's Throwback Thursday comes to us from July 4 of last year. It is unique in my mind for several reasons. One, it is just horribly, awfully, horrendously named. Thinking back, I believe it earned the title it has simply because of the photo I took, in which I am expressing hearty amusement. Of course, as the acronym suggests, I am not 'Rolling On Floor Laughing' in the photo, thereby presenting a lie for my readers.

Beyond that, this post also had two firsts. I admitted my love for role-playing games, an admission that probably helped start it onto the more personal path it's on today, and I admitted that my religious affiliation is Mormonism. This may have not been the first admission, but seeing as how I'd like Change and Cherish to be accessible for everyone, this was an open step.

Beyond that, if you want to read an uplifting post about humility and inclusion, click this link to visit ROFL!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Kneeling: Storm Cloud

Matthew 5:44 - "... Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you ..."

I was furious yesterday.

Not at anything or anyone in particular, just at the world. Well, I guess I was angry at things and people in particular in a general sense, but I wasn't specifically angry at any one conception, I was specifically angry at a lot of things that only compounded to form one giant cloud of non-specific anger.

Ya dig?

Anyway, so I was chilling at mi amigo's house last night, venting about everything that had caused me frustration. Given my rather over-dramatic way of saying things, I was prompting some laughter from the assembled group. Finally, just before I left for home, mi amigo said, with his tongue firmly in cheek, something along the lines of, "Well, I'll be sure to curse anyone who's giving you grief in my prayers tonight!"

This was given the due amount of laughter. Our other amigo said, "Well, I'm going to pray for them. How about that?"

The conversation was light-hearted, but the combination of the statements struck me. Had I prayed for my enemies? Had I really gone before the Lord and asked him to soothe my troubled heart? Or was I just complaining?

So, last night, I made sure to kneel down and pray specifically for those with whom and for what I had struggles.

I can't say my anger went away completely. But it was enough, at that moment, to calm me down. I felt foolish as I lay in bed, realizing I'd forgotten exactly what it was that I needed to do to be like Christ. As I continue my project of digitizing my journals, I see that desire, over and over again.

It was a nice, if somewhat painful, reminder.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Why Guilty Pleasures Don't Define

What I spent my money on yesterday.
Whenever I go on dates, I make sure to spill my guilty pleasures early so as to not prompt any surprises later. Probably the two most embarrassing things about me is that I like the show My Little Pony: Frienship is Magic,  and that I play Dungeons and Dragons and other similar role-playing games. I've been pleasantly surprised that most of my dates haven't outright shunned me for my confessions, though I have experienced the playful mockery that follows such interests.

When it comes to these interests, though, I often find I struggle to fully connect with those who share them with me, with OBVIOUS EXCEPTIONS. However, for the most part, I constantly find myself frustrated with fandoms as a whole. It's only been recently when I've really discovered why.

I, for one, never define myself, as a person, by these fandoms. Yes, I may say something like, "I am a brony," or, "I am a Halfling Lich Warlock Bard Saturday mornings," but those things aren't me. If I didn't have these things, I would be no less and no different of a person than I am now. My value would not change. I would still be the creative, enthusiastic, rocking dude I still am. My free time and, to a lesser extent, money might be spent in different ways, but I would still be me.

However, I have discovered many people in various fandoms who define themselves according to their similar associations. I'll use a brony example. I have witnessed people saying how the 'criticism' placed on the show by nay-sayers is difficult to live with, but that they've become stronger for it. "My Little Pony changed my life," they might say. "I don't know where I'd be without it. I was in a dark place before I started watching the show."

... Seriously?

I'm not trying to blast the good feelings people have about this show, or any other show they feel similar connections to--after all, I watch the show myself, quite shamelessly--but a kid's show originally targeted toward little girls should not be the entire basis of who you are and where you are today. This show (and other shows people say changed their life) is not a religion.

And, personally, being a Mormon myself, I have a hard time feeling sympathy for people who speak out about bullying or whatever, especially when the worst their show or hobby receives is a jab by Jerry Springer or a mocking skit performed by Studio C. I was at Salt Lake Comic Con last year (click link), and guess what? I didn't see a single person picketing the geeks getting herded into the convention center. I didn't see anyone calling any of the cosplayers and larpers names or insults. If negative media attention gets you down, then don't watch it! And if you have a personal bully in your life, well, let's be honest. Some of you watch shows for little girls. If you didn't want to get bitten by a snake, you shouldn't have slathered yourself with mayonnaise and sat down in its nest. You knew what you were sitting on when you slathered yourself with mayonnaise.

On the flip side, I went to Salt Lake at another point last year (click link), and what do you know. My real defining 'fandom,' if you can call it that, the religion upon which I have based my entire moral structure and code, the reason why I have to stop and ponder my actions before I do act, was being viciously persecuted by people who drove who knows how many hours to give me a piece of their mind. If criticism motivates you to stay true to something, then come to the Conference Center this April. I might just buy you lunch.

All in all, though, I think the point to this rant of mine is that, no matter what media you like, I sincerely doubt God wants you to define yourself by it. True, I still say, when asked, that, "I am a brony," but what makes me truly swell up with pride is when I can confidently say, "I am a Mormon, and I believe in Jesus Christ." In the end, ponies and dice may fade away, and years from now, I may wonder why I ever liked stuff like that. In the end, if modern media had never thrived, who would we be?

If something were to strip away everything you ever did, had ever known, or ever had, and you were left floating on a sea of nothingness ... who would you be?

Who are you?

Be sure to comment below!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Prayer and Light: Fake-Playing the Piano

At the beginning of last week, I received a text message from my friend, fellow RA, and my ward's music coordinator. She asked if I wanted to participated in a musical number. I said of course! She then asked what musical talent I'd be demonstrating. I confusedly told her I thought she just needed a male for a part for a performance already planned or something. She said no.

Oh. Ok, then.

So, pulling out my stacks of Ukulele music, I reviewed the sheets until I decided I was going to sing and play "Come Unto Christ," the youth theme for 2014. You can feast your eyes and ears on the original by clicking this link. I practiced for a while until I felt boned up enough on the piece to perform for sacrament.

Then, one of my residents heard my plan. All he said was, "Bishop told me I couldn't use my guitar for special musical numbers."

Shoot. That makes sense, given what I read about that very principle in the Blue Handbook way back when I was a branch president in Jamaica. Orchestral Instruments, I believe it said.

At this point, it was Saturday.

"All right all right all right," I said out loud. "All I have to do is teach myself the chords on the piano! Yeah!"

"Why are you talking to yourself?" someone asked as they passed me by.

Heading to the basement, I used my very stale knowledge of piano music and chords to teach myself how to play the proper chords. After trial and error, I decided to simplify the piece further by playing chords "G" & "Em7" as a simple G chord, chords "D/F#" and "Dsus" as a simple D chord, and chord "C2" as a simple C chord. I know that won't mean much of anything to anyone, but I relish in knowing some of you musicians probably cringed at that.

Still, though, I was only playing with one hand. When it finally came time for me to go to bed, I felt woefully inadequate. I still made a lot of mistakes, and I knew I sure as heck didn't look like I knew what I was doing. Tilting my head forward, I offered up a simple prayer.

I want to do this for You. I want to consecrate this performance to you. I want to touch someone's heart with this piece and give them something to ponder. I want someone to feel the Spirit. I do not want to make a mockery of Your sacred services. I want to shine the light and talent that you've granted unto me. Please. Please help me.

I resolved to head to church early the next morning to get some more practice in, but, upon my arrival there, discovered all the pianos were already in use. Sighing, I contented myself with the three hours of practice from the day before. My fellow ward members saw my name in the program and excitedly asked when I'd learned to play the piano. "I learned to fake-play it yesterday," I said.

"Fake-play it?"

"Well, you know, I'm only playing with one hand until right before the very end, my posture is terrible, and I'll be hitting the same seven notes over and over again with little to no variation."



Despite my flippant attitude, I was nervous. Not only was I performing in front of people, a lot of those people were cute girls. My stomach was rumbling as the close of someone's talk marked the beginning of my long walk down to the front. Sitting down and spreading my pages out, I felt as though every eye was on me, judging for my flustered fumbling.

And then I began.

I barely had time to think on the quality of what I was doing. I was making sure I was singing loud enough to be heard over the piano, making sure I was slamming the right notes, trying to add some variety to the sound by fiddling with the pedals, and fruitlessly attempting to keep my poor right leg from violently shaking beneath me, a twitch I usually associate with anxiety-driven performances.

Of course, I finished. There's nothing worse for a musician than a silent audience following a piece. I knew no one was clapping because it was a church service, but as I nervously gathered up my sheets, I replayed all the mistakes I'd made in my head.

Then, sacrament finished.

I wasn't swarmed with a crowd of groupies, but many people came up and complimented me on various aspects of the piece. It was then when I allowed myself to remember the redeeming qualities behind my performance and let loose a smile.

I knew the Lord had answered my prayer.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Releasing Stress: Wal-Mart Run-Through (3 Videos)

Dealing with Stress and Discouragement - Ensign, February 1990

So, last night, me and two of my bros went out on the town to just look for something to do. With no plans or aspirations, we eventually decided to go wander around the local Wal-Mart for a few hours. Upon happening upon the toy section, we discovered some ridiculous things never available to us in our childhoods. Sorry for the poor quality, but here's the series we 'filmed' ...

Part 1 of 3: The Hulk Toy

Part 2 of  3: Artillery for Children

Part 3 of 3: New Pets

The bicycle helmets of the future. Too bad my mission president never let me wear something like these.
We didn't really spend any money, but we had a blast regardless. The stresses and impact of the previous week were forgotten in our reverie, and I can't say any of us regretted the so-called 'waste of time.'

I, of course, needed to wake up at 7:00am this morning, but our machinations lasted so late, I ended up sleeping in until 9:00am. The thing was, I didn't mind. Sure, I have a lot of homework and other stuff to take care of today and Monday, now, but I would never say that what we did last night wasn't just as important in maintaining my health and good will. That, of course, is enough for me.

What fun activities do you like to do to relieve stress? Be sure to comment below!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Diamond in the Rough: Russian Performance

John 12:36 - "While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of the light ..."

A couple of nights ago, I was chilling with my bros when my main bro announced he wanted to go to a Russian singer's senior performance for extra credit for one of his classes. He invited me to come along, and I so did.

Once we arrived, however, I made sure to sit on the very edge of the aisle, just in case I needed to beat a hasty retreat for personal lack of excitement or interest. Once the main event started, the darkened lights and my general student-driven lack of sleep promptly prompted me to fall asleep. As it was, I was beginning to seriously regret coming.

But, nope. I've trained my body to nap in thirty-minute increments, so I'd lost the ability to fall back asleep. As I sat there, readying my departure, I started paying closer attention to the pieces the singer had selected, as well as what she was saying about them as well.

I was enraptured the remainder of the performance. The pieces she sung, though in Russian, were incredibly moving, particularly the piece she selected that presented imagery of the Russian peoples' frustrations over the government, and particularly the communist regime. I left the event pondering what I'd missed in the first half hour and how I'd blown a good opportunity. I was grateful I'd recovered long enough for the end.

I think my poor attitude at the beginning shows that I'd forgotten just how bright one's light can shine. Very rarely does someone create something without merit or meaning to anyone else in the world, even for those who sometimes don't expect it. As that singer shone her light those few days back, I recognized the gifts God had bestowed upon her. And that was enough.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Throwback Thursday #6

Today's Throwback Thursday post was published on July 21 of this past year. This post serves as another example of my original tendency to ramble on about a variety of topics with no real clear point. Again, I do believe these were effective in their own right, but I couldn't sustain them for long.

This post is also unique in that I believe this is the first time I ever acknowledged how often I write about writing while writing my blog, which is not really about writing. Other topics included my thoughts on my delivery of one of homecoming talks for the stake, as well as about my ongoing project of digitizing my journal, which I'm still less than halfway done completing. For the record, my current writing projects are ...

1.) Change and Cherish.
2.) Mission journal digitization.
3.) NaNoWriMo novel.
4.) Jackalope novel.

... and any other school-related writing projects my professors throw at me this semester.


Click here to read Mi Jot Too Much!

This picture is a clear example of my apparent belief that blurry photographs of my computer and journal are acceptable pieces for my posts. This is incorrect. They are most definitely not acceptable. I nonetheless break my own rule quite often.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Broken Bird (Poem)

Psalms 51:17 - "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."

I found a bird against my house
Stunned, dazed, and broken
I took it in, bandaged its wing
Words of care unspoken.

As bird in box suffered defeat
And pecked on bread and grain
I watched with a curious eye
to know of its pain

Majestic flight had gone to shambles
and future flights were far from sight
One mistake had left it reeling
Too bruised to continue with the fight

And yet, fight it did, for weeks or more
until it'd regained strength
Friends we were, and away it flew
As I wished it luck at length

Sitting, alone, in my home
I pondered on what I'd seen
It took some time, but a lesson learned
I eventually gleaned

I have much more vigor
than a broken, flightless fowl
If my own flight through life is dashed
I don't have to throw my towel

So to the box I reverent stepped
Took up the broken bandage
Tied it once around my arm
And live with all advantage.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Spontaneity: Burrito Failure

Romans 5:4 - "And patience, experience; and experience, hope."

Last night, I trooped over to a friend's residence with the intention of returning something that belonged to her and asking a question.

I ended up hanging out with her and her friend for nearly four hours.

The only thing I really had to do for the rest of the day was finish my script for a sketch writing contest, so we ended up talking and chatting about life, the universe, and everything before we concluded with a final edit and send-off of my script.

We also found jackets in horrible taste and promptly wore them. #TopSelfie2015
At some point, it was decided that we needed to go to a Mexican restaurant, but my friend decided to opt out at the last second. So, my new friend and I took to the streets and crashed the restaurant with an elated fury. I, of course, ordered a massive shrimp burrito and promptly lost the ability to hold it all together, prompting much mockery from my friend.

I had to eat it with a fork. Shameful.
The conversation, of course, continued for some time, until finally we decided it was time to head on home. Upon being dropped off, I headed up to my room and worked over my journal until I'd caught up with my daily goal, finally hitting the sack just after 4:00 in the morning. (My first class on Tuesdays doesn't start until 2:00, so no worries.)

It would have been so easy for me to deny the social opportunity, along with its inherent friendship construction and associated memories, given what I wanted to accomplish for that day. But I didn't. And I really don't regret it. 

My challenge to all of you is to do the same this week, if you can, to drop your plans and just go out and do something fun with someone. And then, once you've accomplished that, be sure to comment below!

And then I couldn't even finish it. GAH

Monday, January 5, 2015

Bravery: New Beginnings (with Added Commentary)

1 Nephi 17:17 - "And when my brethren saw that I was about to build a ship, they began to murmur against me, saying: Our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters."

I don't know if I made this clear, but I left home for the University a little bit early so I could work my mandated holiday shift. For various reasons, when I was given the option some months back, I chose the Christmas shift right before the advent of the second semester.

As it was, the full moon (or, at least it looked like it was full) found me tramping through the snow late last night with two of my fellow RAs, talking and laughing about life as we ensured the residents were doing right. As I usually do leading up to a massive shift in my life, I began to wax pensive in the quiet moments we three shared.

Endings, I believe, seem far more monumental to our mortal minds because there are less of them. We live in a world where many people begin things they never finish. It is far more rare to see someone finish that they have started than to actually see them begin. I can't tell you how many individuals used to scoff the idea that I would ever finish any of my books. Ending, it seems, is far more insurmountable than beginning.

However, I sometimes feel beginnings fail to garner the proper amount of respect they deserve. True, it is easy to take the first step of a thousand miles, but will you walk them? For me, though, no matter how many miles we fail to walk, I think it is more brave to begin than it is to finish. We fear failure. It's written into our makeup. If we never try, we can't fail. And yet, so many people risk it.

Today, I began classes with a new semester. I had many opportunities open before me, and I recognized many others that hadn't changed from last semester. I saw many students come back strong after hesitant semesters. I saw determination and strength in the eyes of many around me.

I saw bravery in the face of a beginning.

No one had given up.

As the year commences, and things kick into gear, I invite you to do the same.

Hey there! I wrote a commentary about this post on April 21, 2016. Click here to read it!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

From Palms to Snow: You Do More Than You Know

You Never Know (Video)

Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with a member calling to my time in Jamaica, which unfortunately concluded some six months ago.

The member and I didn't do too much in the way of activities, just taking time out yesterday to explore a nearby mall and catch up on life. We talked about everything from her first introduction to snow, to what she's been up to in the past couple of months, to the members and investigators from her branch and how they've been doing. Our conversation was accompanied by our wanderings through the mall, including stops at a Japanese restaurant, a toy store, and several clothing stores.

On the way back home, my friend reminded me of an experience she'd shared with my companion and I while I was still serving in her branch. The experience had touched her deeply, affecting many aspects of her life in positive ways, and she made sure to thank me for what I'd done on that day way back when.

When I look back on my life, including my mission, I wonder just how much I've actually done in helping and serving others. I'm sure many of you have felt the same way at times. Yesterday, driving home, I was eternally grateful for the rare opportunity to recognize that my labors and hopes had not gone to waste.

I find it unfortunate I don't know all or many of you personally or even very well. I can't personally contact each of you and tell you of a time you changed my life for the better. But I know all I need to simply because you are reading this now. I know you are the type of person to bless and encourage and uplift those around you, and that not every time do you receive thanks for it.

Well, I thank you. It may be worth little from a stranger or even from me personallly, but thanks.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Optimism: Minor Injury Overreaction (with Added Commentary)

Luke 6:42 - "... cast out first the beam out of thine own [hand] ..."

I woke up bright and early this morning to head over to a training meeting for us RAs, during which we were prepared for the upcoming week in regards to check-ins and what else was expected of us.

Following the conclusion of the meeting, we were charged with the task of clearing away the last of the Christmas decorations left over from the dance I described a few weeks back. Carting man-sized nutcrackers and wreaths the size of a small child across the housing complex, we the crew started chucking everything more or less back to where it needed to be.

As I struggled with a box full of plastic Christmas tree parts, I slid my hand across a wooden shelf and discovered a most peculiar pain throbbing in my flesh. Upon further inspection, I realized I'd shoved a baby-toothpick-sized splinter in the heel of my palm.

The natural man in me probably would have felt prone to moan and gripe about how I'd been wronged, about how my injury could have been avoided had the conditions in the storage room been better kept. I could have lashed out at my friends, my bosses, those in charge of the storage, or even taken to brooding and refused to help any more while I nursed my injury.

Instead, I said, "Coooooool!" and proceeded to help lift things until I could find a pushpin to carve the wood out of my hand.

That bloody line in between the pin and the gash? That's the splinter. The rest of the grain gets a little lost against the color of my flesh. I wish my camera was better, but hey.

Reacting negatively didn't occur to me until I'd already picked a good portion of the splinter, and even after it had occurred to me, I felt stupid that my brain was capable of thinking such things. Rather than see the painful experience as a burden or a problem, my initial reaction was to express excitement over a new experience and then push on with yet another. It's unfortunate that I don't always win the fight over the natural man, but at least I'm trying.

Hey there! I wrote a commentary about this post on April 14, 2016. Click here to read it!

Had any splinters in your life recently? Be sure to comment below!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

FAILED: Book of Mormon Challenge

Mosiah 4:19 - "For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?"

I often write about my triumphs, long-fought and well-earned, on this here blog of mine.

Of course, that isn't to say I don't experience my own fair share of failures.

Unfortunately, despite my enthusiasm and determination at the beginning of the month, I did not finish reading the Book of Mormon all the way through, reaching to the section you see above. The thing is, that's OK! 

It is true that, if we found success in every endeavor we took, we would fail to appreciate them. On the flipside, when we fail, we can avoid discouragement and choose to instead be encouraged to try even harder the next time. I, too, will take this defeat as it is, continuing my own studies throughout. Now, though, I have that goal: once I finish this read through, I will try again.

And right back atcha.