Just me

One Last Year

Driving onto campus, I struggled finding a parking space. I grinned to myself. Yep, it’s the first day and everybody will be in class. Give it two weeks, and there will be more parking spaces. This attitude of anticipation and new beginnings was felt in the various hallways and classrooms. Friends meeting up after a summer away from studies. Discussions revolving around classes, classrooms and professors. Remarkably enough, it was even felt in the way the students dressed. I thought it was just my own perception, but I overheard a few conversations that confirmed this. One female student assured her friend that she wouldn’t be dressed this well tomorrow. Put it all together and it felt rather festive. However, give it three weeks and there will be empty seats in the classrooms, students will show up looking like they rolled out of bed, and conversations will revolve around the irritating people in their life.

For myself, I’m excited this year is here. Greater than this excitement is the sense of wanting this year behind me. I’ve shared this with people I’ve spoken to over the summer. On the one hand, I need to sit and wait for the year to move; on the other, I’m raring to put these vagabond years behind me and move into a career field.

I’ve met old acquaintances this past summer who have asked what I am doing with my life or if I’m still teaching school. When I tell them that I’m not teaching and I am actually prepping for my senior year, they get this blank and puzzled look on their face. I sympathize with them. Even I’ve had to work at keeping track of myself the last seven years. Furthermore, when I tell people that my major is Food and Nutrition with a Business minor, many automatically ask, “So you want to start your own restaurant?” Well not really (sorry everybody who wanted to see a Chick-fil-a store in the Holmes County area). So maybe I can elaborate a bit more on my personal journey the last few years and what I project the next few years, Lord willing. Look for that in the next post.

 

Ignite the conversation,

EJ

 

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A Conversation with God

 

This afternoon’s conversation with God.

Stepping into the brilliant sunlight of the late afternoon, my thoughts were in a tumult. Yet happily enough, by the time I had reached my vehicle, all was settled. Here’s the recap. Maybe you can relate.

“But God, this is what I had wanted,” my brain argued. “Had You not said that this was to be? Maybe not explicitly but via interests and leanings of the heart?”

“Did you not pray to live in the center of My will?” came the Spirit’s gentle voice.

Yes, but can “the center of Your will” not include some of these heart desires? Must there be a constant denial of those things? You promise good things to those who abide with you, yet where are those? Maybe You really don’t have those good things? Maybe . . . it’s all empty promises.” Continue reading

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Header Photo

You may have not noticed it but I changed the header photo. It was time for a change though there was nothing wrong with the excellence of the previous header photo. I love this current photo because at times I feel like my life is crossing back and forth. During those times, I feel like there is no direction to my life. But when I can step back I see a progression despite the winding back and forth. So though this life twists and turns, I have a confidence in traveling it because I know the One who made my road.

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The Month of January (in a blog post)

I spent the month of January at home. That fact is notable enough when I think that in the past four years I have spent a cumulative 8 months at home. Living at home after being gone for so long is a little  weird. Weird doesn’t even convey the proper feeling of detachment, being out of place, wishing life would just hurry up, and wondering what life will bring. Maybe those feelings are with me when I’m studying at Faith Builders. If they are, I don’t think about them as much but at home, they seem to be more prominent.

So during the month of January, here are a few of my thoughts and actions (you may or may not understand these).

  • It’s always a good time with brothers. My younger brother is currently doing VS work in Arkansas. I flew out and spent a few days with him. Grand times talking about life and our dreams. 
  • The excellency of Kansas hospitality. After visiting my brother, I drove to Kansas. Dad had been asked to preach a week of meetings there. It helped that it provided me an opportunity to visit some of my friends, among them being the brothers Mast, Hans and Benji.
  • The frustration of wanting to work but only having seven weeks available to work. Prior to coming home for winter break, I had idealized working 10 – 12 hours every day. (Ha!) When I scored a job on a construction crew during the last two weeks of the fall semester, I was sure that this was to be. (Wrong.) The first week of work was during the infamous polar vortex and we didn’t work two days that week because of weather.
  • Taking on disgusting work to earn money. So I talked with my boss about some frustrations I was having about not working as much as I had wanted. He agreed, saying that this year was rare in the fact that there was not much steady work because of the weather. (Me thinks, "Gee, thanks boss. That’s encouraging.") He asked me if there was something that I had in mind and I mentioned that the only job I could think of that does not have a steep learning curve and that seems to always need more workers is catching broilers for Case Farms. I expected him to be a bit hesitant to my idea. Nope, he offers to call the crew and arrange it for me. (Hmm, not bad. Apparently he understands college kids and their desperate struggle for wealth, despite being an Amishman and never putting foot on a university campus)
  • Making filthy lucre. Great Scott! If you dislike early mornings, are a priss/yuppie/muppie, or simply have aversions to your senses being assaulted, DO NOT EMPLOY YOURSELF AT CATCHING CHICKENS! My first thought when I got on the van at 2:30  was "Hmm, smells violently of dung." Ten hours later, or 65,000 chickens later, and with $190 in my pocket, the smell had ceased to bother me. In fact, it smelled like money. Having caught chickens on multiple mornings, I still find the smell of chicken feet, which is only erased by repetitive hand washing, to be unsettling. This job shall past and I won’t mourn its passing. Well, except for the making money part.  
  • The Christian ethics of mass raising chickens. Though I’m doing it solely for the money, I wonder at the ethics of raising chickens for packing plants. Due to the number of Conservative Anabaptists who raise chickens, I stand to step on many toes if I’d voice these thoughts here in my community. Since those thoughts are still developing, I won’t publish them yet. Maybe sometime. In the meanwhile, if you read this post and see me in the coming days, feel free to ask me about them. We shall have ourselves a glorious discussion. 
  • The limited joys of learning French. So I catch chickens, one of the lowliest jobs available here in Holmes County. On the side, I’m trying to learn French which is the language of haute couture or high fashion. What a contrast. Except that between working two jobs, social life, and sleeping, I don’t study French like I would like. 
  • The second job. Thank Goodness (capital G refers to God) for a family business. Catching chickens is strictly a morning job. In the afternoon, I help Dad who is trying to build his inventory of premium honey prior to embarking on a three week missions trip to Kenya where it’s 75 degrees and sunny. I’m almost jealous but I need the money so I’m content to stay home.

Wow, this is getting long but there’s more.

  • Brainstorming a new service that does not exist in Holmes County. Developing any new business is hard. Studying and ironing out the details. Thinking of all the pros and cons of one method versus another. Thinking of your targeted demographic. Visualizing how it is going to come together. Writing your advertising. I never expected I’d be involved in all of this but at the end of January, an idea seized my cranium-encased gray matter and hasn’t released it yet. I wish I had more time to devote to it but first, there is the final semester of Faith Builders to navigate.
  • Being comfortable with being poor and in need of money. Facts speak and none quite so loud as the fact that for the past four years, I have not had a regular job. Translation: “no hay mucho dinero” (Spanish) ormichĩmi pirapire.” (Guarini) (btw, the EJ Scholarship Fund is currently looking for more donors. Winking smile) When one of my friends used the adjective “desperate” to describe my signing up to catch chickens, I had to agree with him. It’s not the need for money that is the root of all evil, but the love of it. We need money to live in this world/economy of ours. That, too, is a fact
  • Oh yes, during the month of January, I got two of the songs that the Hope Singers will be singing this summer. Two songs in three different languages = more of my spare time taken up. So far, I’ve enjoyed learning these pieces of music. They are relatively easy, and I’m relishing the thought of traveling to a country I’ve never been before . . . Poland. *happy thoughts*

And lastly:

  • Life post-FB: The big question is whether or not I complete my bachelors degree at another school. I think I will but behind the first big question is another, just as large question. Which school? To any Ohio readers, any input on these three colleges: Cedarville, Bluffton, or Malone? These are the three schools that I’ve been considering and barring any major advice or suggestions from other people, probably attend one of these three colleges. I know, okay heard, that Bluffton and Malone would be open to accepting credits from Faith Builders but have not gone far enough in the transfer process to discover if this is true. 

And that, in a blog post, has been my cranial and physical activities for the month of January.

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On the Word “Whom” and the Irregular Pronunciation of the English Language

Every now and then, as I read or engage in conversation, a word strikes my fancy. Often the pronunciation catches my attention. My literary radar picked up the word ‘whom’. Why, in the ensuing days, that word stayed in my mind, I do not know.

The usage of the word itself differs slightly from the word ‘who.’ Who is the subject of a sentence. Who called? Whom is used in the objective case. Whom did you call? Of whom are you talking? Unfortunately in everyday speech we are losing the subtle difference between these two words. I’m not going to postulate on grammar and the daily malpractice of English vernacular.

Yet, why that style of long “o” sound? After all, there are two other ways of saying the long “o” sound. One is the –omb sound. Tomb and womb spring to mind. So why not add a “b” to the end of whom? whomb. That looks passable and in accordance with other words that end similarly. But then we have words like bomb. Do we pronounce that word as “boomb”. No, we have another word that is similar phonetically to bomb with a long “o” sound. We spell that one this way – boom.

Boom brings us to the other way of spelling the long “o” sound, -oom. Loom and room are two other examples of this pronunciation. So, spelled according to this, whom would look like this, whoom. Again, due to the spelling of other words in the English language, this spelling of whom looks passable. The spelling of the word might look stretched but this would be a more traditional spelling of the word than whom.

Whom, in its traditional spelling, looks like it should be more like tome. whohm. Now I realize that the English language is not a machine that functions according to rules and regulations. It is a complex beast that twists and turns and has been influenced through the centuries. I recognize this. I speak two other languages other than English. I understand that some things need to just be accepted by language speakers.This goes for all languages. I’m not ranting about the English language nor about ‘whom’. I’m just pointing out the peculiarity of this word. For example, someone who has cultured English may pronounce “whom” with a slightly breathed fricative “h.” This peculiarity delights me; however, standard phonetics say that it is identical to who, the exception being the added m sound on the end of the word. 

Whom is not the only word that I have wondered it; merely the most recent one. Whom caught my attention for the combined spelling and pronunciation differences and the subtle differences in usage between it and the word who. Maybe someday soon, I can highlight another peculiar word that English uses. For now, that’s all.

Clear communications in English to all,

EJ

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Today

While sitting in chapel I browsed through the notes on my iPod. On of those notes stated the goals I have for this semester. I had forgotten about one of my secondary goals, the goal of focusing on the positive and good in life. While I enjoy being eloquently vague, much good can be found in expressing the positive. Today with this beautiful sun shining, I feel inspired.

Today, I’m thankful…

  • for this lovely morning
  • my phone conversation with my younger brother last night
  • this morning’s pancake breakfast with my mentoring group
  • the generosity of friends
  • the opportunity to learn for 2 years
  • the fact that less than a year ago, I was wrapping up a two year commitment in Paraguay
  • for all the personal growth I experienced in Paraguay
  • for the goodness of God in the year since I’ve been back
  • for humor that is shared with friends
  • friends who listen even when they don’t understand
  • the many people who make studying at Faith Builders possible

This is only a partial list and not near a look at the whole. I could go on but I’d risk sounding cliché-ish. Nonetheless these are blessings that are real to me this morning.

Now, duty calls and I must be off.

EJ

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Sundays Musings 4/21: On Opinion, Relativism and Other Bits

The other night I had a front row seat of what amounted to a display of biases. It was late in the evening and I was tired; ergo, I did not contribute to the discussion. I’m not sure how beneficial my participation would have been, given my tiredness and the fact that my biases did not align with those in the conversation. Though I was tired, I still found myself amused at the whole display of what amounted to personal opinion and nothing that could be proven to be technically superior. In fact, one particular bias could be proven to be inferior but I digress. The evening proceeded along these lines. One of the speakers had recently purchased a device and someone had asked him how he liked it. Wrong question. The one asked, Person A, gushed freely. Part of his move involved a transition to new software. It wasn’t just Person A. Persons B and C were equal sympathizers in the discussion. I, if I would have spoken, would have been the lone dissenting voice, so I remained silent. But I literally was getting sick to my stomach over the whole thing. It is only a piece of metal and glass. There was no real objectivity raised or fair comparisons made.  Somehow, to me this knowledge added a sense of blind fan rabidity in the effusive praise of the object.

The conversation moved on to the subject of grad gifts. While this was equally fascinating to observe from my spot on the sidelines, the entire conversation was a spouting of personal views. While these views varied, a few actually had sound reasons attached to them. But this was only intermission; round 2 was coming.

It proved to be a doozy. Somehow the conversation turned to a piece of machinery and how that piece originated. One of the participants, whose family has a business interest in these devices, raised a protest against what the others said. But, though it interested him, his argument was weak. He hadn’t studied it sufficiently to argue effectively. He had a passionate response but his lack of knowledge compromised his argument. After watching with interest, I left for my bunk. It was past midnight; maybe that explains part the reason why the conversations went the way they did.

Yet the whole thing had proven to be an educating experience. Foremost in my mind was this question Why do we cling to an opinion without fairly portraying the opposing view? Or hold on to it when faced with contrary evidence?

I like to think I’m fairly unbiased. I’d also like to think that when presented with new information, I’m open to changing my mind. Yet I know the human tendency to see any new information as being an personal attack. That is how we tend to see these things. We also tend to view accepting new knowledge as exposing our own deficiency and lack of knowledge. Either way we don’t like the feelings we get from having to change our opinions so we resist. Though the entire exchange was entertaining and informative, it reveals how easy conflicts can potentially arise.

Of course, all of the above is just my opinion of something I recently observed. Now about me and my opinion about opinions. Something disturbing that I find in myself in relation to this subject of opinions is I find I am a little relativistic. What this does for myself is it causes me not to stand as firm as I should on matters that are more than just opinion. It’s fine for the other person to believe what they do as long as I can keep my opinion. That last sentence is relativism in a nutshell. In a way, it is intellectual protection yet I don’t like it. On certain matters a grounded defense is needed. On opinions such as I witnessed what someone once said comes to mind. “People all have two opinions and sometimes they stink. So live with it.” I put that last sentence on ‘cuz what are you going to do? Present your opinion sans an argument?

Great men still abound. Almost invariably, every time secular society finds them, they write about them. Here is a link about such a person. This is something I can appreciate. A man teaching young men how to be men and being involved in their lives. May his kind continue!

Oh, and before I run off to class, I’m posting this as well. Pray for the remaining Boston bomber suspect. He needs it. Care to dispute? Click here and read prior to arguing that he doesn’t deserve prayer. Now, I’m off to class.

EJ

Categories: Just me, Sunday's Musings | 2 Comments

Sunday’s Musings 3/24: Part II

To the readers of my blog,

Many of you I know in real life and I understand why you would be interested in reading this humble blog. Others I haven’t met. Your reasons are more obscure to me. I’m not here to quibble about such matters. I write; it’s my freedom. You read; it’s your privilege. Your reading shows your interest. Ergo, this post.

In reference to my last post, I wrote about an area of my life that had been essentially destroyed. The ruins still abound. But despite the freshness of the rubble, greenery already pushes through. While time will tell how well I handle the destruction of this area in my life, I’ve been blessed by a sense of peace. Its sweetness has sustained me. So how can I go from a sense of utter desolation and loss to a stated peace about life and living?

It’s not easy and it’s not without pain. But for the Christian, healing can not start without acknowledging God’s hand in it. The death of my hopes and dreams is painful. I don’t see the big picture. I only see this day, this week. Shoot, I can’t even predict a month in advance. Looking back over the past weeks, months and years, I can see God’s hand at work. The paradox comes back. I see Him working and because the future is so unknown, I struggle to trust tomorrow and the following days to Him. In the face of the destruction to my dreams, anything less than total surrender of control hinders the healing I seek to the pain inside of me. This is the first step.

Secondly being able to talk about it to someone brings a great catharsis. Talking to a peer or a mentor, whether or not they fully understand, offers an outlet while bring a sense of closure to the shattered dreams. As a Christian, I am in this with other believers. Life is a journey but along our journey, we encourage Christ in other Christians. This is beautiful!

Last night, my friends and I engaged in a lively discussion about God’s will and how that leads us into current situations. Here’s another element. While I do not idealize a complacent passivity that leads me into God’s will, I do acknowledge the fact that my choices may bring me to a place where I question God’s will. I’ll try to break this down. God will not always hand things to me. He wants me to pursue Him. Nor will He make all of my decisions for me. I seek His will. Finding a path that seems to be the one He’s nudging me towards, I proceed in faith. If that path is wrong, God will reveal that; He will take away that option. Out of the accompanying pain and sorrow comes a need for the above first two steps.

So, does the last step mean that I’m always setting myself up to be hurt? No, it as a alive and active pursuit of God and a desire to know more of Him. The danger lies in a complacent attitude that can lead to arrogance.

It truly is painful to experience this demolition and regrowth. It can happen in almost any aspect of my life: in my occupation, my church, my relationships, or my family. Yet at times it is necessary. Dreams die hard especially when I have set it up. But God wants control of those dreams and sometimes the way to do it is to destroy them. He wants me to say with the songwriter, “Take my will and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.”

EJ

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Sundays Musings 3/24

Envision your life as a verdant and flourishing kingdom. Now envision this kingdom divided into separate spheres of yourself. In the middle might be your church sphere and in the corner, your work sphere and so on. Your kingdom is divided up; every facet of your life in its place. It’s a reflection of you. 

Ever been in a situation and place where you felt totally shredded? Where each of your carefully crafted plans and dreams lie about you in piles of rubble? The scene around you has the feel of a warzone; the dust from the rubble drifts up in thin tendrils to an azure blue heaven. From deep within you, a wail rises up. A primal desire to give vent to how you truly feel. But like a soldier in a war zone, you don’t. You feel like you can’t afford to. So you set your face like a mask and pick through the rubble, looking for something familiar and wondering if things will ever be the same. It’s eerily quiet. Unlike other disaster scenes, no sirens wail. No emergency responders are swarming over and through the piles of debris and rubble in search of survivors. ‘Cuz there is but one survivor, you.

In your private kingdom, other places still exist where all is green and vibrant. The total devastation of this small area is offset by these other healthy areas but your mind is on this one, the one that needs help. The one that was flourishing, seemed healthy, and that now lies in shambles. Sitting down on piece of rubble, you prop your head in your hands and think. Thoughts flit through your mind. Questions tumble freely but their  answers aren’t forthcoming. In this maelstrom, you feel yourself losing control of beliefs that once felt solid and secure. You wonder, Where is God?

His answer surprises you. Right here.

Right here? Right here in this devastation and amid this rubble?

Yes. In fact, I caused it. It is then the hot tears flow. They had threatened but you never gave release to them. Now they splash freely and in their salty wake comes  catharsis, a release from the tension and the question Why, God, why?

From these cathartic tears, a peace begins to well up. A peace that can only be explained as divine. As the days go by and the dust from the rubble settles, the continuing presence of peace comforts the pain of destruction. The phrase, “peace which passes understanding,” becomes more than a collection of words expressing a pat ideal. It indwells and becomes part of your existence.

Your sphere or zone of rubble maybe a different one than mine. It could be your church situation, your work, your family, or something personally. It matters not which of these it is but we have all been there. We know what Ground Zero feels like. That overriding feeling of devastation and the accompanying question of how to rebuild, how to survive when every day feels like a drag.

It has been such a week for me. A week of devastation and shock. Wednesday and Thursday were some of the hardest, most loneliest, and introspective days of my life. Under any other circumstances, my behavior on those days would be anti-social. But in the face of this, it’s called recovery. Even now, I’m not sure I’m whole. There are still traces of destruction. Rubble still abounds. But I have a friend. Though He caused it, He promises to help me re-build. He promises to be there and already He has given comfort. Though the pain is raw and it’s all I can do to stay composed, He has given His peace. I truly can not explain it but its undercurrent is what has stabilized my past week. And for this, I am grateful. .

EJ

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A Painful Code of Honor

I really don’t know how I’ve survived the past two days. At times, the world around seems like a hazy existence. My grades have suffered and if this goes on too much longer, the effects will be felt by those around me. I’m working hard to see that that doesn’t happen.

It’s tough being a gentleman. Maybe I’m not but I aspire to be and it’s that aspiration that currently leads down a road of thorns. A gentleman’s word and honor are bound up all in one. There is no dichotomy between the two. His word is his promise. By his very nature, he can’t be or do otherwise. Though it rip him apart, he will be faithful to the word he has given. It is that sort of pain that I currently feel. Last night, I had to give vent. Lying in my bunk and pen in hand, this is the result:

God, this old heart of mine aches,            

Weighed down with pain, it nearly breaks,

This present valley looks so long,

A heart so full, no room for song.

 

What once filled my heart with gladness,

The same threatens a most bitter madness,

What once seemed a joyous stream,

Is now an almost unattainable gleam,

Yet…

Deep down below this current strife,

Lies a fountain of truth giving life,

And though pressed by disappointments sore,

Twill rise to refresh my soul once more.

 

And tho this strife threatens to slam

And cause me to question who I am

And grief oerwhelms in cathartic tears,

And should this ache linger thru the years,

Yet…

My word I’ve given to a friend,

A word from which I can’t rescind,

A word of honor, to be sure,

A word to which I will endure.

 

A gentleman’s word can’t be broke,

For a gentleman is a different folk,

His words, his honor are his pledge,

Against these, dishonor is ne’er alleged.

 

Though gray clouds of doubts arise,

And disappointment oertake my skies,

And gloom enshrouds the path ahead

And passion lies dormant and dead,

Yet…

My word is given, I can’t go back,

My honor’s at stake, I shall not slack,

For to do so would only be to fail,

My course is marked, I’ve set my sail.

 

One day this pain shall all have ceased,

And this battered heart shall be at peace,

It now seems hard to believe twill mend,

Yet God shall soon set it right again.

Categories: About life, Just me, Praise, Quotes, Rants and Randomness | 1 Comment

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