No, I Don’t Have any Milk

Greetings! Today is the 28th of May and I would like to make good on my goal of one (minimum) blog post a month. I haven’t posted one yet this month because I have been on a mission trip to Israel. (Awesome, no?) I got back last night. I’ll be detailing the trip probably on this blog, but I wanted to share a story that I thought was humorous.

On our trip back to the university, we landed in Philadelphia. Having just gone through customs, we had to go through the security checkpoint. One of the signs in line noted that no liquids in excess of three ounces are allowed to be taken aboard airplanes, except for formula, milk, and baby food (and that these must be declared). I noticed that it didn’t specify “breast milk,” but simply said “milk.” So I wondered aloud with the group if I could just bring gallons of milk on board, as long as I declared them.

I have heard you are not supposed to joke with the TSA. But… Well…

The security guard at the head of the line had a smile on her face as she talked with the person in front of me. Smiles are usually seen as the international symbol for a good mood, so I decided I’d ask her about bringing milk on a plane.

“Good morning, sir. How are you?”

“I’m well, thank you. How are you?” I handed her my passport.

“I’m alright.”

“Good. Hey, I have a question.”

“Hm?”

“Your sign over there says that milk can be brought on board as long as it’s declared. Are we really allowed to just bring milk?”

“Only if it is for a baby.” She handed me back my passport.

“Oh. So I can’t just bring a couple gallons of milk for if I get thirsty?”

Any joy on her face disappeared. “If you have any milk, you need to declare it now.”

“No, I don’t have any milk.”

***

What is the moral of the story? You might be thinking it’s “Don’t joke with the Transportation Security Administration.” But it’s really just “know your audience.” That poor lady probably had thirty other idiots like myself coming through her line that day, thinking they’re all clever with their loophole jokes. They’re just there to do a service. Know your audience.

I want some milk…

Extra Credit

Greetings. The following is a story I wrote last night for extra credit in one of my classes. I can’t say it’s very good, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve written. There was no planning involved… just simply stream-of-consciousness writing. I’m not sure why, but I decided to share it here. Enjoy.

***     ***     ***

It was on the fifth day of the fourth month of the year of our Lord 1876 in the beautiful country of Wontauk, on the continent of Dupree. Sir Arthur Felix DeCounsel Montenegro III rode swiftly on his noble steed—the speediest in the land!—to alert the court of the High Order of the impending doom headed toward their kingdom.

“Raise the gates! Raise the gates!” he shouted as he neared the outer wall. “I must get to the High Order!”

The guards reluctantly opened the gate as Sir Arthur neared. They did not want him to find out that he was banished from the kingdom. But, orders were orders. They lowered the gate for the knight’s final entry to his homeland.

Sir Arthur rode down the main street for a long while before taking the road up the hill. As he traversed the winding path, he got the impending sense that this ride was different. He was uneasy. But the kingdom must be warned. He plowed ahead.

Inside the court at the top of the hill, the prophets looked down with a sneer. It was by their decree that Sir Arthur was banished. They smacked their lips with glee as he neared their castle, ready to give the official declaration.

“The kingdom is under attack! Rouse the guards! Assemble the army!”

Phylander smiled evilly as Sir Arthur slid off his horse. “You have not heard the news, then?”

“I have! The kingdom of Thraknor wages war against us. We must rally our infantry.”

Several other prophets gathered around Phylander, wanting to see the knight’s face when he was told of the news. Phylander growled from the depths of his throat. “You are banished forthwith from the kingdom of Dra’ak, along with all the knights that bear your blue star, under penalty of death.” As if on cue, two strong men picked up Sir Arthur under his shoulders and began carrying him down the mountain. A third led his horse after him. The prophets shuddered with glee as Sir Arthur’s face expressed shock and confusion without uttering a word.

Once the disgraced knight was out of sight, the great dragon Firestalt, the Fear of the West, slid from his hiding place from beneath the stones of the castle. His voice sounded of rockslides and lightning and his footsteps frightened the very prophets whose minds he had taken control of.

“Excellent, my puppets. You are free to flee to the city of Tor, where your reward will be waiting for you. This kingdom will burn!” The dragon’s scales glistened with delight at the thought of the infernal city.

***

Outside the city walls, Sir Arthur met with the knights of the Blue Star, the bravest of all the men of Dupree. They numbered twenty-two, all banished from the kingdom with the fear of its destruction impending.

“What are we to do?” one knight asked.

“What can we do?” came one reply.

“How have the prophets gone mad? Why will they not reason with us?”

Sir Arthur looked at them from atop his steed. “I do not understand what is going on. But I do know what is right. Our homeland, our families are going to die, unless we do something.”

“You are not suggesting we take on a vast army, horribly outnumbered as we are!”

Sir Arthur looked at his offended companion. “I know you have it in you. You would not be a Blue Star if you did not.”

No other knight voiced concern. They all knew what they needed to do. It was very likely that they would all die, but their integrity could save Dra’ak.

“There is not much time. I can feel the stampede of horse hooves heading swiftly towards us.” They looked at each other, completely confused as to their situation, but faithful to the end. Putting themselves in battle formation, they rode their horses into the East, toward the coming onslaught, ready to make their ultimate sacrifice for the good of the people of Dra’ak. With swords raised high, glistening in the sun, they galloped toward death, never feeling more alive.

I Felt Compelled to Write This

Jim Gaffigan said it best: “You ever have so much to do, you just decide to take a nap?”

I’m a procrastinator. I’m not proud of that fact, but that’s the way it is right now. A lot of school work gets done at the last minute. Some people who do this brag about their condition, like it’s a huge accomplishment. “Let’s see, I can bench press three hundred pounds, I know the make and model of every airplane at Heathrow by sight, and I once turned in a paper that was due at midnight at 11:59.”

No. That’s not how this works. Procrastination is not a bragging right.

This week, I have several papers due. Off the top of my head, I can think of four. How many do I have done? One. Although, I have at least begun writing a portion of all the papers that are due. That may not seem like an accomplishment, but for me it certainly is.

On top of this, I am participating in National Novel Writing Month. I am supposed to be a little over 16,000 words at this point, but in actuality I am barely hitting five grand. In honesty, the novel has taken a back burner position to school work (as it should), but I am optimistic that given a day of free time, I could catch up. That seems improbable, but I am actually really excited about this story. In faith, with God’s grace, I will catch up. (“Then why are you writing a blog post?” “Well, I felt compelled to. I don’t write enough of these anyway.”)

Why do we ever start procrastinating? It’s not as though it’s hereditary. My parents aren’t procrastinators. They get the job done. Is it culture? Perhaps. There does seem to be a pervasive laziness that has swept over the churning, violent storm we call America. But I can’t place the entirety of the blame on culture, or even the majority.

The problem is inner.

The inside of me boils with passion to pursue this or that… Novel writing, drawing, deepening my knowledge of theology, foreign languages, creative technique, mode of expression, etc. Lately, I’ve even been developing ideas for video shorts (never had an interest before). Yet the production of my being would hardly lead one to believe I had a passing fancy in any of these pursuits.

The human condition is such that there are two people to think about when observing the life of one: the person as (s)he actually is, and the person that others think (s)he actually is.

Really, there is an inner being known only to the self and to the Creator, and an outer being projected so that others only see parts. Why is that? Honestly, I think there is a level of self-deprecation in all of us. We wouldn’t dare reveal our true selves to the world, so we give off a persona of who we want to be. Here is a reflection exercise: Don’t think about what you think about yourself. Think about what you think others think about you. This helps remove the bias that we have on what we hate most about our own lives and causes us to reflect on the persona we exude.

I tend to ramble. What is the point of all this?

Here is what I think others think about me: They see a wild-haired guy, who is good for a laugh on occasion, who genuinely cares about people, and is either really quiet or really loud. They don’t see a guy with passion for much of anything, save perhaps a favorite movie, or the basic needs of food and sleep.

Maybe I’m wrong about this. I probably am in one area or another. But the big problem I see in me is this: lack of active passion. Oh, there’s plenty inside of me building up, believe you me. The trouble starts when converting the inner passions to an outer reality. That cursed devil known as Procrastination rears his ugly head and begins gnawing on my limbs. Why is it that I do not do what I want to do?

I don’t have an answer for that. I just don’t know.

Oddly enough, however, I’m okay with not knowing. I don’t need an answer to do something about it. Here’s what I want to think people think of me: He is passionate. He truly loves what he does.

I need to switch procrastination for passion. It’s good that they both start with “p,” so that my alphabet of qualities will be hardly disturbed.

This condition of mine is not new. It’s been around since days of old. Hear the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:15. “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate.”(ESV) Here Paul was referring to sin, of which I could talk as well, but I think his wonderings apply here just as soundly. Paul had no answer to why he did things against his will. However, he trusted that God would take care of his life. I cannot tell what he thought others thought of him, but I can tell you what others actually think of him. Today, he is one of the most favored biblical icons of all time (in my experience, I would wager he takes second place only to Jesus Himself).

I do believe that I will finally be rid of the grip of procrastination. Even now, there is progress. I will become a man of passion.

And so we go…

 

An Attempt at Discipline (and a Taste of the Future)

I have had many ideas for novels. Before being called to ministry, I was going to be a writer. Now that I am called to the ministry, I still want to be a writer (“Author” sounds more sophisticated a term, but I will stick with “Writer” until I achieve a higher title.). Yet, I still haven’t finished a novel. So I am going to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year and get this bad boy on paper. I’m hoping that through this, I will become more disciplined, and I can already feel a taste of good things in the future. Pray for me?

Here is an excerpt from my planning, which may or may not be in the actual finished work. Let me know what you think!

Renne sat down on the bench and looked at the building it was facing; no doubt the pride of its architect with limestone columns, gold detail, modern glass panes, and ancient marble trim. Odd, he thought, that society evolved to have every facet of life judged by an art critic. No longer was white paint on wooden planks acceptable for a fence. There needs to be iron and patterns and complementary geometry. Nature, even, was twisted into man’s art form rather than God’s. Flowers placed ever so delicately in positions A, C, and Q give off a more pleasant atmosphere than any pattern wild growth could offer. Men live to be judged in an age where vogue vernacular shouts, “Judge not lest ye be judged!” from the tops of these limestone pillars.

Why had his father judged his paint stroke so harshly?

***

Alaric sat down on the bench and looked at the building it was facing; no doubt the pride of its architect with limestone columns, gold detail, modern glass panes, and ancient marble trim. Everything was structured exactly as it needed to be for the building to stay standing. There was a need for order. Why, he wondered, did people feel the need to disturb order? There was no sense in that. Were one of the columns removed, the building had greater opportunity to collapse.

Why had his son collapsed the building?

The Slow-Moving Wall of People

Have you ever been caught behind the slow-moving wall of people? You know the type. Five or six good chums, arms linked if preferred, ambling lazily down the sidewalk or hallway, without a care in the world for outside influence, whether that be hurried passers-by or beleaguered mothers with their seventeen children who simply want to get home. Doesn’t matter to these people. Their fun-filled, ever-so-important stories take precedence over the agreed-upon standard of “keep to the right.” Just a few moments ago, I was stuck behind this wall of people.

Is there time for stories and laughs and general merriment? Of course there is. But at the expense of the needs of others? Unlikely.

I find myself stuck behind the slow-moving wall of people in life. All my hopes and goals and dreams are just beyond these people, but they don’t care. They’re talking about the 10-season collection of Friends and heading to IHOP with friends and how much sleep they can get. They don’t care that I’m trying to reach past them to a strong relationship with our Creator and the completion of a novel and a step forward in ministry and a pile of books waiting to be read and people to meet and things to see.

Eventually you get past these people. There’s a bend in the sidewalk or the hallway widens. The problem is planning your route. Is there another wall of people ahead?

And so we go…