Thursday, August 23, 2012


We’ve all used them, those devices that have a big red button them. It doesn’t matter what it is- a phone, a television remote, even a traffic light. We all know what a button that color means.

It means stop.

You’re on the phone and someone says something you don’t like, something that hurts. Stop.

You’re watching a movie and something revolting and grotesque comes up. Stop.

It all seems so easy in the moment. Just hit that red button and it all goes away.

But you know what you can’t stop? The thoughts. You have an image in your mind, it stays there. That’s why horror movies, movies where we see the reality of death on screen, played out in all too realistic detail, can be so dangerous. We forget that nightmares are not just the stuff of children and fairy tales. Grown-ups have them too. Movies like that feed the nightmares…do you really think that your mind isn’t capable of forming those awful images itself?

Don’t be blind. Terror is very real, and there is no stop button anymore. Not when you’re grown-up.

Remember when you were little, and scared? You’d woken up in the middle of the night and everything was wrong. Dragons had risen up in your dreams, invading your sweet, innocent mind. Waking up almost made it worse…now you were awake, crying, shaking, trying to fight off the thoughts that were never supposed to be there! But there was always something bigger to hold onto on those frightful nights. You could go climb in bed with your big brother. You could wake up your mom and tell her all about it.

“Run, run, run away, Buy yourself another day. A cold wind's whispering secrets in your ear, So low only you can hear.

 Run, run, run and hide, Somewhere no one else can find. Tall trees bend and lean pointing where to go, Where you will still be all alone

 Don't you fret, my dear, It'll all be over soon, I'll be waiting here for you.”

-The Civil Wars, Kingdom Come

But when you grow up, you can’t do that anymore, not really. We can't run away from those nightmares. It’s an unspoken rule. And even if you can…something inside keeps you from moving. You just stay there, scared to the point of not wanting to make the slightest noise for fear of some unknown creature.

But we “grown-ups” aren’t in a dream. That’s the part that should frighten us the most. There really are awful things out there and we have to face them. Because of no one faces it- if everyone turns up the music so loud that the screams of real, dying people are tuned out-if we all run away-then no one will ever know the truth. And evil can reign victorious.

Remember the first time you saw pictures of the bodies from Dachau and Auschwitz? Remember how horrified you were that such a thing could ever be inflicted on a group of human beings? Remember how repulsed and disgusted you were by the evil of one man?

Now think back to a more recent memory. Remember the first time you saw an aborted baby? Remember how sickened you were? Didn’t you wonder how anyone could rip apart a child like that? Do you remember how appalled you were when you heard the murderers claiming that it wasn’t “really a life, just a clump of tissue” ?

I remember.

And I don’t have the answers.

But I do know that even in the midst of the horror, grief, pain, anger, and fear that rushes through us when we unearth these type of tragedies, we must always fight.

Evil must not conquer. Fear cannot get the better of us. Terror is an ugly thing and you no matter how old you are, you will always engage in battle with it. But fight you must, for just as real as evil is good. Good is on our side…and when we have that, we have a mighty weapon that no one but ourselves can take away from us.

This can’t have a happy ending, because the deciding battle hasn’t been declared. But now, we must enter the war and fight our own battles. For in the end, there is only One Victor, and if He is with us, even in the midst of terror and fear, confusion and chaos, pain, grief, anger…there will always be hope. For if God is with us, then no one can stand against us.

Welcome to the war.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

ChesterCon 2012: Break the Conventions, Keep the Commandments

Sarah admiring the view from our hotel window.
(This was mostly written in Reno, finished up here at home. The conference was amazing. I am so thankful that we were able to go and be a part of it. God is doing wonderful things through the American Chesterton Society. Thank you all for your prayers!)

It doesn't get much better than this.

I'm lying on a hotel bed in Reno currently, typing this up about fifteen minutes before we go down into the main part of the hotel (aka, the casino) to get through to our conference. Yes, I'm at the Chesterton conference. Yes, it's in Reno, NV. And yes, it actually is at a casino.

But such is irony. The weekend has been full of such great talks, fantastic people, and there's just an aura of happiness that emanantes from this place. It's truly beautiful. GK Chesterton had one all encompassing characteristic, and that was his happiness. His happiness came as a result of his wisdom and his innocence, which were deeply important in his life as well, but joy is the real blessing of Chesterton.

Enjoying an (overpriced) dinner at a buffet in the hotel!
Being here, you just feel happy. Not free of all burdens, not disillusioned, but you have everything in wonderful perspective. Just last night, after the world premiere of the first Chesterton movie Manalive, we went with a group of about seven other individuals to go have something to eat in the hotel/casino. (Yeah, it's legal for minors to be down there. It's Reno.) The group was really something; everyone on fire for God, fans of Chesterton, and trying to do something meaningful, truly meaningful. Mark Shea, of Catholic and Enjoying it, along with his wife Janet. Kevin O'Brien, of Theater of the Word, Inc. Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society. Jason Jones, producer of Bella and a man with a mission to end abortion. And then...there's us- my mom, brother, sister, and I were also in this unbelievable conversation. They'd invited us into their thoughts and theories, and it was truly a privilege to be mentored by these men's examples and words.

With Mrs. Nancy Brown at our booth. I'm in costume for the poem Lepanto.
They were talking about the recent sting videos that were put out by Lila Rose and Live Action. There's been a pretty large debate going on about these videos- I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty details here because it's pretty difficult stuff and doesn't really need to be publicized. However, the basic question was whether or not lying can be morally justifiable and whether or not in some cases, the end justifys the means.

It's a wine jug, in case you couldn't tell.
The sign reads, "Do Not Discard. Property of American Chesterton Society.
Don't you just love these people?!
Let me just say- things are so much more complicated in real life. Things are never as easy as they seem. I really was in awe of these men, who were so articulate and immovable in their different convictions yet willing to listen to each other- a rare virtue in today's society. At one point of the conversation, I just looked around and wanted to laugh. We're in a casino and these men are yelling, literally yelling, about God, truth, morality, and the pro-life cause. It was so encouraging and yet scary at the same time....scary because it's unbelivable that our society is at the point where these conversations have to even happen.

But never, throughout that whole conversation, did I feel down or depressed about the current situation. That's seeming to happen a lot the world grows darker, our conversations turn toward those dark, sad things. It's hard to see light in so much darkness.
With Dale Ahlqist, President of ACS.
That was the difference between this conversation and others I've heard. It was sad to be talking about these things, yet the conversation was still joyful, even wading through the deep waters of discussing abortion and morality today. How beautifully that conversation echoed the words of Chesterton, "But the men signed with the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark!"

I was so blessed by this entire conference. It was truly incredible, and as Kevin O'Brien said in his toast to the American Chesterton Society- this is the Church. The world and media sometimes see the Church as this overbearing, patriarchal organization that just seeks to control its members. But as we know, that's not the Church. We are the Church- we are tuned out, but we will not be silent. As the dark around us grows darker, our light will shine brighter. We will show the world the overwhelming love of Christ, and the honor of bearing his name and image. And like Chesterton, we'll show them through our joy, through our laughter, but also through our wisdom.

We will go against the stream- because we're not dead yet.

"A dead thing goes with the stream. Only a living thing can go against it."
 -GK Chesterton

"I don't deny that we need priests to remind us that one day we will die. I only say that we also need another kind of priests called poets to remind us that we aren't dead yet."
-Manalive, GK Chesterton

Friday, August 3, 2012

Better than YOLO

You've probably heard the term YOLO. (You Only Live Once, for those of you who fit into the "sheltered" category. ;)

This post is not on YOLO...for some of that, go see what Shrimpy has to say: Excuses for Stupid She has an awesome & insightful post on it that you should read.

I don't necessarily agree with YOLO. It's a fine idea, I suppose, as long as one doesn't take it to stupid, extreme levels. Which is what most people feel YOLO somehow justifies.

Wouldn't it be better if YOLO was replaced with something like this:

"I think that at some point, you have to just do something very crazy and very right, just to dare yourself to live. Not something stupid and destructive...just something very good and fun and beautiful."
~The Shadow of the Bear

To dare yourself to live....have you ever felt like that? Like what you were doing was the best thing you could be doing, even if it was a little scary or a little controversial? I don't know if I have. So I guess I probably haven't, seeing as if I had, I'd remember it. Maybe that should be on my summer bucket list: to dare myself to live. That could be a list in and of itself- and wouldn't it be amazing if I could actually, by September 1, have it checked off?

Maybe it's too lofty a goal for two months. But something tells me that by the end of summer, I'll get this quote even more than I do now. That I'll know even more what "to surrender a precious dream" would really mean.

Will you join with me? Join in daring ourselves to live? I think it's an adventure that just might take a lifetime.

(This was supposed to be posted last month. That didn't work out very well. Still holds true with the month of summer that I have left  though! Prayers would be appreciated- I'm in Reno, NV just now at the 31st Annual Chesterton Conference. It's absolutely fantastic. I'll post about it when I get home. Till then, adieu...:)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Could you die in order to live?

When I send emails, I always put a quote at the bottom. At face value, it seems like your average, put-as-part-of-your-signature quote. But over the past several months, it's come to mean so much more to me than just that. The quote is from GK Chesterton (yeah I know, big surprise) and it's about courage.

"Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live, taking the form of a readiness to die."

I can't say that I ever felt like courage contradicted itself. I have always thought that courage was something to want, to aspire toward, to have. Even after I started putting this quote on my emails, I didn't recognize its full significance.

That is, until a debate round. It's so funny how things just hit you right in the middle of everyday, down-in-the-trenches life. We were debating against a nationally known team and feeling pretty stressed just going into the round. Mind you, this was the new resolution that we'd only had a couple of weeks to prepare for, and most of that time had been spent working on affirmative. Now, we were going negative against a really good team.

When the first speaker stood up and gave the speech, I grew more and more nervous. I don't usually get anxious during speech rounds or debate rounds- I have too many things going on in my head, too many feelings already without anxiety there to complicate them. So, having this intense nervousness was really new and very unwelcome for me.

As fate would have it, I was the first negative speaker. I sat at the prep table, using up as much time as I could, trying to see if I had something worthwhile to talk about. It wasn't that this was a particularly amazing case- it was just that my brain wasn't functioning right and I wasn't able to make heads or tails out of it.

When the timer called "2 minutes used," I knew that I had to stop. I was just trying to put off the inevitable.
I'm a debater. This is my job. I have a responsibility to my partner, to my club, to my coach, to my family, and to myself, to get up there and do the best job that I can. Don't think about how bad it'll be. Just get up there, say what you have to say, and don't start repeating yourself. Finish when you're done.

The speech was four minutes long. A usual constructive is usually double that. When I sat back down, I definitely didn't feel proud of myself. I wasn't pleased with what I had done, because I felt like it was beneath my capabilities.

But reflecting back on the round, I realized that courage had to play a part in that scenario. I wanted to "live." (meaning, get up and speak.) I knew that I had a responsibility to live. But that desire, that wish, had to be backed up by something real and constructive. I had to be ready and willing to sacrifice my own comfort and accomplish what needed done. I had to die to my vision of what I wanted the speech to look like and be okay with what the speech was. I had to die to thoughts of what the judge may think of my speaking style or lack thereof and focus on getting the words out of my mouth.

We won the round. It wasn't because of how I spoke, or how I did. I didn't know when I started that I'd win the round- but of course, we had a 50/50 chance of winning just going into the room. But if I didn't get up to speak, that chance would have dropped to 100/0, in favor of aff. By not speaking and not conquering myself, I would have forfeited the round. That's what I knew I couldn't do.
I wouldn't want to re-live that round, but at the same time I needed to learn the lesson. Courage isn't some word that stirs up feel-good emotions. It's a call to duty, a call to valor. It's a virtue that should always be blossoming and never stop growing. Because in our own way, we are all asked to rise to a challenge. And to conquer that challenge requires real, contradicting courage.

"This paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it.
A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape.
He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine."
~GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 136

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Eyes Open

What a gorgeous song.
I realize that this is a really loaded statement, but in my opinion, Taylor Swift is a truly gifted lyricist and she does herself proud with this one. Not only is the singing haunting and mysterious, but the ballad is deserving of the song. Eyes Open, though originally meant for the Hunger Games soundtrack, really can mean a lot of different things.

Our job is to keep our eyes open, stay on guard. "Your adversary, the Devil, is prowling about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour you."

We can't always stay little and innocent. At some point we'll have to step into the real world, and we're going to encounter some brutal things. Some things that make us want to run away like it's an awful nightmare, cover our ears so we drown out the sound, close our eyes so we can remain oblivious to the horror.

We are here to make an impact. We can't pretend anymore, we can't hide defenseless anymore. It's time for we, the Christian youth, to stand up, open our eyes, pay attention, and speak out against the culture of death.

Otherwise, the Hunger Games might not be as fictional and futuristic as we all are hoping it is.

The tricky thing
Is yesterday we were just children
Playing soldiers
Just pretending
Dreaming dreams with happy endings
In backyards, winning battles with our wooden swords
But now we've stepped into a cruel world
Where everybody stands and keeps score

Keep your eyes open

Everybody's waiting for you to breakdown
Everybody's watching to see the fallout
Even when you're sleeping, sleeping
Keep your ey-eyes open.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Of Elves, Dwarves, and Fairy Dust

Cinderella was always my favorite fairy tale. I'd like to say to that I fell in love with the Grimm Brother's account...but I didn't. I think my fascination really began with the Disney movie, hearing all the music, enjoying the little characters that although not in the real fairy tale, made the movie awesome. Gus-Gus stands out in memory, for instance. ;P

But when I was around seven, I read The Chronicles of Narnaia - and a whole new world opened right before my eyes. Suddenly, fawns and talking animals and kings and queens seemed like they really could be real. It made me want to step into Lewis' magical world and become a part of Narnia.

Actually, I tried once. My mom and dad had a big oak armoire and one day, just for fun, I stepped inside. I didn't close the door all the way behind me and even though I knew for a fact that nothing was going to happen, I went to the back anyway. I knocked on the wooden panel in the back and for a moment, I could feel what Lucy must have felt when she came back from Narnia. That sense of disappointment and betrayal, that feeling of wanting something so badly but knowing that it will never, can never, happen.

The next logical step into fairy-land seemed to be Tolkien's famous series, The Lord of the Rings. Most of my friends have read those books and are captivated by the elves and fairies of that fairy tale. I tried reading those didn't go very well. The descriptions and amount of brain power that has to go into reading those fictional books just aren't worth it for me. I'll try again some other time- but for now, I'm content to *not* be a part of the passionate Tolkien conversations and debates.

Now, I'm almost fifteen. You'd think that my time among fairies and talking animals has passed. But I'm afraid it hasn't. I don't think it ever will.

Let's think about fairy tales for a moment. There's Cupid and Psyche, Lucy and Tumnus, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. All are so uniquely different. The first, the story of a Greek god and his love. The second, the tale of a modern-day English girl and a friend she meets in a magical land. The last, a teenager abandoned and banished because of one woman's vanity.

But all of them still are fairy tales. Not because they're not true. Although they do have that in commmon, you'll find that elements of each story could be in fact real-life. Instead, they all rest upon one person's decision, upon one choice that determines the fate of all.

"In the fairy tale, an incomprehensible happiness rests upon an incoprehensible condition. A box is opened, and all evils fly out. A word is forgotten and cities perish. A lamp is lit and love flies away. A flower is plucked and human lives are forfeited. An apple is eaten and the hope of God is gone."
-GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 77

Linking that to my life, there are some real corellaries. We all make choices, every day. Getting up out of bed is a choice, talking with my family is a choice. And for each choice we make, there is a consequence. That's a part of life that we all have to face-actions result in consequences. I know, we all hate them, but yet they still remain.

That's what characters in those seemingly unpretentious, harmless fairy tales learned. When Pandora cracked open the lid of that box, she submitted to her temptation and curiousity. She would have to face, for the rest of her life, the fact that she single-handedly brought death and destruction into the world.

When Psyche lit that oil lamp and looked into the face of her husband, she, if only for an instant, forgot the love she had for him. She forgot all but a burning need for knowledge which she finally quenched, but at what a price!

Our decisions have results. Our lives are made up of choices and potential. Potential tragedies, potential joys. Just like those fawns and fairies, nymphs and dryads in elfland, we get to have the final say over our life.

What is the end of the fairy tale?


By the way, dear readers, I just re-discovered an incredible literary treasure. Or treasures, rather. It really does belong as a footnote to this post...seeing as the books are called "fairy tales re-told"...and I can't wait to blog about it. Maybe in a couple weeks?

But just to get you ready- a quote:
"Have you ever felt that there was something going on in life that not everyone was aware of?...As though there’s a story going on that everyone is a part of, but not everybody knows about—a sort of drama, a battle between what’s peripheral and what’s really important. As though the people you meet aren’t just their plain, prosaic selves, but are actually princes and princesses, gods and goddesses, fairies, gypsies, shepherds, all sorts of fantastic creatures who’ve chosen to hide their real shape...Or have forgotten who they really are.
Have you ever thought that?"

--Rose Brier, The Shadow of the Bear

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Life Well Lived

When I opened my blogger dashboard on Friday night, I recieved an unpleasant surprise. There seemed to be a theme among many of the blogs I follow- there were at least three posts, all from different people, about one young man. One man, and how his life impacted them.

That young man's name was Joshua Eddy. He was a nineteen year old, on fire for God and in love with life. But on May 5, one misstep proved fatal and the river became his coffin.

Now, his family and friends grieve. They pray. They question. But even with the tears comes joy...for Josh ministered to thousands more people after his death than I'm sure he could ever have imagined.


I never met Josh Eddy. I came into the league one year after he left and never heard his name until Friday night. But Josh's testimony has touched me in a way that nothing else of yet has.

In the middle of April, Josh wrote a blog post entitled, "To die well..." There, he documented for the eyes of his 60-some followers thoughts that were going through his head in the early morning hours. They were thoughts about death.

"But now, having grown beyond childish fantasy and realized the reality of my duty as a man… the thought of giving my life for something… what would it be? A day rarely passes that I don’t think about it.

Will I die in an explosion saving a woman and her child from a car engulfed in flames? Will I throw myself in front of a truck to save a child playing in the street? Will I die protecting my family from an intruder in my home? Will I take a bullet to the head while standing between a sick thug and the woman he intended to rape? Will I give away the last parachute or life ring? The last piece of bread? The last ounce of water? Will I freeze to death having given away my last piece of warm clothing?

Will I sing songs of praise as I am burned alive for refusing to deny the One who endured far worse for me…….?

Do these questions scare me? No. I would give anything to die like that… To die so that someone else might live… the thought shakes me and sends tears streaming down my face. But more than that, so much more than that, I want to die a martyr. To die for the overwhelming love of Christ, and the honor of bearing His Name and image; to be counted “among whom the world was not worthy”… I can’t even imagine… That would be dying well."
Josh, you did die well- you set an example for us not only through your life but also through your death. You didn't die exactly how you hoped you would. You died doing what you loved- capturing life through the lens of a camera.
But your death had an even bigger effect on those around you than did your life, if that's possible. You did die so that others might live- so that we could see what a good and holy death is. So that we could experience the grief of a role model gone, and grow closer to God through the pain. So that we could muse on how we want our deaths to be...and arrive at the realization that to have a holy death, we must live a holy life.
Your blog, The Bright and Hopeful Unknown, went up 7 thousand views in 2 days after your death. Hundreds of those visiting probably never knew you, like me. But you ministered to them too. You were a role model for us through your life and also through your death.
You're the first. Over the years, there will be more tragedies, more people we know and love who will leave our lives forever. There will be more tears, more grief, more stories that end far before they should have.
But we're learning. I'm learning. Learning how to say, "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord." We're all asking why. "Why did you take him just when his life was starting to begin? Why didn't you let him stay here, let us learn from him longer?"
We begin to cry the words that Louisa May Alcott wrote in Little Women, "The good and dear ones always die."
And it's true.
But maybe it's because God has smiled on them and said, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the eternal happiness of Heaven!"
We don't always like God's timing. We think we know better. I wish that I'd been able to meet Josh Eddy in person...but I might never have known about him if not for his tragic, young death.  Those 7 thousand viewers on his blog may never have known him if he hadn't died.
Thank you, Josh, for being a shining example of a holy death through living well. Your passion for life and bravery until the end is an inspiration that only God could have planned.

"To surrender a precious dream is a fearful thing, but to pursue anything but the full measure of the glory of God’s love is a wasted life." ~Joshua Eddy