Friday, February 27, 2009

February Newsletter!


I just completed the first draft of a story I've been working on for the last month or so. 8695 is the final word count. This is by far the longest short story I've written, and if I can only get around to writing 10 more stories of similar length, then perhaps one day I will have myself a novella.

It feels really good to finish this story. It's been beyond cathartic. I felt like I needed to celebrate by posting here.

Most of the time when I write I will often give a shout out to F. Scott for his inspiration, but not this time around. This time I thank Flannery O'Connor. Her writing has been a breath of fresh air. And to Elliott Smith. He's the namesake of the main character - a character I first visited in high school and who desperately needs rescue each time we meet.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Constant

I love LOST unabashedly. What I love even more than the complex mysteries in the show is when the story stretches beyond the silver screen and resonates with the greater themes of our existence. I think this happens more often than most, but I realized it in a whole new way the other day. Let me share…

Both die hard and less enthused fans of the show can at least agree that episode 4.5 – The Constant – is the best 42 minutes the show has offered. Other episodes have come close, but that episode stands alone as the finest in the television serial. The gist of the episode? Desmond’s consciousness is skipping from time period to time period without warning due to, well, a series of events that is too complex to explain here. He risks frying his brain unless he is able to find an anchor, or a constant, that can root him in the time-space continuum (Sound confusing? It is, and my arts degree will do little to help explain it).

Desmond has lived in a world of unknowns. He was shipwrecked on a mysterious island (?!). He was recruited to push a button every 108 minutes in order to save the world (?!?!). He may or may not have died, and been resurrected when the hatch implodes (?!?!?!). Now, as he leaves the island for the first time, his mind is thrown a curveball, and randomly jumps to different periods of his life. When and where his mind goes is unknown. All that is known is this: unless he finds his constant, these unknowns will finally take their toll on his life.

People love this episode because Desmond is finally able to reach his constant – his true love Penny – and regain his consciousness and life in the process. As well, it’s a moment of extreme joy that fans have rooted for as they see Desmond’s pain of being separated from Penny finally resolved in a sense. She has been waiting/searching for him as long as he’s been gone, and there’s hope for an eventual reunion. Finally, for a guy who has experienced so much hardship, something goes right.

So how does this relate to our existence? Well my friends, it’s in the concept of a constant. Life seems to be this never-ending journey into new unknowns – new experiences in waiting. But what happens when major change occurs, and we’re thrust into major unknowns?

As the above picture notes, I’m moving into a rather large unknown in the near future. Everything I’ve known as my home and environment is about to change, and I don’t know what the future will look like. What I could not imagine is stepping into unknowns like these without my constant. Much in the same way Desmond’s life is saved by his constant, so is my life continually saved by my constant. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know what I’m talking about.

My experience with the Kingdom of God has been one where I’m thrust out of my fear of change and into new experiences into unknown territories. It can often be scary and overwhelming, but I can safely say that I have experienced the reward of following and the true safety of resting in my constant. As I take this new step in the journey, I find solace in knowing, and continuing to grow in my experience of, my constant.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Death of a Red Sparrow.

Sometimes I like to say that I’m experiencing seasons of things. Usually when I’ve had a rough day, week, or month, I’ll say I’m experiencing a season of death. But I think I’m wrong each time I say that, because death is all around us all the time. If at this point you think that talking about death is inevitably morbid and gross and a sign of depression, then you can either stop reading now, or perhaps be mildly surprised by the end of this post.

Some Observations:
- A few years ago my dog Benny died. We buried him at my Uncle’s farm, and everyone in my family cried.
- My great uncle Jerry died a few weeks ago.
- I’m often finding myself in need of dying to myself.
- Two of my favourite films, Wings of Desire and The Seventh Seal, juggle death in unique ways.
- People die on LOST every season.
- Death is a radical revelation that opens up the future.
- Every time I go on the internet when I’m inspired my creativity dies. The same goes for my productivity.
- This summer I’m taking a road trip to see someone’s grave.
- Aging seems to be the death of childhood. Then adolescence. Then adulthood.
- Death is not bad.

Yesterday I visited my sister’s family in Kitchener. After I parked my car on the street I walked up to the house and passed a red sparrow sitting on the sidewalk. I almost walked over it and it didn’t move. I stopped and looked down more intently upon the sparrow, and noticed that the bird was fat (almost pregnant-like) and preoccupied with rapidly opening its mouth. Its breast was heaving as it seemed to gasp for air, and I could tell that something was out of the ordinary. The sparrow could have been getting ready to lay an egg for all I knew. I felt sadness towards the pain the bird seemed to be in, but felt helpless and went inside after a couple of moments.

Minutes later my curious nieces were outside, wrapped in whatever layers were easily found near the front door, and out getting a closer look at the bird. My nephew stood inside as if more content to ponder the suffering of the bird from a distance than to disturb the bird. He genuinely felt for the bird, while the girls got closer and closer, amazed at this up close encounter with sparrow. My sister, brother-in-law, and I all watched as the girls got closer and closer. My sister was afraid the bird would peck the girls if they got any nearer. My brother-in-law laughed at her. I made a sarcastic comment about Hitchcock films.

As one of the girls came into the house to give her updated report on the bird, their dog took advantage of the open front door and bolted. He ran straight for the bird. My sister screamed and turned away. I, along with most everyone else, froze in anticipation of what we didn’t want to see but couldn’t look away from. The dog came within inches of the bird, and leaped over at the final second – apparently more focused on running away from the house than on the bird that happened upon his path. The heaving sparrow was spared the jaws of boisterous pup, but it did not matter; the bird was seemingly unaware of how close it was to instant death and remained static, save its rising falling breast.

In a moment my brother-in-law had run out and yelled at the dog to return. He did. And nearly took out the bird again on his return route. The girls continued watching the bird, observing that one side of the bird was fatter than the other side. My nephew seemed irritated the entire time, and wanted the girls to leave the sparrow alone. After a few more minutes the girls came in.

A few minutes later everyone was relieved when we looked out the window and saw that the bird had walked up the driveway and towards the grass. It seemed like it would be okay, and everyone went back to their “Family Day” activities. My sister and I chatted briefly about our great uncle Jerry’s funeral visitation. I almost punched a relative that night. I had heard him say he wished my grandma, who is still alive, would die quickly so that he could save gas money and not have to drive back from the big city. I am not a violent man, but was tempted in that moment.

As I left the house a few minutes later, I noticed the bird had died on the driveway. My guess is that it ate something sharp, which caused a pooling of blood on one side of its body, and was eventually overcome by the injury. I felt sadness when I first saw the bird, and when I last saw it. I sensed the development of my nephew as he is growing into an age of contemplation and empathy, and smiled at the carefree and blunt mindset of my youngest niece who wanted to know if it was time to take care of the bird with the dog’s pooper-scooper.

In this moment I am reflecting on the death that has been so apparent in many realms of my life in recent months, and the pain that has surrounded it. There is sadness in often all-too-real ways. It’s curious how much seeing that beautiful red sparrow today has moved me, and I’m not sure why. Despite its struggle, it truly was beautiful.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Greg Tedesco - The Poet Who Didn't Know It

Not many people may know this, but my good friend Greg Tedesco was once an accomplished poet. He was once heralded as the Alexander Pope of our time; the true king of rhyme. Unfortunately, his astronomical rise to celebrity was too much to handle at such a young age, and in an attempt to get his life back on track before he lost control of the reins, he hung up his ink and feather and retreated from the world of poetic expression. Such is the tragedy of our modern age, when the celebrity culture sucks the soul and talent from our generation's brightest lights. In honour of that brief period of time in which his works embraced the axiom of Neil Young's "It's better to burn out, than it is to rust," I reply by saying "the king is gone but he's not forgotten," and posting one of his seasonal gems from the vault. Enjoy.

The Sad Valentine’s Day Poem (with a happy ending)
By: Greg

There once was a man named St. Valentine,
As time would pass he would be no friend of mine.
Lonely I would be, like someone lost at sea,
But still not worse than the time I was stung by that bee. (I’m allergic)
Now I realize that this may sound kind of sad,
But If I was saying how happy I was, everyone else would get mad.
Women can be hard to understand, unlike men,
Although we know their hearts melt after a song by Zhiwen.
But not all of us guys have a voice like a pro,
And because of this the girls may tend to say no.
Chocolates tend to impress, we’re sure of that,
But make sure to get them more than just an expired kit-kat.
We know It doesn’t matter even if we’re rich,
Maybe we could be helped by a visit from Hitch.
But even then, would our problems be negated?
It would seem the answer is no, Jordan thinks Hitch is overrated.
We could try to write girls nice poems, maybe that would impress,
But chances are we’d just end up alone on a Friday night playing online chess.
The sad fact is that I myself would not be alone,
Even sadder is the fact that I’d be hanging out with Mr. Stone.
I could make up cool words, I am after all a poet,
Shmameba is pure gold and it’s obvious that you know it.
We could write some songs, that could be the way,
With our talents combined we’d surely be better than Coldplay.
At the end of the day it’s really not our fault,
Is it that hard to find a nice girl who’ll enjoy going for a malt?
Apparently it is because our nights are uneventful,
But even with all of this, we’re still not resentful.
It’s very hard to find a girl that will give you a second look,
And it’s surprisingly hard to find ones that will enjoy The Notebook.
We may sound sad, and it’s true we may complain,
But without girls it would be like an April without the rain.
The ones that we know are special ones, it‘s clear,
We’re grateful that they’re around, that we have them near.
Will we find happiness with one nice girl? We’re hopeful that we may,
But until then to all the girls we wish a Happy Valentine’s Day.

The End.
(written February 2006)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Drinking Tea After A Long Week

The joint KCF/VCF retreat is now over, and I'm trying to catch my breath. It was a great time all around, and I must say it was one of the more enjoyable retreats I've been to because of the quality of students who went. I loved getting to know a bunch of new KCF faces and playing Dutch Blitz with familiar VCF faces - even though that game brings out new levels of frustration each time I play.

I was nervous going into the weekend about the teaching/sharing I was going to be doing on Friday and Saturday night. These were the second and third speaking gigs I've had in the last couple of months, and I'm still getting used to sharing in that setting. I think it went well though - and by that I mean I shared what was on my heart, and if it came out confusing or hard to follow, well, I'm trusting God let the parts that were supposed to stick stick.

Now, as I try to wind down in the limited amount of time I have before the busyness of the week starts tomorrow, I'm drinking some green tea and hoping that it, along with going to bed early tonight, will help counteract the oncoming cold I'm getting. Blasted sore throat and swollen glands! I am exhausted right now, but I can't stop any time soon.

Finally, I've become slightly overwhelmed by the number of books that I'm currently in the process of reading. I don't think I've ever had this many books on the go before, and I hope that my tendency to start things and not finish them will not be the death of me reading-wise.

Here's the list:
-This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald (started in spring 2007!)
-Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright
-One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
-Intimacy by Henri Nouwen (finished)
-The Complete Works of Flannery O'Connor
-Drawn Into the Mystery of Jesus Through the Gospel of John by Jean Vanier
-Watchmen by Alan Moore (finished)

I really need to finish something for the sake of accomplishment that will hopefully help me finish the rest. Will update with progress.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Call It Rescue. Call It Salvation. Call It Grace. Call It Love.

This past week in a conversation over coffee with someone I respect immensely, we talked about how God's love for us plays itself out. In that conversation we talked about how God offers a restorative healing that unfolds over time. So you may experience healing or rescue from a place of pain that is real and legitimate, and will often feel discouraged if that moment of pain lingers years later. Rather than discouragement though, we should see these as the deeper levels of pain being revealed that we weren't ready to engage until we had experienced the previous rescue or healing. In essence, each return to that moment or place of pain and brokenness is another offer from God to heal that brokenness.

Perhaps this storyline will help emphasize the point:

Mr. Stickman finds himself at his friend's house in an empty hole in the ground. Next thing you know his feet are wet. He realizes he's in a pool that's being filled. A ladder installed earlier that day provides rescue.

A year later, Mr. Stickman returns to his friend's house to go swimming in the pool that is now full. However, Mr. Stickman has never gone swimming before, and upon jumping in the deep end finds himself in distress. He is then offered waterwings, thus keeping his head above water and providing rescue. His thoughts go back to the first incident with the pool and he is appreciative.

Five years later, Mr. Stickman - who has moved far away at this point - returns to visit his friend while on vacation. Unfortunately his friend isn't there when he arrives, because she heard a hurricane was coming and that the levy broke. Mr. Stickman is then stranded by the growing flood and torrential rains that won't stop. He's spotted by a news chopper, who alerts the police, and Mr. Stickman is rescued by a helicopter from certain death. He thinks this goes way beyond the ladder and the waterwings.

Fifteen years later, Mr. Stickman tries to reunite with his friend. Unfortunately, due to the change in climate, the polar caps have melted and his friend's house no longer exists (along with the rest of the coast). Mr. Stickman is all alone in the ocean now. But in the moment when he thinks it might all be over, a huge ocean-liner comes to his aid and throws him a line. His mind is blown by the immense size of the S.S. SUCCESS, and how a ship that big would notice a little drowning guy like him in the middle of the cold, dark waters.

It seems that Mr. Stickman doesn't have the healthiest relationship with water. The element always seems out to get him. He could have called it quits after the first swimming pool incident. But if Mr. Stickman steered clear of water all his life then he'd die of dehydration. Instead, Mr. Stickman returns to that source of pain year after year, and as the danger becomes larger and more apparent, the rescue becomes that much more incredible.

Folks, that's a light-hearted-long-winded story of salvation. Our lives are filled with junk. God rescues us from the junk. The junk resurfaces later, but not because the rescue wasn't real the first time. There seems to be deeper levels of healing that God wants to provide, and we need the initial healing to prepare us for what's to come. I think we need it this way so we can actually appreciate the growing magnitude of what God offers us.