Start a Journal!

It all started when I read a post on The Art of Manliness, a blog that has featured some incredibly good posts. This particular post was part of a series called “30 Days to a Better Man,” which featured several articles suggesting men do things like define their core values, shine their shoes, write a letter to their father, and get a testicular exam. Out of these 30 articles, I happened to read the one on starting a journal. I was impressed with the argument they made on why keeping a journal is an important part of a man’s life, and the explanation of an all-purpose journal that served as a to-do list, journal, sketch pad, idea pad, etc. As I read the article, I realized that the author was right, and I could gain a lot by starting a journal. At that point the seed was planted.

The seed was watered later that week, when all of us who were working for Union College Security were issued Rite in the Rain 4×6 notebooks to jot down suspicious license plates, vehicle descriptions, person descriptions, etc. I began to carry it on duty, and soon found I was taking notes on all kinds of things with it. Soon, I was carrying it with me everywhere, both on and off duty, and journaling all kinds of things in it, and found that I often referred back to it, quickly finding any information simply by referencing the date, which I wrote at the top of each page that began a new day.

Honestly, starting a journal was one of the best small decisions I have ever made. I’ve already finished my first notebook, filling both sides of all pages, and am currently on my second one. I chose to stick with the 4×6 Rite in the Rain, because it is waterproof, large enough to fit more than a few words on a line, and small enough to fit in the back pocket of a pair of pants, which allows me to carry it with me anywhere I go. If bigger or smaller notebooks would be more practical for you, Rite in the Rain also sells a number of other sizes of notebooks, all of which are waterproof, allowing you to write in any conditions without ever having to worry about ruining your notebook.

If you don’t currently journal, I suggest you take the plunge. Get a Rite in the Rain notebook (or some other brand if you are SURE it will never get wet), and a pencil, a space pen, or a official US Government pen (find them at the post office), and try it. I promise you, it’s worth it. 

Random Ramblings

19:17

That’s the current display of my atomic alarm clock next to my bed. That means that for approximately the last 45 minutes, I have sat in my chair switching between Gmail, Google+, Facebook, and Skype, but posting nothing. Why? The temptation is to say that I’m just bored, but I know that is not true. I could be watching a movie, writing the incident reports that are due next week, or walking outside, but I am not. I think the problem is that I am lonely.

By lonely I do not mean sensing a need to be near other humans–the other students are all great people, and I could probably walk down to the computer room and find a few of them. It’s more than that–it’s more of an awareness of a need to talk to one of the people that I feel truly know and understand me. Some of those people I worked with at Camp Wakonda. Others I lived with this past year. All of them were people I could go to when I was having a hard time, and just talk with. Talking with them always seemed to help me get a grip on my thoughts, and made whatever I was dealing with a little easier.

But for some reason right now none of them are online, so instead of talking I am writing, blogging, trying to arrange and understand my thoughts by hitting little keys with my fingers and putting letters on a white background. Sometimes it seems to be working, and other times it seems laughably futile. Still, I type, because I must do something.

So what is is making me feel this way? Why do I feel the need to talk to someone I really connect with? I don’t know. I know things that probably affect it–a recent break-up, moving away from Union and a community of people my age who believe similarly to me, my first summer since 2004 not working at Camp Wakonda–but I don’t think any of them are completely responsible for it.

It’s times like these that I am glad that I am never without the ability to talk directly to God, and that He always understands how I feel. So I pray, write, blog, and try to sort and make sense of my thoughts–and trust that God will help me make sense of the ones I cannot understand, when the time is right. 

Thoughts on Meinke’s “Advice to My Son”

The trick is, to live your days
as if each one may be your last
(for they go fast, and young men lose their lives
in strange and unimaginable ways)
but at the same time, plan long range
(for they go slow; if you survive
the shattered windshield and the bursting shell
you will arrive
at our approximation here below
of heaven or hell).

–Peter Meinke, Advice to My Son (excerpt)

I first read the poem quoted above fall semester of last school year. I don’t know all the reasons why, but it quickly became one of my favorite poems. Probably in part it is because I have an affinity for the practical, and the advice offered is certainly good. I also have an strong appreciation for the written word as an art form, but I have read many well-written poems that did not capture my attention as much as this one. I even wrote a paper on this poem, using it to illustrate lessons for emergency service workers.

However, despite my fascination with this poem, all too often I forget to live my life in the way it suggests. Perhaps that is why I like it so much, because it always reminds me to concentrate on the important things. Some times I get too focused on the “plan[ning] long range,” and I forget about simply enjoying the day that I have. I worry about plans, and job opportunities, and paying off school debt, and miss the sun rising up over the desert mountains, casting streaks of pink, purple, and orange across the sky. And sometimes I do the opposite: I focus on my immediate struggles, challenges, and tests, and forget to look at the big picture to see how God is using them to bring me to a better place.

Every time I recite this poem to myself, it reminds me that I need a level of balance in my life. Do you have any favorite poems that you find speak to you in a special way? If so, I’d love to hear what ones and why. Leave a comment, and maybe I will discover the next addition to my favorite poem list.

I first read the poem quoted above fall semester of last school year. I don’t know all the reasons why, but it quickly became one of my favorite poems. Probably in part it is because I have an affinity for the practical, and the advice offered is certainly good. I also have an strong appreciation for the written word as an art form, but I have read many well-written poems that did not capture my attention as much as this one. I even wrote a paper on this poem, using it to illustrate lessons for emergency service workers.

However, despite my fascination with this poem, all too often I forget to live my life in the way it suggests. Perhaps that is why I like it so much, because it always reminds me to concentrate on the important things. Some times I get too focused on the “plan[ning] long range,” and I forget about simply enjoying the day that I have. I worry about plans, and job opportunities, and paying off school debt, and miss the sun rising up over the desert mountains, casting streaks of pink, purple, and orange across the sky. And sometimes I do the opposite: I focus on my immediate struggles, challenges, and tests, and forget to look at the big picture to see how God is using them to bring me to a better place. 

Every time I recite this poem to myself, it reminds me that I need a level of balance in my life. Do you have any favorite poems that you find speak to you in a special way? If so, I’d love to hear what ones and why. Leave a comment, and maybe I will discover the next addition to my favorite poem list.

The Stars

Have you ever really looked at the stars? Sometimes they are miles away up in the sky, far beyond reach. On other nights they are close, so close that if you reach your arm out and stretch, they are just beyond your grasp–taunting you just outside your reach. But sometimes, once in a very great while, they come down close enough that anyone could grab one.

Most people however, are too busy to waste time watching the stars–and so they never know that they are within reach. Men and women wander to and fro, thinking they are attending important matters, totally oblivious to the rare chance presenting itself to them.

And so they miss it.

But somewhere, someone–usually a young child or old person far past the prime of life–is looking. And when they see a star within reach they reach out, and grasp hold of it, and never let go.

One day, the stars will be within reach; the only question is, will we grab one, or will we be too busy to notice? 

Rumble Strips and Greatness

The greatest man is he who chooses the right with the most invincible resolution; who resists the sorest temptation from within and without; who bears the heavest burdens cheerfully; who is calmest in storms, and most fearless under menaces and frowns; whose reliance on truth, on virtue, and on God is most unfaltering.

–Seneca the Younger

Sometimes we go through rough patches. This last week has been an especially rough ride for me. Perhaps I’ve been going over rumble strips in the road–maybe God is warning me that I need to slow down, stop, look both ways and perhaps turn. I don’t know. What I do know is that I have not borne all of my burdens cheerfully, nor have I always been calm in the storm, and my reliance on God has needed a little propping up now and again. 

Today I awoke to hear a beautiful choral rendition of The Prayer of the Children. I had to listen to it again–it was God speaking to me. I have been worried that the engine block or head might be cracked on my truck, but there are children who are having their heads blown off. I have been frustrated at having to disassemble my engine and hopefully reassemble it while keeping up with an already demanding schedule of both working full time and being a full time student, but I haven’t been thankful enough that my four hours of sleep a night are spent on a mattress in a warm house. Instead of being thankful that my mattress is soft, I’ve thought about the fact that I pulled it out of the trash. Instead of being thankful that my house is warm, I’ve asked my roommates to turn down the heat to help lower our gas bill. And while I have been extremely grateful for the many friends that have given of their time to help me this past week, what have I done this week to pass the blessing on?

Sometimes we all need to slow down, stop, and look both ways.

Sometimes we all need to forget about our problems by investing in someone else’s. 

I don’t know whether or not I will be able to fix my truck. I don’t know whether I will be able to go back home for Christmas. I don’t know what plans God may have for me in this situation. I don’t know. But I do know that I am ready to listen. I am ready to slow down, to stop, to look both ways, and to listen. I think that’s the first step.