Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The view from here

Hey it's the last day of June! What a concept! I'm looking at the amount of posting I've done over my first month and wonder if posting number 11 is a good place to be. No matter--simply a curiosity!

My cousin (also my boss) took the day off on Monday for a day hike up to Church Mountain. If someone wants to know where that is, let me just say that it is one of the many breathtaking peaks in the North Cascades. This is the perfect time of year to be up there because of all the fresh foliage and almost complete lack of annoying insects. I was, therefore, understandably envious as I listened to him and took a peek at his pictures. Every time I think back to what I have seen on my few times up that direction, I start itching with eagerness. I don't remember if I've ever gone at this time of year, but even so, I can remember the intense vibrancy of wildflowers carpeting the lush meadows, the dark coolness of covered switch-back trails, the shock of white painted above the green firs, and the vastness of the landscape as you suddenly look up from your footing for a pause--a pause which takes up more time then you intended because of your eagerness to absorb everything in a moment and still capture the beautiful intricacies in the distance!

The last time I was up there, I took a short dead-end trial up a relatively small yet steep peak. I and a few others were ahead of the bunch and decided to cash in by taking this tempting side-trail. It was a rigorous extra climb but worth every effort. At the top there was a stand of trees that capped the peak, and just beyond, as I stepped through the last of the foliage, I was utterly dumbstruck!

A step or two and the ground plunged off into space--not any ordinary space. There, in front of me, was a mural of color and staggering grandeur; it was a blend of noble eminence and hushed immensity which shook me to my bones. A rich valley stretched abruptly forward beyond which stood regal Mount Baker. High it stood and close enough to make me feel like I stood under its very boot, yet my position still letting me look down at those mighty roots with breathless wonder. At first I thought I had never been so close to such stillness, but listening closely as my breath stopped coming in gasps, I finally heard it. It was the voice of countless rushing streams which ran hurriedly off the slope as if trying their hardest to relieve this giant of its great white robe. Louder and louder it seemed to grow as I became more attentive to what I was beholding, till the very air seemed to throb with its powerful song.

Someday soon, perhaps I will get another chance to glimpse one of God's original masterpieces. No other place on earth is quite the same. Do I sound presumptuous? Perhaps I am, but I have not spent my hiking time exclusively in the North Cascades--so you see, I am not entirely biased. I just appreciate the view from here!

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Fries with that?

It's hot outside (by pacific northwest standards) I'm off work and walking into a coffee shop to do some reading and maybe some writing as well. I order a drink--a 16 oz vanilla latte. Then comes an interesting question.

"Would you like that iced or hot?"

Any sane person would ask for it iced on a day like this and I should have been no exception--but I was. Somehow I felt like I was standing up for some great moral truth by insisting that I have my latte hot on a hot day! It was good to stand up for something so important! I had given in before and regretted it so I wasn't about to make the same mistake again!

For those who are waiting for this to turn into a deeply philosophical post, I'm afraid I must disappoint you this time. Don't be too put out with me, though, for I do have an explanation.

It just so happens that I am not a great reader. I have several methods of reading and one of them is, of all things, to sit in a coffee shop and read with a drink in my hand. While a cold drink will not absolutely hinder me from reading, it will inadvertently disappear all too quickly and therefore lose all effect on my reading session before I had barely finished more than a page or two! Give me a hot drink, though, and it will stay there in my hand ever so long...long enough for me to make good strong in-roads on the material in front of me. You see it's the little stands like that which may affect the very information I carry with me for the rest of my life!

So yes, I drank a hot latte and you will be pleased to hear that I actually finished a book for once!

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Immortality or edification?

Imagine you are faced with a choice: Attend a wedding or attend a funeral. I know, it isn't every day that we have to choose between attending a wedding and a funeral, so I don't think anyone would have a ready answer to such a question! After all, every situation is different.

I hope you won't be too incredulous when I tell you I was faced with that very choice this morning. No kidding! Same day, same time, members of the same church if you can believe it.

Before you start shaking your heads in absolute bewilderment, let me offer the best explanation I can in such a small space. The wedding was for a young man in our church who has not really been attending recently (most likely been attending his bride's church). The funeral was for a widow in our church who was taken by cancer just this last week. Her family planned the funeral and, not being members of our church, obviously couldn't have known about the wedding...

That behind us, I still was faced with a most interesting choice. I had reason to want to attend the funeral--I often get frustrated by the lack of young people at funerals--yet I didn't know them nearly as well as the folks in the wedding. I ended up going the wedding and, looking back, I think that was probably the best course of action.

There is one question, though, I don't think I have quite answered in my own mind. Is there really an unwillingness to attend funerals in our society and does it reflect a disinterest in acknowledging ourselves to be the finite creatures we are? The human mind is so deceiving in its opinion and view of itself. Isn't it amazing how things tend to be all about us and what is going on in our lives? Isn't it amazing how we warp our priorities according to what will seem to extend the self and make ourselves somewhat "immortal?"

For clarification, I am thinking in the context of what I have seen in myself and my motives for writing. I know how strong the temptation is for me to write just for the sake of seeing my name in print or getting the feeling that I am creating a part of myself which will last beyond death. Am I the only one that faces this? I brought it up to a friend last night and he concluded that one of the best motives for writing is to write for the edification of the reader. I'm not going to say that edification has never been my motive. I simply know how easy it is, even as I desire to see God glorified in my work, to feel a hope that I will get a little piece of it for myself!

Being a new blogger, a few days ago, I was checking things out and found the feature which allows you to see all of the latest blogs created on this program.

The list ended at about 500, and it was still within the last couple minutes.

It was a good way of realizing just how small I am and how virtually non-existent one little blog can be in relation to the whole. No, this blog is just one speck in the cosmos and will only be edifying to others in direct proportion to God's blessing upon it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Remembering Jared Davis

It was a few months ago that I lost a good friend to cancer. He was thrust back into my thoughts during staff selection weekend when, during an interview, a cadet told me in so many words that it was Jared who inspired him to choose the job for which he was applying. You will forgive me, I hope, if the following uses too much CAP/military terminology.

When I walked through the door on my first actual visit to Skagit Squadron, Jared Davis was standing across the room, caught my eye immediately, and strode forward to welcome me and show me a few ropes. He was always the stand-out cadet who loved acting a part which belied his slight Asian frame and smiling face.

I was in Bravo flight, he in Alpha, but I can recall times when my flight staff would "steal" Jared to help balance out the cadets with two left feet during drill... Then his flight sergeant would come storming over to reclaim his star cadet and reprove us for such thievery!

While a teenager with higher than average "smile-miles," he also hid an almost fiendish skill when it came to drill-sergeant ability! At encampments, it was an accomplishment to be proud of if you were successful in keeping your composure during one of his composure-cracking sessions. I won't even go into the methodology he employed! I can remember one occasion when he returned from vacation a little puzzled. He had visited a squadron in another state and had the chance to drill their cadets the night he was there. He just "did his usual thing" and some of them up and started crying on him (much to his shock). Yes, he was a guy who had a way of leaving his mark on people.

The only thing he loved better than big dangerous toys was designing better versions of big dangerous toys! I remember him showing off his results from pyrotechnic experimentation--a burned out model car. I remember his designs for futuristic weapons and him explaining the science behind each one. I remember listening to him scoff at the simplicity of building a small nuclear bomb.

With highschool came cross-country running, JROTC, Running Start and numerous activities besides CAP. No one expected him to continue in any of these for as long as he did after we first heard the news.

The first tumor he had was in his leg. After a year of fighting that and gaining the road to recovery, the doctors discovered that it had spread to his lungs. That was hard to take when I first heard it from his own mouth. He didn't mince words, just told us what was up and that was that. He had such an unshakable faith in God's will, though, he never came close to discouragement that we could see. That's not to say that he didn't change in those two years he had cancer. On the contrary, Jared did all the growing-up he could fit in. Throughout the time I knew him, he was a person who didn't need words to share his faith. As his condition worsened, his witness just increased.

He attended every summer encampment he had the chance to attend--last year he helped us on the Public Affairs staff while he was in the later stages of his lung cancer. When I look back on what he went through just to keep on living life the way he knew how--the struggle to simply get his boots on, the mornings when he couldn't drag himself out of bed till late in the morning, the scorn of some who didn't know him or understand what he was going through, the trips to the hospital every three days just so the doctors could keep tabs on him--I would be amazed at the things he would still accomplish. If a key needed to be returned to Admin he would be the first to volunteer! If a line of pictures were due and there was a shortage of people to do the job, he was there! He knew what he was doing and people could feel it.

He sent out an email to all his friend the week he died... It was a powerful testimony to the calm he exhibited even as each operation took more and more of his lungs away just to save his body for a little bit longer. One of the last lines was:

...So my future looks pretty grim and I am having to make some plans just in case, but I'm not giving up hope yet. Life is still good...hard but good.

Just five days later on 11 January, 2004, the Lord took him. He was 17 years-old.

Few will forget him who knew him. It was just this spring, during the wing(state) conference general session, when the director of cadet programs said to the entire wing that Jared had taught her more about God than any person she had met...

And I think that sums up the way Jared's friends felt about him.

Monday, June 21, 2004

A piece of the action

Yes, I admit it! I play co-ed softball! More than that, my team has not won a game after about 11 of them!

Oh well. The typical response is to say: "hey, it's just a game and we are playing for the fun of it." Yes, this is true and I would not attempt to deny that I have fun doing it. To summarize my feelings on the topic, though: I think it would be even more fun to actually win a game! I can't even imagine how this team would react! I think they would just sit there stunned. Today, one of our players hit a grand-slam, but no one in the dugout even noticed it till I interrupted their conversation to point out their teammates' accomplishment. *sigh* They just don't know how to properly celebrate something like that! It makes me more content with the fact that my slight bodyweight (135 lb) has yet to allow me access to such hitting prowess.

This is the first season that I have been able to pitch! It's really kind of fun--a little nerve-racking to begin with but I'm over that and satisfied that I can do it. I've also played outfield, shortstop and more recently, second base. I don't mind second but to be quite honest, outfield is my thing! I love the wind running in my hair as I chase a fly ball no one thinks I can reach--then I reach out and snag it with the tip of my glove! Ah, the beauty of it all!

One of these days I'm going to play on a team with higher standards. That will be another story and I don't yet know how I would stack up. All in the future, though.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

A meeting of another kind

Today, I met with my pastor for the second time in a couple months...

Earlier, at our first meeting, we simply chatted, discussed some theology, and exchanged a few bits of reading material. It was a great time to learn about some things to which I hadn't given much thought in the past. Therefore, last Sunday evening, when I asked if we could get together this week, I don't think he had a very good idea of what had been lingering in the back of my head and was finally ready to come out.

It was a topic I had discussed with a couple of my closer friends outside of the church. One of those friends advised me that it was time for me to talk to pastor about it. The issue at stake, as we eventually concluded today, was one which involves the very survival of our congregation. You see, there has for years been a slow and barely noticeable drift of people (young people especially) from our church. This is not to say that we have not encountered bright spots. The big picture, though, has told a sad story of a dozen or so young people who, having barely graduated from highschool, essentially disappeared from our lives.

Not that today's conversation with pastor began on this exact note. My starting issue was about the fact that I, while president of the young peoples group, still didn't feel as though I was a part of the youth group. My issue was the fact that I was discouraged by the lack of desire to discuss such things as the bible, theology or other such things on a common every-day basis. My issue was the fact that I can sit-in on some conversations for 15 minutes straight and not remember much of what was said.

After these issues had been tapped and acknowledged, we got around to the topic of getting a post-highschool bible study together in the church. Pastor had mentioned something about doing it when we last met. I have been thinking about it since then and I wanted to figure out if there were tangible goals we might be able to work toward... It was also truly humbling and scary to realize how much is at stake. My assignment is to come up with a charter of sorts to be presented to the consistory and anyone that might be interested in coming.

I guess some of the problems we are bound to face is the lack of time people will immediately claim to be bound by. We don't expect to get more than a couple people to start out. It's a tough thought to deal with. I think that is the main thing that has held pastor back in the past. Now things are different, though. As pastor said, we cannot afford to sit and wait till more young people "have the time" to put into something like this. It must be understood that this is just as necessary as the food we eat--not something to be subservient to our softball or soccer schedule! One of my goals is to help people realize just how much we are currently failing to treat each other like the family we are. We are not building each other up and turning to each other for our spiritual health and happiness! I hope someday there will be a proper priority placed on the family of God as he has created it in the church! I long for the time when we can truly say that our best friends are of our own church family. I long for the day when, while in-between one Sabbath and another we can still look to each other for the help and care that we need as believers and fellow pilgrims. What a wonderful day, when each of us becomes so close in brotherly love that we cannot be unaware each other's trials--so that we may better serve to build each other up.

And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. -1 Corinthians 12:26

What a sad story if the Body of Christ knows not what the other member does and needs. How will a hand dress a wounded foot if the hand knows not that there is a wound? Is a body really a body if it does not as a whole feel even the slightest pain in the smallest member? God knows our every need. But does He not intend to provide for them through the means he has provided--namely, the members of His own Body. How can I know what my brother needs if he cannot or will not speak to me in a language which will convey it?

We can only pray for God's blessing on what we do at this point. Continuing as we are is not an option.


Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Just around the corner?

I'm just wondering whether this pattern is going to end any time soon. I keep on thinking ahead to goals I have, expecting to see a reprieve (light at the end of the tunnel) when they are reached--but it just keeps on going. Not that the stress level doesn't fluctuate.

I'm also clenching my teeth in preparation for this weekend! It's nuts trying to get ready for it and will continue to be so. Then, of course, there is the weekend itself... No, I'm sure I shouldn't let myself worry too much because this is evidently something which God has me doing--it was pretty much dropped into my lap after I had given up on it--I have plenty of friends who are good enough to pray for me as I am spending the weekend interviewing, inspecting and grading cadets (it's the staff selection the statewide encampment...I have the job of executive officer).

"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..." In my book, that is code for "Just keep trusting!"

Saturday, June 05, 2004


I don't think I ever thought about what the world would be like without him. It's true, though. He's really gone! I don't say that to be sappy. He just happens to be one of my heroes, so is it strange that:

When I heard the news, I felt little like someone had punched me in the gut?

I am grateful for what he built and the words he spoke?

I wish I could have heard the great communicator in person?

I look with pride on the fact that I was born in the middle of his presidency?

I think his words and ideas defined his time--my time--a benchmark for a philosophy?

Yes, perhaps I am strange. But what gives!

Friday, June 04, 2004

A bend (or bump?) in the road

Last night was the end of a long road for me in my Civil Air Patrol "career." My term as cadet commander of my unit is now officially done. I served a total of two years, while most serve for about six months to a year. The transition was big yet simple. The Wing (state) commander was their for the presentation of some awards that were pending (including my "Earhart"). I was allowed a last prepared speech to the cadets before the change--which was made all the more interested since part of my family was there. It was not quite as smooth as it could have been and I said about half of what I would have liked, but I had some good feedback from people I really respect so I can't exactly say I am disappointed. Besides, how could anyone be unhappy when mom also thought it was good? All in all, I don't think I came nearly close enough to communicating just how much I have loved my time as cadet commander--and how much I will miss it!

Little details about me

Introductions are going to be slim I think. There are only so many irrelevancies to be tolerated by the average reader. For now, the following will have to suffice.

Mark is my real name and I am twenty as of A.D. 2004! I am a student Journalist and love to think of myself as a writer. "Reporting" Journalism cannot be considered my calling. Yes I know, that is what they all say in college until they finish and get their first a reporter! I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it--pardon the cliche... Seriously, though, I consider my "final" career choice (within the writing environment) as being determined by two definite factors: 1, where the Lord leads and, 2, what kind of financial security can be offered by any given field.

My parents both love the Lord above all else and while Mom continues to serve Him here on earth in many wonderful and beautiful ways, Dad has, since he went to be with the Lord in 1987, been praising Him before His throne. He died of cancer when I was three. Mom has raised me and the other six siblings since then with a faith and trust in God which never ceases to amaze and shame me.

I am a member of an Orthodox Christian Reformed Church. It has been described as a "conservative" offshoot...from what many consider to be a very conservative denomination: the CRC. My understanding is that we have an identical system of government and form of doctrine in origin, yet we apply it in a much more careful and serious way. It is not pride which makes me say that we do things the way the CRC used to do things, but rather a matter of historical fact...such was the intent of our church's founders. My congregation is something to discuss at another time:)

My siblings have played a major part in my life. My two older brothers, three older and one younger sister have all left their imprint on me in some way. Funny how looking back makes things so much clearer in this regard. For example, my oldest sister Rachel (who is ten years my senior) and I were ever so good at clashing. To put it quite simply, we were very similar in personality. To me, this just meant I should avoid getting on her bad side. For her, this meant she thought she know all about me and took it on herself to teach me things about me! Oh, the endless morning discussions about the letter versus the spirit of the law! I remember such things all too well. It taught me that saying the first thing to come to your mind--whether true or not--was not conducive to shortening the discussion. No, nothing was going to bring things to a conclusion till I had either been tactful enough to convinced her (without lying) that I agreed, or unless I just out-right agreed! No shades of grey here! It's black or white or nothing at all! Don't get me wrong now. I do think she was good at picking some things up about me which I now look back on with a certain amount of gratitude for having been shown so early in life...

I wish I had more time to talk about all my other sibling right now...but I think little things about them will leak out soon enough, so I won't worry too much about it. Rachel is, by the way, married, lives in California now and has two children of her own!

Civil Air Patrol...(look it up if you don't know:) This program has been a big part of my life even before I joined over five years ago because my brother Nathan was also a part of it all before me. Yes, I can't deny that I had a great advantage in joining several years after him because I was able to learn a great deal from him and not make many of the same blunders. Also there is that fact that I haven't had to seriously make a name for myself in the program till the last two or three year because my brother was so well known. Only now do I know more people who didn't know Nathan than those who did. I'm really grateful for the real-world leadership skills I have learned in CAP... I have seen their effect on the rest of my life and I thank God for them. Minute as they are, so much could not have happened without them.

Ok, so I forgot to go easy on the introductions! Oops and sorry. I'm not going to delete it now.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Concerning Blogs

What can I say? What should I think? Should I consider this just another novelty to be enjoyed? What do I want it to be? I can't help but wonder where it will end up. I mean, there's so many ways that I could just have fun with it...on the other hand I've never had the opportunity to share my most serious thoughts in a setting such as this. What to do!?

It was bad enough that I picked a terrible time to set up the name and address and all the little details like that...I was supposed to be running out the door to an oral board meeting for choosing my successor to the cadet commandership of my squadron in the Civil Air Patrol. Maybe I'll regret having named it what I did...but not yet.

I'm going to sign off without having said too much tonight. Alas, the morning work schedule doesn't allow for a late night.

An introduction of some sort should be in order I guess--another time.