Janelle and Pam, this is for you. Thanks for keeping me on my toes and reminding me, however innocuously, of the important place writing needs to have in my life. This is me making time for it, even when life is crazy and the words seemingly won't come.

I have been doing a lot of good, in-depth reading lately, thanks to the challenge set before me by a sweet new friendship God has brought to me.

The selection I finished most recently came about as a result of a visit to Eerdman's Publishing Co. with said new friend, Adam. We found the place semi-monastic in its peacefulness, with a tall, cathedral ceiling; wide open, tiled floors; wall-to-wall and ceiling-to-floor bookshelves; and Gregorian-style music filling the air softly. Needless to say, for me, it was like a little piece of heaven here on Earth.

I found a whole shelf devoted to one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis. I don't know how I even have the right to call him that, because up until this point, I'd read barely two of his nonfiction works, and yeah, his Narnia series. He offers so much more!


So, when I found one of the wooden shelves stocked with a generous helping of Lewis, immediately I latched onto the one I've wanted to read for years: "Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life."

I took the book, settled into a quiet nook by the fireplace and allowed Lewis to transport me back to his childhood in a matter of a few pages. I definitely couldn't have left that store without owning a copy of that conversion story. (Yeah. I bought it.)

I haven't read any reviews of "Surprised by Joy," so I'm not sure if others instantly feel the same kind of connection to him that I have felt, but let me tell you, it was eerie the way he described himself in his childhood-- like he was describing what it feels like to be me. It wasn't the events themselves or the memories or even the circumstances of his family that were similar to mine; it was the things he valued, the fears he faced, the way he framed his thoughts, and the pleasures he found stimulating. These loves resonated within me.

I wasn't born in Ireland, my mother didn't die when I was 6, I didn't have only one other sibling, I wasn't sent to boarding school or later assigned to a tutor named The Old Knock, I didn't invent a world called Animal Land with my brother, and I definitely didn't enter into the passions of boyhood and male adolescence. These were all the lot of Lewis.

But I was and always have been a child of intense inner reflection, lost in my own world, more often than not feeling disconnected from those around me, experiencing my greatest, richest pleasures through the transport of literature, and only once in a very great while-- every few years, perhaps-- meeting a friend with whom I could really and truly feel connected.

As much as I identified with the details, the big picture of C.S. Lewis' life was what stunned me. I never knew he experienced so much pain and isolation and emptiness. I had heard he met God in his mind after years of intellectual struggle. But, after reading the account of his early years, I am convinced God did something bigger. He met him on an intellectual battleground and waged a war with his heart. Lewis may have been fighting, but God won.

If you want to understand the works of C.S. Lewis and what life ultimately meant to him, I think you need to read this book.


I have some starter thoughts to share tonight. About words.

I just want to get you thinking (yes, YOU!) about the importance of wielding words with care. It's something that has been on my heart for a long time this past year as I have met many new people and developed deeper friendships.

I have seen people use words as if they are pieces of candy with disposable wrappers. On the other hand, I also have seen words treated as rare and precious gems to be selected carefully and given away sparingly.

I find myself tempted by the candy, but in the end, I long for the gems. I want to know the impact of each word on myself and on others. I want to see words used to build up-- and if that means I wield fewer, then I pray that will be my goal.

We often hear the phrase "actions speak louder than words" -- but the more I look around me, the more I see that words lead to actions. I see the power of words -- how they can by turns hurt, encourage, manipulate or cheer -- daily in my job as an editor. Though shielded from the faces of our readers by the protection of newsroom walls, I hear the phone calls and read the e-mails, and know that every word we use-- every word we print -- will have an effect on someone at some point in the story writing, producing and printing process.

Likewise, in relationships, words define trajectory. They can set expectations and guide thoughts. They can build boundaries or remove them. A few carefully chosen words spoken in a moment can build a bridge of trust; likewise, a few thoughtless words can take trust away.

Where are you on the spectrum? Are you a person of many words, or few? What words for you are candy, and what words do you see as gems?
I don't care how many times I see a beautiful sunset on an autumn evening; it always moves me either to smiles, or to the feeling of being full to the brim, or to the point of actually brimming over.

For example, take the sunset that lit up our West Michigan skies on Wednesday evening. I was in the car driving in a general southwest-ish direction to Grandville to meet a friend there for dinner. When I looked at the road in front of me, it was completely bathed in the late evening glow of pink and orange radiating from the sky. Wave upon wave of color glistened in the heavens, peeking through the puffy, white clouds and injecting them with color like the way cool whip turns pink when you add strawberries.

I gasped with astonishment. It had been months since I witnessed a sunset of that magnitude and splendor. Despite the hundreds of sunsets just as beautiful that preceded this one, there was still something entirely shocking, new and fresh about it. And I thought to myself, "How great is this Creator-God, who pours forth beauty at every turn!"

And then, because I love the way God draws me into conversation with Himself through these moments, I let my thoughts continue in that vein.

"Just look at that sunset. 'The heavens declare the glory of God,' I thought. What other things declare His glory in that way?"

Immediately, it came. People. We are the apex, the pinnacle, the climax of the Ultimate Novel Writer's story.

People are more beautiful than sunsets. Sunsets have the ability to mesmerize us for isolated moments every now and then. In those moments we feel as if we've never been touched by a beauty so magnificent, and we cannot avert our eyes.

But think of the glory of God's sixth-day creation. I look around me and see a planet teeming with little reflections of the beauty of the Triune Creator God Himself. Each face is different, but each one contains more mystery and glory in the tiniest corner of a smile than does the whole vastness of the sky.

As we age, the outward signs of beauty fade, but the personalities -- as they grow and age and mature -- become by turns more complexly shaded, brilliant, joyous, funny, intelligent, wise, hopeful and loving.

I understand it's not always so. Often age brings deeper evil, bitterness, hatred and ugliness. But where the Creator has dominion, where the Redeemer shines through, there is much potential for growth and beauty.

Can a sunset love? Can a sunset laugh? Can a sunset cry? Can a sunset hold, soothe, listen, create, walk, run, dance, eat, sleep, read, write, pray, think?

No. That wondrous gift has been given to humans. Since the Garden it's been evident the bent of our hearts leads us away from the One who made us more beautiful than sunsets.

But thankfully, the Beauty Giver never gives up on us. He waits for us. He groans for us. He offers us his free and full redemption, paid for by the blood of His one and only Son, who came in human form, and showed us perfect love.

That is much more beautiful than a sunset.


There's just something about this song. It's the desire for sweet, old-coupley kinda love from the eyes of a young person.

There's so much hope, so much expectation.

I want to meet an old couple who say it was everything they thought it was gonna be. For now, I'll just listen to these kinda songs and smile. :)
I spent two years at Cornerstone working for our student newspaper, The Herald; the last year I was the editor.

It was the hardest job I've ever had. I found it difficult, fraught with problems and pain, and, at times, rewarding. Like the times I was able to help people on staff work through communication problems. Or when people challenged my leadership and I was forced to admit that no-- I do not, in fact, have all the answers.

I was humbled to realize I am not actually the kind of person who can love everyone easily. I often had to make painful choices to pray for those who made my life difficult. And sometimes, God let me have my way, just so He could bring me back to HIMself when I came to the end of MYself.

As the months passed, I realized more and more that I'd already had everything I wanted before I started.

Words. The ability to share them. A blog is a powerful tool, and I have two blogs. How good can God possibly be?

It doesn't matter if no one was reading. It doesn't matter that the tool is essentially self-publishing. It's a medium that allows me to express myself freely.

And, on top of that, God chose to drop another blessing into my lap: Yesterday I found out I won the MPA college newspaper contest award for blogging: First place, division II (for weekly papers).

Here is the blog. (The one you're currently on is my personal blog. The Daily News blog was my hometown newspaper blog.)

Here are the entries:

1. "I dream in color"

2. "Sunset thoughts and a moral dilemma"

3. "Only the sidewalks can hear their cries"
I went to look at ArtPrize exhibits tonight for only the second time since the contest began two weeks ago in my beloved city. It's not that I don't love art; it just took me a long time to find the emotional space for this specific contest after editing stories about it all day long at The Press.

And trust me: The Grand Rapids Press has been somewhat obsessed with ArtPrize since creator Rick DeVos first announced it last April.

I don't blame the paper necessarily, because this is, after all, our town, and it's a pretty phenomenal history-making event. But I have struggled internally wondering if we should be focusing so much coverage on a contest that overshadows other types of news our readership also should know about-- things such as, oh say, how Grand Rapids' rate of homelessness is rising daily and the city is becoming a bargain basement of cheap housing because of foreclosures. But those are just minor things of course, and ArtPrize is a lot sexier, so um, yup, it all makes sense. ;)

All cynicism aside, I have to admit my perspective shifted tonight after visiting the exhibits on display at the old art museum on Pearl and Division, aka, The Old Federal Building.

I went alone, on purpose. I wanted to get my own perspective of the art-- as much as that is possible after reading other people's all day long, and hearing it from friends and roommates after work. I wanted to see it, feel it, step into it and let it soak through my skin, like a hot shower after a long day on my feet, or like a good book in mid-winter when I need a new world to crawl into. I wanted to find "The One." The piece of art that would give me a reason to write to you tonight.

I don't think I found "The One," necessarily. Instead I was blessed with three very moving experiences.

Exhibit A: Open Water No. 24.



Stemming from stubborn, anti-mainstream principle, I have to admit I'm sorry a Top Ten entry made it onto my "three moving experiences" list. It wasn't going to. I was just going to go and look at it and say, "Well that was pointless," and make fun of all the people who raved about it. (Oh Rachel, how haughty you are...)

But then I met the artist.

I was standing back, circling around Open Water, snapping pictures from various angles, and then I realized the reason I was having a hard time getting a panoramic shot was because a clump of people were standing in front of the painting talking to Ran Ortner, its creator.

I'm not stupid. It makes sense he would be in town for the last day of voting, to promote his work heavily leading up to the announcement of the contest winner tomorrow at DeVos Place, but I didn't really care why he was being friendly at that moment; I just knew I had to talk to him. So when there was an opening, I introduced myself and was surprised by the pleasure of a five- or 10-minute conversation with this man.

And it wasn't just any conversation. There was something in his manner of moving and speaking and explaining that captured my imagination. I found myself asking him dozens of questions about how he does art. He told me of his theory of opposites. Nothing in life inside the limits of our human capabilities, he said, can truly be known apart from a comparison to its opposite. Can you feel pleasure without pain? Is there love without hate? What is peace if not an absence of war? Is there calm without a storm preceding it? What is rest without having known chaos? Can white be so pure without having seen black? And so, he said, his art is a daily attempt to depict those opposites in their relationship and connectedness to one another.

I looked at his painting quietly, slowly, after an exhausting rapid barrage of words had passed between us. I could tell he was waiting for my next question, because he didn't walk away. He just watched, and waited.

"Ran," I asked. "Is this painting chaos or calm to you?"

"Both," he said. There they are next to each other in constant motion, tossing on the waves-- gently and yet fiercely. He felt them both as he painted, and he could not separate the two.

"My work is always reaching for the eternal," he had said to me only moments before.

I could have asked so many more questions, but other visitors wanted his attention, and so I asked for a quick photo with him and then moved on.

All night I have been thinking of this. He is so right. Eternity is the only place beyond this container of opposites in which we will be able to know the true meaning of one state without having to experience its negative counterpart. I want that so much. Whether or not Ran knows the place where it can be found, he has hit upon the longing for it in the heart of every man. I think that is why Open Water resonates for the masses in this contest. I am convinced only life in Christ offers a shot at hope of finding resolution. And now I pray Ran can find that out, too.

Here we are in front of his painting. (Notice the arm around my shoulder. Yeah, we were pretty much best buds after that convo. ;)



Exhibit B: The Space Between Us






To those who haven't experienced this exhibit up close (sat in the chairs, read the guestbook, etc.), perhaps it seems odd I was so moved by this. "What the heck?" you might say. "It's a yellow living room in the middle of a bunch of real art."

But stop a minute. What is the definition and purpose of art? This is heavily debated, I know, but some traditional touchstones include the facts that art sends a message, communicates and, in turn, elicits emotion, conveys an interpretation of reality, and creates conversation.

So what artist Michele Bosak has done with The Space Between Us qualifies as art in that sense. In her description of the piece, Bosak shares she created it to start a discussion of what defines "home." Is it a specific collection of furniture? Does its secret lie in the symmetry and color of the architecture? Or is it a feeling evoked by memory and solidified by time?

As a recent college grad/apartment-dweller, I relate to her feeling of transiency-- the lostness and longing for that space/time/place relationship to people and furniture. And so, in the guestbook, I told her so. I wrote her a short letter, and so became part of her art.

Exhibit C: Light Passes Through It



I purposely did not take a picture of this exhibit, because there is no way to do it justice. Read the description in this photo first, and then read what I have to say.

----

As the artist said, the power of this exhibit comes from its "ever-shifting light, sound and imagery." It was all there, and it was moving. Call it mixed-media, call it a slideshow reflecting off clear-paneled screen prints of famous photos from history (and not-so-famous ones), but whatever you call it, anyone who has seen the rapidly firing images of the 20th Century (as well as a few from the 19th and 21st)
and heard the voices-- the cries, the fragments of bygone speeches, the sounds of firing weapons in war, the laughter of children-- anyone who has stood in that room upstairs in the Federal Building cannot walk away the same.

At least I couldn't. In fact, after about five minutes, I was wondering if I could walk away at all. And so I didn't for awhile. I leaned against a pillar in the room and cried within myself.

"This artist has summed up exactly what it feels like to be me," I thought to myself. I haven't lived in the shoes of all these people or fought in these wars or listened to "I Have a Dream," or "Never, ever, ever give up" or "Fourscore and seven years ago..." but I know I have felt these people's pain and hopes and fears and joys.

Friends get scared sometimes when I tell them I often have the sense I can feel the pain of people I haven't met... but go to that room and you will feel it, too. You will understand what it's like inside my head on a daily basis. And because the artist understood, it didn't matter to me that the exhibit itself appeared to contain very little actual talent-- if you measure talent with the same measuring stick the masses use.

But you can't. Not at ArtPrize. Not in that room. Not in my world.

And now you've seen a slice of ArtPrize through my eyes.
1. Front row parking.

2. Freedom to work at your own pace.

3. The ability to pair work with Pandora for eight hours straight.

4. Darkness.

5. Sleeping in late when you get back.
I've let things get a little heavy these past few posts on my blog, so maybe it's time to lighten up the mood a little. :)

You know those families where everyone looks alike and everyone thinks they are the black sheep of the family, when really they're all just variations of other relatives?

You know the families who can't seem to get along a whole lot but love being together anyway?

You know the families who have ridiculous reunions with everyone talking over top of each other and running frenetically around planning crazy, not-that-fun activities?

You know the ones... who get matching T-shirts...

Well, apparently my family now has become one of those families.

I cried harder last night than I have in months, and definitely harder than I have ever cried because of a book.

This one was called "The Book Thief," and it took me nearly a month to read it after first checking it out from Van Belkum Branch Library.

It wasn't because the book wasn't a page-turner. It was. It wasn't because it was 550 pages. Although it was.


The reason it took me almost a month was because it was filled with suffering and pain, and I had to keep putting it down and coming back to it later, when I knew I'd be ready for it again.

The story was like none I've ever read before. It was about a girl named Liesel Meminger who lived in Nazi Germany in the middle of World War II.

Instead of a tale told from the perspective of the Jews, like so many other WWII books, such as "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl," "The Hiding Place," and "The Devil's Arithmetic," author Markus Zusak hands us a story from the point of view of Germans living under the terrifying rule of "the Fuhrer," as they called Hitler. We see and feel the constant terror running through German souls -- the things they had to do, the price for hiding Jews, and the way Hitler wielded words in his quest to rule the world.


--------------
**Such a powerful, sobering thought that was for me, a writer, an editor — someone whose daily life and breath is the food of words. Someone whose existence is intertwined with paragraphs and sentences. To think of the misuse of words, to me, is terrifying.**

--------------

The part that stunned me about this book is that the story itself was fictional, with the exception of its historical context, and yet I found myself wrapped up in Liesel Meminger's life, fascinated by her foster parents' odd ways of showing love, drawn to her best friend and hero, Rudy Steiner, heartbroken by the sorrow of the Jew they hid, Max Vandenburg, whose friendship to Liesel follows her throughout life, and sympathetic to Liesel's hunger for books, a pull that draws her into thievery and brings her face-to-face with Death three times.

For this book is narrated by Death himself. He sees human souls as colors and takes a sick pleasure in that which will shock, appall and disturb.

And yet, despite that, I couldn't help but sympathize with him, in the sense that it was clear he loathed his job and carried it out of a sense of fateful inevitability, knowing that nothing could stop the ebbing away of souls during that war. He carried each one lightly, respectfully, even on days when his task list numbered in the thousands.

I was angry at him for telling me ahead of time what would happen to each character. Angry when he revealed before it happened the specific manner of each person's death.

And yet, being prepared for their deaths in advance, and by extension the heartbreak they would cause Liesel, did nothing to soften the blow to my heart when they actually occurred.

"Why? Why?" I asked myself What made this book so difficult to read?

Part of it must have been because I knew that although Liesel and Rudy were merely products of Zusak's imagination, there were so many in 1943 with stories just like theirs that weren't fictional.

People really did follow Hitler in hypnotized, numb terror. And those who tried to resist met with suffering and death.

People died alone. They died not knowing hope. They landed in unmarked graves — whole families at once, so many that it's likely some families trees were obliterated — with no one left alive today who even knows or remembers they existed.

I don't want to forget that. I don't want to watch the ones around me die without hope like they did.
After a too-long absence from the blogosphere due to the lack of home Internet access, I'm glad to say I'm back and ready to write.

I was going to toss around some thoughts about President Obama's speech on education from earlier today, but in keeping with the spirit of this blog, let me deviate to something I've been thinking about since last night.

A couple of weeks ago while editing the Sunday books page at work, I stumbled across a review of a local Vietnamese author, Bich Minh Nguyen, who just released her second book in two years.

Her second was a novel called “Short Girls.” As I read the review, I noticed her first work was not a novel at all, but a memoir titled “Stealing Buddha’s Dinner,” about her family's flight to Grand Rapids in 1975 on the heels of the Vietnam War. The title alone was enough to intrigue me, so (as soon as I had finished editing, of course) I immediately scouted it out on Amazon.com.


I just finished reading it last night. It wasn't the kind of book that made me leap for joy; it was more of a thought-provoker. Nguyen's writing is by turns concise, conversational, emotional, comedic, descriptive and understated — yes, it can be all those things — but it left me so sad, hungering for something elusive she never quite served.

And that is ironic, because food was her primary narrative tool. All of the chapter headings (Pringles, Dairy Cone, Toll House Cookies, Ponderosa, etc.) and all of her primary childhood memories revolved around experiencing new foods, from her native Vietnamese staples, to the campy American packaged fats and sweets she looked upon as delicacies, to the Mexican variety her stepmother introduced.

It made me sick to read the lists and lists of food she wove into every chapter as she described how each family she met made their food differently.

But it wasn’t until today I began to pinpoint the exact cause of my uneasiness. When Nguyen arrived in Grand Rapids, she took in her first doses of two things: Christianity and capitalism. The “upward mobility” of her Christian neighbors in the perfect house with the perfect yard and the Stouffer's insta-meals became inextricably linked, in her mind, to the meaning of Christianity. All she saw was a striving toward perfectionism and success, and it both fascinated and repulsed her.

The result: She rejected Christianity and embraced Buddhism even more fully.

I finished the last page feeling so utterly sad that her neighbors, so terrified by the Nguyen's living room altar to Buddha that little Jennifer Vander Wal was not allowed to go inside, completely missed the fact that this precious little Vietnamese girl, who wanted to understand Christianity, turned away from it because of what she saw in them.

In the book’s quintessential passage, Nguyen decides to steal a piece of the fruit her grandmother set out as an offering to Buddha, and she takes it with her and hides in the neighbor’s tree while they are away from home. Here is how she describes that memory:

-----------------
As I sat in the Vander Wals’ tree, Christianity seemed about as real to me as the Agapaopolis (a Sunday School musical in which Jennifer had a role). It seemed as distant from my person as blond hair and blue eyes. It also seemed manipulative, what with all that fire and hell. When Jennifer talked about the Lord it was with equal parts love and fear. Noi (Bich’s paternal grandmother) didn’t fear, or even really love, Buddha. She didn’t worship him; she gave him her respect. … When she bowed and chanted she wasn’t praying out of fear, or to save herself, or to ask for something good to happen for her. The Christians were God’s minions, but Noi was not Buddha’s.
-----------------

It is entirely possible, even very likely, that the Vander Wals were sincere, well-meaning Christians. But if so, how is it possible the major impressions left on young Nguyen were of a twisted, subservient Christianity, manipulative in its intent, and primarily connected to consumer culture?

It’s possible because the things we value — the things we work for and guard carefully — these are the things we actually love, regardless of the message we think we are projecting. And if the things that frighten us most are people different from ourselves, as with the Vander Wal’s perpetual terror of and hatred for the Nguyens, then maybe it’s time to step back and reevaluate if we really know the heart of Jesus.

Is He one whose selfishness turns away little children? Is He one who advocated climbing the social and economic ladder above all else? No.

Thank-you, Bich Minh Nguyen, for painting such a vivid picture of the things that break my Savior’s heart. May I never forget.
I finished writing Journal No. 26 just yesterday, thanking and praising God for another year to enjoy His precious gift of writing.

Last night before sleep overtook me, I spent time reflecting on how sobering that gift can be when it is used to tell of loss.

While I was on duty at The Press last night, our reporting staff covered the homecoming of a local fallen hero, Nick Roush, who was killed in action last Sunday in Afghanistan. The flight bearing his body landed in Grand Rapids last night amidst a gray and windy misting rain.

Family, friends and curious, supportive community members lined the runway, many bearing messages of thanks and remembrance as the U.S. Army escort lowered his coffin from the plane.

I saw via the MLive photos and videos how his girlfriend's legs gave way beneath her and her body doubled in sobs. A former youth pastor from her church lovingly stood behind her, holding her up, supporting the weight of her immense grief. The look on her face said everything with no words.

The soldier's mother clung to the casket as it was lowered, gripping it as if the very act of holding tightly could bring him back. His tall, proud father -- the only steady figure on the scene -- stood upright beside her, gently soothing her as she wouldn't -- couldn't -- let go.

As flags and mementos borne by strangers waved in the breeze, the whole city watched, gratefully, yet almost intrusively, as the fallen hero made his way back home to Middleville.

What right have we -- have I -- I wondered last night, to watch this tender, bleeding moment from the sidelines? Why do we care about a soldier we never knew existed before word of his death reached our ears?

What right have my eyes to fill as I see the footage and read his story?

I want to let those tears belong to his family, his boyhood friends, his former future wife -- to the ones whose relationship and kinship to him earned them the right to cry. The right to scream. The right to question.

But I can't. Even now, tears fill my eyes as I write.

I didn't know him. But I know who he was.

He was a brother -- a fellow human -- a brave soldier -- a tenderhearted lover -- a son -- a fighter -- a man made in God's image -- a born again son of the King.

In a way, he was Everyman. And the reason I cry -- the reason we all cry -- is because we recognize deep within our souls (even those of us who deny the soul's existence) that he wasn't supposed to die.

He was supposed to live forever. He was supposed to head endlessly toward the horizon, enjoying the view the whole way, and always coming out a victor.

And because it didn't happen that way, each of us wonder who else of us could die tomorrow. Could it be me? Or my loved one?

I see in this Everyman's death the grief of the ages -- a culmination of every hurting mother, father, brother and sister who has loved so deeply and lost too quickly.

I see the heartbreaking evidence of the moment death entered the world -- that moment thousands of years ago when nothing ending forever became forever ending now, and blackness gripped the Earth.

Since that day in that Garden with those people, Everyman has been dying daily and we've all felt it.

Nothing, nothing, nothing could stop it.

Until ... Second Adam came.


He lived, bound up in an Everyman body like ours, feeling the forever ending now tears and heartache. But He had a precious secret to share, and he shared it in red, elevated on a hill, blackening the sky, not kept in by a stone, re-clothed in white, victorious over Death.

Fallen hero Everyman? No. Nick Roush, child of Second Adam, son of the King ... his body isn't in that casket, dear mother.

It's with his Savior, Second Adam, Everyman's Redeemer.

He's where forever never ends. Let the world cry only for joy!

For me, life has often been an emotional tug-of-war. So many memories, experiences, encounters and conversations have broken my heart. I have felt deep in my spirit the cries of the hurting ones around me. I have hurt others, and I myself have been hurt. Knowing about this suffering has only served to reinforce my longings to fix the pain of the world — and yet I realize I cannot always be that person.

There is Someone who is much better at it than I am...

I don’t quite know whether I am the kind of person who lives primarily out of emotion, or out of analysis and reason. But I do know that every time I have acted out of emotion, a big part of me jerks myself back and rehashes those steps and analyzes them in effort to prevent them from happening again. Sometimes I even over-think things, to the point of inaction, or fear.

I want to be different — but then moments such as one from yesterday happen and I come back to a realization of my own weakness and my need for Someone stronger.

One of my roommates and I took a road trip yesterday and, on the way home, something she asked me directed my thoughts back into the past, to a memory that recurs every now and then — the memory of a dear friendship that died slowly.

Bear with me ... there is a point to this story.


My best friend and I were inseparable growing up. But as it often happens, as two people mature and life happens around them, we drifted. Church splits, words spoken, families heading in different directions, dating, marriage and college were all events, which, apparently, our friendship was not strong enough to withstand. And so we drifted. There was never a dramatic parting of ways — just a long and gradual separation of tastes, thoughts, ambitions and dreams, and by the time I knew it, there was a gulf so wide between us that only a long bridge-building project could have spanned it. And, by that time, neither one of us seemed to want to close the gap.


But hers is a friendship I have always missed. I have looked for it in so many other people, but never found anything quite like the familiarity of a shared childhood to make it possible.

Last night, though, in the midst of my roommate’s questions, part of the sometimes fuzzy mystery of that friendship’s dissolution became a little clearer.

My friend and I, as I’ve alluded to, told each other everything. Family stories, secret crushes, hopes and fears — it was all out there for the other person to see. That is why I was so mystified when things began to change for us.

After an illness which almost took her from us, she was different. One of the guys we grew up with had been interested in her for awhile, and after her recovery, they started seeing each other. Within a few years they were engaged, then married.

She did ask me to be in the wedding, but at that point I already was feeling the gap widening.

She was married on a hot day in July. Her first trip away from her husband after the wedding was when we went to visit a friend who lived out of state the following November.

We had a really good time that weekend. But one night we got into one of those late-night conversations girl friends are famous for ... and I found out that her illness, by that time years in the past, had been followed by a years-long struggle with bulimia ... and she hadn’t told me.

I was so hurt, and confused about why, after a lifelong friendship, she wouldn’t feel safe telling me — her best friend — about something I could have prayed with her and cried with her through. I wouldn’t have judged. I wouldn’t have scorned.

Years have gone by, and she and I have come to somewhat of a center in our lives. We can see each other at gatherings back home and still pick up where we left off last time. We definitely won’t ever be the same friends we were at 12, but there is a rich history there, and I think both of us will treasure it.

Maybe I will never know why she didn’t tell me about her battle with bulimia. But I am thankful for remembering that conversation last night. I think what God was trying to say is that, much as I want to, I don’t have to be the person everyone runs to for comfort and healing. Even though I am willing to listen and feel others’ pain, there is Someone who is much better equipped to take those struggles and work through them and free my friends from their burdens.

I want to be there for you, and when you come to me, I will listen with arms ready to soothe you. But please, don’t let me get in the way of your Savior.

Run to Him.
Last night I was talking to a new friend about favorite movies, and suddenly I remembered my long-lost friend Audrey Hepburn. I hadn't thought of her in quite some time, but last night my mind began to drift as it would over a "Moon River," back to the memories Audrey and I have shared.

I had to play the song and reminisce about the good times, such as when we went on a "Roman Holiday" together,



after which we went to New York and ate at "Breakfast at Tiffany's"



where we bumped into a girl named "Sabrina"
























whom of course Audrey always referred to as "My Fair Lady."



Ha, but sometimes I think it was all just a big "Charade,"



and the only way to know if any of it was real is to "Wait Until Dark."



Somehow, I think we would have been good friends, Audrey and I.

All my non-clothing and non-toiletry items are packed into boxes and sitting here in my basement, looking sadly at me with mournful, boxy eyes. It's unreal to think that everything I own fits snugly into one small house corner's worth of cardboard.

The saddest items on scene are my empty bookcase and overstuffed, worn blue couch. Oh, the butts it has hosted, conversations overheard, popcorn scents soaked up and bedtime dreams inspired. This is its third home since I bought it, and it will soon acclimate to a fourth. So many have loved it despite its homeliness. Will my next set of roommates love it, too?

I think tonight also of my keyboard and microwave languishing away at home, waiting for the day I'll have my own place and can come for them. They have a good home for now, with my family, but there's no place like where Mama is. :)

I think all this prosaic, sentimental furniture-speak functions only one purpose tonight: A vain effort to suppress my deeper feelings of angst about the move next week, leaving my roommates for new ones, and what it all represents. Yet another closed chapter in the life of this solitary sojourner.

There is now no one making my decisions for me, and stepping away from this college-time dwelling place only serves to reinforce that cold, hard truth. Bills, work and responsibility are inescapable facts of of this post-graduation life.

At this point I am reminded of a dream I had a couple of years ago, just before I transferred to Cornerstone University. I only remember a few dreams in perfect detail -- just the ones that left a lasting mark on me. This particular one was significant for its heavy symbolism.

In my dream, I was in Mexico with my family for a festival, and they left me alone one night, insisting I stay behind because I had no walking shoes -- only my slippers.

I sat -- cold, lonely and weeping -- at the base of a stairwell. Through my tears I looked up to the floor above and saw a child with dark eyes, leaning over the railing, looking at me quietly. She stretched out her arm and pointed to a large clock at the top of the landing above and in front of me.

"Stay here and watch the clock," she told me, and disappeared.

I waited, watching, shivering, wondering if my family would ever return, and if I would ever find my walking shoes.

-----------

I remember that dream so vividly, so clearly. I remember the anguish I felt when I woke in the middle of the night to find real tears streaming down my face.

I knew instantly that the dream came from a deep place within to stir so much emotion. I knew I was afraid of leaving community college and home for a new life in Grand Rapids at Cornerstone.

It wasn't so much the school or city I was afraid to face. It was myself. I was afraid of facing my own inadequacy.

Now, two years later, I am so utterly beyond humbled and thankful to report that although I did face my inadequacy nearly every day at Cornerstone, it was a beautiful process that drove me closer with each passing week to a Savior who is more than sufficient for every need I have ever experienced.

Despite often feeling lonely, heartbroken and misunderstood, I learned to cling to the only One who will never break my heart.

In my last bittersweet week as a CU student, I remembered my dream of two years earlier, and wrote a farewell column to my Herald readers, addressing the issue of the need for walking shoes. I don't think anyone knew the back story there or read the subtle connection, but I knew, and I will definitely never forget it.

Please read this link to see the column on the Herald Web site, or see below.

-----------

Why I chose Cornerstone
By Rachel Watson

Two years ago when I was looking for a place to transfer to study journalism, I chose Cornerstone. I don’t regret my decision, and if I could do it all over again, I would still choose CU. Let me tell you why.

At first, some who knew I wanted to pursue journalism advised me to try Michigan State, a school nationally recognized for its excellence.

I wasn’t entirely sure why people were trying to dissuade me from Cornerstone. I knew I wanted a solid journalism education, but I also knew I wanted more than what a secular college could offer. I went to a public community college for my associate of liberal studies degree, and although I learned so much there, it wasn’t exactly a place to get equipped in the fundamentals of my Christian faith.

I chose Cornerstone because I wanted a holistic education — a training for the heart and spirit as well as the mind.

I did want to learn how to be a solid writer, editor and reporter, and MSU probably could have given me that education perfectly well.

But could MSU have given me a caring support system of Christian professors and fellow students to challenge me in my faith? At MSU, would we have opened a semester in Mass Media Law class with a discussion about what it means to glorify God? Would we have filtered ethical dilemmas and difficult decisions through the eyeglasses of a biblical worldview? No. We wouldn’t.

At Cornerstone I had all those things and more. As I struggled to shoulder the responsibility of being Herald managing editor for the first time last semester, I was daily reminded by my adviser Alan Blanchard of what really matters in the midst of craziness.

“Be anxious for nothing,” his e-mail signature said in irritatingly bright highlighted yellow letters every day, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

It was a message I sometimes didn’t want to hear, because I often WANTED to hang onto my anxiety in the middle of deadlines and miscommunication and lack of sleep. It felt like a friend I could hang onto. But see, that’s exactly what Christian exhortation is — a message you don’t always want to hear, but one that makes you stronger if you choose to heed it.

That’s why I have loved Cornerstone. Whether it was my adviser, fellow Herald editors, professors, roommates, or friends, there was always someone to challenge my assumptions, making me think through and explore and redefine the things I thought were “OK” about myself.

I haven’t been OK. I have been at times bitter, unforgiving, anti-social, a bad listener, a poor communicator, a difficult-to-live-with roommate, and a series of failures, one after another.

But instead of affirming and smoothing over those mistakes, the people of Cornerstone have helped me to face them, turn from them, and move on. I have learned that failure is a part of life — a part everyone experiences at one time or another. I learned the only thing that sets me apart from any other lost person on the planet is the grace of God working in my heart.

So thank you, Cornerstone. Thanks for being the safe space where this wobbly little girl could take her first steps. I think I’m ready to walk now.
My dear friend Laurie bought me a Moleskine for my birthday last year. In the card accompanying her gift, she specifically said, "This is for all those brilliant thoughts you have while driving everywhere."


If this post is scattered, you can blame it on her for buying me the Moleskine ... or on me, I guess, for being too lazy to organize my thoughts before posting. :)

As I've already alluded to, I tend to be the type of person whose best thoughts come when I'm inconveniently doing something else, like driving.

Today, the thoughts were like popcorn in my mind ... just bursting disconnectedly out of nowhere on the route from work to Subway to home.

No. 1 -- Sitting at a (green) stoplight on the corner of College and Leonard: No one is moving. "What the heck is going on?" I wonder in a silent, irritated yell to myself. Suddenly an ambulance comes rushing past and the stopped traffic all begins to make sense.

First thought: Good thing some brilliant person formulated international road safety rules to dictate ambulance right-of-way ... otherwise, how would they ever make it through afternoon rush hour?

Follow-up thought: I wonder who is inside that ambulance? Did someone suffer a broken leg, a concussion, a bad fall, a heart attack? Here I was so impatient to make it through a green light, when someone inside that red and white truck quite possibly is fighting just to stay alive.

Let me tell you, there is nothing that resets my focus quite like the unexpected siren of an ambulance. All of a sudden, the minor frustrations of life seem so insignificant, you know?

No. 2 -- Minutes later, Leonard and Beltline: Listening to the radio. Today's news coverage is focusing mostly on the Supreme Court appointment hearings for Obama's hotly protested nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. Part of the sound byte captured a man who burst into the hearing yelling, "Baby killer! She's a baby killer! Don't let her on the bench!"

I sighed deeply. This is exactly the kind of behavior that gives conservatives the "extremist" label. Do you really think the panel will listen to you because you're yelling like a fool and carrying a sign attached to a big stick? No. They'll call the bailiff and throw you out, and then you'll just be another idiot sitting on the street corner, mad as a tantrum-throwing 2-year-old -- and what's more, you just got your new shorts dirty.

Disagreeing with Sotomayor's judicial record is fine ... but can you please find a rational -- and effective way to do it?

No. 3 -- I'm almost all the way home. Funny, I don't even remember much of the drive. I have to believe most people have similar experiences on the way home from work each day. "I know I got home somehow, but I don't really remember driving there."

"Oh well," we say, as we shrug and shut the doors to our 2,000-lb. hunks of steel we wielded all the way home ... so safely ... so consciously. :)

That thought scares me a little. "Am I playing it safe enough?" I ask myself. Then I turn the radio up a little louder ... and the Newsboys are singing "In the Hands of God." I laugh for a good 30 seconds about that, shake my head, and pay a little more attention to my driving the rest of the way home ... thankful for God's protection even when I'm not paying attention.

After all -- how can I honestly focus? It's Ticker Tape Tuesday. :)
If you have never heard MercyMe's version of this beautiful, time-honored hymn, perhaps now is the time to listen.




"The Love Of God"

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell
The guilty pair, bowed down with care
God gave His Son to win
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade

To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky

Hallelujah [3x]

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song

*Note: It may seem obvious, but for the uninformed, I believe it's the song's persistent writing metaphor that grips me. I cannot out-write God's love... but that doesn't mean I can't keep trying, and failing, and trying some more. :)
Before you read any further, I want to tell you today's blog post is about a boy's story. Wrapped up in his story is a mire of senseless U.S. immigration law that desperately needs to change. If you don't think you'll like what you hear, feel free to stop reading now.

But if you want to hear it, please read this story by The Associated Press.

------------

If you didn't have time to read it, here is the basic gist of it ... my version ... all the facts credited to the AP reporter.

------------

Daniel Guadron was an 18-year-old Guatemalan immigrant who came to the U.S., specifically Trenton, New Jersey, with his family when he was 13. During the first few months he was here, he amazed teachers, relatives and friends by mastering the English language and excelling in all of his studies and extracurricular involvements. It was obvious this young man, well-loved and admired by all, was on his way to someplace great.

In April 2008, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency broke into his home, demanding he reveal the whereabouts of his mother. He would not, and so they cuffed him, stuffed him in a van and carted him off to a warehouse near Newark, N.J. -- a place used to detain illegal immigrants.

For seven months, Daniel waited. He waited to find out why he was there. He waited to hear from his family's lawyer. He waited with 300 other immigrants also uncertain of their fates. It wasn't as if he had done something wrong. He had his papers together -- even had a Social Security number. But his parents had missed a court appointment somewhere along the line, and now he was paying for it.

After a time of despair, Daniel decided not to waste his time. He would strengthen mind and body while he waited for justice. He worked out. He read. He practiced his languages. He prayed. He wouldn't let this beat him. And he didn't.

Finally the day came for his release. The lawyer had managed to finagle a re-opening of the case, and Daniel was free to go before the family's final fate was decided.

Before he left the detention center, his fellow detainees, many of them now his friends, looked at him through African, Indian and Chinese eyes -- eyes full of fear and uncertainty -- and said, "Remember us, Daniel!"

For which of them knew how long they would stay?

------------

When I read this story while editing at work the other day, my eyes welled over with tears of anger and sorrow. I am willing to admit I don't fully know the inner workings of U.S. immigration law, nor the philosophies from which it stems.

But I know injustice when I see it. I know Daniel Guadron and his family are no different than the ancestors of each one of us (including the ICE officers and the immigration court judges), who, several generations back perhaps, came to the U.S. just like the Guadrons, looking for freedom and opportunity.

The difference, I guess, is the generation in which the Guadrons arrived. Has America has changed her mind and lost her sense of hospitality? Is it time for the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty to be effaced and replaced with "No Longer Applicable"?

My prayer is that before we lash out in hostility against immigrants, whether Hispanic, Asian or African, we will stop and remember our own ancestors who were more than likely in the same place. When did fear begin to trump compassion? How would you feel if that kind of malice were aimed toward you?

We need to remember Daniel. Just like the biblical story of Joseph, Daniel took the wrongs levied against him and responded not in anger, but in humility and patience. He didn't deserve what happened to him, but he took his situation for what it was, and waited for an answer. His response puts us to shame.

"On Seeing Fireworks ... Alone"


By Rachel E. Watson

There is fire in the sky,
And a hole in my heart.
There are friends all around,
But most people strangers.

I love watching faces,
There are so many kinds.
The city is bursting,
With all sorts of life.

On nights like tonight,
With people in seas.
I wonder how it is
So many feel alone.

I don’t want to ruin
A night like tonight.
So I’ll think on blessings,
And watch the dark sky.

A thick cloud of haze
Hangs fast in the air.
The moon gazes at me,
As I gaze right back.

I don’t know why I’m sad,
And at the same time not.
It seems like my feelings
Have so many shades.

The unneeded scurry
After the show,
Reminds me of clocks,
And how time controls.

Time can be ruthless,
Urging my sorrow.
If not for time’s hand,
I wouldn’t feel pressure.

Pressure to be and do-
Pressure to find someone-
Pressure to watch the sky-
Within a set of arms.

On the Fourth of July,
I always feel alone.
I want not to feel
Alone, but I do.

Copyright © Rachel E. Watson 2009.
I thoroughly enjoyed my work today. The neatnik/visual learner/graphic artist side of me is always pleased when I can take two blank broadsheet pages and a jumble of stories and possible photo selections and arrange them in an attractive way.

The creative writer part of me gets little ripples of satisfaction when a feature story or review is full of potential puns and plays-on-words waiting to be harvested, reworked and used as headlines, subheads, cutlines, etc.

And, something tucked away inside me goes "Ahhh..." when I can take a photographer's messy, raw caption information and work in zesty adjectives and action-packed verbs until the caption and photo work together to tell a complete (and therefore beautiful) story.

When everything is "just so"-- when it "sings"-- it is then I often feel complete, content and proud of my work. If that feeling came every day, it could be enough.

Thankfully, on the days when things don't line up, and I feel frustrated, misunderstood, and under appreciated, I still have much to keep my hungry mind alive.

There is always more training needed. Every day I learn something I never knew before as I read and edit stories. And, best of all, my vast storehouse of co-workers (though perhaps not quite so vast as it used to be) holds my attention fast as it darts from one to the other, all day long.

As part of being what my roommate Lauren would call "observational," I am a student of human nature. I notice my co-workers' habits, likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, character, tendencies, personality and even individual humor styles. Because yes-- they all know how to laugh and how to make one another laugh.

In studying each person thus, I hope not to be thought intrusive or obsessive in any way. My co-workers would certainly never know, because I don't do it overtly. Rather, I apply myself to learning these things about them in order that I may learn where I fit and how best I can add to the wonderfully diverse crop of minds, hearts and souls who work in The Grand Rapids Press editorial department.

I don't want to be a lump in a desk chair, doing a drone job. I want this place to be an investment of who I am in every way, into a mission that is so much bigger than just daily news production.

News production (assigning, writing, editing, designing, headlining, etc.) -- that is what we DO. It is not who we ARE.

Underneath the sometimes tough and usually task-oriented exteriors of each writer and editor lives an enduring, conscious vitality -- some hearts more alive than others, yes... but what if I could help to wake the sleepers? What if, through a light in me, even the most inanimate hearts could beat again?

It isn't something I take lightly. It's not something I pretend to have accomplished in my time so far.

But no moments ahead are guaranteed. No snappish or impatient words can be unsaid. No disrespectful looks or less-than-gracious interchanges can be erased.

So, it seems it is time to get serious.


I would like to buy this. It's a little something I found online while shopping for Father's Day gifts (very unsuccessfully, I might add). As the picture shows, the name of the game is Orijinz. The object of play is to guess the correct word or phrase after listening to the origins of the word in question.

Intriguing, eh? Almost as good as Latin root flash cards...



The past couple of weeks God has been showing me new aspects of one of His gifts I too often neglect: prayer.

First, as a caveat, I have to confess something. For the most part, whenever I have heard the phrase "the power of prayer" bandied about by Christians, I've cringed. I've wanted to shrink away from it like I do a myriad of other Christian cliches people whip out in the company of Christian friends. Whether the phrases are used with insincerity, or lack of creativity, or both, or neither, I don't know. Nevertheless, I sometimes cringe.

But, as it often goes when I think I'm doing OK, in the past couple of weeks, God has shown me a better way, opening my eyes to a weak spot in my heart.

It's as simple (and yet as complex) as this:

How can I know God better? By studying what He has created and revealed.
What did He say was the most valuable part of his creation? The ones He made in his image.
How do I get to know them better? Through conversation.
How do I begin such conversations? In a place of prayer, a place where hearts are open and vulnerable.

This is what happened at my house the past two weekends in a row. Unplanned prayer sprung from the hearts of my brothers and sisters. For three hours one night, we feasted in the glory of prayers for and with one another, to our Creator-Redeemer.

It took me a few days to realize what was happening. I was falling more in love with my Savior as I stood next to the ones He created. This is what I wrote in my journal after I had time to process it:

By hearing the cries of other hearts, we connect in a deeply intimate, superhuman way. We join together in supplication, thanksgiving and praise as together we verbally acknowledge, over and over, from each heart in new ways, how desperately we need our Lord. What else is prayer but a conversation in which the created being says to his Creator: "I am not enough in myself. I need You!" And most beautiful of all, the Creator responds. What a humbling, painful, devastatingly beautiful reality that is. And, over time, the devastation fades until only beauty remains.

Hearing those prayers breathed not in silence, but with brothers and sisters, in unselfish audibility, is blessing, is food, is encouragement, is life. It pulls me into their lives and pushes my face upward to a Creator who waits to hear His children talk to Him in that way.

I don't want to withhold that power from my life or from my friends' lives anymore. How can I keep silent when God's spirit calls me to conversation?

"Absurdity" 


By Rachel E. Watson

If a room’s just a place to sleep,
And a house a place to stay—
If a person’s just to pay the rent,
And the weekend’s just for play—

If a yard just exists to get trimmed,
And the deck’s for empty chairs—
If a neighbor’s one we just avoid,
As his house collects our stares—

If our jobs are just to pay the bills,
And the car’s to get us there—
If our lives are strings of nothingness,
Then what’s the point

... and why do I care?

Copyright © Rachel E. Watson 2009.


(Monmouth College Fighting Scots softball diamond, courtesy of Monmouth College's Web site.)

--
I am not a hardcore sports fan — although I do like a good basketball game now and then — but I usually have about zero interest in watching Cornerstone sports. This is why I dreaded going to cover a CU women’s softball game last week for my column writing class.

During the first part of the April 16 matchup against Finlandia, my feelings of irritation only intensified. I critically scanned the stands and observed the atmosphere during the first inning. I was annoyed by what I found.

There were six or seven spectators on Finlandia’s side and about eight on CU’s. No one was really paying attention to the game. The PA system malfunctioned (twice) during warm-ups and blasted a high-pitched scratchy, squealing sound right into my ears, since I had, of course, unwittingly parked myself directly in front of it.

Everything from the spectators, to the announcing, to the music, to the lack of a concessions stand, to the game itself made me question, “Is this even really a collegiate sport?”

At one point a Finlandia mom even yelled out, “Let’s go Lions!” but then stopped. “Wait,” she said to her neighbor. “Is that what they are?” I mean, come on! You don’t even know your own team’s mascot? What is this?

I know, I know what you’re thinking. I’m harsh and judgmental. But hold the phone.

As the bright sunshine cast its smile on the stands, they began filling with more fans — staff and faculty members Chuck Swanson and Rob Keys meandered down between meetings and classes to take a breather and enjoy the weather. Lisa Heasley, a former Golden Eagles softball girl, asked me almost shyly, “Is this seat taken?” and settled down next to me to watch the game.

As things unfolded during the next few innings, it became clear that Cornerstone would not win, even though Finlandia is definitely no Aquinas. But I wasn’t focused on the game. I was watching Lisa, and the other fans.

Lisa misses softball. She isn’t filled with burning regrets; it’s just a gentle ache. She misses the camaraderie of being part of a team. Thursday she watched the action closely and interjected occasional critiques and props to CU. She shared a few memories from being on the roster as we watched. She seemed happy to be there in the sun, supporting her old team.

I stole occasional glances at a couple basketball girls who had come out to watch. They were rolling up their pant legs to get a little more sun, squinting at the diamond, laughing and joking with each other. I watched Rob Keys perched solidly on the hill above the bleachers, arms crossed, intently watching — probably unaware of how stoic and comical he looked.

I listened to Pete Rusticus, the announcer, cheerfully singing along to Johnny Cash between innings and chuckling to himself as the game resumed and the music faded.

All of a sudden memories of watching my dad play church league softball swept over me. Church league, at Alan G. Davis Ball Park in Greenville, Mich., was a big deal in those days. Hundreds of fans would come out on game days — mostly families — and watch their dads and husbands and brothers compete against other churches.

There were always concessions, and the ice cream truck always came and tantalized the little ones, sending them scurrying off to mommy for pocket change to buy a Klondike.

My favorite part was the deep and scary forest running alongside the ball fields. Tucked inconspicuously into its depths was a wooden playground complete with swings and monkey bars where my friends and I roamed, and back further still lurked a series of toxic swamps with ominous “KEEP OUT!” signs posted every hundred feet or so. I never really wanted to dive in, but I always wondered what would happen if I did.

The ball park always smelled good, too. For some reason, back behind the fields there were dozens of piles of steaming hot wood chips. The piles were gloriously high, and it was our delight to run up them and dig deep past the surface with hands or toes or whatever other instruments were available, and see how far we could burrow without being burned by the intense heat.

Sometimes I watched the games, too. But now, when I hear the word “softball,” the step-sibling of America’s favorite pastime, I’ll be forever transported to those fields — to the carefree days of childhood, when the diamond was the place to be.

So thank-you Golden Eagles, for taking me on a trip back to memory lane. Even though you didn’t win, I’ll come back to watch you sometime, just to relive those days.
This isn't a huge deal, but I had to write an article for one of my journalism classes about Twitter, so I thought I'd share on here.

The assignment was to interview 4-5 people about Twitter, and describe it to someone as if it was the first time they had ever heard about it. So I interviewed some CU students, conservative political bloggers Nick De Leeuw and Tabitha Hale, and GR Press online editor Meegan Holland.

The buzz about Twitter
By Rachel Watson

What is Twitter?

According to Wikipedia.org it is both social network, and a new phenomenon called micro-blogging, which means instead of full-length text entries, it allows brief, 140-character updates in response to the question, "What are you doing?"

In that respect, it is much like Facebook, a social network created in 2003. Facebook also allows for status updates and messaging between users.

Twitter is different than Facebook, though, because of the brevity of the messages, the layout of the site and the lack of emphasis on photo sharing.

Senior English writing and media studies major David Duhon said he first heard of Twitter during a Cornerstone chapel speaker’s presentation last semester.

"I was like, 'What is this guy talking about?'" Duhon said. He had no plans to join until a journalism professor required it in one of his classes in early April.

"I hate going on the computer besides working," Duhon said. "I'd rather be doing something outside rather than looking at my computer screen."

Another CU student, Leigh Helder, said she heard about Twitter through the band MercyMe, which uses the site to promote their music.

"I just didn't want to join," Helder said. None of her friends that she knows of are on Twitter, so Helder said she didn’t really see a point.

Duhon said his initial reaction to the site after signing up was "confusion mixed with the excitement of viewing it like a game," but then said after failing to understand its usefulness, he quickly lost interest.

Perhaps CU students Duhon and Helder are not excited about Twitter. However, many in the professional world have jumped on board enthusiastically.

According to tweeternet.com, a site devoted to explaining Twitter to the uninformed, it "can be used to broadcast your company's latest news and blog posts, interact with your customers, or to enable easy internal collaboration and group communication."

Conservative Grand Rapids political consultant and blogger Nick De Leeuw said Twitter has been greatly helpful to him on a professional level.

"It's a great way to connect with folks all over the country on an idea basis," he said.

De Leeuw said the most useful aspect is the networking opportunities it provides.

"I've gotten work off Twitter, I've made friends on Twitter and I've gotten more traffic to go to my blog because of it," he said.

Tabitha Hale, another blogger from Raleigh, N.C., can also attest to its usefulness as a Web traffic-driving tool.

"I just started [Twitter] around Thanksgiving when I started blogging and it just seemed like a natural thing to do," she said. "Since then I've met a lot of great people and it went crazy from there. The instant feedback is good, it's pretty interactive, and the news cycle goes really fast."

Hale said she doesn't use Twitter in a professional sense in the office, but has noticed the hits on her political blog, pinkelephantpundit.com, have quadrupled since she began Tweeting her blog headlines.

Meegan Holland, online editor at The Grand Rapids Press, said she believes Twitter is a tool every journalist should use.

"If you're not Twittering, on Facebook, taking digital photos, writing decent stories and on YouTube, you won't be as useful," she said. "You should be at least connected to the Web."



I miss them.

P.S. I'm the third girl from the left, middle row.

(Image by wikimedia.org)


As I stepped out of the Herald student newspaper office at nearly 9 p.m. tonight, after eight long hours of work, a beautiful sight greeted my tired eyes. A narrow band of the sky glowed mellow orange and pink entwined with stormy black -- only on its western edge -- while the surrounding horizon swathed itself in utter darkness.

That colorful, yet slim band of light and beauty was being crowded from above by darker forces trying to push it down and squelch its cheer.

The effect of the scene on my spirit was instantaneous. I immediately remembered why my mind has been so clouded and restless today. I remembered it all in a flash, and sighed, knowing I would need to write it all out in order to deal with the thoughts and feelings I'd been pushing back all day.

The problem stemmed from a heavy ethical discussion this morning in my Mass Media Law class. Honestly, I think I've learned more from that class this semester than in all the others combined. But along with its good and positive lessons, it brings an equal amount of the dark, troubling aspects that tend to burden my soul.

Today was such a day. We sat discussing a chapter about Media and the Justice System, and the role members of the news media should or should not play as we exercise our First Amendment privileges to cover trials and interview criminals.

The sub point we stopped on longest posed the question of whether a journalist should a) grant anonymity to sources and b) if so, when that anonymity should be compromised in favor of a greater good.

The hypothetical our professor posed was this... (Disclaimer: This is not supposed to be a real-life scenario)...

You are a respected journalist with a reputation for accurate reporting. You are approached by (or you approach) a gang member or serial killer who has agreed to let you interview him about his recent crimes, only on condition that his name, identity and likeness will be kept completely confidential. You agree, in light of the fact that the murders are unsolved (police are still investigating) and you believe the story needs to be publicized. BUT, then when you begin to interview the killer you learn he is planning two, if not three more murders. He gives you vivid detail about locations, people, planned weapons, the whole deal. You write your story without using his name; only you and your editor know the source's identity. The police eventually indict several suspects for the murders, and they read your story, and subpoena you as a witness to the trial, presumably because you know the prime suspect's identity.

Do you go, and give up your source in the name of preventing him from killing more people, or do you resist the subpoena with an explanation of your qualified constitutional right to resist disclosing your sources?

I could not answer this question in class.

Now if you've ever taken a class with me you'll know there are very few instances in which I remain silent when a question is posed. I almost always have a response of some sort, whether it is my final conclusion or just a brash initial reaction.

This time I was torn.

I believe justice is one of the most important virtues humans can pursue. It is a desire planted innately within our hearts by a God who is a God of justice. Furthermore, human life is granted by Him and protected by Him.

But I also know the function of the media. I know we are supposed to be third-party agents, not controlled or connected to the government and its justice system, and certainly not agents of law enforcement. We report the news; we don't make it, and we don't provide its antidote.

To maintain credibility, the word of a journalist is everything. Once given, it should be binding.

So the question left in my mind, is how do I, as a Christian, balance those two objectives?
A few months ago I wrote a post on my other blog about discovering my learning style. At that point I said I'd rather be deaf than blind, because I'm a visual learner.

Well, I'm still a visual learner, but in the past several months I've also discovered there's no way I could live without my hearing.

Music has been the single most influential and important factor of my existence the past few months. It's like a gateway to the soul, an outlet for expressing the feelings I couldn't possibly frame without the chords and riffs and strings, and the gentle, angry, happy or desperate strains.

Most of the songs that move me have been jazzy and soulful, or have touched some deep nerve within.

Some of them make me smile
and some have moved me to tears.

But the one thing the songs all have in common is their unfailing ability to bring me back to my Savior in awe, reminding me of the ultimate and original creative Master-- the one who gave us the ability and gifts to express ourselves musically.

Or, as in my case, if we can't sing it, we feel it terribly and wonderfully all at once. That vast and bottomless well, that spring coming from within, that cavernous space the music fills-- it is put there by our Maker. When we hear the music, it's meant to point us back to him.

There's no hyperlink for that.