The Imaginarium of J.M. Adkison

I am Going to Write Something Clever

Published by J. M. Adkison under on 3:24 PM
Something Clever.


There you have it.

I have written something clever, something mind-twisting, something jaw-dropping. Something crazy. Something thought-provoking.

Something no one has ever written before. Something revolutionary. Something strange. Something new. Something different. Something that will change your mind. Something that will change the world. Something that will inspire youthful, college-aged, easily-agitated and easily-fooled idealists. Something that will make old conservatives point fingers and cause their jowels to quiver in distaste. Something that will be discussed, debated, and disected for ages and ages to come.

Something that will be the first quote of a book. Something someone will use in a speech. Something that will be referenced to by this side or that to argue this side or that. Something that will be written on classroom walls in crayon and construction paper. Something that will be etched out in gold along the archways of ivy league gates. Something that will be written on a thousand headstones to come.

I have written something clever.

And what in the world is all this supposed to mean?!

(Cue rewinding noise, reality spins backwards, ugly lines flash across the television screen, people fall upwards, windows go from shattered to whole, my fingers backtrack across the keyboard...)

Now that I have officialy returned to the wonderful world of web logging, also known as blogging, I thought I would make my return by writing something clever. The Pun is intended.

Sitting in Chapel today, I listened to three older students lead chapel by not giving a sermon persay, but instead by reciting scripture, the Lord's Prayer, and several sayings and writings from famous writers on this side of the Fall of Rome. It was a great Chapel that kept the audience involved and was a really fresh change from the monotonous monotone mumblings that somehow meander their way onto the stage. The speakers were creative and innovative, something that sadly is not always a part of Chapel.

But as they were taking turns at the podium, reciting Isaiah, the Gospels, and a whole lot of other scripture that had to do with being asleep in sin and waking up in salvation, they also spouted off some poetry with darkness, light, and pop culture allusions. They recited several modern-ish writers who I enjoy, but one I did not-the dreaded Thoreau (gag me with a spoon and shoot me in the head and do not even think about saying the word "Walden"), who all had great works done that were insightful, inspiring, (in Thoreau's case, insipid) and...I'm having trouble thinking up a another postive word that starts with "ins" but anyway...really good. And also clever.

It is every writer's dream to be the next Shakespeare. Even if a writer does not say it is his or her dream, that he or she is but a modest dabbler in creative story-telling or an occasional participant of poetic pasttimes-he or she is lying to your face and you should probably stand back so you do not get your eyebrows burned off when the bolt of lightning smites him or her for committing such a sin.

We all want to be discovered. We all want to be loved. We all want to be famous. We want the movie deals. We want the red carpet papparazzi pandemonium. We want the rave reviews from L.A. Times, Washington Post, and Time magazine. We want the first five pages of our book dedicated to "Praise for (Insert your name here)". We want to see "From New York Times Best-Selling Author" written over every title of every book (of course nowadays they'll give that out to any author who has two sentences written on a page). We want to have that Oprah's Book Club sticker on our cover.

We all want the generations and generations of high-school students to come and moan and gnash their teeth because they have to read our glorified texts and reenact our epic lines. From wherever we end up in the afterlife, we want to look into the beforelife and see those same students tormenting themselves over ten-page papers that have to do with our metaphysical, existential, hyperquizzitistical (a word from my American Lit-class) ideals and how they relate to...well...anything our proud and devoted disciples (i.e. English teachers) want them to relate to.

And if you are reading this and are a writer and getting mad at me, sorry...but you know it's true. ;)

What, you don't think Shakespeare was soaking in the limelight at the Globe? Come on, Queen Elizabeth saw his plays, that's like Bush/Obama (whichever you prefer) saying to you "You really have talent." Those four words are the magic words every person in the entire world ever born and about to be born wants to hear. And no doubt about, I'm sure Shakespeare heard it a lot and probably was not the most humble man walking along the Thames.


But in order to achieve that fame. In order to be a great writer. In order to be a name high-school students dread to bear as English teachers post giant pictures of your oh-so contemplative face and 1930's England throw-back suit with crossed legs up on the wall. In order to be a name cast among the greats and listed at the top of the who's who list. In order to be known, you have to write something clever.

Sure it can come from your heart. It can be something you pull from the depths of your soul. I can be something that inspired you. It can be something that you hope inspires others. It can be something that makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you scream. But it has to be clever. It has to be different. It has to be astonishing. Because otherwise, it's just another writing.

It's just another dream, just another story, just another whimsical notion, just another artist waiting to be called starving, just another J.K. Rowling wanna-be, just another stupid poem written by another stupid girl, just another ridiculous book written by another ridiculous boy, just another person wanting to change the world (it changes everyday-it is just a fad we haven't passed through yet), just a English student fancying himself a writer. Pa-lease!

It's just another story.

But it's only another writing to the world.

But not to God.

Wow! Now where did that come from?

This is not some writer-hating thing as you might have supposed. I am not one of those negative neds who are out to reveal the dark side of his art. Okay, maybe a little bit, but I'm trying to make a point.

God loves what we write as writers, when they come from our souls and hearts. I'm not talking about gossipy diary entries and bathroom vulgarities. I mean the real stuff, where tears stain the pages and the writings are kept hidden away for only you to see. But God does not like mysteries, that is why he is always revealing them.

When you cry out to God, when you rejoice with God, when you scream with God, even though you might not be aware you're doing it with God, He does and He loves it.

And the best part is-you do not have to put so much energy into writing "clever". He is not looking for a best-seller or the latest fad or even some radical, revolutionary essay with a well-thought thesis or bibliography. He needs no grammar, no supporting text, no footnotes, no standard, no cleverness. He only needs you and your words. To Him, your words that come from the core of your hear are far, far, far more beautiful than anything Shakespeare could conceive.

And who knows? When all is said and done, evil is gone, and the world is brand new again, he might decide to put the words you wrote the day you were baptized in the sky written in stars. Or He might display those words you wrote when you were asking Him for forgiveness and strength in sunshine along the clouds. Or He might take the words you wrote in celebration of a victory over sin and spell them out with a host bright angels brither than the stars and the sun and continually singing your name and God's over and over and over again.

So forget about the fame, the movie deals, the Oprah sticker, the New York Times Best-selling add-on (it's over-used anyway) and the tormented high-school students yet to come.

And write for God.

And then maybe the tormented high school students can come as a bonus.

Happier Tomorrows

Published by J. M. Adkison under on 11:48 AM
Alright, so I gave another chapel lesson today and I surprisingly spoke pretty well for having been sick and under the weather-though it was all mental weather considering it was a very nice day that day. The last time I was really quiet and my voice was awful. But today I used voice inflections and added a lot of soul into my sermon. The talk was cooking inside my brain while we were in Southern Italy, staying on the majestic shores and watching the sun rise on the land of romance. Needless to say, I was inspired.

So here it is...

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I was walking along a road one day. It was an absolutely gorgeous road, made with yellow bricks and lined with emerald-green trees. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and my soul was just…happy.

Then, as night began to fall and the sun dropped out of sight, taking its warmth away with it, the road lost its yellow sheen and the trees became cold skeletons, surrounded by dead leaves.

The path became rocky and cracked, easy to stumble over and dangerous to cross. I fell so many times, but I continued to pick myself up, I continued to keep my eyes on the bright light at the end of the road.

But then the path turned from broken bricks and stumbling stones to red-hot coals, smoldering intensely before me, a stretch of pain and heat standing between me and Paradise.

I was already so tired, already so broken, already so tested, but I tried anyway. I took a step onto the hot coals, my foot and my soul screaming out in pain. I took another step, my heart felt ready to shatter.

I had already come so far, come so near. The prize was closer, but still so far. This was not the bed of roses I told it was. This was not the happy life I was told would be my reward for obedience. With every step I took, my faith slowly smoldered down to ashes.

Then I heard it, a soft giggle from among the trees, a clash of coins rolling into a golden pile, the trickle of delightful drink gurgling in a far stream, a sound of applause to the calling of my name, a whispered promise for happier tomorrows.

I turned my head and looked into the cold, dark, skeletal forest. I saw a beautiful woman in a red dress, beckoning me with a seductive smile. I saw piles of gold and dollars towering higher than the trees. I saw a stream of bubbling beverages, full of good times and no worries. I saw the flashes of paparazzi cameras, yearning to capture my face. I saw the promise for happier tomorrows.

My feet were scorched and tired, my soul was so tested, and my heart was ready to break, and I needed a reprieve, I needed an escape. This was not what I thought it was anyway, it was too much for someone I had never met.

So I stepped off the path.

I chased after the woman in the red dress. I grabbed at the money littering the ground. I drank in the delightful drink. I did what I had to in order to get my fame. I believed in the promises for happier tomorrows.
And for a time, it was blissful, it was happy, it was free. And the narrow, hard path was far behind, out of sight, out of mind. Life was good and I was living it up.

But the whole time I was empty. The whole time I was cold.

The lady in the red dress turned out to be nothing more than one night stands and dirty magazine pages. The money became dried leaves in my hands and was taken away when ever the wind picked up. The fountain of good times and no worries was a poison that numbed my brain and left me always dying of thirst. My fame lasted for only a few minutes and I was nothing more than so-last-year. I found that this forest of happier tomorrows was really a forest of guilty yesterdays.

And I was lost. I was cold. I was empty.

And so I wandered through my self-pity and sickly sorrow, waded through my mire of dirty pages, fake monopoly money, empty beer bottles, and own shame.

And I was empty. And cold.

And that is when I called his name. I called his name, weakly at first, then a shout at the end.

And he came. He was there in a flash. He was bright, happy, and warm. The cold fled away in his presence. The sorrow became happiness when he smiled. My emptiness was gone at his touch.

He pulled me out of my shame, out of my mess, out of my cold. He pulled me out with nail-pierced hands, hands that had been pierced for people like, for the ones who wander among the skeletal trees, who lose themselves within their own messes, for everyone else.

He guided me out of the forest and back to the path, back to the road of hot coals, and then he picked me up, put me on his back, and walked across the coals for me.

How many times have we heard this sermon? How many times have we learned this lesson? How many times have we heard countless other allegories?

How many times have we actually believed in it?

This walk we call Christianity is not always a bed of roses, or a yellow brick road. Sometimes it is a length of hot coals, ready to cook us alive.

And when the going gets touch, sin slips in, it offers us a break, a reprieve, a happier tomorrow. But once it gently takes your hand, flashes you a beautiful smile, it puts a noose around your neck and a black bag over head. And goes in for the kill.

Which is why we have to stay on the course and we have to be strong. Because tomorrow never comes and sin always breaks its promises.

Philipians 3:12-14 says…12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

We are living in a long-distance relationship with God. He is in Heaven, we are on Earth. And sometimes we forget that Jesus died to make that long-distance shorter, to help us be nearer, even if that means picking us up and carrying us across hot coals.

So live for him, not for a guilty pleasure or quick-fix fortune. Be like Paul and don’t look back, keep your eye on the prize, never look back, because there are only guilty yesterdays behind you. But in front of you, at the end of this road called Christianity, is a golden today that will last for all eternity.

Oh the Places You'll Go

Published by J. M. Adkison under on 7:15 AM
So I survived free travel in one peace and my passport still in my pocket. I also managed to not completely burn off my entire account or get lost in the middle of Barcelona. It was a series of fortunate events that I still can't believe I got through without missing a train or forgetting something behind.

Basically, God was working overtime for our group.

Well I know many of you are interested in where I went and what I did, so I think I shall put a schedule of what we did day-by-day.

Monday Feb. 22
-Started the day off at the Villa by watching (and crying to) "Life is Beautiful". We then had to sit through a seemingly endless Humanities class. We left soon after lunch (my group consisted of four girls and two guys), walked down the hill, took a city bus, took the tram, then got on a train for Prato, Italy. It turned out that we had to take four trains just to get to a little town in Italy that a girl wanted to see. We took a train from Prato to Bologna, from there to somewhere else, then to Vicenza. We made it to our hostel at around 9:00 pm and since there was nothing to do in this town whatsoever except to see a theater, we decided to just chill in our room for the night.

Tuesday Feb. 23
-We checked out the hostel and went to the Teatro Olimpico, which is the first enclosed theater ever built (a theater major in our group really wanted to see it). After that we took a city bus for an hour to get to the train station, then had to wait another hour to get our train. From Vicenza we went to Venice, but only for an hour or so because we had to take a double-decker (yes a double-decker) charter bus to Villoch, Austria. We got to see the Alps and their snow-covered peaks on the drive. We made it to Villoch three hours later, then got on a train from Villock to Salzburg that took 2 hours. We made it to Salzburg and took a taxi to Germana Keppelar's, a sweet little bed and breakfast owned by this sweet, old Austrian woman, who waited up for us when we got in at around 10:00.

Wednesday Feb. 24
-We had a great breakfast at Frau Keppellar's and were picked up for our Sound of Music tour. The tour lasted for the first half of the day and was led by a really nice man who had some pretty corny jokes. After the Sound of Music tour we walked around Salzburg, taking in the scenery and looking for Mozart's home. We ate at great tavern, eating brautwurst and drinking Spetzy (coke mixed with orange juice and lemonade). After that we took another taxi back to our bed and breakfast.

Thursday Feb. 25
-Another great breakfast served by Frau Keppellar, we left Salzburg at 10:00 for Munich, arriving a half-hour later. We took another train to Rohrbac to drop off our bags with Curina (Katie's friend who was nice enough to let us stay with her). Katie and Natasha stayed with Curina, while Annette, Logan, Matt and I went back to Munich to catch a train to Fussen. Annette left to meet her fiancee at the airport and we ran into Sarah, Todd, Kathryn, Matt F., and Kendra (other people from our HUF group). We got on a 2 hour train to Fussen, took a quick bus ride up the hills, then a carriage ride up a Bavarian mountain, a walk on foot to Castle Neuchwanstein, the castle of my dreams! It was so gorgeous and majestic, as if it had been built purely by imagination. We walked down the mountain, got back on the bus, got back on the train, met back up with Annette and Jake (her fiancee), got on another train to Rohrbac, met up with Curina (who served a spaghetti dinner at her home), then took a drive to Tandem to meet Curina's friends and drink more Spetzy (I have no idea how to spell it).

Friday Feb. 26
-Left Curina's house early in the morning to catch a train from Munich to Hannover, then from Hannover to Osnabruk to meet Logan's family. Annette and Jake went to Prague, Katie stayed in Munich. Natasha, Matt, Logan and I were picked up by Logan's cousin Henning, who took us to his house and fed us a great dinner. We got in bed early after a long week.

Saturday Feb. 27
-Toured around Osnabruk, learning about Logan's heritage. Natasha, Matt and I got good food out of the deal.

Sunday Feb. 28
-Ate a great breakfast and a great lunch at Henning's and got on a train to Brussels, we got to ride first class on one leg of the trip there-I highly suggest you ride first class at least once in a free travel. We made it to Brussels at about 8:00 pm, grabbed some grape juice and made it to our hostel where we ate, talked and had communion.

Monday March 1
-Woke up late, met back up with Annette and Jake in the hostel lobby, and left to walk around the city. Brussels was blistering cold and all of the museums were cold, but we still had a great time. I had a waffle covered in nutella, then some Godiva chocolate and then some french fries covered in onions, ketchup and mayonnaise. That is seriously all I got to eat. We also saw the fountain of a little peeing boy called the Manneken Pis and went to see "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus". We spent the rest of the night walking around and talking.

Tuesday March 2
-Woke up very early and met in the lobby at 4:45 to catch a bus at 6:00 on the other side of the city. We had to take the creepy metro, made it to the bus just in time, then got to the airport just in time. We then made it onto our flight for Barcelona! We got to Barcelona-Gerona airport at about 11-ish am, where we had to take another charter bus into town. We checked into our hostel at about 1:00. The rest of the day was spent just walking around the city. It was a great day and we saw the huge soccer stadium and visited the Picasso Museum.

Wednesday March 3
-Slept in a little late after our long Tuesday, ate a brunch at around 11 am, visited a modern art museum that reinvigorated my hatred for modern art, walked around the shops and markets (most of which were closed because of rain), then went to the coast and had a hot chocolate at a mall on the beach. We then took the metro to a big, ugly, yet awesome church built by Gaudi that just astounded me with its weirdness. After the church we went to several parks and tried to find the Olympic stadium, but never did, but got some great views of the city. We then went to a really nice restaurant dressed in wrinkled cloths and smelling like death, but didn't care because we were craving legitimately good food.

Thursday March 4
-Our final day we got up at 3:30 am (I didn't even sleep that night)-in order to catch a 5:00 bus to the airport. We got on our 8:00 plane to Pisa, got on another bus, then finally made it back to wonderful Florence!

In the great words of Dr. Seuss, "Oh the places you'll go!"

So I Finally Saw It...

Published by J. M. Adkison under on 10:34 AM
So I am currently in Brussels, Belgium using a computer in the hostel lobby. Due to the fact that everything (from museums to fountains) is closed on Mondays-which is the only day we are here-we decided to go see a movie since a movie theater is located right across the street. Somehow, I got my friends to see "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus". Yes, it is the same movie title that inspired the title of this blog.

For those of you who don't know what this movie is about, don't ask me because I still don't know. It was one of the strangest movies I have ever seen in my life-and I still don't know if I really liked it. The beginning of it was great and had all of things I loved in a good movie...then it went downhill around the middle-and by the end it was nearly unbearable. I do not think that I have ever seen a movie where I loved it in the beginning and hated it in the end.

Alright, so a little bit on what the movie was about...I think...

A thousand years ago there was a monk named Parnassus who led a brotherhood that constantly told a story every minute of every day and every night, and they believed that if they stopped telling this story the world would end. One day a dark rider comes to the monastery with a proposal for Parnassus. The dark rider turns out to be the devil who tries to kill Parnassus's faith by stealing the voices of all the monks. But Parnassus, even with the devil's tricks, is not swayed and is determined that the story is being told elsewhere in the world, just in another version. So the devil and Parnassus make a game to see who can sway more humans to stories and imagination or to vanities and feeble desires.

A thousand years later and Parnassus is still making debts with the devil, but living in a world where he is losing more than winning. Because of a deal done ages ago, any of Parnassus's children would belong to the devil once he or she reached 16 years. Parnassus's daughter, Valentina, is nearing 16 and the devil is ready to collect his due. But Parnassus is still determined to win the game. So he travels across the world in a make-shift stage and carriage, with his magic mirror that allows people to enter the Imaginarium, a world limited only by your imagination. Within the Imaginarium, Parnassus tries to point contestants in the right direction toward purity and fulfillment. But the devil is always waiting in the Imaginarium, ready to use the human's vice to deter them.

The Imaginarium is fantastic. But it is not a dream world seen in so many other movies where animals talk and wizards battle, this is a world where all of your hopes and dreams exist in surreal form, quickly followed by your nightmares and fears. It is a world of a human mind, containing both pure and impure thoughts, and sometimes you can't tell the difference between the two. Both the devil and Parnassus are able to manipulate the Imaginarium to their own ends, but the human decides to follow Parnassus or the devil.

The rest of the story unfolds when the theater troupe that travels with the mirror and Parnassus discover a mysterious man named Tony, who has many, many secrets of his own. Tony is a wild card that neither Parnassus or the devil expected, but use to keep the game going. As Valentina falls for Tony and her birthday nears, Parnassus must find a way to save his daughter's soul.

I enjoyed the surreal Imaginarium, which was full of amazing effects and wondrous scenes. But Tony ruined it all with his lack of imaginative skill and yearning to be rich and powerful, corrupting the Imaginarium-where the movie goes down hill.

While the movie overall was strange and hard to follow, and there were some subtle stabs at Christianity (film-makers nowadays have nothing better to do than make those sort of jabs-they think they are being different but just fitting a mold a thousand other filmmakers have fit into of the ages).

But the idea of a world where our imagination alone crafts the physics and limitations is amazing to me. It is a world where everything you want to happens, happens in a glorious instant. So, I think I'll keep the title.

Tell Me Your Story

Published by J. M. Adkison under on 5:43 AM
So today I gave my first chapel sermon here at HUF and it went pretty well, although I rushed it a little as I tend to do when speaking. But I think the lesson was well-received by the group. They told me they liked it anyway. I also had a cough and am getting a cold, so it wasn't my best sermon ever.

But here it is, I'm posting it really for my Mom, because I know she'll ask me to do it anyway. And I think of all the sermons I've done-this one is my favorite, even better than that sermon I did about superheroes.

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So you've just died.

You've kicked the can. You've taken your last breath. You've passed on from this world. You've already seen your whole life pass before your eyes. The fat lady has sung. Life is over and the hereafter has begun.

And so with that final breath, as Hamlet might say, you have shuffled off your mortal coil and await what dreams may come. You step out of your body, look down at a face that had once been yours and but no longer is, and you're a bit confused about what to do next.

That's when you see it: a long, dark tunnel that had not been there before. With little options to choose, you begin walking down this tunnel, to see a small light waiting for you at the end. As you creep down this tunnel, the light is getting brighter and brighter with every step. A bright, white light that is coming closer and closer.

As you near the light, you begin to hear singing. You hear singing that is both beautiful and frightening, both majestic and terrifying.

And then you reach the light at the end of the tunnel. A bright, glorious and blinding light that envelopes and consumes you. And when your eyes become used to the light, you find yourself somewhere else.

Within this light you see giant pillars rising up, as thick as mountains, supporting a ceiling thousands of feet away. You see golden clouds drifting between the great pillars, passing only to show visions of art and glory crafted by hands not human.

On the floor of this majestic hall, a hall so great and massive you could lose the Sistine Chapel and all the palaces of the world quite easily if you weren't careful, and between the pillars and beneath the clouds, stood a chorus of a million angels, singing their songs in a language you've never heard before, but somehow understand. They are each creatures of starry flames, thunderous voices and eclipsing eyes.

And all their eyes are on you.

And then, as you turn from the chorus of angels, you see Him. You see the source of the ethereal light, the light that is far superior to the thousand-foot pillars, to the strange songs, to the fiery choir. He is the source of light, the source of life. Sitting on a throne large than the earth, surrounded by beings of a hundred wings and a thousand faces, surrounded by kneeling saints and inferior crowns. He is the Being of glorious, untainted, pure light covered in robes made from bursting suns and interwoven stars. A circle of swirling galaxies revolve around His head, a head that is the very pinnacle of all existence. His face is too indescribable for meager words and mortal imagination to comprehend.

And He is looking at you.

He is looking at you with eyes as bright as the Milky Way and as deep as the chasm of space. He wears an expression of what appears to be curiosity, an expression that contains every emotion bestowed to man, and then some that weren't.

You cower beneath the Almighty's gaze with the sum of all fears, with a trembling of Old Testament proportions. You stand there without your clothes, without your riches, without your body. You are standing beneath His gaze naked and laid bare. Needless to say, if you still had pants, you'd have wet them.

And then something unexpected happens: a human steps out of the One and Only. He steps out from the sunny robes and shining face. It is a man of average height, with dark, Middle-Eastern skin, wearing white robes and bearing holes in his hands and feet.

He walks up to you, completely at peace in this terrifying place, with a small smile on his face and his fingers caressing the hole in his hand, as if absent-mindedly. He looks at you in the eye, and says in a voice that may or may not be familiar, "Tell me your story."

"Tell me your story."

Over Christmas break, I read a book called "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" by Donald Miller, one of my favorite authors. In this book, I learned that we are all characters in an epic novel being written by God. This is a novel full of mystery, intrigue, adventure, action, horror, romance, heroic deeds, sacrifice, and true love. And we are all the main characters.

As John 1:1-5 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."

Jesus is the Word of God and we are the stories that have been written with but that one word.

God expects us to live exciting lives, lives that involve leaving home and seeing the world, that involve taking risks and taking leaps of faith, that involves defying the odds and facing our giants.

I think that when we get to stand before God, He won't stack your good deeds against your bad ones. Or immediately raise His thumb to approve your entrance to Heaven or point it down to send you elsewhere. I think He'll ask us to tell our stories, our life stories down to every detail. After all, He is God, and you are naked, so you have nowhere to hide anything. You tell Him your life.

And how disappointing would it be to have to tell the Creator that you did not explore the world he created for exploring, to tell Him that you came across an obstacle, but did not have the faith to overcome it, to tell Him that you fought with sin, but did not defeat it. To tell Him that you gave into sin, and did not put up much of a fight.

Everybody loves a happy ending, including God.

And how disappointing would it be to tell God that He did not have a major role in your life's story, or that He was not even a part of it at all, even though He was the one who wrought your introduction.

So while you are here in Florence, and gallivanting across Europe, live adventurously, take those once-in-a-lifetime chances, close your eyes and take that great leap of faith.

And while you are living adventurously, live adventurously with God, make Him the main character of your own story, make Him the prologue, climax, and epilogue, make Him the title of every chapter.

So there you are, standing in Presence of the Almighty, at the feet of the Creator, among the angels and the saints, standing before the Christ Jesus, and you've been asked to tell your story.

So what is your story going to be?

What a Weekend!

Published by J. M. Adkison under on 2:04 AM
So I am currently in the midst of week 3 of my semester here in Florence and it seems like I've been here a whole lot longer-months even. And yet, at the same, strange time, I feel as if time is slipping by like sand caught in a dancing wind that blows around you, swirling about you majestically for a moment, then passes by, leaving only memories and things left jotted down in a journal. But I am nowhere near the end of my adventure, I still have Europe to see and the world to conquer.

But this weekend was perhaps one of the best weekends of my life-riding on the heels of that one special weekend I was crowned king of the Prom.

Friday began early as we all boarded our bus at 8:00 am and headed off for the large village of Lucca, which is one of those many towns within Europe that have been resentful of change and the buildings and roads and churches remain in the medieval ages. You will find no mega churches here or examples of humanity's genius from today. Lucca was nice town, I will admit, but the downpour of rain and the drafty, frostbitten churches and the lack of astonishing facts did not leave us with a good flavor in our mouths and a good memory in our heads. We were rather smitten to be gone from the town and head on towards the rest of the day.

The rest of the day brought Pisa, that legendary architectural mistake that has made every child who has seen its picture in a classroom and every adult lucky enough to visit it. I've probably seen more than a hundred pictures of Pisa in my life, a commonality in today's fast-pace world photography and print. But actually standing at the foot of this famous structure, seeing the angle it was leaning at, and just waiting for it to come crashing down, was unreal. However it was nowhere near as grand as actually climbing the tower it-self. It was one of the strangest things, entering the tower through a crooked door, climbing a spiral staircase that leaned to the left, or right depending on which way you're facing. And then you make it to the top, and you desperately cling to the railing when you see one side of the circular structure much lower than the other. It's one of those memories you will never forget.

I seem to be making a lot of those.

Saturday brought the chocolate and Albanians. After classes on Saturday (yes, we have classes on Saturday-and Sunday) a group of us went to a chocolate fair at the Santa Croce (one of Florence's numerous churches) Square. The place was an inner-ant-mound of excitement as Florentines and tourists alike flocked the white tents, itching to get their hands on the chocolate-covered oranges and cherries and gummy worms. I managed to get a nice brownie smothered in hot fudge. What a treat!

The night brought the Albanians. Currently, Italy is having an explosion of Albanian immigration-which I think is a good thing because Albanians now how to have a good time (I'm absolutely positive that Italians do too, it's just that they're more reserved than Albanians by a long shock). And with the Albanians came dancing. We all sat along the walls of a small room in the Florence Church of Christ, watching these young Europeans hop, skip and smile as they held hands and danced around the room, playing the music of their home. Then gradually, they would pull us in and teach us the dance.

The dances were easy and free, with room for improvisation. The Albanians simply took us by the hand and pulled us into a circle of laughter and twirls. The music was folksy and foreign, like something out of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".

However, like all dance parties involving Americans, Cascada is going to get involved somehow. Especially when it comes to "Every time we touch". So naturally, I had a good time.

I don't know what it is about dancing, but it is one of my favorite gifts God gave us. And yes, I do believe dancing is a gift He gave us, just like singing, writing, athleticism, drama, public speaking, and health care. And like any of God's gifts, we can use it for good or bad. In the case of Saturday night, it was good. And it was fun.

No matter what anyone says, Harding kids do know how to have a good time, probably a better time than students at other schools, probably because we don't have illegal substances or consume beverages that cause extreme idiocy. And eventually it went from Cascada to Hadaway to Ke$ha. And I had a dance off with an Albanian, who may or may not have, gone easy on me. But whatever the outcome-it was fun.

Sunday brought a pot-luck. I know you actually don't spell pot-luck like "pot-luck" but for the sake of everyone else, I'll call it "pot-luck". The food was great and the compay even greater. I think friends make food taste better-that's probably false-but it does make meals more enjoyable. It's the little things of Italy as well that makes this trip grand. After the pot-luck we had a quick battle of the sexes pictionary game and some chili.

And then we went to the soccer-or futbol-whatever you want to call it- game and it was quiet an experience. When you think Americans are bad about their favorite sports teams and hating on their rivals, Italians are worse, much worse. It was Florence verses Rome, the purple and white verses the red and black...respectively.

I think since Italian cities no longer fight wars and try to conquer each other, they've turned to soccer as their outlet for violence, obscenity and hometown pride. But since Florence lost 1-0, the city was not a happy place.

Extreme sport-pride makes me angry and embarrassed to be sharing the same gender with these so-called "manly men". When you see grown men cursing their hearts out, pouring beer the color of urine down their gullets with the gluttony of a troll, pathetically living vicariously through the athletes they always dreamed to be, but somehow let a beer-belly get in their way, and have a temper-tantrum worthy of a two-year-old when something they have absolutely no control over whatsoever did not go their way. And boy, did I see that at the soccer game last night.

Now I'm not generalizing in anyway or saying all sports fans are like this-I would be an idiot to say that. But the way the men acted at the game last night absolutely revolted me. And I know similar actions take place in the States.

However, we were able to watch the Super Bowl last night here in the Villa, so my respect for sports fans lifted somewhat because there was no cussing or beer-drinking, although the coke we had tasted really funny....

But that is what happened to me this past weekend my faithful readers. It was a good weekend to lighten my spirits and make memories to last a lifetime.

Separated Only by Time

Published by J. M. Adkison under on 11:29 AM
One of the strangest, and most important, events in a person’s life is when he leaves home and departs for foreign worlds, the worlds unfamiliar and the worlds spoken of only in legend and tale. He leaves home for the worlds of great thinkers whose great thoughts became great actions, of creative minds that refused to be anything less than what they could conceive, and of those who shaped the figure of history with chisels and hammers. It is the boy leaving the farm to face the dragon and save the princess. It is the hobbit leaving his hole to destroy the evil ring. It is the girl tumbling down the rabbit hole in chase of a thing not from her world. It is the great adventure that comes only once in a lifetime; the adventure that takes you to where the legends exist and dreams come true. That is me. I am the boy discovering himself in the world far from home. I am the boy who has stumbled into the land of great thinkers, creative minds, and history-shapers.
Italy is a land full of ancient tales, absolute powers, and legends who refused to accept the limitations of a medieval mind. Italy was the center of the Roman Empire, the birthplace of the Renaissance, and the throne of Catholicism. Upon first arriving in Florence, which rivals Rome it-self in great history and immortal legends, I was slow to fully realize where I truly was. Disoriented by jet-lag and confused by culture-shock, I spent the first week trying to stay calm and keep one foot in front of the other. But I began to relax and only saw it in the light of today, a land no longer center of the world and sitting in the shadow of younger nations with lesser histories. I enjoyed the quaint, little medieval towns stuck in the past and the gelato that made my taste-buds sing in Gregorian chants, but it wasn’t until I came face to face with the work of Michelangelo that my “aha” moment slapped me in the face and told me to wake up and smell the Giglio.
Our group was touring the museum which sat in the shadow of the great Duomo, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower, and viewing the statues and artifacts that used to decorate the giant halls of the ancient church. The museum contained many works by Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Donatello, and Michelangelo himself. The museum was nice and enjoyable, with a few statues that moderately held my interest, a few works of art that were weathered with age and no different than the thousands of other artifacts that decorated thousands of other churches. And then we turned a corner, climbed a flight of stairs, entered a small, circular room, and saw Michelangelo’s 3rd Pieta.
The 3rd Pieta was one of the last endeavors of the great Michelangelo. This Pieta, also know as the Deposition or the Lamentation over the Dead Christ, depicts the body of Christ being held by his mother, Mary, as well as Mary Magdalene and a hooded man who could be either Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea. This Pieta is special among the great artist’s works because he did not finish it. Because of an impurity in the marble, Michelangelo actually took a hammer to the construct and attacked it in a fit of rage.
It wasn’t until I was standing right in front of the statue, trying to get a clear picture of the work of art with my camera, did I discover that I was actually standing in the same room with something that the great artist himself had thought of, had begun, had sweated and labored over, had actually touched and morphed to fit his imagination. Our tour guide said that the face of the hooded man is actually believed to be a self-portrait of Michelangelo, looking sorrowfully down on the broken body of Christ. And so there I stood, gazing into the face of a man who had painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, had crafted the famous, and infamous, statue of David, and had astonished everyone from the Papacy to the Medicis to the world with his masterful skill.
Soon after we saw the Pieta, we went to a small room that had once been a courtyard. Our tour guide said that the very spot where we were standing had been the exact location where the David had been built. “Aha!” went my mind. I was standing where Michelangelo had stood, where he had worked, and where he had dreamed. The “Aha!” continued as I began to realize that this was merely the first of many encounters with sharing the same space with the legends of the past. I will be wandering the roads where fearsome Roman legions marched on their way to conquer the world; I will be walking along the footsteps of Cardinals and Popes; I will be touring through the great cities where kings ruled and history was made. I stood there, in the exact same spot where Michelangelo had once stood, sharing the same space, separated only by time.
 

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