What An Opportunity

Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Shooting star

In Life on July 15, 2014 at 9:16 pm

 

Like to think that, before the books were written, we really thought the sky was falling

Counting each trailing comet as another sign of the end

We know better now

But what if that sky really was coming down? Where would we be?

 

We could be pouring ourselves into others

We could be trading miles for memories

We could be love we never saw in the distance

We could be the beginning of all things new

We could be the regrets that strain the spirit

We could be the tears on the pillow

We could be the gleam in her eyes

We could be the shoulders for him to stand on

We could be the path back to our Father

 

We could be seeing the world: a collection of memories, laughs, and dreams interwoven within borders of time and space to structure a life fulfilled in service,  the warmth of kind words, and quality of purpose.

 

For me, I want to see the world the way I see a world with you

One perfect shooting star after another

 

The space between.

In Life on June 9, 2014 at 7:49 pm

The space between us was the speaker and the receiver

Clockwork, we tried those tired numbers

“4” on my phone is forever embedded in my thumbprint

Guess you’ll always be a part of me that way

 

When rains came, the drops on my head counted innumerous as my arms ran to you

No umbrella or anything useful

But something in the effort was enough

Couldn’t understand that but it made perfect sense somehow

 

The space between us was something like my favorite set of hours

Years were too long but that’s the overprotectiveness

You asked me a question and there was an answer

That answer haunts me to this day

 

9 letters on a Saturday night

Amalgamations about vocabulary and the like

Missing you is missing you

Loving you was first

 

The space between us was one word

Think. repeat. yearn. Think. repeat. yearn.

It danced in my head as you withdrew into yourself

Think. repeat. yearn. Think. repeat. yearn.

 

Doesn’t matter what we do as long as we do it together

Flowed from your lips and lives in my heart

Underlying current to the beating drum

Do those kisses still linger on your forehead?

 

the space between 

the space between what’s found and what is forgotten

the space between what’s been and what’s undone

the space between what was, what is, and what will be

the space between us

What is it all worth?

In Life on May 28, 2014 at 4:37 pm

 

Take them back, love

Return that laughter to the jar upstairs. It’s behind the sugar, my love

Those sweetest memories? Those can go back too. They linger on my lips so.

If you don’t mind, can you also return those embraces? Yes, those that we held onto. I believe we kept them in the pantry.

Also my dear, please return those tears. They are kept in a box in the basement.

 

But before you go, I have one more favor to ask of you. Dance with me one last time. Draw out the best of my abilities in only the way you know how. Tell me this is not the end. The truth only makes sense when it leaves your lips.

 

Feel like we miss so much when we’re dreaming

We give up what we hold dear for what we could have

Snow in April

In Life on May 1, 2014 at 12:13 am

Cool air weaves through the trees

As buds have sought a season new

Surprised they may be,

Persevere they will

 

Stars, enchanted, fell from the heavens

Touching the horizon

Before leaving our eyes to wonder

Surprised as we may be,

Persevere we will

 

 

Somewhere in that subtle upturn of the lip

Somewhere in that embrace where words lose importance

There was all that needed to be known

Surprised as you may be,

Persevere as you will

 

Moving heaven and earth

For snow in April

 

Oceans

In Life on April 7, 2014 at 9:26 pm

oceans.

The waves gently crash on the shore and draw back into themselves

You taught me to love like the tide

Constantly there yet never too much

A tempest, within necessity

Yet, as the tide, gently drawing back into yourself

Spirit lead me

The horizon stands as it always has

You all taught me to endure as the day does

Few moments, in our experiences, capture the extent of our capacity as people

Therefore, there is significance in the mundane and the ordinary

As the horizon approaches everyday, we endure towards our aspirations

Spirit lead me

Now, some say the moon and the torrents are one

Profoundly independent and willingly dependent

The torrent presses as the moon tugs

Held together by the strongest tie

The tie that will steady you and I

Stars may pass but there is only one moon

Spirit lead me

 

In all of this in-between, I pray that we find those people who are the lighthouses in the stormy seas

In all of this, I pray we remember the glorious echoes of Your love and grace as we declare with a resounding chorus:

Spirit lead me

Where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper

Than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior

 

 

Overusing ‘persecuted for their faith,’ and other thoughts on God’s Not Dead

In Culture, Life on March 26, 2014 at 7:06 pm

 

In the film God’s Not Dead (2014), college freshman Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper) accepts a challenge from his teacher, Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo), to prove to his classmates there is a chance God exists.

I saw the new movie God’s Not Dead (2014, Pure Flix Entertainment) Monday because my mom wanted to go, and that’s the kind of stuff momma’s boys do (mom 4 life). Afterward, though, I was glad I went.

It was an educational experience, and aside from some of the typical Christian movie cheesiness (if you grew up around the culture, you know exactly what I’m talking about), there were some tremendous, intellectual moments in the classroom scenes.

I’m wiser for having gone, and I encourage you to see it, too. This blog is not meant to discourage you from seeing the movie; it’s meant to fuel conversation.

I could relate with the protagonist’s plight, which is proving to his class that God is real – or, rather, proving that there is reason to even entertain the thought that there is an all-powerful creator. During my first semester of college, I also took an introductory philosophy class at a public university with a dubious-of-Christianity professor similar to the one in God’s Not Dead, and for my final project I chose to defend my belief in God.

In retrospect, it was a poorly developed essay – I read a lot of heavy material in a short amount of time about the second law of thermodynamics, Thomas Aquinas, and the Big Bang, and then I rushed out a paper – and he, being brilliant and well read, easily found the loopholes. (Are you judging me? All freshmen procrastinate, I swear!) I received a mediocre grade. I was proud of having done it, though; it challenged my faith.

So you’ll understand why I respected the protagonist, Josh, and despite the overwhelming obviousness of its appeal to strictly a Christian audience– I cannot picture any of my non-Christian friends attending or enjoying the film – I see immense value in the movie.

My main issue with it came, surprisingly, in the closing credits. At the conclusion of the film, white words scrolled across the screen reading, “This film is dedicated to the following college student groups who were persecuted for their faith,” or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Let’s think about what those words imply: that college students were not free to openly practice their Christianity or praise God at school, or that they received harsh punishment for attempting to do so. It’s a dramatic proposition considering we live in a country that practices freedom of religion (shout-out to Lord Baltimore!), and it’s not one to take lightly.

I perked up and began scrolling the list for my school’s name.

Sure enough, it came right at the end: UB Students for Life vs. SUNY Buffalo.

It made me uneasy. It almost made me mad. It inspired me to write this post.

Christians, it’s time to stop claiming we’ve been “persecuted for our faith” when the phrase does not apply. Persecution is not a light term, and throwing it around flippantly will not benefit us. It’ll make people even more doubtful that this God stuff in which we believe so passionately is credible.

I witnessed the UB Students for Life vs. SUNY Buffalo court case developing. It all started about a year ago, April 2013. Students for Life is an anti-abortion group on my campus, and they are extremely active in promoting their beliefs – which is 100 percent their prerogative.

But many UB students believe they crossed the line last year, when they invited this group called the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform to bring their “Genocide Awareness Project” to campus. The Center set up graphic billboards displaying photos of aborted fetuses and dead bodies from genocides like the Holocaust directly in front of the Student Union – essentially forcing every UB student to look at these horrifying images for two days.

I saw the trucks setting up. My response was immediate: Uh-oh.

As you might imagine, with this happening at the biggest public school in one of the most liberal states in the country, this spurred quite a response. Many students protested the display. There was spirited debate between both sides. Most of it, from what I observed from standing around for a couple of hours each day, was respectful (with, of course, a few exceptions). Here is more coverage from the newspaper for which I work: Anti-abortion display invokes student response.

I took a deep breath when it was over. Thank goodness.

Seven weeks later, though, Students for Life sued UB – not for money, but to force the school to admit it had “violated the constitutional rights” of the club’s free speech by not disbanding the protestors.

UB issued a statement in response: “As a public university, it is a fundamental value of UB that all members of the campus community and their invited guests have a right to peacefully express their views and opinions, regardless of whether others may disagree with those expressions.”

I couldn’t agree more. Being a journalist, I care deeply about the First Amendment. And I believe UB handled the situation properly and certainly did not persecute the group members for their faith.

Again, it was Students for Life’s right to set up their display, but it was also the other students’ right to protest the event – the photos were enough to make you sick to your stomach.

Do you realize the irony of Students for Life suing UB? They essentially said, “UB violated our freedom of speech by allowing other students to have freedom of speech!”

Which brings me back to the movie. These UB students were not persecuted for their faith. Not even close. Remember that I’m speaking from a Christian college student’s point of view.

This phrase – persecuted for their faith – has convicted me since I saw the movie’s credits. Using it in this case is nothing less than propaganda. Most students protested the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s event not because they were arguing for abortion rights but because they didn’t want to be forced to stare at horrifying images between classes. Can you really argue with that?

I didn’t want to look at them. I’m guessing you wouldn’t either.

Saying these UB students were “persecuted for their faith” makes Christians look crazy, oversensitive, and hypocritical.

For what it’s worth, the Students for Life didn’t ask to be put in this sequence. I know SFL’s president from the time very well, and he was surprised when I told him about the credits. He knows this blog post is going up. It’s not about his group. That’s a separate debate. I just needed to explain the situation to bring us back to why the credits irked me.

When Christian movies say situations like this one denote students are being “persecuted for their faith,” it becomes all the harder for me to witness to my coworkers, to convince my classmates to come to church with me.

So, this is my plea: Stop throwing around the phrase. Movie companies, this goes out to you. Do your homework before using it. Speak those powerful words only when they apply.

We are in this journey together.

I have planks in my eye, and I know that. I’m working on removing them, and it’s been a long process. But I wouldn’t be speaking the truth in love if I ignored this issue. I wouldn’t do anyone a service by staying quiet. It’s important that we, at the very least, discuss what it means to be persecuted for our faith.

Trying again

In Life on February 22, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Fights take different forms in different relationships. Some are instantaneous explosions of emotion. Others are the boiling over of slights that have simmered under the surface for some time. I think for them, it was the latter. Something kind of like this:

1) The slight (who ever remembers why they got mad in the first place?)

2) The lying (is everything ok? yea, of course) lies. lies. lies.

3) The boiling point (how could you do that one innocuous thing that secretly bugs me but i’ve never told you it  bugs me because it’s not a big deal?)

4) The fight (few things that are true, but most things are overblown in a moment of forgotten forgiveness and spite. the words we can not take back and the bits of us that we lose in defending who we think we are.)

We catch our protagonists at step #5.

5)  The apology

It is easier than we think to move on from something. The opposite of love isn’t hate but selfishness. All we have to do is become caught up in what matters to me and lose sight of what matters to us. So she was out with her friends. Something to keep her mind off some of the stuff that had been going on. Maybe some space would do them good.

He didn’t leave the house. Had some work to do but he wasn’t concentrating too much. It is interesting to think how much would get accomplished if we ever said how we truly feel about something. Guess that is part of being human.

When she got back, he wasn’t home. The distance between mr. and mrs. was greater than one conjunction could hold. She dropped her bag and took off her shoes. She placed her jacket on the coat hook and walked into their bedroom. She sat down on the bed and her eyes found the picture on the dresser. In that unoccupied stillness, her sadness flowed from her eyes. It graced her cheeks until it fell from her face and landed in her lap.

She rose to find some tissues when she noticed the item on her pillow. A neatly folded note. It read:

“Baby, I am sorry. I don’t care why we’re here but this is not where we should be and I don’t think this is where we should stay. I think the most important phrases in the world are “I love you” and “Thank you”. I don’t mean the first phrase enough. I don’t say the second phrase as much. Beautiful, I will never be the man you deserve. However, I know I will try. Thank you for everything you do. I love you for all you are and everything you will be.”

The front door closed. In her haste, she missed the flowers in his hand. In her haste, she ignored her makeup. In her haste, she neglected the disheveled man in the kitchen. In her haste, they were whole again. I guess that’s step #6.

6) Trying again

To build a home.

In Life on January 19, 2014 at 8:04 pm

The tale is an old one, a simple one

It begins with a young man who bought a plot of land.

He staked the land as his, but he built the home for her.

The days were long but the nights were tender.

The delicate which entrances our hope. The thoughts that surround our dreams.

 

As the leaves changed in color, the strength of the phrases changed.

We only know the truth that is given to us. In the rest, we are tasked to remember to trust above all else. Trust in our purpose. Trust in our loves. Trust in our affections. Trust in our faith. Whichever form the truth took is for our characters to know. As she left, he uttered what he could. The words left his lips and hung in the air as she walked away, “I hope you find what it is you’re looking for.”

 

The house stands along the path today. Those seeking refuge can always find a place there.

Most spend a night and leave in the morn. However, for those that take a walk around, they will find an inscription in the tree behind the home. Time has covered the first portion of the phrase  but the eye can still make it out:

 

And I built a home
for you
for me

Until it disappeared
from me
from you

 

 

Educating the mind, and the heart

In Life, Sports on November 26, 2013 at 4:16 pm

educate

I say this at the end of every semester, but it feels especially true this time: Man, this semester has flown by. I have a hard time believing it was June 30 when I wrote this blog post – Six reasons you should take sports journalism at the University at Buffalo this fall – in an effort to boost enrollment in a class that focused on a topic I was, and am, passionate about.

The class has now, sadly, reached its conclusion. It was a great experience learning from Keith McShea, a sportswriter at The Buffalo News, for three months. ENG 399: Sports Journalism will undoubtedly go down as one of my favorite classes I took at UB.

This class was a lot of work – more work than any other journalism class at my school – but it didn’t feel like work. It was pleasurable. When you’re doing, or studying, something you love, it all comes easy. As Aristotle said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” This was, indeed, an educational experience.

If I had to select the one thing I liked the most about the class, I’d say it was the reading we were assigned. We had weekly assignments from The Best American Sportswriting 2012. Some of the stories in that book blew my mind. You know how you feel at the end of a great movie when it all comes together in one triumphant closing sequence? When it all makes sense? Think (500) Days of Summer or Inception. That’s how I felt at the end of some of the stories in that book. Dave Sheinin’s “The Phenomenal Son” was one of my favorites. Another was Robert Huber’s “Allen Iverson: Fallen Star.” I mean, these are stories I likely never would have discovered if it weren’t for this class, and they completely changed the way I look at sportswriting. I think that’s the fundamental purpose of education – to stimulate students’ brains and revolutionize their methods of thinking.

Supplementary to the book reading, students were also required to write one blog post per week on “The best thing I read this week” – as you have probably seen on Gentlemen of Sport quite a bit, with my weekly The Best Sportswriting I Read This Week section. If sportswriting isn’t your thing, I appreciate you tolerating my incessant posts.

Maintaining this section was quite fun for me. Similar to how I felt I grew from reading the book, I grew a lot from reading outside sports journalism. I’ve always read quite a bit of sportswriting, but this class forced me to make sure I did it every week – and to make sure I paid attention to the details, because once I found that piece that I’d dub The Best Sportswriting I Read This Week, I was going to have to write about what made it so good. Again, some of the pieces I studied – from Lee Jenkins’ “Kobe Bryant: Reflections on a cold-blooded career” to Jonathan Mahler’s “The Coach Who Exploded” – just sent my mind spinning. This is art expressed in sportswriting we’re talking about. I loved studying it.

I also enjoyed the structure of the class’ final assignment – a longform writing piece. I’m finishing mine up this Thanksgiving break. This part of the class leaves everyone with a solid clip to show employers, and it involves the students applying what they have studied all semester. The way I see it, what’s the sense of knowing everything about a topic if you never try applying that knowledge yourself? Of course, we college students are not going to twist clever phrases like Dave Sheinin or set scenes with ease like Lee Jenkins, but we can try.

And the more you try something, the better you get. You gain confidence with time and experience. Maybe one day one of the students in this class will wind up producing a piece students around the country will study. That wouldn’t surprise me.

Passion always starts somewhere. I thought I was passionate about sportswriting before this class. I did really like it. But I didn’t have that fervor to write something great, something legendary that will last forever. Now I do.

In this class, I learned a ton about the topic, gained practical experience, and developed a true zeal for the field of study. That’s what education is all about.

A casual conversation with Malcolm Gladwell

In Culture, Life on November 16, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Image

Sometimes, the coolest part of journalism is the people you get a chance to meet. I don’t mean just celebrities. I’ve been fortunate to interview some really, truly awesome people, people with attitudes that have sincerely altered my life, before – from well-known figures (Laura Bush, Tiger Woods, David Brooks) to not-as-well-known-but-equally-impressive people (Fred Lee, Louis Long, Mark Bortz).

I was never more excited for an interview than the one I completed this Wednesday. Malcolm Gladwell – the well-known author of books such as The Outliers, The Tipping Point, and Blink, also famous for his writing for The New Yorker and many public speaking engagements (from TED Talks to CNN to speaking at universities) – visited my school, the University at Buffalo.

UB has this thing called the Distinguished Speakers Series that brings popular figures to campus to deliver a speech. Some of them are gracious enough to sit down with a student or two before their speech.

That’s what happened with Gladwell. He was willing to chat with me and my colleague Eric, as we are editors for The Spectrum, UB’s student newspaper. It should have been a nerve-wracking interview, given Gladwell’s clout in our field of study, but it wasn’t – simply because he is so down to earth. That’s one thing I have noticed about him in watching videos of his talks before: He is unbelievably intellectual and yet full of bona fide humility.

But it never came across as clearly as it did in person.

If you want to know some details of our conversation, you can check out my column about the experience here: An intellectually fruitful evening with Malcolm Gladwell.

He made some tremendous points, as could be expected, but I really left the interview just thinking about his down-to-earth nature. His humor is self-deprecating, but not in a sense of disliking himself – in a sense that he realizes he is just another human on earth, just another person who puts his pants on one leg at a time and is going to die eventually. He doesn’t think he has any ideas that can change the world, but he does realize he has a skill for translating ideas to the average person. When we were talking, it was just three guys, not Malcolm Gladwell and two anxious college kids.

Sometimes you are disappointed in well-known people when you meet them in person. I have been surprised to find some beloved figures are in actuality, to put it plainly, jerks. Malcolm Gladwell not only fulfilled my vast expectation of him, he surpassed it.

I encourage you to read his books, the two best-selling of which are listed here: The Tipping Point and Blink. You will be a better person for having done so, and you’ll also be supporting a genuine person.

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