Friday, July 19, 2013

Thrill of a Lifetime

     A garbage dump, a prison, and a small racetrack.  These were the only places of note that we could discern as the Captain and I drove to meet my grandparents and family for a "surprise treat."  Once you're headed west on I-40 and are out about ten miles, it's amazing how impressive the West Side of Albuquerque--isn't. Nevertheless, my brother, The Scout, began bouncing up and down in his seat the moment we turned into the track, his car-soaked imagination instantly putting together endlessly delightful possibilities concerning why we might be here.  And the Captain and I were beginning to feel equally excited.    
     Even so, I'm not sure any of us were prepared to meet up with former professional Indy car driver and all-around-nice-guy, Jim Guthrie, who then invited us to individually climb inside this monster and go for a spin.  It seemed that the unwritten code of "Ladies First" was going to play out in my favor!  I jammed a helmet on my head, jumped in the car, buckled in (the seatbelt had six parts to it) and away we went!
     Now for those who had never experienced what a professional racer apparently does for fun in his tricked out Corvette, it involves rocketing towards tight turns at ninety-five miles per hour, and downshifting at the last possible nanosecond, the car hugging the curves as tightly as an Italian grandmother squeezes her grandkids.  This, then led to a ride in Jim's Mustang drift racer, whose only purpose is to completely loosen the back end of the car, and hit every turn...sideways!  I confess that even my adventure-loving and roller-coaster-craving brain began to instantly receive some red alerts.
  "Mayday mayday!  Hit the brakes!  Abandon ship!  Say your prayers!  You can't make that turn!" 
     In plain English...I was going to die.  However, I was not the one in control of the car, a fact that I'm sure we can all be infinitely thankful for.  And as I relaxed after the first few turns, a thought popped into my adrenaline laced head.  
     "Do you trust the driver of this car?  Because if you do, then you have nothing to fear.  You can enjoy the thrill of the ride, because this car is in the calm hands of a man who knows exactly what he is doing."  
     After that, I had absolutely no problem savoring every action-packed second, allowing my fears to be left in the 100 mile an hour dust behind us, or to be burned up like the literally smoking rubber on the car tires.
Strange though it may sound, I was becoming downright philosophical, as we tore through the speedway.  
     Our lives are unpredictable, challenging, and downright wet-your-pants scary sometimes.  And though we clench our hands in vain control, we can never fully grasp the power of ultimate agency.  At times we feel adrift in a raging sea that threatens to swallow us, drag us down to the depths of a great and horrible darkness.  But...if we bend our knees to the King, the one who is truly in control, then we know perfectly that that darkness will never defeat us.  
     We may not be driving the car, but the Lord is, and if we place our trust in Him alone, then we are able to let go and to enjoy the thrill of our lifetime.  In moments of greatest fear, we have only to look beside us to know that even in the midst of our trial we are safe in His hands.  And in moments of joy, we may throw our arms up in exultation, reveling in the adventure of the ride and laughing at the dangers we face.  
    When you lose control, and everything in your world appears to be racing towards a brick wall at top speeds, look to your left and ask yourself, "Do I trust my driver?  Do I trust His promise to never leave or forsake me?  Do I trust that He loves me infinitely, and that even during times when my aching heart just simply doesn't understand, He knows the road ahead, and that every hairpin turn or gentle curve is only a step on the track that will lead me home?  
          In what ways do you try to control your life.  Is is hard for you to relinquish agency, or do you allow yourself to trust and experience the thrill of your lifetime?  I've often thought that a life lived safely, within the parameters of fear and control, is a life not lived fully.  Take a deep breath and plunge in.  Relax in the arms of the one whose hands created the world, and who's tender touch longs for you to run to Him.  If you do, you might just find yourself suddenly out the door and embarking upon a grand adventure.  And maybe...just maybe, you'll find yourself enjoying something like this!
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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Writing Exercises: Character Voice and the Big Bad Wolf

This is a brief short story that I composed several years ago as an exercise for a UNM basic writing class.  Unfortunately, you will probably be able to tell that just by reading it (not by best work).  But I hope you will enjoy the twist on an old fairytale and the strong sense of character voice, which was the purpose of the exercise.  Enjoy!
What Went Wrong and What Happened Afterwards:
The  mindful memoirs of James S. Wolf 
Dear Children, I bring you the greetings of James S. Wolf, a victim of a gross misinterpretation.  No doubt you have long since heard the tale of little Red Riding Hood, which begins with “Once upon a time” and ends with me being chased out of grandma’s cottage by an axe wielding woodsman.  However, I am writing to inform you that whoever created that yarn never asked about my side of the story.  If you want to know how things really happened, then keep reading.  Here is the true tale.
Now to begin, I was the scrawny runt of the litter in my family.  I was always the weakest of my brothers, and I’m afraid I cast a very poor reflection on my father.  He was the infamous “Big Bad Wolf,” who blew down the houses of two very foolish pigs.  But that is another story.  Well one morning my father came to me and told me that in order to prove myself his son and therefore a true wolf, I must journey into the woods alone and complete a task both wily and cunning.  I was not to come home until this was done.  Now you must understand how difficult this was for me.  I was the sort of wolf who loved to sing and dance, not raid chicken coops and dress in sheep’s clothing.  So I’m certain that you can imagine how dreadful I felt, starting out all alone on that morning. 

I tried to think of what I could do in order to please my father.  Briefly, I considered stealing a few sheep from little boy blue.  The lazy lad could usually be found asleep under a haystack while his cows and sheep wandered.  But just at that moment who should come traipsing down the forest path but a little girl wearing a bright red hood.  I sniffed the air and caught a delicious aroma wafting from her basket, and suddenly I was struck by a most brilliant idea.  If this child would perhaps give me her basket, then I could be on my way with a fabricated story of how I cunningly outwitted a traveler for their food.  Negotiations, however, proved to be more difficult than I anticipated.  I suppose I may have frightened the little girl as I faded out of the darkness of the wood, but she didn’t even have the decency to listen to my plight.  After only moments of conversation, she turned up her nose and walked down the road towards grandma’s cottage.  I sighed; I knew then that I would have to work a little harder. 
Slinking through the trees, I quickly overtook the red cloaked girl and reached the cottage first.  I looked through the window and saw a dear little grandmother quietly rocking in her chair by the fire.  With a grin I sneaked inside. 

I was ready for the little girl when she came knocking on the cottage door.  It had been difficult preparing, but I had finally managed to squeeze into the old woman’s nightgown and shove her into a closet.  I am, after all, a decent sort of chap, who had no wish to kill anyone.  When the girl came in she brought me the basket of goodies, just as I had planned.  I suppose I didn’t, however, think my plan through fully, for soon Red began to make comments about my large ears, eyes, and finally my teeth.  My facade was in shambles.  After that, I decided to just frighten her away and take the basket, so I growled and leapt at her.  She ran screaming from the cottage and into the woods.  Little did I know that an honest woodsman was felling trees nearby.  Another oversight on my part.  I was so busy congratulating myself on my own cleverness, that I didn’t hear the woodcutter until he burst through the front door wielding an axe.  Then I ran.  I ran ungracefully out of the cottage with a madman on my heels, and it is more difficult than you might think to run on all fours in a nightgown.       

I suppose this concludes the tale, the story of what really happened.  My reputation forever soiled, I wandered home, where it took two of my brothers to get me out of grandmother’s nightclothes.  They, of course, snickered and sniveled at me during the entire ordeal and then for weeks afterwards.  I don’t suppose I’ll ever live down my mistake, but that’s quite alright with me, now.  I heard an amazing story of how four barn animals formed a singing group in Bremen Town, so I too am off to make my way in the wide world as a musician.  If any of you, dear children, happen to meet one or both of the brothers Grimm, would you kindly correct their literary mistake?  For it is a very bad thing speak an untruth, as I’m certain you know. 
-James S. Wolf