I Got Saved!

Posted: January 7, 2015 in Encouragement, faith, Inspiration, reason, Writing

I got saved no less than six times during my childhood, and was baptized nearly as much, too.

I grew up Catholic, so I was baptized when I was an infant (oh that evil infant baptism, as the Baptists would say). I don’t remember that one, but I remember the next one pretty clearly.

Camp Joy. A week-long sleep-away hellhole camp for special needs and at-risk kids. A scare-the-hell-out-of-you-so-you-will-ask-Jesus-into-your-heart salvation factory, meeting the quota of “1,000 brought to Christ annually” (their website, as of this writing).

It was the summer between 3rd and 4th grade. This kid Stephen from school, who I never really hung out with, invited me. Even at eight years old I was a people pleaser, so I couldn’t say no, even though every instinct in me told me to. The struggle is real, folks.

Camp Joy was run by a very large and influential church in Chattanooga, TN – the Mt. Zion of cities in the Bible Belt. The Buckle of the Belt. I was not privy to these facts at that age, though. All I knew was I was headed to my first sleep-away camp.

The first, and most traumatizing thing I took note of at Camp Joy was the camp counselors. I don’t know how old they were, high schoolers maybe, but they certainly established themselves as authority figures right away. They did so by handing out vicious wedgies to anyone who stepped out of line. Literally. We lined up everywhere we went, and if anyone got out of line for just one second, boom:  wedgie. The counselors also told us that no one could escape it, that everyone by the end of the week would receive at least one good, scream-worthy wedgie. The only question was when.

The second dreadful thing I noticed was the bathroom. I would have to hold it for the week.

The third thing:  the tetherball court and the seventh grader (who must have been volunteering at the camp) who presided over it, daring anyone to challenge him.

The fourth thing:  the strict segregation of boys and girls. This may be where my memory fails me a bit, but I think we only ever saw girls in the Tabernacle sessions. We wouldn’t even pass them when marching to and fro.

The Tabernacle sessions:  I suppose these were the cornerstone of Camp Joy. Sounds kind of cool, doesn’t it? Stevie Ray Vaughn: The Tabernacle sessions. But alas, it wasn’t anything like that. Actually, it’s where we learned of the inherent evils of rock and roll and the demonic MTV. It’s also where we learned about Heaven and Hell. Mostly Hell, though. Paired with death. Death and Hell and wedgies. It was one night during a Tabernacle sessions that I got saved.

We would first sing old time hymns, then a speaker would come tell us a scary story about death, whether it be about these two kids who were innocently playing on their swing set, and the next thing they knew were getting hit by a train, or about some kid who got caught up in rock and roll and rap or whatever and got into drugs and overdosed. On the third night of camp, a man told this mono-tonal, yet intriguing story about how his car overheated. He got out and checked the radiator cap and burned his hand. He then proceeded to unscrew the cap with a hand towel and the cap and steam exploded in his face and he almost died. I thought it was kind of cool, but it also got me pondering my own mortality and, of course, whether or not I wanted to spend an eternity in Hell if I ever died from a radiator explosion. So when it came time to sing emotionally-charged songs about surrendering all and asking Jesus not to pass us by and questioning our tarrying while Jesus is pleading for us, all during which the speaker was entreating us to ask Jesus into our hearts, I raised my hand to be saved.

One of the counselors came and grabbed me, and I thought I was about to get my first big wedgie. Instead, he pulled me aside with a group of about six other kids and told us to repeat this prayer, and then we were saved. But we weren’t done yet. We had to be baptized.

The next day, instead of going swimming in the shallow end of a not-an-olympic-sized pool (you had to pass a swim test to be able to swim in the deep end, and only three boys out of at least 150 passed, so the rest of us crowded and waded in the warm shallow end missing home and the Harrison Bay pool where I could not only swim in the deep end, but could jump off the fifteen-foot high dive), me and about a hundred other kids went to be baptized.

We went to some church down the street and lined up like factory workers on Friday waiting for their check. One by one, we stepped up and into the baptismal and were dunked (the biblical way to get baptized) into the water and were proclaimed baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – buried in the likeness of His death, raised to walk in the newness of life. No counselors were around to hand out wedgies, so I got out of line when I saw a bathroom. It was the first time in four days I was able to go. I came back out in time to be the last one baptized.

The only thing to ruin my rebirth was tetherball. Everyone lined up to face off against the seventh grader, and one-by-one we all fell hard to him. I just knew I would beat him, though, despite having never played tetherball.

It was awful. He was Robert Duvall, and I was Will Ferrell. Finally, I wasn’t put out of my misery, but rather, I severely stubbed my finger, and I walked away holding my hand in pain and holding back my tears in desperation. I needed medical attention immediately, but I didn’t want anyone to see me cry. Good thing it was at night.

I don’t want to hold up just the imperfections of Camp Joy to the light, though. Some of the highlights:  (guided) horseback riding. Canoeing to a rope swing. And I didn’t get sick like that one kid in the blue shirt who carried a bucket around with him to throw up into. And that’s about it. Oh, wait – I went the entire week and didn’t get a wedgie! “How in the world?” you may ask, since I was such a problem child. Well, I guess I was street-smart enough to know which fights to pick and which ones were better left for another day. I knew I couldn’t fend off high-schoolers if they wanted to give me a wedgie, so I played it safe, flew under the radar for the week. I kept to myself. Didn’t get too riled up over anything. And it worked. I think getting saved helped, too. Like I was protected by God from any evil being done to me or something.

Later when my Step-mom found out about my conversion from Catholicism to a born-again Christian, she became very upset and gave me a stern lecture. I didn’t see what the big deal was, but I knew things had changed. She saw me differently. My brother, too. But that was my fault.

Before Camp Joy, my brother and I watched MTV every single day and competed with each other over the countdown. I sided with Coolio and his hit “Fantastic Voyage”, while Spencer took Warren G’s “Regulate”. It was a constant battle for #1. We also rapped along with Snoop Dogg, F-words and all. Especially the F-words.

On the car ride home from Camp Joy, my brother sat up from the back seat and stuck his head around my seat back and told me that the two songs flip-flopped at #1 and #2 every day of the week. He had this big grin on his face, like he couldn’t wait to tell me this bit of information. I don’t even know if it was true or not – I like to think it wasn’t because it would show me that my brother missed me and really liked me, even though he would never admit to it.

But it breaks my heart every time I think of my response to him. I said a feeble, “Really?” and didn’t say another word about it. And that was the last time we talked about music or MTV. We never ghangsta-rapped together again. I was born-again, and having Jesus in your heart means there’s no room for MTV or Snoop Dogg in your heart as well.

I truly believe this was the point in my life where a fissure was created between me and Spencer that has only caused us to move further and further away from each other. I didn’t even ask him to be my best man in my wedding. But hey – I got saved!

Author’s Note

Posted: May 5, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I think I may have put the finishing touches on my thesis this morning in the form of an Author’s Note and an Epigraph (though I didn’t actually write the epigraph – I just used a quote). But, like most things I write, I am unsure of these two pieces. But, but, also like most things I write, I think they are awesome.

So I am pasting them here so that I could hopefully get some kind of consensus on which category it falls in:  “Complete Awesomeness” “Utterly Disastrous” or “Meh”. Feel free to comment here or on Facebook or on the Twitter.

Many thanks!

Author’s Note

Language is an extraordinary thing. Little symbols placed on a page with an ordered intentionality can transfer ideas, emotions and imagination from one person to another. The written word has the potential to take both the writer and reader on a journey of discovery and rediscovery. It has the power to rip through the veils over the heart and mind to uncover a beauty that has been there all along, waiting.

With the idea of language in mind, know that words can tell stories, whether true or false, real or imagined. So note that everything following the epigraph below is a work of fiction. Though many of my personal ideas and emotions find their way into Eli’s story (I tried unsuccessfully to avoid this), the characters and story are just little fabrications I have been stitching together in my mind these last few years.

My hope, though, remains the same – that the words on these pages can accomplish just a smattering of their potential, that my own intentional ordering of these symbols is powerful enough to reach you and strip away your own veils.

 

Epigraph

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God and the Word was God. . . . The Word gave life to everything that was created . . . 

(John 1:1, 4 – NLT)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014. 6:15 AM.

 

“Hey duuude! How’s the writing?” ––Friend via Facebook

 

“Hey man! Writing is going…ok.” ––Me via Facebook

 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014. 2:00 PM.

 

“You have set up what will be a really good Young Adult story here . . . but it’s not ready to send out. . . . The voice just isn’t working. You need to rewrite your book. Not edit. Rewrite.” ––Paraphrase of my MFA Thesis Advisor

 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014. 9:00 AM.

 

I always imagine me picking up a chair and throwing it through a window. Or bashing my old wooden Army Wall Locker with a baseball bat. But, being a responsible adult, I do neither.

 

My Kindergarten teacher told my mother that I had a problem with my temper. I think I finally found ways to deal with my temper in High School. Not in 9th grade when I ripped in half a failed assignment in my teacher’s face. So maybe 10th grade? Since then, I have found ways to pack up my anger into a compression bag and vacuum seal it inside me. I think that’s why I have a tremor in my right hand.

 

When I sat in my thesis advisor’s office and she ripped my heart in half in front of my face, I tried my best to imagine my chair and my bat, and not let my anger and disappointment show. “Okay,” is about all I could manage to say.

 

Two years. Dissipating. Burning off like a morning fog in the rising sun. Two years, 65,000+ words, a complete rewrite of the first 80 pages, multiple edits, and a final tally of 271 pages turned into just another document in my computer’s folder titled “Chase’s Writings”.

 

Now I have another document – “Complete Rewrite”. It took me a complete week of mourning my loss before I stared at another blank page. Now, six weeks later, I have 73 pages and 17,615 words of . . . . 

 

Joy.

 

Yes, joy. As much as I hated giving up my firstborn, this new draft has been a blast to write. I have finally found my voice, which was confirmed during a second meeting with my thesis advisor where I was fully prepared for the consequences of throwing her through the window. Thankfully, for both parties, it didn’t come to that.

 

Now, I won’t lie – the plot is kind of lacking. But I can fix that. This rewrite is just another draft. I could pump out another 271 pages and figure out I need to rewrite again. Would that suck? Yes. Especially since my end goal is publication, and a rewrite would mean another postponement of that dream.

 

But I want to remember today. I want to remember the past six weeks. I want to remember that this process is actually enjoyable. Because I am a writer. And, just with anybody in any profession, a writer should enjoy what they do.

 

Friday, July 1, 2005. 7:00 PM

 

“Write your heart out.” ––My wife, upon giving me a journal as a wedding present.

 

 

Image

^Christmas present from my wife.

On: Finishing a Book

Posted: August 22, 2013 in Books, Uncategorized, Writing
Tags: ,

I haven’t properly celebrated yet, but I accomplished something this week that no one can ever take away from me. It’s not something entirely unique, but it’s special to me.

I finished writing a book. I have to say that again for my own benefit (forgive my self-indulgence):  I wrote a book. I wrote a freakin’ book.

Now, I know it’s only the first draft and, given this, it probably reeks of bad writing and storytelling. I know that there will be much editing and rewriting and more editing to go.

There will also be the moment I hand my work to others that are going to tear it apart. I will probably go home and cry after my workshops, but hopefully I will get over it fairly quickly so I can begin paste the pieces back together.

This is why I am even in California. I am a writer, but a writer needs a writing community – a select few that will be honest with you. People who, unlike the parents who have told their kids lies their whole lives, telling them that they are good singers, and then the kids audition for American Idol and humiliate themselves, (that was a really long supplemental phrase [followed by this aside]) will break me down and build me back up.

But even harder than handing my work to my colleagues, I will be letting Jami (my wife) read my work. She is my best reader, but she is also the harshest. Well, she might not be the harshest, but it always seems unbearable to hear her questions and critiques. I mean, she’s supposed to love and support me, and cheer me on, etc. but, on many of these occasions when we discuss my work, we end up in an argument because I become so defensive. I mean, it’s my precious work that I have labored over for hours and days and weeks and months, and she just guts it open. She might as well be gutting me open.

But there eventually comes a point where I stop guarding my writing with my life and realize she is doing what she is supposed to do:  love me.  Love me enough to not coddle me.

So what next? I’m going to tuck this bad boy away for a few weeks and forget about it. Then I’m going to break out the red pen (I actually prefer a pencil, but you get the point) and get to work again. Then I’ll hand it off to my friends. Then I’ll take their critiques into consideration as I work on further edits and polishing the crap out of it before querying some agents, who will undoubtedly queue up at my door and fight to represent me. You know how it is when you know you’re great.

Anyway, thanks for reading this post, and thanks to everyone who has taken this journey with me, dragging me along at times. My bi-polar writing self (if you don’t know what this means, ask) couldn’t have done it without your support.

–Chase

Favorite Sushi Restaurants?

Posted: August 22, 2013 in Uncategorized
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As you may have noticed, the title of my blog is a type of sushi roll. You may have also noticed that I have a section titled “Favorite Sushi Restaurants”. You may even have noticed that there are no pictures or links there from California, where I reside. The reason for this is because I have yet to find a sushi joint that is even as half as good as the only one listed, which is in Nashville, TN. We’ve been to a few interesting places, such as Myozan which has a conveyor belt that brings your sushi around, but the sushi at these places just hasn’t lived up to my expectations. Sorry, California. You need to get your act together – a landlocked state in the southeast is sushi-ing you.

Hey all, here I am 7 months later and I still haven’t written anything new. This is a guest post by my friend Allison.

Enjoy,

Chase

 

Faith AND Reason (and boys)

Ok first off, I want to apologize for the abundance of quotes to follow. I got kind of carried away. Feel free to just skip over them. They do, however, represent some of the differing views on the subject of Faith vs. Reason. Oh, and the last quote is a bonus quote for the ladies – Girl Power!

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1, The Bible

“Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.”

–Voltaire

“The heart has its reasons which reason knows not.”

–Blaise Pascal

“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

–Christopher Hitchens

“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.”

–Kurt Vonnegut

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

–Galileo

“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.”

–Lord Byron

“I don’t believe in God. I believe in Science.”

–Esqueleto, Nacho Libre

“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”

–Jane Austen, Persuasion

Ok, so I’ve been taking this philosophy course this semester in college. It’s pretty fun and pretty thought provoking. One of the most recent discussion topics was the idea of Faith vs. Reason. Faith and reason are pitted against one another inside the Octagon, and only one can win. Or so says some. But I say that the construction of this dichotomy is flawed. Why does it have to be faith vs. reason? Why can’t it be faith AND reason. Why are the two mutually exclusive?

I ask this because of the question “Why?”.

Reason is supposedly scientific. It deals with measurable things and the logic based on what can be observed.

Faith deals with the unseen. It provides an explanation for things that can’t be explained by logic alone.

But if you return to the question of “Why?”, you get a fusion of faith and reason.

Let me explain:

Gravity itself cannot be seen, but its effects can. Newton’s apple always falls; what goes up, must come down. It’s a law of nature.

But where did the law come from? Why is there a law? Why does gravity exist?

We have laws to explain what things that exist do, but the laws don’t explain why they do what they do.

Further, Stephen Hawking believes (note that this, too is a form of faith!) that the laws of physics have always been, that they were in existence at the Big Bang. But can we say that something has “always” existed? Is there no origin? Others would argue that something like gravity came into existence from a catalyst. So what was the catalyst? And what was the catalyst’s catalyst?

Again, why are there laws, period?

Logic and reason calls for an ultimate catalyst, or something that always is and always was that not only created (I know, that word has certain connotations attached to it) the laws of the universe, but continually control and keep these laws in motion. The Big Bang cannot be the be all and end all because there had to be something to set the big bang in motion (if indeed the big bang actually occurred).

So here we are:  even if you choose to believe in the Big Bang theory, something typically exclusive of God, logic and reason calls for a belief in something bigger – it just doesn’t make sense not to believe in something bigger.

Which is where faith comes in. Faith picks up where reason leaves off. Or stated in another way, reason leads to faith.

So why does science and faith have to be pitted against each other? Why are scientists generally afraid of faith, and religions generally afraid of science? If those that believe in God weren’t so afraid of science, they could strengthen their belief by using sound reasoning. If scientists would just consider the idea of God, they might be able to do the same.

Ok, so enough of this philosophical craziness.

Why do boys do what they do? (Maybe still philosophical?)

Why can’t boys just be men? (Boyz 2 men, boy-boy-boyz 2 men : ))

And do you think it’s possible for one person to be in love with two people at once? And I mean really – not just physical attraction, but genuine love.

Thoughts???

For those of you who slogged through this post and made it to this point, congratulations. You’re the winner of the grand prize!!!

Enjoy this baby monkey riding on a pig – backwards!!!

You’re welcome.

–– @ragamuffin_AL

Back from my unintentional blogging hiatus, I still have nothing new to say. Sorry. But I would like to share with you something my friend Allison wrote for one of her paper assignments in college.  It is a personal narrative of a time that was deeply moving for her, and she and I hope that you find it moving as well.  So, here it is:

Near the Cross:  A Personal Essay

It’s just me and my mother. My dad left us two years ago. The months following him leaving, I would go for runs along the main highway near our house. I would cry as my muscles burned and my heart ached after my dad. I kept wishing and imagining that his red Ford F-150 would drive past me, slow down on the shoulder and come back towards me in reverse. He would reach over and open the passenger door and beckon me in. I would get in and he would just hold me as I cried and finally rested. But he never came. Plenty of red F-150s would drive by, but it was never him.

Last summer my mom decided we needed to go on vacation, to “get some fresh air.” So we picked Monterey, California, somewhere that is about as far away as possible from Nashville, but not some place too big and noisy. We both thought it would be a good choice, a good fit, after we saw a picture of the Lone Cypress online (http://www.extranomical.com/HTML_PAGES/LONE_CYPRESS_TREE.htm).

The Lone Cypress actually ended up being the last stop for us on our vacation/tour of Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur. The Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey was okay, and the aquarium was pretty cool. Carmel was fun and quaint. There were a whole lot of art galleries that we checked out, but none really suited me. Big Sur was amazing – the views are the ones you dream about seeing one day before you die. And the Lone Cypress was about as serene as the picture made it out to be. It was definitely mom’s favorite spot. But I don’t think you can find any pictures online of my favorite spot.

The morning of our last day, I felt sad because I knew we were departing at 1:19pm to head back to reality. So I got up early while my mom was still asleep and walked to the beach, which was only a couple of blocks away from our hotel. The first day we were there, the beach wasn’t that great. Mounds and mounds of seaweed and a couple of dead seals were washed up on shore, and hungry flies seemed to reign over the area. Given this, I don’t even know why I wanted to go back. Thankfully, though, the beach had been cleaned up sometime during the week and was completely free of sea creatures and flies. The sun was just coming up over the hills behind the beach, and a thick layer of white fog crept out of the sea and reached up and grabbed the hills. The fog clung to my skin and went right through to the bones in my hands.

I stretched for a minute and then began running north along the shore where the surf met the beach. A large beach front hotel asserted itself in the distance, and I decided that would be the landmark that I would run to before returning.

This run turned out to be much different than my runs back home. Instead of heat emanating from pavement and tears and snot and puffy eyes, I was met with a cool, wet ocean breeze and dry eyes. My muscles still ached a little, but I didn’t care. My breathing was steady and I felt like I could run into infinity. I picked up my pace and, surprisingly, my legs no longer hurt. I felt I was on the precipice of something, something big. Then that something happened. I was almost unsure of what was going on at the time, and only truly understood afterwards. I saw my body. I circled it like a movie camera – I drifted from behind myself to my right side and then to my front before returning to the right. I looked at the beach and the ocean on my other side. I felt like I had no control over my body; it was running on its own. It began running even faster. I watched it go faster, but I it watched in slow motion. Then, the slow motion sped up to a fast-forward pace and my spirit was sucked back into my body. With my mind and body reunited, I felt elated, and I let out a “Wooo!” I was only a little tired, and the hotel was just up ahead.

When I reached the hotel, I slowed to a walk. My original plan was to turn around and immediately run back, but I wanted to take everything in and try to process what had just happened.

The reflection never happened, however. I must have been outrunning my emotions, because as I was looking down at my feet while walking circles on the beach, they rushed in and nearly knocked me to my feet. I felt the tears coming and tried to fight them. I actually growled and yelled “No!” to them. I clinched my fists and raised my head to let out another battle cry to scare them away, but before I released anything from my throat, my breath was snatched from my chest by what I saw on the top of a sand dune next to me at the beach’s rim.

The cross was wooden and splintered. All I could see behind it as I looked upwards was the blue sky and a few white clouds. The tears must have seen this distraction as their opportunity to invade me, and I no longer cared whether they came or not. As they welled up and rolled down, I climbed the dune and stood in front of the cross. Several carvings of people’s initials and names and dates and proclamations of love covered the cross on all sides. Jeremy loved Michelle back in 1999, and I wondered if that were still the case. I wondered if Steve left Jill and his daughter, as well. I felt the pain of the mother or brother of Nolan and hoped he was indeed resting in peace.

Then I thought about God. The all-powerful God who couldn’t stop my dad from leaving. “Why?” I cried out. “Why did you let him leave us . . . leave me?” I wanted an answer. I was crying freely now. “Why?” was all I could manage to get out at this point. I sobbed. I swung in the air, punching the face of God in my mind. In that moment, I hated God. My prior beliefs were nowhere to be found. My former reverence wasn’t anywhere nearby.

But they must have been lagging behind, even more so than my emotions, because in an instant I felt the need to reach out and place my hand on the cross. I felt the rough wood and was careful not to slide my hand for fear of splinters. The feel of the weathered wood sent thoughts racing through my mind. I thought of splinters rubbing through the hands and shoulders of a man as he carried a cross up a hill. I thought about how it must have felt as the wood rubbed against the flesh of his back as he hung from it.

These thoughts overwhelmed me and I fell to my knees. I kept my hand on the cross, and begged Jesus for forgiveness. Forgiveness for questioning him, for doubting him. Then I thanked him for every second of pain he suffered on my behalf. I imagined blood staining the wood, and I couldn’t stop thanking him.

My tears began to dry, and peace was settling over me. I felt I could finally rest. I saw myself resting, not in my dad’s arms in his truck, but snuggled up against the breast of Jesus as he held me and ran his fingers through my hair. I finally rose again and surveyed the area around the cross. On one side, the hotel dominated the landscape. Behind the cross was a bike path that winded up and down the coast. Behind me was the ocean, the sun now casting a wonderful glow across the water. On the other side of the cross a trash can stood. It was overflowing and garbage littered the area beneath it. I thought about the entire scene and looked back to the cross. I put my hand back on it, but this time ran my fingers through the grooves of the carvings, feeling somehow connected in this moment to all those other lives. Looking at the cross for the final time before returning to the hotel, I thought to myself that Jesus truly is that Emmanuel, that God with us.

-Allison (Al) Rutherford @Ragamuffin_AL