Saturday, October 10, 2015

Fire and Ice

FIRE AND ICE By: Paul Harvey
Nobody knows why firefighters are firefighters. Not even they can tell you why. It’s time somebody try. Firefighting is the most risky of all dead-end jobs and yet also the one where most workers are most likely to punch in early. It’s hard enough to believe that; it’s impossible to explain it. Fire and ice are uncomfortable separately or together. Wives hate the hours. Kids love the noise. Fire and ice.
Any day at the firehouse the bell from hell puts the dispatcher on the horn with a tenement tinderbox address. Into the bunker pants, turnout coat, grab the mask and go. Minutes later you’re on site. As others run out, you go in. You’ll need all you can carry. The four pound axe, a six-foot rake, the halligan bar. The ceiling concealing the smoldering has to come down and it’s one of those stubborn tin ones. In the scary dark with the heat eating your ears, you’re gouging out and tearing loose and pulling apart, gulping air and tasting black. Your windpipe is closing and you’ve lost track of which way is out. Is it worth it?
They’ve budget cut your ladder company from six to five, so now everything you do is 16.67 percent more difficult and more dangerous. Your air is low. Inside your mask you’re throwing up. There’s a searing ember down your neck. Torn gloves expose a smashed hand. So you emerge from the holocaust hugging, with your elbows, somebody’s singed kitten. Fire and ice.
You’ve had minutes of exhilaration on the bouncing rear mount of a steaming hundred foot Seagrave, hours of using all you’ve learned and learning more. Now you’re back at the station house. You’ve unstuffed your nostrils with soapy fingers; you can almost breathe again. Next come the tedious hours as you and Brillo gang up on the grimy tools. The cleanup crew at the firehouse is you when windows need washing and toilets need cleaning and floors mopping and beds need making, you do it. Fire and ice, they both go with the job.
Then there’s that night another engine company gets there first and you see this wet-eared rookie hot-dogging ahead; his academy boots still shiny. You lose him inside the crackling dark and you forget about him until your helmet warning bell says get out. The battalion chief is calling you off. You get out; the other guy didn’t. He had heard a scream from the bottom of burning basement stairs and he headed down there, when on the bubbling tarpaper roof the three-ton compressor broke through, that day we lost two. Oh, yes, firefighters cry, but only briefly because now comes the inevitable and evermore paperwork just in case OSHA complains or somebody sues. Is it worth it? Your B crew pumper swapped his day shift so some family guy could be home for his kid’s birthday and then, outbound toward a false alarm, your buddy gets blindsided by a hotrod driven by a drunk. Fire and ice.
The intercom barks again. This time it’s a warehouse, a big, fast, multiple blaze, probably torched. Onsite engine men draped with icicles dragging an inch and three-quarter hose are waiting for your big line: ladder men can’t make the building without you. Search, rescue, ventilate. Eventually it’s over and out. You’re smoke smudged and sleepless and wrung out, but you won. Behind graffiti-fouled walls you saved what you could. But the raging blaze that wanted to consume adjacent buildings did not because you were there.
Back at the firehouse before cleanup, you and the guys sit a spell, tired but stimulated, drinking coffee and laughing, and feeling good about one another. Nobody outside your world can ever know this feeling. In any other uniform you get streets named after you for killing people; in this one you risk your life to save people. Until one day you run out of chances and at one final fire, either you buy it or you don’t. If you don’t, it’s only eventually to be brushed off with a puny pension. Yet there’s no third way that you’d ever leave this job and you’re doubting even God knows why.
You’re out of the shower now; most of the grime and some of the cynicism are down the drain, when you hear a strangely familiar voice saying, “It is worth it. It is worth it.” And you’re hearing this voice, and there is nobody there but you. It is a quiet voice from nowhere saying, “For salvaging things and people from flames, I have to rely on your hands.” You look around, still nobody. But when you get over your incredulity, you feel better. Suddenly today’s crew cook in the kitchen hollers chow. It’s time to eat. It smells like roast beef today, and that’ll be good. But you’ll eat fast, for any next alarm you’ll want to be ready.

As a fireman's kid your always wondering if you'll see you father the next day. You never know  if he'll be home to play a game with you or take you to see a game. You're always scared. My father is a firefighter. I am always scared for my dad and I know he gets scared too. He doesn't know if he'll live to see his family again and I don't know if I'll see him too. But he loves his job. He loves saving people's lives. Dad has always been my hero. When I was little I wanted to be just like him. I love going to see him at work and hearing his voice on the phone when he calls to say good night, that's how I know he's okay. And when he comes home in the morning I'm always glad to see him safe and sound.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Personal Narrative

I was born in a big city, I am the oldest of three children, and grew up in a household where a Christian homeschool teacher married a non-Christian firefighter. Being born to unequally yoked parents has been had at times but they have been married for almost twenty-two years. God blessed me with wonderful parents and siblings. I went to church as a child with both of my parents and my siblings for several years or up until I was in the second grade. Within the span of six or seven years of not going to church was when I finally realized that my father was not a believer. In those years though my mother still went to church now and then on Sundays and worked in the church's childcare program throughout the week to bring in extra money. My sisters and I would go with our mother when our father worked late for overtime or got called in on a fire run.  

From what I can remember about going to work with my mom was all the workers gathered outside of the office and shared a prayer request with each other before going into the classrooms to teach Bible lessons I remember hearing some of the same lessons for an entire week to two weeks. When I had gone to church with her on the weekends, she would sign me into a Sunday school classroom where I knew no one only because I was not a frequent church goer. When dad was home, though, I would stay with him sometimes.  

There was one time, when I was about eight, I went with my father to the firehouse with my dad instead of going to work with my mother. My father only taught a class that night, so it was fine with him that I went. All I did was sit in a chair with my Game Boy as I listened to my dad teaches, at least, nine men about new techniques in training. I have to say I enjoyed going to the firehouse instead of the church to hear another bible story.  

When I was about nine, my mother signed me up for church camp. I enjoyed it, but I was not really into the whole “let’s be friends with Jesus” and sing Kumbaya around a campfire. The next year though I was baptized because I wanted to not because of "I believe in Jesus," but I did not realize this until later on down the road in my life. 

 Two years later mom got all of us, even my father, to go back to church on a regular basis. My mom finally got tired of asking my dad to come to church, and now he does not go anymore. When I went to church, I would not go to Sunday school. I felt that because I was baptized I should be allowed to go to the grown-up service instead childish classroom with kids that hadn't "matured" as I had.  

When I was in leaving junior high and entering into high school, I started to rebel against the word of God and my parents. I joined a bible study group, called c-group, which met every Wednesday night. I only went to hang out with “friends”. I picked a poor group of friends to hang out with too. (I am going to use the first letter of my friend’s names.) L was a liar, J was a cutter and weed user, and H was a cheater. I never cut or used weed, but I became a liar and a cheater, but that was until I met C. C helped me out of my “friend” group and introduced me to some Christians. I still know and talk to C now after knowing them for seven years.  

During my high school years when my parents argued they would talk about leaving each other, but I did not know that until my mom would come to me complaining about it. This went on for a while after they argued she would come to me crying and I would hide somewhere and cry after. My sisters did not hear about any of this. I’ve seen what divorce does to a family my cousin’s parents are divorced, and I did not want to end up going to two different homes and having two step-parents. I finally had enough and told her to go to one of her friends because I was her child and no child wants to hear about their parents talk about leaving each other. During that time, I started to cause more trouble for my family. I started fights with my sisters, started to hang around my old “friends”, and once again C was there by my side to help me out.  

My personal relationship with Jesus Christ had been a bumpy road. I had fallen off the path and had not been staying in my Faith for about five years. I struggled like many teens had with addictions and being bullied in high school. I thought I found Jesus Christ when I was on a trip to Florida with my church in April of 2010. I was listening to Mark Moore talking about how we are a generation that can do more than others think we can. That is when I felt the Holy Spirit within me telling me that whatever I set out to do I have the ability to do it as long as I have God on my side and I believed that but only for a little while. I was stupid and naive and thought that God hated me.  

I did a 360 and started back in my walk with Jesus two years ago. I struggle from time to time to keep up with reading my Bible and praying, but I do read it. God opened my eyes two summers ago on the same trip with my church to Florida. The first couple of days were spent praying, reading the Bible, confessing sins to new friends, and worshiping God, but there was something tugging at my heart, and I tried to ignore it, but it kept pulling and tugging. I finally broke down crying one night after listening to my youth pastor Matt Regan preach out how we all dug ourselves into pits that only God can help us out of. That is when I called my parents confessing all of my sins. I thought they would hate me, but the surprised me by saying "We love you and forgive you." and that is when I realized God was saying the same thing to me except I was not listening hard enough.  

When I was crying on the phone with my parents, I felt someone sit down beside me and put their arms around me. I looked over to see someone that shocked me because I thought he was some stuck up young guy, but I was wrong and judged too quickly. I hung up with my parents and turned into this guy’s chest and just cried. He prayed for me after I had calmed down a bit. A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders that night as God welcomed me with opened arms. When that guy hugged me, I felt like God was hugging me through him. I am still friends with that guy, who was a friend to me when no one was around. 

On the way home I turned on the radio and Matthew West new song "Hello My Name is" was playing and I was so overjoyed that God played that song to show me that I am His child, and I have been saved, changed and set free. I now work with the children at my church, in the same childcare my mom used to work at, teaching them that no matter what God always love them. I also serve as a leader on the same trips to Florida for a week to share the word of God.   

Someone once asked me if I could change my testimony, taking all the terrible things I did out and replaced them with good things, would I? I looked them in the eye and said no. The things in my past I did out of selfishness and human nature but I would not change it because it is what made me into the person I am today and that it a child of the One True King.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Do you have Faith even when you're put to a test?

When a flower dies it dies because it does not have enough sun, water or soil, or it has too much. When a person loses their faith in Christ, it's because when they think of their story or when they lose a best friend or a close family member they think God is punishing them for something. So, they give up on their faith.

I've been in that situation where I had lost someone I loved dearly and asked God "why? Why did you take them away?"
I know some of you question God.

However, why is it that when we have a tough question you go to a family member or a friend? The answer is because we just want an answer or we do not think God is smart enough to solve it. That is when we lose our faith, and we die spiritually.

When we have found our faith in CHRIST, then we become alive again.

I got an E-mail from a friend a while back with a great story about faithfulness. Here it is.

One Sunday morning as the pastor stood at the podium talking about how God is always faithful to us and how we are not always faithful to him.
The congregation nodded and clapped in agreement during different parts of the sermon, But about half way through about ten to fifteen men came in at the same time wearing black suits and ski masks carrying guns.
One of the men said, "those of you who want to live better leave now, or we'll shoot."
Everyone in the congregation left except for about twenty to thirty people and the pastor who were ready to die for CHRIST.
After about twenty minutes, the men took off their ski masks. The same man who spoke earlier said to the preacher "there you go pastor, now you know who the faithful one are."

Even though this is not a real story would you stay or flee if guys in ski masks carrying guns came into your church and said they were going to kill you if you did not leave?

2 Timothy 2:11-13 says; if we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he can not disown himself.

Our Christian Family of Six

Our Christian family of six includes four girls and two guys. We have our ups and downs, but we still love each other. Whether one of us is having a rough week or all of us, we talk it out one on one or in our group of six. God put us together as a family.

Starting with the oldest, kind and caring as he is, Clayton is the clown out of the six of us. No matter how hard you try to stay mad at him when he gets on your last nerves, it is just not possible. When you have a hard time, he’ll listen to you whether you want him to or not. Clayton is one who is happy all the time but when he is not running around or trying to make you laugh something is wrong. He’ll tell you what’s been going on when his ready but in the end you’ll end up hearing what happened. Clayton is also the one who will watch over the rest of us and make sure we do not do something stupid.

Jen is the second oldest in our little family. Beautiful, sweet and can easily embarrass herself we all love her just the way she is. She is the one who can turn a bad day into good and is always giving good advice to you when you are down. When she walks into church you can tell just by looking at her she has a passion for Christ that is stronger than the rest of us.

Jason the third oldest in the family. He is quiet at times but can be just as annoying as Clayton. He is the one you will have more in common with than anyone else in our little family. He’s there when you need him and when you don’t.  He’s probably the one who’s been through the most, but he still holds on to the word of God even when it doesn’t feel like God’s around. He’s an amazing photographer. He takes pictures of things that may seem like nothing but when they are printed the pictures tell a story.

I’m the fourth in the family of ours. I can be quiet or outgoing, but I am more outgoing at times. When I look at my “siblings”, I’m proud to have them around. When I see them smile I am happy inside but when they are hurting inside it makes me hurt and I am always there when they need me. When I have a bad week, I know when I see them it all changes, and I know I can count on one of them to listen.

Lisa sweet and beautiful is the fifth in the small family. She is the one who will be there when you want to talk. God has put her where she is in our family because he knew we needed her to make us laugh, share a silly joke or even to tell our story too. Whether at a church at the mall or even c-groups she will make you smile no matter whether you are happy or sad.

Now to the youngest member of the family of six. She is kind. She is gentle. She is Savannah. Another Godly person who makes everyone feel good; Savannah is someone who does not care what you look like, how you talk or even where you came from she will love you just the same. She is the one you can probably trust the most with your secrets or your past. You can tell The Holy Spirit defiantly lives inside her.

We are all different. God put us together because he knew we would need each other not because we are a group of teens trying to find friends but because we need a family of kids our age to hold each of us together. Whether good weeks, bad weeks or those weeks in between we stay healthy because we have each other to lean on in our little Christian family of six.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Vincent Van Gogh

            Vincent Van Gogh was a post-impressionist painter whose work, notable for its beauty, emotion, and color highly influenced 20th-century art. He is considered the greatest Dutch painter after Rembrandt, although he struggled with mental illness, remained poor, and virtually unknown throughout his life.

            Vincent van Gogh was born to pastor Theodorus Van Gogh and Ann Cornelia Carbentus on March 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, Holland. Vincent was the eldest in the Van Gogh household out of six children. He had two brothers, Theo and Cor, and his three sisters, Anna, Elisabeth and Willemina. Vincent was not the first born child the Van Gogh’s had. Exactly a year before Vincent was born, on March 30, 1852, his mother gave birth to a stillborn baby boy that they had also named Vincent.

            Vincent started school at the age of eight at a little village school. Then he went to the boarding school Jan Provily in 1864 at the age of eleven and studied English, French, and German. When Vincent went to school, his drawings were impressive but nothing showed that he wanted to be an artist. At the age of fifteen van, Gogh's family was struggling financially, and he was forced to leave school and go to work. He got a job at his Uncle Cornelis' art dealership, Goupil, and Company, a firm of art dealers in The Hague where Vincent went to work as a junior clerk selling art. Then he went to England in 1873. There, he worked and went to an art school. Vincent visited many galleries and also worked on the expansion of the London Branch.

            Van Gogh soon abandoned his lessons and began a ministry, in his early twenties when he obtained a six-month job at the Borinage Church as a preacher in Southern Belgium, preaching to the miners of Borinage. During this time, he was able to identify with the miners, their lifestyles, and their families. This interaction between Gogh and the worker class is later shown in his works as he becomes fascinated with depicting peasant life.(Barnes & Noble, Early Years)
In the fall of 1880, Van Gogh decided to move to Brussels and become an artist. Though he had no formal art training, his younger brother Theo, who worked as an art dealer, offered to support Van Gogh financially. He began taking lessons on his own.

            There in Brussels, Van Gogh had a tragic love life. He was attracted to women in trouble, thinking he could help them. His cousin, Kate, was recently widowed, and when Van Gogh fell in love with her, she was repulsed and fled to her home in Amsterdam. He then moved to The Hague and fell in love with Clasina Maria Hoornik, an alcoholic prostitute. She became his companion, mistress, and model.

            When Hoornik went back to prostitution, van Gogh became utterly depressed. In 1882, his family threatened to cut off his money unless he left Hoornik and The Hague. Van Gogh left in mid-September of that year to travel to Drenthe, a somewhat desolate district in the Netherlands. For the next six weeks, he lived a nomadic life, moving throughout the region while drawing and painting the landscape and its people.

            In April of 1885, Vincent’s father Theodorus Van Gogh died. To show how much he appreciated him, Vincent painted “The Still Life with the Open Bible.” In March of 1887, Van Gogh was able to organize his exhibition of Japanese prints (“Pere Tanguy”, “Walk along the Banks of the Seine near Asnieres”, and “The Courtesan”) in a café. When he went to Paris in 1875, he painted the towns and cities with dark colors. He also painted “The Outskirts of Paris near Montmartre,” and many sunflowers.

             Van Gogh’s “Potato Eaters”, his first major work, was painted in 1885. By this time, he was still having difficulty finding love but was beginning to receive interest in his paintings. He was now fully devoting himself to painting: living frugally, studying color theory, and admiring the works of artists like Peter Paul Rubens. Unfortunately, as would be his entire life, his paintings were still difficult to sell. His brother Theo, an art dealer and the recipient of many letters from Vincent, commented that there should be more color in his work. Van Gogh was painting peasants and rural landscapes using dark earth tones. Around this same time, Impressionism, with its bright, vivid colors, was becoming popular. (Templeton, Overview)

           In February 1888, van Gogh boarded a train to the south of France where he moved into the "little yellow house" with a fellow friend and artist by the name of Gauguin.There, Van Gogh spent his money on paint rather than food. He lived on coffee, bread, and absinthe, and found himself feeling sick and strange. Before long, it became apparent that in addition to suffering from physical illness, his psychological health was declining; around this time, he is known to have sipped on turpentine and eaten paint.

            Towards the end of 1888, the first signs of Van Gogh's mental illness began to take hold. He suffered from various types of epilepsy, psychotic attacks, and delusions. One such episode entailed Vincent pursuing Gauguin with a knife and threatening him intensely. Later that day, Vincent returned to their house and mutilated his ear, then offered it to a prostitute as a gift. Vincent was hospitalized for fourteen months and released to find Gauguin swiftly leaving Arles and his dream of an artistic community shattered.A year later in 1889, he had another breakdown and went to Saint-Rémy asylum.

            It was while he was a patient in the Saint-Rémy asylum that Van Gogh produced “Starry Night”. He was painting in a “dumb furry” during this period, staying up three nights in a row to paint because, as he wrote, “The night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.” Though in a fever of productivity, “I wonder when I’ll get my starry night done,” he wrote, “a picture that haunts me always.” (Strickland and Boswell, Page 121-122)

            In 1900, at a British concentration camp, Vincent’s younger brother Cor committed suicide. Vincent’s other brother Theo wrote and said that he and his wife, Johanna, were going to have a child. Theo’s baby was named after his brother Vincent Willem Van Gogh.

            Just like his brother Cor, Vincent also committed suicide by borrowing his landlord’s revolver and shot himself but did not die until two days later on July 29, 1890, at age 37 in Auvers-Sur-Oise, France. After Van Gogh had died he became a famous artist because of, his sister in law, Johanna, who collected as many of his paintings and letters as she could but discovered that many of them had been destroyed or lost. When Theo and his wife passed away their son Vincent inherited most or all of his uncle’s paintings. Then in 1962, he gave his uncle’s paintings to the foundation of the Van Gogh museum.Some of his paintings sold for more than a hundred million dollars.

            There were so many letters and paintings that survived with Van Gogh, but there weren’t many letters from his parents and quite a bit from his brother Theo. From those letters that were found, they were turned into books about his life’s history, but there are still parts of his life that are still unknown to the world today.

                                                                  Work cited
Barnes & Noble, “Vincent van Gogh: Early Years” Sparknotes, Accessed November 5, 2014
             PH.D. Strickland, Carol and Boswell, John, “The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in                Art History from Prehistoric to Post-Modern” Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC 2007,                      November 3, 2014
Templeton Reid, LLC, “The Van Gogh Gallery: Vincent van Gogh: Overview” January 2013                         Templeton Reid, LLC, November 5, 2014