Saturday, April 20, 2013

To The District Speakers of St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival 2013!

The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops, 
until you stand up to speak in public."
--George Jessel 
We laugh, but it’s true!  
My first public speaking experience was terrifying.  My hands shook and I felt the whole world was shaking with them.  The audience was a blur.  I couldn’t visualize them in their underwear to save my life.  The fear of the mic coming alive suddenly and attacking my face was very real.  George Jessel was right - public speaking can leave you in the dust sometimes.  But, he has only told us half of the story. 
Emily Dickinson also once said, A word is dead when it is said. Some say. I say it just begins to live that day.”  Nerves or not; failing or not; tech problems or not - words have the power to seep into us, wrap around our hearts and influence us, and move us to take action in our life.  Each word we say cannot be recalled.  It is out there, making its way through the world - floating around, landing on various ears, and hopefully landing on hearts.  The written word is a bounteous tool for us, but the spoken word is invaluable to us.  
And so, I would like to recognize the district speakers of St. John Chrysostom’s Oratorical Festival of 2013.   Today, I had the honor to volunteer as a co-facilitator and general assistant in the SJCOF district competitions and to hear the wonderful compositions and deliveries of my peers.   We had five junior speakers (7th-9th grade) and five senior speakers (10th-12th) with us today as we hosted the Festival at my home parish Sts. Rapheal, Nicholas and Irene.  You should’ve been there, guys. =)  It was really special what they did today.   
From delving deep into the Lenten prayer of St. Ephraim, to discussing Christian persecution, to fervently communicating the unity between service and leadership, these speakers left an immense impact on those who heard them and are a blessing to the parish which can call them their own.   Today, these speakers used their speech to better their own faith, and to better the faith of others.  They did not run with intellectual fervor away into the distance and leave their audience in the dust.  They did not stammer in the background and fiddle with some pretty words - leaving us wishing they had more to say.  No, they walked beside us as an audience and as Orthodox people and, through speaking, took our hands in the great pilgrimage we call our Christian walk.  Words are an incarnation of thought.  Thoughts lodge in the head and become ideas.  And neither can ideas nor words be removed from time - once out there, they have inhabited their place in space and time.  
These speakers certainly left a mark in space and time today - to further their Orthodox faith and stand strongly for it.   Congratulations to all of them!   Regardless of who won, they all have left a positive impression and Sts. Rapheal, Nicholas and Irene will never forget them. =)  For those moving on and for those who are finished - don’t stop!  Keep speaking, even when you aren’t competing.  Don’t let your words gather dust and don’t think your influence ends at an oratory event.  You have a message, and I promise you, the world has never been wont of hungry ears, needing to hear the good news. =) 
May God bless all of you!  You were certainly a blessing to us! 
My church thanks you, and I thank you. 
May we all meet again soon! 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Weekly Creative Writing #15

      Oh, Memory, be kind to me!  Don’t smile at the old days, when day and night melded into the eternal and, then, not allow me the kindness of fondly looking back.  

      Those days - when the cycle of time suddenly fell asleep and left us blissfully stranded on a wharf.  It was lonely. It was old. It groaned under the burdening layers of time yet it welcomed us with youthful vigor.  And us.  We were together. We were young.  We laughed at the giants of the past, present and future.  We walked - blindly drawn to the shifting moods of this ancient safe-haven.  It chuckled underneath the heavy tide that smothered its roots.  And yet it sat still and observed the silhouettes of passing people - feeling the combination of eager, tired, or hesitant feet on it’s rocky flesh.  

     The maritime world no longer bothers with that venerable wharf or the clumsily endearing lighthouse that extends itself into the thrashing Atlantic waters.  The wharf is saddened because of this.  It is lonely, even with all its visitors.  It wants someone to love it, or, if it cannot have that, it wants to hold and guard those who have been gifted with love.  Now, to satisfy its longing, it remembers the unremembered.  

The wharf remembers the tailor’s daughter who waited by the edge of the stormy water for her sweetheart away at sea.  

      It is haunted with the reluctant steps of a captain who knew he may never return.  

           It delights in the memories of running feet - the joy of those meeting again, after the sting of distance.  

     And, like the restless souls before us, it became our home.  The unstable rocky paths became our friends, as we spent our blurred days together.  

     The pulse of the tide mimicked the pulse of blood within our veins.  We let its song unconsciously seep into our souls and then cradle us.  The wind breathed forcibly at us according to its own whimsical desires.  Our throbbing hearts echoed it with equal passion and vigor.  Uncanny hope. Uncertainty. I could barely hear myself think.  Goodness knows, I had already fallen.  Fallen into the deep, like the pebbles being tossed to and fro in the frothy depths of the neighboring shores.  

     You took my hand to help me and you didn’t let go. That’s how it began. 

     That’s when the wharf stopped feeling so lonely - for the brief eternity we spent there.  I buried my head into your old wool jacket when a gust of wind pressed against us with its full weight.  You protected me - standing between the bitter cold and me. I wasn’t scared anymore.  Honesty frolicked in our conversation - hopes, fears, plans - mixed with quiet and unrehearsed words that many before us have likely said in that same place.  We were crazy, squeezing every uncontainable utterance of life and its precious words into the limits of time.  The wharf and its waters swallowing our conversation and our emotions into its caverns of memory.  And, there, between wharf... and wave... and tenderness... and time... we surrendered our fates to a horizon of hope and the incalculable waves of time.  

For the absolutely wonderful counterpart of this weekly themed creative writing project, visit: