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TFC Outdoor Club Presents: The Cherokee Challenge

The Outdoor Club at Toccoa Falls College will be hosting the first ever Cherokee Challenge , which will be a two-mile long obstacle course located right here on campus.

The event, which is being headed up by Sam Jury (the president of the Outdoor Club) will take place on April 25th. The price for TFC students is $25, and the price for the general public is $35. The Cherokee Challenge is a fundraiser for the Outdoor Club, with all of the proceeds going directly towards purchasing new equipment such as kayaks and canoes, tents, and backpacks, which will be available for students to use in the future.

The start and finish line will be located by the pond, and from there the runners will go through a series of obstacles such as a wall climb, tomahawk throw, mud pit, log carry, and army crawls. However, if a student is unable to complete a challenge, there will be an alternate challenge that they can do, such as doing a certain number of pushups, sit-ups, etc.

The race will be run in groups so that the course does not become clogged up, with the first heat leaving at 9am, and subsequent heats leaving every fifteen minutes until 11am.

There will also be several prizes up for grabs. The male and female that complete the course with the fastest time will win a $200 gift card to ZipNTime, a zip-line company located in Helen, GA. Even if you do not finish in the top two, there will be prizes that can be won through a raffle. Each student who successfully completes the race will have their name entered in for a chance to win a $500 scholarship from the college. Also, Lake Lanier Canopy Tour, a zip-line company located in Buford, GA, has donated an $800 dollar prize, which is good for a day of zip-lines for up to eight people. Each racer will also receive a t-shirt with the purchase of a ticket.

The main feature of the morning will be the race, but there will also be plenty of other things to do for those attending. Barbecue will be available for purchase all morning, as well as games and other activities set up for all to enjoy. Jury wants it to be more than just an obstacle course, as he “hopes for it to become an annual event students (and the public) can look forward to.”

The event is being planned by Jury and the members of the Outdoor Club, but on the morning of the 25th, there will be over 50 students there volunteering and making sure everything goes smoothly. To sign up for the event, students can keep an eye out for tables set up by the outdoor club in the student center, and everyone can visit Active.com, and input “Cherokee Challenge” into the search bar.

“This is the first time an event like this has ever happened at TFC, and it’s going to come back and benefit students,” Jury said. “It’s going to be a great event; it will be a ton of fun, and (there will be) a lot of great prizes to be won.”

 

Photo courtesy of the outdoor club.

 

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Is He Dead?

Every semester, the Toccoa Falls College Theatrical Society comes together to perform a fantastic play for the enjoyment of student body. This semester is no different. The society will be performing Is He Dead? by Mark Twain from April 17th to the 19th in Grace Chapel. The play is being directed by Michael Chang and Rebekah Stillwell, and tickets are now available for purchase in the Student Center. For students and seniors, tickets are $5. Adult tickets are $7 and children’s tickets are $3. Showtimes run from 7-9pm this Friday and Saturday, and 3-5pm on Sunday.

The Theatrical Society has been working hard all semester to make this production come together. A challenge arose a few weeks ago when the room where the set pieces were kept began to flood. Cast and crew salvaged most of the pieces, but a good deal of the set needed to be remade and redone with just a few weeks until opening night. The society has been diligently working and things are relatively back to normal in regard to preparations.

(Co-director Rebekah Stillwell was willing to sit down and share her thoughts and excitement about the upcoming production.)

Rebekah, can you give a brief synopsis of the play?
The play is based on the life of Jean-François Millet who was a real French painter back in the 1800’s. It’s a little like a historical fiction but just because it’s based on a real guy. Anyway, this French painter is penniless because his paintings won’t sell. So, he ends up faking his own death to try and make some money to save himself and his girlfriend’s father from financial ruin. But, once he has faked his death, and his paintings start actually making money, his girlfriend’s father and the loan shark character, to whom they owe everything financially, both start hitting on him because they don’t know he’s not a woman. So yeah, it gets really crazy really fast! He then has to figure out how to be able to be himself and not be disguised as a woman anymore. It’s awesome.

Have you ever directed before? What have you done with the Theatrical Society in the past?
I have not. This is my first time assistant directing, and it’s been a lot of fun. I really enjoy it. I knew I didn’t want to do it my senior year so I figured this was the time to do it. I’ve been costume manager now for 2 years, and I’ve been in 3 different roles in the past. This will be my 4th play that I’ll be involved with.
What are you most excited about? What has been the most challenging?
I really like how the cast members have come together as a team. The flood and the disaster that we had made us see past the little, petty things that we were annoyed about and helped us focus on the bigger picture and get things done in spite of it all. The flood was the most challenging, I would say because it put us back to square one with sets. But again, the things I’m most proud of are just all of our cast and crew and other members of the society that have been so good about doing whatever they needed to do to help.

(Toccoa Falls College student and cast member, Josiah Renz, also shared his thoughts on the upcoming production.)

Josiah, Tell me a little about your character.

I play the role of Jean Francios Millet, a French painter who can’t sell his own paintings because he’s alive. So he decides to fake his own death with the help of his friends. He has a disguise his friends came up with which is a woman; the widow Daisy Tillou. So, I technically play two different people depending on who’s on stage.

Why should students come and see the play?

Because it’s freaking hilarious! And the fact that I play a woman makes it so much funnier. And it displays the whole character of what the theatrical society is. It’s a lot of people who have fun and just do a lot of crazy things.

What about this production are you most excited about?
I’m most excited for people to actually come and see it just because we’ve all worked so hard on it. So I really hope all our efforts come to good use because it’s been just a lot of fun putting it all together and I really want it to be a success. I’m most excited to see everybody come watch it and laugh their heads off.

So much has gone into the production of this play. Students, professors, and the community in Toccoa have all worked hard and given their time and support to help make the play a success. The play is happening this weekend (17th-19th), and it will something people do not want to miss. Make sure to come and support the TFC Theatrical Society and see Is He Dead?

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The End of September: Part 2

September 20

Today, I stopped at a fine little restaurant for lunch. You know the type of place: the hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop kind of diner you only find in obscure towns with strange names. I must say, the country fried steak and gravy, potatoes, and collard greens were excellent, and they served a fine cup of coffee. And the pie! I wish I could go back, but I am afraid that I will not be allowed back in.

You see, I don’t like it when people are nosy. The old lady who was my server, who up until this point seemed like the nicest old grandma you ever did meet, had the audacity to ask me why I was wearing my sunglasses inside! Can you imagine a ruder question? I refused to give her an answer, and when it was time for me to leave, I “remembered” that I didn’t have any cash on me. But that didn’t matter in the end. I can be very persuasive when I need to be, and when I tried to explain myself, the manager came out and tried to make a scene. Needless to say, I got my way in the end, and he will not be bothering me or anyone else with such foolishness anymore.

I must say this little incident proved to put a sour mood on the rest of my day. The open road seemed to lose its appeal, and I found myself constantly checking the rear-view-mirror and driving around roads I don’t think anyone uses anymore.

Tomorrow will be better. I lost my map some time ago, but I have always been good with directions, and I think I should be arriving at my destination soon.

September 23

It has been a few days since I have had time to write down my thoughts, and I must say that I was surprised to find that I missed it. In a way, it helps me to relax. I’m not sure how, as using lead to scratch things on this paper seems pretty silly when you think about it, but I feel a sense of relief whenever I do it. I wonder if anyone else has discovered this?

Tonight I find myself aboard a train. The repetitive sway and the constant clacking of the wheels on the track are very soothing, and I think I shall fall asleep soon. Lord knows I need a good night’s rest, as today proved itself to be one that I hope to forget. Here I was, just driving along minding my own business, when I notice a car following right on my bumper. Now, I am an excellent driver and am always calm and collected on the road, except for when I get angry. And what happened today made me very angry. For miles this fellow just kept chasing me, until I began to suspect that it was no coincidence that he was there.

So I did the only sensible thing to do in that situation; I tried to lose him. Sadly, my driving skills are not quite what you see in the movies, so the thrilling race only lasted a short while, and eventually I found myself in a ditch on the side of the road, and in my new car too. What a shame!

The only good thing to come of it was that I managed to get away from the enraged driver. I walked for what seemed like forever until I came upon a set of train tracks, which is how I find myself here now. I do not know where I am heading, and lament the fact that I am now on this detour because I have no idea how long of a detour it will end up being. But no matter; life is about the journey. At least, that is what I’ve always heard.

I have but one more complaint tonight: I am beginning to think that the former occupant of this very train car was someone who is homeless. How can I tell, you may ask? Well, for one thing, I found a bundle of rags, that I suspect were once clothes, which he must have forgotten. I imagine that somewhere out in the streets, there is a half-naked man wandering from alley to alley, desperately trying to find his lost shirt. Ha! The thought makes me laugh.

But the main clue as to who was here is the smell. The terrible, wrenching, unbearable smell! The disgust threatens to overtake me. The homeless are vile creatures, always traveling from one place to the next, sleeping under bridges and jumping onto trains without bothering to pay for a ticket. What is their purpose in life, other than to try and take money from people who have earned it by invoking pity in them? It seems to me like a terrible way to live.

But I do admit that I envy them in some ways. I can’t even really begin to imagine what life would be like if you were able to go from one place to another without ever worrying about petty, everyday pains. The homeless never ask themselves, “What am I chasing after,” or “What is chasing after me?” They only have to worry about when they are next going to eat, or where they are next going to sleep. Seems like a much simpler life. Maybe I should consider becoming homeless myself.

But in the end I know that I couldn’t live like that. I am afraid that it would give me too much time to think.

If only this train wouldn’t make so much noise, maybe I could actually get some sleep.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: http://www.writerscafe.org/uploads/stories/7d0b49eda88278f9522ddac2a42260b6.jpg

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Campus Preview 2015

Cheers and whoops were cast from among the half-circle of students and previewers as the 2A Legends shuffled away their instruments. Administrative representative Carlos Ramirez prayed biddings to the students and Campus Preview 2015 came to an official finish.

Around one hundred and ninety extra students explored Toccoa Falls College and its campus, contemplating as to whether TFC would be the choice for their home after they graduated high school. The campus was in an excited frenzy as previewers poured into the dorms and met with current TFC students. For at least a few of these students, it was the beginning of the weekend that would change their lives.

The weekend was due to the efforts of faculty, staff, and students. A large portion of the success of Campus Preview can be attributed to the hard work of the admissions office. Its agents had been preparing for months to make Campus Preview happen. The office was abuzz as students worked to reach out to as many students as possible and to keep the ones who had signed up to come updated. A competition was set up by the Office to encourage the current students to participate and spread the word about campus preview. The students of the Admissions Office carried their hard work into Campus Preview weekend, coordinating students and decorating for the Fair from early in the morning until the evening. “We have all just been pitching in and just getting the work done that needs to be done to set up everything” commented freshman Renee Morris, who has done her part by driving shuttles filled with students and joining in the team effort to set up the Fair. “[We have been] making sure that this is the experience of a lifetime for all of the TFC students and for prospective students as well”.

Current students who were not working for admissions put in the effort as well, making sure that their rooms were clean and that signs were made and hung on their doors to make the prospective students feel welcome. Many previewers were met with a crowd of happy faces as they walked through the doors of the dorm that they would stay in.

Thursday night, Campus Preview began. It began with a crowded cafeteria, as prospective students poured in for dinner. At 6:30, a Preview Chapel began in Grace Chapel. Steve Woodworth, Director of Spiritual Formation at TFC, spoke to the students on making godly decisions and the Chapel Team led the students into worship. Later that night, students were invited back to Grace Chapel to watch Guardians of the Galaxy and snack on free candy and sodas.

Friday morning, classes were packed as students filed in to get a taste of classes and professors at TFC. Throughout the day, the prospective students were invited to attend campus tours and hikes to Little Falls. Friday night students were invited to attend the Campus Preview Fair, where they visited different booths to meet with professors, explore majors, and learn about clubs. Students could also eat carnival food and play games, such as Cake Walk and Dunk Tank with SGA’s current and soon-to-be President Josh Lillie, current Vice President Katie Myers, and soon-to-be Vice President Rachel Johnson on the target stand.

After the Carnival, Students were invited to Coffee By The Pound for a concert. The night opened with Modern Mammoth, continued with the awe-inspiring voice of Jake Tuttle, and ended with 2A Legends as the grand finale.

As students trickled out Saturday morning, many reflected back positively on their experience, as they expressed their thoughts of Preview Weekend on the board inside of the Student Center. Certainly, the faculty, staff, and student body wishes the previewers well as they head back to their homes and their high schools and as they reflect back on their weekend when making their college decision.

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Scammers Beware

She received an unexpected call that morning. Her grandson’s voice, muffled due to the flu, was on the other end of the line, calling from the American Embassy in Mexico. The mission trip he was on with a group of students from Toccoa Falls College had been jeopardized when police discovered traces of cocaine in their rental car, and now he needs money for bail.

The truth was that her grandson was all the way in Toccoa. This was all a scam: the work of a talented con man with a brilliant plan that, although seemingly outlandish, was not too far a stretch of truth. He also perfectly mimicked her grandson’s tone of voice down to the hints of flu he claimed to have. Coincidence?

Scams come in all shapes and sizes via face-to-face communication, online transactions, telephone calls, or rigged ATMs. “I’m glad my grandma didn’t rely on emotions but used reason and didn’t freak out even though the caller acted like me on the phone,” TFC junior Maxwell Miner said about his grandmother’s quick thinking to double-check the scammer’s identity by asking for the name of Maxwell’s two aunts. Unable to provide the names, the scammer immediately hung up before he was able to get his hands on the “bail money.” Scams succeed because victims are not careful with how they share personal information or they do not think things through clearly. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent oneself from getting scammed.

  1. Do not allow strangers inside the house even if they are dressed in uniforms. Ask for identity, badges, and other information to validate their reason for coming. Double check by phoning the company they claim to be from. Better yet, dial operator and ask for the company’s number. Once granted access, scammers may return to harass the same victims with the hopes that they will once again fall for the scam.
  2. When receiving electronic communication from an unknown source, do not respond. Scammers may become disinterested if one appears uninterested in them.
  3. Beware of posting information online. It is staggering how much information strangers can glean from social media, especially when armed with incredible hacking abilities and specialized tools and know-hows.
  4. Payment by cash is always safe. Payment by check gives buyer a leeway to halt all transactions should anything fishy occur. By choosing “Deposit Only,” paper trails can be made.
  5. Before making additional payments, verify that the other party is holding up their end of the deal. Make sure the item ordered is the same product, brand, color and make as desired.
  6. Beware of “get rich quick” pop-ups advertising free items. If the offer sounds like easy money, there may be a catch. Do not click these links.
  7. Beware of strange requests for medical help, money, or inappropriate demands. Authorities should be contacted for urgent requests, not random strangers who may not be able to provide help.
  8. Never give bank information to anyone who claims to be from the bank. Personally go to the bank to inquire about the problem.

Sometimes people find themselves in the middle of a scam as victims. Fortunately, there are ways to get out of a scam, hopefully with all belongings intact.

  1. Do not freak out. Stay calm, think fast, and act fast.
  2. Memorize details. License plate numbers, clothing, or distinctive features and behaviors are valuable information.
  3. Learn signs of lying that may leak in facial expression or behaviors. Notice lack of eye contact, increased fidgeting, and if their nonverbals do not match what they are saying.
  4. Do not let emotions rule the mind. When presented with sad sob stories, verify the information before donating money.
  5. Ask detailed questions and hone in on the parts that sounds sketchy. Scammers may try to change the subject since they will not be able to provide adequate information on the subject they are lying about.
  6. Never commit to a down payment before the other party has been verified as trustworthy.
  7. Beware frequent repetitions of  particular phrases and contractions. For example, saying “I did not see your PIN number” instead of “I didn’t see it.”  Too much excitement or eagerness to the point of coercion may be signs of a scam.
  8. Beware of bad grammar, spelling mistakes, and strange wording. Letters from official organizations are rarely careless.
  9. Watch out for emails or letters that do not address by name. Official letters often address clients by name.
  10. Emails in foreign languages, Russian, Cyrillic characters,or hard to read words may be tactics to get past spam filters. Thrash these sketchy emails.
  11. Western Union and Moneygram tend to be targeted by scammers. Use caution when purchasing online or sending money via these outlets.

Check out these websites for additional information (All information in this article was compiled from these sources):

  1. http://www.fraud.org/learn/faqs
  2. http://www.scambusters.org/scamlanguage.html
  3. http://www.scambusters.org/lying.html
  4. http://www.bbb.org/blog/2013/03/10-signs-that-you-may-be-getting-scammed/#sthash.1hOBA3gT.dpuf
  5. http://www.bbb.org/blog/2013/03/10-signs-that-you-may-be-getting-scammed/#sthash.1hOBA3gT.dpuf
  6. Crime Secrets Of… Season 2: Episode 2- “Secrets of Scammers.” (Netflix)

* Photo credit: http://blog.dealsdirect.com.au/outsmart-the-scammers/

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The End of September: Part 1

Sheriff Morris sat behind his desk with his head in his hands, trying not to think about the last couple of weeks. His dark hair was matted with sweat, as was the collar on his shirt.

He was exhausted in a way that he didn’t even know was possible. Morris grimaced, looking over at the stack of paper-work that he still had to do, but for now, he was allowing himself a brief respite after such a taxing case.

He heard footsteps approaching, and a gentle knock on the door.

“Come in,” he called.

Lieutenant Rodgers entered the room, his blue eyes sunken in, looking about as tired as Morris felt.

He walked over and set something on the table with a soft thud.

“Is this it?” Morris asked. Rodgers nodded.

“Did forensics already take a look at it?”

“Yes,” Rodgers answered. “Everything in it was written by the same person.”

“And the blood?”

“They sent it off for tests, but I would assume it’s all his too.”

Morris glanced down. “Has anyone read it yet?”

“Not yet,” Rodgers said. “I figured it would be best if we read it first. Might help give us some answers.”

“I’m not even sure if there are any,” Morris sighed, as he tried to pry the book open without tearing the pages. “But I guess it’s our duty to find out.”

September 19

I have decided to begin writing my thoughts down. I found this little notebook in the desk beside my bed, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I am not sure what will come of it, but if anything, it seems like a way to pass the time. I suppose that I’ll begin with today’s events.

I went for a rather nice drive today. I’m not sure how long I drove for, or how many miles I traveled, but I do know that being on the open road for so long has really done my spirit wonders. Just me and the country-side, with the only thing in between us being the padded leather seat and the roaring engine of this fine new car.

I will say that the only bad thing about traveling alone is that it gives you too much time to think. It took me the better part of the morning to discover all the bells and whistles that come with getting a new car, and after meticulously testing each button to see what it did, I found myself becoming bored. I don’t like listening to the radio; I can never seem to find a station that has adequate signal strength and is something I am actually interested in, so I usually end up just talking aloud to myself. Of course, I am very used to this, as it is a practice that began early on in my childhood, so I’ve come to think of myself as being an excellent conversationalist, as long as the two people having the conversation are in fact both me.

But anyway, as I was saying earlier after I run out of topics to talk about, I begin to think. Thinking can be a very dangerous thing, as it is when a man is alone and begins to think that he starts pondering the great questions of life. I personally don’t care where I came from or where I’m going, but it seems like part of our very nature is to wonder, so try as I might these questions seem to pop in my head. Even this moment, I let my guard down for one second, and here I am rambling on again!

This must signal that it is time for me to go. As I sit here in this cheap motel room, I realize I still have a long way to travel, and I doubt I will get much sleep tonight, if only for fear of unwashed sheets and giant cockroaches. I guess that’s just a part of being on the road.

 

 

Photo Credit: http://www.writerscafe.org/uploads/stories/7d0b49eda88278f9522ddac2a42260b6.jpg

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Spring Cleaning: Renewing Minds for Christ

Spring has finally come to the Northeast Georgia mountains as the warm breeze and sprouting flowers have arrived. Although, this is one of the most beautiful times of the year, there is a dreadful realization… SPRING-CLEANING. With this alarming thought in mind, people begin to pack away their winter clothes and clean out cluttered closets that have slowly piled up with trash. Others begin the annual spring diet to lose the ten to fifteen pounds gained throughout the school year. “Stress eating” has come from the countless assignments around Christmas time. However, as students dust off their sandals and enjoy the warm weather, there is another important thing to remember this spring. After going to meetings, studying for tests, and writing countless papers, students tend to forget to spend time with the Lord.

Suffering from exhaustion from the late, night hours of writing papers and stumbling out of bed to early morning classes, it becomes more difficult to replenish one spiritually. As people look forward to the warm weather that consistently distracts them from studying, people slowly forget about the One who created the distraction. Yes, finishing up last-minute assignments and isolating oneself to prepare for final exams is important, but sometimes the frustration increases as one lacks trust in the Lord.

With Easter approaching, students need to remember to refresh themselves, not only, mentally and physically, but spiritually as well. Sometimes, one needs to take a break from studying and remember to trust in His provision. When one thinks about spring-cleaning, one usually thinks of the household, workspace, or the body, but some have forgotten about spending time with the Lord. With Easter approaching, the spring should be a time to reflect on Christ’s love for His people. Sadly, people forget what He has done on the cross. His magnificent and everlasting love is made ultimately significant through His sacrifice.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The temptations of the world are overwhelming, but with prayer one can be strengthened through the weaknesses and spiritual storms. It can be difficult to commit oneself to prayer and devotional time with the Lord. Sometimes, one should lay down their books, walk outside, and ponder on what the Lord has created. Students should not allow studies to blind them from remembering Christ love and the endless grace he provides for His people continually.

Taking some time to pray, whether it may be thirty minutes or two minutes, can encourage people in times of stress. Pull out the Bible and read a few verses before walking to class. Meet with people, form relationships, and pray for those who may be going through their own challenges. Everyone struggles from time to time with temptation of faithlessness. Living out faith is not always easy.  However, reaching out to others and forming meaningful relationships are great opportunities to share the good news of Christ. Share with people what God has done throughout the school year at Toccoa Falls College. People can be encouraged by hearing what Lord has done in the lives of others. It is incredible how the Lord works. He provides when one loses trust. He picks one up when one falls down. He loves one when they do not feel loved. How magnificent the Lord is!

So remember, this spring season is not only about the basic cleaning duties, but also, faithfully renewing the mind. Thank the Lord for the warm, welcoming weather that urges people to remember His grace and resurrection on the cross. His beautiful masterpiece is His signature. Gently, He carries His children in His loving arms providing faith to trust and protection. This spring, TFC has the opportunity to recognize what Christ has done and share the good news of the gospel with one another. Each student has the freedom to live out the gospel to glorify the Lord.

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The Quest for Happiness

Happiness- the much searched for, longed for, and slightly elusive “Holy Grail” over the past thousands of years; the thing that dreams are made off. All throughout history, people inch their way towards happiness. Some people, with eyes locked firmly on the prize, tirelessly persevere down the winding road that points them towards happiness. Others fall on their knees and cry out to God, begging Him to shower them with sweet blessings from above. Ironically, “Happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness,” as stated by Eric Hoffer. So how is happiness attained?

Marcus Aurelius compared happiness to a wrestling match. Only when the match is won will happiness be attained. The Greeks look back upon their life, contemplating whether their lifelong strive towards Destination Happiness had been a success or a failure. Voltaire compared happiness to working in a garden where the individual does not deal with the fanciful and dwell in the “if only’s,” but dedicates hard work towards cultivating the garden. To the Buddhists, happiness is like a tailored cloak. Since it is not a one-size-fits-all, happiness cannot be marketed.

On the contrary, in some parts of the western world, happiness seems to be a commodity. According to Richard Schoch*, the idea governing this mindset revolves around the motto: “Maximizing pleasure, minimizing pain.” Consumers may even feel a sense of entitlement to a “joyous and carefree life.” If they want it now, they can pick swing by the store and pick up their drug of happiness- the endless options of self-help books, life coaches, yoga instructors, pills, a new car, or perhaps savings bonds. No more need for delayed gratification. Has western society found the answer to happiness? Schoch replies, “If you think that happiness is just a pleasant arrangement of circumstances in your life, then we’re setting ourselves us for a hard fall.”

Economy is another way to buy happiness. Ironically, the industrialized West grows richer but its people are not growing happier. There exist plenty of sad, depressed, and jailed lottery winners. Money can buy access to a life of carefree bliss, but it’s not enough. World Health Organization names America as the richest nation on earth, “…with nearly a third of Americans likely to suffer from an anxiety problem” (NYT article)**. Todd Adams, speaking at Toccoa Falls College’s World Outreach Conference, discussed that people find security through finances or relationships. For some people, instead of focusing on themselves, they turn their focus outwards. “Happiness isn’t so much about feeling good but being good.*” Cue in relationships.

Which view sounds most appealing? The security of Christians is rooted in God. He restores their strength and joy. However, they still find themselves battered and plagued by unfortunate events. Life knocks them down and they wonder where their savior is. Why the pain that seems so senseless? The story goes that painter Jack Dawson was given the task to paint a portrait of peace. He painted a breathtaking view of a beautiful harbor against a stunning backdrop. However, Jack was not immune to tragedy. After suffering a great loss, he repainted his portrait. This time, a magnificent and terrifying storm raged mercilessly. Nestled among a cleft in the rock lies a bird resting peacefully.

Isaiah 54:10, “Though the mountains move and the hills shake, My love will not be removed from you and My covenant of peace will not be shaken…”

John 16:3, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”

So do not be afraid to rest in sweet surrender in the cleft of God, the Rock, and Refuge. God is still sovereign; His hands are still behind the wheel. For God’s children, the quest for happiness needs not be an unhappy one where they gamble their lives away in the desperate hope that the dice will be rolled in their favor. In God, this joy is given to them – peaceful, calming, infectious, abounding, everlasting joy. While life may not hand a hundred reasons to be merry and happy about, no amount of thunderstorms can tear apart the joy that dwells in the children of God. Life takes them through grassy fields and barren deserts, but at the intersection of sorrow, pain, and sadness, they are blessed with the sweet whisper of their Savior, “Will you trust me?” May they drink from His love and let joy overflow their spirit- unexplainable joy coursing through their veins- the kind of joy in which they can calmly rest ourselves amidst the raging storms. So are they happy? Not always. But they can be content. And they can be satisfied in that.

 

* Richard Schoch is a professor at Queen’s University Belfast teaching the History of Culture. Schoch is also the author of The Secrets of Happiness. This article discusses several points Schoch brought up in one of his talk show. This is the link to Schoch’s talk entitled “The Myth of Being Happy”- http://iai.tv/video/the-myth-of-being-happy

** Link to the New York Times article “Is Trying Too Hard to Be Happy Making You Sad?” by Michael Gonchar- http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/is-trying-too-hard-to-be-happy-making-you-sad/?_r=0

photo credit: http://www.jackdawson.com/categories.php?category=Seek-%26-Find-Prints/Peace-in-the-Midst-of-the-Storm

 

 

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Generosity

I: An Angelic Sense of Desperation

My fingers caressed the new, soft dress in an infatuated manner, and for a moment- one infinite moment that borrowed the all-encompassing embodiment of time- I let the gift be the most beautiful thing in the world.

The sleeves fell delicately at elbow’s length, firm and translucent. With my eyes, I traced the seam toward the shoulders and down to the innocent, wide-U neckline. The top half fit over, ceasing with an elegantly wavy chest seam. The curve of the hips dipped just in time for the fun skirt to wave on perfect tone to the wind. The plump, cotton fabric seemed to melt in my hand. A pastel peach hue drizzled with a creamy white floral print seduced my eyes. I felt myself drift into a daze.

Bringing the cloth to my nose eventuated in the smell of subway perils filling my nostrils. Sweat, mingled with the damp, thin air and the general musk of humanity moving on clockwork wafted through the crevices of the dress. A tinge of the fresh, frigid, upper-Georgian mountain air coexisted reluctantly with the underground odor. Lastly, a hint of dollar-store perfume lingered: the result of my gift giver’s futile attempt to mask all previous smells.

It took my gift giver two hours to get here by bus.

The Atlanta underground system was not a perilous place, a depressive place, or a place prone to leave a girl vulnerable to the judgments and realities of the world. Rather, it was a place where artistic expression displayed itself in everyone’s eyes, and where the most complex of thoughts clouded the brick tunnels. The most fragile emotions and complicated feelings of humanity could be tasted.

My gift giver had made her way through these tunnels earlier today; bag buried under her coated arm, with the gift, my dress, in it. The train system was familiar to her, and there was no longer the residence of fear, worry, or over-the-shoulder peaking. There were only thoughts which added to the intellectual soup. Such that, any other who knew the exact reason she was making a two-hour-long journey would assume her motive was generosity. But a native of the underground system would know that it was something more like desperation, trying to convince itself it was generosity.

To prove it simply: generosity would not travel on the metropolitan system for two hours to travel a thirty-minute driving-distance to my home to assure getting here before the peak of the flurry of the holidays. Nor would generosity venture out, knowing that the system does not come to my neighborhood, because the system wants to keep the homeless out of this area. Generosity would not hop on its bike and trek two icy miles down sidewalks, up hills, and over slush-covered concrete until it reached the front door of my little suburban home and knock, making sure to wipe off the fragile tears from its flower basket before I answered. Only an angelic kind of desperation would do that.

“Cassidy?” I had exclaimed as I answered the door, hair in a lazy heap, very surprised.

“Merry Christmas, Abigail,” her small voice rang as she held out the bag.

It was a small day, or so I assumed. It seemed happy when I unfolded the dress, and let out an involuntary “squeeh”; when I thanked her repeatedly, and her small albino-like cheeks went pink. It seemed small as I twirled it in front of my parents, and they clapped, and petted Cassidy, and asked her how she was, and she lied. It seemed casual as she ate with us what my mom had cooked: a chore which she had neglected to do yesterday, because my mother strives to please guests. All seemed right when she headed back out to complete another two hours back.

A week after that with a week until Christmas, all seemed right, as I sat in room vainly caressing my dress, to go out and give her a visit. I would thank her again for the gift.

Heart

It took me thirty minutes to get there by truck.

The address had been easy enough to find through multiple contacts. The condition of the neighborhood, however, told me that none of the contacts had ever been here.

Within a mile of point-B, I had driven into more of a run-down ghost town than anything else. Several old, rusty cars aligned each driveway. Three or four large, obnoxious dogs, surprised to witness a functioning vehicle, snapped after my tires, running along beside me until I overtook their chain length. Rugged, greasy houses aligned both sides of the uprooted road. Cigarette butts and beer bottles adorned each wet, slimy lawn.

The target of Cassidy’s address was less exciting. A variety of grasses stretched toward the sky, untamed, texturing the concrete above it. The makeshift home floated on top of insecure foundation, pressed against the bough-clouded backdrop in a reluctant state of consent. The textile of the structure displayed an unnatural stain, while its tinted windows denied passage to light.

My car teetered uneasily in the alleged driveway, providing me time to question whether an angel could live in this underground cavern. The engine then quieted just enough for the piano performance of Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee pouring through the windows to reach my ear. Somehow, I was at the right place.