Being Challenged at College and Life

The word test reminds me of two things. It reminded of the life of being a college student and life.

College is one of the best and challenging parts of your life. Assignments can get pretty confusing. You need to learn how to navigate college life. You need to be able to learn time management skills and independence. Classes are much more detailed and complex then you think they are. Studying for tests can be quite annoying at times, but is worth it in the end. Tests are something I do not like about college, but I don’t study at the last minute. You do learn other valuable skills that will be important later on. You discover more about who you are, which allows you to be more open about yourself. You find a place to develop both spiritually and emotionally. You sometimes learn leadership skills, which will be very useful in the work place.

One of the things that happens at college is that you are constantly being tested. You are constantly being challenged. Sometimes you feel like your own faith is being challenged when you start hearing other people’s opinions about the bible and the meaning of faith. Sometimes you need to go outside of your comfort zone to have the best college experience possible. College allows you to have a bigger comfort zone. Sometimes when you are being challenged, it can be quite hurtful, but don’t let that get in the way of your college experience. Use the challenges you face as a teaching tool. The challenges can be so simple, but feel so difficult. Being challenged exists in both the academics and your peers. The academics pushes you to do your best. That can get extremely stressful, but the trick is to know how to deal with stress along with your emotions. Trusting in God actually makes college life even more enjoyable. He helps me make it through days that are very challenging like the day of a test or finals week or something like that. College takes a lot of strength and courage at times. Take advantage of the experiences you have and have the best college experience possible.

All of this prepares you for the future. Even past college, you are constantly being tested. I may still be in college, but I know that life is full of many hurdles. Some will be harder then others, but what matters is how you choose to handle them. There are times in college when things seem impossible like that assignment you are not looking forward to. Life is not supposed to be easy. It is supposed to challenge you and that is what makes you be the best you can be. Try to stay on the right path, which is the path of God. Never try to let the devil control you or your destiny. When times get dark, look towards the light. I am always hopeful and know that there is light in the midst of a broken society. Humanity is not completely lost.

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Letter to Elphaba

Dear Elphaba,

Thank you for becoming an important part of my life. I first discovered your story in 2006 on Broadway with my mom. Coming in, I had no idea how much influence you would have on my life. I just have to say that you are like a role model to me. In all, I have seen your story come to life four times. Each time, I become more and more vulnerable to your story. Your story even seems to come to life when I am listening to the songs. I relate so much to you and I totally understand your situation. I may not share everything in common with you, but we still have lots in common.

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Just like you, I am smart, determined, talkative,  and different. Sometimes I have felt misunderstood. I know feeling misunderstood is not the best feeling, but you stay true to yourself. You take action and stand up for what you believe in. I totally understand what it means to be so different. I also believe in equality and staying true to myself. You have such courage when people have discriminated and misunderstood you for so long. I admire your amazing strength and your relationship to Fiyero and Glinda. Fiyero and Glinda truly understand you and you are lucky to have both of them in your life. It was quite surprising that you and Glinda used to extremely dislike each other when both of you first met. But I am so glad that the two of you eventually would become the best of friends.

I hope for many years to come you will remain an important part of my life. You are my all-time favorite musical character. You continue to inspire me each time your story comes to life. I just cannot believe that you have always been treated like an outcast even in your own family. But you remain strong and brave through all of this. I just want to say that you are not alone. Continue to inspire others and don’t let anyone place a label on you. I still cannot believe you have played such an important part of my life for ten years.

Why I love Musicals

What is about the world of musicals that makes me love them so much?

Musicals are built around the genre of comedy. I know that through experience. Growing up, I learned the basics of musicals through the happy musicals that I grew up with. I learned about the positive and negative emotions. I learned about the spectacle and dance, fun sets and colorful costumes. Musicals were perfect just the way  they were and I thought I knew everything about musicals. Now heres when things start to drastically change. Before college, I was already a musical fan. Tragedies decided to enter the picture and one tragedy completely changed my opinion of musicals. It decided to go above and beyond with the emotions and actually made me care so much more about the emotional connections found in musicals.

They just create this wonderful experience. The biggest strength of musicals is the storytelling. The songs help create the story and they need to reflect the storyline. Even the dancing and spectacle play a role in the storytelling. Those two elements help advance the plot and make the setting believable. The stories of musicals are so vastly different from each other. That explains why there are so many different emotional natures. Each musical that I love provides me with a different experience because the stories vary and due to that the emotions vary as well. Because of the wide range of stories, subject matter of the songs, and types and lives of the characters, it makes the emotional nature so challenging to describe.

When it comes to a story, I want to connect to the characters. The thing that usually makes be connect to the material are the songs themselves. That means that the songs must be good, which leads to a positive response. All of the musicals I love have songs that I love. The songs are the most important part of a musical and they need to know how to reflect the story. Some stories require a score that is just filled with positive emotions. There are also stories that require a score that is filled with positive and negative emotions. It just depends on the nature of the story.  The shows I tend to connect to the most are those musicals that have both positive and negative emotions.

Falling in love with the songs also means falling in love with the emotions as well. Yes, the negative emotions do hurt, but there is pleasure feeling them. There is only pleasure feeling the negative emotions if you care about the characters and want to go on their journeys. Some of the sad songs are in fact some of the most beautiful songs in musical theatre history. It does sound ironic that the negative emotions can be so beneficial to a musical experience. Usually the best scores have the best characters and strongest stories. The main reason why I prefer musicals that have joy and sad is because it makes the story feel more real and makes the characters more fascinating.I find myself understanding the negative emotions the best if joy is involved. The negative emotions are beneficial to a musical experience because they add so much texture and help characters become real. Sad knows how to strengthen plot and I know it is not part of every single musical exactly.

I always find myself slowly falling in love with characters and plot. I find the plot, characters, and songs to be so connected to each other. The best musical experiences have a collection of songs that fit well with the characters and storylines of the musical. The positive and negative emotions can be very tricky to interpret for various reasons. Positive and negative emotions in musicals range from excitement, uplifting, joy, love, hope, compassion, passion, haunting, sad, heartbreak, loneliness, anger, fear, frustration, guilt, hopeless, desperation, devastation, depressing, and uncomfortable. That is a lot of musical emotions, but I have nothing wrong with any of them.

On top of the songs, there is also the spectacle and dance. I always look forward to those two moments. Spectacle shows up through magical dances, circus elements among many other things. There is this amazing energy created by the spectacle and dance. I think all of the different elements of musicals know how to brilliantly come together. Not all musicals have spectacle or dance, but there is nothing wrong with that.

 

 

 

 

Fall Break Mission Trip to Charleston, SC

This morning, I attended a session of Dimensions, a program where you are required to go for four semesters, and it is usually kind of boring. But today’s program was something different. Students talked about their experiences on one of the Gardner Webb mission trips. That reminded me of my Fall Break Mission Trip to Charleston, SC. I went in Fall of 2015 and it was one of the best parts of my college experience so far. Throughout the trip, the group kept a close bond with each other, which helped add meaning to the volunteering that we were going to do. In all there were two guys, nine girls, and one male chaperone. We volunteered with an organization called Metanoia.

On the very first day, we helped paint a couple of rooms, which is for the youth. At first, I had to clean the stairs with a magic eraser. Even though that was not that enjoyable, I still know I was making a difference. I eventually was able to help paint the rooms and that was more enjoyable. They wanted skilled painters to paint the foundation to paint over the pre-existing wall color and the boys had much better skills when it comes to a painting task like that. To leave our mark, we painted an attic-like door, which was taken down to paint. We painted our hands and placed them on that door. That means our mark will always be at the community center that we helped paint.

The very next project we did was some yard work. It was a lot of clearing away and a lot of vines to cut away. That took a lot of work, but was so worth it. Some of it was easy to pull out without the help of a vine cutter or anything like that. Many of those were vines with sharpness on them. That took an entire afternoon to clear away not one, but two yards.

I think what had the biggest impact was on Sunday. We visited the church where that Charleston shooting took place. That made me quite nervous because something tragic happened and was kind of fearful of visiting a place like that. However, I learned to love it especially the members. Despite all of the tragedy they faced, they were still strong and kept their incredible faith in God. It seems that each time tragedy strikes, there always seems to be a glimmer of hope. That stays true to scripture in a way because scripture says “those who have walked in darkness have seen a great light”.

We spent the rest of the trip spending time together and getting to know each other better. We explored Charleston together and were split up. Later that same day, we visited the beach and got dinner at a place nearby.

Dilemmas of Jean Valjean

Possible Spoilers:

In Les Mis, the main character, Jean Valjean, has to face many difficult discussions and he always does the right thing. The biggest dilemma he has to face is during the “who am I” scene. He just learned through Javert that they have captured “Valjean” and he is about to face the court and possibly be sent to prison. Valjean does not know what to do because he knows that someone falsely accused of being him could go to jail even though the man is innocent. He is thinking “do I save this man or do I not to help save my factory workers”. If he saves the man through showing everyone he is the real Valjean, then his position as owner of the factory and mayor of the town would be at risk. But if he doesn’t reveal himself, he will have the sense of freedom he wants.

Valjean finally decided what to do. He actually faced a difficult decision, but in the end he did the right thing. He actually decided to go to court and reveal that he is in fact the “real” Valjean”. He just could not see an innocent man go to Jail and Valjean knows through experience that being in prison is one of the worst things ever because you are faced to lots of hard labor. He also knows that being a prisoner can harden you and make you someone you are not. He actually showed empathy for the innocent man, but this act made Javert closer on recapturing Valjean, which he was obsessed through since Valjean broke parole.

Despite turning himself into the police, Valjean continued to fulfill his promise to the dying Fantine. After this act, he went back to the hospital to comfort Fantine during her final moments. During those moments, he promised Fantine that he will raise Cosette as his own. But due to the incident in the courtroom, Javert arrived at the hospital ready to arrest Valjean. They went through a long confrontation and Valjean was able to escape and rescue the broken Cosette from the abusive Thenardiers’.

There are other dilemmas that Valjean face, but the one in the courtroom was the hardest one to face. Another one was when Valjean became aware that Marius, Cosette’s lover, is at the barricades and has a possibility that he will die. He does not want to lose Cosette forever, but he doesn’t want Marius to die either. But ultimately he decides to go to the barricades and save Marius from possible death. Valjean loves so Cosette so much that he is willing to sacrifice his happiness to give Cosette best possible life.

Valjean is a very complex character with this incredible journey. He goes on a strong spiritual journey to redemption. This journey starts out with Valjean as a harsh, angry, and hateful man. Valjean  gets redeemed very early on by the bishop, who saved his soul for God. The bishop was the only one who would show him compassion, forgiveness, and hospitality when he was released from prison . The bishop gave him a room and something to eat, but out of desperation, Valjean woke up in the middle of the night and stole the bishop’s silver. But the bishop was able to forgive Valjean and gave him two candlesticks, which became an important reminder to Valjean. They reminded him of the kindness the bishop gave him and helps him became a saint-like man. He shows compassion towards the poor and even to Fantine and Cosette. He saved both of them from a life of poverty. He saved Fantine by intervening and insisted that she is not to be arrested but instead sent to a hospital. Because Valjean learned that she had a child, Valjean promised to Fantine that he will raise Cosette as his own. He was shocked to discover that Cosette was very broken and never felt loved. Valjean and Cosette have an interesting relationship because they both were broken before they found each other. Eventually by the end of the musical, Valjean become into almost like a saint-like man.

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Hard Work of a Musical Actor

The word pretend truly reminds of how much work an actor needs to do in order to get into character. Each time I see a musical live, I am surprised at what an actor is able to do. In the past two years, I have seen six different musicals which are Music Man, Pippin, Newsies, Sound of Music, Wicked, and Les Mis. In these shows, the actors need to live the character’s lives eight times a week. The characters from these shows have been either comic, tragic, dramatic, romantic, etc. In all six of these musicals, there were both simple and complex characters. Some of the characters from these musicals were simple such as Winthrop , Theo, and the younger Von Trapp Children and some were more complex such as Elphaba, Glinda, Jean Valjean and Eponine.

In some of those musicals, characters age over a wide range of time such as Javert and Jean Valjean. In that same musical, even Cosette and Eponine get older over a nine year gap. In some of the character’s lives of these musicals, some tragically die, but while several characters die in Les Mis, their deaths are memorable. I cannot imagine what it is like to portray the tragic characters where you have to die eight times a week and where the character lives a very unfortunate life.

Some of these characters do not live tragic lives, but live a life filled with conflict and hardship and these are characters such as Elphaba and all of the Newsies. For the Newsies, that is especially difficult on Crutchie as he has a bum leg and has to rely on crutch. That makes him more vulnerable to certain situations, but he has such spirit and helps keep the group together and truly depends on Jack Kelly. Elphaba has to face a life of being a outcast all because she is green, but at least she finds love in Fiyero and friendship in Glinda.

Some of the actors from these musicals had to learn to dance and others had to know how to do aerobatics. I was the most impressed with the dancing from Newsies because it blows your mind away and those actors are jumping high, jumping over each other, back flips among other incredible things. I may have loved the dancing from Newsies the most, but I still loved the dancing and spectacle of Wicked along with the circus and dance elements of Pippin

Newsies was the only cast where the entire cast was basically all male and only like three females. I did love the other casts as well especially the ones from Les Mis and Wicked. When it comes to Les Mis and Wicked, I have high expectations. In Wicked, I saw one of the best Glinda and Elphaba pairings and they delivered “For Good” perfectly. As for Les Mis, I did have higher expectations only because I was seeing the show in the West End and the thing I truly wanted from the West End production was that the emotions needed to truly and deeply and powerfully move me. I was living my dream by seeing it in the West End and the entire cast delivered and that was the best cast I ever saw live.

Sometimes I get the most impressed by the understudies. In Newsies, Wicked, Les Mis, and Pippin, there were understudies for lead characters. Those characters were Pippin and the Leading Player from Pippin, Jean Valjean from Les Mis, Elphaba from Wicked, and Katherine from Newsies. Those understudies have to memorize more then everyone else and have to memorize different blocking depending on if they are one for a lead character or if they are one for their ensemble track. They are not always in for the character they understudy for, which means they have less opportunities. In fact, I was impressed with all of these understudies. All of these understudies truly impressed me mainly Jean Valjean, Leading Player, and Elphaba. Some people tend to forget how much harder these actors need to work compared to the regular actor in for a role. For an understudy to play Valjean or Elphaba, it can be quite scary to fill in the shoes of the main actor. Elphaba and Valjean are two of the most complex and demanding and well-known roles.

It takes way more then the actor alone to get into character. It even takes all of the work of the backstage crew to help them get into character. It helps when they actually look like the character through their costume and makeup. Backstage crew helps any lead or ensemble members handle the quick changes because characters go through more then one costume through the course of one show.

It takes several rehearsals to understand the particular production. The actors have to memorize lines, choreography,  blocking, and truly understand the character. You have to learn to portray the character in a way that makes it your own, but at the same time stays true to the character and lives up to the audience’s expectations. They need to express what the character is feeling along with what kind of a life the character lives. In musicals like Wicked and Les Mis, there is a lot of pressure for the actor because the characters are so well-loved by many. It is so cool how actors truly make the story come alive each and every night and the characters become real to you. The actors truly rely on the audience because the audience helps them make choices due to their reactions. There are many wonderful things to say about actors and so blessed that they are willing to tell their character’s stories over the course of a year and eight times a week. Think about how hard it can be to portray a complex character compared to a simple or how hard it can be to portray a character who has a very miserable and tragic life.

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What does it mean to be a Servant?

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life for a ransom for many”

-Mark 10:45

What does it mean to be a servant? Servanthood is an important part of being a Christian. Servanthood starts with sacrifice. Servanthood means living the life that Jesus lived. It means helping people in times of need and reading out to others through ministry. In fact, you must become a servant way before you become leader. I have never felt like a leader because I always felt like a follower. In fact, I feel way more like a servant then a leader. That is due to my passion for helping the less fortunate and that passion will continue for the rest of my life.

Many of the biggest challenges that Ministry faces can all be solved through the use of servanthood. You can simply be a servant by helping the “least of these”, which consist of the homeless, orphans, strangers, prisoners, refugees, and the sick. They are the ones that need the most help.

But what holds us back? Some things are fear, obligations, laziness, perceptions, lack of time, lack of energy, no desire/motivation, pride, lack of comfort, and unawareness. What can be used to overcome these? Don’t forget that God has used many messed up people to do something amazing. Remember Abraham, Joseph, Saul, Rahab, David and many others who were considered to be the “least of these”, but they did incredible acts. Remember God wants to use darkness for good. There is always a source of light in the midst of darkness.

Yes all of these types of blockades will keep on coming in your life. Think back, what part of your life can you use to reach out to others? Sometimes I don’t know what holds me back at times, but I do know I am heading in the right direction. I know what was the pivotal moment in my life that made me start having a deep connection to those living in poverty and homelessness. It was at an experimental dinner where the vast majority of the participants represented those living in poverty and homelessness and it was that moment that made me realize that giving back to the less fortunate was my calling. But at the time, I did not know God was going to develop that into one of the most amazing ideas. I later learned that I was not supposed to volunteer on the side, but instead was actually meant to work in Nonprofit and head towards starting one.