Tuesday, July 23, 2013

If you never read anything else I write, read this.

I may have had the biggest revelation of my life today - just now, in fact - and I'm verbalizing it here for the first time, because I wish I had come to realize this sooner.  So I want to share it with everyone as soon as I possibly can in the hopes that it will click with them and help them not to dismiss things as antiquated rules simply because we don't understand them.

In fact, everything in the Bible just took on new, deeper meaning in light of this.  As soon as I finish here, I'm going back to reread as much of it as I can before I fall asleep.  The more I think about it all, the more excited I get.

It really all makes perfect, simple sense.

Once you can fully (well, as close to fully as possible) wrap your mind around this one fact:

G-d is not a linear being.

Don't get intimidated by the science/math speak and click away.  This is important to understand.

To reach a bigger audience, I want to also reference Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.  In the book, the characters utilize something called a Tesseract.  L'Engle's explanation of this (below) has helped me to understand G-d a bit more.

We, like all things on this planet, exist in a linear fashion, with a definite beginning and a definite end (at least while we're on Earth).  We currently exist in the same state as the insect was originally.  We have never known anything outside of that state and cannot fathom anything outside of that state, much like a fetus cannot fathom anything so otherworldly as breathing air.  The latter state, the simplest explanation of a Tesseract, is so far outside of a line, that linear beings cannot really comprehend it.

Now, I'm not so audacious as to claim that G-d exists in a state of Tesseract.  Personally, I believe He exists in a plane beyond that somewhere.  My point is that, G-d exists in a state that encompasses our own so completely that we cannot comprehend it; it could never fit into our understanding.  This also means that He encompasses our entire state of being at all times.

Let me break down what this means a little bit.

G-d is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.  Yes.  Of course.  Because all of those times exist simultaneously for Him.  It's not so much that He's unchanging as He's omnipresent.  Those are all the same thing.  A=A.  It's like thinking, "Wow, this bite of doughnut that I'm chewing still happens to taste good!" - It's ridiculous to think anything else.  All of those are subpar explanations, but I hope you were expecting that, because, as I said, we're dealing with something outside of our scope of experience.

Everything the Bible says about sex and marriage that we don't really like... Yeah, G-d knew what He was talking about.  Of course.  Of course it's cheating on your future spouse to sleep with anyone else (Hebrews 13:4, among many others).  In fact, the much debated (even taboo) verse in the Bible that says not to divorce and not to remarry if you do (1 Corinthians 7:10-11) makes sense in light of this.  G-d is in all of our moments at the same time, so, to Him, we are too.  To us it feels like it's all unfolding slowly: things end; other things start.  But not to G-d.  To Him, I was just as married to my (hopefully existent) husband the day I was born as I will be on our 50th wedding anniversary.  Anything I do "before" or "after" I meet him is just the same to G-d.

Sin really does irrevocably separate us from G-d.  And nothing, NOTHING we ever do can change that.  It's not that He wants that.  It's devastating for Him.  But that's simply the plain, honest truth.  Think about the magnitude of this thing: If all moments are actually one moment, then we are constantly committing each and every sin in our lives.  There is nothing we can do.  Nothing.

The magnitude of what Christ did on the cross is heart-stopping.  Every moment for all of eternity in every direction and every plane of existence, Christ is being tortured to death to atone for those sins that also exist on that spectrum.  Every sin we could possible commit is erased the moment we do it, because Christ takes it on in that moment.  We are constantly clean.  We are constantly made new.

All praise to G-d, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. (Eph. 1:3 NLT)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Well, yesterday was a bummer.

Due to personal reasons, my vacation to Italy is being called off.  :(

BUT!  Somehow, an overwhelming peace has washed over me about the whole thing.  It's awesome how that happens.

Unfortunately, the airline hit me with a pretty hefty fee, so I'm not going to be able to go abroad for this vacation, but I've been incredibly tired.  It will probably be good for me to relax at home and get some sleep.  I'm going to see if I can get some work *edit: at my old Saturday School* to make up for that fee as well, so it'll all end up okay.  Plus, I haven't explored too much of Korea, so I might go do that; we'll see how I feel.  :)

In the words of Homer:
"Endure my heart, for you have endured worse than this." (The Odyssey, book XX)
It's true.

I found myself wanting to write about how yesterday was "the worst day ever," but it wasn't.  Those of you who know me can wager a guess as to what my worst day was.  I don't really care to detail it again, so if you don't know, just think about your own.  In a way, it's a blessing that I have had such a horrible experience in my life.  Every time something happens that I don't like, I can always think of Homer's quote and that day, and I have something against which to gauge myself: Have I endured worse than this?  Did I survive?  Did it help me in some way?  I have yet to not be able to answer "yes" to those questions.

There's that silver lining, my friends.  I knew there had to be one somewhere...

Lots of love to you.  I'll try to post about my staycation when (if) I do something interesting. :)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Goodbye Time Again

These are growing outside of
my school.  It must be a sign
(seeing as how they're my

I've been saying goodbye to a lot of my kids today, and it was so hard!  I'm sure I'll see them around after summer break, but I won't teach them anymore, because it's a new semester after the summer.  Today, my last class was full of all of my favorites, who I've taught the whole time I've been at this school (simply by luck of the draw).  I suddenly am realizing how hard it's going to be for me to leave Korea.  I love these kids (and this school) so much.  

Let me show you a snippet of what's been going on today.

I've been teaching a music class during my lunchtime recently.
Today, the schedule switched up a bit, and we got done early, so I popped in next door.
There, I found several of the students I had taught for the last time in the class before lunch.
They also are students I've had for a whole year now.
They played me the song "Payphone" by Maroon 5, mostly because I told them I liked it so much, but a bit because it was a little fitting.
It was at this moment that it became impossible for me to get through my next class without crying.

Luckily, the kids in my next class got a bit crazy, making it easier for me to keep my cool (after I lost it trying to start class).

This is what it looks like when I'm teaching my kids how to order food in English.

But this kid, he put a smile back on my face.
He's crazy, but I love him, and he knows that.

It's hard for me to leave them, but if I can be smiling as I do so, well, then I'll feel I did a good job.  Unless I'm smiling out of relief... that wouldn't be a good feeling.  But I really don't think that's how it's going to be.  I think it's going to be one of those bittersweet smiles, where I'm leaving, but I'm happy, because I know that I somehow managed to make these kids' lives better because I was there.  That's what I hope.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Even when you know it's coming (A eulogy for Jim Foglesong)

Last night while I was sleeping, the man who laid the framework for everything I know about the music industry breathed his last.  Today, there is a sadness in my heart, even though lately there had been no doubt in my mind that this day was coming and coming soon.

I met Jim Foglesong, whom I and many of my friends refer to as JFo (He smiled the biggest smile I'd ever seen from him when I asked if he minded us calling him that.), in the Fall of 2007.  He taught my Survey of Music Business class at Trevecca, a class that held the vast majority of the people who star in my fondest memories of my college years.  It took me a whole two weeks to look the man up on Wikipedia, and the results led me to do the same for each and every one of my professors.  You see, what I didn't realize was that I was basically being taught Music Business by the man who made the Business what it is today.  Let me just give you a brief overview of what he did for the Industry (as quoted from Wikipedia):
Foglesong helped lay the foundation for the new country music boom in the 1990s. As president of Dot, ABC, Capitol Records and MCA, he signed popular artists, among them Barbara Mandrell, Don Williams, Garth Brooks, Donna Fargo, Reba McEntire, the Oak Ridge Boys, Con Hunley, George Strait, Tanya Tucker, Sawyer Brown, Suzy Bogguss, Kevin Morris. Foglesong was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2004.
My class found the late afternoon (read: directly preceding dinner) scheduling of Professor Foglesong's Tuesday/Thursday class difficult to focus through, despite his amazing credentials.  As a result, we spent a good deal of time chatting with each other over instant messenger, but our classroom was always full of laughter, and I think that's how he liked it.  I never once kidded myself into thinking that he didn't know what was going on in his classroom, but he never mentioned it.  Instead, he threw anecdotes into his lectures to keep us on our toes and pop our heads up from the glow of our computer screens.  He'd talk about his life in his younger days, and we suddenly realized that he wasn't just the grandfatherly gentleman we saw in front of us, who dressed up for class and encouraged us to do the same.  He was a real person who really lived.

Though I knew Jim was the former president of many record labels, the only time that really affected our relationship was when I was applying for internships and jobs.  All the other times, he was simply JFo, and I was Miss Royster (sometimes Anne).  We'd always stop and talk to each other when we crossed paths in the hallways of the music building.  He always had time for me, and that taught me to always have time for him.

When I went to ask him if it would be okay if I came to our Survey of Music Business II class a bit late on Thursdays, though, I was still nervous.  I didn't want to disrespect him, but I was in a bit of a pickle.  I worked at my internship (which he helped me to get, by the way) until closing time; in other words: until 10 minutes before class started.  With most of the record labels actually being in the next suburb over, it was impossible for me to safely make it back to class on time, and I felt even less comfortable asking my boss to let me leave early.  So I approached JFo.  I don't remember exactly what he said to me after hearing my well-rehearsed plea, but I do know it went something like this:
JFo: So, you're asking if you can come to my class late?
Me: Yes, sir.  But just on Thursdays.  I hate to ask it, but I don't know what else to do.
JFo: Miss Royster, I trust you.  You're a hard-worker, and I know you'll get the notes.
Me: Thank you.
JFo: Furthermore, wouldn't it be a bit silly for me to penalize you for going out and doing what I'm teaching you to do?
I love that man.

Foglesong, on being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame

In the years to come, I'd find myself missing classes with Prof. Foglesong.  I missed the regular contact with him and learning about his life.  I missed the familial atmosphere that came from spending so much time there with people all intent on the same goal (becoming big-shots in the Music Industry).  I missed the subtle dousing of invincibility he gave us.  Of course we could conquer the Business.  He was teaching us; he believed in us; he was for us.  How could we fail?

When Foglesong began retiring from teaching at Trevecca, I felt it sorely.  No more were the days of hallway conversations.  Though he did still attend most of my concerts and recitals, it wasn't quite the same.  We knew why he wasn't at Trevecca anymore.  His health was becoming an issue, and it was showing.  That didn't stop me from secretly hoping he'd come good on his promise from Survey I: That'd we'd all gather for our 50th reunion in that room, and he'd come in and tell us what a wonderful job we were doing (despite being in his mid-80's when he started teaching us).  Basically, he promised to be our Mr. Feeny.  I really wanted that to be true, silly as it was.

There came a time when I no longer believed I belonged in Music Business.  I began to doubt myself and my abilities in the field.  I saw my friends around me heading for stardom, and I felt nothing more than mediocre, acing the tests, but failing in the practical application.  It was in that season that I got a call from Prof. Foglesong: a call of encouragement.  He was calling to tell me he'd personally nominated me for an award in his name for excellence in the field of Music Business.  He believed in me enough to forever have my name associated with his.  Even typing that now, the levity of his action brings me to tears.

But I do not cry for Jim.  No.  Not at all.  Jim Foglesong was a man of G-d in every thing that he did.  His faith was at the core of who he was, and it radiated out from him.  He was forever loving on everyone he met, forever thinking of the people around him, forever reminding people to be honorable simply by his actions (and occasionally in word for the particularly stubborn case).

No, I cry for me.  I cry that I will not see his smiling face again for a long time.  I cry for the world, for how many people will never have the chance to be personally blessed by him.  I cry for his wife, for her monumental loss.  But I do not cry for Jim.  He is in Heaven now, and I have no doubt that he's singing his heart out.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Plan

It's about time I told you this.

I have a PLAN!!!

We're still hammering out some details, but I should tell you about it before it becomes so commonplace in my head that I forget to tell you.  Here it goes:

I'm leaving Korea on September 23.

I will be in Thailand, volunteering with Home & Life Orphanage Foundation until the 23rd of October.  But I will leave Thailand on the 27th.

From Thailand, I'll head back to the States (with a 6 hour layover in Incheon, so, Korea friends, help me pass that time!!!), ultimately ending up in Atlanta.  I've got a lot of people I'd like to visit, and I'm thinking about following this path:

If you recognize yourself on that map, or if you're not on that map and you should be, let's talk.  I'm going to be needing help with transportation as well, so I'm really, really hoping that you can assist there. 

I'm thinking of trying to fit this all into November and December (ending by Christmas).

Currently, it's looking like I'll be heading back out in February.  My Korean church has asked me to go join their missionaries in India, working at a school that focuses on working with children from the slums.  Currently, we have not set an end date for that.  I will be needing to raise ALL of my own support for that, so, not to worry, you'll definitely be hearing more from me on that.  I may not have definite details until December for that, so I'll probably have a very short time to raise a considerable amount of money.  I'm not stressed about it (yet), though, because I know that if G-d wants me there, He will bring the money in.  I've never had a problem with that before, and I don't think that I will start now.  (Please pray!)

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone, and I'm looking forward to reporting on my upcoming adventures.

111 Days until I touch down in the U.S. of A.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. . .
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

I sincerely hope you read those words.  I realized today that I'd never read the Declaration of Independence in its entirety.  (This isn't the entirety, either, by there way.)  It's such a passionate document.  It's empowering to read.  I'm incredibly proud of the history that comes with this document, and yet I am troubled.

The same blood that flowed through the veins of several great men and women in our nation's history flows through my own veins.  I feel it my duty, therefore, to follow in their footsteps, paying them honor by enhancing the legacy they left for me.  They fought for the ideals that have come to define what it means to be a part of American culture.  I am incredibly grateful to them, because I strongly agree that they were right: All of us were born equal.  ALL of us.

George Orwell astutely pointed out in his well known Animal Farm, that many of us operate under the delusion that "Some are more equal than others."  I would like to point out that this is inherently untrue.  Our Declaration of Independence does not state that one race is more equal than another, that one language is more equal than another, even that one country is more equal than another.  It simply says that all men (and I firmly believe that they are referring to humanity in this instance) are created equal.

Though today is America's Independence Day, I think it is a day for all to celebrate  It is a day that the world triumphed, gaining leaders to whom we could all aspire to emulate.  As I told my students, these men believed so adamantly in what was written here that they were willing to risk their own and even their families' lives in order to secure it as truth.  Even those who do not admire what these people were trying to do (though why anyone wouldn't admire an attempt at establishing a certain grounds for the respect and dignity of all humanity I do not know) must admire the ardent passion that goes with making a commitment of that magnitude.  My last class today was moved to radiant pride as I described this situation to them, though none of them has even seen America.

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not. (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784,Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).

This is the legacy we have been given.  It is our job to carry it on, uniting all humanity under that banner, ignoring any other differences.  We are brothers and sisters.  In this day and age, we are more connected than ever before.  We should be uniting, moving together as one, loving each other as a global family.
"Mankind." That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. - President Thomas Whitmore, Independence Day
I write with a certain urgency to you today.  We do not know what is ahead of our world, but across the globe people are feeling something coming.  Egypt is in turmoil, the Koreas are on edge, Bulgaria is at a stand-still (literarlly), The United States are in an uproar: The world is in a state of growing global agitation.   I do not know what is coming, but I feel it in the core of my person: Globally united we can stand, but divided we will fall.  We are only one race; we are humanity.  We are so much more connected than we know.