My Time Aboard the Ark

Typically, I don’t travel much. I normally stick to my little area in Northern Indiana. When I was younger I was more of an introvert and didn’t have much desire to travel. Things have changed since then and I’ve grown older, lost some hair on my head, and become less of an introvert. Now, I have places I’d like to visit. I had the opportunity to visit one such location at the end of March.

Several families from the church I attend, Cornerstone Community Fellowship in LaPaz, traveled south to Williamstown, Kentucky. On Friday, we went and toured the Creation Museum. On Saturday, we toured the Ark Encounter. On Sunday, we worshiped God before returning home to our normal lives in Indiana. 

To be completely honest with you all: I’m not that great at sharing my faith. I could talk all day about writing and my interest in film and other pop culture, but faith is something I’ve struggled with when it comes to sharing. I’ve put off writing this travel blog because whenever I try to write it, I’m at a loss for words. Even though I’m a published author and write for a living, I’m not sure that I could accurately document what I experienced that weekend. A good friend of mine recently gave me the compliment that I write my best when I share my heart. I will do my best to share with you my experiences.

Thursday

Mandisa sang her song “Overcomer” that night.

The night before we toured the Creation Museum, a portion of us went to Fort Wayne, Indiana to attend the Christian concert, Winter Jam 2019, at the Allen county War Memorial Coliseum. I’m not really one for concerts. Most of them are loud, crowded, and if I’m going to be blunt the seats are too small. I’m a fairly tall individual and overweight so, for me, most concert seats are just too tiny. The coliseum seats were comfortable, but the music was too loud for my preference. I’m thirty-three years old, but I have an elderly man’s taste for volume. It was so loud that I couldn’t understand some of the song’s lyrics. Of course, if I knew the lyrics (which was about half the time) I could better comprehend the music despite the overwhelming volume. It was still a great experience. 

What wasn’t such a great experience was what happened next. I wrote about it in my Mastering the Craft column if you’re interested, but the summary was that our vehicle was broken into and most of the electronic devices were stolen. Including my laptop. 

Friday

Still suffering from the fallout of the theft, we woke up early at the hotel we stayed in and hit the road. Our destination was the Creation Museum in Williamstown, Kentucky. We met with the rest of the church group and, as one, we entered the museum. 

If you’ve never been to the Creation Museum, it’s an experience that’s one for the record books. I know, I know, but all puns aside it was an amazing time. The museum brings Bible history to life by exploring creation science with a plethora of exhibits, dinosaur bones, fossils, botanical gardens, a planetarium, zoo, zip line course, etc… The list goes on.

This is the actual skull of Ebenezer, the Allosaurus.

Go on, read that last sentence again because you might have missed it. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. 

That’s right, dinosaur bones. When I walked into the museum I expected the exhibits on Genesis, Adam and Eve, the Ark, the Flood, and other biblical history. The one thing that I hadn’t added into the equation were the many displays, exhibits, and sculptures of dinosaurs. At the museum they explain that dragons were actually in reference to what we call dinosaurs. Back then, they were called by many names: behemoth, leviathan, dragon, and others. I’ll link the museum at the end of this blog so that if you’re interested, you can find more information.

The other really fascinating show they had was the 4D theater that showed the six days of creation when God created the heaven and the earth. The seats shook, lighting lit the room, the ocean sprayed on some of the audience. And the quality of the film was equally impressive. 

There was an exhibit for the Archangel Michael. It was a great exhibit.

We spent most of the day there and I feel like that wasn’t enough time to fully go through everything the Creation Museum had to offer. I know that I didn’t see it all and would like to take another trip down there someday to complete the tour.

Afterward, we traveled to a nearby church that was gracious enough to offer to shelter the group. What followed was a night of games, worship, food, and devotionals. One of my favorite activities that night was learning how to play 9-Ball for the first time. It’s like four square, but you play it like volleyball. 

The other favorite activity of mine that night was when I hosted Family Feud. Months before the trip, the organizer had everyone going fill out surveys about various Biblical topics. It was typical Family Feud and pitted Family against Family. On the trip down, I had searched for jokes related to the Old Testament. Here are just a few for your reading pleasure:

• What excuse did Adam give to his children as to why they are no longer living in Eden? Your mother ate us out of house and home.

• Who was the smartest man in the Bible? Abraham. He knew a Lot.

• Why couldn’t they play cards on the Ark? Because Noah was standing on the deck.

I know, they’re pretty corny but that’s because I’m from Indiana. If I had been born in Wisconsin, the jokes would be cheesy. 

I’m the one on the right. Photo by Angela Cornell.

Saturday

It was another early morning as we traveled to the Ark Encounter. One of the most impressive things about the Ark is that it doesn’t seem all that big. That is, until you are standing in front of it and your neck is trying not scream as you look up. Here are some facts about the Ark:

• The Ark itself is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high.

• The Ark has 3.3 million board feet of timber.

• The Ark is the biggest timber-frame structure in the world.

• The Ark is made with a variety of woods, including Engelmann spruce, Douglas fir, radiata pine, and bamboo.


Words cannot describe what I felt as I walked each of the three floors. Each floor had something different for the audience. The one that stood out in my mind was the collection of religious texts from as far back as the 1500’s. As an English major and having learned Middle English, for a Chaucer centric class, it was a treat to try and read a page from the Book of Job from a Bible printed in 1540. 

Most of the Ark was dedicated to showing what life would be like on the Ark. Besides the animals, there was Noah, his three sons and wives, and his own wife that lived aboard the Ark. I can’t imagine what trip was like. A few years ago I traveled to Florida with my brother-in-law and my nephews. Let me tell you, there’s only so many times you can watch the Lord of the Ring movies before you start going mad. Those eight must’ve had crazy amounts of patience. Of course, they had all sorts of things they had to do. 

Again, we spent most of the day there. There was a point in the day where some of the youth taught me another game: Ninja. If you’ve never played, it’s such a fun and simplistic game. I’d never heard of it before.

That night we all gathered at the church for another night of games, worship, and devotional. This time, however, there was no Family Feud. It was an all-out Nerf War. Of course, for those pacifists in the group, there was 9Ball and Euchre. 

The Takeaway 

The Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter were impressive. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity and time to take the trip. However, most of my memories from that trip aren’t tied to my singular experiences. What I mean by that, is that ten years down the line I’m not going to remember everything I read on the displays. I’m going to remember walking through the Ark with my twelve-year old nephew. I’m going to remember the look on his face when we read about Chief Shoefoot, a shaman in the Yanamamo people. I’m going to remember the selfie I took with my other nephew in front of the Ark (we both had matching hats and will forever be “hat buddies”).

I’m going to remember the bond I forged with the kids that taught me 9Ball and Ninja. I’m going to fondly remember the look on their faces when I tried to do a cartwheel in a game of Mother May I. I may not have stuck the landing, but I did fairly well. 

I’m going to remember my younger nephew trying to touch the images in the 4D movie. Whenever I hear a song by Buddy Davis I’m going to remember sitting next to my friend as we laughed at some of the humorous parts of the talk he gave at the Creation Museum.

Or the time when my brother-in-law and I conquered the Goliath Burger in the cafeteria. Believe me, it was both worth it and not worth it by the end of the day.

The Goliath Burger. Two beef patties, bacon, and American cheese. To be honest, don’t eat it because it’s probably loaded with calories. I didn’t really care that day though so….

The fellowship is what I’ll remember the most about that weekend.

So, in conclusion, should you visit the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter? Definitely. Even if you’re not Christian, it’ll give you something to think about and challenge your way of thinking. Should you visit those places by yourself? Definitely not. Because at the end of the day, what’s the point of going out and discovering and learning new things if you don’t have anybody to share in that experience?

Could you imagine if Noah was told: “build the Ark, but you’re the only one that can go.” What a lonely life that would’ve been.

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2018 Review of James Master

“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” – John 8:7 (NKJV).

I like to judge and criticize books, movies, people, and even the State of Michigan. Upon reflection, I really shouldn’t though because I’m just as flawed as the things I critique. Except, maybe, for Michigan. I mean really guys, get your act together.

See? There I go again.

As 2018 comes to a close, I’ve taken an inventory of my accomplishments as well as my failures. I believe most of us, humans, do that. It’s only natural to look back on the year and feel proud about what we did. Sometimes we feel guilty or remorse over actions. So I thought, as recompense for all of my judging this last year, I’d remark about some of my accomplishments as well as my failures.

Accomplishments:

  • unnamedI lost 88.4 pounds (total) in 2018. On January 1, 2018 I weighed 452.2 pounds. Today, December 31, 2018 I stepped on the scale and saw 360.8 in bright blue numbers. Even though I had gained 7 pounds since Thanksgiving, I wasn’t disappointed. You can’t see me as I write this right now (hopefully because if you can then that’s plain creepy), but I’m wiping away a few tears. It’s been a long year in terms of losing the weight. Peer pressure isn’t something you should give into, but in May I finally succumbed. My sister and brother-in-law (who actually is more like a brother, but for the purposes of clarification I put “in-law” there) had for months tried to get me to try the Keto Diet. I’ve come to realize that when they tell me to do something, I should just do it. It’s been the key to my weight loss this year.
  • I had a book, The Book of Mark, and the short story The Haunting of Divine Hearts Seminary, in Crossroads In The Dark IV: Ghosts, published this year. I’ve also edited a book that was published in December. Another anthology I helped with was also published this year. It’s been a very productive and interesting year for me as a writer/editor/storyteller.
  • I became the editor of The Starke County Leader. The Leader is the weekly paper that covers all of Starke County, Indiana. Sure, it’s been a bit of a learning curve because it’s a tad different setting and atmosphere from my prior paper, The Pilot News, but I’ve come to really appreciate the people and the county. Growing up in the county to the north, I’d always heard jokes about Starke County. I’ve even made some of those in my youth, I’m ashamed to admit (I’m trying to be brutally honest in this review of myself). However, since becoming the editor, I have gained respect and appreciation for the people and the county. It just goes to show that you can’t always judge a book by its cover.
  • IMG-7745My website, the one you’re on now, has surpassed my expectations in terms of viewership. In 2017, I had a total of 197 views. As of this writing (it’s about 11a.m. here) I’ve had 939 views. I attribute that to you, my readers, and I can’t thank you enough for your time and attention. Sure, I could say that I put more effort into constant content and made sure to promote that content, but if it wasn’t for you all this wouldn’t be in the Accomplishment section. It’d be in the Failures. So… thanks. I’ve got some plans for growing the site so hopefully so all stick with me.
  • I grew as a Christian. If you couldn’t surmise from the quote at the top of the page, I am a Christian. But I never used to be. To be brutally honest with you all, there was a time in my life (not that long ago) that I would say that I believed in God, but I didn’t. Or I would go to church on Sunday, but then never pick up the Bible or act like a Christian during the weekdays. Ironic, isn’t it, that a horror author lived his life as one of the Walking Dead. It wasn’t until earlier this year, maybe around March, that I decided that I needed to make a change. Two years prior to that moment, my wife had left me, and I was living life in a fog. Reflecting back on that period now I can’t really tell you what happened. I was depressed. I was guilt-stricken. I was at my rock bottom. Maybe it was the weight loss, the looming finality of divorce, or sudden realization that I needed to get my life back on track. Either way, God brightened my life and burned away the fog of guilty and depression.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not the perfect Christian. I still judge and criticize at times (I’m looking at you Michigan). My mouth still spouts a swear word every now and then. And I’m struggling about whether or not to continue my career as a horror genre author. Regardless of those faults, I am making an honest attempt to walk the walk. That moment in March, I decided that since I’m becoming physicallyhealthier, I also need to be spiritually healthier.

Failures:

  • My marriage of nine years ended in 2018. Might as well get the biggest failure out of the way first, right? My wife and I married July 11, 2009. We divorced on June 22, 2018. Even writing that, even now, is tough. In fact, I’m thinking about deleting this entire section and only focusing on the Accomplishments. Sure, that would be easier and portray me in a better light, but that wouldn’t be an honest review of myself.

    I won’t go into detail on why we separated. I have my own explanations and so does my ex-wife. When the final straw in our marriage broke, she ended up leaving in July 2016. The first and last time I saw her after that was at the divorce hearing two years later.

    Even though I know that blame could be attributed to both parties, I blame the divorce solely on myself. I could have driven to where she was and stood outside her window holding a boombox blaring some Peter Gabriel. I could have flooded her voicemail box with calls. I could have sent flowers and letters begging for her to come back. I could have fought for our marriage.

    I didn’t do any of those things. The only thing I did was give her what she said she wanted: space. It was that simple action, or rather inaction, that sealed our marriage’s fate.

    When I was a child, my parents divorced. I’ve talked about this subject a bit in previous rants. To be blunt, it tore our family apart. It’s been years since my siblings and I have been in the same room. In the years that followed their divorce, my father would remarry several women. With each new family I was forced to integrate with, I couldn’t help feeling a bit neglected. I spent every other weekend at my father’s house, and it seemed that he’d rather spend that time either working, sleeping, or with his new family. Now, let me say that I don’t resent my father or have any ill feelings towards him. I have always loved my father and will always love him. I was a teenager back then and I didn’t know anything about how the world works.

    Fast forward a few years to 2009. I was adamant that I would never get divorced. I never wanted to put my children and other loved ones through what my siblings and I suffered. I didn’t want my children to feel neglected when I remarried. I didn’t want my kids to have to choose between their mother and father. Strictly speaking, I didn’t want to become my father.

    The point in all of this is that when my wife left me, my worst fear had come true. I knew my wife would never come back. She was, and probably still is, someone who follows through with what she plans to do. No one can deter her for long.

    I fell hard. I didn’t really care about anything other than keeping up the appearance that I was fine. I went to work, paying the essential bills, wrote at home, fed the cat, showered, hung out with friends and family, and drank coffee. I became heavily addicted to video games. As soon as I got home after work, I’d hop onto the PS4 and play Smite (it’s this third person League of Legends) until it was time for bed (typically 1 or 2 a.m.). Rinse and repeat.

    When I did go to church, friends would ask me how I was doing to which I’d say “Oh, I’m fine.” I’d sit in my usual seat (fourth row from the back, second seat to the left end). I don’t know if it was habit or the hope that my wife would come back, but I’d leave her seat vacant.

    I hit rock bottom. Hard. Like I said earlier. I was in a fog of depression and guilt.

  • My dear readers: There are many other failures I’ve dealt with this year. None of them compare to the one I just wrote about. Maybe next year.

This was just a snapshot of my year. There were other events that were accomplishments and failures, but I didn’t touch on them because I felt the ones listed were enough. Please understand that none of these things were easy for me to write about, especially the divorce. If you know me then you know I’m not much of an extrovert so when (“if” is probably the more accurate term) I post this, please know that I’m uncomfortable putting it out there.

Thank you all for your support during the year. It could have been buying one of my books, a kind comment, a visit to my website, a Twitter follow, or maybe you saw me at church/work/somewhere else and asked how I was doing.

By the way, if you were to ask me today how I am doing I would reply: “I’m fine, but I’m getting better every day.”

What Does Christmas Mean to Me?

As an editor for a weekly county newspaper, I was tasked with collecting essays for one of the city’s contest. The contest challenged children to write an essay. The winner won the right to turn on the city’s Christmas tree lights during their annual celebration. The theme was: What does Christmas mean to me? 

The answers were very heart-felt and had a common theme. Family, friends, gift-giving, and the birth of Christ were the most common examples of the types of essays submitted. That got me thinking about it too. What does Christmas mean to me?

When I was a child, Christmas meant two things: food and presents. We always had this tradition that we would have Christmas Eve dinner. My Grandfather would buy these sausage links that were just delicious and we’d have ham to go along with it. Afterwards,  we’d open up presents that were from the uncles, aunts, and grandparents from my mother’s side of the family. Then the kids would go to sleep and the parents would spend the next few hours finishing their gift preparation.

On Christmas day, my sisters and I would wait on the upstairs landing patiently until my parents would call us down to open presents. After that, we all piled into the car and drove down to Grandma and Grandpa’s on my father’s side of the family for a huge party of gift giving and food. 

As I grew up, the amount of gifts I received decreased, but the amounts of gifts I gave increased. As my sisters married and they had children of their own I started to relive my love for toys. I also discovered that giving gifts is typically a better feeling than getting them. Let me tell you, being an uncle is fantastic because you can buy the most annoying and loudest gifts for the kiddos and you can just saunter off at the end of the night. 

Things changed when I married my wife. She was nuts about Christmas. So much so that she themed the marriage ceremony around it. Christmas in July. We were married in front of a Christmas tree and everything. For seven wonderful years, my wife and I spent each year celebrating with family and friends. 

Two years ago, my wife left me. To make a long story short, it was all my fault. That was the first Christmas that I wasn’t filled with Christmas cheer. The last thing I wanted to do was sing carols, drink eggnog, and open presents. I still did it though. I went through the motions and put on a brave face, but it felt like I was dying a little on the inside. A great big chunk of my soul had been ripped out. Or at least that’s what it felt like. I’m not sure if anyone around me knew I felt like that. I suppose if they read this then they’ll know. 

The old, cliched line says that time heals all wounds. Some wounds don’t always heal properly and they leave scars. One of the reasons why I took my seperation so hard was that I swore I’d never go down that road. When my parents divorced I was in elementary school. To say that it crippled my family is an understatement. I had made a promise to myself that once I was married, I’d do whatever it took to stay married. Have you ever read Oedipus Rex? It’s about a king and a queen that have a kid. The kid is prophesied to kill the king and marry the queen. So do you know what the parents do? They try to kill the kid, except that didn’t work and the kid grows up to do exactly what he was prophesied to do. 

Ironically, sometimes the steps you take to prevent certain things from happening actually causes them to occur. 

The year after my wife had left, the second Christmas without her, things were bad but they weren’t like that first year. I still didn’t feel like my Holly Jolly Old Self. That was in 2017.

In 2018 I lost about 100 pounds. I decided in late 2017 that I would improve my physical health. My wife and I divorced. It’s been a challenging year.

My brother-in-law and I were driving to my mom and aunt’s house the other day to celebrate Christmas with them. He remarked that I’d been showing up at church pretty regularly. I told him about my commitment to improving my physical health, but then I told him about my commitment to improving my spiritual health.

When my wife left I’d just about given up on life. It was, and most likely will remain the darkest period of my life. I’m not just being dramatic either. 

At that time, I didn’t want to attend church anymore. For a variety of reasons. Mainly, I thought that people there would look at me differently or whisper behind my back. My wife was more social and active in the church than I was so I believed that while she’d be missed, I wouldn’t be. 

I know that she was and is still missed, but I was absolutely wrong when I thought no one would miss me.

There were so many church members that reached out to me. I formed new friendships and strengthened ones I already had within the church. I became involved in some of the church programs. It was like I was given a second chance. 

God is always handing out second chances. And third chances, and fourth chances, and even fifth chances. 

Just take a look at the human race. We got ourselves kicked out of the Garden of Eden for disobeying God and he gave us another chance. We nearly all died in the Flood because of all the corruption and violence we caused, but God saved Noah and his family. 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” – John 3:16-17. 

About 90 percent of us know the story from various Christmas songs and Hallmark movies. Jesus was born from the Virgin Mary and died for our sins upon the cross. He didn’t come into the world to condemn, but to save. To offer yet another chance at salvation.

I am thirty-three years old. When I think about Christmas, my mind doesn’t wonder about what gifts I’m getting, what my party plans are, or whether or not Die Hard (1988) is an actual Christmas movie. It’s not by the way. 

When I think about Christmas, I think about second chances and how grateful to have been given one. That’s what Christmas means to me.

Merry Christmas and God bless!

Jim’s Origin Story

A natural born reader, James tackled the works of Stephen King and Michael Crichton when he was in the sixth grade. His influential young mind now twisted by the science fiction and horror genre, James did what any respectable young man would. He began to write.

He hasn’t stopped writing or reading which is where his path crossed the path of Burning Willow Press, LLC. Ironically enough, you can find James’s first published work, “The Dark Forest,” in the anthology “Crossroads in the Dark II: Urban Legends” published by Burning Willow Press. His first book in the Soul Eater Chronicles, “The Book of Roland,” was published on February 25, 2017. Be on the lookout for second book, “The Book of Mark,” to hit bookshelves early 2018.

He graduated from Indiana University South Bend with a Bachelor’s degree in English in 2015. By day, James works as a mild-mannered reporter for The Pilot News as well as an editor for the weekly paper The News-Mirror. By night, he works for BWP reading submissions or writing his own works.

You can follow, subscribe, and follow James with the following links: