ihop(e) 247

five days ago sunday, i woke up at 7:30 a.m., washed up, got ready by 8 something, stopped by the sunoco, purchased breath mints, gum, and a red bull, chugged it down in the car, and checked in to church just in time for pre-service prayer.

after service, we went to danji to dine with a couple of newcomers. interesting. we had to get back to church by 2 for our monthly staff meeting, which ended at 3:45, and time flapped by, because it was 4:45 and i was ordering off taco bell’s dollar menu. it was on the way to pastor daniel’s house, for our 5:00 pm cg leaders’ meeting.

with dinner, the night ended at 10. instead of going home i drove to centreville ihop, to finish up two papers. sense of urgency was at an all-time high, since the nearly-finished one was due on monday and the not-evens-started paper was due monday evening.

paper 1: done by a little after one. paper 2, i died. i ordered a chicken sandwich and five pitchers of coffee (it’s bottomless, chill).

i left for early morning service (5:30 AM). i got to the sanctuary, took my contacts off, closed my eyes, and listened.. to the korean that i barely understood. but the pastor preaching was crying.

he had announced the death of our emeritus pastor, reverend won sang lee, at 5:27 a.m., officially. i couldn’t believe it. i didn’t believe it.

i was mentally drained.

after service i laid on a couch for 30 minutes. i was assigned to bring the table from the well to centreville library by 7:00 a.m., for centreville morning outreach.

24 hours had passed. i then left back for church to finish paper #2. i did. it took too long. i couldn’t focus. it was a monday. i finished the paper yeah, met up paul for dinner at vit goel. we talked until i had to leave for class. i was so mentally drained that i missed two exits off 495. i had coffee, too.

i get to class 10 minutes late; during the first break i walked up to turn in my paper. everyone’s wondering why, because it’s due next week. sweet. turn the cheek of my humiliation. no worries. i turn it in anyway and ask him if he can revise it. he says sure, come any time you can.

i’m in bed by 10:30 p.m., on a monday.

fast forward, today’s friday, 1:40 a.m., and i’m at ihop again. tomorrow’s going to be a lonnnng day. look on the bright side.

It gets better?

When I was in middle school, the high schoolers stressed over college applications.

When I made it to high school, the older ones trembled out of exhilaration with concerns about the real world.

When I enrolled at VCU, the young professionals lamented over bills and made questionable purchases.

And now that I am 27, in the big leagues, in bed on a Sunday evening, I’m perplexed by it all. I’m trying to figure out if I mistakenly took their word for it.

If I could go back to 2000, I would ask Jordan on a date (and get rejected). I regret chickening out.

Hey, do you believe that a single flap of a butterfly’s wings could change the ocean’s current? It both frightens and inspires me to know that a moment in history – a spoken word or action taken – could change the course of another individual’s life.

Be careful of what you tell someone.

Make sure you think before you speak.

… that leads me to think that everything I’ve gone through, what I’m undergoing now, may have been the result of the nuanced, delicate flaps of people’s tongues and gestures.

I know that won’t make sense to others; too many men and women have advised me over the years. Who I am now is obviously a culmination of encouragement, discouragement, and narratives. Pair those with my personal experiences.

Well, the point is this: to try and not make sense of it. My future stays constantly uncertain. I get it. My destination is a censored bleep on a show more unpredictable than Jerry Springer. Roger that. Why bother to guess what happens next?

Regardless if it gets better or not — honestly — I don’t care. If that’s what I’m working hard for, fine, so be it.

I’m praying He sends me someone who truly understands this principle, one who loves and accepts me for me, has confidence in my insufficiencies, and believes truly that God is the end-all, be-all, in the long haul.  this, my friends, is what’s been on my heart as of late.

Proposing to someone with motives to benefit yourself is not only ill-advised, but detrimental to your spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical condition.

Especially if that person says, “Yes,” off impulse.

#REDSKINSTRAININGCAMP

The Washington Redskins gathered for the second time on Sunday for their 4 o’clock walkthroughs. Spectators oh’ed and ah’ed with each snagged, and dropped, pass.

The Redskins are getting better by the day! How they’ll fare this season is completely up to them.

Here are some pictures I took for Redskins fans, enjoy!

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Catch Anthony Ragos on the Tiffin Saints

The man I once watched destroy rainbow rolls will now be smashing home runs for the Tiffin Saints.

Anthony Ragos is in Ohio living the dream, a dream that he’s chased even before I interviewed him in February. Call it relentless pursuit. Call it divine appointment. Ragos set this goal–to make an Independent Baseball League club team–and achieved. With the odds stacked up high against him, Ragos thanks God for His help.

What I respect about the Dumfries native is that he promised to accomplish a feat three months ago and delivered .

“Ball out.”

He tackled the challenge within a year span.

“Make an IBL roster.”

He silenced the naysayers–pools of them–with his loud work ethic, and cut out the distractions with his razor-blade focus. I recall what he said a week before the Super Bowl, “I respect that the doubters don’t know yet.”

Recently, he updated me with news that he’s the second fastest player on the team. I knew what he was insinuating. Guess who holds the school record for stealing bases at Chesapeake Junior College? This guy.

Inspiration is effortless, people. We are not supposed to press somebody or beg them to change. Our actions should relay the message because when hearts are ready, they will naturally follow suit.

Ragos’ success has once again refined my focus, boosted my esteem levels again to pursue what I love doing the most. It’s not about being grateful about what we have and coveting things that we don’t–all in all, we must make the most of what we’ve got.

Time flies, why not hit a home run?

Red Wine and Football: Problems with the NFL’s Image

The NFL needs auditing. Not the financial kind, but a careful check or review of their moral code, their so-called shield of integrity. A reality check.

Bud Light, the official beer of the NFL. “Cold Hard Facts”, brought to you by Coors Light brew. The League has championed the commercialization of alcoholic beverages, loosely supporting their fans to drink every Thursday evening, all day Sunday, and Monday nights. (And sadly, there have been conversations fluttering around about how Commissioner Roger Goodell may add more days to the NFL calendar.)

As if three days isn’t enough. As if our football-fiending fans don’t subconsciously think about purchasing a 24-case of Pabst Blue Ribbon at the grocery store when they originally came for nachos, dip and sodas.

Red wine is to steak, as football is (becoming) to alcohol. Passion and adrenaline for the game falsely intensifies with the Jameson fans chug after every completion.

Former NFL wide receiver Donte Stallworth drives drunk and on the way home, kills a 58-year-old construction worker. Facing 15 years in jail, if convicted, the then-Browns’ wideout posts $200,000 bail, admits fault, appears sorrowful, apologizes, and is sentenced to a laughable 30 days in jail and a one-year suspension from our wonderful League.

Of course, to us regular humans, that sort of miracle is winning the Super Bowl … of Life. Imagine the bitterness that ensued. Mario Reyes’ family must despise America’s favorite sport; to them, Goodell is Badell.

Blowing a .126 is not a joke, not even on April Fool’s Day. But that’s what Stallworth did, blowing the money ($35 mil/7 years) he made. …sitting on the bench with an injury in 2008.

Cue in Michael Vick’s case. His name blows more windchimes in the NFL community; after all, Vick did grace the Madden cover not once, but twice in his lifetime. He was charged for dogfighting, animal abuse, unlawful gambling and drugs, and served 23 months in jail, followed by three more years of probation. Dogfighting-boys and girls-don’t get caught up. Consuming yummy mixed drinks (Redbull, lime and Grey Goose), on the contrary is okay, kids.

Wait, who’s coming with me to the next Kenny Chesney concert? Well, we should all try to go back stage and yell derogatory, racist remarks at the bouncer. Trust me, we’re in ‘Good’s’ hands. We are white, so is he. Actually, let’s write our drafts right now before we head out. Twitter, the best outlet to release our remorseful statements. Don’t worry, I’ll attend a few counseling sessions, pay a fine, get in a fight with Cary Williams. The NFL will ban the “N” word, and then I, Riley Cooper, will sign a $25 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. An untamed tongue is better than inebriating myself and running someone over trying to catch the bus.

Or killing a teammate.

Former Dallas Cowboys Josh Brent’s blood alcohol content was registered at .18, (.044 greater than Stallworth’s), when he killed his close friend and teammate Jerry Brown. Convicted of intoxication manslaughter, Brent was fined a babyish sum of $10,000, served 180 days in jail and 10 years of probation–meaning he has to pass all of his urine tests and keep a spotless recored until he turns 35.

The Browns’ household must despise the “F” word. (Footbal.)

Now cue in DeSean Jackson, the City of Brotherly Love’s ‘gangster’. Media has a strategic way of ruining reputations. Did you know? DJax’s organization, the DeSean Jackson Foundation, was founded to raise awareness on Pancreatic Cancer. The foundation provides healthcare screening to undeserved populations in the community. But the football player was released by the Eagles, who were said to have been fearful of his ties with gangs in the past.

Right….Former Eagles head coach Andy Reid brought in Vick to bolster an offense that sputtered behind Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb.

Second-year head coach Chip Kelly slices his deepest threat, Jackson, off the roster after re-signing Jeremy Maclin and Cooper. Cat got your tongue is more like an eagle’s talon ripped mine.

The wise say it’s best to think before you speak. I’m speechless. The NFL seriously needs to reevaluate their actions and think about the lives that their actions are affecting, especially how they’re allowing the next generation of fans to believe that it’s better to get away with a DUI and murder than organizing rings to watch pit bulls kill each other, use racist remarks and befriending the “wrong crowd.”

If goalpost-dunking is wrong, so is getting hammered on Sundays. Food for thought: If a black football player verbally shredded a white citizen, the world would squeal.

What, or who, is the NFL shield truly protecting?

Feel free to comment.

NFL, check yourselves before you wreck yourselves,

Love,
Daniel

@imdperent
@nflprayers

Chai 2.

I arrive at the Kona International Airport. Jason Smedley is waiting in his van for me and two beautiful Norwegian sisters, Camila and Michaela. Smedley chauffeurs us to the campus.

My roommates are from Texas, New Zealand, Switzerland and Canada. Great group of guys.

After two weeks of classes, a few of my classmates plan a trip to explore downtown Kona on Saturday night. There is a shaved ice cream parlor that everyone should try once and a sandy spot by a hill to get some volleyball games in. We play a few matches against each other before walking to the nearby convenience store for some drinks.

My indecisiveness makes me the last to purchase, a Coke. When I walk out, that’s when she is standing there. A woman, in a grey tank top, hooded sweater tied around her waist right above her khaki shorts. I begin to walk down the steps but heel after noticing that this stranger is glaring at me. My wimpish tolerance for awkward moments forces me to turn around and head back inside the store.

Immediately I hide, duck between the Ramen and candy aisle. She spots me. I say hello.

“Hi,” she breathes.
“May I help you?” I ask calmly, smiling.
“I want food,” she orders.
“I am on a strict budget,” I say truthfully, “you may have this drink.”

I hand her the Coke, she takes a sip, gives it back and I drink out of the same straw with no hesitation. (Clearly I am not a germaphobe) and this shows her that I am the last person on Earth to judge her.

“Alright well take care,” I whisper, and make a beeline for the door. She sticks like a shadow and follows me out like a trail of M&Ms falling out of my busted Chuck Taylors.

“Who’s that? What happened?” my curious classmates ask.
“I don’t know, I gave her some of my Coke though,” I say with a nervous chuckle.
“She’s still there, man.”

I’ll take care of this. “Never leave beef unsettled” was my M.O.

“Can you give me a ride?” she utters quietly.
“I flew from Virginia, sorry I’m just a student here.” I keep myself honest.
“I need you right now,” the stranger threatens.

OK before I go on, I am a stickler for suspense. I considered myself the male version of Sarah Michelle Gellar in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

“Wait a second, I’ll be right back,” I tell her. My classmates are wondering what is going on, why I even bother to loiter around.
“Guys I’ll talk to her for a few minutes, could you accompany me and pray for our conversation?”
“Sure, we’ll have an eye out and keep our distance,” they go.

I approach her again this time and say, “Let’s take a walk, I love walks.”

I do love walks.

To be continued…

Chai.

I stay up and wonder how she is doing, if she’s alright. No, I do not practice this often but when I do, I try to recount the events that occurred and analyse them. Until I shudder. That is when God tells me to go to sleep, to give my wonderment a rest.

God works in powerful and mysterious ways. In 2006, during my fall semester, my mother revealed to me an opportunity to go and study abroad in Kona, Hawaii. Every season, The University of the Nations located on the Big Island, holds classes for students from various parts of the world. She suggests that I apply.

An eighteen-year-old with a lot of time on his hands I thought, why not? What’s the worst that could happen? Come to think, I wasn’t happy with my life. That’s a story for another day. Soon enough, by His grace, I was accepted. The Classic Discipleship Training School, from January to the first week of June.

I was–didn’t know this word until after my DTS experience–stoked.

A handful of my close friends dropped me off at the airport and we exchanged our see-y’all-laters.

To be continued…

Anthony Ragos: Playing for the love of the game

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Ragos hopes to hit the ultimate home run and score a deal with an independent team soon.

Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl. Yawn.

FOR DUMFRIES NATIVE Anthony Ragos, whichever team wins the upcoming, frigid contest in New York is the last thing on his mind.

Ceaseless updates, too many to count, and compelling features sizing up the Big Game are powerless in their attempts to capture the unapologetic interest of this young man. Whether he’s munching on sushi rolls by himself at the Japanese restaurant I serve at or being inspired by Roberto Clemente’s biography, the recent Davis and Elkins College graduate is following a stricter-than-usual, six-second distance rule from the distractions that could veer his chances from reaching the ultimate destination.

Ragos’ dream, as astronomical as the vision sounds for some, is to sign a deal with an independent minor league baseball squad by the conclusion of the Florida Minor League Training Camp being held from February 1-13 down in St. Petersburg.

“I’m excited for this opportunity,” he smiled, admitting, “Everything I do is geared towards baseball … from eating, lifting, reading. I never had a Plan B.”

Undaunted by the idea of failure, Ragos believes this is the year he’ll sign the dotted line after a series of rejections. It took a while to control his emotions but he now extinguishes the fire-packed questions concerning the disadvantages that come packaged with his 5-foot-6 frame. Doubters kindle his drive. Nothing stirs up his fury more than the demeaning words, “you’re not tall enough.”

So Ragos decided that he’ll shut the world out, and do what he does best. Ball out. He possesses a medley of intangibles no man-made monitoring equipment can detect. Ragos’ competitive nature and undervalued athleticism is something scouts miscalculated for years. His niche — stealing bases — has been lost on potential buyers. Who doesn’t want a player with an impressive, blazing 6.6 second 60-yard dash sprint? That speed put him on the map, ranking 8th in the nation in 2010 with 40 stolen bases. The jets on Ragos’ cleats broke Chesapeake Junior College’s record of 38, registered by Brad Brainer during the 2007 spring season.

“Height shouldn’t be a factor when a player is putting up the numbers that they’re [scouts] looking for,” Ragos told me. “I’m producing, and I want them to notice my work ethic.”

More times than not, work ethic will cover the spread. Desirable traits – willingness to learn, determination to get better, humility – trump statistics. Numbers don’t lie, so after graduating from Davis and Elkins in West Virginia, Ragos beefed up, gaining 15 pounds of pure muscle to get the managers to take notice.

His message is simple, “I respect that the doubters don’t know yet.”

Ragos is grateful after realizing that all his flaws of the past served as stepping stones for his journey. Throughout the adversities, he never lost hope, which is a challenge in itself. He recalls being depressed for a while, after suffering a vicious thumb injury and a herniated disc. He contemplated the decision to enlist into the army, and is glad that he talked himself out of quitting baseball. Ragos has no intentions of throwing in the towel. After failed tryouts with the Royals and the Braves, he’s gained much more confidence from those experiences – invaluable self-assurance that will give him the upper-hand in St. Petersburg.

Ragos also spent some time reconstructing himself off the field as he has in a uniform. He and his friend John Commins started the Hits for Hunger fund raiser at Elkins after being moved by the poignant narrative of Roberto Clemente, a Hall of Fame baseball player who volunteered his love and efforts towards charitable causes in Puerto Rico. Ragos someday hopes to hoist the Roberto Clemente award, given to an MLB player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”

That would be something else for Ragos, whose love for the game goes so far back he can’t recall their first meeting.

“I can still remember it, I don’t know how old I was, I just remember watching a game on TV and telling my parents I want to do that.”

Their response drives him to his day. His mother told him to work hard at it.

With tremendous support from his parents and both his older sisters, Anthony Ragos hopes all his hard work will result in him taking his final swings … as a free agent.