You May Not Be Meant to Be Great

Americans like to champion the “American Dream”, which, I would say, is being able to be whoever you want. For most people, being whoever you want means being great; being famous; being rich and well-known. But as I carry on through life and study more of the Bible, I’m slowly realizing that “greatness” may not be for everyone.

When I was in high school I felt a very distinct call to be a musician/songwriter who used music as a medium to share the gospel. In my naive young mind I perceived this as coming to fruition in being famous and part of a popular rock band. I hit college and beyond, began to realize it wouldn’t be that easy, and suddenly found myself re-evaluating my heart motives. Had I become too “Hollywood” in my approach to God’s call on my life? What if sharing the gospel through music meant I never went beyond the city I was living in?

Since then I’ve been wrestling with this idea that I may never achieve “greatness” as I had fondly dreamed of it. I found my wife in the same boat. She had gone through ministry training passionate and ready to change the world. Then, after graduating, it became apparent that no change would be a simple change.

I don’t know, maybe most of us aren’t meant to be great.

In the Bible you see all these famous heroes of faith: Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, the apostles, Paul…and, understandably, we want to emulate them. Nothing wrong with that. But do you ever notice the people around them? Most likely not. Did you know Jacob and Esau probably had other brothers? Do we ever hear of any of them specifically? Erm…not really. Did you know there were probably more than 12 disciples hanging around Jesus? There are at least 70-72 at one point. Do we get to know these people? By and large, no. Are they less important? Well, no, they existed for a reason, but do we know their names and associate them with great acts of faith? Ah hmm….

Maybe most of us are meant to live modest lives–unsung and unknown by the generations after us. Maybe “greatness” for most of us isn’t being famous, but simply living well. Maybe most Christians are better off not dreaming about being the next Billy Graham and instead loving their neighbor like they love themselves. Maybe the Church should focus on raising Christians who live quietly in their communities, making a small impact where they’re at, instead of charging everyone to go out and conquer the world for Jesus.

Maybe there’s less “glory” in that. Maybe it seems messier and harder. But I think such a route is worthwhile. I think if more Christians simply made themselves to be available where they’re at, their impact would be much more far-reaching and “greater” than if they had tried to be someone famous. There’s something to say for the “little” people, those inconspicuous beings simply living life the way God intended them to do in Christ. I think in heaven those will be some of the “greatest” stories we’ll share.

Autumnal Mirth

The fall season is undoubtedly my favorite. The air starts to get cooler without being too cold, it’s rainy and cloudy most of the time, the days are shorter…all this makes for great writing weather. But not everyone is a writer and perhaps some people don’t know how to get into the proper seasonal mood. Well I’m going to take a break from telling you about Plethora (which you can buy here), and give you some ways to get into the autumnal spirit!

Movies-
Ghost stories are typically the best for October. I’m not a huge horror fan, but I like the older noir films from the 40’s and 50’s. Here are some films I think you should check out:
1. Dark and Stormy Night- This in-house murder mystery spoof is a hilarious venture.
2. House on Haunted Hill- This old horror classic is clunky, weird, and, in the end, very dumb. Which makes it such a classic. You’ll spend more time laughing at this film than cowering in fear.
3. Arsenic and Old Lace- Here’s another classic that’s more along the humor lines.
4. The Ghost and Mr. Chicken- This Don Knotts led flick is pretty funny with a nice twist at the end.

Music-
Sometimes music can get you into the mood better than a movie. So here are my autumn picks:
1. Autumn by George Winston- I discovered this solo piano album in college and I’ve loved it ever since. Nice and soothing, it harps on the more peaceful aspects of fall.
2. Lovesick Zombie by House of Heroes- This single humorously compares a failed relationship to dealing with a zombie. It’s sweet in the end and worth the listen.
3. “Jekyll & Hyde” and “Witch Hunt” by Petra- Had to fit Petra on here somewhere. These two songs (on different albums) give a spiritual swing to the Halloween mythos. From wrestling with sin to “burning” fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, these tunes can give a creative way of handling the spooky aspects of fall.
4. Fall EP by Jon Foreman- This beautiful and well-crafted 6 song EP will get you into the melancholic fall mood if nothing else will.

Books-
If you have time, there are some classics that will can add to your enjoyment of autumn:
1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley-I remember reading this classic during a fall semester in college and it helped add to the atmosphere of the book by reading it then.
2. Dracula by Bram Stoker- Yes, it’s kind of a creepy and scary classic, but it’s a good autumn read.
3. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson- This short novella is easy to read and is much better if you know absolutely nothing about Jekyll and Hyde.

So those are some of my recommendations. Anybody have any other suggestions?

Re-Post: America is a Factory

This may sound vain, but every now and then, when I have time and when I think about it, I like to go through the archives on my blog and see what I wrote 2 or so years ago. I randomly chose November 2011 as a starting spot and came across a post that I find appropriate even for today. So join me in a trip down memory lane to revisit this old post and be sure to tell me what you think!

http://jrunderdown.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/america-is-a-factory/

The Mystery of the Bloody Bones

Fall is in the air here in KC! And fall weather makes for great writing weather…especially of the mystery genre. So enjoy this new College-Time Mystery–“The Mystery of the Bloody Bones”!

The Mystery of the Bloody Bones
By J.R. Underdown

It was a bright March morning when John arose to do something unusual: go to breakfast. The cafeteria typically closed at the time John typically got up, which made breakfasting rather hard. But on that particular morning, John awoke with an unfounded determination. This determination allowed him into the experience of a baffling mystery.

He emerged from a side door of Carver and his eyes were drawn to a medium-sized cardboard box on the ground. What drew his eyes to this was that the inside was spattered with dried blood! But the box was empty, save for some half-filled BBQ packets. John paused for a moment to stare, shrugged his shoulders, and went on. At the bottom of the hill, Bryan sat at a picnic table off to the side.

“Hey Bryan, what are you up to?” John asked.

“I’m studying how Greek syntax relates to the synthesis of nature,” Bryan responded.

“Of course.”

“Hey, did you see those bloody bones sitting outside the door?”

“No, I saw a box that looked like it had something bloody in it at one time, but no bones.”

“That’s weird. When I came out this morning, that box was filled with several large bones. They weren’t human bones, though. Too big. I wonder what they’re from?”

“Yeah, I don’t know. Well, I need to hurry to breakfast.”

“You’re going to breakfast?”

John nodded.

“Woooooow.”

John left Bryan and hurried to the cafeteria. As he ate, he pondered what Bryan had told him and wondered how much of it was true. Walking back, he found Bryan had moved… and so had the box! But as he opened the door, he noticed the basement door off to the side standing ajar. He almost passed it by but curiosity got the better of him. He glanced around to make sure no one official was near, stepped closer to the door, and opened it just enough to poke his head in. Down a flight of wooden steps and strewn on a small landing were….several bottles of Ol’ Janx Spirit. Just kidding. There were bloody bones! But not ordinary bones, these were as large as John’s arm! Frightened, John darted away and ran up the several flights of stairs to reach his hall. He rushed to Bryan’s room and found him there.

Bursting in, he shouted, “Bryan, the bones! I saw the bones!”

Later, at supper, John and Bryan recounted their morning tale to the girls.

“Giant bloody bones?” Laura scoffed.

“Sounds interesting enough,” Jess remarked.

“Why don’t you girls believe us?!” said John. “This could be the mystery of the century!”

“I don’t know if I’d go that far,” Bryan corrected, “but it would be an interested little problem to look into.”

“But Bryan,” Laura cut in, “we have a theology paper to finish! Now’s not the time to take a new case.”

“I know, but I could use a break, for one.”

“And I could always use a break,” John added.

“Besides,” Bryan continued, “this should be simple enough to solve. Why, we could spin theories right here. I’ll start. Remember when we first came, on orientation weekend? They gave us a tour, and on that tour, they mentioned that there use to be a small museum upstairs on the ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­south side of Honeycutt. If I remember correctly, they said they had a genuine mummy on display.”

“But Bryan,” said Laura, “if these bones are as big as you say, they couldn’t have been human, so that rules out a mummy.”

“Ah, but I didn’t finish. We don’t know what else was in the exhibit since it was closed for construction. Maybe there were animal bones, like a camel’s, on display. Well, where are they going to keep such things until a new space is ready? The Carver basement seems likely enough.”

“Okay, but why would they leave the bones out in the open in a cardboard box?” Laura questioned. “And, why carelessly toss them down the steps?”

Bryan cocked his head. “Well, perhaps they were rearranging or cleaning out the basement. They probably didn’t think anyone would notice, thus they were cavalier in their treatment.”

“I don’t know,” Laura sighed, “that doesn’t satisfy me.”

“Well then, what’s your theory?” Bryan asked.

Laura shifted in her seat. “Well, they sound like animal bones, large ones, but I don’t think they’re from the exhibit. Maybe one of the grounds crew is a hunter and brought in some meat for his co-workers. They finished it all off and threw the bones in a box. That would explain the empty BBQ packets John saw.”

“What are they hunting? A bear?” Jess posed.

“Well…I don’t know! But it’s definitely an animal of some sort. Just not from the exhibit.”

“Okay, fair enough,” said Bryan. “Jess, you have anything?”

“Umm, let John go first.”

They all looked at John, who was picking something out of his teeth.

“Hm? What? Oh, my theory!” He leaned in closer and the others did the same. “I think…aliens are involved somehow!”

“Aliens?” Laura repeated.

“Yes. It’s either aliens…or some mythical creature of some sort. Like the sasquatch, or la chupacabra, or the Loch Ness monster.”

“La chupa-what?” went Bryan with a laugh.

“Wait, the Loch Ness monster?” Laura pressed. “How did they get it over here?”

“They poached it,” John answered.

There was a moment of silence as Bryan nodded his head. He then looked up at Jess. “Well, Jess, you can’t go wrong after that.”

Jess raised her eyebrows and nodded in assent. “Yep, well, I think you all have good theories, but, personally, I think it’s just a prank. Some students probably arranged it. Covers most of the facts, I think.”

“Wait,” Laura cut in, “when you say you think we all have good theories, did you mean John’s as well?”

“You know,” said Bryan, “it’s an interesting theory, but why do the prank in the morning? The afternoon would be better fodder with lots of students walking around.”

“Maybe they’re bad pranksters? I don’t know.”

Bryan nodded. “Well, three decently good theories and one far-fetched.”

“The far-fetched one is Laura’s, right?” John asked.

“Eh, not exactly. The point is, now we need to find out which theory, if any, is correct.”

“Good. Where do we begin?” said Laura.

“My dad knows the guy who’s curator at the museum,” Bryan answered. “Maybe I can use that connection to get an interview with him.”

“And what would we ask him?” Jess wondered.

“What were the contents of the exhibit and where are they being stored?”

The following afternoon, the Grungers were walking down a hall in Norton and stopped before the door of Dr. Wendell Wadsworth’s office. It was a tiny office and the walls to the right and left were hidden by tall bookshelves filled with all sorts of academic reading material. Half of the floor space was open, save for two chairs, and the other half was taken by Dr. Wadsworth’s large desk. The Doctor was something of a tiny man, but looked every part the intellectual. His round face was only disturbed by a pointed chin covered with a patch of white hair. His bald head glimmered from the light of the window behind him, and he sat and stared at the students with narrow scrutinizing eyes.

“You wanted to see me, Bryan?” he asked with a somewhat high voice, waving them to the chairs, which Laura and Jess took.

“Yes, I was glad you remembered me.”

Dr. Wadsworth nodded. “Was it necessary to being a cohort of friends?”

“Um, well, I guess not, but we’re all investigating a mystery of sorts.”

“Ah, you’re the students out there solving campus mysteries, eh?”

“That’s us,” said John, who was feeling rather awkward.

“And what sort of mystery would bring you to my tiny little office?”

“It is kinda tiny,” Jess noted.

Dr. Wadsworth shot her a keen look.

Bryan cleared his throat quickly. “Well, we found some large bloody bones outside Carver, Dr. Wadsworth, and also lying on the steps of the basement. So—“

“And what were you doing in the Carver basement?” the curator interrogated.

“We weren’t in the basement, sir, the door had been left open and John poked his head in.”

“Okay, and what does this have to do with me? Do you think I killed someone and had one of my hired goons try to haphazardly dispose of the body in the Carver basement?”

“That’s an interesting theory,” said Laura. “Bryan, how come we didn’t think of that?”

“Because the bones aren’t human,” answered Bryan quickly to avoid upsetting Dr. Wadsworth.

“Technically, no bone is human, Bryan,” John countered. “But, I wonder what makes a human… human?”

“Besides the point right now,” Bryan replied hastily. “Dr. Wadsworth, we’re not implicating you in anything, we just have a theory –”

You have a theory,” John clarified.

“Yes, I have a theory that these bones are in some way connected to the mini-museum. Thus, my question is: were there bones of any large animals as a part of that exhibit?”

Dr. Wadsworth sat for some time staring at them with his brows knitted together, which was his expression of being dumb-founded. He couldn’t tell if these kids were serious enough. Finally, he decided to take the plunge and answer the silly question.

“No! The only bones from the exhibit were the mummy’s and I can assure you we would not be storing them in the Carver basement! That area is for the grounds crew, not antique and highly-expensive mummies from ancient Egypt! Besides that piece of common sense, you detectives could’ve perhaps done a little research and found that our mummy is currently on display at the University of Louisville until a new space is ready! Now, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to find the solution to your bloody bones elsewhere!”

“That was a successfully awkward interview,” John noted as they walked away from the office of Dr. Wadsworth.

“Yes…” Bryan agreed. “I probably should have mentioned beforehand that he’s a somewhat short-tempered fellow.”

“Yeah, that would’ve been good,” Jess agreed.

“And probably more so now,” Bryan continued, “since there’s credible rumor that the museum will be moved to the library and his office will no longer be needed.”

“That’s interesting,” Laura remarked. “But Bryan, what does it mean to be human?”

“Oh no, here they go,” Jess muttered, eyeing John.

“What?” went the other.

“You started this!”

Meanwhile, Bryan cocked his head and thought. Finally, he answered, “I think we should consider what the etymology of the word ‘human’ is.”

“Why would that matter?” Laura countered. “We should probably begin with the consistency and substance of man. For instance, some would argue that a soul makes a person human, but C.S. Lewis seems to think that animals have souls. So if animals have souls, then maybe that isn’t the human distinction.”

“Yes, unless you view humans as a higher type of animal.”

“Well, that doesn’t fit theologically.”

“Depends on your theology.”

“Okay then, biblically it seems that humans and animals are distinct.”

“Both are made from the dust of the earth.”

“But not Eve! She was made from Adam’s rib.”

“Ah, good point. So, we can probably say women aren’t animals.”

“Clearly! Unless you follow the reasoning that…”

And so the two scholars continued with Jess and John as a reluctant and lost audience. They walked through Norton to where it connected with Honeycutt and made their way to the mailboxes. During this time, Bryan and Laura decided that humans were distinct from animals based on further biblical evidence. John and Jess tried to play thumb war without holding hands, for if they did, people would think they were dating and quite possibly engaged.

Bryan led them to Founders, still talking with Laura, where they all picked up some drinks. From there they cut across the J-bowl to the library and stopped beside its large stone pillars. By now, Bryan and Laura were actually pondering what makes someone human and were considering possibilities from neuroscience. Eventually Laura paused, took in her surroundings for the first time, and looked at Bryan.

“Why are we here?” she wondered.

“My theory has been proven wrong,” Bryan explained. “We will now test your theory by researching large animals.”

“Wouldn’t a zoo be better for that?”

“Well, we’re going to take the cheaper route and use the internet.”

“But we could do that anywhere, why the library?”

“Because I find the library more conducive to research. Are you guys ready?”

Bryan looked to John and Jess, who had drawn hopscotch squares on the sidewalk with chalk and were now playing the game.

John stopped between hops and looked at them. “We were ready fifteen minutes ago.”

Jess punched him in the arm, throwing off his balance, and ran up the steps to join Bryan and Laura.

What followed was a long, arduous hour of research as Bryan, Laura, and Jess looked up the skeletal structure of hundreds of large animals and John took a nap. There were several near misses with bears and bulls, but nothing quite like what Bryan and John had seen. They left the library brain-sore (though John felt very refreshed) and trekked back across the J-bowl to the cafeteria for supper.

“Just think, we could have spent this last hour working on our theology paper!” Laura bemoaned as they sat at supper.

Bryan nodded. “That is true.”

“What’s worse,” Laura added, “is that we’ve gotten nowhere with these bloody bones!”

“That is not entirely true!” Bryan retorted. “We have rather successfully eliminated two theories. What remains is to test the other one.”

“And what do we do if that’s not it?”

“Then we simply come up with more theories and pursue them.” Laura gave Bryan a look, so he added, “But we may finish the theology paper first.”

“You know,” John entered, “I’ve noticed that you keep mentioning one other theory. Aren’t there two more?”

The others all squirmed in their seats and shot each other looks that said, “Should I tell him?” Finally, Bryan acted, clearing his throat.

“Well, John, your theory isn’t very probable.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s not realistic.”

“So?”

“If it’s not realistic, it’s not very probable,” Jess commented.

“But it is very realistic and probable!” John burst out. “Look, I’m writing a research paper on aliens for English class and you may find some of that information rather helpful. And as far as mythical creatures are concerned, why should they all be extinct?”

“And why should they be hiding in Louisville?” Laura posed.

“At any rate,” Jess interrupted, “how are we going to verify either of these theories?”

“Well, “Bryan replied, “we can most likely disprove John’s with science. Yours is a little trickier.”

The next minute found John roaring back into the conversation, claiming the validity of his position, while Jess and Laura tried to dissuade him from it. For his part, Bryan zoned out into deep thought. Something starkly obvious was staring him in the face, an easy solution to the little problem. It flickered in the shadows of his mind briefly until he flashed some light on it. The revelation brought a short “Ah” from his lips that halted the others mid-conversation.

“What is it, Bryan?” Laura wondered.

“You forgot to pay the cafeteria lady, didn’t you?” John ventured.

“I don’t know about that,” said Bryan, “but I do have an idea as to how we may solve the case.” The others leaned in close to listen. “We need to go down into the basement.”

A moment of silence as the shock hit them. Laura was the first to rebound. “But isn’t the door locked?”

“I guess we’ll find out. There are a couple of doors to the basement. We can try each one.”

“And if they’re all locked?”

“We keep trying them every night. One’s bound to be left unlocked accidently at some point.”

“I don’t know about this, Bryan….”

“I’ll say,” John joined. “Wouldn’t it be illegal to go down there?”

“I don’t know if it’s illegal,” Bryan responded. “At any rate, what would they do? Write us up?”

“Sounds like the likely course,” Jess affirmed.

“Hey,” Bryan reasoned, “remember what Dr. Wadsworth said? The Carver basement is for the grounds crew. All right, well the grounds crew goes home about this time, so there shouldn’t be anyone down there.”

“What about security?” Laura posed.

“Well, we obviously won’t go down in view of anyone and we can shut the door behind us. They would never guess anything amiss. Besides, if all goes well, we won’t be down there that long.”

Another moment of silence ensued, this time broken by Jess.

“It all sounds crazy and dangerous, but I’m game.”

In the end, John and Laura agreed upon Bryan’s shady course of action. They walked to Carver and the boys dropped their backpacks off at their rooms. They met by the doorway that John had peeked through to see the bloody bones the day before. With the others keeping watch, Bryan tried the doorknob… it was unlocked! He opened the door slowly and crept down, saw the coast was clear, and urged the others to follow. John and Laura went first with Jess close behind shutting the door.

The lights for the basement were still on, giving them a good view of what was stored down there. For the most part, boxes and crates were stacked against the walls and one lone aisle went down the length of the basement. Bryan took a magnifying glass he borrowed from John and examined the steps.

“I do see traces of blood on the steps,” he reported.

“What does that prove?” Jess wondered.

“That John did see bloody bones yesterday!”

“Thank you, Bryan,” went John.

Bryan kept snooping around. Not far from the steps was a small gap between two towers of boxes. Bryan’s magnified eye shot to this. Meanwhile, Laura wandered down farther and now turned back with a worried look on her face.

“Bryan, are you sure all the grounds crew left?” she wondered. “It seems awfully strange that they’d leave the lights on and the door unlocked. I doubt they’re that careless.”

“They may not find us down here soon,” Bryan replied curiously. The others gathered around. “Look! Some blood runs underneath the wall. This must lead to a secret passage.” Using the magnifying lens, Bryan studied the concrete wall and found a hollow that looked well used and worn. He pressed a finger into it and felt it go deeper into the hole. Something clicked and he pushed a section of the wall to the side.

“It is a secret passage!” Jess exclaimed. “I wonder where it leads?”

“Isn’t there supposed to be some secret tunnel system beneath the campus?” Laura commented.

“Supposedly,” Bryan replied. “But this leads down. Can you feel the cool subterranean air?”

Indeed, the air drawn through the portal felt cool, damp, and earthy. Using John’s cell phone as a dinky flashlight, they descended a small flight of steps and stopped at a breaker switch panel. Bryan examined it and flipped a switch. There was a sharp “click” followed by the droning hum of multiple high-powered lights that you often see at indoor soccer arenas and gyms. Light slowly illuminated the cave like the coming of the dawn. They gasped at the sight now revealed.

Directly before them was another flight of descending stairs, to the left were some bleachers, and to the right, a cavernous wall that ran high into the ceiling above. But taking up most of the floor space was a gigantic white-walled maze. As the light grew, they could see another set of stairs and a door on the opposite corner.

“Why on earth is there a giant maze in a cave beneath Carver?” Laura wondered.

“Maybe if we go in, we’ll find out,” said Bryan, and he began his descent.

Laura stopped him. “But Bryan, what if we get lost in there? How will we get out?”

“Simple. We’ll all study the maze as we see it. From this vantage point, we can do that. So everyone take a good mental picture.”

“I’d rather take a cell phone picture,” said John, holding up his phone and snapping a picture.

“Whatever floats your boat, John. Let’s go!”

They walked down the steps and began their approach to the maze entrance, which stood directly before them.

“I think we need a back-up plan,” Jess mentioned, “you know, just in case our mental and digital pictures fail.”

“I agree,” Laura agreed. “John, you usually have food on you! Do you have anything that we can leave a trail with? Like bread?”

“First of all,” John retorted, “is that a fat joke? Second of all, I’m a poor college student and wouldn’t waste food on a maze.”

Laura sighed, Bryan laughed, and Jess worried as they entered the maze. Immediately, a panel slid into the opening behind them. They were trapped! The girls screamed a little and John cast a worried look to Bryan. The latter was about to speak words of comfort when a low roar came from the other side of the cavern. Now John screamed a little.

“What was that?” Jess whispered.

“I don’t know,” Bryan answered. “But it looks like we have to cross through the maze now.” Silently and sullenly, they followed Bryan into the depths of that labyrinth.

It was easy-going at first, the path was pretty straightforward and what few forks they came to, Bryan seemed to lead them confidently and was right so far. But at last, near the heart of the maze, they came to a “T” that Bryan couldn’t figure out. John whipped out his phone to consult the picture he had taken…but it was too blurry to see the maze clearly. The girls groaned, Laura adding, “We should have used bread crumbs…” Bryan thought hard, looked around for inspiration, and grasped an idea.

“Okay guys, I have an idea. I’ll get on John’s shoulders and figure out in which direction the exit lies. I’ll try to figure out the path and we’ll get going. It’ll be easy!”

“But it’ll be easy to get turned around,” John noted.

“Yeah,” Laura joined, “how will we know north from south or east from west?”

“Well, we need a fixed point above us that will act as a marker.”

“Like the North Star?” Jess noted.

“That’s a good idea,” said John, “but there are no stars in a cave.”

“Sure there are!” Bryan replied. “We have plenty above us right now.”

“What did they teach you at home school?”

“We need only to find one that’s distinct from the others…like that one! It’s flickering a little. That should do to act as our reference point.”

And so, John knelt down by the wall and let Bryan stand on his back. The latter nimbly climbed atop the partition and surveyed the labyrinth around them. He found the exit door and pointed out its direction to the others. He then spent a couple minutes studying the layout of the rest of the maze. Suddenly his eye was caught on something moving through the lanes a little ways off. Were those…giant horns? His face turned white and quizzical.

“Bryan, what is it?” Laura asked from below. “You look pale!”

This snapped Bryan out of his thoughts and got his adrenaline pumping for action. He jumped down and rolled along the ground, hopping up facing his friends.

“We need to hurry,” was all he told them, and off he ran.

“What is it? What did you see?” Laura pressed as they caught up.

“I hope we don’t find out,” answered Bryan.

Soon they did.

They turned a corner and came to another “T.” They stopped in shock, for there before them was a real, live Minotaur. It looked like a mix between a man, a bear, and a bull. It was biped, nearly seven feet tall, covered in coarse black fur, and had two long whitish-tan horns on its bull-like head. It, too, had stopped when it saw them.

A moment of silence passed before John blurted out, “Ha! I was right! I was actually right! I said an ancient mythical creature, and a Minotaur would count as one!”

“But,” Jess countered, “this Minotaur is alive so I doubt its bones were the ones you saw.”

John frowned, the creature roared, and Bryan cried out, “We’ll figure it out later, let’s go!”

They cut down the aisle they were by and the beast gave chase.

“Bryan, what if the Minotaur had come the way to the exit?” Laura posed.

“I doubt it,” Bryan yelled back. “It must’ve been kept in a separate part and worked its way to that point. So I think we are on the right track!”

They raced through the maze, pausing momentarily for Bryan to rack his brain for the right way. They eventually passed a small alcove area to their left. John happened to glance into it and quickly veered off. The others ran on and the Minotaur eventually came to that place. It stopped and looked in to see John standing beside a small cannon. He yanked a string and the cannon roared. A twelve-pound ball hit the beast in the chest and knocked it against the opposite wall. With a resounding SNAP a portion of the partition fell, leaving the creature lying dazed on the floor. The falling wall had barely missed the other Grungers. They paused and turned to see a smiling John standing over the creature.

“John?!” Laura exclaimed.

“That totally could’ve crushed us,” Jess noted.

“But why is there a cannon in this maze?” Laura continued.

“Why not?” John replied. “There’s a Mino – whoop!”

The creature, slowing regaining its wits, began stirring. Bryan and the girls turned and ran and John followed, though as he leapt off the body one of the Minotaur’s arms smacked his legs, threw off his balance, and sent him tumbling to the floor. The beast quickly rose, the cannon ball crashing with a thud. It loomed over John menacingly. Suddenly, however, it reeled a little giving John time to get up and run. He pondered this as he regained the others, but couldn’t find a solution.

The chase continued. Bryan was sure they were nearing the end; he wasn’t sure, however, which way to go. He wanted to stop and re-survey their surroundings, but the raging man-bull behind them would not allow that. They came upon another fork and Bryan hastily chose a way. They followed it, turned a corner, and found themselves in a dead-end. They turned back, hoping they were far enough ahead of the beast, but alas, there the creature stood, heaving deeply and walking somewhat sluggishly. The Grungers pressed against the wall, the Minotaur stepped forward. It stepped again. It fell flat on its face. Covering its back were multiple tranquilizer darts.

“Well, that was an unexpected twist,” John commented.

They waited a few moments to be sure of the Minotaur’s unconsciousness and then cautiously approached it and crossed around.

“I am very confused right now,” Laura admitted as they continued.

“I’m sure we’ll find answers once we get to the end,” Bryan comforted.

“What makes you so sure?”

“I have a feeling someone will be waiting for us. After all, those darts didn’t magically appear in the Minotaur’s back.”

“Why not?” John reasoned. “It’s a creature straight from a mythology full of magic.”

“And it’s currently in a world without that type of magic,” Bryan countered. “No, someone was watching over us…besides God.”

“Well, if someone’s out there,” Jess concluded, “then we may be in trouble.”

“Yeah, but think of what we’ve got on them – a live Minotaur in a secret underground arena.”

“But they probably have a gun,” Jess noted.

Bryan cocked his head. “Yeah, didn’t think of that.”

“What do you mean by an arena, Bryan?” asked Laura. “This is a maze.”

“Yes, but why the cannon? I bet they have people or animals fight against the Minotaur in the maze, just like the legend. Surely, you all saw some of the blood stains on the ground? It’s probably animal blood. The presence of someone with a tranquilizer gun means any humans in peril are safe.”

“How would they make the shot?” Jess wondered.

“There must be a perch somewhere,” Bryan figured.

“All right, but who’s they?” Laura pushed. “Who’s behind all this?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” said Bryan. “The secret entrance is in a place where only the grounds crew have access. They must be the ones.”

“And how do a bunch of middle-class workmen obtain an ancient mythological creature?” John posed.

“How indeed?” Bryan agreed. “I have a feeling Dr. Wadsworth has a hand in this. But I think we’ll get some answers soon, I see the exit ahead.”

The girls squealed for joy and ran. The boys quickened their pace a little, but weren’t in too much of a hurry. The adrenaline rush was still wearing off. When they did exit the maze, the girls were stopped and staring up the other flight of stairs. Halfway up, standing on a landing was a man holding a rifle. Together they ascended and came to the man. He was of stocky build with broad shoulders and tan skin. His short-cut hair was black and his eyes were mean. He was wearing a uniform of one of the grounds crew.

“So here at last are my trespassers,” he said with a thick southern accent.

“And here at last,” answered Bryan, “is our Minotaur keeper.”

“Yep. Well, state your business. Why ya here?”

“We saw some large bloody bones outside Carver yesterday….”

The man cursed under his breath. “I told that kid Benny not to leave such big bones out in the open for all o’ God and country to see. Probably have a lawsuit or some such thing for it. Though you kids did enter illegally to the basement!”

“Yes, but the doors were unlocked,” said Bryan. “There was no breaking and entering, just plain entering. At any rate, we’re at a ‘check.’ You could technically get us in trouble for snooping around, but we can get you into more trouble for having an illegal gambling ring.”

The man hung his head and sighed, as if at a loss for what to do. Just then, a high voice spoke from the top of the steps.

“Perhaps we should all do some explaining and find out where we stand.”

They looked up and there was Dr. Wadsworth descending.

“I will start,” he continued. “Five years ago, I did an archeological expedition in Egypt and found the mummy that would sit on display here. That is well known. What is not quite as well known is that with that mummy were two strange caskets. Large caskets, they were. We had a research center at the seminary, then, and I opened the caskets there. To my great surprise, they were Minotaurs! To my even greater surprise, they began stirring!

“Well, I was at a loss. Certainly, I had made a great discovery! The Egyptians must have had Minotaurs as guards and a way of embalming them so that they’d regain life if exposed to air. It was wonderful! But, if I made this discovery known, the creatures would be taken away and perhaps killed and dissected. I could not put a creature through that.

“Anyway, I grabbed a large stone I had in the room and hit them both over the head to knock them out. Next, I had to think of my next move. That’s when Jake, here, came in. He had seen the incident through the window while he was doing his weekly mulching of the flower garden just outside. He said the grounds crew had a secret cavern beneath Carver that they used for their own sport, but they could put the Minotaurs down there for now. I could think of no better solution so I let him take them, helping sneak them out that night and into the garage they have here. He said they would take care of them and I believed him and let it go out of my mind until you four came asking questions about bones. I had fears that something went wrong, and has it, friend Jake?”

Jake shifted around uneasily and said, “Sorta. We built this maze originally for the Minotaurs to run free in. We’d throw steak and stuff over the walls to let them eat and fight over. ‘Ventually, we saw we could have some fun. So we’d let loose pigs and cows and whatnot into the thing and watch the beasts chase ‘em. Soon got bold enough to send ourselves in there! We couldn’t let anybody die, though, so I’d stay up high and use this here rifle to slow ‘em down, as I did for you all and I’m still waitin’ for a thank you.”

“Thank you,” said John.

“You’re welcome! Well, a couple days ago I came in to find that one of the beasts had died and the other had eaten it. Me an’ Benny salvaged what remains we could and decided to try the meat. Ben had some BBQ packets and we tried it and it was mighty delicious! Anyway, Ben decided it would make a great prank to leave the bones out in the open for a while. That made me nervous, so after a while I took the box and threw ‘em down the steps. Guess I shoulda done that sooner.”

“But I don’t get it,” said Jess. “Dr. Wadsworth, you were on the verge of becoming one of the most famous men ever and you threw it away.”

The learned man looked annoyed. “And what would you have done?! I am partial to animals and the Minotaur is an animal, one hundred percent. I could not bear to let it become a soul-less specimen for scientists!”

“So you let them rot away in a cave?” Laura countered.

“This is one of the best caves in Kentucky!” Jake joined in. “We treated them royally!”

“That’s why you used them for sport? That’s why one of them is dead?” Bryan entered.

Jake was about to fly into an uproar, but the curator extended an arm across his chest to stop him.

“We are at an impasse, friend Jake. What is past is past; now the future is before us. We must now let our detectives here decide what to do. They obviously have the greater leverage; we can merely slap their wrists, while they could ruin us forever. So, my friends, what is your decision?”

They were taken aback by this and had quite a discussion. Bryan wanted to call Detective Havenstraw and have him decide a course of action; Laura wanted them to donate it anonymously to the zoo; Jess wanted to release it to the wild; and John wanted to wrestle it. In the end, they asked the two adults their opinion. Dr. Wadsworth sided with Jess and Jake sided with John. Dr. Wadsworth’s vote won, “Because,” he argued with Jake, “I have a Ph.D.” Jake seemed a little hurt by this, so Dr. Wadsworth let him and John wrestle the beast one last time.

After that, Jake tranquilized the Minotaur again and they snuck it up to his truck that was waiting in the garage. The Grungers watched as the two adults drove off to deposit their cargo in some woodland outside the city.

Bryan shook his head. “Amazing,” he muttered.

“Bryan, how’d you guess Dr. Wadsworth’s role?” Laura asked.

Bryan broke his gaze with the darkness and turned to walk away. The others followed. “You remember I said Dr. Wadsworth is short-tempered?” Bryan finally replied. “Well, he is. But he seemed unusually so today. I could see on his face some concern. Besides, how else would Minotaurs wind up in Kentucky?”

“That’s pretty good,” Jess complimented, “but how’d you guess the gambling ring?”

“Oh, I just thought it sounded good. I heard it on a movie John showed me and felt it applied.”

The others laughed, but John cut in, “Speaking of me, I was right! Now you can admit it!”

Bryan cocked his head. “Not so fast; we all were right. I guessed it had something to do with the exhibit. Laura guessed a large animal; John, you sorta specified its category; and Jess guessed the prank part. So good job, team!”

Laura nodded in approval. “Yep…now let’s get back to that theology paper!”

And so, Jake and Dr. Wadsworth gave a tearful goodbye to their Minotaur… and soon Big Foot sightings were reported in the area. Bryan got back to work on their theology paper. Laura began studying Greek morphology, which is different from Greek mythology. Jess began an animal rights group on campus and was the only participant until a lonely guy joined looking for a date…it was Kevin Whitley, the hefty seminary student who was a key witness in a previous mystery. John turned in his research paper on aliens and got bonus points for most unique paper.

And the moral of the story is— Nothing is quite impossible in Kentucky…so beware.

*college-time mysteries. All rights reserved. 2014.

Plethoran Noise (Trade)

Well some exciting news in the world of Plethora! This week the ebook is being featured on Noise Trade (http://books.noisetrade.com)!

What is Noise Trade? It began as a site that gave away artists’ music for free in return for downloaders’ email addresses. The whole idea was that the artist would gain new fans that would want to spread the word about the artist’s work (past, present, and future). It took off and has blown up to feature acts such as The Civil Wars, fun., and Young the Giant, among other indie bands. Within the past year, they decided to branch out to the ebook market and created the Noise Trade Books division. The concept remains the same. You can download an ebook for free, and (if you want) leave a tip or promote the author/book on facebook, twitter, or email. It’s a great idea and a great resource.

Such a great idea and resource that I had to jump on board and do some serious noise trading. I already have music on the site, so adding a book wasn’t a big deal. But something that I’m doing with the book that’s different from the music is that the book is being featured in the weekly newsletter and on the Noise Trade Books homepage under “New & Notable!” So head on over and check this awesome site out and maybe download an ebook or two (make one of those mine)!

The link for the homepage is in the 1st paragraph, here’s the link to my page: Books.NoiseTrade.com/jrunderdown

And here’s the link to the newsletter: https://t.e2ma.net/message/8f5ie/wa9sgf

Enjoy! And thanks for the support!
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A Big Day in Plethora!

I’m not the blogger I used to be. Life’s gotten busy, but my wife and I are starting to find our balance and focus on Plethora and…other works. So check back every now and then to find out what’s going on…and today, alot of things are going on…..

First up, I’ve freshened up the blog with a sleek new theme and finally changed the name in the process to “Plethoran Musings.” Why the name change? As creative (and funny) as “Huggbees” was, I felt like I should try and give the blog a more pointed name, settle on a theme. Well, I couldn’t. Frankly, I enjoy the free rein to talk about whatever I feel like. But, as I’ve been talking alot about Plethora lately, I figured I should rename it to coincide with that. The great thing about “Plethoran Musings”, though, is that I can update you on Plethora but also still talk about whatever I want! Great, huh? So enjoy my future musings and maybe take a trek back in time to some previous posts. You never know what you might discover! I also plan on updating the “About Me” page…along with maybe adding a couple other pages devoted to certain types of writing.

Next up, and this is the truly exciting thing, this Wednesday is the one year anniversary of the publishing of Plethora for the Amazon Kindle. Surprisngly, it’s still up there! Such a milestone deserves a little celebration. So, guess what? The book is free  from tomorrow through Wednesday! If, for some reason, you’ve held out on downloading a copy, then now’s your chance. If a reason you held out was because you didn’t have a Kindle, hold out no more for there’s an app for that! It’s a free app that’s easy to download and setup. Here’s the link:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771

That’s all I’ve got for now, but check back soon for more exciting updates and interesting blog posts!

Ah yes, and here’s the link to the whimsical book of Plethora:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DUO3PUK#_

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Captain America & Peace

When Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out, my wife and I went to see it since the Disney Marvel franchise has caught our interest. In the climax of the film (spoiler warning here), Nick Fury meets up with old friend-turned-nemesis Alexander Pierce and the two have a discussion about peace and what it takes to obtain peace. And so you have two viewpoints on how to obtain it:

1) Captain America and the “true” SHIELD’s way: obtain peace by preserving life, whether through diplomacy or any other peaceful avenue.

2) Pierce/HYDRA’s way: obtain peace through fear and ruthless intimidation.

It’s interesting how the film pits these two worldviews against each other, because you can see the flaws in both ways (Fury and Pierce gladly point them out to each other). Diplomacy doesn’t always work or it’s too slow, but ruling through fear and intimidation isn’t freedom, you simply make people feel insecure so they turn to you and surrender their freedom for help. But if both ways are flawed, then who is more in the right?

While Captain America 2 brings this issue to the forefront, it’s really the dilemma in all hero movies. Sure, the good guys always win out in the end, but evil still lingers. Peace may be bought for a little time, but a diligent defense will have to be made of it…otherwise it will never be secure.

So is that it, then? Will good and evil constantly be at each other’s throat till the end of time? Pretty much. But peace will win out in the end and is winning now, not through human (or superhuman) efforts, but through the one effort of Jesus Christ. When He died and rose again, he made “peace with God” possible (Romans 5:1). And at a future date that is quickly coming, Christ will bring final, absolute, secure peace to all His beloved and confine sin and evil to destruction forever (see Revelation 19 & 20).

Just as the film pits the characters (and in some ways, the audience) in a choice over what side they’ll stand on, the Bible asks you the same question, will you fight for peace on the side of Christ or defer to a clever counterfeit in sin?

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