Monday, July 9, 2012

Timid Soul

I tend to look before leaping. By look, I mean observe from a safe distance via satellite imagery. This isn't always such a bad thing, but I tend to steer clear of taking risks. Any risk. For fear of failure. This is especially detrimental for one such as myself. I tend to dream big, and like any dreamer I'd like to see my dreams become a reality. In order for that to happen, however, I must first act on them. Something I don't often do because not failing is easier than failing. So my dreams languish on the back-burner like so many Big Macs, or pretty much everything at your local McDonalds.

       I also tend to avoid risks like the plague because I feel like taking risks is sometimes illogical. I'd like to think I'm a logical person, but I'm pretty sure I have this whole risk thing all backwards. In any case, the risks I avoid a lot tend to be stupid, and those are the exact things that Middle School and High School kids do, so if I ever want to be successful in Youth Ministry I've got to be there in the trenches with them. If you know anything about Youth Ministry, or anything about kids even that idea is particularly scary.

To summarize: I'm a big Sissy-la la. I'd rather hide under the covers than appreciate the life and opportunities God has put in front of me. There seems to be a shortage of  reckless abandonment in my life. That's not good. I feel like we were created to toss ourselves recklessly into the great unknown, allowing God to cushion our fall in what ever degree he sees fit, which allows us to observe the dangers and mysteries of our lives and our creator this way. And if any one is dangerous and mysterious, it's God. You don't figure that out by sitting on the couch.

I guess my late New Year's resolution is to be a little more reckless and daring. Teddy Roosevelt knew a bit about this, I think. Bully!

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. " - Theodore Roosevelt

I hate the idea of being classified as a "timid soul." That's the opposite of something I want to be. I'd rather be a proud lion. Actually, I'd rather be a planet-eating-freaking Dragon, but I digress. The point is, that's a gut-check. I shouldn't be immobile for fear of failing because failure is natural.  Failure is beautiful. God loves failure. Heck, God loves failures. You don't learn to walk without falling a few times. Failure was never meant to be a permanent condition.

But not failing is an easy thing to do. Not failing is not doing, and that's one thing completely under our control. And being the master of your own life is quite appealing. But we were made for great things, but we'll never figure that out unless we go and let life happen.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Always do what you are afraid to do." Simple, but I think he was on to something. The scariest things I do on a regular basis tend to be the most rewarding. May be it's time to take the leap more often and come what may.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Nerd project: ODST Helmet Pt. 1

 After a bit of research, I finally figured out how I was going to go about making my Halo armor. I went about downloading the templates and the software (which was free) to view it with and got started. Basically, you print the whole thing out on card stock and then glue it together. It's like a puzzle, just 3D. (they have those, right?)  So it looks something like this when you get started.

 You print out the pages then you carefully cut them out with a hobby knife. It's easy to figure out, but it sure is time consuming. Good thing I started now because I don't think I could put together a suit for myself and my cousin in October.

After a few days of working on it for an hour or so during down time I'm about half way done. It's kind of floppy, but that's because it's only the front half. After This is done, I just coat it in fiber glass resin, add some bondo to the outside, sand, and paint. By the end of the summer I should have a helmet done. (hopefully)  Cheers.

By the way, I'm hating the new way blogger is making me post pictures. It's stupid. I think I might finally switch to Wordpress...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Foot Model

I woke up this morning without any sort of inkling about the awesome kind of thing that would happen to me today. I went about my usual routine and found myself checking my emails. Low and behold I found someone by the name of "Jack Dickson" responding to my "Back in Crutches" post on this blog. Needless to say I was a little curious. That post was pretty old. I didn't really expect what I found.

The guy meant well, I guess. He was sorry about me injuring my foot and all that. How sweet of him. But then he offered me a spectacular opportunity once my foot healed up. I'm always down for spectacular opportunities, and he said I should might as well thank him now, so I clicked his profile to see what he's about. Apparently I'm the perfect candidate for female foot modeling. Who knew? I'd only ever considered my figure to be border line girlish, but apparently I'm pretty enough to be a gal foot model.

What a delightful morning wake up call. Apparently Jack Bauer isn't indicator enough that it's a man writing this blog. I need to do some over the top manly stuff and stop acting like a bearded lady, I guess. Message received, Universe. I could use the cash though. I think I'm going to demand that female foot modeling position and tell them Dickson sent me. "He's a spam bot? Impossible. What kind of spam bot would have a name like Jack Dickson!?"

Monday, May 7, 2012

Getting the right "message" across

     I decided to take a break from writing my message for this coming Wednesday to blog a little about some observations I had whilst writing said message. Now I don't normally advertise when I have the opportunity to speak, mostly because I enjoy the look of sheer terror on the students' faces, but also because I don't want to seem like I'm showing off. I'm starting to think I shouldn't care too much about the latter because if God has given me the opportunity to speak, who am I to not make the most of such a blessing? But that's beside the point.
         While I was writing my message, I noticed a little bit about my style. I end up writing like it's a story. Now I'm kind of a novice, but I've heard as you progress, you end up coming up with your own style. So I'm perfectly comfortable with how I'm doing this for now. The idea of talking about Jesus and what he's done in a structured outline form, with bullet points and the whole shebang discomforts me. It's boring, and it's not as dramatic as Jesus is, so I'm happy that I have a way I like doing things. But as I wrote, I noticed that I go off scripture by memory, which is cool and scary at the same time. First, I'm pretty glad that I'm familiar with scripture enough to understand certain themes and aspects, but wary because putting together a message is serious business, and it really makes me appreciate how important it is to read scripture regularly and to be familiar with it. This is something I struggle with.
              I also find myself paging through my bible to stick verses where they belong because ,sadly, "take my word for it" just doesn't cut it. This isn't necessarily a problem all the time if I know what scripture I was referencing in my head while writing, but I wonder if I might accidentally take a verse out of context while trying to put some scriptural backing into my work. It is so easy to totally misrepresent or misunderstand a passage by trying to squeeze it in and make it work for a point I may be trying to make. That's not something I want to condone in any fashion. Context is key, and I never want to be guilty of negligently misrepresenting God's word. It is what it is. Unless you've taken the time to wrestle with the scripture, to plumb the depths of it's meaning, you better be wary about how you handle it. There's a reason some thought writing out scripture was so sacred, and sometimes potentially dangerous! I guess this makes me appreciate the importance of this practice I'm taking a part in every time I sit down to put pen to paper. It makes me realize it's more than just throwing together a bunch of pretty sounding words. I should never become so attached to how my words sound at the cost of misrepresenting the truth. Because that's what it's all about, really. It's all about sharing God's truth and how it moves you.

PS: For some reason Blogger is being stupid. The draft shows all my spaces and indentations, but the published version is just a huge block of text. I might have figured out how to fix it, but we'll see. My apologies. I do actually know how to write better than a middle-schooler...I think.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Nerd Project: DMR Pt. 1

After the success of my last elaborate Halloween costume, I thought I would go all-out even further. That means starting months in advance. After much discussion with my little cousin, we finally decided that it would be really sweet to tag team a Halo themed car for the Mega Blast. I always wanted to create a Halo suit and my cousin wanted his own as well. So of course I'd have to start early for a project this elaborate. I haven't made any armor yet, but I have been thinking about it, and the rest of the kit that we'll be toting around Halloween night... One of my favorite weapons in all the Halo games happens to be the DMR. If you're not hip on gun/military stuff, that stands for designated marksman('s) rifle.
With that in mind, I surveyed all of the stuff I had kicking around and decided I might get a start on it. I started with a stock looking Nerf Stampede and made a few shell modifications.
The one on the top is my cousin's and the one on the bottom is the one I cut into. After that, I started scrounging through my miscellaneous parts bin to find some things to add to the look. Cut them and the shell accordingly and this is what I came up with:
Haven't glued anything down yet, but that's a start. I don't plan to get it all right. I just want it to look similar. I care more about adding my own personal flair any way. And so it begins.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Lest Ye Be Judged.

Sometimes, even when you mean well, things happen to blow up in your face. Sometimes, when you act out of compassion, people misunderstand it as pride. Sometimes, you just can't help but look like a snob. This happened to me the other day. I don't exactly blame them for accusing me of just rubbing their nose in it, but that's only because we've never had the best rapport. I guess I do tend to look a little bit (or a lot) arrogant sometimes, but I really do mean well. May be it's my method of delivery. (this particular instance could have been the case, but I felt like it was more of a personal bias that incited the backlash.)

I think you run the risk of being labeled a hypocrite when you endeavor to point out an individual's short-comings. It's obvious sometimes, of course, when you happen to be elevating yourself above them in the process, but I find hypocrisy tends to rear it's ugly head even when you mean well. The saddest part is sometimes the individual in need of correction will use scripture against you. I have encountered this a couple times, and most often I find it is the same verse straight of the mouth of Christ: "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye." Matthew 7:1-5

That verse has always been a little scary to me, and I feel like people often use this verse to justify their actions and to get people off their backs. I'm going to go out on a limb and say this passage isn't about avoiding the threat of hypocrisy by allowing people to do as they please. I believe this passage was meant to give people perspective. We should yearn to correct our brothers and sisters out of compassion and not some misguided idea that we are the ones who will in fact be saving them. To be honest, we are no better than they are. We are no less capable to save any one than they are. Ultimately, final judgment belongs to God. This does not mean we should be deathly afraid of being labeled a hypocrite. We're all a little hypocritical in our own way. Don't let this stop you from correcting a fellow believer, but let it be out of compassion.

And if that was hard to swallow, maybe verse 6 will be even more so:
"Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you." Matthew 7:6

I'm not sure if I have plumbed the depths of this particular verse (I guess that could be my silent disclaimer for all of my scriptural interpretations) but I understand this to mean you can't force correction on some people. Some people just don't want help. Some people just don't want God to change them, or they just aren't ready. I've struggled with that personally. Sometimes I wonder why the things I do aren't inspiring people to have a better relationship with their Creator, and I wonder if I'm just really bad at the whole being a good, Christ-like example thing. May be. But may be it's them too. May be it's not up to me to do the work, and it's God who does the changing. And sometimes, people just don't want to change.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What to do with mountains?

It's the new year, and I'd be remiss if I didn't do a New Year's post of some sort. This past year really shook me up more than any other, and I've been struggling to change things up in my life. I feel like I've been running away from my problems, and that's not something a man of God should do. So this year, I've decided to put on my big boy pants and face these problems of mine. I just came off a gaming binge in which I finished an awesome game that helped me out: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. It's encouraged me to approach things more heroically, I guess. So I guess I'm buckling my scabbard and shining my shield then. It's time to re-evaluate things and get them sorted out, Link style!

I have spent a lot of my time discussing (mainly with myself) Theodicy, and this whole idea of God being good in light of all of the stuff we would call bad. I feel like there is merit to the whole discussion and that it usually gets glossed over by most people. "God is good, and well, bad stuff happens, but God is good still;" and that's about it. May be there is this perceived boundary among believers, that we dare not cross lest we be smote by the very power and glory of God that we dare to question. As believers, we shouldn't question God because we couldn't begin to fathom the complexities of his being and his plan. Personally, I don't believe that. If I've learned anything from Job, it's that even God can be held accountable for his actions and it isn't wrong for us to ever question the workings of "his plan." At least, that's what I think. Call me sacrilegious, but as I understand it, gone are the days where we die instantly when we encounter the Ark. God is flesh now, and there is no separation between us and his glory. And since he understands the flesh, he would certainly understand why we couldn't comprehend certain aspects of the life he's given us.

I certainly hear a lot about people claiming they would believe in God, if it weren't for all of the suffering they and others have had to endure in life. If God certainly existed, and he were all good, he couldn't bear to see anything bad happen to his beloved creation, right? Or so the argument goes. If God cared about us, things would tend to go the way we want them to, right? Sadly, that's not how things are. You're bound to have a bad day. Bad things are bound to happen. So what are we, as Christians to do about it?

When I envision my life, I usually envision it as a journey, a quest, actually. (I'm a romantic, what can I say?) I'm walking a path through the country. It's straight and flat because that's the easiest path to walk, right? That's the path we want to walk. That's the life we want. Who wants to go through hard times, right? But they do happen, and I usually see that as a hill, or maybe even a mountain, depending on how bad it is. Of course I didn't expect this thing to be there, but it's there. Nobody does. So what are we to do about it? Most folks would stare up at this mountain and whine about how unfair it is that this thing "got placed" in front of them. "God, how could you just drop a mountain right in front of me?" If you're a smart person, you'd know that's totally unreasonable because, last time I checked, mountains don't just fall from the sky. Even God doesn't do that. So You could usually see these things on the horizon. But here we are, staring up at it wondering what to do with it.

So there's this mountain in the way of us and forward progress. What are we to do about it? Well, certainly the easiest thing to do would be to walk around the mountain, not bothering to see it for what it is. The other option, of course is to climb it. But that's dangerous. What do we know about climbing mountains? And why risk our lives when we can so easily ignore it? The mountain will still be there, of course, but it will be influencing us more than we influence it. So the big question is, why do we bother to climb mountains? (And have I totally lost my train of thought in this discussion?)

So our problems, our pain, become mountains, and they're the biggest thing to us from the bottom. So I imagine they may appear to us at times to be as tall as Everest. Who in their right mind would dare to climb Everest, the tallest mountain on the planet though? Apparently quite a few people. I recently became interested in Everest and it's history, and here's what I learned. Everest's peak sits roughly at around 29,000 feet. It depends on who you ask, but they came up with the approximate height around 1856. Since then, people have been wanting to get up there.

Everest isn't the hardest mountain to climb...along the standard route. Most of the danger from the mountain comes from the insane altitude and weather conditions up there. Once you hit 26,000 feet, you encounter what they call the "death zone," which is where it becomes impossible for your body alone to adjust. This is why people usually use Oxygen tanks and bundle up tight. Apparently, there is a mentality in the climbing community that climbing a mountain with the assistance of supplementary oxygen is unsportsman-like. Who knew breathing regular was unsporting sometimes?

So you find people trying to climb this inhospitable mountain without the use of oxygen. Some people even decide to climb the doggone thing alone! There have been around 219 confirmed deaths on the mountain. May be that number isn't that daunting to you, but if you're climbing the mountain, you do become distinctly aware of the death on the mountain. I say this because the inhospitable climate preserves the dead so well that they stay up there. Frozen in place. The death zone is so bad that people fall over dead and are left in that same spot. You can see them from the standard route. Heck, some landmarks along the trail are named after corpses that are still there! So this is no easy thing even when it's supposed to be.

So why are people doing this? They must be insane, right? George Mallory put it best:
"The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, 'What is the use of climbing Mount Everest ?' and my answer must at once be, 'It is no use'. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It's no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for."

This is the right mentality. This is the mentality I wish I had everyday. Mallory would be unsuccessful in his attempt to reach the summit (though some argue that his doomed expedition did reach the peak more than 29 years before Hillary, he just hasn't made it off the mountain yet...) But it has been done! Reaching the top of the tallest mountain on the planet is not impossible for man.

That's nice and all, but why risk your life? As Sir George Mallory put it, "What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for." Joy through struggle. Who'd have thought, right? If you know anything about scripture, you may have figured out by now that big things tend to go down on mountains. Moses encountered God and received his commandments on a mountain. He saw the promised land of his people from a mountain top. I could go on of course, but the point is the view from the top is unforgettable. Everything that is before you. To Moses, it was worth the journey.

If you've conquered something so great, it's hard to think that anything else in life can stop you. And that's the mentality that we as Christians should have. There is nothing too big for us to handle. These mountains we encounter have no power over us. They are ours to conquer. These problems: the pain, the suffering are only obstacles if we allow them to be. Some may argue that we shouldn't have to experience any of that to begin with, but without the pain, we wouldn't experience the joy at the top. The joy of knowing that we are unstoppable. Honestly, the view from the top is better than the view from the flat lands at the bottom. Without pain, we could not appreciate the great strength that resides within us. Without pain, we would be painfully oblivious of our greater potential.

May be that doesn't matter at all to some people. I don't need to climb the mountain. I'd much rather go around. But even if you do, the mountain will still be there, and it will still be in your way if you allow it to be. I hear so often that sin is always getting in our way. It's not a part of God's plan. It's just something we have to live with. But I wonder if in God's great wisdom, he even accounted for the possibility of sin when he created us. "So he knew there'd be sin but created us anyway and allowed it to ruin us?" No. Sin doesn't ruin us. Christ stands in the way of that, if we allow him to.

So we've all got these sinful tendencies of ours, these things that get in our way, but really, it's only if we allow them to. Christ's power can make these weakness of ours, our strengths. Strengths to overcome the problems of this world. I never understood what Paul was talking about here until now: "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

It seems so simple, yet it's so hard for us to understand that God's power, his strength becomes our strength when we are at our weakest, When we are at our lowest, God reaches out to bring us to our highest point, to the peak. This is something I pray I can better understand from here on out. This is the kind of life I wish I was living. Instead of lamenting the mountains before me, I was running out to conquer them, so that nothing else can stand in my way. But not only that, becoming a messenger of change; God's transformation that he intends for his creation.