Photo of the Day – 5/31/12

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What better way, to end the month of May, than with a picture of death to gruesomely display! Well, skeletal remains of a small bird may be a better description.

Saw this little guy resting outside an office window. Thought his bone structure looked pretty cool. I’m guessing he hit one of our windows and dropped dead. BAM! Scares me every time.

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Where I Have Been/ Where I Am Going

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There comes a point where words must become actions in ones life. Failure to turn those particular words into actions will lead to those very words holding you captive; Haunting your waking thoughts with regrets of “what if” and “if I had only”. Trust me, I know.

For over five years I have worked for a company that offers me zero chance of career advancement. Short of going back to school and obtaining a degree in something I have little interest in, I simply cannot go any further in my current place of employment. I am in a way stuck due to the current job market and salary. Compound that frustration with frequent poor treatment, and you often have an irritated and sometimes depressed individual. I feel like I lost myself somewhere when I was told in a mocking tone, “this is so easy a third grader could do this”. Whatever level of college graduate optimism died within me the day those words were uttered. In my mind, I had become another worthless cog in the system, one that could be replaced on a whim. Reality had drop kicked me at the door.

Sometime last year, shortly after my Grandma died, I came up with a plan to move forward. I excitedly told others about this plan and began to set it into motion. I was going to go into web/graphic design. In the midst of the frustrations of learning/ moving toward my goal (acquire skills, get hired), I abruptly quit. I learned that letting go of a new found dream is easy when you lack the will to really work towards it. In a way, I hadn’t quite hit rock bottom yet. I was still comfortable pressed up against the glass ceiling of my job. What I needed was some fresh perspective, some truth spoken into my life. Little did I know that an email, a link, and a purchase were about to radically shift my way of thinking.

One morning, I received an email from Dave Ramsey. Well not a personal email but an email from his site. A link and a click later, I found myself reading about a book entitled Quitter. Though I didn’t know it at the time, this book was about to change my perspective and my life.

Quitter, by Jon Acuff, is all about pursuing your dreams while remaining firmly planted in your day job. Your day job, no matter how terrible it may be, provides a firm financial foundation for you to move towards what you want to do with your life. Truthfully, I had never thought of my job in this way. I had always seen it as something that brought in a paycheck, that had to be endured.

Jon Acuff goes even further in talking about how your attitude in your current place of employment will carry over into your future job. In other words, practice today the attitude you want for yourself in the future. This was a revelation for me.

The Bible talks about how Christians need to be faithful in the small things:

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much,and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” – Luke 16:10 (NIV)

Which got me thinking about my attitude and how I needed to be thankful for all that God has given me. This has required me to shift my perspective, which I admit is not always easy. It is easier to give into the norm and not rise above it.

In the midst of God working on my perspective, He also reminded me of my web/graphic design dream. I was finally ready for it. Almost a year after I first set out to change my career, I was finally in the right frame of mind to pursue it.

Two weeks ago, I started on the first phase of “moving forward”. I began working once more on redoing my churches web site. I have set rewards in place to help me achieve my goals. I have also limited the distractions in my life (video games) that I felt were keeping me from working hard.

My goal right now is to finish the church web site, show the church what I’ve done, and give them a list of possible hosting options for the site. Then, I’m going to find a new project and continue working/refining my web/graphic design skills.

Changing our perspective is hard. Words must become actions; actions must become a lifestyle.

  • What dreams and ideas do you have that you keep putting on the back burner for later?
  • What do you need to change so that you can move forward?

I would love to hear from you in the comment section below. Thanks!

Kickstarter: For God Took Him

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Back in 2004, I had the privilege of working for The Walt Disney Travel Company. During our 5 weeks of training, I quickly became good friends with my one of my co-workers, a guy named Steve. Fast forward to 2012, Steve and I have managed to keep up through the glorious power of the Internets.

Now, a few years back, I remember him mentioning to me that he wanted to write a book. Recently, Steve told me that he was opening a Kickstarter page to help with funding for completing said book (he has finished 11 chapters so far).

I have to admit that at first I wasn’t sold on it after looking at some of the concept art on his Kickstarter page (not saying that the art is bad by any means). Just didn’t look like something I’d be into. Today, he sent me a link to an actual excerpt from the book. I have to say I am impressed! Reminds me a bit of David Gemmell. So, if you want to help out a friend of mine, I highly suggest checking out his written work here and visiting his Kickstarter page to help him reach his goal of $3,500.

Repost: I Am A Terrorist

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A long, long time ago, I remember a controversy that surrounded Modern Warfare 2′s “No Russian” mission. As of today, after finally playing it, I am able to comment on a bygone Internet hiccup. Enjoy.

As an American military officer inserted into a Russian terrorist cell, I stepped off an elevator and proceeded to mow down innocent Russians in an airport. Under the context of “maintaining my cover”, I slowly shot at those that had raised their hands in surrender and those that withered on the ground in pain. Fighting my way across the tarmac later on, battling with armed FSB agents, I found it odd that my survival instincts kicked in. Sure, I had just committed a terrible crime against the Russian population, but I still had to protect my own butt. After dispatching more than a few agents, I ran with my fellow terrorists to the escape vehicle. It was there that I was shot.

Ah yes, the bigger picture. The terrorists had known all along that I was a mole. Made me feel stupid for killing all those innocent civilians under the guise of “cover”. I now wonder if I could have walked through the entire mission never firing a bullet or lobbing a grenade….

When I first loaded up Modern Warfare 2, the game prompted me by asking if I was okay with playing a particularly graphic mission. I quickly pressed okay because I knew which mission it was talking about. I really think, that this mission was okay given the context it was presented in. Although, I do think that there was something a bit sick about the slow and methodical way the terrorists made their way through the airport. Reminded me of watching an accident scene…except for the fact that I was actively participating in causing the scene.

I am amazed where video game narratives are able to go in this day and age. No longer are we having to deal with simple stories of princesses needing to be saved but instead having to deal with stories that feature moral “gray” areas. I am also amazed at how sucked into the narrative I was. I seriously thought I would blow my cover if I didn’t shoot people. Only afterwards did I take a moment and realize that I could have shot into the air.

As a Christian, video games are often difficult to approach. Though I didn’t feel personally convicted over this game, I do wonder in retrospect just how “active” of a participant we are to be in situations like the one painted above. While the context of the mission may have been okay, I have to ask myself to what benefit was there in mowing down virtual civilians? That brings to mind an entirely different topic of killing in video games. We’ll tackle that one another day.

Biological Warfare

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As I walked into the house this afternoon, I quickly noticed black ants crawling on the wall in the laundry room. Closer inspection revealed that they were streaming out from a crack underneath one of the cabinets. Odd, I thought, they shouldn’t be there. Last week, I had had an exterminator come out and hose the house down in glorious chemicals. The exterminator also strategically placed “ant bait” (clear goop that ants apparently love) around just in case any of the  tiny invaders decided to return. Today they launched their D-Day, their day of death.

Springing into action, I immediately grabbed some of the gooey ant bait and placed it directly in the ants path. They flocked to it! Soon, the small dab of clear goop was covered in ants. Little did they know that their demise, and the demise of their queen, was but a meal away. All it will take is one ant, carrying the goop back to the queen, to destroy the entire colony. Biological warfare on the insect scale.

For some reason, this scenario of unknowing death got me thinking about bigger life issues. What things am I consuming that could be unknowingly poisoning me? A question I am certainly going to have to spend some time thinking about. What about you?

Repost: When Cloud Fails

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Final Fantasy VII, in my opinion, is one of the best games ever made.  For its time, the graphics rocked.  The storyline kept you hunting for answers with great twists.  I’m sad to admit, however, that the game became an obsession for me.  Looking back, I can see how it helped me escape reality and how that became addictive.  It came at a time where I needed to face reality and God and make my faith real.  I was participating in the first in-depth Bible study of my life.  There were times where I had to consciously make the decision to go read my Bible.  At the time, reading the Old Testament in my study seemed rather dull and boring compared to the vivid storyline of FFVII, which I’d consider to be more of a visual and interactive book rather than a video game.  The plot of FFVII has its redemptive value which I hope to write about more at a later time.  Video games are not bad in and of themselves, but in my specific case, they took a negative turn because it took God’s place in my priorities, thoughts, and heart.

I remember when there were commercials on tv for FFVII.  My entire focus became immediately glued to the tv screen every time I as much as thought I heard the music.  I still remember it pretty well.  An announcer described the daring feats, brutal combat, insurmountable odds, “a love that could never be” (that always got me!), and dashing honor you will encounter as you play.  He said something about how you must save the world!  Everyone is counting on you!  And if you fail…  “you can always hit the reset button.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we had one of those?  Ah, to have a reset button!

“Oh man, I shouldn’t have said that!  Let’s reset.”

“Wow!  I can’t believe I did THAT!  I’ll just reset.”

“Now things will never be the same …unless I don’t save today.”

Nope.  We have no such option.  This life is the only shot we have.  We can’t go back even a few seconds to undo anything.  In fact, you’d be surprised to realize how little control you have over your life.  The only control you have is over what you say and do at this exact moment in time.  Sure, you can plan, promise, and make provisions for the future.  Those endeavors can even be wise, keeping in mind that God’s plans stand more firm.  The fact is that the only thing you can change is now.

What shall this sobering reality mean for us then?  That we have to make sure we do everything perfectly and in perfect timing?  No.  Like I said, you’d be surprised at how much you can’t control.  We live in a fallen world and we’ll be blindsided by circumstances we never could have prevented.  I don’t mean for us to become obsessed about every second on the clock, but I do mean for us to consider how much we are allowing ourselves to be taken by mediocrity.  How many Godly things have we put off to do later?  How many times have we tried to do something to better ourselves but haven’t taken the time to complete them?  How much time do we waste doing things that will count for nothing when this life is over?  In essence, how many times have we said to the Lord, “not now.”

Perhaps we fool ourselves thinking our “not now” approach isn’t so bad because it’s not telling the Lord “no.”  We have the intention to do what He’s asked of us.  After all, doesn’t He look at the heart anyway?  If we’re going to lean on that idea, we better take a good, hard look at our hearts.  Do we really want to do that thing for the Lord?  Do we truly desire that as deeply as God desires it?  If not, this message is for you.  Stop putting God off.  No more of this “I can’t do that now, Lord” attitude!  Even if you know you’re not ready for the tasks, He knows your faults and His power is made perfect in weakness.  He will do amazing things with your surrendered heart if you desire Him above all other things.

If your heart is indeed in line with God’s desires and His plan, please don’t let this message freak you out and make you rush God’s timing. Perhaps He is asking you to wait.  But if He’s waiting on you, you may have a problem.  I just ask that we take the time to question ourselves to see if He’s pushing us and whether or not we’re budging.

Consider today.  This is the only today you have.  What have you not done that you need to do?  Be advised – you have no reset button.

GO: The Application

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Yesterday, I wrote about how persecution led the early church to disperse, thereby fulfilling the Great Commission. How does this apply to us today?

Sometimes We Can Get Comfortable…

Admit it, the church pew that you sit in week-after-week is comfy. The routine of dropping your kids off in children’s church (free babysitting!), enjoying coffee and fellowship in Sunday school, and going through the motions in the main service is familiar. One might call the church routine rather cozy. You know what to expect; you know that nothing uncomfortable is going to happen. If you don’t want to shake hands with someone, you don’t have to. Sure, you may feel spiritually uncomfortable/convicted by the sermon, but church is overall a safe environment where you don’t have to step out of what you know.

Which Keeps Us From Meeting People Where They Live…

I would like to make a bold statement. The people who need Christ the most are not the ones who are going to show up at your local church. Instead, the people who need to hear the Good News are those in our work places and those we meet on the everyday streets of life.

Ever wondered why churches are built where they are? I have. Here in Longview, for instance, we build a good chunk of our churches away from the city’s dividing line, Highway 80. For those that do not live in East Texas, or Longview for that matter, Highway 80 represents a physical shift from the nicer to the older/rougher part of town. The highway itself is filled with strip clubs, homeless, and even prostitutes. All people that need Jesus. So why aren’t more churches built along 80? Ultimately, I think, it boils down to our modern church model. The people who would attend a church located on Highway 80 are not the type who would be able to contribute money on a regular basis for tithe (which keeps the church running). A church located along this line would have to be ran on donations or some other sort of creative model. Not sure how one would accomplish this but the need to meet people where they live is great. No matter what the cost.

But We Are Called To Step Out.

As we saw starting in Acts 5, if we do not step out and go, God will stir up the church and make us go.

What does all of this look like in practice?

  1. Taking on a God-perspective and seeing people as He sees them.
  2. Recognizing that there is a need to tell people about Christ outside of our churches, our comfort zones.
  3. Not only recognizing but also actively doing something about it (the going part). This can be as simple as engaging a co-worker in conversation; this can be has complicated as physically moving overseas to preach the Gospel.
  4. Regardless of location, all Christians are called to share about Christ.

I do not think that there is anything wrong with going to church or sharing life with other believers as the early Christians did in Acts. At some point though, we are supposed to branch out: locally, nationally, globally. Living with the perspective that God has, that there are needs all around us, is hard. I know personally I find it hard to step out of my own life situation. Too often I get bogged down in the day-to-day stuff. As a Christian, I am called to be active, to engage, and to go. For most of us, I don’t think this means suddenly selling all of our possessions and moving overseas. Obedience is the key here as we strive to daily live in obedience to Christ and share Him with those around us.

What do you think?