About Me

I'm somewhat introverted, I'm a voracious reader, and I love a good conversation. My interests and activities can be found on the right side of the page. My life goal is to use the gifts and talents God has bestowed on me to glorify Him and benefit others.

Friday, October 19, 2007

iPod/TV/xBox = life support??? Houston, we have a problem!!!

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."


"The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the level of thinking we were at when we created them."

-Albert Einstein

Tonight I attended a meeting at my Pastor's house, to start a series on spiritual warfare. While the discussion mainly revolved around what the Bible had to say about demons, the demonic influences in the world today, etc., there was also some talk about the competition for our attention between two major forces: God's will for our lives and the temptations and deceptions of the evil one. This eventually led to talk of how what we take in through our media has a great effect on us, and has the potential to pull us away from God.

As tobyMac observes:

"It is a daily struggle to walk with God in our modern society. There are so many things competing for the attention of our hearts and minds."

He's absolutely right. I know this topic is often exhausted in Christian circles, but it's one that needs to be addressed.

This evening, my Pastor shocked most of us in attendance when he told us that, excluding "The Passion of the Christ," he has not seen a movie in a movie theater for thirty years. He also chooses to watch very little television and doesn't own an iPod or portable CD player ("Oh, the horror!!!" I thought ;-)-. He states that he's realized that his life's purpose is to hear from and follow God. Accordingly, he's put the things of the world on the backburner. He doesn't advocate these seemingly drastic steps for everyone; it's just a personal choice of his in his quest to better follow God.

While he didn't necessarily recommend this practice for us, he got me thinking.
Putting all the subliminal, anti-Christian messages in many of today's films and music aside, think simply of the amount of time that is devoted to these activities in the average American household. Consider this:

-The average teen hears 10,500 hours of music between grades 7 and 12. That's more than fourteen months nonstop.

-Boom, A Guy's Guide To Growing Up

I've also heard that the television is on for approximately seven hours a day in the average American household. Point is, we live in a media-driven culture.

Now to the quotes at the top of the page. These two intellectual heavyweights made observations which I think all of us could learn from today: Our habits have a great affect on us, and if we wish to conquer our problems, we need to change the way we see them.

Specifically relating to the Aristotle quote, I think that if we all really think about it than we are forced to admit that our habits eventually produce noticeable results. For instance, a bodybuilder who adheres to a regimen of strength training will build muscle mass, and a person who overeats and doesn't exercise will gain weight. These are simple, demonstrable examples of how habits affect us.

Even though we hate to admit it, the same is true for our thought life. What you believe determines how you behave; this has been the case all through history. Hitler was convinced that the Germans were the superior race that deserved to rule the world; this belief in Aryan supremacy caused him to facilitate the Holocaust.
President Bush believed that Saddam Hussein was a threat to us; this conviction compelled him to send troops into Iraq to search for him.

I've realized that I, as an American whose been raised and immersed in an ectremely affluent and privileged society, I've bought into the lie that my reason to live is for my own fulfillment and entertainment.
Finally realizing this, I decided that I would eliminate the influence of my iPod, music, and television for a week and see how it impacts me. For instance, if I break into a cold sweat and start experiencing withdrawal symptoms, this might be a clue that I listen to my iPod a little too much. Lol.

As I said before, it's not just the impact of negative media influences that concern me; but the amount of time in my daily life that is devoted solely to my entertainment, when I could be learning something or doing something for the kingdom of God. Seriously, I think this test will free me to focus more on God than the myriad of entertainment choices all around me, and that it'll cause a shift in my thinking, similar to what Einstein observed.

Though I wouldn't go as far as to say that everyone should do this, I'd encourage you my audience to give it a shot. See if you hear from God more clearly, or if you simply have a more productive week. God Bless.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Mission trips, Mexico, and Country Music

Ever notice how good we have it here in America?

I know we as church kids here this all the time, but have you ever seriously thought about it? Recently I've been seriously thinking about taking a missions trip to Mexico City. I went a couple years ago to Mexico City to visit some friends, and the level of poverty there is heart-breaking. People living under pieces of aluminum, people passed out in the streets. It really hits me hard as an American, 'cuz I typically don't see that kind of thing here.

In case you haven't seen the news recently, horrible stuff happens in the world. Poverty, wars, Paris Hilton getting thrown in jail. However, a lot of the time our wealth and our security here in the land of the free and the home of the brave insulates us from this fact. We tend to see these things as more of a cause that we give money to on Sundays, rather than harsh reality.

The truth is, the abscence of the wealth and the consumer culture we have here often breeds a higher dependence on God. When I went to Mexico City a couple years back, I visited a house church up in the mountains that my friends were leading. I'll never forget it.

These people, about forty of them, were meeting in an abandoned shell of a house several miles from civilization. They hardly needed the few lanterns they had, because sunlight streamed in through numerous large gaps in the ceiling. There was no insulation, no plumbing, no electricity. Rebar showed through everywhere you looked. Try to imagine a cement basement, completely unfurnished and stripped down to the bare minimum, and you'll have some idea of what it was like.

Though these people were dirt poor, with little more than the clothes on their backs, when they heard we Americans were coming, they pooled what little money they had and put togehter a buffet of sorts. Their hospitality almost moved me tears, as I thought about how many times my selfishness and greed had gotten in the way of showing generosity like this. They offered my Mom some food with peanut butter in it, and she refused, because she had a near-deadly allergy to peanut butter. So, instead of just geting her something else, they gathered around and prayed for her, and she was healed of the peanut allergy (we didn't find out until we got home...the peolople we stayed with thought we had better be safe than sorry, since there was no hospital for miles around. Oh us of little faith! ;-)-

These people were also totally unashamed to worship God. I mean, they were throwing themselves down in the dirt, thanking Him for their lives. It was a very moving experience, not just because of the emotion involved, but because of the obviousness of their total, daily dependence upon God to supply all their needs.

We in Amercia oftentimes have a much smaller view of God then this, and yet we have all the freedom we could ever want to worship Him. And just think; in other countries people are tortured for their belief in God, and yet the Gospel manifests itself there in ways that America has yet to see!!!

I mean, honestly, the closest thing we have to torture here in America is country music. And while listening to Toby Keith drawl on about losing his girlfriend, his pickup truck, and his new jean jacket may induce almost unbearable pain and suffering, we still have the option of changing the station (thank you God!!!).

Seriously, spend some time today thinking about how you can impact your Christian brothers and sisters around the world, be it through an offering or through a missions trip. If you ever get the chance, I would heartily encourage you to go visit a foreign country someday. To me, a kid who's lived on a three-acre farm nearly his whole life, the sights, smells, and sounds of one of the largest cities in the world certainly was eye-opening. The bst part by far, though, was being deeply inspired by visiting these brothers and sisters in the faith, who forever changed my perception on what it truly means to give your all to God. God Bless.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Video Games and Japanese Animation Go Hand-In-Hand!

Don't bother looking for a deep spiritual parallel in this post, because there isn't one. This is just some surface stuff about me and some of the stuff I've done over the week.

Well for starters, last night me and the bro were over at Mark's house and I played Halo 3 for the first time. Before anybody can raise any possible questions about the total supremacy of this third edition over the first two, I will shout you all down and say "IT WAS TOTALLY FREAKING AMAZING!!!" Lol it was awesome. I got Mark with a rocket launcher a few times, mwhaha.
;-)- The new vechiles and weapons are definitely a step up from the first two installations in the series, to say nothing of the graphics. I particualrly enjoyed the addition of the gravity hammer and the elephant. ;-)- So, basically, it was absofreakinlutely incredible. ;-)-

I also read my first manga on Monday. For those of you who don't know, manga is Japanese for "comic book." Though I'm not a huge fan of anime, the art in manga is amazing because it conveys so clearly what the characters are thinking and feeling. I read 200 pages in one hour.

My good buddy Jared recommended BLACK CAT, a Shonen Jump title, for me. I trusted him that it was clean, and it is. It was written and drawn by Kentaro Yabuki.

Beware of the dark side of the manga, however. Most of them are rated, so make sure to check the ratings! They have some unbelievably over-the-top stuff in some of them, but the clean ones are really cool! The Matrix was hugely influenced by Japnese animation, as the Wachowski brothers are huge anime and manga aficionados. ;-)-

Anyways, my only deep thought for this post is that I might be going on a missions trip pretty soon. Please pray that I would recieve direction as to whether or not I'm supposed to go, because it is a huge financial and time commitment.

God Bless.

Slim Shaney

Friday, October 5, 2007

So That You May Understand The Complex Infrastructure Known As The Female Mind

Please note: To any ladies reading this post, it is not my intention to offend. I simply wish to state an observation I've made recently in the interest of helping my fellow brothers in Christ better understand women. I would be pleased if you women commented on this and gave me your views.
(This has been a public service announcement brought to you courtesy of Shane. Thank you and happy reading.)

All of us guys have experienced the phenomenon known as "nagging." Whether it revolves around cleaning your room, taking out the trash, or "for the last time stop standing with the refrigerator door open!!!," most of us guys can relate.

My Mom, it seems, has a black belt in this ancient art practiced for centuries by females all over the globe. I would be lying if I said it didn't get under my skin a lot of the time. I'll be perfectly honest: when my mother tries to tell me what I should be doing, how I should be doing it and when I should be doing it, as childish as it may seem, I often take offense.

Chalk it up to male pride. I'm guessing a lot of you, the male constituents in my audience, have dealt with the same issue. Whenever a woman (our mothers or anyone else for that matter) tries to tell us that we're doing something wrong, we go on the defensive. We think, "Why is she still giving her opinion? Doesn't she know that I heard her point the first time? Besides, I've already got everything under control!!!"

Now let's switch gears for a second. Every guy knows how frustrating it is when you know that a girl has something on her mind, but whenever you ask her what it is she just says, "Oh, nothing." This is as frustrating to us as three weeks worth of algebra tests, because it interferes with our God-given desire to be a protector and provider. If you won't tell us what the problem is (and a lot of the time this means spelling it out, because the truth is we guys aren't typically as intuitive as you ladies), then we feel helpless, even unwanted.

Recently my girlfriend made a comment about how, biblically, women are supposed to be a man's helper, and that it really encouraged her when I noticed some of the things that she would do to help me and when I accepted her help. Just this morning I got slapped upside the head with the realization that maybe, just as we men have a God-given Protector/Provider instinct, perhaps women have a God-given Helper instinct. And just think, if it frustrates us so much when they refuse to tell us what their problems are, how much might it frustrate them when we refuse their help and advice???

Truth be told, it took an angry shouting match with my Mom to bring this fact to light. :-(- It all seems so cut-and-dried, but in reality it is so unbelievably hard to accept this well-intentioned help from a female.

In order to do this, we need to let go of our pride and let women help us when we need it. I'm not saying that we need to do everything their way all the time, just that we need to be sensitive to their suggestions. Let's let women be women and exercise their Helper instincts, and then maybe when they see our sensitivity in taking their suggestions into account, they'll feel more receptive to letting us exercise our Protector/Provider instincts.

God Bless.


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Randori For Everyday Life

Close your eyes. Now imagine your face bright red, your breathing heavy, your heart pounding, your palms sweating. You feel totally helpless in the face of your predicament.

No, I'm not referencing the scenario I outlined in "Misconceptions Concerning the Female Species," though most honest guys would attest that these symptoms are often part of talking with women.

This is martial arts class.

You're kneeling at the edge of the tatami, or mat, covering the floor of your dojo. Tonight you and your cohei practice randori, or freestyle attack. Assembled in a straight line, silently solemn, a handful of your toughest opponents sit opposite you. The tension is so thick that you can feel it in the air your lungs are yearning for, as well as the sweat that drenches you, running down your forehead and into your eyes, blinding you. Your sensei, though he knows your feelings from experience, is unsympathetic.

He barks out one short command, and the action begins.

You rise to your feet in unison with your adversaries, who are dashing towards you even as they stand.
You redirect the first attack, a punch to the stomach, just in time to blend with the second and throw your attacker to the floor. The other two run for you, but you push the first two into them, checking their rush for those vital few seconds you need to regain your stance. You don't plan, you act. As your attacker brings the knife edge of his hand at your nose, again you blend with the attack, utilizing his momentum and knocking him on his back. A short sprint backwards permits you to gather yourself and once again engage your opponents.

You are aware that your greatest asset in a fight of this nature is not your strength, nor your speed; it's your
movement. Without the ability to dodge an attack, deprived of the space to redirect your enemies into each other, you would be helpless in the face of their onslaught. You make good use of this vital weapon, and no matter how fast your opponents come at you you flicker in and out, like flame. The attacker who a second ago saw an exposed back as you dealt with his comrade now rushes straight into your outstretched palm.

Your adversaries thought they had that rear naked choke locked in; but you dropped to your knees and threw them to the mat, disappearing, then resurfacing behind them victorious. And then, as quickly as it began, it's over. Your Sensei congratulates you on your strategy, and you leave with a smile on your face, triumphant in your victory.

As I participated in this scenario earlier tonight, I couldn't help thinking that it parallels life very closely.

In a fight involving more than one attacker, you cannot afford to focus on one adverasy. As soon as you start to do that, you forfeit all chance of winning. You start patting yourself on the back for that great arm bar you just applied, and then before you know it two other men are jumping on top of that back you're busy patting. ;-)-

Neither can you expect to take on everybody at once. No, what you must do is utilize movement to rush one man, then throw him into his buddy. You're then free to attack the third attacker. You do this while remaining aware of everything that's going on around you. My fellow practitioners call this "disconnecting."

You "connect" when you focus attention on one attacker; too much connection means trouble.

In life, a million different things compete for your attention at once. You have to go to work, while coping with the fact that your girlfriend dumped you, and nagging at you in the back of your mind is that math homework that's due tonight, which you thought would be done by now but you thought wrong, and now you have to cancel the plans you made with your best friend three weeks ago.

How do you cope with it all?!?!

Well, as with randori, you can't let it all pile up at once. You have to be able to take one thing at a time, and put thiose future plans and projects on a timer in the back of your head somewhere.

You have to have the freedom to "move around," in other words rearrange things when they don't turn out the way you think they should.

Unlike randori, our strongest asset here isn't our movement. It's Jesus Christ.

"For I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13). While God doesn't promise that we won't have problems in life, He can help take the stress out of it for us!!! All we have to do is ask. When life leaves you feeling smashed flatter than a tortilla run over by a 400 pound truck driver driving a huge eighteen wheeler carrying a bunch of well-fed sumo wrestlers, just give it to Him and see what He does with it.

Disconnect from your busy world for a few minutes today and connect with God.
Don't worry; He's got your back. ;-)-

God Bless.


Monday, October 1, 2007

Conformity vs. Popularity

I'm short on time so, consequently, this post will also be short.

Lately I've begun to wonder if I'm too serious. It almost seems like I've got a serious case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde going on sometimes. I tend to enjoy things that none of my other peers do (Seinfeld, ancient history, and books on psychology to name a few), which makes me feel very distant from them most of the time.
I do have the capacity to spend my time in the most trivial ways, playing PS2, shooting hoops, or watching SpongeBob SquarePants, which almost has all the educational value of Silly Songs with Larry.

But on another level, I tend to crave serious conversation with my peers, and almost loathe discussions exclusively revolving around the mundane. I spent most of the past four years of my life talking about nothing but music, movies and video games with my closest friends, and I've gotten to the point where that just doesn't do it for me anymore.

I find myself wondering lately, Am I normal? Does my appreciation of my parent's music (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, etc) label me as a throwback from the past generation? Does my appreciation of things like ancient history, Psychology, and politics render me stuffy and boring in the eyes of my peers?

And then I begin to ask myself another question...what IS normal, and do I really want to obtain it?

Our culture tells us that to be normal is to like the same big bands that millions of people listen to, to shop at Hollister, and that image is everything. While I never want to mindlessly conform to those around me, I find myself walking the thin line between conformity and popularity.

Don't misunderstand. In my heart of hearts I know that God's opinion is all that matters, and that I really don't need to care about man's opinion. Lately it seems, however, that my knowledge of this fact has been put in a chokehold by my desire to fit in and be appreciated by my peers. Everybody wants to fit in, and I am no exception. Maybe I should spend more time where I feel I am greater appreciated for just being me, or maybe I'll never fit into that coveted mold that makes lots of people want to hear your views and get your feedback.
A lot to think about, I guess. Like I said, I know that I shouldn't care about other's opinion, and that God's is the only one that truly matters. Still, it doesn't change my desire to be accepted. I guess I'll sleep on it and see if I get any insight from reading the insides of my eyelids for a few hours.