Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ghosts... Past... Present... Future...

It's Christmas time!

The most famous fictional Christmas story by far is A Christmas Carol.  There are so many adaptations of the story even the Muppets and Disney characters have been involved in Christmas Carol projects.  The story has stood the test of time and the message is loud and clear about not only how we should act during the Christmas season but how we should live our lives all year long.  It is a great message that everyone needs to learn.

As the story goes, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by 4 ghosts on Christmas Eve.  He is visited by his old partner in business Jacob Marley, as well as the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.  By witnessing things from his past, present, and future, Scrooge sees the mistakes he has made and what the future will hold for his life if he doesn't make changes.  Luckily Scrooge sees the light and is able to turn things around and become a better person. 

I believe that just like Scrooge we are visited by ghosts.  Ours are a little different but in some ways exactly the same.  Our ghosts of the past come in the forms of memories, and thoughts that help to mold and shape who we are.  Our ghosts of the past are the mistakes that we have made throughout life.  I think we all look back at times and remember things that we said and did that impacted people and ourselves in negative ways. We think about times that people treated us badly and hurt us.  We are able to look back on these ghosts and make positive changes and decisions in our present time based on what our ghost of the past shows us.  We can think about those things and make sure that we don't make the same mistakes twice.   We can be affected by our ghosts of the past just like Scrooge was.

Our ghosts of the present are those times when we pine over decisions we have made or things that we have said that adversely affected us or others.  We may have hurt someone by putting them down or yelling at them.  We may have skipped an important meeting or event and know that we made a mistake by doing so.  These ghosts of the present haunt us and often cause us to have angst, lose sleep, or can even make us physically ill. These ghosts of the present help us to realize mistakes as they happen and allow us to make changes.

Our ghosts of the future are also known as the goals that we set.  No one knows the future and we can't predict what exactly will happen but we can set goals and expectations of what we want to do with our lives.  We have to have drive and ambition in life.  We get that drive, passion, and ambition from our ghost of the future.  The help us to form what we will look like tomorrow, five years from now, twenty years from now, and for the rest of our lives.  Without our ghost of the future helping us along the way we do not have direction.

Scrooge's ghosts were specters that we could physically see in the story. They helped to show Scrooge why he acted the way he acts and what changes he needed to make and could make to be a better man.  I hope that your ghosts help to guide you throughout life.  I hope that you realize that they are here to help and are not something to be scared of even if they show us that we have done something bad or wrong in our past or in our present.  These ghosts make us who we are and it is up to us to learn from them.

I hope you have a great holiday season and when you see A Christmas Carol on TV or DVD this Christmas just remember what I said about your ghosts and try to use all three to become a better person. 

As tiny Tim so eloquently stated:  "God bless us, everyone!"

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dear Younger Me

Dear Younger Me,

It is weird that I have this opportunity to write to you and give you some advice now that I am older and wiser.  Hopefully you can use this to help you throughout the rest of your life and make some changes that will help to positively affect your life.  I won't give you the winning lottery numbers or tell you who won the Superbowl because that is not what this is about.  I just have some life advice for you.  So here we go!

1.  Except for the 2000 football year, Virginia Tech's football is very hard to watch.  They have their ups and downs and I won't tell you about either but just remember they are only college kids and just need to be supported.  Do however cherish every game of the 2000 series. You could suggest to Michael Vick that he do some charity work at an animal shelter while he is at Virginia Tech.  It could help him later on in life.

2.  The degree you chose in college doesn't really help you out with the career you've chosen.  I suggest a degree in an educational field or something working with children.  When was the last time you went to church?  Are you part of a youth group?  Those two things may help you out later in life.

3.  Maybe try eating some mushrooms and onions more often.  I know you hate them but I can tell you that you are missing out on something that you are going to grow to love.  I know it's crazy but grill some mushrooms and then tell me what you think.  Speaking of grilling.  You should do that more often.

4.  I know you have a great time collecting cards with Dad but I suggest that you turn those cards over quickly and sell them while the market is hot.  Things on that front don't turn out so great later on.  Do however cherish that time with Dad, it is one of your greatest memories.

5. Looking back, Grandpa Swanson had huge influences on who you are today.  Glean everything you can from him including his beliefs. Just remember that life is short and you need to spend time with those you love.

6.  Be nicer to your brother.  You guys have a good relationship but you really only see each other twice a year now a days.  I think a lot of that comes from not having a tighter relationship as kids.  He's a great guy and needs to be your right hand man.

7.  In High School remember the name Valerie and stay away from her. It's pretty simple you might end up with a broken heart if you get involved with her.

8.  Maybe you could do a little better with portion control.  I mean it would definitely make my life a little easier right now.

9. Take an old blanket and cut a hole in it for your head, and two for your arms.  Wear it like a robe.  I suggest maybe calling it a snuggie.  I know it sounds crazy but if you market it you never know what might happen.  That's the only money making advice I will give you besides starting that IRA that Dad says he will match you when you put money into it.  It would be really smart to get that started.

10.  The sequel to every movie is not as good as the original no matter how much they advertise that it is going to be the best movie in the series.  The only exceptions are "The Dark Knight " and the third Indiana Jones movie.  You'll know it when you see them. 

10. Be nice to people.  Don't be selfish.  Love the ones you are with and cherish your time with them.  Always say I love you to any one you truly love because you never know what can happen.  Go visit Grandma and Grandpa more often. Try new things, don't be scared.  God is always with you and he loves you unconditionally.

I could give you a ton more advice and tell you all kinds of things you should and shouldn't do but I kind of love my life the way it is and I don't want you to change it too much.  A little more money never hurt anyone but that's true no matter who you are.  Just love your life and understand that the choices you make affect others.


                                                                                       You? Me? Eric? I'm not sure how to address this!

                                                                                        How about older me?

P.S.  Buy all the Holiday Twist Tic Tacs that you can because they are limited edition and disappear before you are tired of them.  Also do something about your hair cut in High School.  It was horrible!!!  I suggest cutting it short, you really like that look now a days.  Just a thought!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's the small things that make a huge impact...

The youth and I worked the chili supper on Friday night.  It was a lot of fun and the youth did an awesome job serving and helping out in the kitchen.  It is always amazing to watch them so willingly give up a Friday night to help with something at church.  I often ask myself if I would of been willing to help out with something at church on a Friday night? 

The most amazing and touching part of the night had nothing to do with the chili supper at all.  While we were cleaning up and getting ready to leave for the night Alex and Eliza came over and said they had something to give me.  People keep having questions for me so they had to wait but I could see they were excited.  When I was finally able to give them my attention Alex pulled her hand out of her jacket and handed me a package of Reese's peanut butter cups.  She said these are for you.  I asked her where she got them from.  She told me that they got them out of the vending machine.  I gave them a hug and thanked them.

When I got home I got to thinking about it and it really meant a lot more than just someone giving me something.  Those girls spent their own money and thought of me when they saw the Reese's peanut butter cups in the vending machine.  All the youth know they are my favorite candy but for them to take the time to buy them for me meant so much to me.

I don't do what I do in order to get things from the youth but when they take the time to buy me candy, write me a letter, or give me anything it makes me feel amazing.  I am blessed to have the relationship I have with my youth.  My job is so rewarding just because I get to know so many different youth and spend time with the future of this world. 

A small gesture such as buying candy doesn't go unnoticed.  It may not seem like a big deal to the youth that gave it to me but it is a big deal to me!  Thank you Lord for all the blessings that you have given me in my life especially all of my youth! 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Letting Go, and Letting God

Yesterday during church I was deeply moved by Liz's testimony.  Having been a part of the process since she originally wrote her testimony for Pilgrimage, I have read, edited, and heard her deliver the testimony numerous times but it was never as moving as it was to watch her up there on Sunday.  Although we have worked through her pain a couple of times I could see her letting go of even more of it as she shared things with our congregation that only a select few of us knew prior to Sunday.

 Liz is a person that keeps everything inside and closely guarded and I have had to use many different tactics to get her to open up and share what is wrong.  All of us keep things inside and they cause us pain and angst.  We often forget that there are people out there that love us and care for us and want to help us through pain and making difficult decisions.  If we don't allow others to help us then we end up doing more harm to ourselves by keeping it inside instead of releasing it.

People say they don't see God in their pain.  They say they don't see him when they are suffering and need him most, yet they overlook that person that is asking them if they are ok or if they want to talk.  I think that is God right there in front of them.  I think God uses us to help each other and we have to open up and share our pain so that God can help us.  I believe he puts people in our way to help us.  A person asking you if you are ok or if you want to talk doesn't seem like anything different or special, but if you notice it often comes at the most opportune time when you need it most.  It may even come from someone you don't expect it to come from. 

It is in that moment that we need to understand that not only is God there with us in our pain and suffering he is listening, he is loving us, and he is sending us the help we need.  80 percent of what I do is listen to youth talk.  I listen to their problems whether they are big or small. God uses me to help our youth just simply by listening to them.  It took me hearing Liz's testimony yesterday to realize how much God uses me for that.

I am so proud of you Liz!  I can only imagine what it was like to go up there and share the wonderful things that God has done in your life.  I am so glad that he gave me an opportunity to be a part of your life!  You are amazing!  I love you and thank you for sharing your spiritual journey with our congregation. 

God is good.... All the time....   All the time... God is good!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Day the Laughter Died...

"Comedy is acting out optimism."

-Robin Williams        

           I have always loved to laugh.  Laughter makes your heart smile.  I haven't gone a single day in my life without laughing.  I hope to never go a day without laughter.  My dad is the number one comedian in my life and heart.  He has a quick wit and wonderful sense of humor.  I think that is where I get my sense of humor. 

I love to watch or listen to a funny comedian.  Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Ron White, Bill Cosby, Gabriel Iglesias, Pablo Francisco, Jim Gaffigan, Dave Chappelle, and Tim Hawkins are some of my favorites.  But my absolute favorite that I could always rely on to bring a smile to my face and a laugh to my heart was Robin Williams.  

Robin had a way about him that brought joy and happiness anywhere he went.  If you watch his comedy specials he always interacts with the audiences and makes them a part of the show.  His energy level was through the roof and it was infectious.  He made me want to get out there in the world and make people laugh and enjoy life.

There are so many good movies that Robin was in and he ad-libbed  in all of them. Those movies would not of been the same without his comedic genius.  Although it wasn't one of his best movies according to critics my favorite Robin Williams movie was Jack.  In Jack he plays a kid that has an unusual aging disorder that causes him to grow at four times the normal rate.  By the age of 10 he has the body of a forty year old but still has the mind and mannerisms of a 10 year old.   

Those of you who know me well know that I am Jack.  I am a kid trapped in a man's body.  That is probably why that movie resonates with me.  I can picture myself as Jack and I would be exactly like how Robin Williams played the character. 

He was so talented and so funny and there will be less laughter in the world because he is gone.  We get such a small amount of time on this earth, it's important that we show love to our friends and family, we live life to its fullest not wasting any of it, we are caring and thoughtful to those around us, and it's so important that we laugh. 

Laughter is free and it can do amazing things.

You will be missed Robin Williams.

From the movie Jack:

[Jack, with the appearance of a 72-year old but only 18 years old, arrives at his graduation ceremony]

Lawrence Woodruff: [addressing the audience] Ladies and gentleman, it is my honor to introduce this year's valedictorian, Jack Charles Powell.

[a round of applause approves of this choice]

Jack: [taking the stand] Thank you, Aristotle.

[Due to his aged condition he has to take out spectacles to read the speech]

Eric: Yo Jack, go get 'em!

Jack: I got it, Eric. I'm cool... I don't have very much time these days so I'll make it quick. Like my life. You know, as we come to the end of this phase of our life, we find ourselves trying to remember the good times and trying to forget the bad times, and we find ourselves thinking about the future. We start to worry , thinking, "What am I gonna do? Where am I gonna be in ten years?" But I say to you, "Hey, look at me!" Please, don't worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you're ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day... make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did. I made it, Mom. I'm a grown up.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

It's the small things in life...

The other day when I left the gym I was in a hurry because I was running a little late to start my day.  I parked in the parking deck so I had to go down the escalator to get to my car. As I made my way to the escalators I couldn't help but notice a three or four year old girl and her dad going down the escalator.  By the time I reached the escalator they had made the turn and were headed back up the other escalator to where they had just come from.  As I got on the escalator I watched this little girl laugh and smile and hold tightly to her father's hand as they made their way back up the escalator.

The father and I locked eyes and I smiled at him and laughed.  Such a small thing as riding the escalator, something many of us take for granted, was bringing so much joy to this little girl.  She didn't have a care in the world she just wanted to ride the escalator down and back up again. 

I make my way to my car and threw my gym bag in the trunk and got in the drivers seat.  I started up the car because I was still late and needed to go, but my mind wandered to that little girl and her huge smile and sweet laugh.

I turned the car off.

I got out.

I rode the escalator up and back down again.  Smiling the whole time.

It might not of brought me as much joy as it brought her but it brought a smile to my face and to my heart.  It made me realize we move too fast in this world and we often miss out on the small things that bring joy to life.

What small thing will you do today to bring joy to your life?

Can't think of anything?  I know where you can find an escalator...

Thursday, July 17, 2014


We all have a special jar in our house or compartment in our car where we put our loose change.  You know that change that comes after you go through the drive thru and bought your hamburger and fries. People don't seem to know what to do with there loose change or for that matter people don't want to have to deal with it.  I find nickels, dimes, and pennies all the time in parking lots or in the couches downstairs in the youth room.  I even have youth give me their change on trips because they don't want the hassle of having to deal with it.

It is frustrating sometimes to deal with loose change but if you put a lot of it together it quickly because more than a few cents, it becomes dollars.  That is when collecting change pays off.  One hundred pennies, 20 nickels, 10 dimes, or 4 quarters all make 1 dollar.  It is amazing how fast you can get to a dollar when you have loose change around.  Still people don't like to deal with it or want to have to count it in order to make a dollar.

 People don't like changes in their lives either.  They seem to freak out or get upset when something changes.  we all become use to the way something is done and so we expect it to be done that way.  When someone changes the way it is done, we get mad and angry and we don't understand.

Usually there is a really good reason behind why something changes.  Maybe there is a better way to do it or get more people to participate.  Maybe there is a more cost effective way of doing something, or maybe the old way that something is being done just isn't working any more. 

In youth ministry we are constantly in flux because we have to change the program to meet the needs of the youth. I have to change trips, times, curriculum, and locations to meet the needs of the youth.  It works well most of the time but sometimes it back fires because the youth want to do it the way it has always been done.

I think the major problem with change is the way it is presented.  People who want to make changes don't often do a good job of explaining the situation to those that are going to be affected by the change.  People do not think about the best way to make a change or open up a dialogue with people about the change. 

I think we lose track sometimes about how change affects people.  The change might be needed and might be a good idea, but we don't think about those it affects.  Some people may have given hundreds of hours and blood, sweat, and tears to something only to have it yanked out from underneath them without little explanation as to why the change was made. 

We never know how a change is going to affect someone so it is up to us to be smart, sensitive, and timely when we decide to make changes.  When I make a change to the youth program I discuss the change with my youth mentors, I talk to some of the youth, and then I decide what to do.  I then make sure everyone understands why the change was made and what their new role might be in the change.  Lots of discussion takes place before I make a change in anything that I do. 

Be smart about the changes you make.  Make sure people are well informed and that they aren't surprised by a change.  Most of all, make sure you thank them for all the work they have done on something you never know how a change might change a person's outlook or make them feel.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

It is Easier to Gain than it is to Lose

I have a love hate relationship with food.

Okay actually its more of a love love relationship.

Food has always been a stress reliever for me.  I definitely eat when I am stressed and for someone that keeps their emotions inside that can be a "huge" issue.  When I am not stressed I am actually really good about eating and making smart choices that is until you put it in front of me.  For example if you put a package of Oreos in front of me I can't only eat one.  I have to have an entire row.  I also can't eat them without milk so then I find myself in the kitchen pouring myself a giant glass of milk. The thing is that I don't go looking for Oreos, I don't buy them because I know the mistakes I will make.

I have been up and down the dieting circuit.  I have tried many different things from Weight watchers to Atkins.  Some of them have worked and some of them haven't but through all of my eating and dieting I have noticed one thing, it is easier to gain weight than it is to lose it.  I know this doesn't come as a shocker to you but it is the truth.

To gain weight all you have to do is eat, eat, and eat some more.  To lose weight you have to diet, exercise, count calories, weigh yourself weekly, change exercises so that you don't plateau, and you have to say NO to so many different food options and opportunities and people do not make it easy. 

It is easier to gain than it is to lose weight.
When I started to think about it, "It is easier to gain than it is to lose" goes for a lot of things in life besides just weight loss.

When we fall it love it is amazing.  We are so excited and everything is right with the world.  We gain someone special and new in our lives and it is a feeling that is so joyous that it is hard to explain how wonderful it is.  But, when a relationship ends, it is so hard.  One if not both people are devastated and hurt beyond belief. There is a lot of crying, yelling, and even EATING.  It is so hard on us when we lose someone that we loved.

It is easier to gain than it is to lose.

When we or someone we know has a baby we are so excited.  This precious new life that has entered the world brings hope, love, and joy. We gain happiness through new life. But, when we lose a family member or friend we are distraught.  Sometimes it is expected and sometimes we are taken by surprise by death but all the time we are hurt by the loss.

It is easier to gain than it is to lose.

Many of us are sports fans and we cheer for certain teams.  We were winning we are excited and happy and ready for the next game, but when we are losing we are mad and upset and probably say things we shouldn't say to the TV.

It is easier to gain than it is to lose.

There is however one situation I can think of that is just as easier to gain than it is to lose.  That is your relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is so easy to gain because all you have to is except him as your Lord and Savior.  Once you have done that you have a relationship with him, but here is the kicker, no matter what you say or do you will never lose that relationship.  There is nothing that you can do to lose the unconditional love of Jesus. No matter how hard we try, he will always be there for you, he will always love you, and he will always be watching over you. 

No matter what, your relationship with Jesus is harder to gain than it is to lose and in order to gain it all you have to do is ask!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Faith like Ronnie...

We are almost a week removed from our mission trip.  As always we attended ASP (Appalachia Service Project) and we went to Watauga County, North Carolina.  Two teams from our church ended up working on the same site.  Our project was to build the foundation for a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom addition to a house. 

On Sunday night myself another adult and two of the youth went to the site to meet the family and take a look at the project.  Along the way we were told the story of the family.  Due to a meth issue with a family member Ronnie (our homeowner) got a call in the middle of the night from the police saying that if they did not take in the four children of the family member that they would be separated and put into the system.  Without hesitation Ronnie and his wife took in the kids. 

On top of the 4 new children that entered the household, Ronnie and his wife have 2 children of their own.  Now there are 8 people living under this one roof with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. 

That would seem like enough to have to deal with but Ronnie also has stage 4 cancer. 

My biggest problem right now is getting up in the morning and making myself go to the gym.  I can't imagine what it must be like to have to get up every morning and deal with not feeling well as well as taking care of 6 kids.

I thought for sure that Ronnie was going to be a bitter man when we met him.  I was proven wrong the first moment I met him.  He was in such high spirits and so thankful that we were there to work on his home.

One day while I had a very bad headache and was sitting under the tent (yes Lindsay under the tent!)  Ronnie came down and sat down beside me and told me some of his story.  He told me about his strong beliefs.  He told me that Jesus would come for him when it was time but until then he was going to live life.  He was going to take care of his kids, watch them play basketball and grow up to be fine young men and a 1 beautiful young woman. 

He told me a story about how he went in for his chemo and there was an elderly man and his wife there.  The elderly man turned to Ronnie at one point and said "Son don't let cancer beat you, you beat cancer!" Ronnie said that those words resonated with him and that he has lived his life since that day believing that he will beat cancer.

He talked about how much he loved God and that God had given him so much in life.  He wore a cross everyday to symbolize his faith.   He talked about being a truck driver with over 2 million miles on the roads of the United States without ever having an accident.

Ronnie was amazing to listen too.  Here is a man with a home that is not top of the line, 6 kids to take care of ranging from 2 and 1/2 to 12, and battling cancer.  If anyone would have a right to have their faith wavier it would be him.  But his faith is strong.  Stronger than most who attend church regularly on Sunday mornings. 

So I wish for you faith like Ronnie.  I wish for you a love of Jesus Christ that tragedy, sorrow, pain, nor sickness can take it way.  I hope that the everyday problems of life seem minuet today and that you up yourself up to a love that is unfaltering, unconditional, and always there.   May you know the love of Jesus Christ today and may your faith be just like Ronnie's. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mother's Day is May 13th right?!?!?

Sooooo... I made a bit of mistake. Shhhhh... Don't tell my mom.  I ordered flowers to be delivered yesterday, May 9th for Mother's Day.  It was cheaper to get them delivered on Friday before the weekend and I thought it might be more of a surprise that way!  Unfortunately last night when I went to look up my order to make sure they were delivered it had my delivery date set as Friday May 30th.  I have no clue how that happened.  I was able to get it changed but the earliest day they could be delivered is Tuesday, so Happy Mother's Day tomorrow Mom and Happy Tuesday as well.

I will call my Mom tomorrow to wish here a Happy Mother's Day and she will find out then about my mistake.  Actually she will read this before then so she will have a heads up when we talk!  Either way my Mom will forgive me I am sure of that. 

My Mom is one of the biggest influences in my life.  I would not have the skills and interests I have if it wasn't for her.  I am computer savvy and that is because she had me take classes at the community college while I was in high school.  My love of writing also comes from her.  She helped me to develop my writing skills while I was in high school by critiquing my papers because her Master's Degree is in English.  In fact I am sure she is critiquing this post as she reads it and I wouldn't have it any other way.

She has always supported me in every decision I have made and allowed me to follow my own path.  When life has thrown me curve balls she has been there to help me through the hard times. I can always count on her for advice when I call and a warm hug when I see her!

My favorite memory of my Mom is a Christmas a long time ago.  I have never been able to sleep on Christmas Eve.  To this day I still have a tough time falling asleep.  One Christmas when I was very young I couldn't sleep.  I kept wanting to get up and go look to see if Santa had come.  My mom stayed up with me in my room and read as I tried to sleep.  I couldn't sleep I was so excited and worried that Santa wouldn't come.  She even took me in and showed me that Santa had come and brought lots of presents.  I still didn't sleep.  Mom stayed up with me all night that Christmas.  She read in my room with me as I laid in my bed with wide eyes waiting for 5:00 am to come or something close to that.  It was the longest Christmas Eve of my life I think but looking back on it now as an adult, I don't remember at all what I got that Christmas, all I remember is my Mom staying with me all night long and honesty that was the best Christmas present I could of ever gotten! 

I love you Mom, Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Merge Right

The other day I was driving along the highway and I was praying because it had been a hard day.  I was talking to God about everything from my job to my personal life.  It was a pretty in depth conversation.  I was asking for advise and help in making some decisions.  These weren't difficult or for that matter really hard decisions but I wanted God to play an important role in the decisions that I made.

I got to a point where I just flat out asked God what I should do.  The minute after I said that there was a sign to my right in front of me that was blinking: Merge Right... It just kept blinking the same message over and over.  I was taken aback because that sign usually blinks Traffic Pattern Change and then blinks Merge Right but that night as I drove up on it, it just said Merge Right. 

It could of meant nothing at all. It could of been just a malfunctioning sign, but I took it that I was supposed to Merge Right, meaning that I was supposed to have faith in Jesus and that everything would turn out alright.  

How did I get to that assumption based on a sign that said Merge Right?

Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father. 

 "It is right, and a good and joyful thing,  always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth." 

 God is always right. 

The statements above are what made me think that Merging Right is what God wanted me to do.  He wanted me to understand that he is with me no matter what I decide and will help me through it.  I hope that when you make decisions whether or big or small you will always Merge Right. 

If you come to a fork in road of your life and need to make a decision on which road to travel down, I suggest that you Merge Right and see what happens!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Running on Empty

Have you ever been driving along and all of a sudden that little red light appears and tells you that you are running low on gas?

Has that ever happened to you when you were driving in an area you weren't familiar with?

It has happened to me a couple of times. Not only was I stressed out about the fact that I didn't have enough gas in the car but I was extra stressed because now I have to find a gas station in an area that I don't even know where a gas station is. It is actually quite funny how when you don't need a gas station there is one on every corner but when you do, you can't find one. I have driven down road after road looking for a gas station while that little red light seemed to get brighter and brighter. I have even had to pull into a full service gas station before because it was the only one around and I didn't want to run out of gas. It is not a fun situation to be in but more often than not I find myself letting that little red light come on before I fill my tank.

Gas is what makes are cars go, we can't drive without it. Without gas we would be stuck on the side of the road or never even able to leave the driveway. We need a full tank of gas so that we can go where ever we want to go whenever we want to go there.

The same can be said for our spiritual tanks. Too often we go through life running on empty and we don't take the time to fill ourselves spiritually. This is easily overlooked with everything that we have going on in our lives. We go to church on Sunday morning and we think that is enough to get us through the week. We don't realize that we are actually running on empty and by the time the next Sunday rolls around we are coasting in on fumes. We need to take time during our week to pray, to read the bible, be a part of a covenant group, or a bible study. We need to participate in mission work or volunteer work. We need to take time during the week to fill our tanks, if we don't then we become empty and that is a hard place to be especially when we don't realize that we are running on empty.

Make sure that you take time to fill your tank. God is here for you and he wants to be in relationship with you. The thing is, we NEED to be in relationship with him. We need to fill our tanks so that we can go out into the world and fill the tanks of others.

We must be full in order to be the hands of feet of Christ for the world. Don't wait for the red light to come on. Go out there and fill your tank!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

10,000 Strong

I wanted to take a minute and thank everyone that has ever read my blog.  Over the past three years I have written my thoughts, loves, and opinions on the pages of this blog and you all have taken the time to read the entries and for that I am humbled and very thankful! 

Last night, I had my 10,000th viewing of a blog entry.  That means that 10,000 times people have taken the time to open my blog and read one of my entries. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and for giving me a small place on the web where I have a voice! 

I am excited to continue and thankful for your support.  God is good, All the time.  All the time, God is good!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Noah: The Lord of the Rings version?!?!

Please remember that these are just my opinions and I encourage you to form your own.  I also encourage you to wait till it comes out at Redbox so you are only spending a dollar on it!

Yesterday we took the youth group to see Noah because we have been talking a lot about the story of Noah this year during youth group.  Our theme this year has been stepping outside of the box.  We have talk about how we need to step outside of our boxes of our comfort zones to try new things and go out into the world and be the hands and feet of Christ.  We talked a lot about how Noah did this by following God and building the ark.  This was a huge step for Noah knowing everything that was going to happen with the great flood. 

The youth were really excited about seeing the movie and the ark on the big screen.  I will say however that this movie is an "outside the box" interpretation of Noah.  I believe that it had its good and valid points but overall I had a hard time with the movie especially knowing the story from the bible.  Here are the things I took from the movie:

The Biblical Parts:

Noah was in the movie with his wife and their three sons, Ham, Sham, and Japheth. 

Noah is a descendant of Seth

Methuselah was the grandfather of Noah

The world was depicted as a cruel and sinful place

There was an ark

There was a great flood

The animals came two by two (ALL of the animals came including the snakes!!! Yikes!!!)

A Raven was sent out to find land

The Dove was sent our and returned with an Olive Branch

Noah got drunk and naked (Surprisingly both in the Bible)

There were references to Adam, Eve, and the Serpent

If you didn't know that Cain killed Abel, you sure did by the end of the movie

The creation story was told with parts of it being biblically based

The parts that made it seem like the Lord of the Rings

Adam and Eve were portrayed as glowing alien beings.

There were rock monsters which were fallen Angels that came down to help mankind after they were considered sinful.  The creator encased them in earth/rock and doomed them to roam the earth.  They were known as the Guardians.  They also helped Noah build the ark.

Methuselah had magical powers of healing and making people fall asleep by simply touching them.  He was either a hypnotist or based on someone who comes a little later in the Bible who heals the sick. 

Methuselah is the gateway between the Creator and Noah.  He gives Noah some drugged drink so that he has the visions of the flood and the ark.  If I were Noah I would of thought I was tripping on something instead of seeing what the Creator wanted me to do.

There was a protagonist that is able to chop this way through the side of the ark with a small axe and hide within the ark with Noah and his family.

This protagonist eats one of the animals of the ark, which of course makes the animal extinct.  He also kills another animal to get Noah to come down so he can kill him.  One of the kids said this animal was a unicorn which I found funny.

There are some funky creatures throughout the movie that are mythical
There are magic glowing rocks that by simply crushing them you are able to make fire, or put them in a hallowed out tube and you have a rocket. 

Since there were no pharmacies we have to rely on the magic tea leaves to tell us if someone is pregnant.  (I am still not sure how she knew!)

I don't understand why Hermione Granger pull out her wand, flick her wrist and make a boat appear.  Ok I know that has nothing to do with the movie, but she will always be Hermione Granger to me!

Things I just didn't like or get

 Sham, Ham, and Japheth were young in the movie and didn't have wives.

Noah was by no means a righteous man in this movie.  There were plenty of moments that made you question why the Creator would of chosen him.

Noah did not walk with God or have a relationship with him.  He was not talked to directly by God but instead through a dream followed by a drug induced out of body experience.

The movie was based on cleanings the earth and starting the world over.  This involved the protection and preservation of the innocent animals. Noah did not believe that the Creator wanted mankind to survive because of its sinful ways.  He told the family how they would each bury each other until Japheth was the last man on earth and humanity would end.

Noah's hair style changes about 5 times during the movie but no one else's hair changes.

The movie was very eco friendly which I get in one sense but not at the sake of destroying all of mankind.

Things I thought were Interesting

It was a neat concept that they created a smoke from herbs that would calm the animals down and put them to sleep so that they could survive without them attacking each other.

It was pretty cool to see the flood form and the ark battling the rain and flood waters. 

The flash backs to earlier stories of the bible were interesting.  Some of them weren't accurate but I guess they don't have to be accurate to be interesting.

The new world after the flood was neat to see.

Final Conclusion

I didn't like the movie which is sad because there was so much potential there.  I think there is a lot of ways that Hollywood could of used "movie magic" to depict different things from the Noah story and still keep to the Bible narrative.

As Emily put it as we got up to leave the movie theater, "The book is so much better!"  UPDATE:  It was Pete that said it, Emily just happened to repeat it louder :)  Either way they are both right!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Those who arrive survive!

As many of you know one of my favorite TV shows is the Walking Dead.  This coming Sunday is the season finale and then I will have to wait over 6 months until it comes back on.  This show is about the zombie apocalypse where the zombies roam the earth and attack the living.  Although I don't believe that the zombies are the real threat in this new world, maybe that's a different blog post, this post is going to be about the:

The top 10 things not to do during the Zombie Apocalypse!
(Probably makes more sense if you seen the Walking Dead)

10.  If you see signs that say "Those who arrive survive"  talking about a safe community, do not go there. Turn around and run the opposite way!

9.  If come across a town that seems wonderful and great and led by a guy that seems to be genuinely concerned about the people that live there and overly friendly but the town has built an arena where at night they have two people fight each other while tied up zombies are circling around them for entertainment purposes, get out of there!  What all the sudden during the zombie apocalypse there aren't basketballs anymore?  No one can teach the kids ballet for a recital? No one can play the guitar? You can find nothing else to entertain you? Get out of there as fast as you can.  The leader may have an aquarium of zombie heads.  I'm just sayin! 

8/  Don't walk backwards anywhere.  There is no reason to walk backwards.  Anytime someone walks backwards they stumble and trip and fall right into a zombie and either die or get hurt.  Just don't walk backwards.

7.  Don't assume that a zombie is dead.  When you are walking around a there is a "dead" zombie on the ground because it isn't moving, don't assume it is!  Come on people, that is just a zombie playing possum.  The minute you walk past it it's going to bite your leg and we are going to have to cut your leg off so you don't become a zombie. You know what they say about assuming!

6.  While searching for food, if you come across a giant can of pudding don't eat it all by yourself.  Maybe I want some pudding.  What I can't get no pudding?  Come on it's the zombie apocalypse, share the pudding!

5.  Don't go out at night.  Really people don't do it!  I mean why would you want to go out at night there are zombies out there!  Do you want to die?

4. Remember this simple equation:  Closed door = Zombie behind it!  So when you go into a house looking for supplies and there is a closed door in front of you, if you got to open it just know there is a zombie behind it so you are prepared! 

3.  Don't drive a motorcycle.  We all know that noise attracts zombies.  Could you pick a louder vehicle?  It's not a problem while your traveling but the minute you get to you destination your going to have every zombie in a 5 mile radius headed your way.

2.  Don't shoot from the hip.  When shooting zombies you have to be accurate and hit them in the head.  This isn't an action adventure movie where you can shoot from the hip or turn your gun sideways like some sorta zombie killin gangster!  Aim down the sights.  If I have learned nothing else from playing Call of Duty I have learned to aim down the sights.

1.  Never say to someone "I'll be right back..."  You won't be!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A secret I have carried for years...

When I was a kid, probably around 10 or 11, my brother and I went for a couple of weeks to stay with my Dad's parents, my grandparents, in Baltimore Maryland.  While we were there both my Grandparents had a hard time figuring out what to do with us.  My Grandpa would offer me a quarter to rub his head and then would fall asleep in the chair and start snoring.  I always stopped after he fell asleep because I knew I had earned my quarter.  My Grandmother would have us help in the kitchen.  She loved to make this sweet, and I mean sweet, applesauce so my brother and I would help her out.

I spent most of the time in the backyard trying to catch the rabbit that was eating from my grandparents garden.  I set up a trap for it.  It was a box with a stick holding up one side of it.  I tied a rope to the stick.  I then placed carrots and lettuce under the box and waited behind the lawn chairs for the rabbit to come.  I did this every day but the rabbit never would go under the box. It was so frustrating.

This however is not the secret that I have carried all these years.  Here it is.  To keep my brother and I under control, like we were unruly or something, my Grandpa went to the store and bought us each a sleeve of gumballs.  There were about 10 gumballs in each sleeve.  He showed them to us and told us that if we were good each day we could have one gumball. He then tacked our "Good boy Gumballs" as he called them above the door to the kitchen.

My brother and I were good for the first couple of days and we got our gumballs.  It was a good system that my Grandpa worked out.  Each day we got rewarded for being good.  Here's the thing, my brother and I were very sneaky.  On about the third day when my Grandparents had decided to take a nap, my brother and I found our way into the kitchen.  I took a chair from the kitchen table and my brother stood outside the kitchen door keeping watch. 

I moved the chair over to the doorway and stepped up onto it.  This gave me enough height to reach the top of the "Good boy Gumballs".  I opened my brother's pack and asked him what flavor he wanted, he said, "cherry!"  So I slipped out all the gumballs until I got to a cherry one and I tossed it to him and then placed all the rest of his gumballs back into his pack.  I then got mine down and got a grape one.  I tacked both of the packs back up, slide the chair back under the table and my brother and I retreated to the basement to watch TV and chew our illegally acquired gumballs.

We were never caught, Grandpa never counted how many gumballs there were and we never did it again.

Wow, thanks so much for letting me get that off my chest!  It has been eating at me for years!

At least maybe you got a laugh out of it!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Drops of Jupiter

The other day I was taking a shower and I noticed a drop of water slowly rolling down the wall.  It was very slow and deliberate in its path as it rolled down the wall, that is until it met with another drop of water.  Once the two drops connected, the original drop was larger and moved so much faster down the wall.  The more drops that connected the faster that new drop traveled down the wall until it reached the bottom and ultimately went down the drain.

It made me start to think about people and their everyday problems.  As we go through our day, we often encounter a problem or situation that makes us feel uneasy.  If we only have that one problem during our day we can usually deal with it because it moves slowly and there is only one thing to worry about. If that problem however is met with another issue or problem then things get harder.  The more issues and problems we have the harder our day gets and the faster our day turns from a good day to a bad day.

We can all handle one problem at a time but when life starts to hand us multiple issues and problems our life gets harder.  I call this the droplet effect.  For every problem (drop) we accumulate, the faster our problems drive us down until we are drained of all energy.

I can think of specific days when the droplet effect has greatly influenced my day and I felt myself drained of energy and at my lowest point.  It is a very lonely and sad place to be.  However here is the good news, the next day washes us clean and we start anew.  A new day gives us the opportunity to attack each problem separately and keeps us from being dragged down so fast by a bunch of problems. 

We can lift our problems to God and know that he is there for us and he will watch over us to make sure that we don't become overwhelmed.  We can ask him for help when the droplets start to run together. 

Know that there is always tomorrow, a new day filled with hope.  If we allow ourselves to stay down too long because of the droplet effect, we may never be able to pull ourselves back out again!

Now that she's back in the atmosphere
With drops of Jupiter in her hair, hey, hey, hey
She acts like summer and walks like rain
Reminds me that there's a time to change, hey, hey, hey

Drops of Jupiter: By Train