Have you ever had something happen to you that you look back on in hindsight and it felt like it was something that could have been pulled straight from a movie? I had this experience last week and it seemed so surreal! I was driving home from work, like any other day. I got about half way home and noticed that there was smoke coming from underneath the hood of my SUV. I had this gut feeling (which I know beyond the shadow of a doubt was God) telling me that I needed to pull my SUV over and get it out of the road.
I was able to pull over in this gas station parking lot (far away from the gas pumps) and I decided to just sit for a few minutes and let the smoke dissipate. While waiting, I happened to look over to the left and noticed a couple of people screaming something. I couldn’t understand what they were saying so I opened my door. It turns out they were screaming at me – “Get out!! Your SUV is on fire!!” I grabbed my stuff and got as far away as I possibly could. Not five minutes later, my SUV went up in flames. At the time, I was shaking so badly when I had the realization that I could’ve been in the SUV when it caught fire. God was definitely looking out for me!
One of the merchants of a nearby store called 911 for me and the fire department was there in a few short minutes. They hosed down my SUV and it was no longer recognizable. Fortunately, neither I nor anyone else was injured as a result of the fire (I was the only one in my SUV). A tow truck came and took what remained of my SUV to their lot and I spoke with the fire chief about what I need to do in order to file a claim with my insurance company.
It was like something straight out of the movies – seeing a vehicle go up in flames in an action movie. I was not able to sleep for the first few nights as I kept having these visions of being stuck in the SUV, not being able to get out as it was engulfed in flames. Last night, I took a couple of Benadryl and went to bed around 12:00 AM and didn’t wake up until almost 2:00 PM.
My youngest brother took several pictures of the remains of my SUV (in case my insurance company needed them). Below are just a few of the pictures.
I can’t believe 2012 has already come and gone! The first 3/4th of the year was not that great for me, but the final 1/4th completely turned that around when I finally got a job after being without one for almost 16 months. I am very excited about what 2013 brings and am looking forward to the new year! As one last reminder of 2012, here are my top 10 blog posts from last year. May 2013 bring blessings beyond your wildest imagination!
10) Really Church?!
See what my top 10 posts were from 2011.
Since it’s about time to take all of the Christmas music off of my iPod, I thought I would share with you the top 10 Christmas albums I enjoyed this year. They weren’t necessarily released this year, just ones I listened to most for the Christmas holidays in 2012.
1) North Point Christmas – This album was released in 2010. North Point Community Church is the main campus of the church I attend (Buckhead Church). It contains songs by several of the worship leaders at both campuses including Seth Condrey, Chrystina Fincher, Todd Fields, Eddie Kirkland, Casey Darnell, and Chinua Hawk. Whenever I listen to these songs, it makes me feel like I’m at church worshiping our awesome God!
2) PTXmas by Pentatonix – Pentatonix is an a cappella group that won the third season of the reality show The Sing-Off. Their unique sound blends pop, dance, and electronic music just using their voices.
3) A Very She & Him Christmas – She & Him is made up of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. This album to me is a representation of a “modern day classic.” It has a very nostalgic sound and feel…it reminds me of the Christmas music we listened to when I was a child.
4) A Myx’d Christmas by Scott Blackwell – Scott Blackwell was the first Christian DJ I had ever heard. This is just good Christmas music to which you can dance. It has classic Christmas songs everyone knows plus a few original tracks.
5) When My Heart Finds Christmas by Harry Connick, Jr. – It’s hard to believe this album was released in 1993 because it is so timeless to me. Harry Connick, Jr. has an amazing voice that is much like that of Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. Listening to this album was the first time I had ever heard him. You have your classic Christmas songs along with original songs (my favorite track has to be I Pray On Christmas).
6) If Every Day Was Like Christmas by Elvis Presley – I can’t help but think of Elvis Presley’s Blue Christmas when I think of Christmas music. This album makes me think of a time when all was right with the world (so to speak)….the simpler times. You didn’t worry about the troubles of today…you just spent time with your family and friends enjoying Christmas and all that came with the holiday.
7) Christmas Songs by Jars of Clay – Dan Haseltine’s voice just puts me in a good mood no matter what is going on around me. Jars of Clay has been one of my favorite bands over the years and this is a great sample of the sound.
8) The Family Force 5 Christmas Pageant – Gotta show some love to the guys from the ATL! Family Force 5 has a unique sound that is all their own. This is just a fun album that mixes pop, rock, rap, and dance with Christmas music.
9) Christmas Remixed: Holiday Classics Re-Grooved – I am a big fan of remixes and mash-ups and this album is a great example of what makes Christmas fun and exciting. It’s the classic Christmas songs you remember, but with a twist.
10) Merry Mixmas: Christmas Classics Remixed – Another album that shows several examples of classic Christmas songs with a modern twist.
What Christmas albums were your favorites to listen to this year?
Photo Credit: By Amazon.com
To say that I haven’t been keeping my blog up to date lately would be the biggest understatement of the millennium at this point! Since it is Christmas Day and I love movies…I thought I would join the likes of AMC and IMDB by sharing my favorite holiday movies. Enjoy my top 10 favorite Christmas movies:
1) It’s A Wonderful Life – This movie is the epitome of Christmas for me. What would life be like if we had not had the opportunity to be a part of the lives of those we love most? The most memorable line for me is “Teacher says ‘Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.’”
2) A Christmas Story – We can all relate to wanting that one special gift for Christmas. This movie has so many memorable scenes that just scream out the attempt of trying to celebrate Christmas as a family. Ralphie and the pink bunny suit, poor Randy being bundle up to the point he can’t move in his coat, the “triple dog dare” of licking a frozen flagpole, and the family Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant all bring me to tears from laughing so hard…regardless of how many times I’ve seen this movie.
3) Elf – This movie is Will Ferrell at his best (not to mention the fact that Zooey Deschanel is in it). One of my favorite parts of the movie is when he gets a job as an elf helping with Santa at the mall. There are so many quotable lines from this movie. I love “You’re not Santa! You smell of beef and cheese!” and “If you’re Santa what song did you sing to me on my birthday last year?”
4) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – The first scene that comes to mind when I think of this movie is when they ask Aunt Bethany to say grace at the dinner table.
5) The Santa Clause – Tim Allen transforms into Santa Claus…enough said!
6) The Nightmare Before Christmas – Tim Burton at his Christmas/Halloween strangest!
7) Jack Frost – Michael Keaton’s character doesn’t spend time with his son because he is always away. He is able to make up for lost time when he becomes a snowman. Sounds strange, but it’s actually good.
8) Surviving Christmas – When his family moves out of their old home, Ben Affleck’s character pays the new family that lives there to let him spend Christmas with them.
10) Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas – Another one that is not really a movie. We would watch this every year around Christmas when I was a child. This musical, puppetry take on the story The Gift of the Magi is one of the things I love about Jim Henson.
What are your favorite Christmas movies?
Photo Credit: By SqueakyMarmot
Meeting new people can be stressful, especially when you are an introvert. It’s not the new people that bother me. What bothers me is that almost every time I meet someone new, I get asked the dreaded question – “What do you do for a living?” Since I am still unemployed, I loathe being asked this question. I don’t want to be seen as Debbie Downer and bring everyone down. How do you respond to this question without being seen as “that guy” and have everyone avoid you?
For men, we often associate our identity with what we do for a career. We want to be the provider (whether you are single or married with a family) and without a job we feel like a part of us is missing. There is a great article on Relevant magazine’s website that talks about not letting our occupation (or lack there of) determine our worth. Unfortunately it’s easier said than done not to go down the path of doubt and depression when it comes being unemployed.
In a recent conversation with a friend, he reminded me that I am so much more than any job. When people ask me this question, his suggested response was to tell people the truth – that I am serving through world missions, leading others in discipleship, and using this time to grow spiritually. I know that I will eventually have a job title as an answer to this question, but lately it’s been all about what to do or say in the mean time. At times like these, I wish life had a fast forward button so you could move on to the next stage of your life (while still attaining the lessons you learned or unlearned during the “fast forward period”).
If you have been without a job, how did you answer the dreaded question?
Photo Credit: By Shannon Yeh
In reading a trilogy of books, the last book is typically either really great or just dreadfully horrible. With Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (books one and two being The Hunger Games and Catching Fire (respectively)), I was somewhere in the middle. It wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, but then again it wasn’t the best either. In all honesty, I loved the book up until the final three or four chapters…that’s when I started pulling out the “Really Suzanne Collins?!” (see Seth Meyers on SNL).
In book three of the saga, we find that half of the remaining participants in the last Hunger Games have been kidnapped by the Capital while Plutarch Heavensbee has helped save Katniss and the other half. We find out that Peeta is one of the tributes that was kidnapped by the Capital and he has been brainwashed into thinking that Katniss is the enemy. Katniss has been named the “Mockingjay” of the fight as a result of her rebellious ways toward the Capital and they want to dispose of her (by way of Peeta or any other means necessary). The rebellion has started and it is an all out war – innocent people dying everywhere. Since she is the Mockingjay, they don’t want the enemy to have easy access to Katniss, so they put her on a team that basically shoots videos about what is going on around them and they use these videos to interrupt the Capitol’s television feeds. Katniss requests the privilege of killing President Snow, so she and several others make their way to the President’s mansion. Unbeknownst to them, the Capitol has sent out soldiers looking for them in an attempt to kill them, thus ending the rebellion.
For me, this is where things hit a rough spot. I really did not like the way the author handled Katniss’ opportunity to kill President Snow (I don’t want to ruin it for you, so I won’t tell you what happens). I know that engaging books are supposed to have plot twists to keep the reader interested, but to me this was just plain stupid. The very end to me (again, I won’t tell you what happens) felt to “wrap things up with a pretty bow” for me. It was like Mrs. Collins just said “Yeah, I’m done with this series. Let’s get this over with.” and to me the last three or four chapters show this. Don’t get me wrong, I love the entire series but this was the weakest of the three books for me.
Photo Credit: By Amazon.com
It’s hard to believe that we will be leaving for our Brazil mission trip in only 9 days! We have only about $600 left to raise in order to meet our team goal on fundraising. We’ve also had a change in plans as to what we are going to be doing when we get there. The original plan was to show them how to lead the Singles environment (Singles Gatherings) we do at our church and then help them modify it to make it relevant to their culture. We have since found out that they already have a Singles environment (Lounge Capela) and they want us to come and experience it and give them feedback. One of their biggest concerns is that only 30 or so people come each time they have it (once a month) and it’s never the same 30 people. They want us to help with suggestions on how they can help grow the environment.
The format of Lounge Capela is simple – people come in and grab some food, the band plays some fun music (typically associated with the monthly theme), they have a guest speaker or two talk about the theme/subject for the month, the audience gets to ask the speaker(s) questions, and then at the end they encourage the audience to continue talking about the theme/subject with others who are there. We will be there for the September 1 Lounge Capela and the topic is bullying. In April of 2011, a young man (about 23 years old) went on a shooting rampage in an elementary school in Rio and killed several students. It was later discovered that he was bullied when he was a student and he was out for revenge. The exciting (and also stressful) thing is that I was asked to be one of the guest speakers (I was bullied in middle school) and they would like for me to share my experience as one who has been bullied and also share what bullying is like in North America (including why do people bully others). They are also supposed to have a Psychologist as the other guest speaker and have him/her share about bullying from a medical professional’s point of view.
What I am learning through this experience is not to go into it with my own agenda. I don’t know if what I will share with the Singles in Londrina will have an impact on them or not, and I can’t go in with the agenda of changing their lives. All I can do is prepare what I am going to say and ask God to use it for His glory. Not having my own personal agenda is something I am learning through both preparing for my Brazil mission trip and in taking a class at church called Dignity Serves. Most people are familiar with The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). I feel like God is revealing a new Beatitude to me – “Blessed are those who come with no personal agenda, for they will not be discouraged when their unrealistic expectations are not met.” It’s like the magnet I have on the refrigerator in my kitchen – “We plan and God laughs.”
My friend Stephen Redden reminded me of a verse several years ago, and that same verse is definitely pertinent in my life even more so right now.
Proverbs 19:21 – “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
Photo Credit: By Rooey202
As a whole, we typically do an assessment of things when we find a problem. You take your car to the mechanic when you find something wrong. Doctors see patients when they need to find out why they don’t feel well. The truth of the matter is that assessments can tell us where our strengths are and how we can better ourselves using these areas.
Since I have had some time to reflect lately (as I prepare for my Brazil mission trip and as I continue to look for a job), I decided to take a few online assessments to see where my strengths are at this point in my life. This is something I encourage you to do on a regular basis. Some of the things that are revealed you may already know about yourself, but other things may surprise you. Here is what I found about myself through these assessments:
Spiritual Gifts Analysis - I typically take one of these assessments every six months or so. In the past Teaching has been one of my dominant spiritual gifts, but this time it was somewhere in the middle. My primary spiritual gift this time was Pastor/Shepherd (with 20 points – this has previously been a dominant gift for me as well). For my secondary spiritual gift I had a three-way tie (with 17 points each): Exhortation, Showing Mercy, and Administration. I can definitely see evidence of all of these in my life – I love leading people, I’m known for being an encourager, and I’m really good with coordinating things.
Jung Typology Test – This is a shorter version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. My results were ISFJ – Introvert (56%), Sensing (50%), Feeling (75%), and Judging (33%). I knew about the Introvert part and the Feeling part. I was not aware of the Sensing or Judging part, but they both make sense.
5 Love Languages – This assessment is based on the book by Gary Chapman. I took this one about 2-3 years ago and the results have changed drastically for me. It tells you how you best feel people show you love and it also reflects how you give love to others. In the past my primary love language was words of affirmation, but this time around my primary love language was receiving gifts. I also return love in the same way. The study tells you that giving/receiving gifts is not a materialistic thing…it’s in the finding or making something that makes you think of a certain individual that expresses love. In this current stage of my life I can definitely see this as my primary love language. I love when people take the time to find something that reminds them of me – I definitely feel loved and appreciated when this happens.
I’ve shared my assessments, now it’s your turn. What were your results from the above assessments? What did you already now as a result of these and what did you learn about yourself?
Photo Credit: By C B
This isn’t one of my normal blog posts. It’s going to be short and sweet. My friend Dave Pileggi at Pretty Funny Stuff has a video he has created that benefits charity. We are trying to help the video go viral, so if you could post it to your social media sites: Facebook, Twitter (mark with the hashtag #1MillionLaughsForCharity), Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. The video is hysterical and the song is available for download via Dave’s website, iTunes, and Amazon.com (search for “1 Million Laughs For Charity” on iTunes and Amazon.com to find the song). It’s only $.99 per download and 1/2 of that goes to Lazarus Ministries in Atlanta – helping meet the basic needs of the homeless.
Dave’s video is below. You should be able to click on it to open it up in YouTube.
Photo Credit: By Jim Champion
In preparing for my day, I read today’s entry from 40 Days Living The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight. Day 4 talks about seeking the face of God. We build relationships with others when we spend face-to-face time with them. God doesn’t have a physical face like ours, but this is how we as people with a finite mind can get a better grasp on developing our relationship with our Creator.
One quote from today’s reading just really hit home with me:
“Love isn’t God’s part-time vocation, as if God is sometimes holy and other times loving. God is love, always and forever. And, the face of God’s love is His unconditional regard for who we are and sacred concern for everything we do.”
We think of love in earthly terms, but to quote dc Talk (yes, I’m kickin’ it old school this morning) – “Not love like we know it, like ya love your girl. It’s a love from above not of this world.” God can show us love through many ways (not in a “new age…God is in everything” kind of way). He reveals Himself to us through people, circumstances, and His Word. For me, I feel like He reminds me of His love through music.
In 2001, Michelle Branch released the song “Everywhere” and it filled the Top 40 radio stations. Several in my circle of friends were convinced that she was a Christian and that the song was about her relationship with God. The lyrics had that kind of cryptic “I am singing about another person but I could be singing about God” vibe to them so who really knows her intent when she wrote the song. (The video shows her obsessing over a guy, but the visual of a video doesn’t always correspond with what the singer intended with the lyrics.) Here is the chorus, so you can judge for yourself -
“Cause you’re everywhere to me. And when I close my eyes it’s you I see. You’re everything I know that makes me believe. I’m not alone. I’m not alone.”
I was listening to the song the other night on my iPod and it just made me reflect on how, regardless of our circumstances, we’re not alone…for God is with us and His love surrounds us. Enjoy Michelle Branch’s video for “Everywhere” below.
Photo Credit: By Bill Ward