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Mockingjay – A Little Disappointing

August 29, 2012 2 comments
Mockingjay

For me, Mockingjay was the weakest of the books.

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

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Blessed Are Those Who Come With No Agenda…

August 22, 2012 Leave a comment
personal agenda

Don’t serve with a personal agenda!

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

An Assessment of Me

August 16, 2012 Leave a comment
peanut

“That’s me in a nutshell!”

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

Helping A Friend

August 1, 2012 Leave a comment
Baby laughing

Be a part of 1 Million Laughs for Charity!

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

God Isn’t A Part-Time Lover

Lego hearts

Godly love isn’t part-time.

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

Catching Fire Definitely Sparked My Attention

Catching Fire

Katniss Everdeen is the “girl on fire.”

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, picks up right where The Hunger Games left off with Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark as they take part in the Victor Tour of the Districts. While on the tour, Katniss discovers what appears to be an uprising in some of the districts and unbeknownst to her she is the cause of this rebellion. When she and Peeta eventually make it back home to District 12 they find that the Peacekeepers have taken over and have basically stripped everyone of their freedom and have threatened or even killed numerous citizens. Katniss feels horrible that all of this was caused by her actions so she makes a plan to escape while she is in the woods one day.

Through her trip in the woods, Katniss meets two runaway girls from District 8 who tell her of a secret District 13 that is a peaceful place where they hope their troubles will end. When she gets back from the woods, she discovers that the “Quarter Quell” (a special event that occurs every 25 years) takes place for the Hunger Games this year. Each “Quarter Quell” has a unique twist to it (ex. the year Haymitch Abernathy won they had twice as many participants) and this year is no different – the participants are selected from the surviving victors of past Hunger Games. Since Katniss is the only female surviving victor from District 12 she is forced to participate and Haymitch is selected as the male tribute, but Peeta volunteers in his place.

Peeta throws additional plot twists in the mix at the interview process with television host Caesar Flickerman (I won’t spoil the surprises). During the games Katniss and Peeta form an alliance with several previous victors including pretty boy, Finnick Odair and sarcastic cynic, Johanna Mason. Wiress, an older former victor helps the group discover something about the playing field they are able to use to their advantage. Another major plot twists happens at the end so their is never a dull moment from the first page to the end.

I really enjoyed Catching Fire as much as The Hunger Games. The movie version of the first book was a little disappointing, but here’s hoping that the sequel will be worth the wait – November 22, 2013 can’t get here soon enough!

Photo Credit: By Wikipedia.org

T Minus 39 Days Until Brazil!

Brazil friends

Friends from one of my previous Brazil trips.

The “official” countdown has begun! The past few days have made me all the more ready to leave for Brazil – my e-mail account was hacked and I’ve been sick all weekend (had a fever of 101.4 on Saturday) but I’m finally starting to feel better. My SUV has also decided that now is the time to start acting up again. Happy happy joy joy!

As of July 21, I am only $610 away from having all of my funds raised for my portion of the trip. If you are interested in contributing, it’s not too late (and it’s tax deductible). We have also added another person to our team – Elisabeth! If you want to pray for our team members specifically they are: Scott (me), Adam, Krista, Courtney, Valerie, and Elisabeth. We would greatly appreciate your prayers as we prepare for this exciting trip. Our next team meeting is this Sunday.

We as a team have decided to read 40 Days Living The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight as a way to prepare for the trip. The book focuses on the scripture passage Mark 12:29-31:

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

When your primary focus is to love God and love others, then everything else falls into its proper place. The book is broken down into 40 chapters (a chapter a day) and one of the things it encourages you to do is to quote Mark 12:29-31 in the morning when you wake up, before you go to bed, and throughout your day. I’m really excited about going on this 40 day journey with my Brazil team to help us prepare for what God has in store for us in Londrina.

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