Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew, Again

Well, I’m a failure… again. I didn’t set out to fail. But who does? I think this is just a case of biting off more than I can chew. I have always been one to take on huge challenges just for the thrill of completing them early. I love a good challenge, and since this month is National Novel Writing Month, I thought what the heck? I don’t know who designated it a month for writing novels, but I decided to celebrate it with 70,000 other folks that had also decided to give it a try. To get in on the festivities I went to the NaNoWriMo website (click here), and signed up to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. Since I have never written a novel, only Christian non-fiction, I looked forward to trying something different. Now, 29 days later, and only one day left, I concede to failure with the realization that I have bitten off more than I can chew.

I started off strong. In fact, I had penned 12,400 words in the first four days! Not only was I writing at a furious pace, the ideas kept flowing and the story evolved rapidly. Everything went well until I hit a wall at the 36,000 word marker and the story ended as quickly as it began. I don’t know how to explain this abrupt ending, other than my characters had accomplished all that I had created them to do, and were simply finished. That’s when I realized that 14,000 words are a lot of fillers to add into a piece that I already considered finished.

So, what would I do now? Easy, I’d just cut and paste some things from my book “A Warrior Culture” and develop them a bit more. Surely I would be able to pull out that many words. I quickly found out that I was wrong again. I did in fact add a section to my novel that would bring the reader up to speed on the spiritual concepts and symbolism of the novel, but to be honest, I really felt like I was beating a dead horse and asking it to go a few more miles/words. So, I added a Story Companion Appendix to better define the characters, events and locations in the story. By this point, I was grasping for straws and frustrated. And that’s when I decided to stop, put the keyboard down, and admit that I had bitten off more than I could chew.

God taught me a valuable lesson through all of this, even though it took an entire month and 40,640 words. He taught me that although I like challenges, I often jump into them without considering my other responsibilities. For example, I was so into writing this novel that I took time away from my family, my job, and even Church. And for what? The only prize you received was the ability to pridefully tell people, “I’ve written a novel and you haven’t, nah, nah nah, nah nah, nah!”. Big deal! I could tell people that anyway, even if I did lie about it. But to come to think of it, I did write a novel, it was just 40,640 words instead of 50,000.

So if you scroll down on the right of my blog you will see my NaNoWriMo word counter. I’m going to leave it there as a reminder that sometimes it’s better just to stop what you’re doing and admit defeat. It will also serve as a trophy to my weakness for putting meaningless things ahead of what’s really important. Maybe I should move it to the “AWARDS” section…

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

An African Bank has Millions of Dollars for Me!!!

I've been getting an average of two emails per week for the past year about how there was a Mr. John, Mark, David Prater that was very wealthy oil/gas/diamond businessman that died recently and left a sizeable fortune unclaimed. Not only did he perish in a violent plane crash/car wreck/monkey attack/train derailment, but also his wife and children died as well. And now there's a poor banker in Nigeria/Kenya/The Ivory Coast that has this pile of money that is going to become the property of the bank if he cannot find a next of kin. So guess what? They need me to step forward and become the next of kin and the bank will vouch for me because he is the account manager afterall! And I get 40% of the fortune! Pretty sweet huh?

This email scam has been going on for a few years now and is fronted by con men that use it to get names, social security numbers, bank account info, and even cash transfers from people, with the promise of big money. Obviously, if you are a blogger, that's where they get your email address. Enough is enough! So last week, I decided to go on the offensive. The email I received had all of the usual promises because a Mr. Michael Prater had died with a large fortune, so I emailed him back. Here's what I wrote:

WHAT!?!?!?!? Michael is dead? I had no idea. I new he was over there but had no clue he died. I'll call his family so the appropriate next of kin can get into touch with you.

I got a reply back that said they knew he didn't have next of kin and that they wanted to work with me because I am a good Christian man that can be trusted! And the funny thing was, they called me "Mr. Girishchauhan"...funny name huh? So, I shot this one back to them in unintelligible grammar:

Dear Ank
why don't you beef up your cabbage patch with a funk sky of bark. They pine the leaf with a wool window. SO I'm sure that we can mumble about it mate! But please refer to me as Strawberry Shortcake for that for to is my real name.
Jo Girishchauhan
(S. Shortcake)

I must have hit their hot button because I got this reply:

Dear Shortcake
How can you say you don't have application form the form I sent to you which you filled it was the application. Please look below for the application send it to the bank with they email address and write me back so that I will know that you have send it. I cannot call you because you don't English and I don't Spanish if you want to speak to me you can call me on my number 00226-50-14-11-39.

By this time, I'm cracking up! So, to keep this going I sent "Ank." this shout-out:

Hath thou cans't thine application form that send my to bank. If you can to for to forgive me, I can to go and of the do it good for it all. That is what i think that i might could do if given a chance you can. You come to USA I build you a cake and introduce to Napoleon Dynamite. You him be much alike my brother to for to forgive me.
I love you,
Strawberry Shortcake
aka Jo Girishchauhan

I'm still waiting to hear from him...

While I wait, I am reminded by the fact that lots of people fall for this scam everyday and are bilked out of everything from money, to their own identity. We really are a gullible sort when it comes to the promise of riches on earth. But, why aren't we easily convinced of the riches that are stored up for us in heaven? Many people are told of the gospel of Jesus every day in America, and I would venture a guess that fewer accept Him than fall for the African banker scheme. Sad...

So, if you are at a point of decision for Christ today, please know that He is the only thing you can really count on in this life and for eternity. As you can see from this email scam, men will mislead you, but Christ will never leave nor forsake you. Choose Him now.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Called to be 007?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be James Bond. He had all of the coolest weapons, gadgets, cars, and not to mention, he always had a cadre of beautiful ladies that melted in his arms. He encompassed the charisma, charm, intelligence, and pretty much every skill needed to go anywhere on earth, take on any identity, and most of all, save the day. Oh yeah, not to mention he was packaged with the handsome features and the British accent!

I remember watching all of the 007 movies on WTBS and being continually amazed that one minute he may be driving an iceberg shaped submarine and the next minute, skydiving (without a parachute) and landing on the back of an airplane and crawling inside. Wow, that's some exciting stuff!

So, with the new release of Casino Royal, I am reminded of all of these childhood longings for adventure and what I dreamed of becoming when I "grew up". Well, fast forward twenty some years and I never made it as a James Bond kind of guy. The closest I ever got was driving a tank in the army. However, I have a friend that does some crazy government contractor kinda stuff that he can't really talk about. Oh well, my prayers are with you Tim wherever you may be tonight.

Anyway, I set out to write the spirituality of James Bond but now I'm stumped. I guess I'll end with this for you to chew on: Think about what you dreamed of becoming as a child and compare that with what you have become today. I would venture a guess that 95% of you are doing something different than what you pictured back then. However, God knew what you would become from the beginning of time. Even when you didn't have a clue what you would major in college, who you would marry, or even where you would live, God already knew and had it all planned out. So, with this in mind, why not let him lead you deeper into his calling today. He knows what you are to become, be, and do, so why not let him show you.

Friday, November 17, 2006

What Breaks Your Heart?

Every Christian has a calling that is given to them by God before He created them in the womb. The sad thing is, most of us cannot put a finger on what our calling really is. I'm sure you've heard of people being "Called to Preach", or "Called into the mission field." Many times that is the only time we hear of a person being given a calling. I remember while growing up in the Church, I thought those were the only callings that God gave out. And to be honest with you, I didn't think it was fair that God would only punch the tickets for a select few people he had set apart from the crowd. It wasn't until I rededicated my life to the Lord as an adult, and took my faith as "My Faith" that I realized God has a calling for every person on earth. The sad thing is, many of us go blindly through life, clueless to that fact.

When God made you, He had in mind that there was a specific job that no one else could ever do. It may be as simple as witnessing to one person at one precise moment in time. Or, it may be as complex as leading a world-wide ministry. But whatever it is, God gives us the call to do it, and he will equip us to succeed.

I was praying the other day about what God would have me do for him. In my prayer time, I was asking God to explain my calling and He spoke to me. What he said, makes perfect sense when he told me:

"What breaks your heart burdens you, and what burdens you leads you to your calling"

When I heard this, I saw a snapshot of the heart God has for all people. His love is amazing and he calls us to use our hearts to help (love) others in whatever situation they may be in. When we become attached to something that breaks our heart, we take on that burden and through prayer and guidance from the Lord we strive to help remove the burden from ourselves by serving others.

So, what's the big picture of His calling? The big picture of a calling is how you affect those around you with God's love. If your still wondering what your calling is, ask yourself: What breaks your heart today?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Teachers are Role Models

As I've written in previous posts, I have an awesome wife that is very gifted at her job. I really have to believe that God writes upon our heart what His desire for our life's work shall be when we are born. It's obvious to me that he wrote on my wife's heart, "Elementary Principal".

Yesterday, she shared an email with me that she had sent to all of her staff members on Monday morning because she felt led to encourage them. I was blown away by what she wrote in this message and I want to share it with you:

Good Morning…I hope everyone had a great weekend! I had a list a mile long this weekend and then I sat through the sermon yesterday at church and realized that my list was quite insignificant with what I had to tell you…

The sermon was on “To-Do Lists” and how we need to change those to “To Be Lists” --- and how EVERYBODY is equal at the foot of the cross! So, my “To-Do” list for the day is out the window and here is what I thought of as I sat through service yesterday…

You may be the only smile, hug or encouraging word that a student in your class is going to hear today. Make a difference in the way you approach your students and your teaching. You are such a loving, caring staff --- be sure that your students see this through your daily actions! We are often driven by core content and assessment (as we should be!), but we must also realize that these students rely on us TO BE their role models/examples. So…Be the Role Models I see in each of you…EACH AND EVERY DAY!!!!

I love you, guys!!!

I know Marci may be a bit embarrassed when she finds out that I have posted her email here. But, the reason I wanted to post it is because the world needs to know that Teachers have a much bigger job than simply teaching kids the three R's (readin', ritin', and rithmatic) and her quick little email sums all of that up!

So if you haven't thought about it, teachers are role models that will mold the future generations. So, today hug a teacher, encourage a Principal, and pray for those that are shaping the kids of today into the leaders of tomorow.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Christian Book Review Blog!!!

Me and some of my blogging friends have fired up a new blog where we will review the most recent books we've read. We're going to write a quick review about the book, it's main points, and how it affects our spiritual journey. So, what are you waiting for? Come check it out at:


Friday, November 10, 2006

Fiery Darts of Satan

There have been a lot, and I mean a lot of attacks on my family, friends, and church body in the past few weeks. Many of these have come in the form of very serious illnesses that have suddenly "Happened", as some have put it. Other attacks have come in the form of a spirit of diminishment that's seemed to have settled over many in our Church body. So first, I ask for prayers from you, dear reader, to help us get out from under these oppressions. Second, I'm reminded that we must praise God in times like these because it's obvious the enemy is not happy with us. That's a good thing because it proves that we must be doing God's will. It's sometimes easy to lose site of His will in times of trials though.

I set out today to dig a little deeper and research why the attacks from Satan are called fiery darts. The picture on the right is a good image of a fiery dart. Plain and simple, a fiery dart is an arrow with fire on the tip of it. I'm sure you've seen the movies in which this type of arrow was employed. I remember watching all of those really bad early 80's movies like Conan the Barbarian, Hawk the Slayer, and Kull the Conqueror in which flaming arrows added a certain mystical quality to the film at large. I also saw a film once, in which a Viking funeral was performed by floating a persons body out to sea on a raft, and then firing a flaming arrow to set it afire. To come to think of it, I've seen a lot of weird movies with flaming arrows in them.

Anyway, Fire Arrows are made by wrapping the sharp point tightly with cloth. Next, the cloth is dipped in a flammable material such as pitch (tar), then it is lit, aimed, and fired at the target. Adding fire to the arrow did two things: First, whatever the arrows point buried into was set on fire -and- Second, when the arrow struck it's target, the flaming cloth would explode and start other smaller fires around the target. Military experts agree that this was probably the first explosive missile used in warfare and though it was crude, it was extremely effective because it was a real double-whammy, as I like to call it. If it hit you, the arrow would penetrate your soft tissue. That's bad enough, but then imagine being set on fire too! And, anyone around you would be burned or set on fire from the fallout of the spall flying from the burning tip.

When Satan attacks us, he is hurling fiery darts of this sort at us. It's bad enough to be hit by his arrows and set on fire but the fallout from his attacks always, and I mean always, hits those around us. If you think about it this way, he never attacks only one person, his attacks are always far reaching and are intended to steal, kill, and destroy from a common group of folks. It's up to us to put on the armor of God every day, be prayed up, and guard our hearts. This is the only way that you can stand strong and avoid being picked off when the time comes. Believe me, the time will come when you will be hit by an arrow or struck by the fiery spall from another person being hit. So, armor up and be ready.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Are You the Gopher or the Greenskeeper?

One of the movies that defined my younger days was 'Caddy Shack'. This movie was the reason that I wanted to learn to golf. Apart from a nude scene, the movie has a ton of funny parts, one liners, and stars like Rodney Dangerfield, big bad Bill Murray, and the great Chevy Chase. However, the star of the movie was a stuffed animal simply known as the Gopher. The Gopher showed up unexpectedly and roused the ire of the Head Greenskeeper who charged his understudy Carl (Bill Murray) to kill all the gophers on the course. That's when the fun began.

Carl's campaign to kill the gopher began with trying to catch him by hand, which ended up in a nasty bite. Next, Carl attempted to drown the Gopher by pumping water in his burrows. This method only led to watering the golf course and the members which, as you can imagine, angered them. The next avenue was to shoot the gopher with a rifle and that too was unsuccessful. So finally, Carl used plastic explosives in the shape of animals to blow the gopher up. Long story short, all that Carl succeeded in doing was turning the golf course into a crater laden war zone while the problematic gopher got away. This is shown in my favorite scene which is at the very end. In this scene, the gopher pops out of his hole, coughs some smoke out, and dances to the Kenny Loggins song "I'm Alright" as the credits role. And as for Carl, he followed suit with what he did throughout the entire film by slipping silently into the night and running away.

So, my question for you today is: Are you the gopher or Carl the Greenskeeper? The gopher was always on the run, avoiding disaster, and dodging bullets. On the other hand, Carl was always on the offensive attacking the gopher but always coming up short of his goal of killing him and bringing destruction to everything around him instead. I know in my life, I feel like I am 40% gopher and 60% Carl. How 'bout you?

Friday, November 3, 2006

God's Memory Loss is for His Own Sake

I was going through mom and dad's photo album and found a funny shot from my childhood. The picture on the left was taken by my dad circa 1980 of the ride The Battering Ram at Busch Gardens theme park in Virginia. If you look closely you will see a blonde headed boy in the middle of the Battering Ram holding on for dear life, while a brown headed lady in a green shirt sitting next to him is laughing. Well, that blonde headed kid that is scared out of his wits is me, and the lady laughing is my mom.

Fast forward 26 years and you see the picture on the right. In this photo, you see a blonde headed little boy laughing his head off and a blonde headed lady beside him looking down laughing as well. This is my son and my wife in the same seat, on the same ride in April of this year. When I snapped this pic of them, I had forgotten about riding it years before and even more, I had no clue that I had once sat in the same seat my son now sat in. Sure, I remember going to Busch Gardens once when I was a kid, but it wasn't until I saw the old photo that I remembered it in vivid detail. Now, I even remember looking over from the ride and seeing my dad snapping pictures of me terrified, and mom laughing. I guess everything really does come full circle eventually.

What struck a chord with me is the fact that even though we forget many, many things that we do in our lifetime, there is always an earthly record of them somewhere. It may be a simple memory in your brain, a journal entry, or in this case, an old photograph. But what about in the spiritual realm? The Bible tells us that God is all knowing, all powerful, and omniscient. With that said, we must conclude that He's got a perfect memory too. But, the Bible also tells us that when we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us AND ultimatley forget them. It's amazing for me to think that my confessed sins are cast out by God as far as the East is from the West! Now that is exciting! But why does He, the God of the universe forgive and forget? He does it for His own sake as is shown in Isaiah 43:25 that says,

"I--yes, I alone--am the one who blots out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again."

So, today, I thank God for my family and for allowing these two events, separated by 26 years to intersect. I'm thanking him for giving me the ability to remember each of them and cherish them forever. But even more, I'm thankful that His memory is the way it is.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

All Saints Day: Martyrs

Today is all saints day. If you didn't know that, or know what All Saints Day is all about, I recommend that you Wiki it on and read about it. Not much attention is given to this day that was brought about as a way to honor the Saints of the Church. Instead, we all tend to run around the day before it and celebrate Halloween but pay little attention to the hero's of our Church. Actually, Halloween came about as a way to celebrate pagan hooliganism on the night before All Saints Day.

My personal favorite Saint has always been Saint George. When I was in the Army there is a society of tankers (as in M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank) known as the Order of Saint George that I always aspired to be a part of but never was. St. George is the patron saint of England, Russia, and a few other nations, but he was also the patron saint of tankers. He is most famous for a legend that he slew a dragon to rescue a princess. It makes for a great story and I love using it to teach my little boy about chivalry.

Anyway, tonight at Church, I learned of another saint that is more recent to our time. In fact, her name was Cassie Bernall and she was a true martyr for Christ. Cassie didn't slay a dragon or have any legend made up about her. What she did was much more noble. She died professing her faith in God. You see, Cassie was in the library at Columbine High School when the two of her classmates decided to go on a killing spree. When the killers entered the library, she was there praying. One of the boys pointed a shotgun in her face and asked her if she believed in God. She said "Yes" and was immediately killed by a shotgun blast to the face. The amazing thing about this girl is the fact that about a week before she died, she wrote a note to one of her friends in which she proclaimed her love for God. In this letter, she also says that she knows she will be tested in her faith and that if the time came, she would die for her faith.

So, today on all saints day, I am honoring a true saint in Cassie Bernall. She was one that stood up and paid the ultimate price for her faith. Peace be with you as you look down from heaven.