Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Word of God Speak

God still speaks and he isn't always subtle. We started our bible study with this expectation, having little prepared and allowing God to lead us in his word. I earmarked two verses just to jump-start the conversation: 2 Timothy 4:2 and 1 Peter 3:15.

Little did I know that God intended to continue speaking to me, building on the experience I had after last week's bible study. Rather than simply read the individual pieces of scripture we read from a section heading to another section heading to include those verses in order to try to keep them in better context. As I read 1 Peter 3:13-14, I stopped reading for a moment.

"Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. 'Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened."


I didn't believe the story I was told last week. But that doesn't change the fact these people need Christ, just like I do. Yet, even starting with the greatest of intentions, a fear set in. And tonight after reading those verses it set in. How am I supposed to serve and love people when I am afraid of them. Fear gets in the way. We hear about all the bad things in the news, but maybe the actions of a few are not representative of a whole. And the stereotypes go both ways. How many times have we as the Church heard people say they don't want to be a part of the church because of hate from groups such as Westboro Baptist Church or abuse by Catholic priests?

I am so thankful that God still chooses to speak to us through his word.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


The Shell station on the corner of 9th street and I-30 access road in downtown Little Rock is not one of my favorite places to stop at night but I had to use the bathroom and knew if I didn't stop for gas there I would likely be walking several miles to the nearest gas station. I looked around and pulled up to a pump; everything seemed to be clear this time so I get out, lock my door and go inside to the restroom. Before going back outside, I stop at the register and pay for $14 in gas, all of the cash I had on me. This was on purpose, remembering the last time I stopped at the gas station. 

"Nice jacket, can I have it?" a man asks me as he approaches me next to my car. In my head: "Is he serious? You know, it is cold out here, maybe he does need it." It wasn't long before he said, "just kidding." Did my surprise show on my face? Regardless, he continued talking to me. "I'm from Missouri and I don't have any place to go. The Mission only lets you stay one night. I tried to steal some vienna sausages earlier but I got caught. Can you spare any change, even a dime would help." In my mind: "There are multiple shelters in Little Rock and I don't think that any of them have a one-night policy. And if you were caught trying to steal, how are you standing here?" What I said, "I just spent my last cash to buy gas. Let me finish pumping and I will go inside and buy you something to eat." I place the nozzle in my tank and begin (or think I begin) pumping gas and notice by this time a second person is standing five or six feet behind me. At this point, I have become nervous. The first guy continues, "Thats. OK, I am meeting a friend and hes got some KFC for us..." I realize I haven't flipped the gas pump on and say, "I guess this works better when you turn it on," I say to the two of them with a slight laugh. The second guy agrees. The first continues, "But you could buy me a pack of Marlbro cigarettes. I could sell them for 50 cents a piece and make a little bit of money."

"I'm not going to buy the cigarettes," I tell him. "I'll buy you something to eat but no cigarettes. The first man continues to try and convince me, but I'm not giving in on it. Again in my mind: "What if I did buy these for him and he sells them to a minor? Plus, you probably have to have a license to sell cigarettes and thats just going to get you in more trouble." The second guy starts talking and telling me how he had been in prison and liked it there becasue all the white people kept their distance. "All I had to do is show them this," he said as he pulled the front of his shirt up to reveal a scar. 

It is eventually the second man who takes me up on the food and he begins to explain that he wants one of the hot jack links sausages being very specific. "You might want to come in with me," I tell him. He sends the first person in with me who wasn't much help in choosing the correct one and then he picks up a bag of chips for himself. At the register he begins pointing to the newspaper and talking to me again as I try to run my credit card completely blocking out the cashier who was apparently asking, "debit or credit?" The man continues talking and asks me what I think about the Grand Jury's decision in Ferguson. At that point I am thankful I can honestly say I have purposely remained ignorant on that current event. Yes, I know it was about excesive force by law enforcement, but the remainder of the case I have remained out of the loop on. That is one news quiz I am happy to fail tonight as I could answer that I hadn't been following the story and couldn't answer the question.

We walk out of the store and I hand him the bag of chips and speed up to hand the other guy the sausage. "Only one?" he questions. "I'll take one." I then head toward my car, wanting to get in as soon as possible. "I love you brother," the second man shouted as I opened the door. "Likewise," I yell back.

Now, safely at home I am left to ponder...did I do the right thing(s)?

  • I've been reading a book, "How to help the poor without hurting them or yourself." One of the main points it makes is that by simply giving 'handouts' we are actually making things worse for them and even ourselves. Instead we should work alongside them, building relations and helping them grow to be self-sufficient. What kind of harm might my buying the food have caused?
  • Matthew 5:40, 42 says, "And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well...Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." Should I have immediately taken my jacket off and given it to him? What might God have done if I had?
  • Was my fear/nervousness obvious? When the second person approached and stood behind me, I have to admit my thoughts were going toward, "I really hope I don't get stabbed/robbed." And having these thoughts made me wonder, "Am I being judegemental?" Forgive me.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Adventures at Longpool

Adventure is never far away in Arkansas, with so many places to get outside and enjoy nature. Adventure hasn't failed to find my family during our now annual trip to Longpool Recreation Area near Dover, Ark. I wrote last year about one of my most interesting Geocaching experiences (see Ghosts of Spanish Conquistadors). On our first night camping at Longpool, we attempted a night-cache located nearby. We didn't find the cache due to a crowd of people, but we did find ourselves semi-lost in the dark (if only because we were trying not to be seen).

This year my sister didn't come with us and we planned on attempting it again. After we set up camp we decided to go swimming while it was still daylight. Rather than swim much, we walked in the water upstream to some rapids. As we came closer to the rapids, we saw a trail (or a dry creek bed) and had a pretty good idea it would lead us inland to the waterfall. If it didn't we would just turn around and go back the way we came. Sure enough, it wasn't long before we came out and intersected with the main trail at the waterfall. It was our first "hike" barefoot through the woods and around the rocks. It was interesting to think about all the indigenous people who might have lived this way in the past.


As the light began to fade, we decided we had better get back to the water before it got too dark. We hiked down from the waterfall and began to follow the creek bed until arriving at a tree and brush in the way. "I don't think this is the way we came," I told my niece and nephew. "I don't remember crawling through all of this."

My nephew said it was the wrong trail and he saw the trail further back. So we followed him down the alternate path as the light continued getting dimmer and dimmer. Eventually the trail closed in around us and we found walking barefoot through the weeds. It wasn't long before there was no trail at all and no clear way to the water. I don't want to go running through a lot of weeds and brush with the number of snakes I have seen this year; I have no desire to be bitten. We turn around and try to find our way back to where we started from, at least we could hike out using the main trail if we had to. By this time, it had become difficult to see; of course we had arrived by water rather than land. So we end up deeper into the woods. Panic is beginning to set in. "I really don't want to spend the night out here in the dark with no shelter and no good way to start a fire."

We continued walking, searching frantically for any sign of a trail to the water or back to the waterfall. By this point we were running through the woods, stepping on thorns with our bare feet.  My niece began complaining that she could not see me; I was less than ten feet in front of her. I squatted down and said a prayer. Before long we came to another deer trail and I told my niece and nephew to stay where they were and make noise. I would go ahead on the trail to see if it went anywhere and if not, would follow their voices back to prevent us from getting separated. It was a major relieve when I came to the edge of the creek and called my niece and nephew down.

It seemed that not only was camping at Longpool becoming an annual trip, but becoming lost in the woods on the first night was too.

Back at camp, we decided we had enough adventure for one night. Rather than going geocaching we just prepared for bed. After placing our non-refrigerated items in the car we took our showers and went to bed. It wasn't ten minutes before the commotion started outside our tents. I think I slept a total of two hours Friday night with all of the raccoons rummaging through the metal garbage cans, meant to keep wildlife out. Of course, the most annoying part was listening to them in our campsite.

About two hours after going to bed, I rolled over and said to my nephew, "I don't think we are going to have breakfast in the morning." He asked me why not. "I think the coons are eating it all." We got up and went outside to see what damage had been done; sure enough we had been robbed. The animals (I won't say it was all racoons) had taken our ham, hot dogs, mayonnaise and bacon. Of course, it wasn't until Saturday evening I found they had also tried to eat my can of bug spray.

On Friday and Saturday evenings we enjoyed watching the wildlife (although were slightly annoyed with the noise they were making and the fact they robbed us). Animals we saw:

  • Mouse
  • Raccoon
  • Skunk
  • Cat
  • Deer

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winter Masterpiece

I'm not much of a morning person, nor am I much of a cold and icy weather person but I have to say the drive to work this morning was a treat. The sun had risen to my right but it was still early enough it cast a grayish pink hue in the clouds ahead of me. The evergreens and bare trees all frozen over sparkled in the sunlight. It was like the scene straight out of a painting. It was one of those times I really wished I could pull over and take a picture. Of course, my good camera was at home. But that made me think even more about the "painter."

Many artists look at a picture or a subject and paint what they see. But either way they are painting the second or third version of it at minimum because God was the original author. He is the one who created it all from nothing. He is the best artist in the world.

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen,being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." Romans 1:20

Monday, January 27, 2014

Joining the Gym

January is almost over and I am happy to say that I am still holding to my goal of drinking at least 28 ounces of water every day at work. That is about 28 ounces more than I was drinking and is about three cans of soft drinks less. Oddly, one thing I have found is the more water I drink and the less soda, the more my body craves the water. I've found myself going for the bottled water at home even more than for the coke, which is awesome.

I'd hoped to start slow, not cutting out any food or adding any exercise, just adding water. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before the doctor's visit messed that up and put me into high gear for weight loss and dieting. My diet isn't anything special. Right now it is simply cutting back on my portion sizes and not allowing myself to go back for seconds. I am also trying to limit myself to one or two sweets each week.

Tonight, I joined the gym that my sister joined last week. Hopefully paying the membership fee, joining fee and monthly cost, along with having someone to go with will be encouragement to work out, even on those frigid days when getting outside isn't on my agenda. I don't usually stay out late on work nights but will now be going to North Little Rock at least three nights per week, maybe more. This evening I arrived shortly after 5:30 p.m.and didn't leave until about 7:30 p.m. By the time I got home it was almost 8:3 p.m.

I do believe it is time to start eating sandwiches for dinner and eating leftovers for lunch.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Review: Coordinates for Murder

Title: Coordinates for Murder
Author: Darren Kirby
ISBN: 1470079100
Pages: 123
Copyright: 2012
My rating: 2/5 (below average)

Geocaching is one of my favorite hobbies, not only because it takes me to new places but because it often combines many of my other hobbies like camping and hiking. I don't get to do enough of any. As with most hobbies, I usually enjoy books and/or movies about the subject. I received a gift card for Barnes & Noble at Christmas this year and ended up searching for Geocaching, just to see if there were any fiction books around on the subject. Sure enough, I found two, one of those being Coordinates for Murder by Darren Kirby.

I didn't pay attention to the rating, reviews or even information about the book, other than the synopsis, when I made the purchase. (Now that I go back and look, there is none.) The book is the story of two friends who go camping in the wilderness of northern Wisconsin. While there they attempt to gain bragging rights of being the "First-to-finds" on a new multicache. But what they find is not what they were expecting.

The narration in the book switches primarily between the two main characters. That is tolerable but unfortunately it isn't quite as predictable as in some other series such as Ender's Game in which each chapter switches narrators. Usually when the narrator does switch in this book it goes back in time and tells the same events from another character's point of view. Most books I enjoy, the concept of narration is left behind as the images of the story block it out but in Coordinates for Murder the narration stayed most of the time.

Now, I can't say the book was all bad; it did have its suspenseful moments and I did actually read the entire thing, more than I can say for some. *The following sentence may contain spoilers. Highlight the text to view.* The end of the book was even a huge surprise and out of the ordinary.

I think one of the biggest problems for me was simply the age group the book was probably intended for. I probably would have enjoyed it more when I was in elementary school. Of course, I don't think some of the content is appropriate for children that age. But then again, in the past 15 years since I was that age, American culture has changed a lot. But for parents to decide, the book does contain some bad language and some mild (compared to a lot of movies) gore.

I personally give the book a 2/5 (below average) rating. I've read worse, but I have also read much better. Have you read the book? Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Unexpected Outcome from Doctor Visit

Almost the first thing that I did after dinner tonight was take a call from my grandmother who inquired about how my doctor visit turned out. I told her, "The doctor said 'some people make a new years resolution to lose weight but for you its doctors' orders.'" I proceeded to laugh and told her it was only have true when she began to question about the diet. The thing is I've known I needed to lose weight and I've wanted to lose it for a while. I was thinking today of the Facebook status I wanted to post: "One of my new years resolutions for 2014 was to make myself drink more water. I cannot leave the office until I have drank a minimum of 28 oz of water. This is for every day I am at work and, so far, I have kept it. The thing is, if drinking more water and less soda doesn't help me lose weight, maybe the extra 500 steps back and forth between the other end of the building will add up!"

I went to the doctor after my headache, neck ache, back pain and some chest pain lingered for too long. Friday I came home exhausted and had a 102 degree fever. Luckily by Saturday it was low grade and by Sunday I didn't appear to have a fever at all. I returned to work Monday feeling much better than Friday. But the other pain when it hit made me wonder if I was still sick and what I had, although I continued to suspect sinus headaches for part of it. But just to be safe, I went to the Little Rock Walk-in Clinic on North University Avenue in Little Rock after work today.

What I didn't expect was for the nurse to take my blood pressure, ask me if it was always that high and then tell me to monitor it because they may need to put me on blood pressure medicine. I am 25 years old, too young to be on blood pressure medicine. Later the doctor also expressed concern about my blood pressure. He didn't put me on a diet, but it looks like its time.

I had set out to make one small step at a time with 2014, starting with more water and gradually building up to less calories, better balance and more exercise. Instead, it looks like I am going to have to tackle head on and drop the weight. Not that it is a bad thing, but there is definitely a difficult road ahead.

Monday, January 13, 2014

When Convenience is an Inconvenience

Sometimes in life we sacrifice things for convenience and simplicity. For the past year and a half,I have done so with my hobby of photography. In college I took a photography and photojournalism course. I bought an expensive camera so I could control more settings, especially aperture and shutter speed, during my freshman year of college. Sometimes I went to the park or other places just to take photos.

Since I returned from Spain, not so much. In June 2012 I owned my first smartphone with a decent enough camera I could use it to take photos. I didn't have much control and couldn't zoom very far but it was good for memories. Small enough to fit in my pocket, it was much more convenient than a large camera and the extra batteries to keep it running. And it was one less item to carry since it was my phone.

In November 2013 my phone was stolen. Highly inconvenient,yes; end of the world, no. Fortunately, I didn't own a smart phone until I returned from Spain. Texting is much simpler, even if I no longer use the phone for checking email and Facebook. Most of all though, if I want to take photos, I have to take my real camera -- the phone camera takes tiny pictures.

I began using the real camera again while hiking at Petit Jean State Park --stopping along the trail just to take pictures that I had taken 10 times before. Later I drove to Mount Magazine State Park and took a few photos. One of those photos, a picture of the sunset from the hang glider launch, I posted to the Arkansas State Parks Facebook page. They re-shared it and it received more than 300 likes and more than 40 shares. That wouldn't be possible had I only had my phone.

Phones, internet, tablets all make life simpler but one has to wonder how much will we sacrifice for a little convenience?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bringing in 2014

Facebook told me last week I need to get out more, more or less. Each year the social media site offers a summary of a user's top 20 moments for the past 365 days. A couple of items on my summary were pictures from Petit Jean State Park, but sadly one of them was a Bitstrip comic of me telling my niece not to touch my computer. Somehow I doubt the photos from New Years eve show up in my summary for this year but hopefully they do for the 2014 review.

Tuesday night was the annual bonfire and karaoke night. About seven friends and an additional five family members attended. This was about the fifth or sixth bonfire we've hosted where some of my college friends come down and some of them bring a few other friends. Most of the time we have at least two or three new people and many of them are international students. This year we had our second snipe hunt. And of course, we can't forget the karaoke until past midnight. Since it was New Year's we all sang a round of Auld Lang Sine at midnight. We will see if the event shows up in 2014, but regardless, I have got to do more this year.

January 1 is the time to set resolutions -- those things we never follow through with. I've gone so far as to set my resolutions the opposite of what I really want to do; either I will actually do what I really want or I will succeed for once in my resolutions. This year I am trying a third approach.

Get outside more
One of my favorite things about living in Arkansas is it truly is the natural state. City parks, state parks and national forests are all over the state with lakes to swim and trails to hike.

Write more, photograph more
I love writing. I love photography. I don't do much of either any more. In 2014 I would like to write a blog every other week and maybe the photos will help. If I ever finish one of my "novels" I might even post some of the chapters of them on here. Feel free to suggest topics.

Travel more/plan more
I've been a lot of places, but as far as leisurely travel, Branson is as far as I got in 2013. In 2014 I would like to travel more in the United States. Of course, that means I have to plan more in my personal life so that I can take the time off and make the best use of my time. Not only that, but it makes finding friends to travel with easier. If all goes well, some of us are traveling in the first or second quarter of the year to Texas.