Sunday, June 26, 2011

Final Post: The Ripple Effect

What We Do In Life, Echoes In Eternity-Maximus from Gladiator

I've had only 3 months to learn and grow and take in as much as I possibly could from the trip.  The time was priceless and I feel as though I have learned a lot, and it was something my soul desperately needed. I realize how blessed and fortunate I am to have had the opportunity to take such a trip and I made sure I appreciated and lived it to the fullest.  I also wanted to take this time, to truly wrestle with God and to knock on his door continuously since I was virtually free of distractions.  The trip has forced some good habits on me....praying every morning for safety and adventure, praying at night when the day goes well or when I faulted, and praying over every meal not for nourishment (I always thought that prayer was stupid) but for safety and to not choke on my food... ha.

The Energy of the Lord
Something us Christians don't talk about much, which I feel we should is the mystery of the Holy Spirit, what it means to each of us individually as I think it comes to us in different ways.  For me, the feeling of the spirit comes like that of "runners high" which I get from running a few miles.  Aside from hiking, I haven't had a chance to exercise much yet I feel as though I've been running a marathon everyday.  I've learned that when we offer every desire fully up to Him, only then are we free to pursue our desire, for we are no longer slaves to those desires.  That is when I feel this tireless energy upon I mentioned in one of my earlier posts hearing the Lords voice which says to pursue endeavors fiercely.  But what desires should we pursue and why should we pursue them?

"Toil and Trust"--Robert E. Lee
There I was, driving in the middle of Oregon, on the other side of the coast far away from home when it hit me.. The Enemy has us believe that our efforts, pursuits and desires on this earth are pointless, that its all for nothing.  This is a lie, but I didn't realize how much this mindset had grabbed hold of me.  It is not our job to wonder how much of an affect we are having on this earth, just do whats right(deep down, you know what it is) and work hard and trust that it meant something and that it mattered.  Whether your dreams are grand or humble, if we offer those dreams to the Lord we must not doubt ourselves in pursuit.  If you're dreams are grand, once you release yourself from the burden of 'making a difference' and realize that you can have the greatest impact on this planet even as a happy janitor, life will be what it was meant to be.

How much do the "big" things in life have an effect? No more so than the "small" things.  In other words, Joel Osteen, whom I met, can use his motivational gospel message and it might do some good on the surface but unless you have a counselor, a guide, someone who truly cares about you there ...holding you accountable and uplifting you day in and day out, that is what is going to truly impact someone's life.  Osteen can't provide this kind of mentorship to those he ministers to.  So Osteen is famous, but how much is his effect?  I'm just using him as an example, there was a reason as to why I intended to meet him.  That's why small groups are so important, grassroots activities, that is where true power is.  Therefore, love is the most influential feeling that can have an affect...or maybe I've been hanging out with hippies for too long.

Another good poem, by Percy Bysshe Shelley, and it speaks somewhat to what I'm trying to say.  You can think that having a title(read the castle/empire post), or your name on a billboard, a star on Hollywood Blvd or on neon lights in Nashville matters, as if your piece of immortality is solidified(everyone's ultimate desire is immortality)...but who will remember Arnold Swarzeneggar in 50 years? He'll be an after thought...On this trip I've seen monuments, shrines, plaks, anything and everything dedicated to the lasting memory of people who had a surface impact within their field.  Some admire this, and strive for it, but the truth is that if your name makes it on a square on Hollywood blvd, or a street sign,  it's merely there for people to walk on...half of the people who made it on hollywood blvd I had never even heard of before.  Statues are set in parks where homeless people linger, birds use it as a bathroom.  Monuments like the Alamo are there for people to take pictures of, to walk through and move on and that's it.  But the Alamo, unlike the other dedications is one that was not asked for not one that was planned nor driven by a desire to be made famous, which is why it's inspirational impact, its ripple, is felt more than a square on hollywood blvd.  Not saying that most monuments are wrong, but people who strive to such a degree that they are willing to do anything for this kind of recognition are living very sad lives and missing so much more.  No matter who you are, famous or not, your impact will always be limited to the degree that you loved those around you.  So, if fame and fortune are not the greatest things to strive for in life, what is?

Further more, empires fade...famous people die and the youth forget their names or the things that they did and those rare exceptions might have recognition lasting longer than others but eventually they fade away as well.  Like the statue in the poem "Ozymandias" even statues and monuments get buried in sand through time, so what is the point?

I said that love has the most permanent and lasting effect, and it's only on those lives you touched while you were here on this Earth and eventually they will fade away as well, along with your memory.  But that love that you show while you are alive radiates, and passes on to others, and they in turn pass that on to others and to their prodigy.  That generation fades, but the love taught to the next generation continues and on and on it goes.  This is the legacy we should all seek to leave behind.

So my advice to those striving so hard, like I strived, is to stop getting frustrated, stop trying to 'be somebody'(we are all famous in heaven anyway), stop the unnecessary drama in your life, quit wasting your time in bars (which is really just away of seeking community...don't be like Fast Freddy), if you're a single person the golden rule still applies to dating as well so quit playing games w/ people and be genuine, quit wasting time on things which the wise King in Ecclesiastes said are meaningless but what I call are the"endless" pursuits in life that could always be bigger and better but will never make you happy or content, love your spouse, your family, your friends, and your community and have lots of kids(the writers of the Georgia Guidestones I'm sure would hate me saying the last part).  Find new ways to show love to those around you and they will remember it and pass it on.  Even if we didn't have Christ, if life were all for nothing, this would still be true.  In the end, no matter who you are you won't be remembered, but your effect is what will remain.  So when I say, build a castle, this is what I mean.  The ripple is not found in titles, it's not found in busying ourselves with endless pursuits and desires, but it's found in character and how we live...really the only thing we have control over (see man post on control and hero post on Brian Carderelli).

The Trip
So on this trip I've tried to update everyone with what I'm doing, the places I'm seeing, and the things I'm doing, and I also wanted to try and use somewhat poetic example (through experiences and stories) to give you my take on life.  Not really sure why, but I know a lot of people go through the same things I go through, but like some of the people I've met along the way on this trip(ex: Fast Freddy)...they keep making the same mistakes, buying into the same lies over and over and over.  It's why their relationships don't work out, it's why they run themselves into the ground trying to keep up with the rat race, its why they won't free themselves from what society tells us is the real life.  As I've learned on this trip, the real things in life, the truer things are found underground and you have to dig for the jewels both internally and externally.  But I will admit, I don't live up to my own ideals; I get angry, fearful, give in to societal pressures, lack faith in many circumstances and have weak...many weak moments, the christian life is tough but its worth the struggle.

As for me, I'm looking forward to spending some more time with the folks, getting back to the gym, driving my jeep and working on a couple of projects on the side until school starts, or deciding whether I would rather keep working.  So I hope you enjoyed this blog.  I hope you found it entertaining, humorous, inspiring, or enlightening (ha).  I've tried to write things as I've learned and as I've read and I tried to mix things up on the blog to make it as interesting as possible.  Some of the things I've written were impulsive and I'll probably look back and think "what the heck was I thinking writing that" but it's all been for fun, and a lot of these posts were tongue and cheek so I hope you take it with a grain of salt.  Many times I have thought "wow, I really shouldn't write that" but the Lord has given me courage to write what I feel and I hope you found it enjoyable.  Thanks for the encouragement, for keeping in touch, to those I stayed with for your hospitality, to those I met along the way the blessing and that "ripple effect" my interaction with you has had.  May God continue to grow, strengthen, and energize each one of you always so that your own permanent ripple effect may be felt positively throughout the world.  Boy, all that travelling gave me way too much thinking time.  Thanks again!

The GPS has been Recalculated...

Who We Have To Thank For...

After watching some Broadway shows, being in LA, I noticed that it is custom to thank people after a successful endeavor or after receiving an award.  So after thanking God and my parents and friends for their support I thought I'd do a fun and educational post to give "thanks" both real and sarcastically to those who made the trip possible.

Our Transportation System:
Thanks Dwight D. Eisenhower!  It was your genius and leadership which foresaw that having well developed transportation network around the country would be a good thing for business, tourism, sight-seeing and for the development of our nation.  Although your reasons were mainly for defense purposes(defense against whom?), and the original idea came from that communist FDR, which ended up costing billion dollars to develop and billions more of tax dollars to maintain over the years which cut through farmlands and altered community development ever-after, it was really helpful and much quicker having a long stretch of highway that I could count on to launch me from one major city to another.  So Gen. Eisenhower, I salute you, thank you.

National Parks and Recreation
Thanks Teddy Roosevelt!  It was your love of nature which drove you to be a champion of conservation issues. Although you weren't president when the the National Parks Service Organic Act of 1916 was passed, you were one of the major figures to raise awareness to the unneccesary slaughtering Buffalo in the Dakotas.  These parks were previously managed by the Department of Interior until the independent agency was created.  Yellowstone became the first National Park in the world in 1872.  Yosemite National Park had begun has a state park managed by the state of California.  One of my other favorite parks, Death Valley, was originally inhabited by indians until 1849 when gold miners took the route passing through the valley and were stuck there for weeks.  One of the members of the team died in the valley, giving it its name "Death Valley".  Another park I highly enjoyed, and an area Teddy Roosevelt loved was the Badlands National Park.    The Lakota Indians used this area as a hunting grounds until in the 19th century western pilgrims began to settle there and also attempted to farm the area.  The natives before, found the area impossible to farm hence giving it its name "Badland".  

I still hate that place....and we can thank Mr. Henry Flagler for expanding his railroad company into the Miami area, creating an industrial boom which allowed the city to incorporate in the late 19th century.  Although you are the "magic city" and Forbes Magazine seems to think that you are a clean city...who won the NBA finals? Nuff said.  .

Las Vegas
The Entertainment Capitol of the World, but I was unimpressed.  Vegas became a city in 1911 discovered by  Raphael Rivera nearly a hundred years before, it wasn't until Brigham Young made a failed attempt to convert the natives in the land (at that time it was held by Mexico) to Mormonism, that the area received recognition. The Mormons left the area in 1857 during the Utah War.  In 1905, the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad Company owned by US Senator Kearns and Senator William Clark, established it as, you guessed it a railroad town.   Thank you Senators, for what may possibly have been a conflict of interest.  I'm sure Mr. Young is proud to see what this city is today!

Thanks to all for making the trip possible!  ;)  

Virginia: The Commonwealth of Modesty

Each mile that I drove, I experienced a deeper feeling of love for my country.  Although I could say I loved this country before, how could I truly love it without having seen a large part of it?  I can now fully and honestly say that I do indeed love this country.

In addition, I’ve come to realize and fully appreciate my home state of Virginia.  We have almost every thing any other state in the Union has….we have mountains, we have beaches, we have rivers, we have cities, we have beautiful scenery, we have opportunity, we have our own distinct history and culture, we are not too southern and not too northern…we are the happy middle and modest in every way. 

Along the trip, there were some things I wanted to do or learn how to do… and along the way I realized that many of these things I can do in Virginia.

While my love for this country has grown over the past few months, my love for Virginia has grown even more.  On this trip, I wondered if it would be better to live in this place or that, and while I’m still open to the possibilities of allowing the Lord to take me other places, I see no reason to move out of Virginia unless fate overwhelmingly pushes me in another direction.  

Eastward Bound & The Rest

Having been on the road for so long, I've lost my edge somewhat for adventure and I have resorted to sight-seeing, reading, and lots and lots of endless driving.  I have made a point however to stop in each state and see the state capitol and that has become pretty much the only things I've been able to handle throughout the latter part of this trip.

Dayton, Ohio
I mentioned this randomly, because I applied to law school here and went to see the campus. I got to sit in on a Torts Class and I loved it.  The instructor, Thomas Hagel, is the brother of the US Senator from Nebraska, Senator Chuck Hagel (I think the two are on opposite ends of the political spectrum).  The class captivated my curiosity and only furthered my confidence in law being the right direction for me.  However, I am still debating whether to attend.  

Cousins in Brazil, Indiana
I got to visit some more cousins (yes I know, I have a plethora of cousins) in Indy.  These cousins of mine from Indy use to visit Virginia every summer for 2 weeks when we were kids and it was always an awesome time having them around.  The 5 of us would spend most of our time tying strings around the legs of June Bugs and flying them as kites, climbing, swimming, playing some kind of war games, wrestling, or killing some kind of bug but you get the idea.  Anyway, it was great getting to see them again since I haven't seen any of the them in about 4 or 5 years.  The great thing is, even after all these years its like nothing has changed when we are together however,....No bugs were killed.

Amish Country
Kind of reminded me of Roswell, NM....they really played up and marketed their Amish Heritage right outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  It really wasn't much different than driving through Dayton, VA with all the Mennonites there, except the outfits were a bit cooler and the married men had some sick beards...sicker than mine.  I fit in quite nicely there.  If you're able to drive through without being held up in traffic thanks to all the horse and buggys you'll notice a lot of stores and restaurants with names like "Jebs Hardware"...."Isaacs Barbershop", "Jacob's Tractor & Supply" and you can even stay at an Amish Motel which advertised having "Candlelit" rooms.  While I can't entirely remember the names of the stores, I kid you not that I saw a Jebs, a Jacobs, and an Isaacs something.

New England, Niagara and Canada
Hitting more state capitols(boring I know), Connnecticut has a neat little round-table for their Senate members in the chamber.   I went up as far north as Augusta, Maine, then swung by Cape Elizabeth and got there just in time to see a gorgeous sunset, unfortunately no hunnies were around for this romantic moment.  I went south passing through The Live Free or Die State, and an interesting side note, that state has 400 members in their House and about 20 members in their Senate!  Both the largest and smallest state chambers in the country.  Vermont was uneventful and has a really old legislative building.

From there, I hit Albany then drove across the state of New York, which very beautiful, to Niagara Falls.  I was a bit dissapointed with Niagara Falls, at least on the USA side.  So I jumped across the the border to the Peoples Republican of Canada (if only I had choked in Canada I could have gotten free health care), and the view of the falls is superbly better from there than it is from NY.  I spent maybe 2 hours in Canada.  From there, I continued south had to backtrack a little slightly passing through Pennsylvania again and then heading towards Maryland and Delaware before venturing home.  I made it back June 20 at 12:30 a.m.  Ending the nearly 3 month long journey....

As Forrest Gump would say after trekking across the country  "I'm pretty tired....I think I'll go back home now."

Teddy Roosevelt and His Quarter-Life Crisis: Part II

It seems like no matter where I go, I keep running into this man, Teddy Roosevelt; The Badlands, The Menger Hotel in San Antonio, the cliff dwelling in Arizona, NYC Museum of Natural History, he's been everywhere.  He's a fascinating man and a fascinating read, which is why I chose to use him as my archetype to help those dealing with quarter life issues.  Please read Part I first, as I lay out a time in Teddy's life when he wanted nothing more but to oversee some cattle.  Like most quarter-life scenarios, his some what built up for a few years, though the tragedy that struck him was a complete shock and ultimately was what drove him into exile. Prior to this turning point, he felt the small rumblings of a quarter life crisis when in college.  He was driven and good at two things, the study of animals and the study of law & history.  The girl he pursued in college, who was probably not the right fit but became his wife eventually anyway, pushed him into pursuing law and ultimately...politics.  Even after his decision, he still wrestled with his scientific side.

Advice:  Again, I chose Teddy Roosevelt because he went through the same struggles we face, yet became one of the most successful men in American history.  After reading him, and much contemplation, I decided to attempt a list of advice for my friends who are going through these interesting times.

The 20’s now more than previous generations is an interesting time in life where people really have the opportunity to give hard consideration to the direction they want to take in life rather than stumbling into things, a true blessing to come out of our modern age.  I don’t call it a crisis because it’s a blessing to have the opportunity to go through this phase.  People in other countries or other situations don’t have the luxury to live life as God intended them to live, they are merely just surviving.  Those going through the midlife “crisis” typically don’t have the freedom to make the necessarily changes and if they do…it can be disastrous.  Some are blessed to have a clear cut and dry direction since high school and college and they stick with it…some of us aren’t quite that lucky.  Anyway, here are just some thoughts to help anybody who might be going through this funny period in life so you can come out of it with Teddy Roosevelt like success. So what are the signs that you are going through a quarter-life? Wakening up to the fact the your adult life isn't what you expected, not knowing what you want out of relationships & career & goals, an obsessive fear of failure, not being able to grow out of your high school or college years and constantly comparing yourself to other name a few are sure signs of a quarter-life discontent.  

It's a fact of life that what we do becomes a heavy aspect of who we are, at least in the eyes of other people.  But remember a job does not make a life.  If you don't like what you're currently doing don’t give up too easily on a job, give it time and it may get better or it may lead to something better that you enjoy and ask yourself what it is exactly that you dislike about it.  Teddy Roosevelt hated his job as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, but that job is what got him a Col. position in the Spanish-American war leading the Rough Riders to glory on San Juan Hill, which catapulted him to stardom and eventually the presidency.  There are two ways of viewing work, as merely a way to make money, or to seek for it to be a way of enhancing your life or as a way to make a difference in the world.  If it is the latter, you're not going to make an 'impact' unless you're doing something you love.  But in figuring out what it is you want to do, ask yourself what would make you happier-a job that provides you with stability and good lifestyle, or one that doesn't have those luxuries but something you love doing.  There is no right or wrong answer.  Also, you can do something you love that doesn't have to your job.  You have the time to fit all of it in, if you like the stability your job brings but also have a passion for something else, make that thing your hobby for now or something to do for a little extra income until you've built it up, or become versed in it enough to make it your full time career...or maybe you would prefer to keep it as merely something on the side, thats okay too. It's better to be poor and happy than rich and miserable and as the scriptures say in Mark 16:26 "What good is it for a man if gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul?" And if you're worried about money or are unemployed right now (as I now am), remember Philippians 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."...and he will provide you with everything you need.

Honestly, have you noticed that when you graduate college you're around people who seem to either all be married, want to get married, or go back to school or have a nice job or something that you want that you currently don't have?  Whatever it is, when you're out of college and there are no longer any guideposts it may become easy to get into 'comparison' mode.  I like to replace the word in Ecclesiastes "meaningless" for "endless".  Comparing yourself to others is endless so don't fall into this trap, not with neighbors and especially not with friends, it could damage your relationships.  Besides, if you were satisfied with the things you had would you really want other people jealous of the things you have? Of course not, or at least you shouldn't, b/c you know that only puts distance between you and other people.

If you feel like your drifting apart from your friends, know that its okay for your relationships to change and evolve.  If your tastes change, so what?  Your history is something sacred you share and that sometimes is enough or think of new ways to get to know your friends.  Relationships will change, and that is okay.

Firstly, if you’re single, it’s natural at this age to have a harder time meeting people, in college, meeting people came easy but now you have to work for it a bit and that’s just the reality of it.  Plus work gets in the way.  Think outside the box, and move outside your currently closed circle of friends if you have to, get out of the house.  Focus on things that interest you and you’ll hone in on meeting the kind of people you want to meet. Be flexible on your ‘checklist’, sometimes sparks build over time (I think some Asian cultures primarily view things this way).  Finding someone who spiritually fits your mold is probably one of the most important factors. 

If you’re married, taken, whatever, remember that sparks won’t always be constant.  Day to day life is boring a lot of times and that is okay.  While those things are important, they don’t have to be central but they are still very necessary.    My 2 Cents....PS....Teddy Roosevelt had to ask his first wife to marry him twice, she rejected him for a long time and his 2nd wife had rejected him years before he had met his first wife.  I believe she realized her mistake.  

Dreams/Goals and Desires
This is the core to who we are. This biggest questions right now with most are; What are my desires, how do I find out what they are, when do I let go and start over? With so many choices, how do we hone in on what our deepest goals are?  Sometimes you have to take a step, any step in some direction to begin to sort it out and so it is necessary then that you have to take risk especially while you're young enough to. Self-doubt is the biggest hindrance and realistically most of the time it is a paper dragon.  Practice small acts of faithfulness, the Lord isn't going to give you more responsibility if you're not doing the best with what you currently have, be patient in this and wait and be the best you can be at what you're currently doing.  Prioritize without giving consideration to logistics for now(there are many ways to get somewhere, as this trip has taught me) but just stop and think about what you can and can't live without.  A lot of times asking yourself the question "what would I do with 100 million dollars" is helpful with prioritizing, ask a friend, think about the things you know you don't want and look for buried clues within.  It doesn't have to be career related, and treat knowing what you want and how to get there as two different things to figure out.  Dissect your dreams, judge how realistic they are.  Be flexible, it's okay to have many different goals that seem to conflict with each other, don't worry about that for now, but know that when a dream starts to get in the way of your other passions it may be worth re-evaluated or letting that dream evolve.  Teddy Roosevelt did not want to remarry after the death of his beloved wife, but he did and his life exploded with joy years later when he thought it was over at the ripe age of 25 because he remained open to a change in his goals.  Don't get caught up in the future or envious of the past, that will steal your life away from you.  While the "timelines" helps, its more important to seek out what you really want first, otherwise this will lead to "settling".  Lastly, know that eventually whether on purpose or by accident, you will stumble on the things you want for yourself. 

Living Situation
Home is that place you depend to drown out all the problems on the outside and if you dread going home then there is probably something you should change.  Teddy Roosevelt could not go to the lavishing home in Oyster Bay(near NYC) which he had spent a few years having built because it was suppose to be a home for him and his wife whom had died.  So he chose to live in a rough cabin in the Badlands which felt more like a home to him than anywhere else for a couple of years.  A home can be a home, no matter what it's size or its location.  If you're living alone, take this opportunity to make your home your own, you'll be surprised at how refreshing it is to have your stuff... and your stuff only surrounding you.  So surround your place with the things you love and don't set your place up as if it's only temporary.  Enjoy the solitude (which you'll appreciate having one day when the kids are screaming and you can't get a moments rest) and don't be afraid to be living alone, sometimes you have to be alone in order to grow but living alone doesn't mean being alone.  If you're living with your parents look at it as a way to spend some valuable time with them that you'll always remember having years down the road....or as a way to save money.  Don't fall into the societal argument that living with the folks is unnatural or something to be ashamed of....Simon Cowell did it at age 30, look at him now.  If you're a married couple and your situation isn't ideal right now, just be patience and look at it as something you'll look back on and laugh when you are living in your castle.  Enjoy the early years, it'll be neat to go back one day and see how far you've come.  

People in our generation are faced with many new things our parents didn’t have to be faced with and we are facing other things at an earlier age than they did as well.  The difference between the quarter and midlife is that the midlife stems from life being too predictable, stagnant and stable while our generations quarter seems to come from having way too many options which leads to our lives being too unpredictable, too unstable and uncertain.  Older people reading this, please do not dismiss this b/c these things have led to many youths having anxiety disorders and depression, times have changed.  However, I'm confident that the things now at this age will seem trivial 10 and 15 years down the road, so break down your questions one by one.  The mistakes you make now can be corrected, you can’t really make any decisions now that will make or break you (to a degree of course).  Any elderly person will tell you the same thing.."things always work themselves out" so trust in that.  Use your 20’s as a learning experience, and resolve to have a long, joyful life ahead of you and trust in the Lord with all your heart. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What Do You Want New York?

This seemed to be the most favorite line for any cashier or food place worker.  Not "How can I help you" but rather "What do you want?"...I should respond by saying "just wanted to say hello."  Don't get me wrong though, other than that, the city was awesome and New Yorkers are just fine people.  I must admit unexpectedly but I really enjoyed New York City and New York in general.

I arrived in NYC saturday evening June 11.  I got to stay with one of my best friends for 3 days, Colt and his wife Vanessa and what a blessing it was to get to enjoy NYC with people I love to be around.  The first night, Colt and I did what most 20 something year old men would do on a saturday night roaming downtown NYC and Times Square......we went to one of the best Toys R' Us's in the country!  That's right, after spending some time looking for this secret hamburger place obscurely tucked away behind a curtain, yes a curtain, at some fancy hotel we did not intend to spend time in a toy store, but the lights, oh the lights how they lit up and the inside of the store had a farris wheel with all of your favorite cartoon characters....we just couldn't turn our backs on such an attractive store.  Even more, they had these ultimate lego structure built inside like that of the empire state building, the eiffel tower, etc.  It was cool, real cool.

*Footnote* Read previous paragraph with humor, no I do not get this excited over toy stores....or do I?

Real Talent
After church, I did a lot of touristy stuff and sight seeing w/ Colt & Vanessa, seeing ground zero, walking halfway across the Brooklyn Bridge and later in the evening I felt as though I became a little bit more sophisticated after watching the Tony Awards.  These people who perform live on stage and on Broadway, now they are the real deal.  They don't get the kind of recognition Hollywood stars do yet they are far more talented.  This has now sparked what I think will be a permanent interest for me in plays and dare I say, musicals maybe. Vanessa and her sister Jennifer personally know the guy who won an award for best performance of the year.

A New Nemesis: The Hipsters
Many of you who know me, know of my former dislike for hippies.  But in recent years, the hippies and I have been able to make peace and find some common ground on many things.  Another group has emerged in the 21st century and they are by far worse than the hippies of yesteryear.  I didn't have a name for this group and I didn't know how to describe them exactly except that they don't care about anything, not politics, the world or any kind of spirituality (at least the hippies, strange as they may be, care about stuff) wearing thick dark glasses, shaven heads (girls darken their hair), the males wear bigger earrings than most girls, tattooed to no end, and wear extremely tight jeans.  In conversation I learned that this new annoying group are called ....The Hipsters. They are rampant in places like NYC and Richmond and they are far worse than anything we've ever seen before.  I shall raise the fires Valhalla against them.

Yanks & Broadway & A Very Very Smelly Man
Now I'm not a Yankees fan, but seeing a game in NYC is just the thing you have to do when in NYC.  Plus it's not like the Orioles are really doing much.  It was fun, but the Yankees lost to the Cleveland Injuns in a highscoring cliffhanger...1-0.  The next day I got to see the Statue of Liberty and meet my friend Adam for lunch.  I went to a Broadway show for the first time later that evening, which was pretty cheap, the show Jerusalem.  I didn't quite get it.  The show was very entertaining and after seeing the Tony awards a few nights before I was really into the play but I just didn't get the story.  Without getting into detail, I kept looking for deeper meanings or satire within the plot but it just wasn't there.  It was simply just about a middle aged druggy that had no friends.  I got lost on the way back to Colt and Vanessa's and to make matters worse, my phone had died after the play was over.  First I got on the wrong train and I got off at a very ghetto stop.  No bbig deal, I just hopped back on and went back to Times Square.  They were doing construction on the steps to the station I was suppose to get on previously so I had to take an extra fives minutes to get to it from another entrance. This wasn't a big deal, however those few extra minutes was just enough to make me miss my train and wait another 20+ minutes for the next one.  When I got on the car on this particular train I walked into the smell of a terrible odor and noticed a homeless guy had his kiester parked at the end of the car, everybody was packed away from where he was sitting.  We made one stop....One Frikin' stop, and the train gets delayed for guess it...more construction!! So I'm on this train, stuck with a smelliest person ever for a half an hour before the train began to move again.  The doors were open and people would stick their heads out every once in a while, gasping for air.  We couldn't hop over to the train car beside us, b/c the people who had already come and gotten off before had packed both cars on each side so we were all stuck....stuck with the homeless smelly guy.  People walking in would immediately squint their face and walk out.  It was THAT bad.  Eventually, finally, I made it back to Queens and somehow remembered where the apartment was from there.  Poor Colt was like a worried parent.  I think I made it back around 12:30, 2 1/2 hours after the show ended.

The Church of Jeremiah Wright In Chicago

I've been trying to visit famous churches along the way on this trip.  Sometimes it hasn't worked out to where I've been at a certain place on a Sunday morning.  But when in Chicago....there was but one church I could think of that would make for an awesome story....and that was Trinity United Church.

Now, if you are unfamiliar with this church, or unfamiliar with Jeremiah Wright, he was President Barrack Obama's preacher for nearly 20 years.  He was the one who said "Not God Bless America...but God **** America!!"  Ring a bell?  Anyway, this is an all black church and you can imagine that I stuck out like a sore thumb.  Literally, except for the the lone white guy in the chorus, I was the only white guy in the building which seated probably between 500-1000 people.  Trust me, I checked and looked all around.  

A lady at the door greeted me and after taking a few steps decided to ask me if I preferred to sit in the front or the didn't take me much hesitation to request a back seat since I felt incredibly awkward.  She found a seat for me in between of these two elderly gentleladies (okay the one to my left was probably around 40 somethingish).  Ella, the elderly lady to my right was incredibly curious.  It didn't take her long before she warmed up to my Hensley charm and finally asked "So, what made you want to come to a BLACK church?" (there was emphasis in her voice when she said "black").  Sitting beside these two ladies was a blessing and they made me feel at home.  During the meet and greets, I had a lot of people come up and speak to me and I told them about the trip and how I'm trying to visit famous churches along the way and that Fox News had put theirs "on the map", to which they responded with laughter.  There were a few awkward moments, like when the preacher (Rev. Otis...Rev. Wright is no longer head Rev but is now just an Honorary Pastor) asked all the men in the congregation to stand which I did, and said how we have to make the youth of this area proud to be black by being black role models.  I could hear the two ladies giggling like school girls.  

The service itself was relatively fine.  There was an unnecessary emphasis on race (advertising to get your free "black pride" t-shirts after the service)  but in a way, I kind of understand the context.  They are trying to inspire the youth in their area to live as Godly men, and they want these youths to have pride in themselves, so I understand where they were coming from since it is a bad crime area.  The sermon itself was about Cain, but thats really all I can remember from it.  Other than when the preacher said "Every once in a while it's okay to raise a little Cain!"  Meaning, to raise and guide a bad youth to a better life.  While it was a bit edgy, the church was not nearly as bad as the media made it out to be, it was as bad as all the hype but at the same time I think a church such as Trinity needs to be a little more careful with what they preach and they need to be more Christ centered, rather than race centered.  

For years I've wanted to visit a black church, for the experience, as well as a Mosque, so I can at least mark off one of these for now....

Paying Homage to My Favorite Actor Jimmy Stewart

I can't get enough of his movies.  I'm sure all of you reading have at least seen It's a Wondeful Life, if you haven't then you've probably been living under a rock.

I was able to visit the Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, Pennsylvania (yes you read that correctly) and could have spent half a day in there.  The man was awesome both as an actor and outside of acting.  He voluntarily enlisted in the Air Force, something he wanted to do from an early age.  And I have another reason to like Jimmy, he was a Republican and did stump speeches for Ronald Reagan in the 80's.  Yes Jimmy, you are one of my heroes.  If you haven't already seen the following movies, I highly recommend these:  Vertigo, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, The Man Who Knew Too Much, You Can't Take It With You, The Spirit of St. Louis, but there are simply too many to name.

As a sample, here is a clip from one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies of Jimmy Stewarts, enjoy!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Book Reviews From the Trip

"Captivating" & The Royal Wedding
I guess you could call this "Message to Men Part II" since I caught flack from the last one for not giving advise on how we are to relate to the other gender.  I wanted to make this post some months back when Prince William Windsor consummated his marriage to Kate Middleton, and it would have coincided perfectly with my visit to Ransom Heart Ministries.  After reading this book and after contemplating these things my self I couldn't agree more that men and women both equally reflect the qualities of God and bear his image.  This is a traditional view of men and women relations but in some ways its not, but as more sophisticated and deeper reasoning for why we do the things we do, why each gender has a hard time understanding that of other.  I'm not one to give advice, but the biggest thing I personally took from this book, that us guys are not doing enough of, was that women do bear the qualities of God, and the biggest one which we neglected is the desire for women to be the Father wishes to be pursued by us.  I think as men we forget this, we pursue in the beginning and lose our touch once we acquire.  So men, let us always continue to pursue our women and recognize it as a given and as a constant effort worthy of giving our energies to, they are a mystery to be enjoyed not a problem to be solved.

Royal Wedding
In regards to the Royal Wedding, which while reading this book I really wanted to blog about for some reason  A lot of people thought it was ridiculous the amount of media coverage the event was being given.  I initially took this position as well,. but after seeing it (I accidentally woke up at 6 a.m. in Colorado and it just happened to be on tv...okay?), my attitude changed.  How great is it for millions of people to witness a wedding, taking place in a church recognizing the authority of God?  The couple looked natural and calm throughout and I think for a time it re-inspired societies hope in marriage and that can never be a bad thing...

The Last Lecture
A good book written by Randy Pausch.  Aside from him being a Virginian, I had many reasons to like this guy.  Here is wisdom coming from a man who is about to die, as if his death bed is extended and we had a lot of brilliant things to say.  I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to read this book, while I'm young and hopefully have many years ahead of me to put his advice into practice.  We should all be so thankful for each day we are given to better ourselves.

Dale Carnegie's Way of Manipulating People
Okay that wasn't the title of the book obviously.  I highly recommend and enjoyed reading this as well.  However, I feel as though the advice he offers is somewhat common sense.  To steal a quote from a friend of mine though, most people don't employ these tactics.  I have run into "Empire Builders" over the years who are too obvious when they use these people skills and it comes off as unoriginal and disingenuous.  Therefore, the people skills in and of themselves are not fully bullet proof if they are not genuine.  People will read straight through you if your heart is not in the right place.  The only remedy for this is to get your heart and desires in the right place, make sure your reasons are pure before charming one into your way of thinking.  

The Confessions of St. Augustine
Very dense and very difficult to read at times (and boring), so I had to resort to buying the audio to this one.  I had a lot of driving time so I was able to finish it in no time because of that.  I believed I thought way too much about things until I dived into this work, now I feel like I have the spiritual intellect of a five year old.  This guy (St. Augustine of Hippo) literally goes through his entire spiritual life and from I could understand, even asks the Lord for forgiveness of the sins he was unaware of committing as a child.  He literally wrestles with almost every theological concept you can think of and doesn't fully commit to God until he feels fully assured that his own intellect is flawed and unavoidably always inconsistent.  A good book for the deeper spiritually minded folks.

The Rise of Teddy Roosevelt
A good book to read period, and relatively easy despite its length.  There are actually 3 volumes, Theodore Rex being the 2nd book followed by Col. Roosevelt.  Although I haven't read these other two, I don't think they can top the Rise of.  Everyone can  relate to this man's life in some way yet at the same time he was above most people.  The man didn't quit.  You'll easily be inspired if you read this book to go and conquer every demand of your life.  Reading this on the road, being in the Badlands and some unknown places out west perfectly fitted the feeling I got when reading this work.  Highly recommended.

I also took up reading Leadership Lessons of R.E. Lee on the trip as well as Robert Frost's poetry although I didn't finish these I read enough to get some out of them.  It was neat reading Leadership Lessons which many of the lessons meshed well with Dale Carnegies work and I read the real personal display of the lessons in reading Teddy Roosevelts biography, all three men spanning different time periods but saying the same things which reinforced the lessons.  The Lee book however, was a bit repetitive and a lot of the lessons seem to overlap with each other and the personals examples given by the author didn't always match with the lesson he was trying to describe, but nonetheless still a good book for those in business or management of any kind.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Finishing Off The West

Many have been surprised at how quickly I've made it back to the east coast.  In actuality, I've been journeying eastward since close to the end of May, but I know, it's gone by quick.  I mentioned how anxious I am to get home, it's not b/c I necessarily miss it or am tired of travelling, I'm having a blast...but I'm real excited to get back to the normal life routine and see what the Lord has for me next as I enter a new phase.

Idaho Poets & The Battle of Little Bull Snake in Montana
In Idaho, I stayed in the old mining town of Hailey close to Ketchum.  Ketchum I also visited, which is close to Sun Valley....where Arnold Swarzenneggar is currently running from all of his babies mommas.  Hailey, is the hometown of one of my favorite Poets, Ezra Pound, and I was able to swing by his boyhood home which has now been turned into a local arts center.  While Hailey is the home to Pound, Ketchum is home to the grave of Ernest Hemingway which I also happened to stop by and see...for inspiration of course....inspiration for why not to drink.  Montana was a heck of a drive and it took me two days to pass through the state.  I stopped by the National Monument area that honors the battle of Little Big Horn, where Custer made his last stand.  Pretty cool since it was a story I had read about since I was a kid.  While walking along the paved path I completely missed the sign that said "watch for snakes".  Those of you who know me well, know that I despise snakes with a passion...more than anything.  I don't mind rats, or spiders, or bears, but snakes I hate. When walking along, I heard what sounded like a cat hissing and to my left, curled upright on itself was a massive (probably 4 feet) bull snake.  After my initial dash, I went back to try and get a picture of it curled up ready to strike, but as I re-approached, the thing slithered back into the tall grass.  Although this one was not venomous, I still hate the species.

Literally, the Jurassic Park of America.  It was amazing getting to see the variety of wildlife freely roaming through fields and forests.  This place had everything.  Geysers, swamps, lakes, wilderness, was Eden, and has been marked down as a must see place to visit again.  Easily, I could have spent a week there.

The Dakotas
I highly enjoyed passing through South Dakota.  The Badlands were an incredible place to explore, I tried imagining what Teddy Roosevelt must have felt horseback riding by himself through this endless vastness of land.  In addition to the Badlands, South Dakota is also home to Mt. Rushmore.  I expected Mt. Rushmore to be a tourist trap, you go, you grab some pictures of the Presidents Heads and thats it.  But surprisingly, the park offered more than that.  They had a neat museum which describes the plans and what all went into the construction of the monument, an ampitheatre, and some hiking areas.  The nearby town is pretty neat as well.

The Cut Off: Iowa & Nebraska,  The Cultures of America
Basically, uneventful states, although the countryside farmland is pretty.  I went by the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines although the fair had not yet started.  Wisconsin though, had probably the most scenic farmlands I have ever seen, and you can mark Madison as another great place for single guys.  From my observations, the east/west divide lies along  the Minnesota-Lousiana lines.  It seems has though states west of that line completely embrace the country-western lifestyle and culture, while east of that line appears to be no different than any other state on the east coast, meaning green grass, trees, and lots and lots of traffic and interconnectedness.  In Colorado, I heard for the first time, that I talked "like an easterner".  That was a new concept to me, but after spending some time out west I realized that the West really is a different culture, it's only natural when you have a country as vast as ours that people will be slightly different in their manner.  After coming back to the east coast, I've already found that my stress has gone up a lot and I find myself yelling at other vehicles more often than I did out west.  Within the East-West Cultures lies 2 split subcultures.  In the west, you have two forms of individualism that has emerged.  One being very conservative, somewhat anti-government and very independent and self sufficient, primarily dominate within the midland western states.  On the coastal states such as Oregon, Washington and California, while you have that passionate individualism, it seems to be more in a social sense.  You find more free spirits willing to try anything when it comes to religion, clothing, lifestyles,and yes sexuality.  Colorado and New Mexico seem to be an odd mixture of both and seem to be battlegrounds for those sub-cultural clashes.  The overall culture of the west is very content, laid back, independent with a 'keep to yourself' attitude.  As I entered back to the east, it was like switching from first gear to fifth gear in a flash as I crossed into Minnesota.  Traffic, tolls, people everywhere, no longer open road and vast scenery.  The closeness I think makes people of the east more aware of their surroundings and more responsive to things that affect them and those around them.  I believe political participation is probably far greater in the east and it seems that people on this side of the country more devoted to keep traditions.  Although the subcultures which are the north and south have slightly different cultural traditions with Florida, New Hampshire and Vermont seeming to be the odd mixing bowls of these cultures.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

State Capitols Challenge

Along the way, I've had the pleasure of seeing many state capitols.  I saw a bunch in the south east but didn't really bother with taking pictures of them and many capitols were kind of out of the way from my driving route.  That was until I arrived in Texas and stayed with my good friend Nathan.  Now, Nathan has amassed a nice collection of pictures with him standing in front of many state capitols.  With both of us being somewhat competitive by nature, I felt the need to have a new goal on this trip and that was to snap pictures of every capitol of each state I pass through from here on out.  I believe in order to be in the lead, I would have to get a picture in front of every capitol from Texas on.  I missed Springfield, Illinois....

Meet and Greets w/ State Workers
I started out trying to take the time to go into the capitols and talk with staffers, legislators and lobbyist and get a feel for the issues and what life was like during session for those workers....It's much the same as in Virginia with the fast pace environment, comb-overs, and stoic settings.  Basically, I would just pick a random office, walk in, and start striking up conversation with a staffer and a legislator if they happened to be in.  It was kind of neat actually.  The first one I tried in Texas however, although I crossed my fingers hoping for a member of my party, turned out to be of the opposite party but that actually made things more interesting; in Colorado I talked with the Speaker's staff, I met the brother of a Representative in New Mexico, in Oregon I made one of the state senators take a picture for me(he couldn't figure out how to work my camera), and in West Virginia I bumped into a Senator while taking a picture of the chamber whom I talked with for about 10 minutes and said the West Virginia people are THE most hospitable people in the US (while I claimed it to be New Mexico and Alabama).

Aside from the picture taking goal, just being able to converse with legislators and staffers from other states has been a neat experience all in itself.  Thank's Nathan for the inspiration :-)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Unsung Heroes

A little late on this post, I wanted to have it up for the Memorial Day holiday as we remember our US soldiers serving around the world and veterans, and the sacrifices they have made for their country.  They deserve all the praise we can give them for what they do.

I can't tell you how many times along this trip I've run into sticky situations.  Sometimes it's something major like popping my tires in Arkansas.  Some situations aren't as bad, but they are a cause for worry nonetheless.  As in, when I'm lost downtown somewhere or if I just need for there to be a gas station open late at night.  I am so thankful to those who were there and could provide me with directions or at least let me know where I could find civilization.  Even people on the street who could tell me where things were probably saved me much time and money trying to find things myself.  I wonder how many times a convenient store cashier or a stranger on the street has saved a life without realizing it?  It taught me a valuable lesson, if it's within reason and your ability, be willing to help a stranger, especially if it's something as simple as directions and do it with enthusiasm.

Brian Carderelli
One hero of mine who I haven't recognized as such before now is Brian Carderelli.  Unfortunately, while I considered him a friend, I didn't have the opportunity to get to know him as well as I should have enough to call him a close friend.  Brian was killed in Afghanistan close to a year ago when the group he was with was attacked by Afghan/Pakistan militants.  Brian was not a soldier, he was a photographer trying to show the beauty of Afghanistan and that it is not a country completely defined by war. He was there voluntarily.  I didn't realize how much my interactions with him impacted my life until he had died.  Suddenly, I had a rushing flood of memories come back to me of all the times we had hung out, played rugby and paintball together, and when I saw him at Covenant Church.  All of the things said about him in the newspaper and at his memorial service were perfectly in line with the person I knew him to be.  He's a hero of mine b/c if ever I think this trip, or the things I do in life are 'radical' in faith, cool, or badass....I think about Brian, how radical in his faith, how courageous he was to live in a war torn country for a year (and planned to stay longer).  He is a true hero, a light into the world which is a lesser place without him.  I'd be lucky to live with a mustard seed amount of faith that he had.  He lived more of a life in 26 years than most ever do.  Since his death I've pondered the concept of legacy, what is it we want to leave behind?  I hope to encourage you all to ponder this as well.  Thank you Brian for the times we had, and thank you for shining your light.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Teddy Roosevelt and His Quarter-Life Crisis: Part I

Conveniently, as I write this, I am currently in North Dakota, home to the Roosevelt National Park.  I’ve been reading “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” and I found his mid twenties to be an interesting time period for him. He took off and lived in the Badlands for a while.  Now, a lot of my friends are going through this weird and awkward phase in life which now has a name called “the quarter-life crisis”.  Maybe a bit over dramatic, since it’s not really a crisis…maybe a confusing period, or a quarter life conflict.  It’s no different than what society accepts now as the mid-life crisis and I’m convinced those addressing the issues of the quarter life episode actually avoid the midlife scenario.  Assuming this is correct, I would rather opt for the quarter life than the midlife or be one of the rare few who blissfully go through neither.

Since a lot of my friends are facing the same challenges, this post is for you and I hope you’ll find it encouraging.  Firstly, you are not alone….a great man and president, Teddy Roosevelt himself faced the kind of questions you are facing now, that in itself should be encouraging, and I chose Teddy Roosevelt since he obviously worked through his issues and became a success….but here is what he did:

Teddy’s Quarter:
When Teddy was young, he had asthma and was a sickly child in general, most of his illness plagued him all through his life at different periods. Maybe this is what caused him to overcompensate in other areas of his life for when he was finally healthy enough he did everything from ranching to boxing to climbing mountains.  He had held a nostalgia for the cowboy/soldier way of life.  At the prime age of 25, despite dropping out of law school had much political success.  Being elected to the New York State Assembly a couple years earlier he was making a name for himself and his wife, Alice, was pregnant with their first child who would also be named Alice.  His early success suddenly came to a screeching halt when he received word that his mother and his wife were both dieing.  Both of them did in fact die on the same day.  Suddenly, at 25 yrs old, Teddy found himself alone with a 2 day old daughter, just lost the 2 most important women in his life and on the same day.  He was so devastated that he couldn't even raise his daughter for the first couple years of her life.  He did not intend to ever get back into politics or had any aspirations for anything else.  If you think you have problems, imagine swallowing that pill.  After this and facing political defeats in the Assembly, Roosevelt fled for the Badlands of North Dakota where he purchased two ranches and intended to live out there for the rest of his days.  He did live there for a couple of years, living as a true cowboy rancher until he found himself physically in the best shape of his life and happier than he had been in years.  He of course came back to New York, remarried, became a war hero, re-entered New York politics and you know the rest of the story…

Glimpses of Eternity
Whatever it was the ranch did for Teddy Roosevelt, it soothed his soul, it comforted him and healed him.  For whatever reason, a man has a need and the tendency to distance himself and a desire to just get away, whether it be to the open country, the sea, the beaches, or the open road.  Think about whenever you’re walking along a beach or on a hike on a never ending trail, it’s as if it doesn’t end, and the great thing is, you never want it to end.  If the long stretch of beach, land or sea could just keep going and going that would be just fine.  I think this is a gift God gives us here on this earth, a way of understanding heaven without yet having been there, as if he is providing us with early visions or glimpses of what it’s like to live forever.  Teddy Roosevelt found a glimpse of heaven on his ranches in North Dakota.