Flashback: That’s My Dad

I realized, looking back at all these flashbacks, that most are rather solemn and serious. I like to do my best to keep things balanced in life, so this one will be hopefully a bit more humorous.

Once you go paint-balling, it is an experience you will never forget. You’ll never forget the first time you hold your gun, pull the trigger, and get the satisfying “Thompthompthomp” sound from the gun, as plastic balls of paint hurl towards your opponent. You’ll never forget who saved your rear when in “Battle”. You’ll never forget that first time you get shot, and realize “Hey! This doesn’t hurt as bad as I thought.”

But it still hurts.

But it is worth it.

The first time I went paint-balling, was part of a guy’s party. Dad and I went together, and decided on the way we were going to be on different teams. So we could shoot each other of course. ;)

So we divided up into teams, and played on a field which had woods, underbrush, and some plywood “Houses”. It was a great field, and many different strategies were employed. In the second or third game, me and a buddy were camping out in a house, behind enemy lines, as we had snuck almost all the way to the flag, and were about to try and capture it.

That’s when, about 25 yards across the field we hear a lot of rustling up the hill we faced. A lot of rustling. A few seconds later, we see a guy racing down the hill, trying to stop and the bottom… and ultimately fails. Doing a faceplant/dive/fall/plop into a pile of leave at the bottom. Then promptly getting shot by the opposing team.

I’ll never forget it, the buddy of mine looked at me and whispers “Dude. You know who that is?” I faithfully, yet somewhat embarrassedly replied.

That’s, my dad.

The guy laughed out loud, which gave away our position, which made up get lit up like firecrackers on a Chinese New Year’s. It hurt. A lot.

But you know, what made that event memorable wasn’t the hilarious way my dad fell/ran down the hill. It wasn’t how we had welts from the breach of cover. It was how dad handled the quite embarrassing fall. He didn’t get mad or upset at folks. He laughed. He laughed at how ridiculous he must have looked, because he knew it was funny.

I think that was the day, though I didn’t realize it then, when I realized a mark or maturity and the mark of a man is the ability to laugh at himself. It is something I constantly check myself for. We have natural tendencies to make ourselves look “Joe Cool” all the time, when we forget, we are funny people. Because mistakes, are often funny.

So if you ever pull a stunt of  hilarious failure or embarrassment, laugh at it. It sure beats the alternative.

Advertisements

The Path of my Degree: The Long Haul

With much of the hard stuff out of the way, that being degree choice and the heart of studying, I began the long and tedious process of adding credits to “Bank Account”, preparing to cash them in  through Thomas Edison College.

This spanned the time of about 3 years. To let you know, I did not do college 100% all of those three years, and that’s what I wanted to touch on. I did many other things… I worked part time, started a highschool newspaper, participated in TeenPact as a student and a staffer, went to worldview academy, spent six weeks in Zambia on a missions trip, went to England with my dad for a week and a half, started a business, played competitive baseball and ultimate frisbee…

The list could go on quite a ways, and I hope that show the point I want to make. In the course of getting all the general education and elective credits, I utilized distance learning’s most powerful and appealing tool. That is, the flexibility.

When I looked at the people who complete their degrees in two years or less, I realized that was the only thing they did for two years. They ate, slept, and did college. Now let me say, if you think that is the best way to do distance learning, go for it! Why? Because you can- it is flexible. You set your own pace, you determine your priorities, and you ultimately control how short or how long it takes you to complete your degree.

And with that choice and power comes a double edged sword.

While free to set my own schedule in this time, I was also free to be lax in studies and take longer to do things. That’s when the accountability of my family and coach became so valuable. Without them, I am pretty sure I would be lax in my studies. They also told me when I was working to much, and neglecting other areas in my life. They provided the balanced view I needed to succeed during this time.

In my senior year of highschool, I took that year off from college. A lot of folks said I was making a bad decision, as it pretty much sealed the fact I would be 20 before I got my degree finished. I did so though, because of the opportunities I had to serve others. That’s the point I learned during this time. Let’s face it, when we get to heaven, it isn’t going to matter what degree we held or how long it took us to earn it. What’s going to matter is the people we met, and how we reflected Christ. 

So in the long haul of masses amounts of CLEPs and DSSTs, I’d say don’t be afraid to take a break and go serve your fellow man. After all, that’s what distance learning is all about- flexibility and control of scheduling. Make sure and use that time to serve Christ through others, not just through a $100 test.

Late Night Musings

I don’t normally just start typing, hoping for a useable post. But that’s what I’m doing tonight. We will see what happens.

It is really amazing what a day of rest will do to you. It reinvigorates, remotivates, and refreshes. If you don’t take a day off from the day to day grind, I highly recommend you do. I take mine on a Sunday, so I an go to church and spend time with family- as I make it the “Lord’s day” and rest in Him.

The thing about that rest is it really makes you feel prepared for the next week ahead. And it gets you out on a fresh step. Like tonight for instance, it was a difficult night at work, as I had the privilege of training two people in different areas of the restaurant. They did great, and it was fun. But it was also tiring and challenging. Rest helps us take on those trials so much better.

Seems like that is something we miss in American culture. The power of resting. God had it right when He said “Be still and know I am God.” So many times we forget the “Be still” part. And that results in us getting sick, tired, and irritable. American culture is always “Go! Go! Go!” Could that be part of why so many people at work and at home are always stressed and cranky?

I dunno, seems like one symptom to a greater issue. I mean, yeah, sleep, rest, etc is important. But what happens when we rely on those for our strength and peace? We get cranky and irritable without em. So what? Accept the cycle?

I’d say no. In our own strength we are pitifully weak. We are based on the outside conditions and circumstances. With Christ as our battery though, there is a huge difference. When I am dead tired at work, and I pull from myself, I do get testy and short. People notice too. But going to the back and saying a quick prayer asking for Christ’s strength… It does wonders, and I’m not joking.

So I don’t have a killer end thought or anything tonight, just a musing. Make sure and rest. And when you do, Rest in Christ.

And speaking of which, I should do the same.

Goodnight.

The Path of my Degree: Failure is an Option

<Disclaimer: this one got really long. Sorry. :P>

I’ll be the first to tell you I’m no brilliant star student. I’m not naturally inclined to study. I’m not one who finds it easy to take and pass tests. As part of the CollegePlus forums, I read about people who got their degrees in 2 years. People who scored ridiculously high in various CLEP and DSST tests, and people who boasted about never failing one test.

I of course, wanted to meet those standards, and in my mind- I was going to do so. Failure wasn’t an option for me. And with that mindset, I took tests and passed. Not with high scores mind you, but the passing score (which in a CLEP… A Passing score is the same as the highest possible score. There are not grades. It is Pass/Fail). I was starting to think to myslef… “Heh, this is easy. I can do this no sweat.” And with those thoughts came a lax style of studying. I got closer and closer to the bare minimum passing score- a 50. 56- 52- 54- 51… As a 17yr old College freshman, I turned into “How can I study the least amount possible to get the passing score?“Then one day it happened.

The test was US History I. I whizzed through the test, after passing psychology and sociology with a 58 and 62. I thought I was doing great. I clicked, in some ways carelessly, through the Qs. I finished in 30 min,,, clicked “submit” and saw my score.

49.

I blinked. Shook my head. Squinted… Nope. Still there.

49.

Sneering at me from the screen, a score one correct question short or the passing grade. To say I reacted badly, would be an understatement. I blamed the testing prep materials, the breakfast I had that morning, the random test I was given… even the Forum information I used to study. The only thing I didn’t blame was me. I was mad at the system, because it beat me.

Mr. Beeman, my coach, let me use those blame-shifting things. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but he agreed with my position, as it was the first test I’d failed. He was sympathetic and helped me get motivated enough to take US History 2. I “studied” for it, and took it.

51.

Boom! I had figured out the system. I’d focus on the bare minimum and ace this program. That Other test was really just a hiccup from bad information. Right? That’s what I told myself anyway. And began the next test- American Government. I was excited about this one. I had been to TeenPAct of course, so already knew everything about government. With that arrogant attitude… I studied for four weeks (instead of the recommended six) and took the test.

42.

I got mad. Not just “oh that’s frustrating” but… Mad. You know the volcanoes that spit and spew ash and toxic gas for weeks on end without really ever erupting? That’s the anger I get. And spit and spew I did- on my coaching call too. I blamed everything I previously had blamed. This time though- Mr. Beeman asked me a question. “Can you tell me you you studied for this test Austin?” So I told him about TeenPact, that I read the recommended books, used “Now clearly faulty” info. He asked to see some notes I took. That’s when it hit me. For this test, I had one page of notes. One. Stinking. Page.

Mr. Beeman took it well. He said “Well, I think we have found the problem.” I was proudly ready to reject the premise of taking notes for tests. I was ready to explain how I organize all of the stuff in my head. How all the time writing stuff down could be better used soaking up more information in my brilliantly organized brain. But Mr. Beeman didn’t ask about study methods. He didn’t tell me to take notes. He didn’t say I didn’t study enough. He asked me a question- one I’ll never forget.

“Are you studying for these tests for the glory of God? Or for the Glory of yourself?”

I didn’t have a response. Well, I did have a response, but didn’t want to say it. All the walls I had built up in excuses and justifications were collapsed at that question. As Mr. Beeman took the root issue, and asked clear as day. I grudgingly replied: “Not for God”. Inside I was confused. College isn’t about God- it is about taking and passing test to you can get a piece of paper to get a job. (Teaser, I’ll post a flashback about how I learned this the same year in highschool from mom)

So Mr. Beeman took the rest of our coaching call sharing with me verses in scripture where it talked about working for God. I did this in the job I had, but didn’t think studies applied for some odd reason. At the end of the call, he told me to choose a passage, and make it my motivator verse. The verse I used when wanting to skimp out or do less than excellent work for myself. I wound up choosing Colosians 3:23. I learned in those months that if you are doing everything for God’s glory, and really putting all you have into what you do… Failure is an option. Because it is a tool God uses to teach and build. I failed other tests throughout my degree… Microeconomics… College Comp… Principles of Finance… But I can say I worked for God’s glory on those and I failed just because I didn’t study enough, or understood a concept wrong that I didn’t know… That kind of thing.

So if you fail a test, I’d say what my coach told me. The study methods are not really that important. If you are in highschool… you know how to study for a test. The heart is where the problem can often lie, and until that is fixed, all the studying in the world is for naught. Because it is the heart that is important.

And Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord- not to men.~Colossians 3:23~

Movie Review: The Wolverine

The-Wolverine-Movie-Wallpaper-HD

A man can run out of things to live for.

When you are immortal, that phrase has a bittersweet ring. Logan has seen and done it all. Fought in every war since the Civil war, been everywhere in the world, and even saved the world by stopping a rouge mutant. But now, Logan lives without drive, without purpose. He has nightmares every-night of the ones he has loved and lost. Of the wars he has fought. Of the hundreds men he has killed. He decides that he isn’t going to be that monster anymore.

So he lives on a mountain unkept and alone with his nightmares. His only friend is the grizzly bear who roams the mountain with him. While he may not be the killing monster on the mountain, he is anything but at peace. When some hunters come with illegal weapons, and kill the bear. Logan seeks out vengeance on them. Before he can do so however, he is approached by a mysterious japanese woman who tells Logan her employer, Sir Yashida, has a gift for him. A thank you, for saving his life many years ago in WWII.

The Gift of peace. The Gift of Mortality.

Things I Liked

Logan (The Wolverine) appears to be a man of changed heart in this film. we find he lives by himself for one main reason- so he no longer hurts others. When called “The Wolverine” he replies- “That’s not who I am anymore.” In truth, we see that change of character come out in Logan through the movie. When Yashida offers this gift, Logan goes mainly out of politeness. He respects the dying man’s wishes to thank him in person one last time.

When He arrives in Japan, he finds himself in the midst of a feud. He chooses to protect the daughter of Yashida when assassins come. And that is his prevailing purpose in the film. “Think of me as your bodyguard” Logan tells her. What makes that interesting though, is he is tricked into becoming mortal. For at time at least. During this time, he learns bullets are dangerous, and what it means to be vulnerable. “I’ve never had to ask for help before.” he tells Mariko, Yashida’s Daughter. Watching him learn to live as such was a great thing, and I appreciated again things I had taken for granted in everyday life. Logan also sacrifices much in this movie. He risks his mortal life protecting others. And through that he begins to find his purpose once again.

Things I Didn’t Like

The Wolverine isn’t the most violent of films when you add up the body count, but it could be argued it is the most savagely violent of the X-Men Series. Logan slices, impales, thrashes, and throws many would be assassins to their deaths in various scenes. He throws a man off a balcony. He stabs the illegal hunter’s hand with the man’s own poisoned arrow. We watch the man’s reaction to the poison. In his nightmares, we see him accidentally kill people he loves. Logan at one point, cuts open his own chest.

A antagonist mutant, Vyper, kills various people with kisses of poison. She kills a man with a poisoned pen. She tortures men by scratching them, them breathing poison onto their face. She also sheds her face, which results in a kinda creepy scene.

Other hordes of ninjas/assassins shoot people with arrows, rods, and swords. in one scene, Logan takes dozens to his back. In fact, Logan gets pretty beat up in the movie too. When he is mortal, he is shot several times, and he realizes that healing isn’t something his body does anymore. So wounds and such remain on him, blood and all. When he regains his power, he is sliced and cut and impaled in ways which are incredibly painful to him. Early on in Nagasaki, we see his body burned an charred while protecting a Japanese solider, and the painful process of his body instantly healing him.

Logan winds up kissing Mariko, and sleeping in the same bed with her at a secret refuge. Mariko wears a thin nightgown. Logan often goes shirtless. In one scene he is being given a bath by some old Japanese Maids and we see a bit of his rump. Another scene shows a politician who is busted by Logan, is found with three young women all in lingerie and is shown for a few seconds before they all flee.

Logan drops an F-Bomb, and several other curse words. Included are D—, B—–, and S—. God’s name is used in Vain twice.

Closing Thoughts

Your grandfather called me a ronin, a samurai without a master. Destined to live forever, with no purpose to serve. ~The Wolverine~

The tale of the Wolverine is a darker one in the Marvel series. A tragic hero, we see Logan suffer so much, even though he will live forever. It is painful to watch Logan experience such sorrow and grief over losing people he loved, because he couldn’t die with them. This movie, taking place after the third X-men, shows Logan at the bottom of the barrel with some of the most intense violence of the series.

The Wolverine rips open the idea that Eternity on this earth isn’t a gift or remotely desirable, and kills it with savage intensity. Showing that it is a curse which brings only sorrow and misery if you have no eternal purpose. Wolverine found his purpose in the movie, the credits rolled, and people moved on. What the movie fails to mention, is that purpose, when rooted in the world, will change based on circumstance.

The tragedy of the Wolverine lies not in the fact Logan lives forever, but the fact he will be forever wandering trying to find himself in the world. As Christians, we know without Christ, that walk can, and will last forever if you are immortal on the world. Only Christ can quench the thirst men crave for ultimate purpose. While Logan is lost to this fact, we can perhaps guide others to it through this film. Not to say by any means is The Wolverine full of redeeming value. But this is one rare film where the internal struggle and resulting destruction shows what a man can do without any lasting purpose in his life. That is something to definitely challenge others in, and ask if they are doing the same.

The Path of my Degree: The Selection of the Major

It is really amazing how intimidating choosing a major is.

I am not surprised in the least hear over and over how people change majors two or even three times throughout the course of their studies. How they second guess themselves and how so many people put so much stock in what their piece of paper says they graduated with.

I was in that boat back when I was 17ish. I was fretting to and fro about what I should major in, how it would direct my career, and how I would be limiting my options by pursuing a specific major. In essence, I believed what most other people believe when pursuing their degree. That is-

The Major you get determines the career you’ll have the rest of your life.

Well, you may not have thought that. But I did. I kept putting the degree consultaion off and putting it off… until one day I was on a coaching call with my incredible college Coach provided through C+. Instead of talking about tests, schedules, and the like. He, myself, and my mom talked about my concerns in committing to a certain degree. Through that call, Mr. James Beeman taught me something quite invaluable.

Unless you are pursuing a specific field- like being a Doctor, lawyer, etc… Your degree subject is not that important. Employers care more about experience than specific degrees.

Now, I’ll admit- my first reaction was: “COOL! I’m quitting this college thing and going to jump into the workforce!” In reality, one doesn’t wind up “using” half their degree, as it is GenEd, a quarter is electives, then the rest is Core focus. Why should I waste my time in all of these tedious classes when I could get real world experience?!

Mr. Beeman wisely advised against that too. ;)

See, I learned when you get a degree, that tells employers you can commit to something and finish it. That you have show responsibility and discipline by working on classes and can handle everything that comes with college.  A degree is a piece of paper not saying what you learned, but demonstrates you can put your mind to a difficult task and accomplish it. The value lies not in “communications” “Management” etc… but the fact you worked hard and got the piece of paper. Getting a degree to “use” is like painting a picture to use. It took lots of hard work but in the end, you wind up displaying it and showing it off. It doesn’t matter the content of the picture, just the fact you did it.

Ultimately, Mr. Beeman recommended I choose a major where my passion lies. Where my dream job would be. I love business and the workings/ideas of it. That’s why I pursued a Business Administration degree. Not because it is going to seal my career into business, but because I loved the workings, ideas, and principles of the topic. Now if you can get real world experience and a degree, that is the ideal state. Not everyone has that privilege though. If I can pass on one piece of advice from what I have experienced it is this:

Don’t sweat the Major, because in reality (again, unless you have a very specific field)…. It is minor. Choose a topic you love, and commit to it with a passion. I know a guy who has a degree in Automotive Repair and now works for an investment company. A guy who has an education degree and is now working in the restaurant business. Another guy has a degree in Journalism, and is a machinist by trade. Degrees don’t seal your life’s destiny, they determine what you study for the next four years. I recommend choosing something you love to study. You’re spending money, time, and putting effort in this major. While the degree will affect your life, it will by no means determine the rest of it.

Why not enjoy it?

The Anchor in the Storm

Anchor Quote

Part of being a leader I am finding is being the anchor when life’s storms come along. An Anchor is part of the ship that keeps it grounded and from blowing off course. It keeps it from capsizing through its weight and design.

Likewise, when trials come to an organization, leaders are the ones who secure that organization through their design of plans. People on a boat trust the anchor to get them through, as must others trust the leaders.

While this is just one tiny aspect of being a leader, I think it is an important one. Without the anchor, the boat will capsize and eventually sink in the intense storms. Likewise, without a solid leader, the organization will fail in those days of immense trial.

Storms are coming. Will you be the anchor?

The Path of my Degree: First Steps

This could get long.

And rambly.

And boring.

But let’s hope it isn’t, at least, if it is- please tell me. ;)

This series of posts will cover how I obtained a degree by the ripe old age of 20 years. It was done without debt, under $25,000, and all from the walls of my home. Save for the occasional braving the world to face a testing center. I did it through something called “Distance Learning”, CollegePlus, and a whole lot of prayer and self discipline.

First off, the “why?” That’s the first question I always get. “Why did you want to do college at home?” “Why did you not want to go to a campus?” Essentially, the question is:

Why do college differently?

Why indeed.

Well, I’ll be honest, for me it was simple. I didn’t want to be paying off student loans when I was 40 years old… I didn’t want the lecture based learning… I didn’t want to vault four years of my life into one thing called College. That method didn’t seem like a wise use of my time, and I felt I would be better able to serve the Lord doing College and (fill the blank) while remaining flexible.

Just so you guys know, I’m not saying Distance Learning is for everyone. In no way do I think that. This was about my personal conviction/decision.

So at age 16, I decided to start pursuing my degree through a service called CollegePlus. CollegePlus aids Students in the path to obtaining a degree through an online College. They also provide personal mentorship if so desired through their coaches. I heartily recommend them, as they provided me the means necessary to complete my degree.

So with a path laid, and a coach helping me along the way, I began to earn Gen-Ed credits through CLEP and DSST tests. I did a life purpose planning book to help me choose my degree. It didn’t help at all. I learned speed reading to whiz through giant textbooks. That was fun. Lastly, I took a advanced memory course… That wasn’t very helpful either.

While those things didn’t really help in terms of knowledge preparations, they taught me one thing- that commitment and perseverance were going to be necessary for this degree. That it wouldn’t be easy, nor something to take lightly. I had just one thing left before the long haul of 100+ Credits…

I had to choose my major. One of the most difficult decisions in my life.