Peace for 2016

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This past Sunday was the Advent Sunday of Peace.  This year has been an incredible one, you can take that as a positive or negative.  In my own life, I have seen many changes and experienced trials both external and internal.  Along with this past Sunday being the Advent Peace Sunday, it was also the dedication of the best product of 2016, my niece Lydia Ann Sullivan.  I have included some pictures of her dedication, because in the end, this is what I celebrate about 2016.  As the busiest week of the Christmas season is upon us, I hope that these words that I wrote for the Peace Reading this past Sunday will aide in your busy schedule.

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When I say the word Christmas, many images  might come to your mind.  Some may think of shopping and gifts.  Some may think of family and friends.  Some may think of television specials and church programs.  Others might be lonely at this time or just completely overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle of the season.  I know for one that I have been to numerous holiday gatherings already with many more to follow in the coming days.

It is ironic that the busiest week of the holiday season is also the week of Peace.  How are we supposed to follow Psalm 46:10 “Be Still and Know that I am God” when there is so much to do.  Think back to the time of Jesus’ birth.  It was not a peaceful time.  The king wanted all male babies dead.  Jesus came in a time of immense strife.  Much like when He came to save us.  Romans 5:8 says “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.”  He came to us when we didn’t deserve Him and He died for us too.

In the Chronicles of Narnia, written by CS Lewis, the Creator and Savior of Narnia, Aslan the Lion is the allegorical representation of Jesus.  In The Silver Chair, Aslan gives directions to a human visitor to Narnia, Jill.  Aslan tells Jill four major signs to look for in her journey.  Much like the prophet Isaiah.  These signs are not only help to Jill in her quest, but they are also reminders of Aslan’s protection and providence in her life.  I think Aslan’s words are a great reminder to us on how we should view Christ during our Christmas season.

“Remember, remember, remember the signs.  Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night.  And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs.  And secondly, I give you a warning.  Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly:  I will not often do so down in Narnia.  Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken.  Take great care that it does not confuse your mind.  And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there.  That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances.  Remember the signs and believe the signs.  Nothing else matters.” – The Silver Chair, Chapter 2

As we finish the Christmas Season and the anticipation of the Christ child’s coming, remember the promises or signs that God has sent us.  Continue to remember these promises in the morning, in the evenings, during stressful times when the ham hasn’t thawed, when you forget that cousin that you needed a gift for, when your family argues at the Christmas dinner table, and when you are late for the Christmas morning church service.  Remember that God loves you.  Remember that the fruit of His spirit IS peace.  And most of all remember that Christ did come and He is coming again.  Nothing else matters.

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

 

Coaster Crusade Book Launch

I started this blog exactly two years ago, right after my diagnosis of Hodgkin Lymphoma.  I started it to tell others about what was going on with me so that my friends and family would not have to worry about hearing news and updates.  This little blog has brought me so much joy and love from those of you that read.  I really can’t thank you enough.  It was last year in the Spring that my friend Zach and I decided to go on a trip together.  We were going to visit three regional theme parks and ride around thirty roller coasters.  Zach dubbed it the Coaster Crusade and man it was fun!  Through this blog I have met numerous other bloggers and lovers of the blogosphere.  One such person, Heidi, encouraged me to pitch a book idea to Theme Park Press, an online book publisher, about my Coaster Crusade.  In all honesty, I would have never thought about this idea if it weren’t for Heidi suggesting it.  Surprisingly, the idea hit with Theme Park Press owner, Bob Mclain.  He sent me a contract and we were in business.  That’s when the daunting task of writing an actual book sunk in.

Over the next five or so months I strategically planned out and wrote a narrative surrounding each roller coaster Zach and I rode during May of 2015.  The book would cover three regional parks and their thirty total coasters.  I was told that the book had to be at least 50,000 words.  To put that in context, a typical blog post of mine is between one to two thousand words.  The task seemed massive, but the best thing I could do was write a chapter at a time.  It was just great timing that my wife Carly was studying for her Physician Assistant boards while I was writing.  We must have spent weeks in the local coffee shops in Jackson.  I was writing and she was studying.  I have never recounted in so much detail a trip experience.  I frequently had to research roller coaster stats through websites, videos, and texts with Zach.  In the end, my book would be over 56,000 words.  A feat that I am still overwhelmed by!

I was never a fantastic grammarian, although I truly believe in my ability to weave stories.  I hope that the journey of a coaster enthusiast is the one thing that shines above all else in Coaster Crusade.  I was never a solid English student as my true strengths were in math, but I can’t help but thank my English teachers Mrs. Lilley, Cunningham, and Reynolds, who showed me what it was to write well and to love literature.  I am almost positive they are as in shock as I am that I am published.  So my book, Coaster Crusade, and all it’s 154 pages can be bought on Amazon.  Please go check it out and write a review for it.

 

Advent: A New Hope

“Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” – Princess Leia

“In the bleak midwinter, a stable-place sufficed.  The Lord Almighty, Jesus Christ.” – In the Bleak Mid-Winter, hymn

Advent – the arrival of a notable person, event, or thing

I don’t think I have ever had such anticipation for a movie in my lifetime.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens cannot come soon enough.  I have recounted in a previous post about how my father introduced me to the world of Star Wars when I was young.  There have been so many times when I have tried to use the “force” to my will and taken a gift wrap tube and used it as a lightsaber.  Yes that still pertains to my life today.

I just watched Star Wars: A New Hope a few nights ago and the movie still enveloped me.  The banter of the droids C3PO and R2D2 still makes me laugh.  The whining of Luke and the brash attitude of both Princess Leia and Han Solo create such a unique blend of human characters that you can’t help but root for them.  Then there is Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi, who set such a perfect view of good vs. evil.  The whole package of the story, the characters, the effects, and the settings changed the world of cinema and pop culture.

The holidays have always been a bright spot in my year.  From the time that Halloween dies down to the beginning of the New Year, the whole world around me seems to be alive with energy and life.  This is crazy because it is this very time of the year that all the leaves are almost gone from trees, the sun disappears around five o’clock, and the weather turns cold and wet.  It is also the time of year that colds and sinuses act up and no one really wants to be out of their house.  It is a bleak time, contrary to what we as humans have concocted.

At the beginning of the first theatrical release of Star Wars there it was blazing on the screen: A New Hope.  That word stirs something in us doesn’t it?  Hope.  It is the reminder that not all is lost.  Hope says that even when everything looks dismal and certain to fail, there at that moment you can still hang on to the fact that everything will be better.  It’s not an idea that good things will come, but a fact that good things are coming.

In the days of the prophet Isaiah, God’s people were awaiting the Savior to come.  The one who would save them all.  Isaiah told of a Virgin birth and that someone would come before the Savior to proclaim that He had arrived.  This took roughly 700 years to happen.  I can’t imagine waiting that long for anything.  In the Star Wars saga, the evil Sith and the Galactic Empire destroyed the Jedi, who fought for good.  It took roughly 20 years for Luke and Leia to come into the picture and bring a renewed sense of hope of victory over the Empire.  The point I am trying to make here is that with all hope there is waiting and patience.

The Christmas season has always been Advent for me.  In a liturgical church the Advent wreath consists of 3 purple candles, a pink candle, and a white candle.  The purple candles represent Hope, Love, and Peace.  The pink candle stands for Joy.  Finally, the white candle, which is lit on Christmas Eve is Christ, because that is when he arrives.  Advent means the arrival of a person, event, or thing worth noting.  The Christmas season is a celebration of the arrival of Christ, the Savior.  The one who holds all the Hope of the world.  Yes we can argue dates of when Jesus was truly born, but the Christmas season celebrates the arrival of Hope.  It marks the arrival of Love in human form.  “That is what Christmas is all about”, as Linus would say.

What if I was just as excited about Christ’s return as I was about The Force Awakens?  It puts life into perspective a bit when I think about that question.  If I knew when Christ was coming back, would I have pre-order tickets with all my friends?  Would I wait in line for hours just to be the first to see Him?  Would I know every detail about His character?  Would I have cried at the trailer that previews what it would be like when Christ returns?  Would I purchase exclusive memorabilia of Christ returning on a white horse?  Would I spend hours reading accounts of what it will be like when Christ returns on message boards and news articles?  Would I study side books by authors who spent their life studying the story of Jesus?

The first candle of Advent is the Hope candle.  It is what comes first in the story of Jesus, Hope.  It is Hope in the most bleak of times.  A New Hope for all.

On December 17th, I will be seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a large group of friends and the excitement will be overwhelming.  But I cannot discount the true thrill and joy it will be to see my Savior come.  His arrival is the true Hope and I am glad that he created me with a love for this little film franchise that inspires me to have Hope and to enjoy the life that He gave me when He came down in a bleak time to show A New Hope to the world.

Journey Strong and May The Force Be With You

Tips For Public Speaking Learned From Teaching

Are you terrified to speak in front of an audience?

Growing up, I hated being the center of attention.  I didn’t like being called on in class, I was quiet (shocking I know), and I spent lots of time worrying about what others thought about me.  I don’t know when I began to truly come into my own personality, but it was sometime around my senior year in high school.  I started to give more presentations, speak more at family events, and I even looked for ways to stand out and give a talk or speech of any kind. In college I tried out for a drama team on a whim and was selected to be in the group. I found a love for improv and performance. I never performed in a play or took acting lessons, but I had a good amount of experience in front of a crowd. Then I became a teacher.

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Teacher Appreciation Week

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Well if you were anywhere around Facebook last week you saw that it was Teacher Appreciation Week.  There were so many posts about influential teachers from elementary school to high school.  For a job that has such “little” rewards there really are incredible perks.  First of all summer.  Do I have to say anything else?  Summer’s are awesome.  Teachers love them more than students I assure you.  Really all holidays are perks.  Whenever kids are out, you are out.  But with the holidays and all the days off there are big time downfalls.  Any teacher will tell you that being at school is way easier than being out of school for a sick day or a personal day.  It is so hard to describe on a piece of paper given to a sub (that might not be read at all) all the tiny intricacies of my daily routine as a teacher.  There is a certain way I set up my classroom, distribute papers, talk to a certain student in a certain way, look out for cheating, and so many other small, minute things that I could fill a book of instructions for just one day.

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