Sunday, December 26, 2010

Defining a Generation

I’d like to thank John Traughber and Raja-Man for following.

Where are you going with your life? It’s the question we’re all preoccupied with as young people. I’m half way through my junior year, where did high school go guys? I don’t know. It’s speeding by and sometimes I feel like I’m missing something and I can’t put my finger on what it is.
Where are you going to College? Isn’t it the question everyone asks? What are you doing with your life? Hahaha, sometimes they’re rude, sometimes their curious and often judgmental. What gives them the right to try and define who I’m supposed to be, where I’m supposed to go?

Do you realize our generation, generation X is unique in the whole of human history? We’re the first digital natives, and where living in a world where social structures which have been installed in Civilization for millennium have been drastically changed. The Western definition of marriage, of womanhood and family are all changing. The family is the most basic structure of civilization, it is the nucleus from which all human interaction is created and sustained. People are defined, for better or worse by those they grow up with. Western culture doesn’t have ‘normal’ definition of family anymore.

Humans are also defined by the world in which they live. Yet we live in a world where things are drastically different from even our parent’s generation.
When you combine our ability to be anything we want in this world (a pretty new phenomenon due to rigid social strata throughout world history), and the incredible power of the net, ours is a fascinating generation. We are capable of choosing our own direction for our lives to a greater extent than perhaps any generation before. We are, paradoxically, defined by our ability to define ourselves.

A true visionaries is misunderstood by his contemporaries, perhaps even killed, take Socrates for example. Who will be the Socrates of this era? Whoever it is, we probably won’t know it because our glasses are tinted too much by the cultural paradigm already hardwired into us. Perhaps the biggest visionary will be the man who embraces the structures of our ancestors. If he’s actually figured something out he’ll probably be hated for it, people much prefer the shadows on the wall.

I know I’m a very blessed person; I live in the top two percent of the planet in terms of wealth, and have the opportunity to become anything I want with hard work and determination. I’ve been cut more breaks and given more luxuries, than most of the world in this century or any other. Luxury makes me soft and lazy. The problem with having everything is figuring out what to do. Have you ever walked into a restaurant and been stumped by the menu because it’s chock full of choices? Once you finally pick an item there are half a dozen questions about how you’d like the meal prepared. I love options but sometimes they are confusing.
I’m sitting here, with my whole life ahead of me, and all the roads I could ever want choose from open for me to pick. Now what?

Hahaha, it’s an exciting and paralyzing place to be. There’s a voice in the back of my head going, “don’t screw this up dude, you only get one shot and then it’s off to see Jesus!”
I look at my grandparents, and see how they already knew the direction they wanted to go by the time they were my age. Conversely, I’m stumped about which road is for me. I’m on a big interstate, speeding ahead, desperately attempting to pick the right direction. I’ve ruled out where I’ve come from and those things I don’t enjoy, but that still leaves me an intimidating haystack to sort through.

Conjecture aside, I know the first place I need to go is to the foot of the throne. I need to pray. Frankly I’m sometimes reluctant to pray about the future because I have a rebellious heart which would rather chase worldly things. Here is the root of my confusion. Now God isn’t guaranteed to answer my prayer with a College name and a job application but that’s fine. God is God and whatever He gives me is what I need, even if I’m not happy about it at first.

Regardless of where He puts me it will be my job to hold forth my candle into the vast black abyss of this world and cry out. I’m not the answer to the blinding darkness; I just know where the bonfire is.
This is how I want to be defined. History may name me howsoever it chooses (assuming I’m considered significant enough to mention). Clinging to the cross is all that matters.

What about you guys? Do you unsure of the next step? Or perhaps, do you know exactly where you’re headed?

Thanks for reading!
Levi

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A letter From Me to Me

Hi,

Recently Kendra mentioned on her blog that she writes letters to herself in the future. I thought that sounded like a cool idea. I wanted to put my own spin on the concept, so I'm going to write as if I've just graduated High School and am addressing this to myself two years in the past Marty McFly style.

***

Greetings Younger Levi!

Allow me to dispense with the small talk and get right down to the important stuff.


Concerning Words:

There is a line between being well spoken and being pretentious, unfortunately you don't even approached that line in the next couple of years, much less cross it. If you so desire, employ the full power of your fairly extensive vocabulary. Make use of it around people who will understand you, even if they amuse themselves by making fun of you (lightheartedly or otherwise). Reveal in what your creator has given you, but do not find yourself there. Understand you are capable of demeaning those around you (intentionally or otherwise) by that which proceeds from your lips. Use the words God has given you sparingly and with the intent of building others up. The pen is mightier than the sword. A tongue is a spark which may set the whole course of a man's life ablaze in much the same manor a forest is consumed.


Concerning Money:

Whatever it is you are considering purchasing, stop and rethink it. In my mind there is only one thing upon which all men can agree (although exceptions may exist), even History's great philosophers would not contest this point. YOU ARE GOING TO DIE. Shocking I know. Honestly all of your decisions should be made in light of this news. You cannot take any material possession with you into the grave (although you can certainly fill your coffin). All of it will amount to nothing in the end. Yet, that which you give to others or bequeath to those who come after you, those things might very well have an impact for God's Kingdom.

Buying things for yourself isn't inherently evil, but don't get attached. Make the world a brighter place instead of making your house bigger.


Concerning The Body:

Please exercise more, or I will personally reach through time and space and smack you upside the head! What on earth is your excuse? I'm tired? I'm full? I don't want to? I don't like like the cold/hot? GROW UP! You can sit on the coach and veg when your legs have ceased to function and your diapers are being changed by a person who's name you can't recall. Yes, vanity is a sin, but so is intentionally wasting a perfectly healthy body which God as so generously blessed you with. Also, broaden your definition of exercise-yes Crossfit is exercise-so are working in the yard and throwing the football with your little brother.

Concerning Others:

Again you are going to die, so start living like it. It fascinates me how much time I/you (we are different people I suppose) invest time in the trivial. I don't know where the idea of "spending time" originated but I think it one of the single most preposterous concepts of all time (poor pun intended). We do not "spend time" we float down a river and try to grab things as the pass by. We may catch hold of floxum and jetsom in the current and cling to them for safety. Ultimately, we're all dashed against the rocks. Our souls leave the forceful watercourse but our body's float on, decaying as they go. Cling to people while you yet reside in the current, and treat them well, ever mindful of the fatal rapids ahead. Follow Jesus' second commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself.

Concerning Work and Learning:

Work hard, in all you do, I know it has been said a thousand times, but all truth bares repeating. Whether cleaning a toilet or reading Plato, strive through the help of the Savior to do it well and with a good attitude.
Always be learning something, never ever stagnate. Expand what you know by reading those men and women who know the most.


Concerning Worry:

Stop, it never did the human race an ounce of good, so just stop. I can assure you now you'll make a royal fool out of yourself more than once in the next two years. Crow will not be an unfamiliar flavor to your ego driven pallet. When you sit down to write this letter, you will at least, be the wiser for it.

Concerning Girls:

Oh I can imagine how much you'd love to know if I'm currently in a relationship of any sort. HAHA! You cannot honestly expect me to tell you these things, after all I have the butterfly effect to consider. Sending you this letter in the first place is likely to land me in a great deal of trouble, without telling you how your/my life progresses. But enough of my rambling.

Actively and carefully engage in friendships with the fairer sex but DON'T WORRY (See there it is again) about serious relationships. Put girls first, particularly your sisters in Christ. Indeed remember to always treat them as sisters and not meat available for consumption however easy or appealing it may seem. Beauty is fleeting and charm is deceptive. You already have some idea of what to look for in a spouse. Obviously you will seek a believer. However, the quality which is perhaps most valuable beyond that is a heart receptive to growth and change. Better to marry a somewhat immature woman with an ear to the heartbeat of Jesus than a religious one with no fruit and not desire to grow in her life.


Concerning Your Relationship With God:

Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and all these things shall be added unto you. Focus on your relationship with the Creator, He loves you and wants the best for you and all his children. Embrace Jesus as your brother/advocate, his Spirit as your guide/translator and God as your father/Creator. Jesus is the way, the truth, and life. Did you catch that? Jesus is truth!
Making reading the Bible and prayer your bread and water. Heck, here's a crazy concept my friend, fast. From food certainly but also from those things which distract you from the Cross. Remember salvation is a gift. You can never repay your own debt, nor does God require you to. Live out of gratitude to your savior, and share the love he has freely given. There is lyric from a song you enjoy. Free is not your right to choose/it's answering what's asked of you/to give the love you've found until it's gone.
If God is preeminent in your life story, then everything else will fall into place.

Peace to you,

May you make it to this place in the river a bit wiser than I.

***

I'd love any feedback you guys have, positive or negative.

Thanks for Reading!

Levi.





Friday, November 5, 2010

Crossfit

If you are not not familiar with Crossfit, it's pretty much the crem-de la creme of exercise. These guys (and gals) don’t spend six or eight hours in the gym beefing up and becoming totally closed off from the rest of us. No they're totally wacky for a different reason. Crossfit doesn't have a magazine or lots of press surrounding them. It's got followers, loyal followers.

The Crossfit mission isn't to give you a beach body. There poster boy is not "The Situation" from Jersey Shore. They believe in functional fitness to help you live well.

They also have a trainer named pukie who you will meet should you attempt to brave one of their workouts. Yeah, it's that intense. However they do scale their workouts down (or WOD's as they call them Workout of the Day) for the average man. I'm grateful for their kindness.

There is also a diet, but they don't make any money if you eat the way they suggest. That is a big reason why I trust them. The only thing you pay for is the advice, which comes in the form of an e-journal, although you can find it other ways. My point though, is that this program isn't snake oil and it's not a get fit fast fad. Crossfit is a lifestyle. A lifestyle I want to embrace.

I am however, rather lazy. I attend to everything before exercise, or at least that's how it's been for the past few months. Before that I'd worked out pretty faithfully for several years.

I got my black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and didn't feel like going in further in the sport, so I gave it up.

Often I would supplement my TKD with things outside the gym.

My favorite form of exercise? Running. I don't know why exactly, but I love it. Most people hate running, they think of it as dull and difficult. I'm guilty of making it that way. An expression of the human soul, this is what running should be.

I can still remember running when I was 12 in the subdivision I used to live in. My technique was terrible, my distance was nothing and I'd run after dinner in the summer time. It sucked. Yet, yet some part of me enjoyed those runs. Setting goals and making them. Another mailbox, another streetlight, always making progress.

Though never got very talented then, I know I am capable great things today. I am, however to apathetic to try. I have the tools and the money I need, all I lack is the motivation. So what should motivate a person to run in circles?

I used to want to be Buff Guy from Every Movie (you've seen it right), he always saved the day in an oh so cool fashion and always gets the girl(s). It took me a long time to figure out I had a vanity problem (guys have them to, shocking I know). Don't get me wrong, there were other reasons I worked out, but that was a primary one. It's amazing how early you'll get up to meet your own ridiculous expectations of yourself.

Now, I'm going to run because I enjoy it, because it keeps me healthy and enriches my life. Crossfit has just what I need to be the athlete I wish to become.

So here is my goal: Run a Marathon.

Conventional wisdom says I'd need to train a year to do this. With Crossfit and some real dedication I expect to be running an ultra-marathon by the end of a year. Can you imagine running 50 miles? : ) I can. My heart rate jumps every time I think about the finish line.

So, I'm going to use this blog to track my progress. I'm setting a goal, the wildest goal I've ever set in my life. With this blog I plan to track my progress, it will be my accountability partner since I have none at the moment.

You, my small but devoted readership are welcome to join me. Hope you enjoy the ride!

Thanks for reading!

Levi

P.S. My goal for this first week is to get three workouts in. Also here is a link to Crossfit endurance. Heads up it’s a bit confusing at first. There is a legend on the right hand side. http://www.crossfitendurance.com/

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"The Road" A Book Review

Thank you Ashley for following! It's always great to know someone else is reading!

Introduction:

This Blog post is a book review for The Road, by Cormack McCarthy, which was adapted into a film with Viggo Mortensen in November of '09. You may recognize the name No Country for Old Men, which is also a book by McCarthy; it to was adapted for film. Note: This review describes some rather graphic material, so if you don't do well with concentration camp stories or things of that nature, you might just wanna skip this one.

I remembered being very intrigued when the commercials for The Road started airing last fall. I really liked Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn in Lord of The Rings and I have a fascination with post-apocalyptic stories, so it seems like the perfect fit for me. However, I was 15 and with the 'R' rating I wasn't gonna be seeing it anytime soon ( Yah for conservative Homeschoolers).

Anyhow, I was in the library a few weeks ago and passed by the 'for sale' shelf. There, right smack dab in the center of the display was The Road, with a $2 price sticker. I picked it up and sauntered over to the register.

Here is a review for that book:

Plot:

The story is simple; a major catastrophe has decimated the earth (what that catastrophe is we are never told). The book follows a father and son as they struggle desperately for survival, trying to reach the coast. We are never told their names, they are simply the man and the boy; the child refers to his father as papa. We are never given a location for the story, nor are we told in which direction the coast lies.
The earth has been reduced to an ash strewn wasteland, there is no vegetation or wild-life, and massive clouds blot out the sun. The two must survive the elements and the marauding bands of cannibals. It is incredibly grim.


Thoughts:

Good v. Evil: Through all of the desperate situations and the apparent hopelessness, the two just won't give up. The father tells his son that he must, “carry the fire.” He wants the boy to have hope in the midst of the darkness. The world is grown, both physically and spiritually dark, the father and son are a candle in the endless gloom. The boy has stronger morals than anyone else in the book, and always wants to help the people the encounter. He is also the only character who seems to have retained any belief in God. Everyone else believes humanity is forsaken.


Objectionable content: The book is realistic in the way it depicts human nature. It doesn't blink from showing us the worst of evils. The great shortage of food leads to extensive cannibalism and the rape of both woman and children comes up on several occasions. There are some pretty grotesque descriptions, including a dead baby being roasted and a cellar full of people waiting to be eaten. They huddle, naked, emaciated and terrified. The scene is reminiscent of a Nazi gas chamber. Suicide and sexual slavery also come up. The man has something terribly wrong with his lungs and coughs up blood on numerous occasions. The book also contains a good deal of profanity, much of which is the abuse of God's name. There is nothing over the top or theatrical about the content, but it is very, very graphic.

The writing is unlike any I've ever experienced. It is sparse, poetic and bleak. If McCarthy wrote a happy story I'd read it in a heart beat. I think The Road is the book Earnest Hemingway, George Orwell, and Edger Allen Poe would have written if they ever collaborated on a novel in the 21st century. The sparse approach carries over into the dialogue as well. The sentences are choppy. Sometimes, it becomes difficult to determine who's speaking. Every word communicates emotion; fear, anger, resignation etc. There is an odd cadence to the writing. Let me give you and example:

“He'd had this feeling before, beyond the numbness and the dull despair. The world shrinking down about a raw core or parsible entities. The names of things slowly following those things into oblivion. Colors. The names of birds. Things to eat. Finally the names of things one believed to be true.” (Page 88-89)

I couldn't find a definition for the world “Parsible,” if anyone knows feel free to share. Now for a glimpse of the dialogue:

He'd put a handful of dried raisins in a cloth in his pocket and at noon they sat in the dead grass by the side of the road and ate them. The boy looked at him. That's all there is, isnt it? He said.
Yes.
Are we going to die now?
No.
What are we going to do?
We're going to drink some water. Then we're going to keep going down the road.
Okay.”
(Page 87-88)

There are no quotations and words like isn't don't even get an apostrophe. This guy's been writing for over forty years, so I don't think this can be chalked up to laziness or shoddy editing.

I appreciated the fact that the story contained moral dilemmas and not moral relativism. Here is what I mean. Cannibalism and rape are always presented as evil acts which only “the bad guys” commit. But this doesn't mean the two travelers aren't given moral quandaries. For example; The man considers killing the boy rather than allow him to be captured and eaten. What is the right choice here? We are left to ponder it along with the father.

Conclusion: This has got to be one of the strangest things I've read, it's certainly in the top three darkest, (as far as fiction goes) maybe the darkest. I won't say I enjoyed it, but It's not really meant to be entertainment. This is art.

Here we are shown the worst conceivable evils along with an unquenchable light. It is a wavering, sputtering flame with a wick reduced to little more than ash, yet it burns on. We see a biblical love played out, with the father being willing to sacrifice his life at every turn, that his child might live. The boy, has an even bigger heart, exuding compassion for every wretch they encounter.

Ultimately, I believe the novel does convey a biblical truth; love conquerors all. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I will go so far as to call it 'hopeful.'

Thanks for reading!

Levi

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

To Gain the Whole World and Yet....

First off, thanks to archar for following! It's always high to log on and see that someone else is interested in what I've got to say.

The following is something I wrote on vacation; here is a revised and updated version which still encapsulates what what I was trying covey.

***

I think the prosperity doctrine, which permeates much of the American church, has effected the way I view God and the world around me.
The rose colored glasses in this case, happen to be ray-bans (the latest model of course). Because for Americans, materialism is one of our strongest demons. Satan has pointed us toward the end of the rainbow, and sent us packing. We spend our entire lives turning over rocks, and looking for that elusive pot of gold at the end. Somewhere along the way, most people realize we can no more find the pot of gold than we can climb the rainbow.

For as long as I can remember (at least as long as I've been a teenager), I've felt this deep need to get “there.” Where is there you ask? Why, just this side of perfection of course.
“There,” is vague point in the future when I've got enough wisdom, muscle, charm and intellect to make Chuck Norris jealous. Oh, and of course, I'll have a great relationship with Christ. And because I thought it was a good idea set perfection as my standard and slowly trudged toward it.

I thought I would naturally become that person as I grew older. While, the ideal me has changed a bit over the past couple years, the basic selfish idea remains the same. I believed my future happiness depended upon how closely I resembled that ideal. When I saw others who were better me in some way, I envied them.

Over recent months my own ignorance has been slowly revealed to me. I've come to see how my death grip on perfection, has only caused it to slip through my fingers like sand. It has prevented me from living life to the fullest because I constantly wish the situation were improved in some way. If I'm on a trip then I don't have all the friends I want, if I'm eating the food isn't good enough, if I'm play football I'm not athletic enough. “If only, if only,” I lament idiotically. All the while life passes me by.
Slowly, I'm learning to find contentment where God has placed me.

Yet, something still troubled me. I found myself in a place where I squirmed at the prospect of reading my Bible for no conceivable reason. Clean conscience or no, good mood or bad, I didn't enjoy the prospect of getting in the word. It was frustrating and confusing.

Over vacation, I was pondering the matter when a revelation hit me. In my perfect future, I would have a perfect relationship with Jesus, but in my fantasies, the relationship wasn't about Jesus; it was about my own righteousness. The whole fantasy was based upon my my selfish, egotist (and insecure) bid for the admiration of others.

There is an interesting passage in the book of Job, chapter 29 to be exact. In my Bible, I have highlighted all the personal pronouns in one color and every direct reference to God in another. It was an exercise a Bible teacher gave me to point out Job's pride. He is complaining to God, telling him that he was nearly perfect, that he doesn't deserve all the calamity God allowed to occur. Job uses God's name 5 times, while referencing himself 42 times (NIV)!

Perspective problems perhaps (notice my triple alliteration)? Heck yes! I've got same problem Job does, pride. My perfectionism only exacerbates the dilemma.

Now, I'm slowly learning to apply what I've been taught, evaluating goals and decisions based what pleases God. I'm even learning to base decisions on what I want, without attempting to show off for anyone. It's difficult, but liberating, and I've got the best coach in the universe to keep me on track.

Thanks for reading!

Levi

Monday, August 9, 2010

Vacation

This summer, marked the first time my family has taken a vacation together in several years. Because my father is self-employed, taking time off isn't built into the schedule. His heavy workload, translates into fewer summer vacations as a family.
In fact, the original trip we had planned this summer fell through for financial reasons.

When they discovered that we were going to forgo a family vacation again, my paternal grandparents generously offered us week away via their time share. This permitted us to pick from several different locations. My parents decided upon Pigeon Forge Tennessee. It was a good choice.
With an abundance of shops, activities, tourist traps and the Smoky mountains just a few minutes south, it makes for a very enjoyable vacation spot (I should write travel brochures).

I love the mountains more than any other place on earth. The beach is nice I suppose, but too sandy. Nothing compares with the splendor of a mountain range. So my favorite parts of the trip all involved interacting with nature.

The tourist district of Pigeon Forge reminds me of the beaches I've been to. Virtually every tourist trap is concentrated into one sweltering, lively stretch of road; teeming with middle class white people who are taking their one vacation of the year. All the restaurants, rides, shops and shows you could ever hope to loose money in are there for the pleasure of the masses.

Of course being the sort of person that I am, the only place I was interested in going to was the Discount 'Book Warehouse" I saw when we took a run for groceries.

The idea of losing money to a bunch of overpriced thrill rides and consuming food with copious amounts of sugar and fat doesn't appeal to me very much (Yes, I'm aware that I'm a boring prude).
In any event I bought a couple of books. One by Don Miller called: 'Through Painted Deserts,' about a road trip from Texas to Oregon. Along with another book titled: 'Not For Sale,' which talks about modern slavery.
I'd read the Don Miller book by the end of the week.

The first big adventure my family and I embarked on was to a place called Cades Cove, a small valley tucked away in the heat of the Appalachian mountain range. It was gorgeous. The road takes an eleven mile loop around the outside of the valley, passing through historical sites. Because my parents are great people they dropped me off at the front gate and let me take a trail by myself. So I took of my shirt, shoved it in my belt and started jogging through the woods on my own little exploration.

There is no sensation quite like running through the woods without a care in the world. I feel my lungs expanding and contracting, my heart sending blood pounding through my head and the ground passing underneath me, as my feet glide over the earth. I inhale and smile as I push myself to the limit ascending a hill then suck in the clean mountain air as I recover on the descent.
There is no charge for this thrill ride. As the great missionary Eric Liddell put it: "When I run, I feel God's joy."

My exploration came to an abrupt halt when I encountered a black bear. What I didn't realize at the time, was that the black bears in the area are quite accustomed to tourists. My first thought was, 'Well, this could be bad.' I stood there wondering what the preferred method for dealing with a irritated black bear was and thinking about what a great story it would make if I survived.
Completely disinterested in my desire to become a hero, the bear lumbered off. And because I'm an intelligent human being, I wasted no time in moving quickly in the opposite direction (although I didn't turn my back on the creature until I was a ways down the path).

This seems like a reasonable place to leave off writing, so I'll conclude there for now.
I don't have any pictures from Cades Cove, we forgot the camera, sorry. I'v posted a few others however. Captions are along the bottom.


Inside our rather humble Condo.



A shot from outside the condo.


My vibram Five Fingers. Absolute best shoes on the planet.


My family (Minus mom, who is taking the shot). From left to Right. Me, Ian, Dad and Noah. For some reason Noah insists on scowling in every photo he's asked to take unless the idea was his. I think it has something to do with the fact that he's a fourteen year old boy who wants to do everything his own way.


Can you tell this picture was Noah's idea = )?

Thanks for reading!

Levi

Sunday, August 8, 2010

And We're Off!

Normally, I tend to shy away from stories about myself but I thought I'd give it a shot now. Why? You may inquire. Well, I had a number of very enjoyable experiences this summer, I think this blog provides the perfect outlet to write down my thoughts and feelings, while still relatively fresh in my mind. It also gives me a place to come back in future and indulge in a little nostalgia. So, over the next 4-5 posts I'll work my way backward over the summer.

These will be the first posts to incorporate photos, although probably limited in number, because of the mind boggling slowness with which my computer uploads photos. The upshot is that if a picture really is worth a thousand words I won't need to write very much writing at all.

The posts will focus on trips I've taken. One trip to Virgina, two trips to Tennessee and one to Pinnacle N.C. (I've spend a pretty fair portion of the summer in the mountains).

Hopefully you'll find my accounts to be quite enjoyable.




Thanks for reading!

Levi

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Artistic Freedom Pt. 2

There is one more major issue for me when picking music. It has to do with how a band labels themselves as opposed to who their music reveals them to be.

let me explain:

Switchfoot, (a favorite of mine for quite some time) very rarely uses the name of God. They prefer not to be labeled as a Christian band but as a band made up of Christians. This a decision I don't have a problem with.
On the one hand they certainly reflect Christian values: Treating their fans well, being involved with numerous charities and writing clean, creative and thoughtful music.

Despite all of this, they very rarely use the name of God.
In fact it wasn't until this week that I heard a new song which contains the name of Jesus. This is the first time I've heard them use the name of Christ in their music.

This has really been a matter of contention for me. If a band loves God, (As I believe this band does) then what's wrong with using His name in a song? On what pretext to the refrain from doing so?

This has presented a dilemma for me, as to whether or not I should be enjoying music which claims the Christina faith as it's own, but apparently refuses to use God's name in their lyrics. Now, I understand that not every song is going to be worship based and their isn't a need for spiritual references in every track. Yet, a little more acknowledgment of the Creator seems appropriate.

Switchfoot qualifies as an Alternative Rock band. This problem of 'quiet Christianity' seems to plague this segment particularly.
I understand not ever band who fits into this genre has Christian affiliations, just look at Fall Out Boy.

I'm talking about Bands like:
Flyleaf
12 Stones
House of Heroes
Seabird
Anberlin

This isn't a perfect list by any stretch of the imagination but it gives you some idea of what I'm talking about.

Then you have a large number of mainstream artists who claim to be Christianity, yet their music doesn't reflect that. Miley Cyrus and Beyonce come to mind.

I don't have a hard time writing off such musicians.

What about all those 'Quiet Christian' bands? For now, I'm gonna keep listening.
Yes, there could be more credit given to God in their music but that doesn't necessarily make them sinful.

I'm going to function under the assumption that this disparity I see is purely unintentional.

Any thoughts guys?

Thanks for reading!

Levi

Monday, June 28, 2010

Artistic Freedom Pt. 1

As an avid music listener-and a follower of Christ-I have a recurring struggle over what I should and should not listen to.
The criteria by which I judge the merit of music has evolved as I've grown older and has therefore effected the nature of my sonic diet.
Does the music contain:
Sexual content
Profanity
Drug references
Originality
quality
potential for growth
relevance (the best songs have appeal long after their release, aka Elvis).

Generally speaking, this is the mental checklist I use when evaluating music. Of course I don't actually whip out a pin and pad every time I listen to the radio or browse through youtube.com but these give a good idea of what I'm milling over in my mind.

I tend to weed out songs with strong language, sexual innuendo or illicit drug references. As a follower of Christ, I don't think these songs are what I feel God would have me listen to.
If a song has this kind of content, I don't tend to bother with the other qualifications. Often times music like this sucks anyway, so it's no loss to me. Yet on occasion I'll find a great sounding song with 'inappropriate content.'

For example: "The Pursuit of Happiness' by Kidd Cudi. The song starts off with him describing getting high and driving around drunk. The 'F word' shows up once. Yet I feel like the song is showing an non Christian searching for the answer to true fulfillment in this life. I would call it a good piece of artwork but does the negative content negate the positive?

Philippians 4:8 Says:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (ESV)

Well if the production quality is excellent the lyrics are commendable for their spiritual depth but there are sexy background dancers, is it something we should dwell on? Personally, I use two methods to judge things from here.

How does the art paint (pun intended) immorality? Does it flippantly embrace sin or does it give us a picture of reality? Ke$ha is without a doubt in the first category. Not only is her music irritating, it also promotes all kinds of negative things. A superb example of presenting reality can be found in K'NAAN (who's an artist at the world cup this year BTW).

K'NAAN is an African Reggae singer who grew up experiencing the sorts of things we Westerners tend to think of when we picture Africa: Disease, war and hunger. He will use profanity (and occasionally other content). However, K'NAAN using a few curse words and Eminem dropping the 'F bomb' in every other lyric are not the same thing.

The second criteria: Do you feel a conviction listening to it? As a Christian do I feel comfortable listening to this in light of my relationship with my heavenly Father?

Judging music in this fashion I tend to get a pretty varied and healthy musical diet. There will always be a morally gray area, an artist who doesn't quite fall easily into one camp. My struggle to find harmony in the vast array of music available is an ongoing quest. It's a journey and a thoroughly pleasing (and sometimes frustrating) one at that.

What motivates you to listen to the music you like? Or, in a broader sense how do you evaluate the media input you digest every single day?

Thanks for reading!

Levi

A Review of "The A-Team”

Intro:
before I go anywhere, there is something I need to confess; I have never seen the original A-Team. In fact, it wasn't until they began the promos for this film adaption that I actually became aware of it's existence. Mr. T and the rest of you who HAVE seen the original show are invited to pity this fool.

Be that as it may, I think I can still judge the film fairly well.

If I where asked to sum of this movie in one word, it would be Why? Hollywood, why on earth did you feel the need to produce this trash? This movie was like cotton candy it tastes OK at first but too much will give you a stomach ache. There is no way on earth you're going to derive any nutritional value from cotton candy.

Perhaps I should have gone into this one with lower expectations.

Plot: Long Version
The plot is very easily summarized. The A-Team is double crossed and send to prison for a murder they didn't commit. They escape (surprised?) and go after the bad guys. Evidently the guy who was supposed to have been murdered was in on the whole thing (for a cut of the profits of course). However he is quickly disposed of in an airstrike and the A-Team sets out to settle their vendetta with the rest of the movie baddies.

Plot: Short Version
The A-Team shoot, blow-up, hit and pummel every bad guy they can find for two hours.

(Note)
To it's credit, their were some laughable portions. This came more from absurdity than anything else.

Content:
As for objectionable content (outside of the fact it was terrible) there was a good deal of profanity, at least for a PG-13. I did appreciate that the sexual content was almost non-existent. “Face” the most debinere of the A-Team members has a couple of one night stands but the audience isn't shown anything.

Acting:
The acting was just like the plot and special effects. Over done and not very good. Although, the crazy guy was funny. Rampage Jackson, the noteworthy UFC fighter took on Mr. T's role as B.A. Baracus. Visually, it was a great match. There where two gaping holes in this chose though. Jackson may be an impressive fighter but he's no actor and He's not Mr. T.
Jackson lost his most recent UFC fight. It has been speculated that filming for this movie caused him to lose focus on training. Perhaps he'll learn from this mistake and stick with beating up appoints in the octagon instead of the silver screen.

An interesting note, the writers for this movie made a halfhearted attempt at character development with 'B.A.' Apparently, his time in prison caused him to rethink his; 'shoot and then pity the fool,' style of business. Alas, by the end of the film B.A. Decides he's OK with snapping the arc baddies' neck by slamming him head first into the ground.
So much for all those months spent reading Gandhi.

I was upset that Liam Neeson would lower himself to this sort of action flick. To me he will always be Qui-Gon Jinn from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

Conclusion:
Aside from a few cheep laughs and a some crazy action sequences, this film has nothing to offer. Don't waste your time.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Karate Kid (A Review)

Recently I had the opportunity to see both the Karate Kid and the A-Team.

I'll start by reviewing the better of the two, The Karate Kid. I'll post my review for the A-Team in a couple of days.


Because this is such a popular movie franchise I'm going to assume you already know the plot (or can easily look it up). I'm going to get right into what I thought of it.

Jaden Smith (Will Smith's son), did a pretty good with his role. It was a believable and humorous character. I appreciated the fact that he didn't have that annoying 'Disney channel vibe' about him.

Jackie Chan played a more subtle role than he traditionally does. He quiet and introspective, showing a side we don't often see. Unlike the roster of films where Chan is constantly fighting baddies, he only has one fight scene in this movie.

The other actors did a reasonably good job, although there is one blond haired kid I found irritating.

If you know anything about remakes, then you're aware that they always feel a need to be bigger and better than their predictors. Although it often just amounts to more sugar and less substance. Personally, I felt this movie did a standup job of avoiding this fatal flaw. The action was more stylized and fast paced, however it made the movie more fun to watch.
Also on a positive note, this adaption did have less objectionable content than the original. There are several minor profanities in this version as a opposed to the classic, which contains a number of strong words.

My two biggest problems with the movie where: length and lack of heart. I believe the two are somewhat related.

At 2 hours 6 minutes, this movie was simply too long. There were also a number of scenes which dragged on and really caused me to lose interest in the movie. In fact, I actually left the theater to make a call during a rather pivotal scene and didn't feel upset that I'd missed anything. As director, Will Smith could have really done some fat trimming on this one.

When it comes to heart, this film certainly had a god portion, I found myself cheering quietly for Jaden as the final showdown takes place. Alas, this will never really be the true Karate Kid no matter how good it is. The is no way it can match the charm of the original, even if it is a good movie.

If you plan on seeing this one, I'd advise you to wait until the DVD is released.

Thanks for reading!

Levi

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Fame Monster

Miley Cyrus. Just her name elicits a strong reaction.

If I were to say, “Hey, did you hear what Miley Cyrus did?”
You would probably assume I was going to say something negative. And why shouldn’t you?
After all, it seems like every time she pops up in the news, Miley is in hot water for something. Or, as much hot water as ET can cook up.

I’ve noticed something though, poor Miley isn’t alone. It seems as if young celebrities are continually making the news for all the wrong reasons.
Many of my friends would tell you they can’t stand Justine Bieber, Miley, Selena Gomez or the Jones Brothers.

Yet when I see one of these stars. I can’t help but feel a sense of pity. Because if history proves true, most of them are in for a tough adulthood.

Two tragic examples of this are Michael Jackson and Garry Coleman.

Michael Jackson’s life is really a very sad story. As a child he was physically abused by his father and all the fame in the world couldn’t heal him. As an adult, his mental health was never fully assured. After spending years in a questionable mental state, Jackson finally died because of a drug overdose.

Gary Coleman couldn’t even begin to compete with Jackson, however the two men were not so very different. Coleman became famous in the late 70’s as a TV star. After which, he faded out of the limelight. Over the years Coleman suffered from drug addiction and depression. It is known that he attempted suicide at least once.
Just this past month in Coleman died of a brain hemorrhage.

There is a great Christian artist named Bebo Norman who wrote a song which deals with this topic. Here is an excerpt from an interview he gave about the song:


I was up late, couldn’t sleep, watching some news channel, when yet another story about Britney Spears came on. My first instinct was to scoff and write it off, but then there was this freeze-frame shot of a look on her face of utter and absolute despair and confusion and brokenness—a look that I recognized. And I remember thinking “This girl is a child of God.”

I think that night I saw her through the eyes of Jesus for the first time. I imagined what Jesus would say to me in my darkest hour and realized that those are the words we should speak to this world, to this culture, and even to Britney Spears in their darkest hour. “I’m sorry. Hope is here.” –Bebo Norman


Britney I’m sorry for the lies we told

We took you into our arms then left you cold

Britney, I’m sorry for this cruel, cruel world

We sell the beauty but destroy the girl

www.ccmmagazine.com/just_for_you/story_behind_the_song/11581817&r=cat&cat=2,3,4,6,7,


Sometimes when I see a child star make headlines, it irritates me. More often than not, I look at the sad lives of young celebrities in the past and shake my head. All that wealth and fame will soon be gravel in their mouths.
I love what Lady Gaga named her recent album: “The Fame Monster.” How appropriate.

Thanks for reading

Levi

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Unbounded Now

Hey guys! I know its been some time since I posted. I've got several excuses as to why, but I won't go into those since I know none of you lost any sleep over my brief sabbatical : ). I see that during the break I've gained another follower. Score! Thank you Bethany, I hope you enjoy what you find here.

This has been one heck of a summer so far. Perhaps I'll write about it sometime. I find myself struggling to find topics which I want to write about on this blog. If anyone has suggestions or preferences I'd be more than happy to listen.

Now on to another marathon post:

In school this past year we read a book called, The Screwtape Letters, by the ever popular C.S. Lewis. Yes I enjoyed it and yes I would probably read this sort of material anyway.

For anyone isn't aware of the plot I'll lay out the basics. The story is a collection of letters written from one demon to another. Screwtape, is the 'uncle' writing to his young nephew Wormwood. The junior demon has been given his first job trying to corrupt a young man's soul. Entirely from Screwtape's perceptive, the book details demonic strategies to tempt humans into sin. Lewis' genius here, is his ability to help people view things from a radically different angle.

Though I agreed with most of what he said, I wanted to bring up one issue. Predestination. What a controversial subject! I'm neither qualified nor willing to address this issue properly, but I want to bring something which struck me while I was reading.

This entire subject (or at least the one I'm addressing) is based around Protestant Christian theology. If you are unfamiliar with this subject then this post might be hard to follow, if not, you're probably smarter than I am.

First off, let me give a very basic definition of predestination:

Predestination: that God has divided humanity into two groups. One group is "the elected." It includes all those whom God has chosen to make knowledgeable about himself. The rest will remain ignorant of God, and the Gospel. They are damned and will spend eternity in Hell without any hope of mercy or cessation of the extreme tortures. God made this selection before the universe was created, and thus before any humans existed.
http://www.religioustolerance.org/calvinism.htm

Different sources might word it differently or debate semantics but that covers the concept in a nutshell.

I also want to include a list of scriptures which are used to back up this belief. I'll write out one or two here, but if you're interested in finding out more you can look up the rest. Keep in mind these are by no means the only verses on the subject.

References:
Ephesians 2:8-10
Romans 8:29-30
Acts 4:27-28


(Eph 1:3-5 [ESV])
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.

It may sound a bit harsh, but the thought behind it is this. Man cannot accept God of his own free will. Ever since sin was induced in Genesis, human nature has been irrevocably altered. Of our own 'free will' we are only capable of sin because that has become our nature. It is only through God, and his son Christ Jesus that we can experience freedom from sin.
Therefore God in his infinite wisdom chose a given number of people.

Of course a central objection to is this philosophy is the issue of free will. If God has determined the future before hand then where (if anywhere) does free will factor in?

C.S. Lewis addresses things in this manner. Because we humans are limited by time and space we cannot fully comprehend how God could exist outside of their grasp. We have a difficult time conceiving of a place where time does not exist.
But since God does 'live' outside of time then he's not limited by the past present or future as we understand them. C.S. Lewis says that God sees all of history as one big eternal now. God doesn't look ahead to the future, everything is spread out in front of him.

Here is a excerpt from the book about it:

If you tried to explain to[the human] that men's prayers today are one of innumerable co-ordinates with which [God] harmonises the weather of tomorrow, he would reply that then [God] always knew men were going to make those prayers and, if so, they did not pray freely but were predestined to do so.....For [God] does not foresee the humans making their free contributions in a future, but sees them doing so in His unbounded Now. And obviously to watch a man do something is not the same as making him do it.”

So then, the question must be raised; what about salvation? If God operates without a time-line then does He still choose whom He will save, or do we as humans make that decision?

I tend to believe that God still makes the final call. Lewis' belief in an 'unbounded now' is perfectly logical to me when applied to anything but the question of salvation. I think my belief in predestination is backed up by scripture.

But, as a 16 year old I've still got time to live and learn. This is one concept I don't think I'll have nailed down anytime soon.

Thanks for reading!

Levi

Friday, May 7, 2010

Give Me That Old Timey Villain

Have you noticed a trend with the villains in movies lately? How about children's films? Maybe you've noticed it to, a moral relativism has crept into our theaters and into the characters we love.

It shows up in different ways, according to the genre, target audience and themes, however the gravitation toward a murky moral middle (sorry I couldn't pass up the cheesy alliteration) ground is present in all cases.

It's started to pop up in kid's flicks lately. When is the last time we had a baddie like the 'evil step mother' or the 'Wicked Witch of The West?'

Bolt? No bad guy (or girl) to speak of. This trend can be seen in others to. Meet The Robinson's, How to Train Your Dragon, Finding Nemo. Yes there was a bad guy in meet the Robinson's but he just turned out to be misunderstood, not really a true villain.

Then you have the PG-13 and R segment. This is where morally gray characters are popping up with greater frequency.
Perhaps your modern movie heroes seem pretty nice, but have you gone back and watched an old western recently. Not all, but most, feature gun wielding vigilantes who bring justice and peace. Each generation of Americans has it's cinema heroes, and the old west seems to sport some of cleanest heroes in American movie history.

They were gentlemen: Non-drinkers, clean speakers, respectful of women and they only fought when necessary (which turned out to be pretty often).

Now compare that with, say, Tony Stark (aka Ironman). Drinks, sleeps around, curses, and shows off at every possible juncture.

It's not fair to put every recent 'hero' in this box. Some, The LOTR characters come to mind, still hold to old ideals.

I think what I'm really gripping about here, are the blurred lines. Things used to be very straightforward. Bad guys and good guys were nothing like each other.

On the other hand reality and morality do not get along terribly well. I'm not saying I don't believe in absolute morality. Yet, movie heroes often find themselves in between a moral compromise and a bad decision.
Batman choosing not to kill the Joker, Spider-man having to decide between saving Mary-Jane or the train car full of kids.

I'm sorry all of my examples come from superhero movies (or fantasy), it's all I can think of.

I think over all, viewers like a gritty hero. Because life is gritty, and while it may be nice to have a spotless hero, a screwed up person is a lot easier to identity with.

Every superman has his krypton, our current superheroes just happen to have a dump truck full of the stuff.

Thanks for reading!

Levi

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Of Death

Death and it's ramifications seem to be an eerie, recurring theme in my life as of late. It has shown up in my reading material, in my music in sermons at church and in life. I've started to wonder if God is trying to get something across to me (as if).

Quite a disconcerting combination. I know I've written about living life to the fullest before, but this is marginally different.

Two incidents have been the primary catalyst for this line of thinking.
Specifically there have been two nasty wrecks, involving other teens recently. One was girl and her sister who pulled out in from of a truck. The younger girl was killed. Also a car full of students from High Point Christian Academy was in a wreck. Two of the occupants were killed.

Everyone throws around phrases like: 'life is short' and 'you never know when you'll die.' For me though, those ideas have begun to really hit home.

It presents an ago old, yet always relevant question. If I knew for certain I was going to die, how would my actions reflect that knowledge?

The funny part is, we already know that death is coming. What is the old saying? Only two things in this life are sure, death and taxes. That is probably a true statement.

Here are some interesting lyrics from one of my favorite artists, Jon Foreman. In case you weren't aware, Jon is also the lead singer for the band Switchfoot.

And I said, please
Don't talk about the end
Don't talk about how
Every living thing goes away
She said, friend

All along I thought
I was learning how to take
How to bend not how to break
How to live not how to cry
But really
I've been learning how to die
I've been learning how to die

How beautiful and profound. Ecclesiastes also comes to mind (something else I've been reading).

(Eccl 3:20 [ESV]) All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.

Even with these truths becoming more evident to me, I still don't live as if I were dying. I haven't been learning how to die.
I don't die to myself everyday and take up my cross, I ignore the eternal impact of my actions in present and I waste this precious gift of life I've been given. What will people say of my at my funeral? What would I want them to say?

May God give me the strength to truly Live.

Thanks For reading

Levi

Friday, April 23, 2010

Beneath The Surface

I want to write about a topic which is very close to my heart. Human Trafficking. Or, as it is also called, modern day slavery.
I believe it's an issue God has called my to do something about. I'm not always sure what that looks like, but I'm willing to learn.
Also I want to make a difference now. Life is rarely a bunch of major events but the culmination of numerous smaller ones. One day we wake up and find ourselves in a place we don't recognize.

This post is meant to be educational. It will probably be a bit shocking if you're unfamiliar with the subject.


OK, so lets begin with some stats:

Today, millions of lives around the world are in the grip of injustice.
More children, women and men are held in slavery right now than over the course of the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade: Millions toil in bondage, their work and even their bodies the property of an owner.
Trafficking in humans generates profits in excess of 12 billion dollars a year for those who, by force and deception, sell human lives into slavery and sexual bondage. Nearly 2 million children are exploited in the commercial sex industry. The AIDS pandemic continues to rage, and the oppression of trafficking victims in the global sex trade contributes to the disease’s spread.

The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion (U.N.)
Each year, more than 2 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade (UNICEF)
27 million men, women and children are held as slaves. (Kevin Bales,Disposable People)
http://www.ijm.org/ourwork/injusticetoday

Now for some stats I've seen but don't have a reference for
The selling of human flesh is the fastest growing illegal industry in the world. Now a slave only costs about 90 bucks. Accounting for inflation it would run you about 40 grand to buy a slave in the 1850's. Lower price, greater availability. It makes sense, from a purely objective amoral perspective. Humans are a renewable resource, unlike drugs or guns. You can only sell heroine once, but you can sell a 13 year old girl for sex thousands of times.
http://www.ijm.org/statistics&factsheets/viewcategory
(OK maybe I do have some references).

Sick criminals see it as a good investment and act accordingly. Terrible things happen as a result. I've heard more horrible stories than I can remember. One of the most disturbing things about this problem is that it's going one in your Country, your state, your county and perhaps even your neighborhood.

If you live in NC, (which most of you do) then I'll bet you weren't aware your State (my State) is a center for human trafficking. In fact, we make the top five worst States in the nation for Slavery. No Joke.
If you happen to live Guildford County, you're in an area that's so bad, the police force has one office who solely handles Human Trafficking. That might not sound so bad. However, when you take in to consideration that North Carolina only has ONE other officer who works on Human Trafficking cases full time, it becomes frightening. So a grand total of TWO PEOPLE in the entire states' police force are addressing this full-time. Feeling warm and fuzzy yet? I didn't think so.

Who are the victims of this crime? The poor, vulnerable and unwanted people of the earth. Most of their stories follow a pattern. Either the child run away and is kidnapped or given up by family (wittingly or otherwise). Then they become caught in the cycle, held against their will.
What most people don't realize, is that slaves live all around us. The rich keep them as domestic servants, restaurants (particularly Asian and Hispanic) use them for labor. As for sex traffic, it's everywhere, not just in the red light district. I heard of a case locally, where girls were being sold in an average suburban neighborhood. The house had essentially been converted into a brothel. It was a development populated by your average middle class American families.
The truly terrible part? That house was one in a string of several, all in comparable neighborhoods, all brothels.

I think one of the hardest things for me, is handling my emotions toward the perpetrators of such heinous crimes.

I value my own fecal matter above the life of a man who would willingly sell a girl (some who are nine or younger) for sex. In all seriousness, I don't think it would be hard for me to kill someone so perverse. It would bring a sick kind of pleasure.
However, sanity and are still pretty well connected at this point so I don't think I'll blowing anyone's brains out. But the hate remains.

I struggle with the idea that God could (or would) forgive such a wretch. The Bible says I'm only better than the pimp because of Jesus Christ, without whom I'd be burning in hell. None of it has to do with my own merit. It's humbling and difficult to grasp.

I want to close on a lighter note, so here is a link to a very uplifting story about a girl who was rescued from slavery.

http://www.ijm.org/main/ijmfromthefield-february2010?utm_source=IJM&utm_medium=website&utm_campaign=Rotator2

Also, Here are some links to great nonprofit organizations who help trafficking victims or raise awarness.

http://www.ijm.org/

http://ncstophumantrafficking.wordpress.com/

As always, Thanks for reading. I hope this has been educational.

Levi

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This Past Week

Thanks Kyrenius-X2 for following! Sorry I missed you before.


My life has been quite eventful this past week. Starting with with this past Wednesday and culminating in Mock Trial on the 20th (Tuesday).

On Wednesday I got quite a wonderful surprise. A very dear friend of mine, named Logan dropped in for a visit unexpectedly (or at least, I had no idea he was coming). I've only seen him one other time since he moved to Texas in 2008. This past Christmas we drove down there both as a vacation and gift for my sixteenth birthday. It was a blast!

As much as I enjoyed the visit, there was nothing like having him home. The evening he arrived we walked over to a friend's house to surprise her. Actually, stun would be a better word for it. The next couple of days were spent reconnecting with friends.

Our fun culminated on Saturday with a trip to Friendly Center. Unfortunately, the two girls didn't stay very long but at least it gave the guys some time to talk. And talk we did, from probably 8 til midnight with very little pause. This is a rare blessing for two reasons: A) We are guys, nuf said. B) This was the first chance we'd had in over two years. Defiantly a winner in the big deal category.

Tangent: The creeps come out at night at Friendly Center. While it might be ok during the week I wouldn't let my daughter hang out there after dark (assuming I had a daughter) without a couple of football players to accompany her. I would probably buy them dinner for beating someone up. Well...maybe that last part's a stretch.

All in all thought, I haven't experienced such a wonderful time with friends in quite some time. Thought I was by no means looking forward to Logan leaving on Sunday, I had reached a place where I was OK with it.
It was not a perfect weekend, but pretty darn close.

Monday was prepping for the last day of class. Tuesday was my final day of Classical Conversations (homeschool group).

After class on Tuesday I had Mock Trial, I was on the jury. I could go into a lengthy description but I think everyone who reads this is familiar with what I'm talking about.
It was an interesting experience being on the jury, having participated in it only two years before. I didn't feel too young at the time, but looking back we must have been. Two years isn't a great span, yet it sure felt that way as I sat and looked at the students.

It is more stressful than I imagined being on the jury, you hold a lot of power over the competition and distributing points fairly isn't as easy as I had imagined (apparently I have too many preconceived notions). In the end I believe the better team won. Although each team was close in skill.
On a side note, Chick-Fil-A has great coffee. If you ignore the adverse effect on the bladder it remains quite a calming drink, even when caffeinated.
Shout out to Kendra by the way, sorry about Mock Trial.

Also check out Logan's blog, it's great (I'm not biased at all).

Thanks for reading!

I hope to have a deeper post up soon.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Story and Other Items

All of my posts are personal anecdotes, this one even more so than normal. It's a snippet from a story idea I'm tooling around with. Feel free criticize it or ignore it in favor of reading one of my mildly more substantive posts. If you do read it, then it might help to go back and also read an entry titled, “Dante Didn't Jump,” written in February.

I'm working on something more interesting, or boring depending on how you look at things. Subjects (Such as history) I find enjoyable, don't always attract my piers.

The topic is predestination. I think it's going to wind up being two parts because of the ridicules number of items I feel obligated to include. If no one reads it, I won't be offended, if someone posted this kind thing on a blog I was following, I'd probably skip half of it to.

On to my story.

“Supper's done honey, glad you're home.” Quipped Dante's mother as she placed the final dishes on the table. “Great.” responded Dante, immediately putting on a fake, 'everything's cool' smile.

He knew she couldn't tell the difference. Dante had spent too many years lying. In the past he might have hesitated to deceive her so quickly, but years of silence had made him callous. The pain of such deception had simply faded to a dull ache.

Dante started for the stairs. “I'll be down in a sec mom, I've gotta change clothes”

“Hey Dante!” said his twin sisters as he walked through the living room. Springing up, the two little girls ran over and gave him a hug. “hey you two!” said Dante, smiling genuinely this time.

“You're all wet!” exclaimed Hannah. She looked just like her sister Catherine, except Hannah's jet black hair was curly, not straight. They were six, with bright green eyes and dimples to complement their gap tooth grins.

“Yeah, it's raining outside Einstein,” retorted Dante as he broke from the hug and headed upstairs.

“Come back,” called Catherine (normally the quieter of the two). “We need you to play house with us.” Her little index finger pointed pitifully back at the doll house in the middle of the living room floor.

“Not now,” Dante's voice had an unnecessary edge to it. He quickly ascended the stairs and went into his bedroom.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tornados

First things first. I need to thank, Kendra, Tragedy101 and Elizabeth for following, I’m flattered. Also I’m slightly confused as to how Tragedy101 and Elizabeth found me. I know it’s not all the advertising I do : ).

Two weeks ago, The Triad experienced some pretty bad weather. High Point and Davidson County were hit hard.
Let me just say that High Point hasn't experienced something like this in quite some time. Not, at least, in the sixteen years I've been living here. In fact, according to a friend of mine at the Red Cross a disaster this bad hasn't occurred in almost 80 years. Of the tornadoes we’ve experienced, these two generated the most damage on record.

I was at church when they hit. It was pretty rough outside. By the time I arrived home the worst of it was over. I spent the time sitting in my room writing, oblivious to the danger. One of the tornadoes cut a path just a quarter mile from my house. It is a very disconcerting thing to consider.

I came down stairs a little later in the evening and watched the weather with my dad. Johnnson Street, which is situated about a half mile from my home, got the brunt. There was a gas leak Sunday night in addition to the structural damage done. I believe the statistic was 80 buildings demolished, perhaps a better term would unlivable. I’ve lived in the community long enough to know several of the people affected. Of those I know, only one family lost their home.
The miracles part about the whole ordeal is that no one was killed. I don’t even know of any serious injuries in High Point.

Monday morning, my family and I (minus Dad) went to survey the damage. If you know anything about tornadoes, you probably know they’re irrational in the devastation they cause (and sometimes you wind up in a strange place called “munchkin land”).
The worst of the destruction we saw was right along Johnnson itself. Along the road there are neighborhoods on the left, primarily the vinylville sort of subdivisions which have popped up in the last decade. There is also a church on that side of the road which sits upon a hill. On the right side sit individual houses, and older developments behind those. On to the interesting bit.

The worst home we saw lost the roof and walls on the top story. It was a surreal experience. On one side of the house you could see bushes untouched. Just around the corner the bushes were naked, completely stripped of their leaves. According to a friend from the Red Cross, there was a China cabinet which wasn’t even touched.
In one of the upstairs bedrooms-now exposed-the smoke alarm beeped. Down below, in the yard, the bathtub sat upright.

One of the strangest things I saw was insulation strewn in the Bradford pair trees. It hung like ice sickles from the branches.
The house I’m talking about has been featured on all the local news stations, but it’s never the same as viewing it in person.
I heard the owners of one severally damaged house; put a sign in the front yard which read, “House for sale, as is.” I admire anybody how can maintain that level of optimism and humor.

I want to thank the local emergency response crews, Police, Firefighters etc. I’d especially like to thank the local Red Cross, of which I am proud to be a member. Admittedly, I haven’t done any volunteer work for this disaster, but I know several people who have. I’d be remiss to ignore God’s role in this whole thing. He’s really been good to our community.

And as always, thank you guys for reading!

Levi

Friday, April 2, 2010

Where The Wild Things Are

Last night I saw the film, "Where The Wild Things Are." This Post is a review of that movie.

Now, before I go any further I have a confession to make. I have absolutely no childhood memory of reading the classic story "Where the Wild Things are." In fact I wasn't even sure if my family owned it until I asked my mom recently.
While some of you may believe that I was deprived of a very special childhood memory, I believe this gives me a distinct advantage.
After all, I come to the table unbiased by fond memories. Actually, I come to the table with no memories whatsoever.

Anyhow...

I had been interested to see this film because of the buzz it was getting from Relevant Magazine, of which I am an ardent fan (and subscriber). If you don't know who they are, Google 'em.

I also knew that the sound track for the film was laden with indie artists, a fact which excited me.
Turns out, I was somewhat mistaken on that point, the soundtrack featured only ONE Indie super-group. Heading up the project was Karen O from the ever popular Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Members from the bands, Liars, Raconteurs and children were also involved. However the 'children' were actually prepubescent humans with great vocals, not a popular indie group.

So, on to the movie.

Plot: (No, I don't know how it differs from the book, because I've never read it.)

The story is all about a kid named Max (Played by a kid named Max Records ironically). Two things stood out to me about Max almost instantly. A) Max has a huge imagination (didn't see that coming). B) Max is a violent little fella. Seriously though, this movie opens with a harmless snow ball fight but Max treats the situation with like he's in basic training.
Violence is limited overall, but I did find it a bit surprising. Perhaps the weirdest moment is when Carol (a 'wild thing') rips the arm from one of the other creatures. A little sand pours out. Very odd.

Even though it's a children story this is clearly geared more toward adults. Not because of the objectionable content, but because of the subtle metaphors.
The story is really about Max coming to terms with the change in his life. Namely his mom's relationship with a new guy. We're not told why Max's dad is out of the picture, just that he isn't there.
Max copes by connecting with a delightful cast of monsters who inhabit the realm of his imagination.
Each monster is symbolic of either himself or someone he knows. Carol, played by James Gandolfini of the Sopranos, is most like Max, particularly when it comes to anger.

Several of Carol's outbursts mirror those of Max. Particularly one incident, where Max lashes out at his mother.

Each character has a distinct personality. Think about the seven dwarfs from Snow White, without the height problem.
Max tries to make a perfect fantasy world to live in. But right from the start, there is conflict.

The boy has to come to grips with the fact that the world isn't perfect, and there isn't much he can do about it. A beautiful lesson to learn.

I loved how random and joyful the island was. Though I never imagined myself hanging out with the Muppets on steroids, the movie did remind me of my own childhood fantasies. Boyhood dreams remembered and the hours I spent in the woods every day, dreaming up new worlds where I to could fight battles with evil and good always came out on top.

It's that last bit which gives me a reason to pause. Something about this movie seemed off, as if the conflict was never resolved. You know those thunderclouds which come through occasionally but don't leave any rain? That's how this movie felt. Perhaps you saw a bit of lightening and it got colder, the wind began to blow. Then just when it looks as if the flood gates are about to be flung wide open, the cloud passes over you.

There is a lack of conflict resolution.

When I would play as a kid, everything came right in the end. The bad guys met their end at the point of my sword and all the good guys lived, because that's how a good story ends.

Life, presents a different picture. Reality doesn't always give us conflict resolution, and this is exactly the truth Max has to grapple with.
As he put it, we're “just normal.” Such people can't make the world a perfect place. There's a lot of growing up in that realization, for Max and the rest of us 'normal people.'

So, did I like the movie? It was ok, interesting, but just ok. Call me a sucker for fairytale endings if you will (which isn't the case I can assure you) but that's how I feel.

I'd say its worth renting, but I personally wouldn't buy this one.

Thanks!

Levi


P.S. I need to play Simon Cowell here for a second.
The woman who plays Max's mom, (Catherine Keener) did a pretty good job in this film. I say that because I saw her performance in “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” recently and thought it was absolutely appalling. So, good job!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Simple Life

I recently discovered that I'm not that special.

I don't have any great talent, I'm not all that smart and I'm not too athletic. I'm just sort of average. Most of the people I know are pretty normal to. That's not a slam, it's just the truth. Sometimes I look at others lives and wonder, “how they endure being so normal?” It scares me almost.

So many average lives, filled with average experiences and average events.

And just like so many of the people I know, I'll live an average life. I'll go of to collage, get married at some point, then start the 'ol nine to five. Eventually I'll die. Every day humans enter and exit the life cycle. It's just how things go.

No, I haven't been reading Ecclesiastes lately (to much). I desperately want to be special but not desperately enough to do anything about it. Every morning I get up and....live. The whole living business gets in the way of being special.
To be special you usually have to work hard. Perhaps if I found something I could be special at, then I'd be able to work toward it.

After all, God calls us to do our best for him, in everything we do. So being special (at least to some extent) looks like obeying God. It looks like living an above average life in an average situation.

The hard part for me is, sometimes being special means obeying God and just being normal. Of course God hasn't called us to mediocrity but not every one can cure cancer. What's hard for me is finding a balance, between being steadfast in the station God has put me in, and wanting to be superman.

Because ambition can be a good thing, but it's tough not envying the famous and subsequently ignore the blessings God has given me.

Ecclesiastes 2:18-20 & 24-25
18 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, 19 and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun.....There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?


**************

On A totally different note, I have zany idea I want to try. I want to go into the nursing homes in my area and talk to people. I want to bring a pad and pencils and just listen. The greatest generation this nation has ever seen is dying, and so many wonderful stories, special stories are being lost. They need to be recorded.

I probably won't do it but it's a nice idea.

Thanks!

Levi

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Music

I haven't written in some time (thanks Captain Obvious). Since hardly anyone besides myself even reads this I don't think it's too big a deal. If I'd had something I considered worthy of posting for the world to see I probably would have. As it is though, my life remains without worthy material (not entirely true).

It seems like I've devoted a fair portion of this blog to music (which is probably true). Apparently I'm more interested in it than I thought.

Maybe I'll write about music for a living instead of becoming a rich and famous lawyer.

I've actually got a project for school about music this due this Tuesday. We're supposed to compare and contrast three genre's of music....in five minutes. Sadly, that's not even enough time to properly introduce ONE genre, but I shouldn't complain. I chose Indie, Rock and Hip/Hop. Oh and I have to work in several clips from the categories I selected.

I chose Shad for Hip/Hop, Switchoot for Rock (predictable I know) and Castledoor for Indie.

I'm only really a fan of the first two but Castledoor was started locally so I thought it would be interesting to include them. Shad is an exceptionally talented Hip/Hop artist and defiantly worth your time.

Before I started the project I wasn't aware of the enormous diversity in music, even within a given genre.

Rock for example, has tons of subgenres:
Emo
Metal
Thrash Metal
Electronic
Screamo
Punk
Grunge
Garage

Those are just a few off the top of my head.

Although I'm not going to complain about the workload, it is a shame we can't do more for this project.

On a somewhat different note, I found a great sight called purevolume.com. It's awesome. You can browse through thousands of artists and listen to a playlists of their big hits. The playlist looks like any you might find on blogger or myspace. The coolest thing about it, is that it will let you download some of the songs. Notice I said some, not all, which is why I'm inclined to believe it's legal. However, you download things at your own risk.

Another reason I thing it's legit, is because many of these musicians have come into the Purevolume studios to perform. I find it difficult to understand how an artist would play for a company who was ripping them off.

Purevolume is a great way to find new music or enjoy music from artists whose music you don't own.

Two other cool features are the recommendations and the ability to create your own playlists. So if you like a song you can add it to a list of others you'd like to enjoy.
(purevolume if you're reading this I'd be happy accept and payment you might like to send my way).

And obviously recommendations is straightforward. It automatically lists artists who you might like according to what you’re listening to currently.

I personally discovered a band I had heard of before but never listened to. Future of Forestry. Awesome stuff. A bit unique maybe but very enjoyable. If your interested check out their songs "Set Your Sails" and "Holiday."

The band is classified as Ambient Rock (ooohh another subgenre). To be honest I not totally sure what they mean by "Ambient Rock." To me it sounds like Relient K got a hold of whatever Bob Marley was smoking. It also kind of reminds me of an open air concert on a warm summer evening.


It's a nice break from this unusually cold winter.

Hope Somebody gets something out of this.

Thanks for reading

Levi

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Roman Problem

What makes our modern world better than that which existed two thousand years ago? Why are we any better than those Romans who watched the Christians killed for sport?

I maintain that we are not, for three reasons.

The first is violence.
Just like every human civilizations before this one, we enjoy violent entertainment. TV has become a virtual blood bath, particularly in the last 20 years or so. Can you imagine a film like SAW being so popular in 1980? MacGyver and Chuck Norris can't hold a candle to shows such as CSI and Law & Order. Yet the A-Team probably would have appalled viewers of early John Wayne films. However, I digress.

The point is this, more than ever people love violence, just take a look at the primetime lineup. Is SUV so very different from what the Romans enjoyed in the coliseum? The people aren't actually dying but is it so very different at it's heart? What about sports like MMA? Again, no one dies, but it's still two people beating the crap out of one another in a ring for thousands to enjoy. Maybe people don't die but the lust for blood remains. If our love of such "entertainment" continues to intensify, who's to say where it will end?



Secondly, Slavery.
The slave trade abolished along time ago you may say, brought to it's knee's by men like Wilberforce and Lincoln. No, it's still going strong. Instead of Africans it's Asians and Latin Americans. It goes on everywhere. You may think America doesn't have any slaves, but do a little digging and you'll quickly discover that the US has more slaves now than it ever did during the 18Th and 19Th centuries. I'm not making this stuff up. Slavery has been around almost since the dawn of man and it's still going strong today all over the world.


Finally, Sex.
I'm not gonna go into a lot of detail, I don't need to. It's a topic which mankind is always obsessing over.



All of these reasons relate back to one central cause. SIN. The choice Adam and Eve made in Eden brought death into a the world. It brought sin into what had been a perfect world.
Now all people are inherently evil.

David says in the Psalms, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me."

The good news is the bible, also says this in John,

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.


So there's my solution to the problem, though I can't say it was my really my idea.


Levi

Dante didn't jump

Dante didn't jump.

Dante didn't jump because he was scared. He was afraid of that unknown darkness called death, the sleep from which no one ever returns to share their dreams.
Dante didn't jump because he clung to the vestiges of an all but dormant hope. A longing for human connection, for love.

It was this second reason which weighed upon Dante's mind as he walked away from the bridge and towards his house.
A house devoid of love, at least the kind for which he longed so desperately. Houses are just buildings, somewhere you eat and sleep. Conversely a home is not built by human hands, it has neither walls nor roof. Because a home needs only one component to exist, love. Earthly conditions have no bearing on a home, its walls are stronger than iron.

Rain beat down in a slow, steady fashion, keeping time with Dante's heart, both, cold and relentless.

Reaching the front door of his small suburban house, Dante shook the water from his curly black hair and slipped the backpack off of his sore shoulders.
With a reserved sigh, he pushed open the front door....

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Spies

I watched the Bourne Identify this evening, what a great film. It reminded me of a story I had to do in school last year. It had to be short, that was pretty much the only requirement. I think I pulled it off. It took some hard work at the time but I think I'd really enjoy doing some more stuff like this in the future. I doubt anyone will read this but just in case, here is the story.

Reality Check

The sweat came rolling down my face and dripped on to the steaming asphalt. I hardly noticed though, I was more interested in escaping. Cameron was running next to me panting hard, we couldn’t do this much longer. Three shots came whizzing by our heads and lodged themselves in the wall directly in front of us. The only avenue led to the right, turning quickly, we sprinted head long down this new path, hoping it would lead to safety. Cameron stopped, hefted his glock and positioned himself behind a large trash bin. “ Go!” He said, “I’ll hold them off.” I hesitated and looked back, our pursuers had just turned the corner. Cameron popped up and fired off two rounds, catching one of them in the chest. They shot back just as quickly: Cameron was hit. His breath rushed out in a gasp and his eyes closed. My head began to spin and I wondered how it had come to this?

******

We’d been stationed in one of Britain’s Islamic communities, in connection with MI6. We were part of team working to discover who was supplying fake identification to small radical Islamic factions in America. A thankless and dangerous job. I was head coordinator on one of the sting units. While Cameron was the one who actually took the unit into the field. We’d been tipped off about the location of possible cell leaders and were eager to investigate. The tip was good, we decided to move. Operation scalpel was put into motion. We hoped to catch ring leaders, but it didn’t work out that way. Everything went terribly wrong…….

I was jolted back to reality by another burst of gunfire. I grabbed the gun from my friends hand, lifting my own as well. I could mourn later. With speed born of adrenaline I jumped up and began to pump off rounds. I turned and ran, firing backwards as I did so. Shots followed me like angry bees, one striking my leg. I didn’t notice. Someone had to make it back to base alive. I made a left this time, there was no other choice. I ran a few yards only to realize it was a dead end! On a roof, three stories up sat a man with an Ak-47. “This is bad.” I thought. I was considering firing, when three men came up from behind. One of them was Cameron.

“Don’t bother with the guns,” said one of the men in a very strong Arabian accent. I just stared, “how?” Was all I managed to choke out. Cameron pulled up his shirt to reveal a Kevlar vest. “I don’t understand?” I said bewildered. “They pay better,” said Cameron with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders. All of their guns raised as if through a fog. Fire spat from the barrels.

I sat bold upright in bed, sticky with sweat. Someone had turned the lights on. Cameron stood over me with a worried expression. Then his face hardened. Operation scalpel launches at sixteen hundred hours, you’re behind schedule!
I shook of the dream, Surely, that’s all it was……….

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Lovely Bones

I had the opportunity to see the "The Lovely Bones" today. Here is my opinion.


Suzie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is our protagonist. The movie, (which is based on a book) is the story of her murder and how her family struggles to work though their heartbreak. The catch? Suzie isn't quite gone. She remains connected to this world, but not directly in it. She resides in a sort of glorified limbo, which is still connected to earth but shares not of its natural laws (Gravity etc.). In the film it is simply Referred to as "the in between" because she either in heaven nor hell.

The viewers are assured very early on that Suzie has a place in heaven for her as soon as her earthly affairs are sorted out. Here's where things begin to fall apart.

I didn't really mind the spiritual implications of the film, even if it was total tripe. I also didn't mind the whole "Ghost Whispers" element either. For me though, Suzie's "In between" was simply too bizarre. It was beautiful, I'll give it that much, but in a Tim Burton sort of way.

The film isolates between both worlds, with Suzie playing narrator. She tries to help her father (played by Mark Wahlberg) unravel the mystery of her death. The audience knows exactly what happened, causing the suspense element to suffer. Though the film shies away from graphic detail in order retain it's PG-13 rating, we're left with a pretty clear idea of what occurred. However, we are never told if she was raped.

So why don't I like the film? I can get past the strange spiritual element but that's not the only issue. The biggest quagmire is the story itself. The beginning is fine and it ends rather well to but everything in between feels off.

It reminded me of Lighting McQueen from "Cars" (a movie I love). Remember that scene where he refuses to change tires and winds up blowing all four in the final lap? That's exactly how this film goes, minus the dramatic finish. Everything just lopes along without direction.

It's a shame really. Peter Jackson has done some exceptional work in the past and I was disappointed to see him fail like this.

The strongest redeeming element was the acting. I'm no proper judge of anything, least of all acting, however I felt like every single character was believable. Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci (the murderer) and Saoirse Ronan all did outstanding jobs in my opinion. I'm looking forward to see what 15 year old Saoirse will do with her acting carrier. I loved her character. She pulled it of wonderfully. Hopefully we'll have the chance to see her in something more successful in the future.


So there is my Opinion on the film.

TTFN

Levi