joseph

Joseph’s Journal on the Night of Christ’s Birth

As I get older, Christmas continues to take on new meanings each year. As cheesy as it sounds, Christmas is more about family, friends, and remembering Jesus’ birth than it is about presents and silly tacky Christmas parties. Each year, it seems as though a new element of the story of Christ’s birth stands out to me. This year, my heart has been fixated on Joseph’s role in the story. I feel like due credit is given to Mary for her role in the story (every bit deserved), but Joseph is often the forgotten man that simply stands in the background. The following account is entirely fictional, but possibly not too farfetched account from Joseph’s journal on the night that Jesus was born.

Dear Journal,

I barely have the strength to move my quill, but I know that I need to write down my thoughts before I forget them during the upcoming chaos. Words cannot describe the whirlwind of emotions that I am feeling, but I will try my best.

I am exhausted. I don’t remember the last time I slept.

I am scared. How will we raise this child? 

I am paranoid. Everyone will soon try to kill my son.

am concerned what others think. I can hear them whispering as we pass by. 

I am ecstatic. My heart has never felt joy as strong as when I held my child for the first time. 

I am a father. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I will love this child more than anything. 

I am the earthly father of the Son of God. Did I really just write that? Can it possibly be true? God, why did you chose me? You know that I have no extraordinary qualities. I’m flattered, but couldn’t you have found someone more worthy than me?

Everything smells of manure and animal feed. The baby has rightfully been given the cleanest robes and the freshest water, but I would love to bathe or have a clean set of clothes too. The dirt caked to my feet is seeming like it might never come off and my sandals are worn through. The blood on my robes from assisting in the birth will likely never come out, and it might act as a beautiful yet painful reminder from this historic night. I am starving. We had to make sure that Mary received plenty of food, which left scarce amounts for the rest of us. The slop that the animals eat is looking more appealing by the minute. 

There are so many people that want to see my son. Already, there have been several shepherds and “wise men”. Their intentions seem pure, but I can’t trust anyone around my precious son. I won’t sleep while they are awake because too many people want to kill my baby. I don’t know who I can trust at this point. I know you will watch over him God, but I have to do my part as an earthly father to protect him. My instincts will be to shelter him from everyone to protect, but I know that you have greater plans for Him. I pray that you will open my heart to see what you have planned for Him. 

I am sick of the persecution that I have received thus far, and I know that it will not go away. Everyone says that I am crazy. Everyone says that it is impossible to get pregnant without having sex. Everyone says that the love of my life is a slut. I keep telling myself that what everyone else says doesn’t matter God, but sometimes it gets to me. Why couldn’t you have just given us Jesus through a normal birth after we were married? Wouldn’t that have made life easier on everyone. I try not to doubt you, but I just struggle to see why you have planned it this way. 

 What’s next God? How am I supposed to raise the son of God? Other than providing him with the essentials needed to survive, will I be needed as a father? What do I possibly have to teach the physical embodiment of God? How will I know where to take him? Am I to discipline Him if he is ever worthy of discipline?  I have so many questions for you God. 

Although I have felt all of the fear, doubt, persecution, and judgment over the past several months, everything was worth it when I was able to grasp him in my arms. He is perfect. His is helpless, yet all-powerful at the same time. I didn’t know my heart was capable of feeling these emotions, especially for a child that isn’t technically from my flesh. God, I thank you for this miraculous gift. I pray that you will help remind me that He is indeed a gift from you, and that each day is precious.

My eyes are dreary and everyone else seems to be asleep. I guess it’d be best for me to try and get some as well. We have many long days ahead and I’ll need my strength to support Mary and my Son. I love you God. Please protect us all.

Love,

-Joseph 

Brooks Header

How Will The US Line Up Vs. Portugal?

Although the USMNT won their dramatic opener vs. Ghana, it wasn’t without consequence for the Yanks. They lost their line-leading forward, Jozy Altitore. The US failed to make much of an impact going forward without Altidore and had to be bailed out with a header from substitute centerback John Brooks.  The US doesn’t have a replacement player that can match Altidore’s role, so they will have to adapt their formation and players. Let’s dive in to the potential options that Jurgen might roll out vs. Portugal.

Donovan Regrets?

Before we breakdown the options that Jurgen Klinnsman will have at his disposal, let’s talk about the question that everyone has been asking. Could Landon Donovan have helped fill the void left by Jozy’s absence? Should he have been brought for just such emergencies? The short answer is a resounding NO. Donovan would not have helped to replace Jozy up front as they play completely different roles. Donovan is a replacement for Zusi/Bedoya/etc. who have both played vital roles thus far. A bigger argument could be made for why Klinnsman didn’t include a more similar player to Altidore like Terrence Boyd or Eddie Johnson. Unfortunately, we’ll have to continue on with the players selected.

Note: These are just my personal opinions and thoughts. I obviously have no inside information and could be way off on every one of these. Take these with a grain of salt and don’t go betting your life away based on these opinions! That being said, enjoy. 

Option #1: Jozy Substitute (4-4-2 Diamond)

The first choice  is the most simple of the bunch, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be chosen. His replacement would fill his role up top with Dempsey. Although it is listed as a 4-4-2, it will likely look somewhat more like a 4-4-1-1, with Dempsey playing just behind the fill-in striker. So who will take Jozy’s place, Johannson or Wondolowski? Wondo makes a better choice for hold-up play given his larger frame. Johannson plays better with another forward joining him up front as his link-up play is excellent. Ultimately, I think Johannson gets the nod if this is the formation of choice.

Advantages:

  • No positional changes are required other than Altidore’s replacement.
  • Two forwards puts more pressure on the centerback pairing and doesn’t allow them to focus on one man.

Disadvantages:

  • Wondolowsi or Johannson will be on the pitch, neither of whom strike fear into opponents.
  • Puts pressure on Beckerman to play well as he is the only true holding midfielder in front of the back four.

Note: Zusi could also replace Bedoya after his strong showing off the bench.

Option #2: “False 9” (4-2-3-1)

This option is often called a “False 9” because it doesn’t deploy a traditional striker on the field. The “9” comes from the Number 9 that is usually associated with the primary striker, whose primarily objective is to score goals. Other teams like Spain and Germany have deployed this to great success, but it requires a talented group of attacking midfielders. If the US goes this route, Zusi would likely be the only change, coming in for the injured Altidore. He should play on the right side, likely moving Bedoya to the left. Dempsey will play the “False 9” role and will be the focal point in attack. This formation will generally change shape slightly in attack and defense, but offers plenty of options for the US team. It can easily look like the 4-5-1 option as shown in Option #3 and the primary differences are outlined there.

Advantages:

  • Allows an experienced playmaker (Zusi) to get on the pitch.
  • Could allow for some nice link-up play between Dempsey and Bradley, who excel is such situations

Disadvantages:

  • Dempsey is not used to being the lone forward and doesn’t do well with hold-up play
  • The midfield of Beckerman, Jones, and Bradley could be outnumbered when Zusi and Bedoya get forward
fight-club

Why We Should Treat Our Faith More Like Crossfit

A few weeks back, I tweeted (and posted to Facebook) the following about Crossfit:

Naturally, it was well-received with plenty of favorites and comments to go around. The majority of the responses on Twitter and Facebook had the same sentiment, which went something like this. “You might think you understand Crossfit, but you don’t talk about it 24/7, so you obviously don’t get it.” The responses were funny and expected, given the current stereotype that Crossfitters are obsessed with their new-found passion. While it is funny to jab at the ridiculousness of such dedication, it got me thinking about my own life. What am I so passionate about that I can’t stop talking about? That I dedicate my life to? My family? My job? My faith? The obvious answer should be my faith, but that isn’t always the case. Should we treat our faith more like Crossfit?

Shout It From The Mountaintop

If you talk to anyone who is currently doing Crossfit, it probably won’t take more than a few minutes before it comes up in conversation. They will talk about it in the same glowing manner that someone might talk about their spouse or child. You can try to steer the conversation elsewhere, but it will ultimately end back at Crossfit one way or another. Little things will trigger talking points that lead right back into Crossfit because the athlete subconsciously is always thinking about it. How cool would it be if we couldn’t avoid talking about Jesus in this way? What if, even without trying, we couldn’t help but ooze about the goodness of Jesus Christ. The goal should not be to nauseate everyone into annoyance with us and Jesus, so we shouldn’t go about it the wrong way. If someone wants to talk about the upcoming football season, you don’t have to quickly change the subject to “whether God cares about football or not.” Speaking about God and Jesus should flow out of love, not guilt. Imagine the difference in responses between the following two people. The first talks about how much Crossfit has helped turn their life around and is positive motivator for them. The second person tells you that you’re fat and need Crossfit or you might die. Which one is more appealing? Love. Love will always be the most appealing motivator. So let your love of Jesus and His for you flow out and it will naturally come up in conversation.

Religious Dedication

Crossfitters would scoff at the notion that their dedication is “religious” because, quite frankly, their commitment generally makes religious people look lazy. People who are hardcore about CF will generally do it every day (barring rest days) for at least an hour. The time spent on the actual workout doesn’t even begin to scrape the surface of the total commitment. It impacts other decisions like food consumption, relationships, and social engagements. Dedicated Crossfitters often view decisions as “How will this affect my workout?” They often plan their entire day around when their workout will be taking place. They don’t want to take time off because some of their progress will be lost. What if we had that level of intensity for Jesus Christ? What if we viewed everything we did as “How will this affect my or others’ relationships with Jesus Christ?” Or “How can I manage to sneak in an extra hour today in quiet time meditating over God’s word?” How crazy would that be?! What if we dedicated the time that Crossfitters do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis to our walk with the Lord. My life would look radically different than the few hours that I generally give Him each week. The same way that athletes get in better physical shape with more  exercise, we can become more spiritually fit by spending time with the Lord. I challenge myself and everyone else to take our faith seriously and dedicate the necessary time to grow spiritually.

Community/Accountability

This one doesn’t just apply to Crossfit, but to exercise in general. Working out, or even just doing hard things, is far easier when you are doing it with others. Even the most self-motivated people need a boost to reach their full potential. On days when you don’t want to work out, having that annoying text from a friend calling you lazy is exactly what you need to get going. I will be able to do 10 reps by myself, but can probably do at least a few more if someone is encouraging me to push through the pain. The same holds true in our spiritual journeys. We need to be self-motivated, driven internally to serve the only God worth serving. But this will eventually leave us flat on our face. We will struggle with doubts. We will become spiritually drained. We will lose the motivation that once burned so deeply. That is where our community steps in and carries us. This community can take various forms: church, mens/womens group, bible studies, etc, but the message is always the same. You are not in the alone. Not only do you have the holy trinity cheering you on, you have a support group here on earth too. We often underutilize this ability because we don’t want to appear weak and in need of help. In reality, only the weak refuse help from their spiritual brothers and sisters. We need community like we need air and water. It can sustain us at times when nothing us will.

The Challenge

I realize that many people are probably insulted that I am comparing how we treat our Lord and savior to a fitness craze, and I completely understand your sentiment. It shouldn’t be a real comparison, but unfortunately it is. We (and that definitely includes me) treat our faith like it is just another ho-hum activity or hobby, a small piece of who we are. In reality, our relationship to and with God should define us. There should be no question about how important it is to us because it will encompass everything that we are. This life is too short and too precious to get caught up in things that don’t matter. I’m ready to start taking my faith more seriously, which means treating it like Crossfit. Who’s with me?

sochi

Grading the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi have come and gone, seemingly over in just a few short days. The 98 events featured almost 3,000 competing athletes from 88 countries. The host nation came away with surprising victories in both the most golds and most total medals. The United States team, considered heavy favorites before the Games began, largely disappointed and finished 4th in golds and 2nd in total medals. There were tremendous concerns about how the Sochi Games would play out. Would their facilities hold up? How would security be handled? Would protesters overrun the games? Heck, would Putin turn it into the 2014 Hunger Games? All of these concerns were quelled once the Games were underway, but how did they grade out overall?

Opening and Closing Ceremonies: B+

Anticipation for the opening ceremonies is always sky-high, but this year’s was even more so given the reported $51 billion spent on the Games. London’s opening for the 2012 Summer Games was outstanding and set a high bar for Sochi to meet. The opening ceremony did an excellent job of conveying Russia’s rich history. It was aesthetically pleasing with an extravagant blend of bright colors and sometimes dark undertones as they displayed Russia’s proud history. The one technical difficulty occurred when the fifth and final ring didn’t expanded into its full form, instead looking like a snowflake next to four rings. It was a small blemish on an otherwise great performance. The closing ceremony did the unexpected by making fun of the incident (shown below)! No one would have guessed that Russia (specifically Putin) would ever make light of such an embarrassing situation. Everyone loved it. It made Russia seem so much warmer, so much more like they had real people instead of robots. After all, self-deprecating humor is the best humor. It allows everyone to laugh about it together. Russia pulled out all of the stops for their ceremonies, and it largely paid off.

Russia pokes fun of their opening ceremony gaff during the closing ceremony.

Facilities / Conditions: C-

Before the opening ceremony had even begun, the socialsphere was already exploding about the conditions in Sochi. Pictures went viral showing yellow sink water, unfinished rooms/buildings, and stray dogs in the streets. As the Games continued, the attention shifted away from the living conditions, which were probably overblown from the beginning. I’m not saying that unfinished rooms and undrinkable water is acceptable, but many of our responses showed just how spoiled we are. While the focus on living conditions slowly faded away, the emphasis on the course conditions picked up the slack. Olympians (Americans in particular) were quick to point out the miserable conditions caused by overly warm weather and time restrictions placed on the people who managed the various events. Temperatures exceeded 50 degrees at several points, which caused dangerous conditions for the athletes. While there was little that Russia could do about the warm weather, it did harm the experience and integrity of the events. My high-school football always said something to the extent of “We want the worst conditions. Bad conditions favor the team that is the most disciplined.” I don’t know if that applies here or not, but I do know that we will never know what results might have been different if the conditions had been ideal. Congratulations to all the athletes that fought through the tough conditions and earned a hard-fought medal.

Performances / Star Power: C+

Almost every Olympics, both summer and winter, have a few breakout stars that capture the hearts of millions as they make their way into Olympic history. Past winter games have seen athletes like Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn become household names, but this year seemed to be lacking in the star-power department. The 2014 games seemed to be filled with more disappointments than triumphs. Shaun White, Shani Davis, J.R. Celski, and the Men’s hockey team all failed to medal after expectations were almost certainly gold or bust. The men’s speed-skaters and women’s figure skaters (Gracie Gold & Ashley Wagner) did not live up to expectations. In fact, it was the first time since 1936 that the US hasn’t won an individual figure skating medal, and since 1984 that we haven’t won a speed-skating medal. The women’s hockey did earn silver, but wasted a “golden” opportunity by blowing a 2-0 lead to Canada.

That isn’t to say there weren’t brilliant performances by Americans. Meryl Davis and Charlie White were as dominant as advertised. Ted Ligety captured gold yet again, eight years after getting his first. Noelle Pikus-Pace came out of retirement to win her first ever medal in the Skeleton at the age of 31, after failing to win bronze by one-tenth of a second in Vancouver. If I had to project the biggest potential star exiting this year’s Games, it would have to be Mikaela Shiffrin. The 18-year old won gold in the women’s slalom and did it in dramatic fashion. After the first run, she had a commanding lead and appeared guaranteed to win gold. During her second run, she slipped and went onto one ski (causing me to audibly yell at the TV). She recovered brilliantly and finished with a comfortable lead for gold. She is young, attractive, and remarkably talented. She will likely be competitive, if not dominant, for at least two more Olympic Games barring injuries or unforeseen circumstances. The future looks bright for this rising star.

Mikaela Shiffrin wins her first gold medal at the age of 18.

Mikaela Shiffrin wins her first gold medal at the age of 18. She was one of US’ breakout stars.

Security: A+

One of the biggest concerns going into the 2014 Sochi Games was the security of the athletes and spectators. Rumors of terrorist attacks, suicide bombers, or other violent protests were concerns coming into Sochi, but were almost non-existent once the opening ceremony began. I obviously was not there to experience it firsthand, but I never heard any of the athletes complaining about feeling at-risk or unsafe. You can’t say enough about the job that the security team did in keeping all of the athletes and viewers safe.

TV Coverage: B+

This grade might be revised once the final TV ratings for the Games are released, but the coverage from NBC was excellent. They focused on the “live” performances themselves, but did a good job of mixing in side stories such as touching back-stories for many of the athletes. The broadcasters for individual events were generally knowledgeable and pleasant to hear commentate. Two “black-eyes” stick out in my mind regarding the coverage, and yes, one of those black eyes is almost a literal one. Bob Costas fought through an eye infection like a trooper, but it was quite distracting to watch. Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira did an admirable job of filling in while Bob recuperated from his eye infection. The second black-eye was obtained during an interview with Bronze medal winner Bode Miller. Miller lost his brother last year and was clearly emotional after the race. Christin Miller, who was interviewing Miller, continued to probe about how Bode was feeling about his brother after the race until he eventually broke down and had to walk away from the interview. The full transcript of the race can be found here. Bode eventually came to the defense of Miller on Twitter, but it still rubbed me the wrong way. Other than these two issues, the TV coverage was superb.

Overall: B-

My overall feeling towards these Games is a solid “Meh.” I wanted to be able to engage with it constantly, for it to captivate me for over 2 weeks and leave me wanting more. In the end, it wasn’t quite the experience I was looking for. To a large degree, this was not Sochi’s fault. Our athletes did not perform to their abilities. Not to take away from the other athletes, but USA should always win the medal count for the Winter Olympics. We have too many athletes competing in these events and too many resources dedicated to them to fall short. Sochi was a flawed, but admirable host. They kept the Games going without too many hitches. They gave the world a glimpse into their history, culture, and lives for a few weeks. The 2016 Olympics will be taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Hopefully they, and American athletes, can deliver an unforgettable performance that will leave us all wanting more.

Esurance-save-30

What I Would Do If I Won The EsuranceSave30 Contest ($1.5 Million)

People play this game all the time, “What would you do if you won a million dollars?” Tomorrow night, someone will actually get to answer that question. It got me thinking, what would I do if I won the $1.5 million from Esurance’s giveaway? Without giving it too much thought, here’s what I would do with it.

Taxes

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a substantial portion of the $1.5 million will have to be allocated to paying taxes. You think that the taxes you owe each year are tough, but things ramp up quickly when you come into significant money in a hurry. Winning this prize would instantly boost you to the top tax bracket, which is about $128,000 and almost 40% of anything over $457,600. By my rough calculations, you will owe approximately $550,000 in taxes on the winnings, leaving you with just under a million dollars after taxes. Ouch.

Donations

Everyone always acts like they would give away a large portion of their winnings, but I honestly think that most people would do so. If the number is about million, then at a minimum, giving away 10% to tithe is reasonable. Because of the circumstances (coming into money I wasn’t expecting), I would like too give away an extra 10% for a total of $200,000. The primary beneficiaries would be my church (Ethos) and organizations that I care about in Mexico (City of Children) and Honduras (Jovenes en Camino). Note: I’m not tooting my own horn here! I feel like plenty of people would give away just as much if not more! It continues to blow me away that people are always so generous with their possessions. It inspires me to try and give more.

Loans

I put the donations section before this one because I wanted to seem like a good person, but the first thing I would do once the money was transferred into my account is to pay all of existing debt. Student Loans, House payment, and everything else with a red number associated to my name. My goal going forward would be to try and pay everything possible with cash to avoid taking on more debt. There is something freeing about not owing anyone anything.

Guitar

Shortly after paying off all of my loans, I would head to the nearest guitar stores to purchase my dream guitar, the Gibson Les Paul. I don’t know exactly what model and color it would be, but I would chose the one that my soul connected with. I’d have to have a beautiful amp to go with it of course. That would probably be it for my luxury item spending. It seems like a million dollars will go a long way, but irrational spending will drain it pretty quickly.

Celebration Trip

This one would be primarily up to my wife to plan, but I’m pretty sure we would take a few weeks off to vacation somewhere. This would likely entail a trip to Europe or some exotic beach. Things that would normally be out of the question financially speaking like first class airfare or suite rooms would be in play.  We couldn’t be gone too long or we would probably be fired from our jobs. While people would instantly think about quitting their jobs, $1 million isn’t quite retirement money… Needless to say, this would be an epic trip(s).

Savings

The rest of the money, probably about $500,000, would go into various savings or interest bearing accounts. I would probably want to setup some education funding accounts for my future kids (Lord willing) and set aside some others for retirement. I realize this is boring, but I am about as practical as they come, so it wouldn’t make sense to blow it all.

How It Would Impact My Life

The great thing about this amount of money is that it won’t completely change your life like winning the lottery would. Lottery winners often complain about being much more unhappy after winning it, and a high percentage of them end up going bankrupt. One million dollars, while enough to greatly impact your life, likely wouldn’t change it entirely. It would be incredible to have to money to be able to bless others. It would be a relief to not worry about bill payments or pending debt. But these are all ancillary things in life. By tomorrow night, someone will be a new millionaire. Hopefully their life will be positively impacted by it, and they can bless others with it.

Sleep well tonight everyone. Who knows, tomorrow night, you might be a millionaire.

Batkid

Lessons Learned From BatKid’s Unforgettable Day

On Friday, the story of a five year-old boy with leukemia went viral when he was transformed into “BatKid” for the day. Miles Scott had always dreamed on being Batman, and his wish was finally granted on this unforgettable day.  The San Francisco Make-A-Wish Foundation made it happen and did not take any shortcuts along the way. Around 9:30 am local time, Miles saw a story on the news asking for BatKid to help “Bring the bad guys to justice.” After suiting up in a custom-made replica Batman uniform, Miles took to the streets for a day that he would never forget. He rode in the “Batmobile”, stopped the Riddler and Penguin, and even rescused the Giant’s mascot. His day was completed by receiving a congratulatory message from the President and a key to the city of San Francisco from the mayor. Even the most cold-hearted of people couldn’t help but be melted by this touching story. Millions of people were captivated by the courage of the young survivor, taking to Twitter to show their admiration. The day has past now, but what can we learn from BatKid and everyone involved in making it happen?

People are Good

Right or wrong, San Francisco has been called the modern day “Sodom and Gomorrah.” For those of you unfamiliar with the bible, this is not a compliment. It is fitting that this remarkable story took place in a city thought by many to be an “evil” city filled with selfish people. The Make-A-Wish foundation asked for support from the community and they responded by showing up by the thousands. Hearts were warmed and tears flowed as the min-masked-man made his magnificent march (alliteration!) through the city. People were even tweeting that they were glad to believe in humanity again. This is the byproduct of a media and culture that generally feasts on negativity. We love seeing celebrities who trainwreck their lives or seeing successful companies or people fall on their faces. Even tragedies like 9/11, Katrina, Boston Bombing, and others, are at times far more captivating than stories of joy, even we don’t like the outcomes of those disasters. Stories like BatKid happen behind the scenes every day, it is just rare for them to go viral . Millions of selfless people dedicate their lives on a daily basis to helping others. We aren’t reminded nearly enough of this fact because negativity is thrown at us constantly. People are good.

The Power of Social Media

Although it seems like 90%+ of social media is mindlessly rambling about sports, politics, jobs, or relationships, it is moments like BatKid’s adventure where social media can really shine. About lunch time, my timeline began to light up with tweets about BatKid. Intrigued, I did a quick Google search and eventually stumbled upon the live feed in San Francisco. Fifteen minutes later, I was completely engrossed in the story and trying to fight back tears. Social media has the ability to share incredible stories like these that would be missed without it. Fifteen years ago, BatKid would have only received national attention if it made the national newspaper or latenight TV talkshows. Now, it only takes a few influential people to take a story viral, sharing inspiring stories like this with the masses. So the next time you are considering deleting your Facebook or Twitter account, remember the BatKid.

The Few Can Impact Many

A few people at the SF Make-A-Wish Foundation were tasked with giving a 5 year-old boy the chance to be Batman for a day. They could have created Gotham on a small scale at their headquarters, dressed up some employees in cheap costumes, and called it a day after an hour of fun for Miles. Instead they dreamed even bigger, turning the entire city of San Francisco into Gotham and asking the community to get involved. There would have been nothing wrong with the simple approach, but millions of people would not have been exposed to this amazing story. Not only did the SF Wake-A-Wish Foundation inspire people, but Miles wrecked the hearts of countless individuals as he stormed through “Gotham” with abounding strength and joy. How many teachers, students, accountants, nurses, moms, and others were impacted by Miles? You think that you have a lot on your plate with work, school, marriage, children, etc., but then you see a child with leukemia running around saving the world? Incredible. Life doesn’t seem quite so scary anymore. Don’t be afraid to better the world. It takes less than you think to impact people. It only takes a spark…

participation

Why Not Everyone Should Get a Trophy

The day was finally here. It was time to see if I would be rewarded for my hard work. There were eight events, five points a piece, 40 total points, and 1 goal, a perfect score. This was the challenge I had given myself as a 3rd Grade kid leading up to “Physical Skills Day” many years ago. Six challenges into the competition and I was a perfect 6-for-6. The Hoola-Hoop, Paddle Ball, Standing Broad Jump, “Marathon”, Softball Throw (Distance), and Sit-and-Reach Test were no match for my physical prowess. The time came to face my two most difficult events: Softball Throw (Accuracy) and Soccer Ball Kick. I had known going into the day that these would be the most difficult for me, so I had been practicing for weeks at home. I stepped up to the dirt mound and fired in the first pitch towards the backstop. *Thud* Right on the cardboard target. Justin Verlander couldn’t have done it better as I followed it up with four more beauties. It was time for the Soccer Kick. I lined it up and nervously gave the ball a whack: Doink! Off of the right “4 point cone” and in between the “3 point cones”. You got two kicks so I had one more chance to salvage the event. Right. Down. Broadway. I had earned the Purple Ribbon, which was only awarded to students with 39-40 points. It was a higher honor even than the blue ribbon and it was all mine.

All About Incentives

Call it what you will, incentives are what get people to work harder

What would have happened in 3rd Grade if everyone got a purple ribbon for participating in Physical Skills day? My incentive for practicing would be nonexistent, so I would not have worked on my baseball throwing or soccer ball kicking. I would have scored somewhere in the 30s and probably have been ok with that because it didn’t really matter. I would have gotten in the car and told my mom they gave everyone purple ribbons today and she would tell me that she was proud of me. None of these things are bad or false. My score was fine, I had been given a purple ribbon and my mom really was proud of me. But it would have been cheapened for me because everyone got one. Even as an 8-year old, I realized that I wouldn’t really have “earned” anything by getting the ribbon. Instead, I was able to get in the car and tell my mom that I had earned my award, and that only a few other kids had also gotten purple ribbons. You might argue that I could have gotten the exact same score in the fictitious scenario, and that I would be equally happy knowing that I got the best score. I know this isn’t true, because I lived it out. The following year as a 4th grader, I came into the Physical Skills day without any practice or incentive because I assumed that I could easily follow my prior performance with another perfect score. After all, I’m a year older now and I can’t get worse. I got a 38 and lost one point at both the Softball Accuracy Throw and the Soccer Kick. My incentive was gone and my performance suffered.

Generation Y Problem

It’s no secret that Generation Y has a huge problem with entitlement. We assume that people will always be willing to give us whatever we want, whenever we want it. How did we learn this behavior? Trophies. Awards. Prizes. Everyone gets a participation trophy or some made up award to make them feel special. Even the girl that didn’t score a point all year gets the “Most Encouraging” Award and a rousing applause at the team pizza party. Fast forward 15 years and Sally is working for her first legitimate employer. She turns in lousy work and expects to be rewarded for her half-hearted efforts. Much to her chagrin, she is fired on the spot! How could this be? No one has ever told her that she isn’t special, perfect, and a beautiful, unique little snowflake! Now she is going to get her Daddy, who happens to be a lawyer, involved to she can sue him for discrimination of some kind or even harassment if he’s particularly deceitful.  Obviously this is an over-dramatized example, but it isn’t too far from the truth. Generation Y expects to have things handed to them and cries when it doesn’t work out that way.

“Yellow Ribbons”

I know what almost all of you are thinking right now. Taylor, how could you be heartless? *Cue Kayne* You might say things like…

“It’s not fair to differentiate between the kids that performed well and those who did not.”

“The kids might go home crying and end up with self-esteem issues.”

“Everyone knows that the yellow ribbons are the least valuable at Physical Skills Day. It would be so embarrassing to have to carry that around all day long and be forced to tell their parents and classmates about it.”

Hear me out when I say this: I don’t think that we should stop trying to build kids up. I understand that the psyche of an 8-year old should be treated differently than an 18-year old. They are fragile and need to be nurtured to a certain extent. That doesn’t mean that we should always reward average or negative performance or behavior. It discourages everyone from trying to get better.  When your little girl brings home his drawing that looks like a spilled paint can, feel free to put it on the refrigerator and tell her you’re proud of them and that you love it. But don’t tell them that they are a gifted artist and have a real future ahead of them if they put their mind to it.  When your son strikes out for the umpteenth straight time, tell them that they’ll get’em next time and that you love them. But don’t tell them that they are a great baseball player with the ability to play in the pros one day. They will believe you and eventually someone will crush their dreams. Is it worth marginally boosting their self-esteem to then have them be embarrassed later in life? That seems slightly shortsighted to me…

Time to Change

Generation Y is largely the way that it is because we were raised this way. We didn’t ask the school or team to give awards to everyone, our parents did. I’m not deflecting all blame here, but it’s hard to get kids to make their own important life decisions. After all, a five year-old will choose having ice cream for dinner EVERY night if given the option. Clearly, we have  been raised to be spoiled brats, but it isn’t too late to save face. Generation Y couples are starting to have kids of their own. Some have probably even experienced a few of the things mentioned in this article with their own kids. Our generation may have been expectant and lacked work ethic, but that doesn’t mean our kids have to be. The Traditionalist Generation was rigid and rarely strayed from the norm due to the fear of “stepping outside the lines”, but the Baby Boomer Generation brought a fresh outlook on life. The Baby Boomer generation consisted of workaholics and Generation X responded by de-prioritizing work and focusing on more important things in life.  What will Generation Y’s positive change be? Could it be changing the attitude of entitlement for the next generation and re-instilling a solid work ethic? We can only hope so. Until then, pass me my participation award. I’ve earned it.

gatsby

Parallels Between Jay Gatsby & King Solomon

A month ago, I decided that I would re-read The Great Gatsby before seeing the movie in theaters with my family. I read the book for the first time in probably six years, and once again I was glad that I had read it. The movie was solid, if not slightly underwhelming, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless. Fast forward to this past Sunday morning at Ethos Church. Brandon spoke about King Solomon and Ecclesiastes 2. During the sermon, I was continually struck by the parallels between King Solomon and Jay Gatsby. I’m not the first and will not be the last to make these comparisons, but I hadn’t thought about it before that moment. I additionally drew comparisons between both of them and myself. I decided to skim through The Great Gatsby and read Ecclesiastes to see what I could find.

The Great Pursuit

King Solomon and Jay Gatsby were both once in a generation characters (pretending that Jay Gatsby was a real person). They pursued every avenue of potential happiness at their disposal. Both had seemingly unlimited amounts of money, women, power, entertainment, and fame, and for short periods of time, it made them happy. “My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil” -Ecclesiastes 2:10.  “But there was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding. He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture of exultation a new well-being radiated from him and filled the little room‖” –The Great Gatsby Ch. 5. They enjoyed the ego boosts from everyone telling them how incredible they were. They loved eating the best foods, enjoying the best entertainment, spending time with the most amazing people, and having any and every physical good they could conjure up at a moments notice. All of these emotions were fleeting; however, as both quickly felt empty by the things that they thought would leave them fully satisfied.

The Great Letdown

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. -Ecclesiastes 2:11 (Underlining added for emphasis)

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning– So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. –The Great Gatsby Chapter 9 (Underlining added for emphasis)

People refer to this quote from Gatsby as if it is a positive metaphor, as it is pushing up to strive for our dreams. I might be misinterpreting it, but I view the quote quite differently. I see that Gatsby clawed, reached, stretched, and did everything is his power to obtain the green light. Ultimately, he never fully realized that the light was unobtainable, and that his efforts were like a boat beating against the current. Solomon had similar feelings in Ecclesiastes. The word “meaningless”  is referenced 11 times in the NIV of Ecclesiastes 2. Instead of comparing his toils to a boat against the current, Solomon used an even more discouraging comparison when he said that it is like “chasing after the wind”, an clearly impossible task. They got there in different ways, but both men came to the same conclusion that things of this world will always leave you feeling empty.

Different Endings

While the stories of Jay Gatsby and King Solomon have many similarities, their endings could not be more different. Jay Gatsby continued to hunt for the ever-elusive longing in his heart, up until the day he was murdered in cold blood in his own back yard. Despite having everything he ever dreamed or wanted, he was always left wishing for something more. Solomon, on the other hand, finally realized that his earthly pursuits were meaningless. He came to know that Jesus was the only one who could truly satisfy the desires of his heart. “To the person who pleases Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness” -Ecclesiastes 2:26. He realized that GOD gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness. It does not say that man takes wisdom, knowledge, and happiness, yet we try take it for ourselves every day.

Joy in the Lord

We do not have to be multi-billionaires living lavish lives to relate to either of these two men. We have all pursued any number of pointless endeavors in hopes of capturing the desires of our hearts. Even when we achieve what we had so desperately longed for, it never quite fulfills us like we had hoped. We then move on to the next great thing thinking that maybe this will be the thing that finally gives me joy. If we (I) continue to live our lives like this, we will end up like Gatsby and never find true joy. All of this is not to say that God wants us to be miserable. I believe with all of my heart that God wants us to enjoy this life. He wants us to pursue our dreams and aspirations, but we need to keep everything in perspective. I pray that I, and all of us, can embrace King Solomon’s lesson that the only true fulfillment in life comes through Christ Jesus.

 

Skydiving with Dad

Hard Work: Lesson Learned From My Dad

This past weekend, my family was fortunate to celebrate my dad on two separate occasions: Father’s Day and an awards banquet. As many of you know, my dad was honored for being the Supplier of the Year by the Tennessee Grocers Association. While he is always the first to deflect all accolades and praise; it was truly a culmination of the hard work that he and his family have put in for Purity over the past 50+ years. His introduction took seemingly forever because the individual introducing him decided to read off all of his accomplishments and involvements with other organizations and nonprofits. For his speech, rather than elaborating on the success he has had, my dad read off a list of names of individuals from Purity that had served the company for 25+ years. He acknowledged to the large audience that it was these individuals’ hard work that made Purity the company that they are today, not himself or his dad or his dad’s dad. He also called of all us (family) up on stage to thank us for our support. Last, he thanked his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for all the blessings that he has showed to himself and our family. My dad showed everyone how to be honored yet still give credit and acknowledgement to everyone that deserves it.

Letting Me Learn on my Own

For better or worse, I have learned almost everything that I know from my dad. In addition to walking with the Lord, life lessons, sports, finances, business, and treating people with respect, my dad has taught me about hard work. He has always pushed me as far as I wanted to go, but never overstepped his bounds and pushed me too far. After my junior year of high school, my dad approached me after my final track meet. He said to me “Taylor, I want to support you in any way that I can. If you want to put in the work, I’ll help you to be an All-State caliber track athlete. If you don’t want to put in the work, I will support that too. You just let me know.” In the end, I decided to be slightly lazy and not push myself to my full limits. My senior year, my relay team finished 5th in the State 4×200 relay, but I did not qualify for any individual events, finishing 3rd in the Region in the 110m hurdles and 8th in the 200 meter. If my dad would have pushed me, I would have likely been to State for all three events, but he knew that it was not his battle to fight. I had to learn how to work hard on my own. Eventually, he wouldn’t be there to push me, and I would fall back if I didn’t learn on my own. I have slowly learned some of these valuable lessons about hard work.

New Balance

My dad openly criticizes himself as being a workaholic. While there are hints of this, I can gladly say that he is not one. I’ve seen and experienced workaholics. Workaholics draw their energy and worth from their jobs. They miss out on important life events with family and friends due to their work. They never leave work at the office and are always bringing it up in conversations. None of those things depict my father. He has always been at my games/meets, chorus performances, Singarama show, birthdays, and other important life occasions. I can see that his joy comes from the Lord, his family, and his close friends. I have seen this balance firsthand, and it makes me want to exemplify this in my own life. At one point, I was working full-time, studying for the CPA, leading a house church, and serving as the president of a fraternity. These commitments took up seemingly every hour of my day and I realized that I was probably doing too much. I was working too hard. I didn’t have enough time in the day to be with my wife (fiance at the time), family, and friends. My balance was all out of whack. I have tried to learn from my dad that while you can push yourself, you cant do it ALL. Eventually, you have to say no to a few things to make time for the most important things.

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

One of the most beautiful (but also terrifying) things about life is that we only get one shot at it. God purposefully decided to give us one chance instead of 100 lives. If we had 100 lives, we wouldn’t live each one to fullest, knowing that we could do it all over again if we messed up our previous one. Since we know that we are finite, why don’t we make the most of our opportunities? Why aren’t we striving to be better? Why would we ever not work as hard as we can at everything we do? This does not mean that we overwork and live miserable lives. That we should never take vacations or relax on the weekends.  It means that we should always be pushing, striving, stretching, reaching, and trying be better than the day before. Each day on Earth is an opportunity to do amazing things. Don’t sell yourself short and I’ll do my best to do the same. Luckily, I have learned from one of the best. He’ll never know how much I appreciate everything he has taught me, but hopefully this will give a glimpse into the lessons I learned from him. Happy Father’s Day Dad, you’re the best.

Quotes About Hard Work

“Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.”

-Colossians 3:22-25 The Message

Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange
For the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!
Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!
This is your last and only chance at it,
For there’s neither work to do nor thoughts to think
In the company of the dead, where you’re most certainly headed.

-Ecclesiastes 9:8-10 The Message

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.  –Beverly Sills

Dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price. –Vince Lombardi

I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true – hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don’t love something, then don’t do it. -Ray Bradbury

Hard work without talent is a shame, but talent without hard work is a tragedy. -Robert Half

If the power to do hard work is not a skill, it’s the best possible substitute for it. –James A. Garfield

No one ever drowned in sweat. –United States Marine Corps

 

The/re/ir/ey're & Thurr

Top 5 Most Annoying Grammatical Mistakes

You can see the full version of the background image here: People are dumb
As you can see in these pictures, the English language can (apparently) be incredibly challenging to master. How many languages could create the equivalent of the following sentence (which is structurally correct)? “The plain plane planed across the plain.” Having said this, English is the primary language for most of the people that I know. It baffles me to see how often people butcher it. I do not write this to imply that I am a perfect writer. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are multiple errors in this article. The purpose is to simply to inform. You’re welcome to ignore it and carry on speaking and writing as usual. In no particular order, here are a few of my most annoying grammatical mistakes.

1) Your/You’re

Clay Travis‘ followers have made this one pretty famous with the popular insult “Your Gay”, which is the obvious misuse of the correct form. Whenever an apostrophe is used in the English language, it signifies one of two things: 1) To show possession of a noun or 2) To be used in a contraction (shortened form of two words like “don’t”). The problem here is that both uses of the word your/you’re somewhat fit these definitions. The trick is that while “your” is possessive, it does not require an apostrophe because it is not a noun. “You’re” fits the second rule, which requires an apostrophe due to the contraction of “You are.”

Hint: Plugin “You are” for you’re, and “My” for your and see which one makes more sense in the context.

2) Their/They’re/There

This is more difficult than your/you’re because you have a 1/3 chance of getting it right. In reality, you should never miss it because it isn’t that hard.
Their- Possessive. See rules for “your” above.
They’re- They are. See rules for “you’re” above.
There- Use any other time. Normally indicates a place or location. Has many uses.

Hint: Plugin “There are” for they’re, and “My” for your and see which one makes more sense in the context.

3) “Of” as a verb

This is the one that I am most guilty of, but I annoy myself when I do it. “I “could of” jumped higher than Johnny” is not correct. Can you of something? No. Would you like to conjugate the verb of? The correct usage is “could have”, but is generally reduced when spoken to “could’ve.” People hear this as “could of” and use it incorrectly. I don’t mind too much when people say it like this, but please do not write “of” as a verb.

4) Correct Use of Present Perfect

You might not think you know what present perfect is, but you probably do. Present Perfect is used to describe something that started in the past and is still continuing. It uses a form of has + present participle of the verb. The simple past refers to events that occurred and are finished.

Example #1:
I have went to Australia every year since 2005. (Past Simple)
I have gone to Australia every year since 2005. (Present Perfect)

Many people would say that both are correct. Those people would be wrong. The past participle for “to go” is gone. Went can only be used for the simple past.

Example #2:
I mowed my yard yesterday. (Past Simple)
I have mowed my yard five times this year. (Present Perfect)

This verb is a regular verb, and thus the present participle and the simple past are the same (mowed). The distinction between the two is established by using a form of “has” with the present perfect. In the first example, I can never again mow my yard yesterday. It is a finished act and thus is past simple tense. I have mowed my yard five times this year implies that I have completed this tasks in the past, but will also continue to do so going forward. The year is not over. Once the year is over, the sentence would change to “I mowed my yard nine times in 2013.”

5) Affect vs. Effect

In my opinion, this is one the most forgivable mistake on this list. Once you learn the rule; however, you will be right about 95% of the time. Effect is used as a noun. Affect is used as a verb. It is as simple as memorizing this rule (or Googling it each time you need to use one). There are a few exceptions to this rule, but just go with it. Be weary of correcting people on this one. Correcting the proper use of the exception to the rule will make you look silly. Hopefully this point will effect change.

Bonus: Misusing the words Irregardless and Literally

The use of the prefix “ir” is used to mean “not” in the English language. For example, irrational means not rational. Irrelevant means not relevant. So irregardless means not regardless right… Regardless means having no regard, so irregardless would literally be “Not having no regard.” Wouldn’t you feel silly saying that sentence? Look at the T-shirt in the picture to get a feel for how ridiculous this is.

Literally means literally. I know that you aren’t supposed to use a word in its own definition, but it should prove a point here. People generally use literally it to mean figuratively, which is the almost an exact opposite of what literally means. I literally cannot explain it more simply.

 

I’m sure I left out some good ones, so feel free to add any that I missed in the comments. You’re (1) job is to put comments down their (2) so they could of (3) have (4) an affect (5) on others, irregardless (b) of their intelligence.