Service Battery

So yesterday I talked about decompressing and what it looks like for me as well as how it’s an integral part of rest. If decompressing is largely focused on giving your brain a break on the amount of information it receives, recharging is filling up your emotional gas tank. It’s doing something that gives you energy again. Continue reading “Service Battery”

Squished

So this quarter has been tough. Not because Greek is exceptionally hard. Doing it as an intensive is just a bit demanding. Having one’s brain so thoroughly focused on one thing all the time drains you. As a result, you need to do to things to keep yourself happy and avoid insanity: decompress and recharge. I’m realizing these two are very different things.

I’m not really sure how to explain my distinction between the two, so I’m just going to discuss them in separate posts.

First I turn to decompressing. For me, decompressing is the more mind-centered of the two topics. When your brain is running all the time, it needs a break. The body does this somewhat naturally through dreams, but that’s mostly for the subconscious. To decompress the conscious you have to immerse the mind in something that requires less—even little to no—work for your mental faculties. This can be a menial task like cleaning, or something more relaxing like reading a book or watching TV.

As mentioned in a previous post, I watch a lot of TV. I mean a lot. It’s been declining this quarter and my DVR is actually getting quite full. I hope to remedy that after finals. So decompressing, I’ve got down. You could call me the king of decompressing. Recharging however, has taken some work. Only recently did I realize the two were actually distinct yet working in tandem. I’ll get to that tomorrow.

My question to you is this: what do you do to decompress and how often do you do it?

Pacing

Two weeks into the New Testament Greek Intensive and things are pretty crazy. Like really crazy. It’s a back and forth pattern of getting up really early and sleeping in really late. I’ve accidentally figured out that I remember more Greek for the quizzes if I study it all that morning before. What makes that even better is that I can get the homework done faster if I do it that morning as well. So this week, I’ve gotten up around 4 am after going to bed at 9 pm. It gives me plenty of time to do all my work for class and be fairly well rested. By the time I get home, I’m ready for a nap. And I’m not just talking a nap, but a naaaaap.

Like four hours long.

So I wake up at like 7 pm and go about my evening. The problem is that I’m not tired until about 1 am after that. So, I sleep in the next day until about 10 (8 hours + the hour I missed the night before). This is a dramatic difference in schedule. By the time of done my errands it’s about 3 or 4 pm and time to hang out with people. So by the time I get home it’s 8 and there’s not enough time to do any Greek. Thus continueth the cycle.

My pacing sucks. It’s effective, but lacks a sense of anything normal.

I, with several seminary friends, am going to run a half marathon in late spring. I am not a runner. I have never been a runner nor have I ever wanted to be a runner. Yet, running with people sounds less terrible. I know that I should do it if I want to full the fitness requirement of my One Word for 2011: grow. Running is free. I can’t afford to play hockey as often as I like, so I’m running.

Pacing is important in running. I ran for the first time yesterday and was tired after 8 minutes, and I ran for a minute and then walked for a minute. I haven’t figured out pacing in running yet.

I haven’t figured out pacing in life yet either. It’s not just the routine of Greek being added. I was bad at pacing before the quarter started. I binge on things. It’s the proverbial roller coaster. I need to get off the ride.

This. Won’t. Be. Easy. I like roller coasters.

#OneWord2011: Grow

So thanks to a genius idea from my friend @gritandglory, I’m joining in on a new way to look at New Year’s resolutions. Let’s be honest, they don’t usually work. My original thought was to get so unspecific that it’d be nearly impossible for me to fail. Alece takes it to a new place with One Word 2011.

The goal is to come up with a single word to help redefine your year. I toyed around with words like discipline and realized they only really tackled one or two areas of my life. Then a word came to mind.

Grow.

Just Grow.

Grow in discipline.

Grow in faith.

Grow in fitness.

Grow in love.

Grow in community.

Grow.

It pretty much covers it all. Some of those areas I’ve never been good at (ahem, fitness and discipline, ahem). Others, I’ve never had a problem with, but I haven’t been growing.

Growing should be easy for me, but sometimes I just don’t for no apparent reason. It means: Never. Stop. Moving. Be constantly changing. Always learning. Always checking yourself. Always reading Scripture. Always evaluate what you’re thinking and why. Grow.

So, I’m gonna make twenty eleven about growing. Should be fun. It’ll be a challenge., but I think it’ll be worth it.

Grow.

Soccer Moms

My mom was never a soccer mom—both literally and figuratively. She did drive a mini van for much of my childhood. Neither my sister nor I played soccer. I do remember the first time I played soccer in elementary school PE. I was talk and lanky for most of my childhood, so the PE coach thought I would make an excellent goalie. Ten minutes later, I had a bloody nose because I tried to stop the ball with my face. It worked, but it has a one-time use policy. My sister played what ever you call girls’ softball. (I know it’s not little league.) I never played any sort of sport. I’m not really sure why. I guess I never asked. My parents never encouraged me to pursue any. I did tae kwon do for about a year until my yellow belt was stolen out of my bag. Everyone thought I lost it, but we still haven’t found it two decades later, so I was right.

As a result of having never having any sport training, I pretty much suck at every one of them. Once I was older and wanted to, I was already too far behind. My dad wasn’t sporty either, so I never learned. In high school, I stunted with the cheerleaders. None of us guys had done it before, so we were on a level playing field. Despite some deficit in the art of being coordinated, I did pretty well.

As I’ve discussed previously, I’m a big hockey fan. I started playing hockey back in Texas because no one from Texas really grows up playing hockey. I wasn’t expected to know how already. It was great. Now that I’m in seminary, I’m immersed in the world of intramurals again. Wanting to have no regrets, I signed up for flag football. It’s a lot easier when you’re playing with friends. They’re gracious with patience for my lack of skill. I’m getting better. I feel like a doofus most of the time, but it’s still fun. I bought my first baseball (actually I think it’s for softball) glove yesterday. I bought my first pair of cleats back in September. It’s weird to be doing all of these sporting firsts at the age of twenty six. I may be a late bloomer, but eventually I catch up.

Golden

I live in California. Finally. I do have to remind myself a little bit every day. It’s not hard. I walk outside and see foothills in the distance. Sometimes they’re a little hard to see because of the smog, but they’re there. The breeze is cool. It’s in the 60s at night and in the morning.

I sort of feel like I’m on vacation. I sort of am. I don’t start class for another week, so I’ve been taking in the sights. I took mom on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour while she was in town. I went to Disneyland last week. I went to the NHL Entry Draft last Friday. I’ve seen Killers, Toy Story 3 and Eclipse. I’ve had lunch with a couple of friends. I’m headed to Universal Studios with a friend tomorrow. That’s more than you get to do on a vacation sometimes.

Amidst all that, I’m also settling into the new apartment. It’s not too much smaller than what I had before, but it doesn’t have any walls. Some of my furniture—okay, a lot of my furniture—didn’t survive the move. It was poor quality to begin with and I’m not the best mover. So I had to replace some of it. Ikea made it affordable and it looks great.

The Golden State truly is golden. It’s more than just a location for me. It’s about being in the place that God wants me. That is what really makes this golden.

The Quest: Deus Ex Machina, an Epilogue

Deus ex machina is a literary device that introduces God or the gods into the plot to solve all of the problems at the story’s conclusion. It’s considered bad practice and the easy way out. It translates from Latin to mean “God in/from the machine.” It’s extreme form of divine intervention in storytelling. If deus ex machina is used in whatever story you are reading/watching/listening to, you feel a bit cheated in the end that your characters didn’t have to earn their happy ending or work to triumph over evil.

The thing is that it is indeed God who put the quest for story in us. His intention is for this quest to find our story to lead us to THE story/the Gospel story/HIS story. His plan isn’t for us to merely find our own story in a world full of story. He designed us to connect to THE story and thus connect with Him and the community of Christians around us—the Church. He changes everything. He intervenes in the human story and saves us all from a tragic end—if we let him.

It’s hard to give up authorship of your story. We all want to control the quest. What’s somewhat annoying in all of this is that God is timeless. He’s in the past, present and future all at the same time. He knows the end before the beginning even started. As we’re on the quest for story, it’s hard to wait for the next chapter knowing He already knows it. Yet, if we learn to wait, I think we’re in for a far greater story than we could ever pen ourselves.

This doesn’t mean our individual ways of connecting to story are void. God created each of us to be who we are. He created me to connect to story through TV, movies, books and even hockey. We just have to remember the greater story that we’re a part of. I realize not everyone who reads this is a Christian. To you, I say there’s a story you haven’t found yet. Somewhere inside of you, you know it. Don’t settle for anything less than the greatest story of all. There’s plenty of us who know that story, so just ask. I’d bet most of us are more than happy to share it with you.

Do you know THE story? Do you share THE story? Will you let Him write your story?

The Quest: Story That Burns Like An Olympic Flame, But With Four Arms

Chapter 4

People swear I’m part Canadian. I took six years of French and I love hockey. I thank Disney for that one. I don’t know what I thought was so inexplicably cool about The Mighty Ducks. Maybe it was the Flying V—an impressive feat on screen, but maybe not the most practical hockey play. Maybe it was the coolness of Emilio Estevez. I don’t know. Whatever the source, I’ve been hooked for 17 years, hockey pun intended.

A bit of background for those of you that aren’t hockey fans. The Mighty Ducks movie came out in October, 1992. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim hit the ice as an expansion team owned by Disney in October, 1993. The Minnesota North Stars moved to Texas to become the Dallas Stars the same season. Now imagine a 9 year old kid who lives in West Texas hours from the nearest ice rink. Logically, which team would he pick to like? Would he pick a team that he had heard of or one that was from a city several hours away. Yup. I’m a Ducks fan.

I had several Mighty Ducks shirts as a kid. I loved all three Mighty Ducks movies. A even had my own duck call. Of course, being a kid from a part of the United States not traditionally called hockey country, the opportunities to actually see hockey on TV were few and far between. It wasn’t until high school that I was able to see my first hockey game. By some mishap of hockey organization briefly known as the WPHL, Abilene was host to an actual professional hockey team for 3 seasons (1998-2001). I didn’t get to go to many games, but I loved the few that I was lucky enough to be at.

During my 4 years in Austin, I took the opportunity to go to a few Ice Bats/Longhorns back-to-back games. The Ice Bats were never very good, but it was still fun too watch. I also had a Canadian friend who shared my affinity for hockey. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford to learn to play hockey during my years at The University. I guess that happens if you don’t have a job during college.

Once I moved to San Antonio and had a stable job, I quickly signed up for learn to skate lessons. Had any of you been there, it would have been a fairly entertaining sight to behold. Many people were surprised that I would take on such a task. I’m sure most believe my chances of actually learning to play hockey were pretty slim. I proved them wrong. Assuming “they” exist. In January, 2008 I started in the Instructional Hockey League—a fancy name for a weekly learn to play class. After three months, I was talked into signing up for the rec league. Retrospectively, I’m not sure I was really ready for that, but I have been playing on the Men O’ War ever since. Yes, I’m on the military team. It’s comical, I know.

Along with my access to an actual ice rink came my first apartment wired for digital cable. You better believe I got the NHL Center Ice package that fall. During the 2008-2009 season, I saw 4 Ducks games live (3 in Anaheim, 1 in Dallas) and watched 74 on TV. It was nice to watch the Ducks play an entire season and not just during the playoffs on NBC. Though, I did at least see them win the 2007 Stanley Cup.

You may ask “what does this have to do with story?” Other than being evidence of my ADHD, hockey is an example of the story one sees in sports. I’ll say this. I’m not one of those guys that is a sports fan and will watch anything involving competition. I enjoy high school football and UT football. Most of the time, I don’t just watch hockey. There are exceptions exceptions for things like the Stanley Cup playoffs, the All Star game and the Winter Classic. Most of the time, I watch Ducks hockey. Even sports have a story. Throughout a season with the Ducks, I see triumph and loss. I see players come and go. I have favorite players. I have teams that I like less than others. Each win is one step closer to the playoffs. I care about the outcome of the team. I spend money on merchandise. I spend 6-12 hours a week watching games. I invest myself in their story.

Okay, a more timely example for those of you that aren’t hockey fans: The Olympics. The Olympics are a global event that is a story that everyone can be a part of. NBC does a great job of tapping into the human nature of story. Michael Phelps was the big story during the Beijing games in 2008. This year NBC has built up several stories. The American characters that they have us connecting with are gold medalists such as Shaun White, Hannah Kearney and Lindsey Vonn and silver medalist Apolo Ohno. We even started with the big story of Canada never having earned a gold medal on home turf. The Olympics provide a story that’s accessible to so many. There’s an event for everyone. We’re united under one cause: victory for the USA.

My question is this: how do you take the stories you’re passionate about, the ones that burn inside of you, and make them accessible to the rest of the world?

Read the final post in The Quest.

The Quest: Vampires, Dragons and Greek Gods

Chapter 3

On to one of the oldest forms of story—the written word. By far, the best gadgety purchase of 2009 for me was my Amazon Kindle. I convinced myself that I didn’t need one. I have an iPhone. There’s a Kindle app. I was good to go. After a week of my thumb feeling really tired from swiping pages every 8 seconds when reading on the little screen, I decided I might benefit from the 6-inch eInk wonder.

Convinced that I would read more if I had something electronic. I set out to read the first two books in the Twilight Saga before New Moon hit the silver screen. Well, I had the release date wrong, so I had to read the first book in paperback. The Kindle arrived after a brief shipping delay and I finished New Moon the weekend of the release—a week before Thanksgiving. Since then, I have read all four books in the Twilight series, Eragon, Eldest and Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. So that’s vampires, dragons & greek gods all in 15 or so weeks in the equivalent of 4,459 pages in a hardcover book.

As you may have noticed—or maybe not—each of those books has been fairly popular and have been made as feature films. Some have faired better than others. Twilight was sort of like the book. New Moon was much better. Eragon was pretty far from the book and didn’t do well in the box office. The Lightning Thief was about 40% like the book but was a really entertaining movie. I’m now a big fan of reading the book first. Other than being frustrated by the changes in characters and plot, I feel like I understand character motivation much more. As I said in the previous post, I really do think that movies come short on character. Books give you even more than television. I understand that you only have two or three hours for a movie, but seriously, you can’t change the plot entirely or merge a love interest with a nemesis—both of which I’ve seen in these movies.

I haven’t been much of a reader until recently. About the only thing I read since high school was the Harry Potter series, which I loved. I didn’t even do much of the required reading in college. The benefit to the Kindle is that there is an iPhone app and I can read my books if I don’t have the Kindle with me. It’s about convenience. We live in an age where people rarely stop to read a story. They prefer other methods. Television and feature films prevail. While I love both, I think we’re loosing something. Stories are reduced to basic characters and basic plot. While TV does more to develop these, both fall short compared to a novel.

I understand all of this sounds blasphemous coming from someone schooled in film, but I want more than the surface story. I want to understand characters, get their motivation and have no question about why they do what they do. That’s what makes a good character. They seem like real people instead of a facsimile. Though the dictionary defines a fax as an “exact” copy, anyone who has used a fax machine lately—all three of you—knows that there’s no comparison.

How do you tell your story? Do you tell your story with it’s true depth and not just what’s on the surface?

Read the next post in The Quest.

The Quest: Why I Don’t Watch TV At Your House If Your TV Is Too Small

Chapter 2

I am a TV addict. I have a tape somewhere of my second birthday. My parents came in to my bedroom toting a video camera. I think it was one of those over the shoulder numbers that used beta. So they wake me up in my crib with my fluffy red fro. I open my eyes, still filled with sleep, and they say “Happy Birthday.” I stare at them blankly. Cut to the living room. Camera is directed at the hallway. I come wandering out with my mom and head towards the front door. Then I turn and stop at the console television and say “TV! TV! TV!” motioning for them to turn it on. I sit down entirely too close and watch Maya The Bee.

Even at the ripe age of two, it was obvious that I was a fan of television. That fandom has grown over the years. The majority of the shows I have found myself enjoying—well, still do—are dramas. I think it’s mostly because dramas are rich with both episodic plot and serial (season-long) plot. The characters are deeper than what you find in comedies. I am big on character. When I connect to a character, I’m hooked on the show.

Example: ER. Lucy was my favorite character. I remembered her from one of my mom’s favorite shows Life Goes On. During season six, they decided her character wasn’t working and killed her off. I never watched another episode of the show again. You don’t kill off my characters.

Counter example: The OC. I am a big fan of The OC (both the series and the California county). It was quite popular in film school. So popular in fact, I thought it was one of those trendy shows on HBO. As it turned out, it was on Fox so my new roommate and I caught up on the first half of the season at the beginning of the spring semester. I liked Ryan, Seth and Summer very much. Marissa was never my favorite character. At the end of season three, they killed off her character. That didn’t stop be from watching the show.

I think my Grams has it right. Even as a child, I remember her calling the soap operas she enjoyed her “stories.” That’s what they are. They are stories, just like anything else. As a result, I rarely start watching a TV show after it’s been on the air a while. I want to start at the beginning. That’s a lot easier to do now, even midseason. The iTunes store and half seasons on DVD have made catching up pretty easy to do. I learned in film school how hard you have to work to get something on the screen. Every moment is intentional. You don’t start watching a movie halfway through, the same applies to a season of television.

The thing I like most about TV is how long you have to build character and plot. Movies are just a snapshot of a story. I love movies, but they are different than TV. Bigger budgets often make them prettier, but a super amazing story is more and more rare these days. Now there are some elements that movies have going for them, don’t get me wrong. The music is usually better. The effects are always better and the acting is usually better. The story often suffers as a formulaic Hollywood plot. But if you get the right mix together, I’m wowed. Avatar is a great example. It’s a great cinematic feat. As a whole, I totally find movies entertaining, but they are easily forgotten.

TV resonates more with me. I’m fully aware that’s not true for many people, maybe even most people. As my friend Jon put it once in high school, I’m “one weird duck”—which was fitting since my favorite hockey team has always been the Ducks (more on that in chapter four). As strange as it sounds, I have a pretty personal relationship with my television. It’s why I don’t have a roommate right now. When I come home, I want to watch my TV shows. I don’t want to share my TV with anyone. I have two DVRs for the nights when I have three shows that air simultaneously. Before the advent of the TiVo, I used these for every day of the week. I don’t want to miss a minute in the lives of the fictional people that appear in my living room at my command on a big, enormous 42-inch screen. Did anyone catch the Little Shop reference there? I didn’t think so.

Anywho, I’ll close with this. As Shawn once put it on Boy Meets World, “television is the true mirror of our lives.” At least, it feels that way to me sometimes.

What ways to do you find yourself connecting to story in your day-to-day life?

Read the next post in The Quest.