A Casual Drink

Sometimes your choices in life take people off guard.  In the interview for the Fire Management Team here at AmeriCorps NCCC, I was asked what I would do in a specific situation where alcohol was present.  My answer seemed to shock the two guys interviewing me.  I don’t drink. 

My family also thinks I’m a little bit weird, being the only one who doesn’t enjoy a beer or glass of wine with dinner or a good shot of Jamison’s Whiskey every once in a while.  Many of my friends appreciate the fact that I don’t drink, while others look at me like I’m some kind of black sheep or worse. 

While I do not mind other people drinking around me, I do mind when they don’t know or realize their limit. 

I’ve seen many people who had (or have) problems knowing their limits.  I saw it on the dry campus of Anderson University, on the missions fields of Uganda and Togo, and I see it here in Denver with the 300+ youth that I serve with.  The youth of our society are drinking more and more, and i fear it will get worse before it gets better. 

I understand the pleasure of having a drink with dinner, but more and more I am seeing people heading out at night to the bar, where they plan to drink and get drunk.  Many of the younger kids seem to be joining those of legal age.  They get there, and then they forget their limits.  They stagger home in the early hours of the morning, only to brag about how much they drank the next morning. 

Responsibility lies in their hands.  They can make their own choices.  These are what people are saying.  If they want to drink, let ’em drink.

I would accept that if they knew how to be responsible.  I have asked myself what my responsibility is when nobody else seems to take their actions seriously.  In Togo, while in the missions field, I constantly asked myself if the people I was with, who were now drunk beyond any care in the world, were my responsibility, or were they still responsible for themselves.  I find myself asking the same questions back in the states. 

Do we have a responsibility to care for those who made the conscious choice to remove their own ability to care for themselves?  Do those who do not drink need to take action and responsibility for those who do, and are now drunk?

Let me put it into context:

You are out with a group of friends and you are the only one not drinking.  You notice that they have had to much to drink already and still plan to stay out for another couple of hours.  Is it your responsibility to cut them off from the alcohol?  Is it your responsibility to get them home safely?  Do you just sit there and allow them to continue drinking themselves silly? 

To complicate things even more, what if you are in the missions field, in a place you don’t know?  That is where I found myself this past summer.  The questions and concerns race through your head.  What do you do in that situation? 

Now, think about this:  You know of a group of friends that are going out to the bar tonight to drink.  The past couple times this has happened, they have had to carry certain members back home.  They joke about how much fun drinking is.  Do you say something before they go out?  What about after the fact?  Do you express your concerns? 

To complicate matters even more, what if some of them are underage, but still plan on drinking, either because the bar does not card or that they have a fake ID? 

These are not just scenarios, but realities in life.  As Christians, what do we do in these situations?  Do we turn a blind eye and allow it to happen, or do we take a stand for what we believe in?  Do we take action ourselves, or do we inform the authorities above so that the proper actions a consequences fall into place? 

Our actions speak louder than words.  We can tell people day after day that drinking and getting drunk is not good, but that does not compare to them seeing us not drink, or drinking with moderation.  We can tell them that it is wrong, beg them not to go out or we can take action against their destructive behaviors. 

I cannot tell you what you should do, because to many times I have sat silent and watched as my friends drank till they could not stand.  To many times I have found myself silent when in my heart I know I should say something, do something to stop my friends destructive behaviors. 

Your actions speak louder than words, and for too long have mine been silent. 

God Bless and PEACE


The Whisper

A while ago, while still aboard the Africa Mercy, I had the opportunity to encounter God through the whisper of one of the youth aboard the ship.  It was a beautiful moment that opened my heart to hear the many things that God was trying to teach me.  While this was happening, I found myself writing out my thoughts, an informal prayer and poem that is much more.  The following words still flow through my life, and I hope that they allow your heart to be opened as much as mine was.


There is a whisper that few can hear.  Through the music, it hisses and kisses my ear.  It’s the most beautiful sound.  The most beautiful prayer.  It rises and falls.  With each breath it lives and dies.  I can no longer ignore it, for it is louder than anything else that fills my heart. 

There is a whisper that I have heard.  When time slowed and rested peacefully within every held out hand.  It holds more fear than my heart, releasing them, pouring them out from wounds, unkept promises, broken relationships.  But it knows no bounds.  For it is love.  And more lovely than anything I have known.  Or will know.

There is a whisper, a prayer that floats through the air.  Catching the breath from my lungs.  It is icy cold, but lovingly warm.  It flows to a music beyond sounds.  It is softer than a beating heart, yet louder than any scream. 

There is a whisper that has filled this room.  A shout of triumph from the highest mountain.  It fills the valley below, lifting me to something more.  Something has happened, a feeling, an emotion.  Fear and awe.  Love and hate.  Broken in two.  Life stands still as it kisses the sound of time.  Nothing is left. 

There is a whisper that no one has heard.  It was kept inside.  Trapped.  Afraid to die.  It’s scream fills my lungs.  Floods my mind.  Kills my soul.  It was abandoned for something more.  Something that tried to make me whole.  It was forgotten, and in time, it ceased to exist.  But it is still there. 

There is a whisper that escapes he lips.  It hisses in the silence.  It kisses my ears.  It is more than a sound.  And more than a prayer.  In the darkness, when all seems lost, it found the light of the soul.  I found its footsteps.  Impressions in the dust.  Where few tread, so long ago. 

There is a whisper that quiets my soul.  It makes me lost.  It makes me whole.  I heard it and I was afraid.  I knew what it ment, but could not obey.  It didn’t fit.  My plan was wrong.  I closed my ears, yet still I heard.  It beats like a heart.  A heavy thump.  It makes me tremble.  It makes me jump. 

There is a whisper that few have heard.  It quiets the soul.  It changes the world.  It is more than a prayer, but a prayer just the same.  It knows your thoughts, and your name.  Try to run.  Far away.  Try to hide, by night or by day.  It will find you.  You’ll seek it out.  Without it, your lost.  Alone.  Trapped.  Scared.  Dead.

There is a whisper in the dark of night.  I heard it once.  It took my life.  I try to find it.  To track it down.  I never can.  It doesn’t want to be found.  It is silent.  Amidst the noise.  It is your heartbeat.  Your breath.  Your mind screaming for a chance to break free.  Your fears.  Hopes.  Dreams.  And all your plans. 

There is a whisper that wants to be found.  But I can’t.  I’m afraid of what I’ll hear.  I tremble as it closes in.  It is the silence.  It is the noise.  The music.  The breath.  The voice in your ears.  It is the prayer you prayed when you were a child.  It haunts you.  It knows you.  It is calling. 

There is a whisper that few can hear.  For few have opened their ears.  It is the beauty.  revealing the beast.  The one inside your heart.  The one you embrace.  Enjoy.  Lust.  I heard it.  Felt it.  Experienced it.  And was never able to walk away.  It captured me with bands of love.  With hope.  With nothing I’ve felt before. 

There is a whisper that escapes her lips.  Rising and falling.  With each hiss.  Each kiss. It is her prayer.  And my salvation. 

God Bless and PEACE

The King’s Peace

There are some books that we all just love.  Even though we’ve read ’em hundreds of times before, we continue to pick them off the shelf and read them again.  I have a couple, but my favorite has got to be Jo Walton’s The King’s Peace.  Loosely based off of 6th century England, this book is a mix of faith and religion, politics, and warfare, told from a young woman’s point of view as she rides in the king’s cavalry based army and learns what it means to make peace when all she has ever known is war. 

It’s an amazing read.  Though it is not our history, nor is it our world, it ties in quite a bit. 

One of the parts of this novel that I enjoy is the faith aspect.  Throughout the book, the characters struggle over keeping the peace through the land and respecting the gods that they have chosen to revere and worship.  Sulien, the main character, worships the gods of her ancestors, the pagan gods of wisdom, healing, and warfare.  Other characters, like Raul, a monk and advisor to the king, follow the White God, the god that is based on of the Judo-Christian God.  Then there is Urdo, the King of the island of Tir Tanagiri, who is trying to not only make the peace between the people, but between the gods as well. 

It is extremely fascinating to read and see how the different characters faith affect the way they interact with others as well as how they worship. 

In a part of the book, after the peace has been made, some of the characters are arguing about how some of the followers of the White God have forced the conversion of the people, and in turn threw the land into turmoil once again.  Ohtar, one of the smaller kings of the island, responds to some heated questions with this statement, which all Christians should heed.

“They promise to wash them clean and save them and have them live forever in shining light.  It makes everything holy very simple.  It is deceptive and attractive.  People are afraid, and they hear the priests saying for sure what will be. … Also they tell the people that unless they praise the White God, they will be cast into darkness for all time.  What is the difference between holding a sword at someone’s throat and telling them you will kill them unless they convert and telling them they must convert or face eternal darkness?”

Sulien follows up with:

“It is one thing to offer someone a chance of praising in the light and another to threaten them with being cast out into darkness.”

Though this conversation is in a novel, I have seen this same situation in Christian missions fields and in converts all over the world.  We use the fear of hell instead of the love of Christ to bring people into the family of God. 

When preaching and in the missions field, we must remember that we are sharing hope.  Jesus Christ died so that we may live.  He rose again so that fear would be taken out of the picture.  We are washed by his blood, not because of anything that we have done, will do, our could do, but because his love for us. 

Our faith comes from the hope of salvation.  If we teach people to cling to Jesus because we fear hell and what may happen after death, are we teaching them faith?  Or are we forcing them to choose?  Faith is believing what cannot be seen, it is not fearing what is to come.

Fire and brimstone sermons were never ment to bring people to Christ, but to spur on believers to live out their faith.  They are fascinating, but not ment to be used to bring people to a loving father. 

Just some thoughts…

God Bless and PEACE

Work Should Never Be This Fun

Nine days ago, I arrived on the South West Region office of AmeriCorps NCCC in Denver, Colorado.  Since my arrival, life has gotten much simpler and more adventurous.  After the first day of frantic unpacking and arrivals of hundreds of Corps Members (CMs), we began the process of training for the next ten months of our lives. 

In the brief moments of sanity that I’ve been here, I’ve gotten to know and hang out with some amazing and interesting people.  People from each and every state (except two or so, don’t ask which, since I don’t know) and every walk of life.  While many of the CMs here are just out of high school, there are a good number of ‘older folk’ around to maintain a fair balance of youth and experience. 

The past week has been filled with hundreds of hours in the classroom, learning about this community, the goals and objectives of NCCC, rules for everything we do, safety briefings and the occasional learning what we will be doing out in the field (on Spike).  Between all the classes and physical training that is required by all CMs, we have had the opportunity to venture out into Denver and beyond. 

One of our first adventures was going into downtown Denver, to the 16th Street Mall, a beautiful street lined with shops and street musicians playing anything from bagpipes to djembe, guitar to trumpet.  After visiting the mall with the Team Leaders (TLs), a small group of us wandered back on our first weekend. 

While we originally ventured in to capture the essence of the mall with cameras, the small group of four of us easily got distracted by an amazing book store (Tattered Cover Book Store) and each others company while we sipped Starbucks coffee. 

The next week (the beginning of this week) we got to learn all the safety about the fifteen passenger vans and we got to learn how to drive them, by going on a five-hour road-trip through Denver and the surrounding mountains.  On this adventure, we stopped for lunch at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. 

To find out that this was carved out by the original CCC back during the Great Depression made the view and landscape even more amazing.  From the top of the amphitheatre, you could see the distant city of Denver, while around you was the beginnings of the Rocky Mountains. 

After riding for hours, we were all glad to return back to campus, even if we were not too excited about classroom training and experience. 

Our next adventure took us out to Boulder, Colorado for Unit Physical Training.  It started with some casual walking and shopping down the Peal Street Mall (much like the 16th Street Mall, but with more hippies and hikers of all kinds).  Next we headed through Colorado University and onto the slopes of yet another mountain.

After being given two hours to hike and explore what the park had to offer (don’t remember the park’s name), almost everyone jumped onto the trail and headed up as far as we could go before having to turn and come back down. 

After booking it up the first couple hills, I caught up with a small group of fellow CMs and we started to head up a path that none of the others followed.  Our goal was to get to the highest part possible in our given time.  So we hit the 3rd Flatiron Climbing Access, where we promptly lost the trail and decided to continue to travel in an upward path. 

So, we climbed up rocks, not really thinking about coming back down, and got up the side of the mountain, where we hit the crest and looked over to the other side.  The view was amazing, but short-lived due to us having to be back at the vans. 

On the decent down, we found the trail and safely managed to make it down the rock face.  While we barely knew each other when we began, the four of us got to know each other a little more and share the experience of a lifetime. 

Hopefully, we will eventually make it back there, or to some other adventure.  There is talk about a possible trip to the Garden of the Gods or into the Rocky Mountains.  Whether or not that happens in the next few weeks, we’ll see. 

Though we have been able to explore the surrounding areas of Denver, we were still bombarded with classroom training, meetings and other important information.  All of us were excited this morning as we embarked on our first service project as the NCCC class 17. 

At 7:15 this morning we all piled into our temporary team vans and made our way across Denver to Cedar Creek Park, where we met up with the team from Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC).  After a short and rushed briefing due to a number of the vans missing the turn, the 320 members of AmeriCorps NCCC were bombarded by about 600 6th grade students.  After braking up into teams, each CM or TL was in charge of two middle school students. 

The group that I was with got to be Thrashers.  Our job was to go out into one of the fields and attack the Mowen that was invading the natural habitat.  In groups of three or four, we cut off the top which contained the seeds, threw that in a large garbage bag, then hacked the bottom of the stem off near the base. 

While most of the kids were well behaved, some of them were a little more difficult to handle and required a little more direction and supervision.  In the end, we cleared a massive amount of Mowen from the area, something the kids could actually see firsthand. 

After lunch, the middle schoolers headed back to school, and all 300+ CMs and TLs attacked the last bit of the trail that the second group was working on.  After moving hundreds of wheelbarrow loads and thousands of buckets of dirt down the trail, we dumped the loads onto the trail, where other CMs and TLs smoothed them out, covering the black mesh tarp and creating a crest in the middle of the path.  Others then pounded the area down to compress the gravel together and create an area of well preserved trail. 

While many members may complain about the amount of classes and trainings we go through, each one is preparing us for something greater than ourselves.  We are learning more than safety and rules, but commitment and a dedication to whatever we end up doing in life. 

These little opportunities are adventures that stand out like caerns on our path, great things that we will remember long after our ten months of service are over. 

God Bless and PEACE

Zombie Faith

I have some amazing friends.  As part of their Advanced Topics Seminar for Film Production, they got the opportunity to create and film an informational video of their choosing (well, sort of).  After a surprising turn of events, the three groups got their assignment, create videos to instruct you on how to survive the apocalypse.  Each group has a different scenario, but the three scenarios are as follows: Machine Uprising, Nuclear Winter, and Zombie Infestation.  My good friends, Micah, Christina and Ian are part of the group researching and filming the “How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse”  (read from the beginning at Micah’s Blog, starting with this entry).

After a spectacular first day of filming, one of the volunteer zombie actresses made a video interview about the effects of being a zombie on her social life.  While it is a cute little video, it got me thinking:  How many people are walking around with dead faith?

In our religious circles we talk of people whom are spiritually lost.  We call them dead.  Sometimes we consider them dead.  They don’t have the faith that we have, so we ignore them and just continue walking. 

Other people find this faith that we have and for a while they burn with the passion for our Lord and Savior.  Then the world turns on them and the fires fade.  They no longer live like they used to.  They still have their faith, but they don’t live it  out.  They seem to stop living all together. 

Both scenarios are cases of dead faith.  A faith that was never brought to life and a faith that faded from existence.  Our world is full of them.  We see these stories in our schools and communities.  We see them in the broken that live on the streets and those that we call friends.  We see these stories in our cities and in our churches.  In others and in ourselves. 

And with a fiery passion, we scream at God, “Whos fault is this, that they are walking dead.  Where is the faith!?”  And then we look at our own lives. 

God gave us a fire and told us to share it with the world.  We read books about how to spread God’s love and we get into debates about how the Church should be structured.  We argue over petty differences between traditions and we shout out against injustice.  But our actions speak louder than our words. 

And we realize that many times, our actions are silent.  Our fire doesn’t spread because we do not share it.  Our faith is dead without works. 

We look at others like they are the walking dead, those without faith and those with a faith that has faded, but when we examine ourselves, sometimes we will find that our faith is dying also. 

Our faith calls us into action.  It stirs our souls into something so much more.  It brings us life, so that we may live to the fullest.  Do not become the living dead.  Do not lose the passion and fire that has been gifted to you from a holy God.  Take your flame, this fire from the Lord, and spread it to the edges of the world and beyond. 

God Bless and PEACE


In CTI (basically training for AmeriCorps NCCC) today, the Unit Leader for the Sun Unit, Vaughn Cottman, was talking about those that are home sick and the will-power to fight through and see what happens instead of giving in.  One of the small comments that he made in this little speech was “Home will always be there.”  Given in context, he was saying that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for some people, and home will be there when we finish or if we decide to leave the program (which I hope nobody does). 

This got me thinking.  What is home? 

As an Army Brat, I traveled across country every two to two and a half years.  Moving from state to state, changing schools and meeting new friends.  It was, and still is, both a blessing and a curse. 

When my father retired from the Army, our family stayed just outside Washington, D.C., where I spent the longest time in one place.  For the past eight years, my parents have lived in the same house.  I spent four full years there, going to high school and then another four years at school in Anderson, SC. 

For me, I call Virginia ‘home’ because that is where my family is.  I have nothing that really ties me down there, besides them.  My friends have moved away or drifted out of touch. 

I consider Anderson University ‘home’ because of the community that I was part of, the strong group of guys and the amazing fellowship of believers that surrounded me and still support me. 

Though I have family in Northern Virginia and community in South Carolina, sometimes I feel as if God has called me to something more. 

Then a teacher of the law came to him [Jesus] and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

 – Matthew 8:19-20

Not all of us are called to settle down and create a home.  When God calls us to serve, he calls us out of our comforts of a home and onto the road of life, where many travel for years, never settling down to rest their heads. 

Home is more than a place with a roof over your head.  It is more than a physical shelter.

Home is where you belong.  It is a place you can go and be true to yourself and true to God.  Many times it is where family is.  Many times it is where you feel the safest.  Many times it is no longer a physical place, but something spiritual. 

I consider me being raised as an Army Brat, moving from one place to another, both a blessing and a curse.  It is a blessing because God has used that experience of constantly traveling to lead me closer to himself.  He has continued to allow me to travel across the states and across the world.  It is a curse because there are so many places that I feel I belong.  From N. Virginia with family to the people of Agule, Uganda to the community of believers at Anderson University to the road, constantly traveling and witnessing new glimpses of God. 

To say that I have no physical home would be a lie.  But if home is where the heart is, I doubt that I will ever settle down, but constantly following the path laid before me by God. 

God Bless and PEACE

Life, Plans, and God

It’s been crazy these past two and a half weeks.  After departing Athens, GA, I headed up through Tennessee and Kentucky, followed the Mississippi up, then cut across Missouri and followed the Missouri River into the Dakotas before finally arriving in Minot, ND.  After three full days of driving, I was finally able to get some thoughts processed, get some alone time with just me and God, and view some amazing scenery across the upper Mid-West.

It was good to be able to spend time with my sister and brother-in-law a little bit before the rest of the family got in and the chaos began.  Between bowling with my sister and brother, killing Russians (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2) with the brother-in-law, repairing a broken fence with my dad, shopping with my mother and trying to unclog pipes and prepare a cook-out at the same time, I was able to relax a little bit before heading out to Denver, CO.

After a night of hanging out with everyone, after everyone returned home or went to sleep, Matt (the brother-in-law) and I had a deep conversation.  We talked about life, about planning for the future, about jobs, serving, volunteering and finances. 

Though I will not get into everything we talked about, I will hit one major point that made me think really hard.  After asking what the future looked like, Matt asked (not exact wording) “What will you do if God’s plans fall through.”

That took me off guard. 

Unfortunately, this is the mindset of American Christians today –   “I’ll follow God till times get rough, then I’m jumpin’ off this train.” 

Following God’s plan for your life means following it when it looks good, and following it when it looks like everything is about to fall through.  We are afraid of falling. 

We want the American Dream more than we want to follow God.  We want to play it safe.  We want money in the bank account so that we don’t fall into debt.  We want to retire.  We want a God who is safer than we are.

The God that I follow is none of these.  The God of Jacob, Issac, Abraham, Stephan and the rest of the followers of Christ is none of these.  God is anything but safe, especially in this life. 

Following God is dangerous.  You may go hungry.  You may be persecuted.  You may not have a place to call home.  You may sacrifice everything to gain even more. 

Our sacrifice is nothing.  We give, but does it hurt?  We still have money in our accounts.  We share, but we keep enough to get by (comfortably).  We sacrifice, but we are still breathing the same breath that we were before. 

Stop living the same life as before.  When following God, we change, we become new and we are called to give everything we are to share the Gospel.  We share it in the way we talk, in how we act, and in our sacrifices.  If we do not sacrifice everything we are, our very lives to God, then we are not giving everything we can to God.  We are cheating God.

I do not want to play it safe anymore… 

God Bless and PEACE