Julie has recently joined Pinterest. Of all the social networking groups for which I have joined, this one has managed to elude me. I will go on the record as admitting that I was not aware Pinterest even existed until last week. I know, I have no right to refer to myself as a blogger. I am the bottom of the barrel when it comes to properly informed bloggers and deserve to be shunned from the entire blogosphere. In case you were in the dark like me, here is a short synopsis of what Pinterest is. Apparently it is a site where you ‘pin’ things you find interesting. It’s kind of like a social networking bulletin board. You pin an item that you like and your friends can view it. If they like it they can pin it and have their friends view it and so on. Everything you can imagine is pinned on Pinterest. There are recipes, decorating ideas, cars, people, etc.
The social networking world is growing by leaps and bounds. I remember when it was a big deal to have a MySpace account. Facebook quickly eclipsed MySpace and opened the doors to a whole new genre of social networking. We now have Twitter, YouTube, Digg, chime.in, Delicious, foursquare, Linkedin, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and so on.
There is even a site named Klout that grades you on how well you network. My current grade is 52.25 which means that I influence 654 other people. The grade may seem low but it is actually a good score; some blogging jobs require a Klout score of at least 30. It is an indicator that I am no novice when it comes to the social networking world. Klout has posted this information about me based on my score; “You are a Specialist. You may not be a celebrity, but within your area of expertise your opinion is second to none. Your content is likely focused around a specific topic or industry with a focused, highly-engaged audience.” Wow, my opinion is second to none. I’m not so sure that is accurate but it sure makes me feel good about myself. I wonder how my score will be affected when my book is published or if I decide to join Pinterest…
The media world has become overloaded with social networking options. You have people out there like me who are attempting to make names for themselves and then you have others who just want to connect with old friends and keep everyone up to date with all that is going on in their lives. I’m not sure I’m quite ready for Pinterest – my plate is already pretty full in working a full time job, raising a family, writing two books, running an internet business, writing interesting blogs and maintaining a semblance of real social life. I’m sure I will be pinning things someday though. I’m too addicted to technology to think otherwise. What about you? Do you have an interest in Pinterest?
The year was 1999; yes one year before Y2K destroyed all media from the face of the planet. Julie and I were newlyweds and had been preparing to embark upon a 3 month service mission trip to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. My best friend Robby George had planned an epic going away party for which he had invited many of my close friends. Robby and another close friend named Zach Davis were renting an apartment in Nashville, TN. Julie and I stayed the night at the apartment before flying out the next day.
The apartment was loaded with friends and food. Do you know what I spent most of my time doing? If you guessed that I spent it talking with my friends and socializing, you are absolutely wrong. I am an extrovert and I do love people, but I had an addiction. I guess you could say I was ahead of the times because I had a media addiction. Robby had some type of video game system and I was glued to it for much of the night. The party was for me and Julie and most of the people attending were my friends but I was more concerned with the game. To be honest I don’t remember what game I was playing but it had my attention at the time. I could give a list of reasons as to why I was locked on the game: I was nervous about spending three months in a third world country, I figured it would be my last chance to play a game for a long time or I didn’t like saying goodbye. All of that was true but none really covered why I was playing a video game instead of hobnobbing. The truth is that I am a media addict.
In 1999 you could easily pick out media addicts like me. We were the guys who bought computers for more than business purposes. We actually used email, chat rooms and played video games. We carried cellular phones and talked on them with friends who carried cellular phones. We were constantly glued to some type of screen whether it was a television set or a computer monitor. We were geeks.
In 2012 it’s not so easy to identify media addicts because almost everyone has become one. People no longer greet one another on the street. They are too busy reading the status update from someone they attended high school with but honestly can’t remember. We no longer use cellular phones, we use smart phones and we don’t just talk to people, we email, Facebook, text, watch movies or just shout commands out to Siri. We have all become geeks because we are on a media overload. We don’t recognize this phenomenon because we are all addicts. It would be hard to pick out an alcoholic if everyone was an alcoholic. It was easy to see that I was a media addict in 1999, but if it was today and I was texting or chatting, no one would even bat an eye.
I know I am an addict and have therefore limited myself dramatically. I don’t have a texting package or carry a Smartphone/iPhone. It’s not because I am a technological dinosaur, I want to fight my addiction to technology. I think human interaction is important and we are quickly losing our grasp on true connectivity. I’m not anti-technology – I’m a blogger so that should be obvious. I am against media addiction though. I am reminded of the Hulu Plus commercials where they say they have an evil plot to take over the world by providing unlimited television and movies. They are admitting that society is addicted to media. It has become common place to be in a conversation with someone, hear their phone vibrate and see them take their focus off you to read and answer a text. It’s become so commonplace that we think nothing about what would have once been a rude interruption. Take it from an addict; we don’t want to continue down this road.
When was the last time you enjoyed a sunset? I saw a beautiful sunset last night while driving my family to a local restaurant for dinner. I didn’t take time to enjoy a sunset; I merely noticed it while multitasking during my busy schedule. If I had time I could have taken a photo of it and uploaded it to Instagram or Flikr. (I do carry and iPod Touch so that I can stay somewhat relevant.) The fact I know that proves that I am a media addict. The thing is that I don’t take time to enjoy the sunset or sunrise because I am so busy. Don’t fall for the lie that media frees up time because it’s just not true. It helps us cram more stuff into our day and we sacrifice enjoying the simple things in live. One day soon, put down your phone, make some tea and sit on your front porch with your significant other or best friend. Take some time to be human.
Do you ever stop to think about air? Are you thankful for oxygen? Humanity is sometimes so complicated but yet so simple. The other night I awoke gasping for air. I don’t have a history of sleep dysfunction but suffered some type of sleep apnea two nights ago. It was much worse than being awakened by a nightmare because it was real. I felt as though my lungs had been completely drained of oxygen and I was drowning. I gasped and inhaled as quickly as possible. It was extremely frightening but it reminded me of one simple truth: I can’t live without oxygen.
There are many things we think we can’t live without but we all know that there are only a few things we absolutely need to survive: oxygen, clean water, food and shelter. There are more things one may need depending upon the climate but these are the essentials. You can’t survive without food, water and air – it’s impossible. Of the three, oxygen is the most vital. A human being can only survive a few minutes without oxygen, it is extremely crucial. Although you can’t smell, see, hear, feel or taste oxygen, you know it is there. You can also tell when it is absent from the environment. Your body will quickly inform you of the anomaly. Think about when you go swimming and you stay under for just a little longer than you planned. It’s almost as if you start to go into some type of shock as you panic to reach the surface. The invisible element is perplexing in many ways and yet the most important resource for the human body.
If you guessed I was going to mention God, you were correct. Get yourself a cookie as your reward. Many will say that God can’t be felt, heard, or seen, so He doesn’t exist. (I actually disagree with this because I have heard from God, felt his presence and witnessed Him in a variety of ways.) Because of this they will conclude that He does not exist. We could say the same about oxygen. Sometimes people will say you can feel air when the wind blows, but you can actually feel the effects of the air but not air itself. We can also feel the effects of God but people will still dismiss Him. Whether or not you admit it, we need God to survive. Just as our physical body will die without air, our spiritual body will die without God. A baby is not aware of oxygen or his need to breathe while he is in his mother’s womb. He is surrounded by his mother’s placenta and feed directly from her. When he is born, however, he suddenly realizes his need for oxygen. He may not know the name, but he is aware it exists.
Before you submit your life to God, you may not be able to recognize His existence. You may question it and not see any need for Him in your life. But much like the baby being born, when you give your life over to Jesus Christ you suddenly are aware that God does indeed exist. You become aware of your need for Him and you are spiritually fed. I think this is why it is so difficult to explain God to unbelievers; they won’t recognize Him until they are ‘reborn.’ They must first admit they need God in their lives before they are able to experience Him. It first takes a step of faith and then God reveals Himself to us. This is why many people used to refer to living for God as being ‘born again.’ When you submit your life to God, something changes and like the newborn baby you become aware of your need for spiritual oxygen – God.
Have you ever thought about your need for air?
Contrary to popular belief, bunnies cannot magically lay chocolate filled eggs in the spring. Bunnies don’t even lay eggs, chickens do but it seems that bunnies get all the credit for the chicken’s hard work. When I was young children were coaxed into believing that a bunny laid hard boiled, colored eggs, carried them in a basket and hid them all over the yard. Because of their dedication to making my childhood great, I want to thank the chickens. They don’t get nearly as much business these days since hard boiled eggs were replaced by non-biodegradable environment unfriendly plastic eggs but they are still important in my book. You see the bunny got all the credit but the chicken did all the work… I can picture the chicken sweat shops in some third world country. The poor chickens worked in harsh conditions and are underpaid with small rations of stale corn. They cranked out egg after egg after egg. Some of the chickens managed to hide eggs and hatch chicks. Those baby chicks were then added to the employment line and required to clean shop until they were old enough to produce eggs on their own. The eggs were taken from the factory and shipped to other countries where skilled laborers boiled and painted them in bright colors. All the eggs were then shipped to the special bunnies who masqueraded as the Easter Bunny. They drove around in brown trucks and made deliveries to people’s yards. Kids found the eggs but gave all the credit to the Easter Bunny. I want to go on record as saying thank you to all the chickens in the world. Your dedication has not been overlooked and I appreciate you.
These days parents use the plastic eggs and fill them with chocolate. The chickens have earned a well deserved break but children are just getting fatter. When I was a kid, the egg with the chocolate was the prize egg. My cousins and I would scour my grandparent’s yard in search of the golden egg. My granddad was the bunny in our family and an expert egg hider. I’m not sure if there is a course in how to properly hide eggs or if that was part of his training in the Navy, but he was an expert. I’m pretty sure he had a black belt in hiding eggs. He kept a list of the number of eggs he had hid and when we finished he would count to see how many we missed. He would then go in search of the missing eggs and would have difficulty finding the eggs he had hidden. I remember that we found an egg one year and he was certain he had not hid an egg in that location. We came to realize that the egg in question had been hid the prior year. He was that good.
We all enjoyed eating our hard boiled eggs but we all wanted the special egg. Each of us wanted the prize egg. I think my grandmom gave all of us some type of consolation prize so we didn’t cry when we realized the egg had been found but the prize egg was always special. Memories are special and I cherish those times I spent with my family. I miss those days at times and sometimes wish I could time travel back to a day and experience it all over again. Since I can’t I create new ones with my children and hope they will one day cherish their memories as strongly as I cherish mine.
What memories do you cherish?
I going to rock some boats in the corporate world by making this statement but go ahead and call me a radical. Sling some mud my way because I am going to take a stand and go on the record stating that I am not a fan of SMART goals. There, I said it and now we can watch as the world stops spinning and the sun ceases to shine. Let me define my point by telling you my story. It’s a simple story with humble beginnings about a man and his dog… (Okay, I’m not going to mention a dog but I couldn’t resist penning that line.)
I didn’t set any New Year’s resolutions this year. Did you hear me? I didn’t make a single New Year’s resolution. I realize that my not making a New Year’s resolution probably disrupted the whole space/time continuum and Mary McFly is most likely trapped in 1955 but I didn’t do it just the same. Here is what I came to realize; I have a very negative outlook on New Year’s resolutions. We all know the drill: When a New Year starts you make a goal to lose weight, exercise, eat right, work harder, spend more time with your family, and stop pulling your cat’s tail. We are told to create SMART goals so we can accomplish them. (SMART goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). We all know that we are doing great if those resolutions last a month. We start the year off with a negative perception on what we will accomplish because we plan to fail. Since I tend to look at New Year’s resolutions as a set up for failure, I didn’t make any.
What I did do was I began to lay out some simple goals in February. Goal 1: Join a Gym. (I didn’t lay out a long term plan of what joining the gym would look like, I just joined one.) Goal 2: Work out at the gym every day I can for 30 minutes or more. (Okay, I admit this one does kind of fit as a SMART goal but I still chose to keep it vague.) Goal 3: Meet with a personal trainer. Goal 4: Get fit and lose weight. I have been working on these goals but have not set a defined period of time because I want it to become my lifestyle. I can’t afford to always meet with a personal trainer, but I can afford to do so on occasion. I have worked out for three weeks, completed 4 sessions with a personal trainer and am off to a good start. Another goal that I just started is also simple. I am a protestant and don’t usually participate in LENT. This year I decided to give up beef during the time of LENT because I am a beef fanatic. I don’t really have any SMART goals as to why, but I think it will be good for my health. I plan on trying to do small things from time to time that will benefit my health.
As you see I am not against goals but I started the blog by stating that I don’t like SMART goals so let me explain. I have spent my entire career in the business world. I cannot tell you the number of seminars I have attended or how many times I have been instructed on SMART goals or something similar. I have been told over and over that you cannot succeed unless your goals are specific, laid out in a timely manner, and measurable. I have tried this practice on countless occasions and usually fail. Here’s the reason, I’m an ENFP and “ENFPs live in the world of exciting possibilities, the details of everyday life are seen as trivial drudgery. They place no importance on detailed, maintenance-type tasks, and will frequently remain oblivous to these types of concerns. When they do have to perform these tasks, they do not enjoy themselves. This is a challenging area of life for most ENFPs, and can be frustrating for ENFP's family members.” SMART goals go directly against my personality type. I don’t like for things to be concrete and set in stone. I don’t enjoy details or anything that requires I continually maintain it. To me a SMART goal is like a chain around my neck and it suffocates me.
I’m not saying SMART goals are bad. They are great for some people and others can’t live life without them. For me, however, they choke my ability to achieve my goals. Keeping things so strict confines me to succeeding in only one way. I can’t operate like that so I decided to give myself Simple goals. Simple isn’t an acronym for anything. It is what it says it is – simple. Last year I set a goal to publish a book. I thought I would have accomplished that goal by now. Almost every part of that goal has been reached but the final stages. Had I set a SMART goal, I would have become extremely frustrated by the fact that it had not happened when I planned. I would have possibly become so frustrated that I gave up on the project altogether. I didn’t give up and I am very close to seeing that goal fulfilled. I didn’t overburden myself with a list but I focused on the book and making it perfect. The goal is to publish the book, not create a great goal. I’ve decided to become a goal oriented person, but I have learned that my way of accomplishing those goals differs from the business example. There are and will be times that SMART goals will be beneficial, but I will focus on creating simple goals for my life.
How do you feel about SMART Goals?
Have you ever taken time to examine yourself? That may seem like a strange question, but I believe it is an important one. We often embark upon the rat race of life with no sense of direction and no understanding of what inspires us. We jump from one thing to the next trying to find what will make us happy. We often don’t understand others because we have yet to understand ourselves.
I recently took a personality quiz. I have taken several of these before, but this one really spoke to me. It told me that I am an ENFP (Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving). One site refers to my personality as “The Inspirer.” In reading the description I realized it was talking about me. I don’t think I could have sat a written a more clear description of whom I am than what was laid out before me. I began to realize some of my traits, my strengths and weaknesses. I began to understand how I am wired. I was described as warm, enthusiastic, and full of potential. I can become very passionate and excited about things and have enthusiasm that gives me the ability to inspire and motivate others. I can talk my way in or out of anything and I love life and strive to make the most out of it. I went on to learn that I am best suited to be a writer, actor, teacher, counselor, or entrepreneur. Those are the professions I lean toward. I love acting, have been a substitute teacher and youth Pastor, am a writer and have started my own business.
I have learned so much about myself because I have taken time to examine who I am. The next step is to learn more about those around me. In learning about my close family, friends and coworkers, I can be a better communicator. Teamwork happens when we learn to focus on our strengths and find others who can help us with our weaknesses. In the employment world it’s called utilizing your strengths and staffing your weaknesses. No matter what team you are on, you will be more successful if you first understand yourself and then those around you.
If you would like to learn more, you can visit the same site. It’s located at: http://www.personalitypage.com/html/home.shtml*
Gratitude: the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful. Grateful: warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful. Sometimes it takes loss to gain gratitude. I have been very sick over the last few days. Now that I am feeling better, I am grateful for things I previously took for granted. I am extremely thankful to have my health. I normally don’t think twice about being able to do whatever I please; I’m often too concerned with what I don’t have to even think about what I do have. There are so many things in which I should be grateful for. It’s times like this in which I take my focus off of what I want and see what I need.
The little things that typically irritate me are insignificant when I am more concerned with whether or not I will have enough strength to go to the bathroom. I’m no longer upset by the work appointment that was scheduled on a day I originally planned to take off nor am I upset by the chronic complainers in my life. I’m just happy to have the prospect to experience these growth opportunities. The things that often sidetrack us really don’t affect us when we are sick. I was laying in bed yesterday just hoping to get back to work. Returning to my occupation was a wonderful expectation in comparison to the dread I was experiencing. My perspective changed and I became grateful for the life I have.
Because I was so sick yesterday, I am still home today. I work for a hospital and we have a no fever for 24 hours policy, so I was unable to return to work today. I am feeling so much better though. My daughter Rachel is also home because we feared she was getting sick as well. I have concluded, however, that she just pulled a Ferris Bueller because she ate pancakes for breakfast and is now watching television. I’m waiting for her to ask to borrow the Ferrari. I don’t own a Ferrari, so it won’t really matter anyway. I’m not going to sit here and sulk because I don’t have a Ferrari. I will instead be grateful for my health. What do you take for granted?
I hate being sick. It's really not an enjoyable way to spend your weekend, especially when you had been planning to celebrate your birthday over the weekend. That has been my life this weekend, however. I had originally planned to get away somewhere warm and tropical for my birthday but decided to save the money for our family summer vacation. Second, I decided to get out and do something in St. Louis or somewhere closer and even scheduled myself off from work today. My wife and kids were already off because the school gets out for President's Day. Well I'm off and laying in bed with my computer in my lap. I've had a temperature of 100-101 over the last two days, had aches and pains and slept way more than normal. I've been sick to my stomach and experiencing headaches. This was not in my plans. I guess the upside is that I didn't need to take a sick day.
I think it's a great idea to make plans, but sometimes things just don't go the way we anticipated. I'm not laying in bed sulking. I'm just resting and looking forward to getting better. Yes, I had plans for this weekend, but I can reschedule them and do them later. It would have been a pretty miserable trip if I had gone on vacation while sick, so I'm glad that I did not go through with those original plans. I have been able to rest at my home and sleep in my own bed. Sure, things didn't go as planned, but it's not the end of the world. How do you handle life when things fall apart?
What would happen if a vampire bit a werewolf? What would happen if the reverse occurred? Would the bitten monster become a hybrid vampire/werewolf? What would one call a hybrid vampire/werewolf? Would it be a vampwolf, werepire or werevamp? Would it still be able to transform into a bat? Can vampires still transform into bats since they apparently no longer are killed by sunlight? Are those new LED headlights Audi has on their cars really as bright as the sun as portrayed in the Super Bowl commercial? How big does a solar flare need to be to totally wipe out all electricity on earth? Could I ever see myself driving an Audi? What if I was driving an Audi when a solar flare hit; would the LED headlights overpower the solar flare, thus protecting my car from thermal radiation? Why would I be driving with my headlights on during daytime in the first place?
This is a sample of how my brain works. I’m constantly jumping from one thing to the next. If you read my blogs you can see how this plays out in my life. One day I’m talking about the beach and relaxing and the next I’m talking about hell. One of my greatest weaknesses is maintaining focus. I love starting new projects but have a tremendous amount of trouble when it comes to finishing them. Another delightful project presents itself and I am tempted to abandon the current one. I've learned to maintain focus when needed but it's takes much effort.
Did I mention tomorrow is my birthday. Happy birthday to me! Feel free to wish me a happy birthday in the comments section. I will try to write a blog that makes sense again on Monday. =)
-Tim, the birthday boy.
The fires of hell were blazing hot and people were screaming. “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death,” read a voice over the speakers. It was a quote from the Bible: Revelation 21:8. I was just a small child and was attending a national gathering for the church I attended. I never told anyone this but that video terrified me. It was such a traumatic moment that the images remain with me to this day. I suffered with an immense fear of death and an unhealthy measure of self condemnation for years. It’s not all because of that one moment but much of it was because there was a propensity of trying to scare people into heaven in the 1980’s. Much of the Christian Church took the ‘hellfire and brimstone’ approach to convince people to come to Jesus. It was the ‘turn or burn’ philosophy.
In my opinion that philosophy is partly to blame for a rampant teaching in today’s church that says hell is not real. I think it’s more philosophical reasoning than Biblical interpretation. Many people who grew up with the scare tactics used to propagate Christianity have become obstinate to that approach. It was more of a turn off to Jesus Christ. God was portrayed as this big man sitting and watching us, hoping we would misstep so he could fling lightning bolts down upon us to make examples out of us. Society turned away from that message and began teaching the love message of God. We have taught so much about love that we decided hell or punishment can’t exist because a loving God would never allow it. Due to our philosophical conclusion, we have decided that hell doesn’t exist. Over 30 years we have gone from ‘hellfire and brimstone’ to hell doesn’t exist.
I think the message I received as an adolescent was wrong. It wasn’t good for me to see that video as a child and was probably not good for an adult to see. If they didn’t believe in God they would either serve Him out of fear or just scoff at the message altogether. If they were Christian, they would begin living their lives with the wrong goal in mind – to escape the lake of fire. Their lives would have become more about doing the ‘right’ things than about living for God. To say that hell does not exist is also wrong because it goes against what is taught in the Bible. Both messages stray from the real point of why Jesus came in the first place – to break us free from the grasp of sin and provide us a way to connect with God. Escaping hell is a bonus.
Here was the thinking in the 80’s – if someone did bad things they were going to hell. Many churches taught that even those who had accepted God’s grace would go to hell if they did not live up to His expectations. They may have sugarcoated it differently, but that was the theme of the message. The problem that arose was that people began to figure out that humanity is not perfect. Christians still told lies on occasion, cursed (gossip is a form of cursing by the way), despised others, or were selfish, prideful or envious. Pastors would preach that drinking and smoking were sinful but avoided the fact that they themselves were gluttons. What transpired was a hypocritical teaching: God hates sin except the sin of… What people began to realize was that if we obtained real estate in Heaven by works, there would be an abundance of unclaimed territory.
Next came the grace teaching: we are saved by God’s grace and washed clean of our sin. We may have once been liars or adulterers, but because of God’s grace those sins are covered. Even though we deal with sin, Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of going to hell. Here is where things began to lean the other direction. People began teaching that Jesus redeemed everyone from hell – not just those who believe in or have a relationship with him. The teaching went from one that pretty much condemned everyone to hell to one that freed everyone.
I don’t agree with either message. I do believe in grace, but I also believe that we must believe in Jesus Christ in order to obtain it. A very famous passage in the Bible states this, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16. Without writing a book on the subject I will put it this way. Jesus died for our sins and we need to ask Him to forgive us of our sins. My pastor puts it this way, “love Jesus with all your heart and then do as you please.” When we love Jesus, we want to live lives that please him; it pleases us to please him. Will we still fall? Yes, but our hearts will be set on doing what is right. This isn’t getting to heaven on our works; it’s our works lining up to what we desire – fulfilling God’s plan for our lives. When we love God, we love other people and do things to improve the world around us. When we love God we tell others about Him. When we love God we don’t need to constantly monitor our lives because our focus is on God and not on ourselves. Stop using fear tactics or false teachings that say it doesn’t matter what you believe because these rob people of the joy of serving God. Help get the real message out there - living a life for God is a blast!
Timothy J. McSwain
The Night Terror - When Day Ends, The Terror Begins By Timothy J. McSwain