Sunday, November 27, 2011

VERSE- brothers and sisters in Christ

Proverbs 17:17
"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."

There is nothing more important to the Lord than love. As teenagers, we witness and experience the lack of love every day. It seems as if sometimes, there is anything but love for one another. Inadvertently we turn to jealousy, anger, disrespect, and hate as small conflicts come up in our daily lives, often using profanity and vulgar humor instead of encouraging and loving words. There are many, many passages in the bible that talk about loving your neighbor as yourself. The hard part is not necessarily loving your friends and family, but the strangers you don't know and the "enemies" you don't get along well with as well.

I was blessed enough a few weeks ago to be able to go to Saranac Village for Fall Weekend, along with forty-ish other high schoolers from our local Young Life group. Thinking back on the whole experience, I realize the thing that made the trip so memorable was not all the fun things that we did, but the fact that I was able to spend a solid three days with a group of awesome people. I got closer to the people I didn't talk to much, I strengthened relationships I already had, and I talked and understood more about people that I saw on a daily basis but never had quality time to really share together. They were truly my friends, always loving and always supportive. The act of worshiping God together, as a group, bonded us in a way that I never want to lose. We spent so much time together doing everything, including eating and sleeping that for those precious few hours I could see us as a real family in Christ, not related by blood by through our common acceptance and belief in Jesus our Savior. I was always safe in their presence, as secure and comfortable as if I were living with my own family.

I saw this especially with the guys that we shared a cabin with. Aside from me, there were 9 other seniors, 3 great leaders, and 6 underclassmen that made it the best weekend of my life. When we came together at night we would talk and share our thoughts without fear of being judged. All of us knew that if we had something troubling us, we could talk to one another. All of us knew that if there came a need, we would support each other through thick and thin. Having that close, tight bond for the days we spent at Saranac was worth more than anything I could imagine. I'm beginning to understand a bit more about God's purpose in creating us. He wants us to be together, to worship and pray together. As humans we weren't made to exist alone, but to seek each other out and build relationships, relationships that are enhanced by our devotion to God.

Now that I'm back, I have a deep desire to go back to Saranac, to experience again the times I simply walked around or sat down and talked with my friends. "A brother is born for adversity," Proverbs 17:17 says. It's hard to transition back into my old life, but reassuring to remember that if anything comes up, I can lean on my brothers for help. I want to surround myself with people who will keep my accountable, who lift God up through their actions. They're not perfect people, certainly, just as I'm not perfect and no one on the planet is perfect. But having God's love in them is good enough. I may feel sad and lonely and detached from the people I spent an awesome Fall Weekend with as time distances us, but I can remember that we are still brothers and sisters in Christ. I don't remember the exact moment, but there was one time during club that I distinctly remember feeling especially emotional about it. We were sitting down and singing, and I just took that moment to look around me, at all the joyous faces and familiar voices... people I felt a deep and powerful connection to after sharing just a few days together. And I realized- these were the people I would be spending eternity with. These people were my family. I don't ever have to feel sad because I know in the end, I'll be able to sing and spend my days like I did at Saranac- with a family of people that I trust and love.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Turkey Day 2011!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!! I would first like to say that I'm thankful for so many things in my life. My friends and family of course, and my brother (who I'm spending break with), but also for chocolate, sleep, cool morning fresh air, a keyboard, refrigerators, clean clothes, good music, and the ability to take a hot shower. I'm so grateful to have a few days off dedicated to relaxing and doing nothing. It's the little things that make break so awesome- having an ice-cold mountain dew in my brother's fridge to drink at night, comfortable t-shirt and sweatpants to change into it, hanging around the lounge and being able to play Foosball and pool, Raisin Bran for breakfast, a warm bed to fall into and sleep any time of the day, and just time to spend with family. God is so amazing to impart these blessings to each and everyone of us. Though at times they may seem mundane and common, they are really the things to be cherished. Take a moment today to reflect and feel like the luckiest person alive- because you really are- and then enjoy the day and fall asleep eating some good turkey!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dubstep- What Is It?

Whenever people ask me, "What the heck is dubstep?" I simply smile and shake my head. Without a word, I lead them to the closest computer and look up Skrillex or Nero or Mt Eden. If a computer's not available, I take out my ipod and hand them the headphones so they can experience the music for themselves. There's no other way to relate the experience. Any description I give them is useless. The definition I can think of for dubstep is "a genre of electronic music that makes heavy use of synthesizers, wobble bass, intense drum patterns, huge drops, keyboard, and unconventional sounds." But if you've never heard dubstep before, that doesn't really make sense- I might as well go with the above picture and say that dubstep sounds like armored tyrannosaurus rexes shooting laser beams through Cretaceous forests. Yeah. I encourage you to listen for yourself though- below are only two songs out of many. (When listening, keep staring at the picture above and comment on close you think it comes to capturing the music!)

It's a pretty jarring genre of music, but in a cool sort of way. It took me a while to get used to it, and even now I have specific preferences. There are a TON of artists and dubstep songs out there, so don't give up on the first few songs if you find them unappealing. Here's one of my recent favorites, a softer form of dubstep that ingeniously combines piano and dubstep.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Double digits in weekly challenges! Let me take this opportunity to recap- I came up with the idea of doing these "Weekly Challenges" a month or two ago as a way to interact more with you, the reader. I figured if you're taking the time to read my posts, you're 1) a pretty interesting person yourself, with good taste in pictures, music, or videos to have stumbled across my blog 2) a fellow blogger 3) one of the other billion teenagers in the world. Whatever the reason, I want YOU to suggest a blog topic for ME to write about! And I'm not just being lazy in thinking of what else to write (I have huge list of unwritten topics at the moment), I honestly want to hear from some of you people out there and the experiences you've had. The "challenge" part is just an additional question I throw out there to make it seem more worthwhile- if you send me a blog topic without an answer I'll still gladly write about it. (If it gets to the point where my blog becomes a universal sensation and everyone is swamping me with responses, THEN I'll use the trivia to sort out the responses I'll use. I think I'm safe for now though).

Anyways, I recently finished all my college applications so I have lots more time. I just came back from the best weekend of my life. I'm getting back into the swing of things and I'm excited to be back and writing.

I think it's really interesting how colleges across the nations have changed their applications from long essays to much shorter response limits. For me, there's good and bad in both. For long essays, you have to worry a lot about organization, theme, structure, and the sheer volume that you have to proofread. Shorter essays may seem easier at first glance, but quality and creativity become much more important: short, concise, to-the-point statements need to be balanced well with the imagery and anecdotes and literary techniques that can fill up a longer essay. I'm very satisfied with the college app supplements I sent out, but it was during all the reworking and chiseling and remodeling my responses that made me think how much effort and time goes into writing a short piece. The famous quote goes, "Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte," or translated, "I would not have made this so long except because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter." (I'm glad six-and-a-half years of French education was not wasted on me, thank you Madame Hession!)

-Who was the original speaker of the quote, "I would not have made this so long except because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter?" (written in a letter to a friend)
-Answer and suggest a blog topic in the comments below, or email me at!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Greatest Weekend of My Life

People are always exaggerating in their speech- "That was the best cheeseburger ever!" "That was the best day of my life." "You saw that movie too? It was the best!" And so when I heard my friends from Young Life talk about going to the annual Fall Weekend camp and it being the best weekend of their lives, I always assumed it was just an exaggeration of speech. What could happen in two or three days that would really be life-changing and make it the BEST weekend of their lives? It must be just a really awesome, fun-filled trip, I thought.

Of course, until I went on it myself. It's one of those things you have to experience to believe. I literally just came home four hours ago from the Fall Weekend trip, having spent three nights at Saranac Village where the Young Life camp is located. The lake is right nearby and the cabins, though extremely nice, are dwarfed by the beauty of the trees and the rocks and the dirt paths and the Adirondack pine-infused air. I've been camping before a couple of times, but this was just different in all respects. There were about four to five hundred high schoolers at the camp, split between cabins and grouped by the areas they came from. At any given moment there was always something fun going on between the Game Room and the Club Room and the gym and the trails and the store and the hot-tub and the cabins and the lake, something exciting in the air emanating from all the high schoolers and their awesome leaders. Time was structured well- it wasn't a camping experience where the kids were just left there on their own for two or three days. It was a rotation between free time (which ranged from twenty minutes to an hour or two), meals, cabin time, crazy fun activities, and club- the congregation of everyone in the camp for passionate music and worship, hilarious skits, powerful messages/lessons, and all-around good fun to start things off. I don't want to spoil anything but it's beyond anything you can imagine (five contestants from the crowd were pied in the face within the first half hour of club Thursday night. And even then, though pieing makes everything better, it was tame in comparison to the things and competitions we had later on).

For club, we were all put into one enormous cabin, complete with a stage where things took place. I really gained a lot from the talks we listened to from Max, our speaker, who led us to the Bible and the Truth while telling us entertaining stories about his own life. The truth that was shared with us was that as humans, we're all people that are broken with sin. But as he talked throughout the days about Jesus healing people and saving them and giving them life from leprosy and fateful death, the execution of Jesus and his Resurrection, and his mission to give us life and forgiveness, I was able to get a better look at myself and my life.

My favorite talk was the one about chapter 5 in John. Near Jerusalem was a pool of water, where the blind, lame, and paralyzed are left hanging around and hoping that one day when the water stirs, they will be able to jump in first and be healed. With nothing left in their lives and no one to care for them, the disabled people there place all their hopes and lives into the pool, which in reality does nothing to heal them. Jesus comes in and doesn't even acknowledge the pool in the passage. He asks a man who had been lying there for 38 years, "Do you want to get well?" When the man responds yes, Jesus simply says "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk," and the man was healed. Max talked us through the story and related it to our lives as high schoolers, as adults, as humans in any point in our lives. Very often we place our hopes into these "pools," aspects of our life that we believe will give us satisfaction and healing when in reality they do not. For me, this would be music, sports, academics, relationships with others, and just about everything that a high schooler  deals with during their life. But like in the story, these "pools" do not heal us. They don't help us achieve God. They don't help us from our brokenness. Only our relationship with Jesus and his miraculous healing will give us what we need to live. That concept was hard to swallow.

Max had to explain that those things we do, schoolwork and extracurriculars and time with people, aren't necessarily bad. In fact, many of the things that we do are worthwhile and really great. But the important part was to understand the places they hold in our lives. These things shouldn't become our entire lives, the things we go to to feel good, the things we turn to for help and encouragement. They should come second to Jesus. And that really struck a chord within me. As a senior I had been stressing over applications and my future and which college I would get into. Hearing that message and story made me realize that if I place all my life and all my faith into Jesus, he'll take care of the rest. The other things that I do, the "pools" I sometimes dive into to seek fulfillment, really do nothing to help me without God. And Jesus, he's right there for me. In the story, Jesus walks up to the man and asks him if he wants to get well. Like that man, I want to get well. Before Fall Weekend I had been distracted- and I mean, horribly distracted, by just life in general. Soccer, college essays, fights with parents, whatever... everything but God seemed to find a way into my life. Having a few days to forget all of that, to have the most fun I've had in several years, and to be in the presence of such amazing people, was like a fresh breath of air. It was a relaxing break from life that I really needed. At one point I took a walk by myself through the trails to a spot where I could sit and look out into the lake, moved by an emotion within me to get away from everything and to find some quiet. Having time to be truly alone with God was a great blessing, and that time sitting on that rock was one of my highlights of the trip.

And the way I see it, everything about being at Sarance Village was a blessing. Some of it was pure fun for the purpose of having fun, but still important to clear my mind of all the junk I've had prior to the trip. It's also just a time to unwind, a few days of carefree-ness that I'm so grateful for now. And to top it off, I almost wasn't able to go to Fall Weekend. I had signed up late to a packed cabin and was one spot off from being able to make it. The day our area departed for camp, I was told that someone called in sick and that I would be able to take his place. I packed within the hour and was able to go meet up with everyone else.

And so it was just amazing. After a LOT of thought and consideration, during the night when I lay in my bunk, during the peaceful alone-time I had with myself in the woods, during the ride back, and during my first few hours back from the whole trip, I can honestly say that it's been the best weekend of my life. I can't remember any stretch of two to three days where I've had more fun. I can't remember any stretch of two to three days where I've had more meaningful conversation with my friends and leaders. I'm not saying that going to Fall Weekend with Young Life was life-changing, or that sitting on that rock looking out into the lake gave me a "lightning bolt to the head" experience, but that it was simply a good and pure time.

There's so much I would like to describe about the rest of the camp that I can't possibly hope to fit in. Meals were delicious, the kitchen staff really outdoing themselves in preparing us such a variety of great food. The Game Room was always a frenzy of foosball, Saranac Ball (an unconventional but addicting game played on a pool table), ping pong, and shuffle board. And of course, who can forget Deathack? That game deserves a post of its own. We played it until we dropped from exhaustion, then got up and played some more. It was awesome.

But all in all, I truly believe that the experience was as good as it was because of the PEOPLE that were there. I was in such good company throughout the trip that I can't even describe my feelings of gratitude and love for them. The guys in my cabin room, the eighteen other guys from my school, the leaders of our area Young Life... it was absolutely amazing being able to spend such quality time together. And everywhere I went, being with my brothers and sisters in Christ. It was such a comforting and secure atmosphere that I wish I could spend the rest of my life there, with those people.  I remember playing foosball with people I've never met before and chatting with random people in the trails. Everything felt close and connected because we were all there for the same purpose. I have to give credit to the leaders and directors of the camp as well. They made club fun and memorable. My two leaders were both parts of skits and performances, and watching them onstage was both exciting and inspiring. Getting to see my friend Irish step dance and cat daddy onstage was priceless. And of course, the 80's in the dance party we had was a million times better when I was grooving it out with my friends.

There are so many moments I want to cherish. Pieces of them fly out at me as I try to revisit the whole weekend in its entirety. Hot tub, water bending, shaving cream, cookie pieces, leprechauns, lobby, deathack, singing, four-chord song, sodypop, naptime, sunrise, zombie!, blow dart, moose moose moose, ewok, conch, single fist, 'Alec don't let go!', spartans... all of them shared with these awesome friends and leaders I got to bond with during an entire weekend. Being with the guys I roomed with even made things like car rides, sleeping, and eating fun. Good company makes anything infinitely better, I can tell you that. And as I look back, I realize something else. God clearly called and led me to Saranac this weekend, to have such an amazing and unforgettable experience. It was because of His company, and His company alone, that truly made these past few days the best weekend of my life.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tossing Back a Starfish

It's so often that we look out into the world and feel dwarfed by the magnitude of the life and the seemingly insignificance of all our actions. I love this story because it reminds us not to lose faith in the small actions that we all go about every single day. We must never underestimate what a simple "thank you" or gesture can make in someone else's day. Did you hold the door open for a random stranger? Smile at someone who looked depressed or needed cheering up? Spent five minutes helping a friend with homework? Complimented someone for something you noticed about them that day? Or my favorite, offered someone a piece of gum? Yes, I was on the receiving end of that piece of gum the other day and I was just kind of taken by surprise. Usually it's always "that was my last piece!" or "I got this from someone else," but this person out of nowhere turned around, smiled, and offered me a piece of gum.

Usually it's the small things like that that really makes a person stand out to me. It doesn't even matter if they're conscious of doing it, they're making a difference with their attitude and actions. They may think it's insignificant, but it may mean the world to someone else. I actually want to go to a beach some time and spend some time picking up starfish and throwing them back, to know what it really feels like. I can only imagine the starfish would be pretty happy and look something like this:
Also check out this link, it's fun alteration of the same story and well-drawn. The last two boxes are awesome.