Category Archives: My Journey

Coping skills.

Just though I’d share a quick update on some of the ways that i’ve been coping with the death of my friend, Ben Schone. For the past two years, I’ve been seeing a great therapist to help me grow as a person and to work through issues that I believe have held me back from being all I can be. Needless to say, I’ve really appreciated my time with him since this has all happened. I know my self well enough to understand that this definitely wasn’t going to be something that I was going to be able to just hide deep down inside and not deal with. I chose early on to confront my sadness head on and try to learn from what my emotions and pain could teach me. That being said, here are some of the ways that I’ve found effective in helping me honor my friends memory and move through my grieving process.

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First, I bought a pair of shoes that reminded me of him. Chuck Taylors. I was already considering buying a pair for the summer, but knew this would be a way for me to remember him daily as i got dressed and to say a prayer for his family, our friends, and to seek ways to honor his memory that day. 

Second was to listen to music that reminded me of him, and to check out music that I remember him wanting me to listen to. Ben was a huge Muse fan and so I’ve listened to more of their music. I’m also very excited  that Muse will be opening for U2 when i see them in concert in October in Atlanta. I look forward to enjoying my favorite band and his together in one great night of music. 

Last has been watching South Park. Although I have found bits and pieces of South Park funny in the past, I’ve also found it to be in bad taste from time to time and so never really became a fan. One of the things that I remember Schone doing was impersonations of characters from the show. In particular Cartman and Jimmy were two that he could really get me laughing with. I watched the episode called Krazy Kripples the other day and smiled the whole way through. It was like hearing Ben sitting next to me again, doing his impression of Jimmy.

I know people deal with grief in many different ways and with much different timing. Hopefully in some way this can encourage all who have lost loved ones to find ways to remember with fondness the people who have left us too soon.

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Give this thing a try.

writing-a-book

Tonight is the first night of my summer project. I’m going to try to write a book. Since I enjoy writing I’ve talked about writing a book for some time. Although it has been a serious consideration, i’ve never come close to putting forth any real effort.  I’ve joked about the different books I’d like to write and their wonderful titles. Titles like 101 things a youth director should never say to their students, How to be cool and still be a Christian, and I’ll stop saying it when you stop laughing. 

This past April I was having a conversation with a close friend of mine about sexual relationships and dating and made a comment about wanting to write a book about the subject and he actually challenged me to do it. Of course i don’t know the first thing about writing a book so i just smiled and continued. He said that he was serious and that i should just try to write for an hour on the topic every night and see what i have at the end of the summer. Not to be concerned about whether or not the subject matter was the same from night to night or not, just try to get down thoughts and opinions about the subject and then at the end of the summer, see what I have. I’ve decided to give it a shot. 

Now along with blogging and reading and running, i’ll be attempting to capture all the wisdom, foolishness, humor, and seriousness that i have on the subject of dating and sexuality. This should be interesting.

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Wrap Up (DR2009)

So I’m now back in the US after a great week in the Dominican Republic. I’ll attempt to fill you in on the last few days that i was there. The great news is that I am now officially Crismaili’s sponsor. Joe, our host at the Guest House at Solid Rock Missions was able to run out to CCED and talk with the principle and get everything set up for me. Thursday night I went to the fiesta and was able to spend time with Crismaili and her brother and mother. It was a fun time of playing let’s try to learn spanish for me and english for her. I also found out that she knew Noe Israel! I was a little sad to find out that he and his family weren’t able to come out to join us for fiesta that night because there were power outages running around the city that night. 

Someone asked me to post a link so that others could find out how to sponsor a child if they were interested. And so here it is…Student Sponsorships.

Barcelo

Our last day was spent at the Barcelo Resort. It was a very great way to relax and reflect on our week of mission. We enjoyed the beach and spent a lot of our time looking at the merchandise being sold the vendor and a lot of our time trying to fend off the vendors that were selling merchandise that we weren’t interested in . After a wonderful buffet dinner in one of the most scenic dining rooms i’ve ever been in, we gathered for our last devotional time together. We talked about how it is very natural for us to constantly compare ourselves to others instead of just being the people that we are meant to be. Then we spent some time sharing how we had seen God reflected in the lives of each other as a team as we worked together for the week. The rest of the night was spent enjoying the culture and music at the tiki hut dancing the night away. 

Heading back to the states was really smooth, except for one little incident. On our way down to the DR we had several bags full of things that we would use and/or planned on leaving in the DR to be given to people as they had need. So on the way back we had bags that people could put souvenirs or other items like coffee and vanilla that they had purchased. As we traveled back, I had a bag that had items from our team members that wouldn’t fit in their own luggage. Not a big deal, until security called my name. They wanted to inspect my bag and wanted me to be there. I wasn’t concerned in the slightest bit until i saw that the bag we were going to inspect wasn’t my actual bag, but the bag that was filled with items from our team members. I wasn’t sure what was going to be in this bag as i unzipped it in front of security. I opened it to reveal about 18 bricks of coffee. The security guy asked me if i liked coffee. I said yes, but explained that it wasn’t all for me. That i was a part of a large group and had offered to let them put their coffee in one bag. Laughable when they allowed me to go, but realized that it very easily could have been mistaken for a nice amount of drugs under an x-ray machine. After this fun experience, i’m now known as our resident drug lord. 

We got back to Hendersonville around 11 pm and were greeted by family members and friends that missed us and were glad to see us home. Another great week of sharing life, love, and faith with others. My hope is that our lives continue to bring these things to lives of those we come into contact with everyday.

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Angelina move over. (DR2009)

We walked to the school of the child that I am currently sponsoring today. It’s called the Christian Center of Education for Development- CCED. It open in September 1995 with 170 students in four grades. More classes were added each year and more students as well.  The school now serves grades pre-school thru grade 12.  Twenty-seven students were in the first graduating class in 2001.  All of them now either have a job or are going on to higher education. We got a tour of the school and peek in on classes of many different grades. Some of our preschool teachers even joined in on a class and learned a song in Spanish and taught a song in English. Of course I started to do a little magic again and when another class took some time to come out and say hello to us. It’s so fun to see children’s eyes when a magic trick is performed. Such beautiful smiles.

Although i didn’t get to meet my student, I’ll get to meet him tomorrow night along with his family, I did have a very pleasant surprise. As I was doing a magic trick i felt a tap on my back and turned to see Crismaili. She goes to school at CCED! I talked to Manny one of our interpreter that used to be a teacher at the school to find out how she ended up going to school so far away. He said that many people in the area try to go to CCED because it has such a better reputation and higher standards than other schools. The amazing thing is that for Crismaili it is approximately a 7 mile walk to school and back. I took some time to hang out share a few smiles and take another picture with her before i asked her if she had a sponsor to help her with her education yet. She said no. I’ve never been so happy to hear such unfortunate news. I knew that I had to sponsor her. Not only did i have such a fun time connecting with her last year, but saw her again this year and then she found me while at her school. So today I’ve been working on trying to become her sponsor and hopefully get to word to her so that she and her family can join us tomorrow night for fiesta and have time with her as well as Noe Israel. 

Crismili

I was excited to share the news with others and quickly got the humorous response, “Are you going to be like Angelina Jolie and adopt tons of kids?” Who knows. 🙂 All i know is that right now, I’m excited about my new family members in the Dominican Republic.

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Their world, their language (DR2009)

Today was an exciting day because we it was the first day of actual face to face interaction with kids. We headed out after breakfast and drove about 20 minutes on our bus driven by the Monchy (el gordo y guapo) to a small retired donkey barn turned school and church. Since it was our first time to do our program and run our stations, it was a little rough, but really overall it went amazingly well. We talked about being different parts but one body and then had stations of crafts, games, and songs & memory verse. 

One of the things that can really irritate me about missions is when it seems like people try to push their culture on other people. Through our interpreters we try very hard to share the message in language that makes sense in their world and that is useful for them in their everyday lives. Our hope is that we are sharing culture and love with each other and learning from each other. Teaching kids to use what they know about God to reach out and love their neighbors and family is really fun topic to share. I’m so thankful for our interpreters and their willingness to correct us and help us to forge our message into their world and their language.

Cristo Rey

In my picture of the day you can see the church/school in the background as well as David and Julia from our missions team. This was taken as we were running around with our props with body parts on them discussing how our body parts work together and don’t work as well with out one another. Also pictured is one of the kids that touched my heart. She’s wearing the lime green shirt. Her name is Crismalli, and I met her last year and we had our picture taken because we shared time working on crafts together. It was so exciting to see her again and show her the picture that i took last year. 

All in all the day was really great and the weather was very kind to us. It was overcast most the day, but it didn’t ever rain when we were having fun with the kids. So far I’m really enjoying working with our team and loving doing magic for the kids and even more exciting at times for the parents and adults. 🙂 Tomorrow, we’re off to a school/orphanage. Last year it was a really wonderful time, looking forward to what the day will bring.

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The body (DR2009)

Today started out with a beautiful run into town. It’s about 2 miles and it’s one of the sights that really stays with me long after I leave here. The mountains still misty from the morning fog and people doing early morning chores along the way to the town square. One of the things that I notice through out the day is that people throw their trash anywhere. I also notice in the mornings that you’ll find everyone out sweeping in front of their houses and shops. There’s something interesting about those two things coexisting that I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around yet. 

We went to a church service after breakfast. It’s always interesting to be in a church service in a different culture. Listening to styles of music and the styles of singing is interesting and beautiful. As I listened to the sermon I noticed that it would be very easy to compare the style of speaking to many preachers I’ve come into contact with growing up. I wonder if preaching leads itself to a certain style or if we learn that preaching should be done like this. I consider one of my gifts to be teaching, so I tend to think about this a lot. Why do I teach the way I do? Am I emulating my mentors and favorite teachers? Do I teach the way that I learn best? Probably a combination of the variables. 

This afternoon and evening was spent getting our supplies ready for our week of VBS with the people here. Getting snacks together, sorting through the items that we’ve brought down to help the mission and the people here. Then it was getting our VBS lesson together. This year we are talking about how we are the “body” of Christ as we reach out to share God’s love with one another. Each person has certain talents and abilities and that we should find them, develop them, and use them. So our “craft wizard” Mikki has made wonderful props that represent mind, heart, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, legs, feet, arms and hands for us to have fun showing that each of us have our roles. When we work together we are able to do so much good, but when we are trying to be something we’re not, or being divisive it makes life so tough. At the end I’m excited that we are going to take time to bless each student with the encouragement to “use their gifts”. 

noe-israelToday I also was able to put together a little “care package” that I’ll be able to share with the student that I sponsor through Solid Rock Missions, Noe Israel.(pictured) Notebooks, pencils, markers, flip flops, a beanie toy, and some bubbles was what I was able to gather up for him. I’m looking forward to getting a chance to meet him, connect with him and hopefully brighten his day. I plan on showing him a few card tricks, maybe teach him a few and then giving him the deck as well. I’ll definitely get a picture of he and I spending some time getting to know each other so I can have a more personal touch when I look to remember the little guy that I’m trying to help. 

The only downer is that the weather forecast for the area is rain…all week. I really hope that it rains at opportune times, meaning that we’re able to spend time with the kids. 

So here’s to hoping that I can learn from my time here and find some inspiration and motivation to be the man I want to be and make a difference in the lives of those that God brings my way.

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Travel Day (DR2009)

So we have been traveling since 4 am this morning. Long day. Good news is that there were no problems at all. We caught up to the 5 people that met us along the way at different points of our trip. It was definitely a dramatic change in climate when we walked out of airport. Very humid but the sun was hidden most of the day. We traveled two hours after the airport to stop at a buffet for dinner and then jumped back in the bus for another hour and a half before we reached the compound. It was dusk already so no real sight seeing today beyond the sights from the bus. 

This team is really going to be a riot. They are very funny and so far in very good spirits. We’ll see how we do after a few long days out in the sun working with the children. Tomorrow we’ll have a breakfast at 8 am and then head out to church around 9. I’m looking forward to waking up and actually taking note of my surroundings. I think right now it’s easy to feel like we’re not really out of the country. Most of the interaction has been with our group and so getting out and about tomorrow for the church service will be exciting. We’ll be walking to the church tomorrow as well. So tonight is time to catch up on sleep and get ready to get up and started on our adventure tomorrow. 

P.S. Going to try to get up and run in the morning. Elliot is my roommate for the week and should help me to have a little more motivation again. Plus running in the Dominican Republic is such a drastic change in scenery.

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Dominican Republic 2009

So the day has finally come. Tomorrow (actually 7 hrs.) I’ll be leaving Hendersonville, NC to leave for a weeks adventure in the Dominican Republic. Last year this trip was such an awakening time for me. I’ve been on many mission trips before, but for some reason this trip was very significant for me. It was the first time in a long time that i really felt awake and alive. It was an awakening. A realization that there were many things in my life that I had let go numb. Many things that i had allowed myself to grow cold to. 

I read an article the other day that talked about how when astronauts are in space they get this feeling called the “overview effect“. They described it as “being completely engulfed by a profound sense of universal connectedness”. That is really what I remember feeling last year at this time. As I spent time in the DR, I really felt like I was more connected than usual. It was such a beautiful feeling. 

Dominican Days

I’m very excited to be going again, but this time I’m really hoping for some self-healing. The past two months have been pretty tough and I’m hoping for some revitalization as I hope to be connected again with the world around me and find purpose again in my story. I just hope i don’t try to force feelings.

Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated as I go to try to share faith, hope, and love with the people I come into contact with. I’m going to be reading Half-Life /Die Already by Mark Steele. I really enjoyed his last book, it was funny and challenging.  I think that the group that I’ll be traveling with and working with are going to be a great group. I’ll update as often as I have something to share.

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Life as normal.

 

It’s funny to me that i’ve been somehow trying to convince myself that I’m back to life as normal. The truth is i haven’t run, read my books, or journaled or blogged for three weeks. I’m not the same as i was. I know i don’t need to be, but i’m not totally ready to accept it. 

Three weeks ago i was really high on life. Whether it was work, sports, running, or relationships, i had something to be excited about. Having had two wonderful retreats with my students, enjoyed many visits with friends from out of town, enjoying spring campfires with great friends, and watching exciting news about all of my favorite sports teams. I was training for a half-marathon and felt like i was going to run a better race than i had previously. All these things suddenly held significantly less meaning. 

I can, in reflection, see how numb i’ve been, but still i don’t know exactly what to do about it. Some days i feel very equipped to understand and celebrate life, and other days i feel that I’m drinking the dregs of life and am not sure when a heartfelt smile will come again. 

Ups and Downs, that’s how life goes right? C.S. Lewis said that undulation (a wave pattern) is really the way of all things. From our spirituality to even our closest relationships. There are highs and lows and to take all these in, well that’s life. Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. For everything there is a season. I am in a season of loss. And I’m learning to be okay with it, asking my emotions to help me understand them and what they want from me. To not ignore them, but asking them to not overwhelm me. 

I remember hearing that Rob Dougan  was dealing with some personal loss while making his album Furious Angels. I knew that it could be felt in the music. Today i feel the music even more deeply and am reminded of traveling to Chicago Bulls games. A song called Clubbed to Death was on the CD i would play on the way to games and played it when Ben went with me to a Bulls game. The song is very intense and is played usually during time outs of the game to get people excited and bring them into the passion of the game. I never heard the pain in the song till now. 

I really hope that people that read this blog won’t feel like I’m becoming a downer. Know that my blogs won’t always be melancholy, but for today, I needed to express some of my sadness as a way to continue to grow and heal. Life will never be the same, but that doesn’t mean that life will always feel like this.

Today, I put back on my running shoes…
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The passing of a friend…Ben Schone.

My friend Ben Schone has left us as of April 7, 2009.  I guess when someone you love goes in such a tragic way; it is always scary, haunting, and shocking. As I think about his death I really want to get some ideas out. I’m writing this mostly because I feel like many people will be asking questions that pertain to this and also because it is helpful for me to write it.

When someone commits suicide do they go to hell? First of all to be completely honest, I don’t know. I cannot give an answer to that question no matter who the person is or how they die. What I can give an opinion on is according to my faith, does someone who commits suicide go to hell because of the act itself. My thoughts…suicide does not mean that someone will go to hell.

The idea that suicide is a damnable sin has come from the idea that life is to be valued and that we submit our lives to our creator. It’s thought that when someone commits suicide that they are in fact, by their actions, saying “screw you God, I don’t trust you with my life” and then ending their life. In this way the person would be defiant and turning their back on God.

For any of us who have lost someone in this manner, I highly doubt that this is ever the case. Usually, from my experiences in life, suicide is someone feeling overwhelmed with emotions and circumstances and finding themselves not able to deal with them through typical coping skills. Chemical imbalance is much more often the cause of someone ending their own life, not someone being defiant of God. 

A second part of the idea that if you commit suicide you are going to hell comes from the fact that it is a sin to take a life even you own and so if it’s your last act, you aren’t able to receive forgiveness and would be damned. I strongly disagree with this as well. God isn’t limited by our mistakes. Imagine if you were falling off of a cliff on accident and on the way down cursed God out of loose lips as you were panicking on the way down. It’s a sin to take God’s name in vein; do you think you would go to hell? I certainly don’t think that God’s ultimate judgment of my life would have anything to do with a slip of the tongue being my final act before death. Neither do I believe that doing something as harmful as suicide as your final act would lead to damnation.

I guess I’m saying all of this to ease people’s minds and to hopefully help us to focus on what I believe we should focus on when someone that we love passes. I believe we must focus on moving through our sadness and cherishing the life of the one who has passed. To take what that person has meant to us and be sure that it never dies in us. Make sure that the person lives on in the way that we live, love, and relate to others. May the beauty and wonder of our friend Ben Schone live on in us.
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