Dodge Changes the Game

January 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

When I first saw this commercial, I couldn’t help but be perplexed and think, “What the heck is Dodge thinking? This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.” But by the end of the commercial, which is a whopping 30 seconds, I was a believer.

Brilliant marketing on Dodge’s part. Whichever company is doing the promotions for the new Dart, kudos! I’ve never wanted to buy a compact car so badly.

In case you’ve viewed the commercial and still don’t get it – think of it like a Kickstarter or one of those fundraising thermometer graphs. You “build” your dream Dart at www.dodgedartregistry.com and let friends and family fund your car piece by piece.

I’m still kind of geeking out about this. Just … Wow. How has this not been thought of before?

Well-played, Dodge. Well-played.

As a Royal Ambassador

January 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

As a Royal Ambassador I will do my best:
to become a well-informed, responsible follower of Christ;
to have a Christ-like concern for all people;
to learn how to carry the message of Christ around the world;
to work with others in sharing Christ; and
to keep myself clean and healthy in mind and body.

I remember reciting this pledge over and over at Poplar Springs Baptist Church in Meridian, Miss. I was recently reminded of it while watching (of all things) How I Met Your Mother. I noticed the following scene during Season 2: Ep. 10, “Single Stamina”:

How I Met Your Mother, "Single Stamina"

Check out Marshall’s hoodie

Takes me back to the days of the RA pinewood derby, patches and Bible Drills. Also makes me wonder, “Where can I get a Royal Ambassadors hoodie?!”

 

*Royal Ambassadors (RAs) is a Bible-centered, church-based, Southern Baptist missions education organization for boys in grades 1-6. For more info on Royal Ambassadors, check out their website.

Foolish

January 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

Growing up, I read this word often in the Bible and heard it spoken in church. I knew what it meant, but never felt right using it in everyday language. Something about it just didn’t fit when someone was acting stupid or idiotic. But now, here it is … I finally get to use it.

I am foolish.

For two months, I have been preparing for a mission trip to Ghana with my sister and her church in Oklahoma. She had brought up the idea of me going during Thanksgiving of 2012. I was really excited, but it took me about two weeks before finally applying for passport and making the commitment to go.

Fast-forward a few weeks to Christmas. We’re about a month from our departure date and still no passport. We had faith though, so we purchased a non-refundable plane ticket to Ghana. If things were meant to be, then at least I’d be prepared.

Two weeks later (ten days before my flight), my passport finally arrived. Choices were to either go to Ghana and hope the country would grant me a visa or overnight my passport and documents to the Embassy of Ghana and pray that it would be back in time. Everything we’d read suggested that my passport and visa would get to me one day before departure – just in time. So, I sent in my visa application.

My flight was scheduled to leave the States on Thursday, January 24, 2013. It was Tuesday … and still no passport.

I called the Embassy to see if I could track the status of my application and received no response. I left a voicemail. And sent an email.

Wednesday.

Still no response. My sister, her friend from church JJ and myself each tried calling all day to no avail. I sent another email. We tried every extension possible. When someone finally answered my sister, they hung up on her. When someone finally answered JJ, they transferred her despite being told that no one was answering the phone. Again, no answer.

No news. No response. And the tracking number of my return package still had not been activated.

I had to make a choice. Cancel the trip and at least bank the money from my flight in an account with the airline for later travel, or lose everything in hopes that the tracking number just hadn’t been activated and my passport and visa would arrive the morning of the trip.

I am foolish.

I cancelled the flight. Thursday afternoon, my passport arrived with an approved visa.

All throughout this process, I kept telling myself to stay calm and have faith that God would provide. Have faith. Believe. Then came the point of no return, and I turned my back on God like a coward.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. How could I have known? If only the Embassy had answered my calls or responded to my emails, I would have known to expect my visa in time. On the other hand, had I not waited two weeks to commit to the trip, I would have had my passport sooner, applied for my visa earlier and not been in the situation in which I had, essentially, placed myself.

I really am foolish.

So what’s the take away here? What can I learn from this?

Trust God. Stop procrastinating. If there’s something that you want to do, stop sitting on your read end and just do it. Sure, be wise with your decision-making, but don’t try to analyze what God has in store for you to the point that opportunity slips away.

I can say, “this was God’s Will,” and that would be completely accurate. “God didn’t want me to go on that trip.” Well…. “It just wasn’t meant to be.” Okay. There’s a line where pushing those statements and that sort of blame on God is just foolish, and now that I’ve experienced what it means to “act a fool” in the Biblical sense, I won’t do it with this.

It was my responsibility to prepare for this trip. God wanted me to go, but I dropped the ball, which He also knew I would do. Regardless, it was my responsibility. Just like everything else in life, it is our responsibility to act, to be decisive! God wants us to succeed, but to do so we’ve got to be willing to do the work and stop thinking and talking about it.

So here I am on Friday, January 25, 2013, in the office, when I should probably still be on a plane. It’s embarrassing to have prepared for this trip and return to the office having messed it all up, but I’m learning to live and accepting responsibly for my actions (or inaction). I won’t let this trip go to waste – because the past month and a half has most certainly been a trip in itself, and to leave this situation and not learned anything would be even more foolish.

By the way – just because I didn’t go on the trip doesn’t mean my sister didn’t. She’s currently overseas serving God in Ghana. Please keep her and the rest of the team from her church in your prayers as they hand out mosquito nets, build a well and minister to the people of Ghana.

 

– –

I know that I’m not the best at describing this whole “do something” mentality, so I’ll leave it to Kevin DeYoung, author of Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will.
Image
I read this book a few months ago, and it was incredibly eye-opening. For people that over-think things regularly, I highly suggested picking up a copy. It’s a quick read, and you’ll gain valuable insight into taking action and accepting responsibility when it comes to God’s Will.

Buy it now on Amazon.com, or if you have a kindle, let me know and I can loan you my copy.

I’m Fine Line

March 14, 2012 § 4 Comments

“Always be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.” ~ Plato

I’m not sure what it takes to be a Christian when it comes to hardship. I wonder if Paul ever broke down while he was in prison? Or if Peter wept when he realized he was walking to his death? We know that Jesus sweat drops of blood as He cried out for God to “take this cup from me.”

I’m not in prison. I’m not being persecuted for my faith. I’m definitely not bearing the sins of the world. So what’s the problem?

…Everyone is fighting a hard battle.

I work extremely hard to not complain too much. Often times, I fail spectacularly. Other times, I keep too much to myself and end up in this mood. You know the mood…

A few of my chapter brothers in ATO had a special name for mine – they called me Mad Brad (or Sad Brad … it really depended on the situation).

So, how should a Christian approach hardship and complaining? I want to be open and transparent with people, and I hate being cryptic because it leads to all sorts of other issues. But if you share too often or too much, people label you a complainer (weakling). Conversely, if you don’t share at all, you’re closed-off (a martyr).

There’s this line… this invisible, unspoken, ever-changing line that exists for people’s tolerance of complaining. I’ll call it the “I’m fine” line – you’re walking down the hall feeling glum, someone asks “Is everything okay?” or “How are you?” The most common response? “I’m fine.”

Of course you are.

…Everyone is fighting a hard battle.

Why do we resort to this? Where’s the happy medium? Maybe there isn’t one. I do know that right now, I’m definitely struggling with a lot (not to be cryptic). I tell you this, not because I’m weak or want your pity, but because I want to be more transparent without wearing my heart on my sleeve.

I seriously doubt that I’m the only one struggling right now, which is why I try not to complain – you never know what other people are going through. Compared to some, my “hardship” could be desirable.

That’s why it’s important to be kind to people – even if they’re being their own flavor of “Mad Brad” to you.

When someone is a jerk, show them compassion. You never know what happened at their house that morning. ~ Alina Wheeler, Author

Encouragement goes a long way. Believe me.

A tweet, comments on Facebook, a quick chat message, impromptu Skype sessions, a random text, even an email – each of these have the power to brighten someone’s day. I know this because they’ve pulled me out of some dark places.

So take some time today – or every day for that matter – and rock a RAK (random act of kindness). Don’t go looking for someone who may or may not have a problem… just be genuinely kind in your interactions. It’ll go a long way.

Always be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.

While saying anything more than “I’m fine” seems a little awkward to or excessive at times, try it. Share a little about what you’re day has been like or what you’re experiencing. You don’t need to give a sob story, just be honest. Talk. Interact. Forming relationships with people usually takes more than a two-word response.

Let’s not walk the “I’m fine” line.

*Edit: I’m blown away by the response this post has gotten so quickly. I hope to be more transparent with you all soon, but I’m still having trouble organizing those thoughts in a productive manner. As Brett Trapp put it in the comments: I want to be real/transparent but not don’t want to drag others down with my own struggles. 

Thank you all for the support. I hope that you were able to glean something out of this messy ramble.

Be Here Now

March 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’m pretty much like maple syrup (sappy) when it comes to music and video that tugs at your emotional & spiritual heartstrings, and this one certainly packs a punch.

I have my own personal reasons why I get goosebumps every time I watch this video, and -believe it or not- it’s not just the Explosions in the Sky track that gets me. But rather than throw myself a pity party, I want you to focus on the message.

Watch the video a few times. Read the transcript. I encourage you to separate yourself from all distractions. Turn the lights off. Sit alone in your closet if you must. But you really need to focus on the here and now with this.

Hit me up in the comments or via Facebook & Twitter to share your thoughts. I’d love to share in a conversation with you…

Hello. My name is Blaine. And I want to let you in on a little secret… I’m not really here.

I mean, I am physically in front of you, but my mind is somewhere else. My heart is somewhere else.

Sometimes I feel like I am in so many places that I can’t just be here, and I wonder if you ever feel the same way? I wonder if you’re not really here? I wonder if you’re not really present?

The scriptures tell us to be still and know, but how do we really do this?

We are fractured.

We are broken apart. We are distracted by these pieces, and this is how we live.

Before we can be here… Before we can allow ourselves to be put back together… We must let these things go. At least for now.

Come, all you who are weary and I will give you rest. ~ Matthew 11:28

Be still and know. Be nowhere else but here.

Ok. Here we go…

This is your regret about the past. These are the things you wish you had done differently. Think of them…

I know… There are so many.

Me too.

We are told that…

As far as the East is from the West, so far has He removed Our transgressions from us. ~ Psalm 103:12

Let that be true for you.

Be still and know. Be nowhere else but here.

These are your hiding places. These are the dark places you sneak away to when no one is looking; the places you go to soothe your addictions & pain. Think of these places…

He is with you where you hide. You cannot flee from His presence.

Be still and know. Be nowhere else but here.

This is your fear about the future: your concern, distress, worry, apprehension, dread, doubt. What keeps you up at night?

Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares for you. ~ 1 Peter 5:7

Be still and know. Be nowhere else but here.

Wherever you are on this planet… whatever room you’re in… we invite you to leave your past regrets alone. Come out of hiding, and cast your anxieties on Him because the presence of God is here. Christ is here. The Prince of Peace is here. He has always been here. It is us who have not.

He is here. Now.

Be still and know that He is God. Be nowhere else but here.

~ BLAINE HOGAN

*For more info about Blaine Hogan, check out his blog at www.blainehogan.com.

A Celebration of Character #NRCW2012

March 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

There is no surer test of the innate nobleness or baseness of a people than the ideal for which they strive. Tell me what you most thoroughly admire in your heart, no matter to what your lips may give service, and I can read your character. There is a fixed connection between what a man admires and what he is; and remembering this great principle, you can decide whether you are advancing or retrograding, by comparing the objects of your admiration in the past with those in the present. ~ *Thomas T. Eaton, ATO Congress Oration, Richmond, 1877

Batman Begins

"It's not who you are, but what you do that defines you." - from Batman Begins

You are what you eat. It’s not who you are, but what you do that defines you. We’re riddled with statements that provide insight into who we really are as individuals, but for me none rings truer than this:

There is a fixed connection between what a man admires and what he is.

An organization’s ritualistic aspects of membership provide an environment of focused, specific ideals. These guidelines offer men and women a distinct direction in which to walk. This is the primary function of most organizations and rituals – to become a collective resource of like-minded individuals striving for similar goals.

Alpha Tau Omega holds before young men of the country and ideal and something greater than a mere intellectual ideal. Alpha Tau Omega stands for heart as well as head. It has given men a true ideal of life. … To give ourselves freely, fully, absolutely, and irrevocably for others – that, my dear young brothers, is the supreme lesson of all life. ~ Otis A. Glazebrook, New York Alumni Dinner, February 5, 1904

Fraternal (greek-letter) organizations are particularly qualified for this, because their foundations hinge upon specific morals and values. Fraternity initiates intense character development because it imparts a fixed ideal – something to work towards. The effort an individual member exerts to meet organizational standards then serves as direct evidence of their character.

There is a fixed connection between what a man admires and what he is.

As you fix your eyes on something that you admire – your organization’s ideals and principles, for instance – you reveal your who you are. You reveal your character. The fact that these ideals are fixed gives you a gauge to measure character development. This is what makes fraternal groups so effective. Men have an ideal to uphold – something to aim for.

The influences which surround your life here render it almost impossible for you to spend your days in the pursuit of the useless. ~ Alfred Marshall, Valedictory Address to Society of Cadets, Virginia Military Institute, July 4, 1866

National Ritual Celebration Week represents more than greek pride. Rituals and the ideals they imbue within an organization develop the future leaders of our businesses, churches, governments, and societies. Ritual is a perpetual action – never ceasing, never resting, always in motion. I think that’s why we talk a lot about “living the ritual.”

Ritual isn’t just the things that greeks do or say in secret. Ritual is the never-ending pursuit of an ideal. That’s why we live it.

NRCW celebrates those willing to live the ritual. It’s a commitment to character – a commitment to doing.

Take this sacred emblem, the Fraternity badge, and decipher the different characters thereon depicted. What does the name suggest? … why do you think that the middle letter of our name was selected? Do you for one moment question the fact that it was used as a symbol of that Cross upon which the Savior died that we might live and live more abundantly? ~ Larkin W. Glazebrook, ATO Congress Oration, Cleveland, 1919

There is a fixed connection between what a man admires and what he is.

How will you live the ritual?

—–

*Special on Thomas T. Eaton:

Thomas T. Eaton initiated into the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity at Washington & Lee University in 1866. The above quote is from his oration given at the 1877 ATO Congress in Richmond, Va.

Eaton actually founded my chapter at Union University in a way. On November 15, 1867, with the help of two classmates, Eaton launched the Tennessee Iota chapter.

Eaton was a professor at Union University there, founded by his father, and from the beginning the chapter met in the University’s administration building, initiating students and townsmen. ~ The ATO Story: The First Fifty Years, Claude T. Reno (pg. 47)

Eaton went on to charter other chapters – including Tennessee Lambda at Cumberland University – and was destined for highest honors in both the Baptist Church and the National Fraternity.

Union University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. closed in 1973, and so did Tennessee Iota. In 1878, Union relocated to Jackson, Tenn. and reopened, but ATO would not return to campus until February 28, 1894, when the Tennessee Beta Tau chapter was official chartered.

National Ritual Celebration Week 2012

March 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

National Ritual Celebration Week (NRCW) offers greeks everywhere an open forum to discuss what makes them tick as greek-letter organizations.

NRCW Wallpaper for ATO (iPhone)

NRCW Wallpaper for ATO (iPhone)

Ritual instills a sense of purpose and pride in the organization, and unites members separated by social class, distance, and even time. The symbols perpetuate the legacy of an organization and compliment its purpose.

In the case of my fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega, our purpose is clearly stated by our Creed:

To bind men together in a brotherhood based upon eternal and immutable principles, with a bond as strong as right itself and as lasting as humanity; to know no North, no South, no East, no West, but to know man as man, to teach that true men the world over should stand together and contend for supremacy of good over evil; to teach, not politics, but morals; to foster, not partisanship, but the recognition of true merit wherever found; to have no narrower limits within which to work together for the elevation of man than the outlines of the world: these were the thoughts and hopes uppermost in the minds of the founders of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity. ~ Otis Allan Glazebrook, 1880

Ritual takes the known, and expands it to give deeper meaning and significance to members. It distinguishes us from other organizations and unites members to a common goal.

In observance of NRCW, I’ll be posting quotes all week about the values and aims of Alpha Tau Omega (as outlined in The Manual of Alpha Tau Omega by Claude T. Reno) to the ATO Posterous blog, but I’ll also be sharing them here.

The Manual of Alpha Tau Omega by Claude T. Reno

The Manual of Alpha Tau Omega by Claude T. Reno

Please check back frequently, and ask questions! More than anything, this week is celebration of ritual, which means diving into it head first, asking questions and finding answers for both greeks and non-greeks.

*Join the conversation on Twitter using the #NRCW2012 hashtag.

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