2016…by the numbers

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Life events

  • Houses purchased: 1
  • Pets kept alive: 1
  • Weddings attended: 1
  • Funerals attended: 2
  • Births attended: 0

Work

  • Websites launched: 3
  • Web applications started for fun but never finished: 3
  • Online games started for fun but never finished: 2
  • Job changes: 0
  • Raises: 1
  • Promotions: nonprofits lol
  • Highest number of hours worked in a 24 hour period: 17
  • Public speaking opportunities: 1

Travel

  • Trips taken: 4
  • Countries visited: 3
  • Total miles traveled: ~25,000
  • Flight legs: 7
  • Hours on a party bus: 10
  • Holidays missed: 2
  • Airplanes jumped out of: 1
  • Bridges jumped off of: 1
  • Feet fallen: ~15,150
  • Hotel accommodations: 1
  • Hostel accommodations: 3
  • AirBnB accommodations: 4
  • Beaches visited: 3
  • Photos edited: ~30
  • Photos left to edit: ~700

Hobbies

  • Blog posts published: 22
  • Blog posts unfinished/drafted: 7
  • Camping trips: 0
  • Hikes: 7
  • Blacksmith classes: 2
  • Times on a tennis court: ~6
  • Kayaks purchased: 1
  • Afternoons spent in a kayak: 1
  • Gym memberships: 2
  • Times I was asked if I even lift (bro) at the gym: 0
  • Times I was asked if I even lift (bro) by friends: dozens
  • Visits to the climbing gym: ~25
  • Climbing routes completed: ~75
  • Average climbing route difficulty completed: 5.9
  • Best climbing route difficulty completed: 5.10 on-sight
  • Most failed attempts at a route in one visit: 9
  • Longest run (time): ~30 minutes
  • Longest run (distance): ~2.5 miles
  • Hours spent drawing: ~10
  • Hours spent painting: 0
  • Hours spent writing: ~50

Media

  • Movies watched: ~12
  • Movies watched in a theater: 4
  • Movies watched on a plane: 6
  • Video game hours played: ~200
  • Hours of Twitch streams watched: ~300

Culture

  • Orchestra performances attended: 5
  • Non-orchestra concerts attended: 3
  • Museums visited: 5
  • Cathedrals visited: 2
  • Botanical gardens visited: 4
  • Georgia aquarium visits: ~10
  • UNESCO world heritage sites visited: 3
  • Kangaroo leather hats purchased: 1

Food

  • Cheesecakes made: 1
  • Steaks broiled: ~10
  • Fish broiled: ~20
  • Ducks confit’d: 2
  • Attempts at homemade pasta: 2
  • Successful attempts at homemade pasta: 0.5
  • Deep frying attempts: 1
  • Types of tots made: 3
  • Times I set off the smoke detector: ~8
  • Beers tried: ~20
  • Wines tried: ~5
  • Cocktail recipes memorized: ~10
  • Clif bars eaten: ~50
  • Pounds of rice cooked: ~20
  • Pounds of quinoa cooked: ~5
  • Times hand burned on pot/oven/stove: ~5
  • Scallops eaten: ~20
  • Shrimp eaten: ?

Health

  • Doctor visits: 36
  • X-rays: 2
  • MRIs: 1
  • Other procedures: 3
  • Ligaments/tendons injured: ~5
  • Bones broken: 0
  • Weight gain/loss: -10
  • Average pants size: 33/32
  • Weeks unable to walk: 3
  • Weeks able to walk: 49

Dating

  • First dates: 7
  • Second dates: 3
  • Third dates: 2
  • First dates cancelled day-of: 3
  • Dates to restaurants/coffee: 8
  • Dates hiking: 2
  • Dates to shows: 1
  • Dates to the aquarium: 2

Miscellaneous

  • Socks worn through: 3
  • Haircuts: 4
  • People I voted for who won an election: 0

2016 Pickens High School STAR Student Banquet Talk

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Back in 2004, I graduated from Pickens High School in Jasper, Georgia. I was honored as the STAR student that year by a banquet hosted by the Jasper Optimist Club. This year, I was invited back to the banquet as the guest speaker. The banquet recognized the 10 seniors with the highest SAT scores who also had GPAs in the top 10% of their graduating class.  I spoke on the importance of living a life that tells a good story. Here’s a video of the talk for anyone interested.

Second-Cousin In-Law (Once-removed)

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Pastor is an odd word. I hear it on a near-daily basis in the Christian world, but I rarely stop and think about what it actually means. Wikipedia tells me that pastor comes from pascere, a Latin word for shepherd, and I’ve surely heard it equated as such many times. That said, I feel many modern pastors never get the chance to truly walk out the life of a shepherd. With live video-casts, online sermons, and e-Bibles…with many churches boasting hundreds or thousands of members…our modern-day shepherds often have their hands full.

In that vein, I know of few pastors who had their hands as full as David Huskins. As the presiding bishop of the International Communion of Charismatic Churches, he oversaw a flock spanning dozens of countries, thousands of ministries, and millions of members, all from his relatively humble church in rural Cedartown, Georgia.

Tragically, David Huskins was found dead in his home on Monday, August 25, 2014. Four incredible children and a loving family, of which I have been honored to be a part of, survive him.  As of now, I know little of the circumstances. I’m sure details will be forthcoming in the days that follow, as will countless stories, articles, and testimonies to David’s public ministry. However, I feel moved to share a little of the private ministry that many never saw, as a means of honoring this man who had more impact on my life than most could ever know.

The top priority of a shepherd, as I see it, is to protect his sheep. He is to ensure the safety of creatures that are, as Robert Robinson put it so eloquently, prone to wander. Thousands…perhaps millions…could attest to David’s knowledge of scripture, his strong teaching, and his willingness to say what needed to be said. These are all strong pastoral giftings, and his congregation was blessed to have them. However, I had the privilege of seeing beyond that…of directly witnessing the protective, fatherly heart that drove David…even at a relatively young age…to pursue me.

It still amazes me that this father?…no…uncle?…no…close cousin?…nope…try second-cousin in-law once-removed…there it is…could care for me and invest in me like he did. David and his wife Michelle hosted me at their home for multiple weeks over my childhood summers, and I have vague but wonderful memories from those days. I remember the tiny shofar (ram’s horn trumpet) that was reserved for me to sound. I remember spending time at the Victory 91.5 offices (David was on the air there for a while), listening to their vast collection of Adventures in Odyssey tapes when I got bored. I remember falling asleep to the sound of my shoes bumping around in the dryer (are you even supposed to dry shoes…and what was I doing that got them so wet anyway?). I remember feeling left out when I didn’t get a gum ball for using the toilet while their oldest son was potty-training (I was probably 5 or 6 at the time and definitely didn’t deserve it)…and then feeling awesome when I was given one anyway. My family tells me of others I’ve forgotten (I was apparently wont to follow David pace for pace as he walked around the room preparing sermons).

I was a very shy child…a restrained child. I was quiet and tended to stick to myself. However, when I was around David Huskins, that all changed. I ran all over Cedar Lake Christian Center…hid behind the altar kneelers, climbed up in the chairs on stage, and ran down the long staircase to the backstage bathroom (and it was a loooong staircase). Thinking back, it was all pretty irreverent. However, even if I had understood that at the time, I don’t think I would have cared. When David was near…I felt really, truly safe. I think it was because I was loved…perhaps as near perfectly as a boy can be on this earth. It was living proof of I John 4:18…perfect love truly does cast out all fear.

I think my clearest memories are from the day of my mother’s wedding…or my aunt’s wedding…or any other family wedding…or any other family gathering for that matter. Despite the long drive from west Georgia and his busy schedule, David took part in most every family gathering and significant event…and he was a treasure to have around. He could easily dominate a room, but tended to just speak when necessary, which was fine as his wit was sharp enough for two…or three. That said, he was often still near the center of attention, given that he officiated most every wedding, prayer, baptism, or game of pass-the-blessing that arose. David truly was a mainstay of my childhood.

The most important investment David ever made in me was in my spiritual development. David Huskins read me scripture…David Huskins prayed with me and for me…and after I accepted Jesus, David Huskins baptized me. Even in the latter years when I saw him less and less, I still was blessed by the insights on living a covenant life from his books and the process of discipleship from sermons like “A Diamond in the Rough.” I truly believe, like his namesake, that David Huskins was a man after God’s heart. Years before prayer rooms began springing up across the U.S. thanks to the work of international organizations like 24/7, David Huskins had a prayer tower at his church, and David Huskins frequented that prayer tower.

As often befits a man of his influence and calling, David’s life and ministry were, regrettably, not without controversy, and I suspect that his passing may bring its own brand. My hope and prayer is that in the coming days, any such controversy would take a back seat in light of the hope and faith that God brought to so many through David’s life. In 2008, David spoke powerfully about the desire to leave a legacy (http://bit.ly/1p7MT8J – starting at about the 1:20 mark). While I cannot speak to the legacy of his children or his church, I can truly say from personal experience that David loved one of the least of these…me…a shy second-cousin in-law once-removed…about as well as a child could be loved. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 that when we do that, we are really loving Him. Had he never preached even a single sermon, David Huskins would have still been counted as the best pastor I ever had the privilege of being shepherded by due to the love that he showed me and the feeling of hope and safety that it provided. If that’s not a legacy, I don’t know what is.

My heart breaks with his loss, but my heart is filled with hope as well, for John 12:24  says “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” The Christian life is a path to death, that in and through death we may find life in Christ.

I Don’t See Stuff

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I’m a web developer…and I really enjoy it. That means things like:

function doStuff(){
for(i=0;i<3000;i++){
var countdown = 3000-i;
alert(“Number of times you’ll see this again: “+countdown);
}
}

are fun for me. For the longest time I wondered why that was…but I think I recently figured it out.

As a business management major, I had the opportunity to take pretty much every personality test in existence. I’ve been Myers-Briggs’d, Jung typologied, Kiersey Temperament Sorted, True Colored, Risk Aversioned, Strength Found, Five Factored and that red/blue/green stress triangle thing’d. I learned a lot about myself through these tests, especially in the areas of my tendencies and proficiencies. They really can help you understand yourself. I would strongly encourage any of you who have not taken such a test to try out one.

That said, a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to take a test that I’d never taken before: a “learning style” test. I took the test during a workshop for web designers and developers. The purported purpose (hey look…I’m alliterate) of the test was to aid you in understanding the ways you learn (pretty obvious). The test rated you on five different sensory learning styles: visual, logical, physical, auditory, and verbal.

The learning styles that I scored highest in were logical and verbal. I scored mid-range in auditory. I scored low on physical. However, the most notable result was that I scored zero points in the visual learner category. I took the test in stride at the time, attributing it to the fact that I’ve never taken an art class in my life. However, I spent some time really pondering it in the days following the workshop. This pondering led me to the determination that a suspicion I have had about myself for a long time is indeed true: I don’t see stuff.

What do I mean by that? Well, whether you’re a brief acquaintance or my closest friend, chances are highly likely that I have no idea what color your hair or eyes are. I couldn’t tell you what type of car you drive (not just the model…I don’t even know who made it) or what color it is. I couldn’t describe a single piece of clothing you’ve ever worn. If I have visited your house, I can’t tell you anything that is on your coffee table or describe any pictures you have. I have no idea what your cabinets look like, whether you have moulding on your walls, and couldn’t tell you one book on your bookshelf. Yeah…weird, huh? The single factor tying all of these things together is that they are primarily visual experiences…and I just seem to miss them. I just don’t see stuff.

In order to provide some contrast, here are a few other facts about myself. I can recount word-for-word entire conversations from high school, and most any conversation I’ve had in the past month. I can tell you exactly what songs were played (assuming I know the song) at pretty much every worship service I’ve been to in the six months. I remember the slogan of nearly every product I’ve ever “seen” a commercial for…though I couldn’t tell you what the product package looked like. I can explain to you how Catholic soteriology (view of sin) is the source of everything from the veneration of Mary to the selling of indulgences from a class I took three years ago. I could have walked you through every verb tense in Spanish by the end of my first semester in it (including the alternative imperfect subjunctive – ending in –ese instead of –iera). The main difference here is that these experiences/lessons were all auditory, verbal, or logical. Basically, if I hear, speak, or ponder something…I’ll remember it.

These were pretty interesting observations for me. However, as I pondered this more and began experimenting, I discovered that my ability to remember visual information is massively improved if attention has ever been drawn to those features verbally or logically. If you or someone else has ever literally spoken to me your eye or hair color, recounted to me a story about a specific coffee table item, or explained to me why you bought that shirt, I’ll almost never forget it. In essence, by simply having my attention drawn to a visual experience through a non-visual method, the whole game changes. This was a fascinating discovery for me…and it has helped in many areas of life as I’ve began to put it into practice.

In college, I would try to memorize things (be it scripture, programming functions, or spanish words) by simply reading them silently over and over. The reason, I feel, that this never really worked for me is that passive reading is a nearly 100% visual process. Given my tendencies…I retained absolutely nothing from it. In comparison, I remembered nearly every lecture I ever went to. For this reason, I rarely missed classes…but I also rarely read textbooks…and I always did pretty well in school.

So, recently, I’ve taken to trying to come up with a logical explanation or a verbal cue to help me when learning new things. If it’s scripture, I try to work my way thought not only what the words on the page are…but what they mean. I try to ponder synonyms with individual words to help me put a logical framework around the meaning of the passage. If nothing else, I’ll read out loud what I’m trying to remember. It’s been remarkable how much this has aided my retention. Along with this, I’ve forced myself to begin really looking at things around me. As I’ve done this…I began to notice all kinds of things I never had before: stickers (I’m the only person I know with absolutely no stickers on my guitar case or car), posters, graffiti, the little tree in the windows 7 logo on my desktop, earrings, dust, hubcaps, the different kinds of tree leaves, the fact that the headphones that came with my iPhone have a mic on them, and a host of other small details in the things around me. It’s really been weird for me to being seeing all the things I never really noticed in the least.

Given what I’ve learned, it’s obvious to me why I enjoy programming. It is one of the few disciplines that is perfectly suited to my learning styles. It is a highly logical discipline made up of (programming) languages that follow highly standardized linguistic patterns. This directly engages my two strongest learning styles. It also explains to me why I don’t enjoy the design side of the web. I simply do not currently have the propensity (whether through nature or nurture) to “see” or “pick up on” visual cues. Maybe it’s because my father and mother are both very logical. Maybe it’s because I’ve never taken an art class. Who knows? In any case…to anyone I’ve ever given a compliment on an outfit, accessory piece, paint job, etc…congratulations! You somehow managed to break through my 0% visual nature and truly stand out. To all the guys and girls out there who put in the extra time to really make themselves or their stuff look good…I’m starting to finally appreciate it.