Friday, August 31, 2012

Book Review: "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo

After driving for several days on our moving trip from Sacramento to Cincinnati, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel for two reasons: (1) for dinner (we really like their food, and there aren't any CB's on the West coast), (2) to purchase an audio book on CD to help entertain us for some portion of the remainder of the trip.  We wanted to listen to a book that was not only interesting, but also kid friendly.  Amanda found this one, which we had read about in a news article a while back.

I had fairly recently read a book about another individual's "heavenly" experience called 90 Minutes in Heaven (link is to my review), and I was curious to hear the perspective of this little boy.  Similar to the other book, the author went through a great deal of effort to legitimize not only the information that his son relayed to him, but also the method with which they obtained it.  He made sure to explain (a) how the boy knew and observed things that could only be possible if he did indeed experience what he claims, (b) how the details of his experience cross correlate with Biblical text, and (c) how they did not coerce him or influence him in any way to say specific things.

I don't know if this story will convince atheists or skeptics that an afterworld exists, or to accept Christianity as their faith of choice.  If you're not a Christian though, and after reading/listening to this story you believe at least some of what this kid experienced as truth, then I don't see how it couldn't have some positive affect on your beliefs.

In the end, our whole family found this to be an interesting, enlightening, and inspirational story.  It made not only some of our journey in the car more enjoyable, but perhaps some of our journey in life too.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Brotherly Introspection

My brother Steven visited us for a few days in the last week of July.  The last time I had the opportunity to hang out with him was in Orlando last year, for Thanksgiving.  I even wrote a (very) brief post  about it here

Although we only got to see him for three evenings and one day, it seemed like we fit a lot in to that small amount of time.  We went to the gym a couple times, dined out and walked around at Newport on the Levee, played darts at my house (we each won 3, but he was playing much better than me), chilled out on my back porch while drinking cinnamon whiskey, and went to Kings Island on Friday.

Steve and me at Newport on the Levee
There are many things I admire and respect about Steve, who is 11 years younger than me.  The one thing that stands out the most though, and even inspires me, is his toughness.  He is (like my dad was) somewhat of a bad ass.  He has a major attitude, an abundance of testosterone, and I doubt he would ever back down from a brawl.  Almost every time I see him (once a year at best), he has a new story of a fight that he has participated in.  They're usually not his fault, or if so then it was probably for a good reason.  This time, for example, he told the story of observing a man pushing a woman down in a parking lot, so that she fell backwards on the cement.  After witnessing this he exchanged some words with the dude, and ended up laying the guy out cold.

There once was a time when I was clearly his "big" brother (bigger, stronger than him).  But 12 years of marriage, 7 years of children, and a career in engineering do little to foster the pursuit of fitness.  And while I have never given up on this battle (I'm a week or two out from washboard abs, if I really dedicated myself to diet and exercise for that duration), he has been steadily gaining and then surpassing me on that front, especially since he's never had those family responsibilities to hinder his efforts.  Don't get me wrong, my family and career are all tremendous blessings, and I would prefer their hindrance any day to being able to work out regularly and/or pursue other manly hobbies (martial arts, cars, etc).  I'm just saying that priorities change, and the affects of the 11 years between us has now swung in his favor, physically speaking.

After hanging out together, I found myself adapting his behavior a bit, wanting to be "tougher", badder, to have the "edge" and attitude that he possesses. I guess I wanted to "keep up" with him in that regard, to some extent anyway.  After thinking about it more though, I came to the conclusion that I really don't want to project my toughness on the outside like Steven does.  Instead, as a Christian (aka follower of Jesus), I want others to feel drawn to me (as they were to Jesus)not afraid of me or intimidated by me.  In other words, I would rather reflect outwardly the love of God that resides within me.

Aside from the Christian perspective, most reasons that fighting occur are stupid, foolish, and immature.  Not only that, but since I have a family to take care of and young kids to raise, I have to consider whether the unnecessry health/life risk is really worth it.

On the other hand though, is there anything less manly than excessive risk consideration and reduction?  I don't want to stick my neck out for no reason, but if I act like a wimp for the sake of ensuring that I'm able to raise my kids, then is having an ever-present coward for a dad really the best scenario?  In addition, how do you know whether or not you can fight if you've never tried?  Or how to you increase your inner strength without testing (and hopefully displaying) your outer courage and resolve?

So what if some douche bag wants to bump shoulders with me when walking by?  Instead of me bowing up, squaring off, and/or staring him down, I hope that I would instead either laugh about it (knowing that he's a douche bag), or even consider disarming him verbally, maybe by starting a conversation with him "hey man, nice tattoo".  Sounds a bit crazy, but isn't that what Jesus would do, especially if it's possible that it would open up an opportunity to talk about my faith?  

But here is the kicker - I want to make sure that I still have an abundance of toughness on the inside.  I want to make sure that there is still a killer psycho who (if an injustice is observed, or a victim needs assistance) can open up a gigantic, exploding can of whoop ass on those who need/deserve it.  I want to know that there is an inner warrior that is still deep down within, and can be tapped if absolutely necessary.  So that is the question I am now posing to myself - am I as tough as I want to be, as much as I feel that I should be on the inside?  Do I really have that inner strength?  If not, then how can I develop it and nurture it again (like I did when I was younger and trained in kickboxing)?

I recently watched the movie Act of Valor.  In it, the following statement is made: 
"The hardest thing about growing old is that
other men no longer see you as dangerous

That makes sense, but I've decided that the hardest thing for me about growing old is not the danger that others may or may not see in me, but wondering if I see myself as still having enough strength, courage, and/or righteous anger to be dangerous.
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