What Mission Trips Have Taught Me

This July I am planning to go on a mission trip to Utah. Whenever someone goes on a mission trip with my church, they are required to full out a questionnaire.  This questionnaire includes general information, bu it also is designed to make you think about the upcoming trip with questions like “What do you hope to see God accomplish during this trip?” and things like that.

One of the questions is, “what previous mission trips have you taken and what lessons did you learn on these trips?”

Although I have never been on a mission trip outside of the US I have been many places on mission and done many things on those trips.  I thought I would share some of those lessons with you here on my blog.  This is really more than I have room for on a form at church.  So without any further ado, here are 11 lessons I have learned on mission trips to Washington & Oregon, Memphis, New Orleans, Kenosha WI, New Hampshire & Massachusetts, and Pearlington MS.

1. You will probably have experiences with the native wildlife.


Giant grasshoppers & alligators…just a few of the creatures you will encounter on mission

2. The ability to make balloon animals will make you very popular


Like, really popular. Even if you can only make snakes & swords

3. Not just anybody can rock a plastic visor


Despite this awesome picture I am less than confident that I can rock a plastic visor

4. You better like playing cards or dominoes, because once the day’s work is done there is nothing else to do. You will be playing cards.


Obviously from the looks on our faces, playing cards or dominoes is really, really fun. (Exhaustion notwithstanding)

5. Take lots of pictures, because one day in the future you may want to write a blogpost about all the stuff you learned and the points that have pictures are much more interesting than the ones without. (Seriously though, pictures are great because you will want to report to the people back at your church what it was like and pictures convey more than most of us are able to convey with words.)

6. Even if, like me, you have no actual discernible skills, you can always find some way to help.


I may not be able to build a porch, but I can hold the crap out of some wood

 7. Pretty much wherever you are going, [especially if you are going to the deep south] sunscreen & bug spray will be your friends.

8. Working alongside others you will probably come to know the meaning of Christian fellowship in a new way


Here I am bonding with @drewhopkinz my all-time star pupil…or something like that

9. Flexibility is extremely important, you almost always wind up doing things you didn’t previously plan on


For example, I was definitely not planning to lose an arm wrestling match to a 6th grader

10. You will probably have to eat weird food or food you don’t like. Just suck it up, it won’t hurt you (probably)


Delicious, delicious lemonade from a backyard Bible club
(A serious bad food story. The last time I ate bologna was on a mission trip in 1995)

11. There is nothing  better for personal revival than a week or a vacation, or a summer spent serving others whether it is witnessing to them, trying to lead them to eternal life, or whether it is a work project and service of some sort.


Do something: Weight loss, goals, and the future

Does it look like I stepped straight out of Saved By the Bell?

12th grade, Amazingly I wasn’t fat.

With the exception of 11-12th grades, I have been fat my whole life.  I have not always been extremely fat, but I have always been fat.  I was deeply convicted by an article I read around the new year, that essentially said it’s not what you think that matters, but what you do. With that in mind, I decided it’s time to actually DO some things. One of those things that I need to do is lose weight. I am obviously unhealthy.

With that in mind, whenever I learned of a city-wide weight-loss challenge, with a grand prize of 1000 dollars, I decided to do it. (It helped that I had some good friends also planning to participate)  That was 8 weeks ago and I have been eating healthy and exercising every day since.  I have had a lot of success during this period.  I have lost more than 30 pounds. I wore pants today that I could barely fit into a month ago. I am down 2 notches on my belt.  I have lost enough that pretty much everyone I know and see on a somewhat regular basis has acknowledged it and encouraged me. I now weigh less than I have since college.

Eight weeks is a long time when you are working hard, but ultimately it’s not that long of a time. During this period I have hung on to every possible milestone and goal for encouragement.  Since week three, though, one thing has really driven me – the thought that I might actually win a thousand bucks.

It is 8 weeks later and I am substantially thinner. I am going to have to buy some new clothes soon. But I am still a load.
Even though I won a prize (not the grand prize), if I put the weight back on, it would be a waste.  It would be a real shame to let 8 weeks of work and 30 pounds less of me go to waste, so I have to consider the future and more weight loss.

My goal is not to be all ripped, I’m not planning to run a marathon (ever), I don’t want to set records for leanness or win any body-building contests. I just want to weigh less than 200 and be able to climb a flight of stairs without panting.
I ate very badly the day the prizes were announced, and the next day for that matter, but I also rode the bike on those days.

Now I’m back at it.  I just don’t have the frenzy of a deadline and a cash prize driving me.  So I have to have goals to be encouraged by.
Here are the next few:

  • I have this one shirt that I want to be able to wear in public comfortably. It was free, it’s a 2x, and I don’t even like it that much. But it’s a brand name and the sizes are very small, so wearing it would be a victory. (I squeezed into it the other day but I would not have been comfortable)
  •  When I get to 215, my BMI changes from the obese category to overweight. That’s still a way off,  and will surely be a struggle. Weight gets harder to lose the more you lose.
  • Under 200 pounds. That will feel like a victory of victories and then I try to transition into maintain mode.
Before & after

Both of these were hard to get.
The lighting is way different, so this is not nearly as dramatic as I’d like

I have no idea if I’ll be able to keep going, and actually weigh under 200. That is still a very long way away. For all I know, by the middle of May I’ll get tired of exercising and begin heading back towards being a huge fat guy. I always have been; I don’t really know anything different.  I genuinely hope that doesn’t happen.

People keep asking me if I feel better.  The answer is yes, but not the way people mean. Physically there’s not much difference. I never have heartburn, but otherwise pretty much everything is the same. Very often my left knee still hurts. I still never want to get out of bed in the morning and I still want a nap just about every day.  However, psychologically the boost is incredible. I’ve always been fat. I sort of feel like, if I can do this, I can do anything. It’s ridiculous, I know. But this has been very hard and the accomplishment very encouraging.

I’ll leave you with some encouragement, I hope:

Once you have some success, once you can see results and others see results you want to keep going. Right now I want to wear that one shirt more than I want to be lazy and eat a whole pizza. It is hard. I never actually want to start pedaling the bike & I NEVER want to do stomach crunches. But it is worth it…so far.
So, umm, do something.

Ride the bike while you watch TV.

Eat less.

Move more.

Or don’t. Do whatever you want. why should you listen to some jerk on the internet?

weight-loss faces

This one is much more dramatic
(2008 is probably my largest point)


A New Venture

Way back in March of 2008 I began this blog by saying, “starting a blog is tantamount to saying what the world needs is more of me and my opinion.” I rarely blog anymore. Not even once a month. So somehow it feels like the world is just not getting enough of me. ;)
Since the world is not getting enough of me, and since I do have a need to teach that is not being fulfilled to the degree that I would like, and since one of my friends is quite persistent, I have started a podcast.

The podcast is called UnApologetic, and you can find it on the nascent Introspection.tv podcast network.  The goal is for each episode is for me to answer a question submitted by a listener.  The introductory episode is up and very soon the second will be up.  You can find it here (here is the link on iTunes)

This is my first attempt at something like this. Consequently there are plenty of issues with this first “real episode.”  I really belabored my point a couple of times, missed some facts and, most significantly, I need to learn to moderate my tone. I will get better.

In order to get better though, I need questions.  If I’m going to keep answering one question per episode, I need more questions.

I am actually quite gifted at making difficult things simpler.  I hope that by listening I can clarify thingsm I also hope that I can help strengthen your faith .

Here is what I’m asking from you:
-Listen to it
-Forgive my mistakes. (I’ll work on them)
-If you are using iTunes, rate the show
-Send me questions
-If you have graphic design skills, donate me some cover art or a logo


Prediction Results 2012

Each year on my blog I like to predict what will happen in the coming year.  I Invite my readers to make predictions in the comments.   I should have posted this a while ago but better late than never.  Let’s see how we all did.

First …my predictions

UK basketball wins their 8th NCAA championship  - Yes Go Cats
The UK football team will be no better than 7-5 and Joker Phillips will be fired - Yes
Even though this is 2012, the world will still be here to make predictions about late next December - Yes
I will go on a date this year – Sadly, No
A passive 3-D TV comes out from a major brand (i.e. one with cheap glasses). Even so, nobody cares about a 3-D TV and they sell only because you can’t buy non-3-D TVs – Here’s how right I was, I actually had to google this to see if it happened
Google+ remains irrelevant but doesn’t get shut down – Also yes.  I am on fire so far
The Hobbit will be the number one movie next year.  Battleship (Yes, a movie about a board game), The Bourne Legacy, The Hunger Games, Spiderman (Again?) will all be in the top 10. – Wow, I was way off on this one. Only the Hobbit & Hunger Games were in the top 10
Republicans will make gains everywhere, but… - Yes
Barack Obama is reelected president - Yes
By year’s end I will derive more than 20% of my income from speaking.  – Sadly, wrong on this one too. I earned just under 3% of my income from speaking this year
I will weigh less when writing 2013 predictions than I do today – This is a bit of good news I do weigh less.  Not much, but less

Overall I was 7-3 on predicting the future.  That’s .700; if I was a coach I would be highly paid.

How did my readers do at predicting the future?

Daniel Knoll
I predict that i will still be single – Correct, although I say it’s just on a technicality
UNC will make it to or past the Elite 8. - Yes
The Panthers will go 8-8 or better. – Nope, close though 7-9
I will have a girlfriend or at least a real date.  – Got it because you hedged your bets. Date yes, girlfriend no
The Dark Knight Rises will be the #1 movie of the year. The Hobbit will be #1 in December. (If it’s released in December, can it be #1 for the year?) Star Trek will be top 10. Skyfall (James Bond) will be top 20. – Dark Knight was #2, Hobbit definitely was December’s winner, Star Trek didn’t come out, Skyfall was #4.  So I’ll give you a No, Yes, Push, Yes
Community and The Office will be cancelled – Not sure about Community’s official status, the Office is in its final season so I guess that is another push, and  Yes
At least one glasses-less 3D tv will be available but will be more than $2,000 – as far as I know there are no Glasses-less 3D TV
Apple will release Macbooks or iMacs with retina displays. - yes
The world will not end on Dec. 21, 2012. – Yes

Ryan was 7-3-1 (.700) which means we are equal at prognostication

UK wins the National Championship in Men’s Basketball. – Yes w00t!
The UK women’s basketball team makes the Final Four. – Nope They were one game shy
The Packers repeat as Super Bowl Champions. - Nope
The Reds win the NL Central division. - Yep
Mathis and I attend a baseball game in St. Louis. – No, although we had it on the schedule for a while
I finish higher than Mathis in fantasy football. – No, mathis was 4th, Roland was 8th was it your worst season ever?
Mathis speaks in at least 7 different churches – Yes, I spoke in 8 churches
Mathis visits a new state – No new state this year
All four guys that have posted in here go on a real date this year – Sorry to let you down, but I did not get a date, I even got turned down for 2 blind dates
That makes Roland 3-6 (.333) If this was baseball he’d probably be an all-star


If I self-publish, does that make me a writer?

My goal
Today is November 1.  November is NaNoWriMo.  You may remember that last year I began writing a book in November, and even though it’s not a novel (it is one of my apologetics lectures expanded into book form) I used the prompts from NaNoWriMo as motivation.  I never finished my book though.  I have written approximately 10 percent and I have someone who has agreed to edit it for me.  I see no reason why I cannot be finished with the entire draft stage before the month is over.  With that said, this November I don’t necessarily have the goal of finishing, but I do plan on making progress every single day of the month, including Thanksgiving.
Feel free to keep me accountable towards my goal.  Text me, tweet me, leave a comment here, whatever.

My Question

Even though my book is still pretty nascent, I have considered what to do when I finish. Should I submit it to a traditional publisher, or should I have it self-published?  As I see it, there are only four advantages to traditional publishing

1.  Approval – If a traditional publisher agrees to use the resources that publishing a book requires then it means that somebody (who should know) thinks I am worth publishing.  In my estimation, this is the number one reason by a long way.
In my mind, even though this is the number one reason, successful sales of the book would make this reason obsolete.
2.  Promotion – Since the company has a financial interest in the success of the book, they would have a reason to promote it.  Also, since it’s their business,  they have the know-how and resources to make it financially successful.
3.  Editing – I have someone who has agreed to edit my book and I am planning to pay her.  If a company agreed to publish the book they would have their own editor to and it would save me some money.  Speaking of money…
4.  Getting paid  - I am certain that I would make less money by going through a traditional publisher.  I am also sure I will not be happy about what happens with the rights to the book.  I am also pretty sure that I would be on the losing end of a contract.  However, there is no up-front cost.  Self publishing, at least if I decide to have print copies made, is very expensive on the front end.

That’s it, that’s the list.  And really, if I am honest, the first reason is the only reason that would motivate me to seek out traditional publishing.  In every other way I think self publishing is better.  I keep the rights, I can do what I please with it.  I will make more money if it actually generates sales.  If I were already a published author, this would not even be a question for me.  I would self-publish.

I know that technology has changed the world, and publishing is one of the areas where the impact is strongest.  There is no need to go through a traditional publisher, but if my book is self-published, I feel as if I am being dishonest by saying I am a published author.  (There is one post on this blog that has been read several thousand times and only received positive comments, so it’s not as if I have had no success at writing. It just doesn’t feel the same)

I know I often beg for comments, but I would really love to know your thoughts on this. Especially if you have been published before.


This is super-cool

This is probably the coolest thing I have seen in the history of Midnight Madness. 


Best Web Junk (October 12)

This is pretty much 10 minutes of awesomeness

My Twitter Feed

My newest on Flickr

2010-12-28 20

Esau - Taken to test the camera on my HTC Evo

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April 2014
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Political disclaimer

* Although I am a member of Edgewood Baptist Church, the views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own and not that of my church. They may not be construed as an endorsement or attack on any candidate or party on behalf of my church. They are my views as an individual.


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