Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Have you ever tried something over and over again and just keep running headlong into the same place in the same brick wall and the only thing getting dents in it is your skull?  Yeah, that's a significant part of my life story...

El Jumpo...

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's The Sailor's Life For Me!

“He curses like a sailor.”

It wasn’t until I started interacting with actual Sailors and future Sailors that I came to see the above is not just a clever saying remarking on a bygone era; it holds true today. 

More after the jump...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday's Notes - The Blues

1) It's true...

2) Look Around You - one video out of a brilliant "educational" series from England:

3) The alternate version of Darth Vader's death scene at the end of Return of the Jedi - I personally hope they include this in the 3D version:

4) The Super Simple Secret  to Great Ideas - by Jon Acuff.  It's one of those things where you smack your forehead and declare, "Of course!" but it's not something we commonly think about.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Eat the Strawberries

Sometimes you're stuck between a rock and a hard place (or "the Rock and a hard case" if you're Sean Connery).  What do you do?  Fret and worry your way out of it?  Resign yourself to failure?  Or maybe just live in the moment, knowing you've done and/or are doing the best you can?  Today's drawing after the jump...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Artwork Wednesday: Shadow

The last couple of weeks have been just this side of overwhelming.  In the process of preparing for shipping I've also moved into a new place and regained a roommate; all that brings along its own stressors.  Oftentimes I feel like I'm onstage, or under the scrutiny of everyone.  Granted, I somewhat put myself out there sometimes, but more than once I've concluded that I am essentially a glutton for punishment - in that regard, sometimes I think I should've joined the Marines.

Today's drawing is from a few years ago.  It's called "Shadow" - story after the jump.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ya Got a Mean Hook, There

Freshman year of college I got involved with a campus ministry at ECU.  We had this weekly meeting on Thursday nights meant to be for outreach to the lost college students (in a spiritual sense, not just freshmen who couldn’t find their way around campus) to get ‘em in somewhere and hear about Jesus.

Now, you can’t just say to someone, “Hey, come to this thing at the student center on Thursday to hear about Jesus!”  There has to be a hook.  Don’t the Apostles use hooks in the book Acts?  They are fishermen, for goodness’ sake.  Anyway, the hook for the Thursday night meetings was some kind of skit or something and then someone would share their testimony about how they became a Christian. 

The skits were a lot of fun to produce.  I was involved with a few.  There was a guy who did a great Chris Farley impression and some of us recreated the original sketch from SNL featuring Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker (I played Phil Hartman’s role).  Another time we did a musical number from the Planet of the Apes the Musical.  Another time some guy produced a video Matrix spoof.  All this was great fun.  The entertainment part of the show took about 15-20 minutes and usually garnered great responses.  I want to say there was a singing component, too…  And then someone would give a five minute testimony – five minutes to communicate to an audience of thirty or more how his or her life had been changed forever.

About 40 minutes of entertainment, five minutes about God.

Now, this was over ten years ago.  I have no idea how things are going now.  But since that time, I’ve observed similar happenings.  It could be youth conferences, church events, other ministry events, whatever, there has to be some kind of thing to grab people’s attention and then, oh yeah, now that you’re here you’re going to hear about the gospel.

Lately, I’ve been observing a theme emerging from different sermons I’ve listened to, blogs I’ve read, and conversations I’ve had with people: Why use a hook?  The Apostles did not use hooks; Jesus did not use hooks; Paul did not use hooks – they just went around proclaiming the gospel.  Now, I don’t mean in the fashion of the street preachers you sometimes see, though sometimes they would get into a discussion and then draw a crowd, but that was because their message was their hook.  And not only their message, but their obvious belief in that message manifested in how they lived.

When I think of hooks (aside from fishing equipment or villainous captains) I think of sleazy salesmen trying to huckster unsuspecting fools – that is to say, taking advantage of people.  Saying all that to say, many people use hooks with good intentions.  I mean, who hasn’t at some point in their life?  But, we all know what road good intentions pave.  Perhaps we just need to believe what the Bible says; perhaps we just need to believe in the power of the gospel and not secondary means. 

Friday, September 9, 2011


I’m not sure if it was the 6th, 7th or 10th, but it was my senior year of college and I was a Resident Advisor (RA).  It was on the 6th, 7th or 10th when the RAs for my dorm had a meeting and the main topic of discussion was fire inspections – that is, the week of September 10, the fire marshal would come through all the dorm rooms and check to make sure no one had a fire hazard present.  I believe they were scheduled to start mid-week, but for some reason might start a little sooner and we were to be ready.

Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, I was sleeping in because I didn’t have any classes that day.  A frantic knocking woke me up.  I thought to myself, “Oh, great; fire inspection time.”  As I put on some proper clothes the knocking continued and a voice from the other side said, “Cliff!  Wake up!  You’ve got to see what’s happening on TV!”  I recognized the voice as that of my friend, Joe.

As soon as I opened the door he rushed in, looking for the TV remote.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Two 747s crashed into the World Trade Center and another one went after the Pentagon!  It’s just like in a movie or something!”  This was my friend Joe who had a flair for the dramatic, was easily excitable, and was a master BSer; however there was a ring of authenticity to his words.

Before I could say anything more than, “What?” he had the TV on and there was the footage of smoke pouring out of both towers.

“Holy crap, we’re under attack!” Joe said.

I was still waking up.  What was going?  What did this mean? I wondered.

“I’ve got to go,” Joe said.  He ran out the door and I took my seat in front of the TV.

A few minutes later, the first tower fell.  Not long after, the second tower fell.  There was pandemonium on the streets as the networks brought live coverage of the event to everyone who would watch.  Everyone was freaking out.

And finally, I was afraid.

All flights in the U.S. were grounded; there was talk of another crash in Pennsylvania.  My dad was probably traveling that day and though he hadn’t done business in the Northeastern area of the country for a while, that was the first thing that came to mind.  I tried calling him and after a few tries while all circuits were busy, I finally got through to his voicemail.  It rang first, then went to voicemail, indicating that his phone was at least still operational even if he might not have been.

I just stayed glued to the TV for another hour or so.  Then it occurred to me that some of my residents were from the New York/New Jersey area.  I also had a resident on my hall who is of Middle Eastern descent and shared the name of Iraq’s former dictator.  I started going room-to-room and checking on the guys; aside from being stunned, and some of them angry, they were all fine and those who had family in and around the New York area said all their loved ones were safe.  Some of them told me that they were hearing of attacks on people who looked even remotely like someone from the Middle East.

Checking on Saddam, his roommate answered the door.  He said Saddam wasn’t there, but he was okay.  And this guy, Saddam, was one of the nicest guys I’d ever met.  Before that day everyone would joke about his name and he was nice about it, joking along.  But that day could have changed everything; thankfully, it didn’t.

Getting back to my room I heard my cell phone ringing – it was dad.  He was in Mississippi or Alabama or somewhere.  We talked for a few minutes, then I resumed my vigil in front of the TV as footage of the attacks was replayed; as footage of people scrambling through the streets as more buildings fell was played; as footage of people in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places celebrated in their streets, burning U.S.A. flags, having a good old time.

At some point I started recording it all on my VCR.

At one point I broke down and cried; not out of fear, but sadness, watching people who would normally be proud, strong, in charge of their lives be thrown into ruin, desperation, abject terror. 

My country was no longer invulnerable.  In my mind, it wouldn’t be long before the movie Red Dawn would become a true story and battle would erupt across the U.S.

Thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet.

In the days following I was comforted by the strength of President Bush and proud of the union that existed among the political parties.  For the briefest of moments in our country’s history, everyone seemed to be on the same side.

How soon we forget what joy there is in being united.

How soon we forget our inherent vulnerability as individuals, and as a nation, and revert to ways of living that see only to our personal needs and not the needs of others.

September 11 was just a graphic reminder of this fact, but this happens everyday on smaller, more personal scales.  Something rattles our cages, we get scared, we get help, then we feel better and resume normal living, never having learned anything – wash, rinse, repeat – 390th verse same as the first. 

“Friends” are made in times of peril and then forsaken when all is well.  It’s just the way of things.

There is a difference between feeling better and getting better.  They’re not mutually exclusive, but the former always precedes the latter and we wee humans tend to get it backwards.

Thank God for Jesus.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Artwork Wednesday

Wednesdays are for art.  I enjoy drawing (and on rare occasions, painting); I’ve done a lot of it.  The thing is, I have a ton of drawings on my hard drives and no one with whom to share them.  Maybe that’s not a big deal, but isn’t that what art is for; first for the artist to express himself then to share that expression with the world?  So, from here on out, every Wednesday I’ll share a dabbling I’ve done in the art world with the story behind it (if any).

Today, I present “Open Mind.”

A little background: my most prodigious periods have been while working at a call center.  This is my first work from my first call center period.  I drew it during the training class as I learned how to take calls for a Holiday Inn call center which no longer exists in Cary, NC.  This would have been some time in August 2002. 

This style of squiggly, rippling shapes was first introduced to me by a friend in high school.  One day he randomly showed me this rather psychedelic looking design consisting of loops and whorls and I loved what it did to my eyes.  I asked how he did it and he showed me.  It was simple enough: start with your main shape by drawing a big outline and then work your way inwards.  The effect can be profound for such a simple technique and that’s what I like it about it.  As far as I’m concerned, the fewer moving parts, the better.

That technique stuck with me.  I found it to be an easy, yet productive style of doodling in class.  I took this idea into college and then into the workforce as seen here.  Essentially, the above drawing is just a doodle.  I think I started with the eye; I love eyes.  “Windows to the soul” and all that.  I really had no plan for it; after the eye, I figured it needed an eyebrow; then a cheekbone; then a mouth, a nose, a neck…but no top for the head.

“No top means it’s open, right?” I reasoned to myself.  “An open head means an open brain – hey, kind of like an open mind!”  And so then you see what’s going on in the open mind.  Just  a bunch of shapes and lines you and I may not get, but the guy there gets it; most of it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Keep Calm and Carry On

This is my current journal.  Before I purchased it, I’d begun noticing this slogan, or motto, cropping up more and more frequently in my environment.  I have an idea or two why this seems to be having a resurgence in popularity in our culture, but I won’t get into that now.

For those of you unfamiliar, this is not related to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Don’t panic!!).  Before the graphic became the cover for a journal it was a poster – rather a whole bunch of posters – produced by the British government at the onset of World War II to help maintain the morale of the British citizens.  “Though war and chaos is breaking out around and in our country, keep calm and carry on.”

Yesterday morning I was at Caribou before church doing a bit of journaling and such.  When I finished, I closed it up and placed it on my Bible and just sat there for a bit, letting the excess thoughts drain from my mind.  Then I glanced down and for a moment it looked as though my journal and Bible were one and the same and I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be rather fitting if this were on the cover of our Bibles?  I mean, isn’t that the point?  When strife and chaos breaks out in and around our lives should we freak out?  No.  God is in control.  He loves us, we have a place reserved in heaven – just keep calm and carry on.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday's Gracenotes

1) Being Less Biblical and More Like the Bible - Donald Miller makes a point differentiating between being biblical and being like the Bible.  When I first began to read it, my impression was that he's splitting hairs, here, but as I continued to read I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with his sentiments.  I mean, if you wanted to approach the dating life "biblically" then chuck a male goose at Judges 21, specifically verses 20-23.

2) Etta James sings I'll Fly Away.  This makes me happy and sad, reminding me of old-fashioned hymn sings at the church I grew up in and at family reunions.

3) Wooden Heart by Listener.  Learned about this from StuffChristiansLike.  At first, I thought it was kind of weird.  As it goes on though, it starts to make sense and I think it's pretty great.

4) Elizabeth South.  So, it turns out I went to the same church as this lady for a bit but was too shy to introduce myself.  Now we're friends on Facebook and she has a couple CDs out!  Her style kind of reminds me of Nichole Nordeman - I think you'll like her, too.

5) Alistair Begg.  This bloke from Scotland preaches at Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio.  Personally, I just like the accent, however he also speaks sound theology with the love of Christ.  There's a podcast available as well as the full audio from his sermons.  It's definitely worth a listen.