Monday, January 26, 2009

Amazing Video & A Funny Story

I got this video link in an email. It was one of the most amazing stunts I have ever seen. Watching it jogged my memory and I recalled a very humorous day in my life. Go ahead and watch the video then continue reading. Here is the disclaimer: Toward the end of this video, I think one of the onlookers utters something akin to "Holy Moley" as a man flies by him at about a hundred miles an hour. If that offends you, turn your sound off or don't watch this and go cross stitch a bookmark instead.

wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

About 16 years ago, I had a friend in my church who was a stuntman- a real, honest to goodness, Hollywood stunts and special effects guy. He had married a local girl, moved to the area and tried to make a go of it from here. He recruited me and several of my friends to work with him on various projects that would come along. So we trained. We learned how to "stunt fight." We learned how to fall without getting hurt and various other tricks of the trade.

On one particular occasion, my stuntman friend (who shall remain nameless) contracted with a North Carolina blanket company to do some photo and video shoots for an ad campaign that would demonstrate the strength and durability of their blankets. On one shoot we fired a cannon ball at the blanket. On another shoot, we simulated hanging beneath a helicopter holding onto nothing but the blanket. I went because the company president and I were about the same size so I made a good stunt double. We were actually in a full body harness although it was still rather dangerous. That brings us to the really funny part and the reason that I was reminded of this by idiots in gliding wingsuits.

On our last shoot for this company, someone had a really bright idea. It was decided that we would go to the Flyaway in Pigeon Forge, TN and simulate skydiving using a blanket instead of a parachute. The Flyaway, for those that may not know, is a facility where people can go and simulate skydiving by putting on a skydiving suit (a little like the wingsuit but different) and standing on top of a giant room-size fan. The only thing between you and being run through the food processor is a mesh screen. The cool part was that we got to go in for free and play around so that we could acclimate ourselves to the environment. While playing around we discovered that I was right on the size limit. All that meant was that the suit I had to wear didn't fit quite right and they had to crank the fan up as fast as it could go. Think Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd in Spies Like Us ("Want some coffee?)

After getting our bearings. I then had to change into my costume: gray slacks, white shirt, red tie and blue sport coat. This was the same outfit that had been worn in all previous shoots. Then they draped the blanket over my back and began to tie/affix it to my wrists and ankles. Are you getting the picture? I looked like Rocky, The Flying Squirrel Accountant. The lift is not going to be achieved by the large, wind-catching skydiving suit. The lift is going to come from the air shooting around my 27-acre body and into the blanket/sail that is now permanently attached to my extremities. Unfortunately, we were fresh out of engineers and physicists. No one was there to enlighten us on the amount of stress that was about to be placed on my shoulders and...well... groin area.

Soooooooo, I layed down in the middle of the aforementioned mesh screen and waited for lift off as they cranked the fan up to about 130 mph. As the wind danced off my face and my blanket parachute began to fill up, I was suddenly reminded of the way they used to punish criminals for high treason during the middle ages in England. They would tie horses or mules to each arm and leg and urge them to run away from each other...with the arms and legs. They called it being "drawn and quartered." As the fan approached 130 mph, I began to achieve anti gravity. Lift off had begun and rip off was soon to follow. I can't begin to describe the pain that was coursing through my body. Each time I would get about 5 feet or so off the ground, my body would shift just enough for the air to leave my blanket and I would fall off the column of air and crash into the side pads or the photographer/videographer. The bad thing was that five feet was high enough to hurt when you fell, but not high enough to get the "money shot." I did this for about two hours before we got everything we needed.

And that, my friends, is how my illustrious stuntman career came to an end.

No autographs, please.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Volunteer's Take On Tebow

Tebow Fatigue. The latest in a long line of media-generated vocabulary additions. It describes the nature of being tired of the constant media attention given to University of Florida quarterback, Tim Tebow. Tebow just completed his second National Championship run and, as of this past weekend's announcement, will be vying for a third title and possibly a second Heisman trophy next year when he returns for his final season.

I was born and raised in Big Orange country. My dad has had season tickets in Neyland Stadium for roughly 45 years. All I knew about college football growing up was seen through an orange colored Volunteer lens. I love the Vols. With that said, despite my best efforts otherwise, I cannot keep from loving and pulling for Tim Tebow. I am not a Gator lover by any stretch of the imagination and I don't particularly care for the attitude, demeanor and tactics of their coach, Urban Meyer, but I enjoy watching Tim Tebow play ball.

The first thing that draws my attention to Tim is his tenacity and competitive nature. I was always highly competitive when I played sports. To this day, whether I am playing softball or a game of Phase 10, I want to beat you. I like that about Tim. He is a gamer. The highly publicized post-game interview following the Gator's lone loss to the Ole Miss Rebels is proof positive of how Tim approaches the "game" of football. He is a winner.

Secondly, he is a gifted athlete. His combination of size, strength and speed are unusual for a college quarterback. It has allowed him to endure in the SEC relatively injury free. Most experts would agree that as a passer Tebow is average. In this area he has benefited from having great athletes around him. However, 90 percent of the time, when his team needs a big play he finds a way of getting it done. He is great at improvisation and I don't mean in the Robin Williams vein. He simply has a knack for making things happen when it seems all options have been exhausted.

Most importantly, in my view, Tebow is a committed Christian. It is a shame that we have to qualify that, but there are a lot of Christians who are not very committed. Tebow is. I have observed and I have read and I have even researched, and Tebow has been very consistent in his walk. In a Biblical sense, he has produced much fruit. Born of missionary parents, another highly publicized aspect of his life, Tebow's faith is at the forefront of everything that he does. Herein lies the real rub.

I was listening to a local sports call-in show today when I heard a caller complain that Tebow's constant "rambling" about "his God" was a form of self-promotion. I will have to admit- in a moment of weakness- I wanted reach through the radio and pull out his larynx. Self-promotion??? Are you kidding me? It is this kind of attitude toward the highly public athlete who seemingly does things the right way that makes me sick. The public can't get enough of the T.O.'s, the Michael Vick's, the Roger Clemens' who royally mess up, but let Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy, or, yes, Tim Tebow, experience great success-- and do it the right way-- and just watch everyone try to cut them down. I am convinced that people love it when bad things happen to others and when others make catastrophically stupid decisions because it somehow elevates themselves. "Hey, I am not so bad, look at that guy!" It is the Bill Clinton effect.

Tebow does not have to promote himself. His abilities and successes are what cause the cameras to roll and the lights to come on. And when he is given the stage, he gives glory and honor to Jesus Christ- not some higher power, or little "g" god, or "the big man upstairs"- he thanks his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is the antithesis of self-promotion.

We need more "celebrities" who give us reason to smile- who make us want to strive harder. We don't need any more people that simply make us feel better about our own mistakes and shortcomings. Tim Tebow is not perfect. By his own admission, he has done things on and off the field that he wishes he could take back. We all have done that. We all will do that. What separates the good ones from the bad ones is this- the good ones admit (and confess) their mistakes. The bad ones blame someone else.

I, for one, will look forward to the fall to once again watch Tim Tebow dazzle us on and off the field. It would be fine by me, however, should he plan to be out of town on September 19, 2009. The only way that I have experienced "Tebow Fatigue" is watching his antics versus the Vols the last two years.

So far, Tim, its well done... well done.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My View: "If I Was Jesus"

We dropped a new song into rotation at WCQR a few weeks ago that has created quite a stir among some of our listeners. The emails and the calls started rolling in. It is not the first time and it certainly won't be the last. The song is by Paul Coleman and it is entitled If I Was Jesus. Some may have a problem with it because country music star, Toby Keith, had done the song on one of his records. How could a song that was sung by a sinner be played on Christian radio--- is a question that must have floated through some of their cerebral cortices. If that statement did not make you chuckle, well, maybe you are one of them.

Although I would really love it if you tuned into 88.3fm to hear the song, I have posted a video of the song and the song lyrics at the bottom of this post so you can see and hear what this is all about. The video is from YouTube and it is not complete, but it will give you the flavor.

Here's my two cents.

The song is an interesting dichotomy. First, the style is very light and bouncy. The lyrics seem very elementary and childlike. Both of which belie the deeper meaning and gravity of the message which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. People have a real problem considering the humanity of Christ. Funny-- so did the Pharisees. People don't like to think about Jesus being at a party with his friends, having a good time and turning water into wine. If you have a problem with that, I am sorry, but that is what the Book says. What's more, He did not turn the water into Welch's grape juice either.

Interestingly, some of the same people who don't like to consider Jesus' humanity also have a problem accepting His divinity. Jesus is GOD! As God, His commands are to be taken seriously. It is a little thing we call obedience. Matthew 28:18 reminds us that "all authority in heaven and earth" has been given to Him. The song says that He has shown us who is "boss" and He demonstrated this on many occasions.

At the core, I think people have a problem because the Jesus we read about in the Bible is NOT conventional and does not conveniently fit into the modern church's view of the sweet little Jesus boy image. Jesus lived, spoke and was the TRUTH. He clashed with that which ran afoul of God's precepts. Yet, He also clashed with what had become accepted church practice of that day. Some things never change. Some of our accepted church practices have no basis in scripture, but we hang on to them for dear life. When the legalists try to bind up Jesus, He bursts through with grace, mercy and love.

I pray for the day that we stop arguing with each other about which view of Jesus will prevail and spend a little more time telling lost people about the Jesus of the Bible and testifying to what He has done in our lives.

The chorus of the song really says it all. He forgave us and adored us while He hung upon our cross. Praise be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Lyrics – ‘If I was Jesus’ – Paul Colman

If I Was Jesus, I'd have some real long hair
A robe and some sandals, is what I'd wear
I'd be the guy at the party, turnin' water to wine
Yeah me and my disciples, we'd have a real good time.

Ooh and I'd lay my life down for you (woooooh)
And I'd show you who's the boss (woooooh)
I'd forgive you and adore you
While I was hangin' on your cross
If I Was Jesus.

I'd have some friends that were poor
I'd run around with the wrong crowd, man I'd never be bored
Then I'd heal me a blind man, get myself crucified
By politicians and preachers, who got somethin' to hide.

And I'd lay my life down for you

And I show you who's the boss (woooooh)
I'd forgive you and adore you
While I was hangin' on your cross

Yeah, if I Was Jesus.

Yeah, if I was Jesus.

If I Was Jesus, I'd come back from the dead
And I'd walk on some water, just to mess with your head
I know your dark little secrets, I'd look you right in the face
And I'd tell you I love you, with Amazing Grace.

Ooh and I'd lay my life down for you (woooooh)
And I'd show you who's the boss (woooooh)
I'd forgive you and adore you
While I was hangin' on your cross
If I Was Jesus.

If I Was Jesus.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Scout, The Wonder Dog: 1997-2009

Some folks who read this will already be aware and others have suspected that something was up. The fact is that Saturday evening, we had to put our family's faithful companion to rest. Please understand that I am not some weirdo who thinks so highly of animals that I elevate them to some great, grand and glorious level, I am not that guy. However, I do know that our pets are important to us. They play an integral part in our lives and for those of you that have had or still have cherished pets, you know of what I speak.

Scout was an outstanding pet. She was a guardian of our family and though she spent the majority of her days outside, she loved us unconditionally. Every time I would have to leave to go to seminary, mission trips, conferences and the like, I would have a heart to heart with Scout to let her know she was to keep the family safe. She never failed.

In honor of Scout, I am republishing an article (below) that I wrote nearly 7 years ago, before Ellie was born. My prayer is that you might become more aware of some of the things dogs know instinctively that it takes years for Christians to learn and develop.

Everything I know about behaving like a Christian, I could have learned from my dog. I heard that! You thought, “I knew it, Tiger IS a low down, dirty dog.” Seriously, Christians are called to behave a certain way. The Scriptures are full of behaviors and characteristics that the Christian should exhibit. These characteristics are outlined by individuals such as, Jesus Christ, along with His disciples in various places throughout the New Testament. The simple fact of the matter is that my dog, Scout, exemplifies these for me on a daily basis. Before you jump to conclusions, keep reading.

When I come home, regardless of the circumstances, Scout is happy to see me. Paige has told me that when Scout hears my car, sometimes from several blocks away, she starts running laps around the backyard and meets me at the gate. When I step through the gate everything I am wearing and/or carrying gets a sniff and any exposed skin that she can reach gets a lick. Scout always exhibits joy and caring, even when I have to scold her.
When strangers visit, Scout gets so excited that sometimes she forgets that we don’t jump on people. She wants to interact with everyone who might be brave enough to come inside the fence. Even the meter reader has figured out that she means him no harm. He has begun to come inside the fence and read the meter instead of merely estimating our power usage each month. ( NOTE: I can't speak for the UPS man in her later years. Something happened there and I am just not sure what. All I know is when the little brown truck came within 300 yards of our house, Scout transformed into some alter ego and I would have to go meet the truck if I wanted what he was bringing- it wasn't pretty, but I digress.)

It makes no difference what you look like or how you dress, Scout is still interested in you.
Scout also protects her territory and us. She has an interesting ability to recognize who belongs around the place and who doesn’t. If you are not on her mental list, I dare say you would have difficulty working up enough courage to step through the fence. Being half German Shepherd and half Labrador, Scout can look as menacing as they come. The hair along her back stands straight up and her bark belies her gentle nature. We know exactly when something is going on anywhere around the house. When push came to shove I think she would sacrifice herself for Paige or me (NOTE: And Ellie... forget about it- you just didn't mess with Ellie if Scout was around.)

Loyalty and obedience are her strong suits. She spends 99% of her time outside, but on special evenings, “Mom” allows her to come in and hang out with us. She never messes up if you know what I mean. She will walk around the house for several minutes, checking out anything that might have changed since her last visit. Eventually, she calms down and lies on the floor either by Paige or me. On very special nights, even though Scout is thigh high to me and weighs over 100 lbs., I allow her to jump up with me in the recliner and I pet her until my feet begin to fall asleep. She did it when she was a puppy and she still sees herself as a lap dog. You have never seen a more content look on a face than when Scout is being loved on by her master.

Joy, caring, love, protection, loyalty and obedience make up a list of characteristics that the average Christian would do well to develop. It comes naturally to dogs when they are properly treated. We humans needed the grace of Christ to defeat our sinful nature and give us the ability to attain these attributes. You might say that these things can become “second nature” to those of us who have a general understanding of what our Lord and Savior desires of us. We are all properly treated by our God and we would do well to adopt the habit of regularly spending time reclining at the throne of our Master.