Posts made in May, 2014

My Latest at Figures.com : Thoughts on the Present State of G.I.Joe

Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Offsite Content

I’ve been a G.I. Joe fan for a very, very long time–first as a child, then as a high schooler, then a college student, and even now as I type this–even after those two movies they made–I remain a fan (and I turn 32 on Monday).

Yep. Still.

Of course, in the changing cultural climate, G.I. Joe has had a tumultuous reception, not only due to the film but the concept itself. Being a writer, I had to sort through my emotions by putting my thoughts to page (screen?).

Figures.com was kind enough to indulge me, and one of the Joe Die hards at a separate site in their network, YoJoe.com, was even willing to fact-check and improve it (Thanks, Terrance).

Interested in G.I. Joe? You may find this worth a read.
 

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hiatus

 
 
 
 
 

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Stronghold : One Year Anniversary

Posted by on May 28, 2014 in STRONGHOLD, Writer's Diary

One year ago today, I released my first novel. Entitled, Stronghold, the book follows a Christian believer who seeks to overcome temptation by imagining his soul as a fantasy realm wherein warrior angels and demonic powers battle for influence and territory. The books came from a very organic personal experience, and it’s development was the rare instance of inspiration that writers crave but few experience.

Stronghold‘s completion seems just as fortuitous. Though I had composed the first draft while still gainfully employed in California, I completed it during the huge amount of time provided by my nine months out of work in Delaware. Had I obtained a job immediately upon our arrival to the East Coast, Stronghold might still be in revisions (and my second novel might not have been started).

The emotional roller-coaster since Stronghold‘s publication has been exhausting. Participating in written and audio videos has been encouraging, but sales not so much. The initial swell of pride after completing the book was replaced gradually with the realization that it may not be as good as I had thought or, at least, has not connected with readers as I’d expected.

The experience has been as much of a disappointment as it has a personal triumph, but I have an aching suspicion that’s the point. Perhaps I am supposed to realize that my writing, while valuable, may never be able to support us. Maybe I need to see that my experiences and ideas are far less accessible than I assumed. And God might have led me through this for the simple purpose of reminding me that I must take joy in his salvation and find true personal fulfillment in him alone, regardless of accomplishment or lack thereof. Then again, maybe it’s a combination of all three.

The bottom line is really this: a year after publication, Stronghold has failed to perform in any capacity to the levels I had expected, but that’s okay. God is still God; God is still good, and I am still his spiritual son–sealed with his Holy Spirit. This is enough. Stronghold‘s existence (and performance) is a bonus.

As I reflect on these things, I am deeply motivated. I have written a novel. I CAN write another. And that one can be better. That one can find it’s audience. But even if it doesn’t, I am still in my Heavenly Father’s loving hands.

And that’s a good place to be.
(Haven’t read Stronghold? Click below for more details!)
 

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Review: If I Had Lunch with C.S. Lewis by Alistair McGrath

Posted by on May 24, 2014 in Reviews & Recommendations

Most modern evangelicals would probably love to have lunch with C.S. Lewis.
Lewis is one of the most revered thinkers of the last century, and his students and personal letters suggest he was something of a gregarious figure and wonderful conversationalist. This is not surprising considering his body of written work, which includes Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and the beloved Chronicles of Narnia.

Thus, Alister McGrath’s recent work, If I Had Lunch with C.S. Lewis, seems as much a piece of wish fulfillment as it does exploration of Lewis’ ideas. McGrath is wise, however, in not really placating this desire for the reader via a fictional dialogue. Rather, out of respect for Lewis (and the reader), McGrath carefully crafts scenarios of what we might expect from Lewis in conversation, rather than provide a narrative of what would occur. This difference is subtle but useful, as it avoids the “well, I don’t think it would play like that” criticism that would plague any book containing imagined interactions with historic figures.

This particular element of the book’s design created a great deal of good will from me, for it showed two important facts about the McGrath. First, his intention was not so much focused on his personal dialogue with Lewis so much as Lewis’ continued dialogue with his readers. By focusing on general topics that Lewis may address, McGrath consistently redirects attention to Lewis’ ideology more than a characterization of it. Second, the author’s methodology allows for the exploration of broader ideas that will likely draw the reader further toward Lewis’ original, nuanced writings. These are both splendid outcomes of the book’s execution.

Indeed, a more appropriate title for the book may have been, “Lunches with C.S. Lewis”, which is not only shorter but also more reflective of the book’s layout. McGrath introduces the idea of food and fellowship with Lewis before setting the expectation of the experience he intends to create, that were we—his readers, Lewis, and the author himself—to come together on a regular basis, we would likely direct a question to Lewis and in turn receive a thought-provoking answer, albeit one that could fit into a lunch-hour discourse.

In this way, each chapter highlights a specific type of conversation we might have and the types of ideas Lewis might convey, as well as anecdotes he would use. McGrath provides constant reminders that this is not Lewis speaking so much as how we might expect him to speak given what he’s said in his other texts and collected works. Herein lies the book’s most fascinating element. McGrath distills his longtime knowledge of Lewis into clear, broad ideas that pull from a variety of texts; and in doing so, he gives the reader a wonderful overarching view of Lewis’ work while also showing the cohesion of Lewis multi-faceted concepts and rounded approaches to life’s bigger ideas and challenges.

This makes for a good read, particularly for someone like myself who has read some Lewis but not much. Time and again I was reminded of why I like Lewis’ work while I also felt the need to seek out more of it. If anything, the book could serve as a C.S. Lewis primer, a book for a young person who has read and re-read Narnia and would like to know a bit more about the author and his opinions prior to diving into Lewis’ nonfiction. This is not to suggest that McGrath makes light of Lewis’ nuances or misrepresents him, but it is to affirm the book’s strength in making the late author directly accessible.

Overall, I enjoyed the If I Had Lunch with C.S. Lewis. This was not what I had expected, but it was good—both in terms of presentation and content. The only real criticism I have is that following McGrath’s thought process—where he ends, Lewis begins, and so forth–can be tedious at times; however, I feel this is a minor critique given the integrity of McGrath’s approach—an approach both respectful of Lewis and useful to the reader. While this is not the type of work I’ll revisit cover to cover, it is one to which likely I’ll return on particular subjects, such as imagination and creation. Alistair McGrath has created a good piece of material here; and while imperfect, the Lewis reader may find the book not only informative but also charming and enjoyable.

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10 Tried and True Dieting Tips

Posted by on May 22, 2014 in RandoMusings

Back in Fall 2007, a buddy of mine and I decided to lose 15 pounds each. I did it, but with little real affect. In fact, I put the weight back onto my body within six months.

Why?

Pride. I hit my goal and acted like I was set for life. Little did I know that my cholesterol was going to skyrocket, and my liver would look problematic come my next testing in July of 2008. My entire life changed that summer, when I realized I needed to take my health seriously. I still do, and right now I am at 180 lbs, the lowest weight I’ve maintained since high school, with good blood pressure and healthy biometrics (according to my last test back in February, with a recent one to be finalized by next week). As I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve also recognized that this body and its health is a gift, as its health and well-being. This led me to an even more zealous pursuit of wellness–wellness as worship. This was a game changer.

But part of my long term success was due to my reaching that 2007 goal. The practice, albeit with short term results, made me believe that long term success was possible should I remain dedicated. I did, and now I am healthier than I have ever known myself to be.

Below are some starting points for you to do the same or change your game plan if you’ve plateaued.

This post was originally published at http://www.stunksstage.com/2007/11/15/how-to-shed-a-few-calories/, on Thursday, November 15th, 2007 at 8:41 am

How to shed a few calories…

By Christopher Stunkard

Friends, countrymen, Folks abroad, People of earth, and anyone else reading this, I give to you greetings, thanks, and my warmest Thursday morning well wishes.

As many of you know I have been fighting my obesity for several weeks–I think it’s been 4 now– and last night, shin splints not withstanding, I reached my original goal of dropping from 244 to 229!!!! 15 pounds folks. And you know what, I only worked out 3-4 days a week and altered my diet. I didn’t force myself to the gym every day. I didn’t starve myself. Sure, I killed myself every time I hit the gym, which is hard, but the diet change was so simple, it was ridiculous. I probably made about 20-30 actual overall changes to my lifestyle, but here’s a few specifics that I think really made the difference.

1) I cut out soda. I have had a few sips of my wife’s Pepsi if she got a value meal while we were out, but that’s it. No full cans for me. Or beer–and let me tell you, not having beer was like removing laughter from my life. I do miss my Killian’s. I may have a celebratory one in the coming weeks if I can get down to 225.

2) I gave up buns to get buns–meaning I gave up the buns from burgers and the shells from tacos to tighten my own caboose. Yep, when we’d hit Taco Bell, I’d take all the goodies from my chalupas and put them in a bowl with a half head of romaine lettuce–bada-bing, TACO salad. I did the same thing with a Wendy’s Big Bacon Classic, and it was so good, I almost fainted. As I began counting calories recently, [I] realized how many dead calories come in those processed rolls and things we get. Here’s a little tidbit. If I am at Taco Bell, and I get 2 Baja Steak Gorditas, I’m buying 540 calories. If I remove just the two shells and nothing else, I’m ridding myself of at least 200 calories (maybe more since the bulk of the secret sauce is applied directly to the shell. Now, if I add a serving of Romaine lettuce, that’s 20 calories. I’ve cut 180 calories out of the meal with that minor change–to translate, that’s about the amount of calories I’d burn on the treadmill after going 1 mile at a slow jog. Last night we went to [The Bell], and I got myself three Spicy chicken tacos at 170 calories a piece. I rid myself of the three, 90-calorie Tortillas (270), and I put the contents in a bowl with Lettuce (20), cheese (about 40), and sprinkles of Hormel bacon (about 15), I had still cut 195 calories out of the meal, plus made a bumpin’ salad.

3) I eat when I want to eat, but I eat slowly. This will sound ridiculous, but I never appreciated the wonderful taste of pretzels until I began eating them one at a time. Yes, I have taken to that method. I eat one item at a time, and I no longer double-up bites. What I mean is, I do not take a second bite until I have chewed and swallowed the first. Not only do I fill up on less, but I savor every bite. Delicious.

4) Celery. Oh yes, my friends. I have substituted out Doritos, Ice Cream, Chocolate, and Skittles for this ever-crunchy vegetable. There’s some rumor that it burns more calories to digest celery than the vegetable has, but I don’t think it’s true. The stuff’s mostly water, but it does fill me up, and it is light on the calorie count.

5) Serving size. One major thing I’ve done during this “shed the pounds” phase is eat less but eat more frequently. I usually have 5 small meals a day instead of the common 3 with intermediate snacking. 2 of those 5 small meals are usually half a serving size of something a little more heavy–like mixed nuts or peanut butter on the spoon. Eating only half the serving size of something will still fill me up enough to make it to my next meal without being starving all the time. It’s been a good system.

6) Embrace activity. Obviously, the sedentary lifestyle of a 9-5 desk job is the easiest cause for gaining that glut of a gut, so I’ve taken to embracing every opportunity I have to be active. I have a stress ball at work, which I try to squeeze 50-100 every hour or 90 minutes, and I enjoy walking wherever I can. Taking on the activity has helped reduce the sitting and gaining.

7) Track your progress. In the past, I’ve tried dieting, and I have become discouraged far too fast. I was working hard but didn’t see the results. Well, I forgot that I see my ugly mug every day; and as a result, the gradual change to my face and build during weight loss (or gain) become unnoticeable. Well, I’ve weighed myself 3-4 times a week, and I’ve seen the real results, and it’s spurred me forward, which is great.

8) Splurge. About once a week, I let myself go “all out” for a single meal. I enjoy 2 big slices of Pizza, or extra lasagna, or fried shrimp. I make sure to run the next day (that’s a condition of mine, to run within 48 hours of the splurge), and it’s kept me sane. I don’t really see the problem in doing it either, it’s not like one meal’s gonna undo everything for which I worked–unless the meal was bacon with nacho cheese dipping sauce, that might cause some damage–but it’d probably be worth it.

9) I take less food at a time and stop when I’m full. I used to just eat and eat. I had to eat until I was finished what I was given. Now I take smaller portions at the outset and I eat them slowly. If I’m not full, a take a much smaller (usually half or less) second portion. Usually that fills me up, and it’s LESS than if I have a horde of food on my plate at the beginning that I feel the need to finish.

10) Enjoy yourself. This is probably the biggest thing for me, and it’s 100% mental. I relish my time at the gym. When I’m on that treadmill, I love the feeling of just running. No pressure, I can just go at my own pace. Same thing on stair master or bike. When I eat, I love the sensation of each bite of food. I savor every bite I take. I am appreciating the process; and because of that, because I feel like I’m really “doing it right” it makes it much easier to alter my lifestyle to fit my goals. It’s wonderful.

So, here I am from 244 down to 229. I was originally intending to hit 229 by December 5th, but I’m pretty far ahead of that. Now, the bulk of what I lost was water weight, I’m sure, so I’m gonna really have to strive to shed more pounds here in the upcoming weeks. I am thinking a good, safe new goal for the 5th is 225, which may not sound like much more, but MAINTENANCE is a big part of this equation. So, we’ll see how that goes. Any suggestions on how I can continue to learn and burn. Teach me in the comments section!

 
 
 
 

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