It’s Not About the Destination— It’s About the Journey

Can we apply rules of good storytelling to how we live our lives?

Think about it. You've seen it a thousand times in the movies— somebody's living a boring, normal life until something happens that calls them on a great adventure that changes their lives forever. That's the beginning of most stories we humans have ever told— normalcy, call to adventure, character development. It's a great basis for a story, which is why we use it for every one of 'em we tell. 

Except for our lives. 

The most important story we tell is the story of our lives. Yet, in life, we don't tell the best story we can. We settle for staleness and ignore the story God has called us to. He's got a grand adventure planned for us, but we'd rather just sit around and eat Doritos. 

Where is this all coming from? I read a book recently that changed how I think about life— Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. In the book, Miller shares the lessons he learned while turning his life story into a movie. It's a great read, and throughout the book he teaches principles of storytelling and tells us how we can implement them in our life story. After reading the book, I began to think. When was the last time I answered a call to adventure? When was the last time I got out of my comfort zone? I shocked myself when I realized that it had been a very long time. Like seriously, I couldn't remember the last time I'd done it. It startled me. So, I began to think, 'What adventure does God have planned for me? Why am I ignoring the call?" 

Think about Finding Nemo. It's one of my favorite films, but think about how boring the story would have been had Marlin just given up after Nemo was taken. The whole movie is Marlin being forced out of his comfort zone. When he finds Nemo and returns home, he's changed forever. He's no longer constantly in fear and worry, and he no longer wants to hinder Nemo and keep him inside. If he'd never gone out in search of Nemo, he'd never have changed. He'd still be the same character. 

The journey is a time of refining and change. Going on the adventure God has planned for us won't leave us the same once we come out on the other side. If we live without changing or without undergoing character development, we're not living a great story. 

In our lives, we need to get out there and live. We need to continue using our brains and following our morals, yes, but we need to start living great stories. 

Here comes the challenge. I took it upon myself to make a list of fun little adventures I'd like to go on. Not a bucket list. That's too confining. Once this list is complete, I want to start another one. I picked 24 items (you don't have to do that many), including poke a live fish, grow a beard, play bagpipes, learn to juggle, and many more. 

Start an adventure list to start tackling with your loved ones. Make some memories you'll regale others with around the fire twenty years from now. As stated in the movie Up,  "Adventure is out there!" Go find it. Go grow as a character. But still use your brain and your better judgement. God's calling for you probably isn't to die like that hairy El Macho guy from the second Despicable Me movie. 

Some Things I Learned From Being a Church Camp Counselor

This week, I volunteered as a teen counselor at a Christian church camp. What’d I learn?

So, my church puts on a very large 5-day church camp each year, and because I’m a foolish man, I signed up to be a teen counselor. I’d done it previously last year, and apparently I thought it was a good idea to do it again, and volunteered to work with 5th graders (boys, of course). Little did I know, this week would be much more life-changing for me than it seemed to be for the kids. I thought I’d share what I learned (and tell you what you can do with it.

1. Show love. It’s what Jesus would do.

I volunteered with fifth-grade boys. I’ll give you one guess how they behaved the first couple days. Yeah, it was bad. One kid especially quickly became the bane of my existence. 


Nope, not that Bane. Pretty close tho.

This kid rebelled in every way possible. Everything I said, he argued with it endlessly and did the opposite. He refused to do just about anything both me or the two adult counselors in my group told him to do. I won’t burden you with the details, but needless to say— he was a handful. Not only him, but all the other kids weren’t behaving well either. Instead of showing mercy and love (but still being authoritative), I focused only on dealing out punishment. On Wednesday (day 3) afternoon, the woman onstage teaching the kids said that “leadership wasn’t just bossing people around.” This changed my world. You can’t just tell them what they can’t do. You have to be encouraging. You have to be loving. You can’t focus on being God’s swift-and-terrible sword of judgement. While discouraging bad behavior is part of the job description, encouraging good behavior and being loving to the people you’re leading is, too.

2. Don’t try to do things on your own power. Turn to God when things get hard.

When I was having the most trouble, I would sit and complain about it or try to fix things by my own strengths or abilities. Therein was the flaw that kept any change from happening. I was trying to do it with Spencer’s (mine) power, not God’s. That whole time, I could have prayed for the situation to get better,  but instead I got bogged down in the frustration and didn’t even think about it. Pray to God when things get hard. It’ll do ya good.

Drawing Under the (Creative) Influence

What should we think about God’s plan for us?

Growing up, I was a rabid fan of VeggieTales. Apparently, I was potty-trained with the help of their merchandise, and one of my most frequently-used words as a toddler was “Bob.” A few days ago, many years after those occurrences, I was reading Phil Vischer’s (the creator of VeggieTales) book about his company’s meteoric rise and fall— Me, Myself, and Bob. As I scanned the book’s pages, I realized something that I hadn’t really thought about before. 

Art has always been my career path. Even from the beginning, God planted me with a desire for storytelling. 

As I sat all those years ago, rabidly devouring VeggieTales videos, I drew some of my first artwork— VeggieTales fanart. In first grade, I made rudimentary books telling stories with the characters. I was enthralled. As I grew older, VeggieTales was semi-replaced by Sonic the Hedgehog as my fictional obsession. I also watched the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show at that time and loved it.

As I grew older, I found two pivotal pieces of entertainment for me— Spider-Man: The Animated Series and The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. These two shows instilled in me a love of superheroes and and comic books. They paved the way for my creative reawakening after catching the latter half of a Batman Beyond re-run a couple years later. 

Art and animation has always been my obsession. God has put a fire in my soul to tell good stories and to enjoy those that others tell from the very beginning. God’s plan is wonderful and unexpected— who knows where I’d be today if not for that Batman Beyond rerun. God has a plan. He has a desire for our lives. All we’ve gotta do is listen to Him. His plan is more wonderful than anything we could ever imagine.

Why Do We Call Good Friday “Good?”

Why do we call Good Friday good if what happened on this day seems so terrible?

On Good Friday, a couple millenia ago, an innocent man was tried without justice, whipped, beaten and bloodied beyond recognition, and nailed to a cross. He was to be the sacrificial lamb to soak up all of the world’s sin. He, the sinless Son of God, died a grisly death for our sin.So why do we call it Good? We call this day good because we know what happened afterwards. Jesus rose to life again, conquered death, established a new covenant, defeated The Enemy once and for all, and ascended to His father’s kingdom, where He now sits as an advocate for us. That is why Good Friday is good. Even though things may seem dark and hopeless now, we know, as S.M. Lockridge said— Sunday’s comin’.

I’m With You ‘Till the End of the Line

In the digital age, what does true friendship mean? What can Captain America teach us about sacrifice?

I just got done watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier again. It is an amazing movie. While I was watching it, something stuck out that I’d never really thought about before. It’s a quote I love so much that I made it the title of this post.

“I’m with you ’till the end of the line.”

On the surface, it may seem just like a well-written line. It’s easy to gloss over. However, if we dig deeper, it has much more meaning than that. In the film, Captain America has been uprooted, having been torn out of his home time and thrusted into a future he’s entirely unfamiliar with. He’s a man out of time, and it seems like all of his friends are dead… until he finds that his old girlfriend, Peggy Carter, is still alive. He’s having a hard time adjusting to his new time, and seeing Peggy in her aged, frail state doesn’t help. Soon afterward, seemingly all he knows is uprooted, and he’s having an internal crisis.

Until he sees Bucky.

Bucky was his best friend. He was his only family after his parents died. Seeing Bucky makes his longing for family and friends even stronger. In the end, he refuses to fight Bucky. He instead tries to reawaken what’s left of Bucky. He wants to save his friend.  He’s willing to die trying, and takes a brutal beating in the process. In the end, Cap repeats what Bucky told him all those years ago.

‘Till the end of the line. 

In this age, it’s easy to lose what. true friendship is. We’ve watered friendship down to its most basic components, and when our friends need us the most, we step aside. The most we’ll be there for our friends is when we like their photo on social media. Here’s what the Bible says about friendship:

John 15:12-13 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 

The greatest love we can have is to be there for those we love until the end of the line. To be in their corner when it counts. To be willing to lay it all down for them. Close friendship shouldn’t be an online only experience or something that only counts when you’re hanging around in the hallway at school. Close friendship should be something more than just a platonic relationship. It should be a shared desire to protect one another from what this world throws at us.

‘Till the end of the line.

How far are you willing to go for the ones you love? What would you give for them?

That, my dear reader, is something you’ll have to ask yourself.

The Hero’s Journey

Heroic stories all follow a specific pattern. How can we apply this to how we live life?

Heroes.

We all have some real ones in our lives. We regularly follow the storylines of fictional ones. But did you know their stories all follow the same pattern? And did you also know that your life follows this pattern, too? What is this amazing pattern, you ask? It’s called the hero’s journey. 


It starts off in the status quo, where our hero lives an ordinary life. Then, our hero has a call to adventure, and somethings stirs our hero to go out and fight the good fight. The hero then gets assistance to prepare for his journey, possibly someone older or wiser than him. He then departs from his normal home or normal way of life, and this is where his journey truly begins. The hero then faces trials, and approaches the end goal, only to face a crisis. Here, the hero stares death in the face, only to come out on the other side more powerful than before. The cycle continues, but rather than continue to explain it in text, I’ll just link you to the amazing TedEd video that goes into detail about all of the specifics.

 

 

In the video, Matthew Winkler tell us that this format doesn’t just apply to our favorite fictional characters. It applies to everyday life. Our hero stories take this form because it’s relatable and describes our own journeys through life and hardship. Right now, you’re probably stuck in that status quo. However, deep inside of you, you hear whispers. A call to adventure. Change can be scary sometimes. Maybe just as scary as slaying that giant monster or chasing down the Joker. We can be scared to take that leap; to become something greater. Let’s answer the call and become who God wants us to be. Find some assistance from someone wiser than you to help you start your journey. Leave your comfort zone and do the right thing. Overcome your fear. 2 Timothy 2:7 says, “For God did not create us with a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Cast off your fear and no longer be inhibited by it. Do the right thing. Answer God’s call. When you stop to rest after your adventure is finished, your status quo might look a good bit different.

My Story

Who am I? As a teenager, I ask myself that question all the time. I’ve been raised in church all my life, but that doesn’t mean I always believed it.

Who am I? As a teenager, I ask myself that question all the time. As a Christian, my identity is rooted in God. I haven’t always thought that way, though. I’ve been raised in church all my life, but that doesn’t mean I always believed it. I grew up as the middle child in a household with four children. I was born super early, at 32 weeks to be exact, and I’ve been told that I looked like an alien as a newborn, as my ears hadn’t fully developed yet. I was super tiny and unexpected to survive or be taken home for a long time. Thanks to God, I defied expectations and survived anyway, even being taken out of the hospital pretty quickly.

I continued to grow, and as a young’un, I grew up watching cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003 edition), Sonic X, and others. I’ve loved drawing and cartoons for as long as I can remember, and that love for cartoons began at an early age. My earliest works of art depict the cast of VeggieTales, which was really big when I was growing up. I’ve also always been coming up with narrative stories to tell, which dates back to even before I could write. It wasn’t all peachy, though. When I got to elementary school, I was bullied. People convinced me I was less than they were. My friends left me one by one, leaving me alone. I was a pariah, but I never turned to God for a solution. I sat alone at recess, drawing under a tree. I retreated into a shell, not allowing my parents or anybody else to help me. I had told my teachers about the bullying, but they didn’t care. It wasn’t their job to save my soul and my sanity. They let it continue unabated.

We started homeschooling for middle school, when I plunged into the depths of insecurity and Godlessness. I cast God aside on the inside, but continued to pretend like I still cared at youth groups and in church. As I plunged further and deeper into sin and faithlessness, I began to die inside. This continued for years. I can’t tell you the point exactly when I came back around, as it was more of a slow evolution than an explosive change. I can tell you that it began after I viewed the film God’s Not Dead, which despite its poor writing, had a message that shook me to the core. It told me God was alive, despite what I had come to believe. That is where my evolution began. I also began drawing and coming up with original characters at this time.

Around that same time, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, which is a severe allergy to gluten. My mom and sister had been diagnosed with it before, and I was next in line. There is no cure for Celiac disease, and it just continues to get worse, giving you worse and worse symptoms. I had muscle spasms, severe stomach pain, and even developed lactose intolerance (which was especially painful, as dairy products and I have a special relationship). For two years, I struggled with this sickness. It severely limited where we could go and what we could do, as even contact with something containing wheat could set us off if we weren’t careful. It defined our lives and put walls around us. Miraculously, I didn’t have to put up with it for long.

In April 2016, my mother and some friends from her small group went to the Azusa revivals in Los Angeles, California. While I won’t relate the full story to you now, she was having an awful reaction to something she had been told was gluten free. She sat in the stands, unable to stand up because of the stomach pain. All of a sudden, the lady on the stage started talking about somebody in the audience with all her symptoms, and said she was going to be healed. She came home and shared this with us. We all got down and sincerely prayed for healing, and it came. Now, my whole family can eat whatever we want. I’ve been enjoying donuts and fried food again. This was a miracle, as there is no cure for Celiac disease. Your condition just continues to degenerate. I thank God constantly for this. We are no longer walled in by this disease and are no longer limited in what we can do.

Throughout all of this, I was getting more involved in art. I had started watching videos by thecartoonblock, or as I’d like to call him, Sensei Burse. Sensei Burse taught me the fundamentals of art, and nowadays I continue to evolve and improve. If somehow you’re reading this Sensei Burse, thanks for your help.

I know this was long, and it’s unfinished, but I can’t help that. I’m talkative and I’ve lived a storied life, even though I’m not an adult yet.