Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Red Shoes

Last weekend I went to Dare2Share's Follow Tour conference, along with dozens of other teens from our church. It was an amazing experience, as Dare2Share always is, but this year, is was different for me. I have my struggles, and at that point in my life they seemed like they would overwhelm me. I absently noticed that the logo for the Follow Tour was a pair of red shoes, with the words "all in" written on them. Cool, I thought to myself. That makes sense. Little did I know that those two words--and those red shoes, would make a world of difference.

We arrived at the Sears Centre in Chicago more or less safely, and after putting on the bracelets that would stop security from tackling us when we tried to walk in, made our way inside to join thousands of other teenagers in worship. If you've ever been to a conference like this, you know what I'm talking about. The experience was incredible--thousands of voices singing together as one, all to Jesus.

As I stood there, worshipping, something distracted me. I had been wrestling with myself for the past week, trying to decide if I was doing these things for the right reasons. If I was being a Christian, worshipping, serving, not because my parents did it, or because my friends did it, but because I believed that Jesus had done what the Bible said He had done. I didn't want to be singing to God because it was what everyone else was doing, I wanted to make sure that I was doing it because of what God had done for me.

The conference continued, and I struggled with that. Now, I grew up in a Christian home, as a pastor's kid, surrounded from birth with the Bible and Jesus. I learned many different things about how to defend my faith, how to win others to Christ, and how to serve God and others.

But was it really my own? Did I own my faith? I asked myself those questions last weekend, and luckily I found an answer.

It was nearing the end of the conference, and Greg Stier, the founder of Dare2Share, finished with a message that impacted me tremendously. He began to talk about what the words, "all in", really meant, and I found out the significance of the pair of red shoes that was the logo for the tour.

You see, Jesus went all in for us. He became human, humbling himself and walking among us. He put on his own footwear, a pair of dirty sandals, and did as we did. He felt what we felt, he hurt as we have hurt. And finally, after a long, brutal walk, which smeared his sandals with blood and dirt, He died for us.

Greg Stier called a kid up from the audience to come on stage. He asked the kid to take his shoes off, and to sit on a chair that had been set there for him. "You represent everyone here," Greg said, pulling out a pair of red shoes with the words, "all in", written on them--identical to those on the logo. "In a moment," Greg continued. "I'm going to ask you to put these on, but first--" he looked out over the crowd. "--I want to ask everyone with red shoes to come up here on stage."

As you all can probably see, I'm wearing red shoes right now. And I was wearing these at the conference too. For a moment, I couldn't believe it. I was like, "that's me!" I looked around at my friends, saying, "I have red shoes on!"

Finally, one of them looked at me and said, "Go!"

So off I went.

I will always remember running--and almost tripping--down the stairs to the floor of the stadium below. I will always remember running alongside dozens of others as we all headed to the stage.
I will always remember being surrounded by hundreds of others, all wearing red shoes, as we stood around or on the stage, watching as Greg turned back to the kid sitting in the chair.

"You represent everyone here," the speaker said. "Are you willing to put these red shoes on, and go all in for Jesus?"

I wanted to scream YES! Luckily, I didn't.

The boy nodded. "Yes."

Greg put the shoes on him.

It all made sense. My faith was my own. It wasn't my parents' faith. It wasn't my friends' faith. God spoke to me that night in Chicago, and he asked me a simple question. "Are you all in? Are you ready to stop playing at your Christianity, and start to live?"

Yes, I answered silently as the worship band came on stage to finish out the conference with a final song. Then we worshipped.

I will always remember being surrounded by hundreds of others in red shoes, worshipping the Lord.

God calls us to go all in. He calls us not to worship him because we have to, or because everyone else is doing it, but because we are in awe at the sacrifice Christ went through for us. He calls us to put on red shoes--to willingly follow Him even though there will be pain, even though there will be heartache--and to go ALL IN.

So I ask you, are you all in? Christ died for you. Are you going to live for Him?

Friday, April 5, 2013

History, Mythology, and Maps

I know I haven't updated this in forever, but that's mostly been because I've been involved in other writing--and heavily involved at that. As I near the finish of the first part of The Proanadi, I realized that I needed to really nail down the history and mythology of the races and kingdoms involved. There were plenty of sections when I hinted at both events in the past and various gods, but most of that, I admit, was made up on the spot, and all of it wasn't very well thought out.

So for the past few weeks I've been really digging into the past and the religion of the kingdoms that take a major role in The Proanadi, and what I've found is pretty cool. For one, I made a comprehensive timeline spanning from the beginning of civilization as the world knew it to the present day--well, more like ten comprehensive timelines, each from a different kingdom's viewpoint. I'll put them together soon, with all of the events of the nations in one place.

Second, I made the various pantheons of deities that each race pays homage to. The way gods work in the world of The Proanadi is similar to the way Tolkien's world of Middle Earth and the Undying Lands works. A higher power created the gods and set them in the world as stewards, each watching over a particular aspect or function in the world. In the misty past of Serragon, the world on which The Proanadi takes place, groups of stewards who were like-minded gathered together and made races that also shared their mindset. These races split into groups themselves, and the stewards split with them, until a few dozen separate groups of cultures, with their own gods, had developed.

Now that I had this foundation in mind, the things I wrote in my novel had meaning. The things the characters were talking about had depth, and the gods that they spoke of had history and a foundation in the culture of the kingdom. It was pretty cool.

Not only that, but I've also updated my world map--extensively. Originally, the two areas where the book takes place in (Torius/Azatharia for Nimlar, Daelis, and Striker; and Umhati for Poddle, Daegoth, and Tahlavel) were miles and miles apart. I had a big problem trying to figure out a way to get them going towards the same place.

But a month or two ago, I had an idea. I started a hotseat game of Civilization V, in which every civilization represented one from my story. The map that was generated--with a little tweaking--was absolutely perfect. It landed the Crossroad Kingdoms just north of Umhati--solving one problem--and gave me great locations to set the various nations in.

Since then the world has really come alive with history, mythology, sociology, and geography. And I love it. This is one of my great passions--creating a race's culture and constructed their past. I find it immensely satisfying to build the backstory for a story's world, almost as much as I like writing the story itself.

Well, that's my update. Sorry that there's nothing mind-bogglingly monumental in this post--I'll try to think of something a little bit more stupendous for next time.

Thanks, and good reading!