September 2014

September 29, 2014


A friend and I were on a business trip to Lynchburg, Virginia recently, when one of the clients got us free tickets to a year round ski and snowboard mountain called the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre. It's a synthetic material that looks and feels like rigid carpet, developed in the UK by BRITON Engineering Developments, so riders can hone their skills in and out of season. We were both skeptical as to how "carpet boarding" (as we called it) would treat us, but the results were a fun night of unexpected riding.

A sprinkler system sprayed mist intermittently to help ride, but it also made you slide out -- the only real criticism I had of the mountain.
Liberty University is a non-profit institution, and so they were kind enough to spend some extra funds on this little slice of imitation-wintery fun, with free rentals and admission for students. The general public can enjoy the mountain as well, with nominal charges at $5-7 (per hour) for admission, and $12 equipment rentals.
The mountain itself is short, but littered with enough jumps, jibs, rails and whale tails to keep you entertained for hours. My personal favorite was the bomb drop into their jump section, with a sizable quarter pipe at the end. They even had a jump into a giant inflatable, but sadly it wasn't in use while we were there.

But how does it ride? Well, it rides a little better than icy snow. We could carve, but not too hard or we would slide out, which was our biggest problem (as the video below shows). The obstacles and features all rode well, and once you got over the fact that you were riding on glorified carpet, it was really fun. The other good thing is that there was about an inch of padding underneath the top layer, so falling didn't hurt so bad. (except for the occasional rug burn!)
So if you can't wait until winter, I'd suggest dusting off the boards on your rack and heading for your nearest Snowflex mountain (find a list of locations here). It's no Breckenridge, but it'll do until winter blesses us with its first snow.

[Originally published on the blog]

September 16, 2014

Justice and Mercy

For some reason I was thinking about this this morning...
A lot of times in the bible, God says he desires mercy and justice:
  • Micah 6:8 "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require
    of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your
  • Proverbs 21:3 "To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice."
  • Hosea 6:6: "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings."
It occurred to me this morning that all of this was a set up, or foreshadowing, for the Messiah, and a true example of God's character. God had mercy on us by forgiving our sins, but He is still just, and our sins required payment. The Messiah came and paid for the sins, and thus came this very physical picture of mercy and justice.
He exemplified the thing He desires from us. God set the example just like any father should for his children (because we all know "do as I say, not as I do" doesn't work). So all along, He's just saying, "be like Me and here's what that looks like."
I struggle with the idea of justice and mercy sometimes, because they're almost at opposite ends of the spectrum. I'm not sure when it's appropriate for me to get riled up about a just cause, or when there are things I need to let God handle. When is it proper for us to enforce justice and when should we exercise mercy? It's a judgement call I guess; or ideally, God would let us know when each is appropriate.
Either way though, I think it's awesome that God says, "this is what I want from you" and then exemplifies it in the most sacrificial act ever!

September 4, 2014

Lessons from Malachi - Part One

I was reading in Malachi today and some interesting stuff came up that is worth sharing.
It starts off pretty heavy, with God responding to accusations from His people that He doesn't love them. He gives a reason proving His love, but then asks: "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?" (1:6a)
It seems the Israelites had been offering blind and crippled animals on the altar, instead of their best. God then says, "Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?" (1:8b)
I started thinking about things in my life where I'm giving God second, third, tenth place...and the truth is that most of what I give God is not my best, and would not be acceptable in other relationships.
One of the most basic and practical ways of honoring God is giving Him time, and even with that I know I fail daily. At best, I'll give God 15 minutes. How can I expect to know God more in 15 minutes? Our relationship with God is like any relationship -- we get what we put in. Think about what you're putting in and compare that to what you give others, as the verse above suggests.
Here's the second thing that stood out:
"Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you," says the LORD Almighty, "and I will accept no offering from your hands. My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations," says the LORD Almighty.
Malachi 1:10-11
That's a tough verse for a couple reasons. First, God wishes that his people would shut down the temple so as not to further their empty worship. That's a weighty and unexpected statement, but I wonder if there are any churches out there today that God would say the same thing about.
Second, the latter part of the verse is hard to swallow, as God sounds like a megalomaniac. There are other places in scripture where God says things like this that make you think, "wait, if I heard someone say that in public, I would count them as crazy." For me, it feels a little crazy myself to follow God in those moments....
It's still a tough verse, but here are a couple things that help: first, if anyone is allowed to say things like "my name will be great among the nations," it's God. He made everything, including us. It's not always easy to hear, but it's deserved because of who He is and His love. Plus, when God's name is praised, we are blessed. Not just financially or with plenty of food, but in our hearts we are blessed. It's a win-win situation all around.
Second (the third "second" in this blog), Jesus was the perfect example of humility:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11
Jesus is the best representation of God, and so we look to Him to see God's character. Jesus never boasted and was never proud, though he had every right to be as God. And at the end of that verse we see again, God is glorified, whether we like it or not. Here, like in the first part of Malachi (where God proves his love to Israel), scripture gives a reason for this glory: Jesus was obedient to death on a cross. And so the glory is merited by love, and we are blessed when we bless God wholeheartedly. I guess, in the end, it all fits.
More from Malachi to come....