Are We There Yet?

A few months ago, my family and I moved from Connecticut to Texas because God called me to be the Worship Pastor at a church here in Amarillo. God likes to shake things up in my life and do a lot of work through changes that take place in my life. And on the road trip here (to Texas), He did some work on my heart. Here’s what happened:

The bulk of day one on the road was spent in a U-Haul with my father-in-law, whom I shall now, henceforth, refer to as the “Marathon Driver”. No seriously–––the man is a machine.

Anywho, as the Marathon Driver and I were chuggin’ along, I found myself periodically looking at the little blinking dot on my iPhone maps that tells me where we are presently located. Okay, I checked it more than periodically, and some people would consider the time I have spent with my GPS map as obsessive, but who’s counting right? As I kept checking, the daunting thought of how much farther we had to go kept creeping into my head. And as the day dragged on, even with the Marathon Driver at the wheel and my professional backseat driving hard at work, somehow, we still got tired. As I got tired, the thought of how far we still had to go became a heavier reality to shoulder.

Strangely enough, right around the time we were about to stop for the night, something hit me. All at once a question tugged at my curiosity…

“What if I looked at how far we’ve come?”

As I scrolled back through the map and looked over the many miles we had traveled, the result was quite satisfying. We’d passed through western Connecticut, then crossed over to New York. We were in New York for approximately 47 seconds, or so it seemed, but the state that followed took an eternity to get through. I think I watched The Hunger Games (the whole movie) twice. That is, as we made our way through Pennsylvania and into Ohio.

Oops. Did I say The Hunger Games? I meant The Last of the Mohicans. Sure. That’s more manly. Right.

In Ohio we stopped at a Pilot, and since our U-Haul was too big to park with the cars, we had to park it in the back with the ‘Big Trucks’ (if you know what I mean). We were like a sapling in the midst of a giant redwood forest. I’ve never felt so wimpy in all my life. A couple of truckers were chatting when we drove up and then they stopped and stared at us, as if to say, “Get your wimpy U-Haul out of here and don’t come back ’till you get a real truck.” And as much as I just wanted to drive on, my stomach was ‘a-growlin’ so I gritted my teeth, swallowed my pride, and got a delicious burger with curly fries from Arby’s.

Then we crossed over into Indiana. Our goal was to make it over the Missouri border before we slept, but once 3am rolled around, it was too risky to proceed with such heavy eyes. So we stopped for the night in Cloverdale, Indiana…

Point being, when I looked back, we had come a long way from where we started. We covered five states and around 850 miles.

Sometimes our relationship with God can be the same way.

We can get discouraged by getting caught up with focusing on all our faults and how far we have to grow. This of course, is when its important to find encouragement in a couple foundational truths.

1. We should recognize that it is by God’s grace alone that growth can be achieved. He can and will help us, if we seek Him for it.

2. It is always important to remember that perfection is NOT the goal. Living fully for His glory, by the grace He provides is our goal.

3. When we feel discouraged about the long distance we still have to go (spiritually), it is a great encouragement to see how far God has brought us. Even if we have only been fighting the fight of faith for months, we will still be able to tell a difference between where we started, and where God has brought us.

Think back with me, to a sin in the past that used to rule over you. Then you started to seek God for help, and over time, He allowed you victory over the sin. This is encouraging because if we believe in God’s promises, then there is no sin that can stand against God’s power over sin in our lives. Our victory is found in Him. And just as He has conquered the sins of our past. So will He conquer the sins and shames of our present. “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Let us focus more on His inevitable victories in our lives, and less on our weakness. It is then that, as John Piper says, “God gets the glory, and we get the joy.”

 

Photo: michaelgoodin, CC

Air India Sticks it to the Poor

Over the past eight days, I boarded thirteen separate flights as I hopped across the Asian continent. I spent the most time in India. Actually, I spent time in “both Indias,” a phrase my Indian colleagues used. I visited the skyscraper-heavy financial district in Mumbai and met families in slums nearby. I drove past the most expensive house in the world and walked through one of the world’s poorest shantytowns. Both Indias.

As a connoisseur  of fine airlines (e.g., Southwest, my favorite), India’s airlines impressed me. I flew Jet Airways several times and they did everything right: Prompt departures, quick boarding, no fees, and friendly service. It was hard to believe this upstart airline didn’t exist just seven years ago. Actually, seven years ago, there was only one airline in the country: Air India.

Air India – Source: iFreshNews

Until 2005, the Indian government held a monopolistic stranglehold on the aviation industry. Air India was the only show in town. And it was a really bad show. Prices were sky-high, service was terribly low and Air India consistently lagged in innovation. It is a classic story of government-intervention-gone-wrong.

The real victim of Air India’s failure, however, was the poor. Not only could they not afford to fly, but they also were continually forced to bail out the floundering “business.” As taxpayers, they were on the hook for Air India’s failure. Created under the auspices of “protecting the Indian people,” Air India did exactly the opposite. The vitriol for the company by the people of India is apparent. On my final flight home, I thumbed through the pages of The Telegraph, an Indian newspaper. The editorial title about the airline summarized the country’s sentiment: “A long, sordid and pathetic tale of failure.”

Riddled with inefficiencies and waste, Air India was actually crippled while I was in the country. The entire staff has gone two months without salaries and they were on strike last week. The editorial reviled in the failures of the airline, noting for example, that they recently purchased new planes without doing any price negotiation whatsoever with the manufacturers.

Jet Airways and a handful of other upstart airlines like IndiGo and Spicejet are charting a different and refreshing course, however. Led by aggressive Indian entrepreneurs, these budget airlines deliver on their promise to customers. And, they bring abounding opportunity to the poor. The data doesn’t lie: Since 2005, air traffic in India has tripled, fare prices have dropped dramatically and the quality of service has increased.

 

I’m an admitted believer in the power of entrepreneurship and the free markets.

While not without its warts, I’ve argued that capitalism is the “best broken system” for the most vulnerable in our world. There is a role for government in helping the poor, but Air India illuminates that sometimes the best social service they can do for the poor is unleash the Indian entrepreneur to be the solution. Jet Airways, IndiGo and SpiceJet are up for the challenge; and the world is opening up to low-income Indians as a result. SpiceJet’s motto says it all, “Flying for Everyone.”

 Originally posted at Smorgasblurb.

Five Things I Love About Texas

After spending two full days in the Lone Star State, I love with everything Texas has to offer. Here are five reasons why, in countdown order:

5. Texas exits.

If you’ve been on a Texas highway, you’re familiar with the Texas exit. This is when a driver decides to make their own freeway exit, cutting through the grass and onto the frontage road. This devil-may-care driver’s attitude is refreshing and it just screams Texas: I’m a man (or lady). I have a giant cowboy hat and an F-250. I don’t use off ramps, I make my own. They’re everywhere. Some iterations are now full dirt paths, while others barely show the semblance of a single car’s passing. Each set of tracks relays a uniqueness that is found in Texas and Texas alone. The independence matters.

4. The people.

I met some great people in the state of Texas. They are some of the most warm, inviting, hospitable people I’ve ever met; it was very refreshing. In general, people from Texas seem to have a generally rosier disposition. Maybe it’s the I-have-a-big-state syndrome and they’re more confident. Who knows. What I know is this: it makes a difference. If I am cheery and nice to you, chances are, you’ll be cheery and nice to somebody else. Call it compounding happiness. (And I love it.)

3. The San Antonio Riverwalk

America’s best kept secret? Definitely. The San Antonio Riverwalk is a downtown cut of the San Antonio River, completely walkable and sandwiched in between hotels, attractions, and restaurants. It’s Venice meets Texas in every sense of the word. I can’t imagine a scenario in which I do not surprise my future wife with a trip to the Riverwalk. Baby, if you’re reading this, don’t act like you won’t be surprised. You might know it’s happening… but good luck getting excited every weekend in hopes of taking a trip to Texas! Hah.

2. Everything’s bigger in Texas.

The nachos. The freeways. The cattle. Although I did not see one giant foam cowboy hat (seriously–––what gives?), everything’s bigger and it’s humorously better. In Texas, I’ve seen some of the biggest freeway interchanges in my life. You can practically see Cowboys Stadium from space. The food is bigger and portions heftier. All in all, you can very easily become accustomed to the sense of grandeur accompanying the state. If Texas were to secede (which could be a real possibility after November 6th), it would be the 15th largest economy in the world. See what I mean?

1. Everything is more authentic, too.

This is the striking contrast that I have found in just about every city in comparison to Palm Beach–––everything is more real. It’s not fake history, it’s actual history (and that matters). In fact, it’s the best part of Texas. On the whole, Texans know themselves well. Dallas is city; Fort Worth is country. San Antonio is all picante (I don’t really know what this means, but it fits) and Austin is a good college town. There’s no faking here. Texas says, ‘we are what we are, like us or not.’ And that’s why I love Texas so much. Sound Off: What’s your favorite thing about Texas? Let us know in the comments.

Photo: nan palmero

#RoadTrip12: Walking in Memphis

#RoadTrip12: Quick Update

Then I’m walking in Memphis
Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel

Alex and I arrived in the land of the Delta Blues yesterday, as Marc Cohn once sang. And P.S.–––I was positive that Bruce Springsteen wrote “Walking in Memphis.”

Who knew?

In fact… ask anybody who sings that song and nine times out of ten, they’ll answer “The Boss.” How misleading.

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Two things immediately stuck out about our time in Memphis. First, the smells are ridiculous… in a good way. Barbecue, barbecue, barbecue everywhere. And second, it is hotter than a mug in that city. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun/interesting/the sunset over the Mississippi was great, but I’m not sure I ever want to go back.

Is that wrong?

On top of that, we found late yesterday that Alex’s wallet was lost/stolen. We made the discovery sometime after dinner and it was crazytown from that point out. We didn’t find it (and all of his cards are cancelled, you crazies).

Needless to say, our Memphis leg was not the best portion of the trip yet, but God is still 100% in charge and we can rest in that.

#RoadTrip12: Moving on from Atlanta

The Atlanta leg of our trip is over and I have great news.

I have found one of the best burgers in the entire country. I know that’s a big statement, but a serious burger calls for serious praise. On Thursday, Alex and I (and two other friends) ventured over to The Vortex in Little 5 Points for some good food and fellowship.

The atmosphere was interesting to say the least, but it matched the character of the neighborhood (very raw and artsy, but eclectic). We were presented with a lengthy menu of burgers and other dive bar staples, but it was the special that caught my eye–––a burger with pepper jack cheese, deep-fried jalapeños, guacamole, and a spicy mayo (in addition to the usual tomato, lettuce, etc.).

Typically, I’m not one to venture out when it comes to a hamburger (why mess with a good thing?), but I have a singular response:

Wow.

It’s tough to put into words, but this burger was everything I had hoped it would be and more: a juicy burger with a kick that was just right. If you’re looking for a great place to grab a bite to eat, head over to The Vortex (they have a location in Midtown besides Little 5 Points).

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Overall, our 2+ days in ATL were great. Besides the fact that Atlanta is just a fun city by itself, we had a great time venturing to places old and new.

On Thursday morning, we made our way to the popular Octane Coffee in Midtown West. Alex had a chai latte and I had a tea that couldn’t pronounce, all while we rubbed elbows with the hippest of hipsters. Following that, we headed over to the World of Coca-Cola and met up with some West Palm Beach friends that happened to be in town as well.

It’s possible that I found it more entertaining because I’ve never been, but I thought the World of Coke was great. It might’ve also been my caffeinated buzz from the Coca-Cola tasting room, but I can’t tell. Here’s what I do know, though: Coca-Cola tastes better when they tell you that you’re the secret ingredient… and when they give you glass-bottled Cokes at the end.

On Friday, we continued our galavanting in the Buckhead area, visiting the Lenox Square Mall, a three-story Dick’s Sporting Goods, and the beautiful traffic on 400 North.

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Alex and I are currently en route to Memphis via Birmingham and Tupelo, Mississippi. We’ll be there by early afternoon… and you know you can expect a “Walking in Memphis” post soon.

[box_success]Sound Off: We’re headed to Memphis, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio next. Where should we go and what should we do?[/box_success]

A Change of Pace, Place, and Perspective

The 2012 Quarterlife Ultimate Road Trip is officially underway.

Alex and I are currently on the MegaBus–––a double decker, low-cost express bus service–––riding around the country. The company travels to most major American cities east of Texas and we are hitching a ride. In total, it will be 24 states in 23 days.

Crazy, huh?

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While interning at a church in college, our youth pastor once said this: “Change of pace, plus change of place, equals change in perspective.”

I agree one million percent.

There is power in culture shock.

I grew up in suburban Detroit, Michigan, but my formative years are not like what you’d think. In my area, there were more Starbucks than black people. Case in point: I went to school with two dark-looking Indian girls and the popular black kid in the grade above me was gay––––so he acted like all of us anyway. Upon graduating high school, none of us were experts in anything other than what we knew–––our white selves.

In 2006, I moved down to Palm Beach for college, but things didn’t really improve. Sure, South Florida turned out to be the veritable mixing pot I pictured in my head, but I stayed with what was familiar. Instead of venturing out, I clung to the innards of my predominantly white, private Christian school and associated with the excessive wealth instead of the extravagant poverty.

Sometimes, you need to change of pace.

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If we, the Quarterlife Generation, want to change this culture, we need to see it first.

If we really want to be in tune with what 18-29 year old men and women need, we need to get out there and see them for ourselves.

I don’t know about you, but as a nimble twenty-something, I feel like I am wasting my gift of mobility by sitting in a Starbucks all day creating a magazine. There is so much of the world to see, and nothing but time to do it.

I am fairly blessed. I own a fledging corporation/ministry/magazine; I can travel on a moment’s notice; I’m single. The circumstances are never greater for a trip like this. We are truly free (well… except Alex, who is not single–––sorry ladies).

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So this is the trip.

Meeting people. Praying over people. Loving others. Seeing the country.

It’s time for a change in perspective, twenty-somethings. Are you ready?

[box_help]Sound Off: Tell us your thoughts about the Quarterlife Ultimate Road Trip and tell us if we’re coming to your town! Go here for more information.[/box_help]

Top 5 Places I Want To Travel

Maldives

I have to travel the world.

I don’t foresee Quarterlife Man ever having a “permanent” office. One year leases at most. The reason being? I am never satisfied and I can’t sit in one place (ask my parents–––they’ll certainly tell you). Furthermore, I have way too many presuppositions about the rest of the world:

I think all of Central America looks like the part of that movie where they drove the Hummer through the slums of a Latin American village (I thought it was Rush Hour 1/2/3/47, but Google says I am dead wrong. Any help?)

I think China is all rice paddies and fake Apple stores.

I think Japan is all rice paddies and real Apple stores.

I think Africa is all mud huts and deserts.

Russia is a snowy, radioactive wasteland; India is dirt; France is awesome. I don’t know why, but my brain shapes these biases. I suppose it’s a byproduct of being raised as an American in the suburbs. Ask me about Starbucks, speed bumps, or respecting yellow lights and I GOT THIS. Outside of that, I need a little culturing.

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1. The Maldives

Maldives

I love the Maldives.

Located off the southern coast of India, the Maldives are God’s gift to mankind. Though the Maldives are inclusive of 1190 islands, only 200 are inhabited, and 99 are “resort islands.” The crystal clear water and vast nothingness are the perfect spot to get away. It’s also a treasured honeymooning spot too (I know–––I looked at the Maldives’ promotional images for this article… and they’re all honeymooning couples).

On the islands, they also take Fridays and Saturdays off. These are my kind of people.

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2. The French Riviera

Côte d’Azur? Oui. Oui. Parlez-vous Francais? Non? Fine, we’ll go English for this one:

This is a trip I have desperately wanted to take since my first French course many, many years ago. Extending along the southern coast of France, you’ve got your pick of destinations like Saint Tropez, Nice, and Cannes.

The French Riviera is the perfect balance of old world charm and beachside travel.

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3. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai

I really wanted to put Mumbai, India onto the list here, but considering I would probably have to fly into Mumbai to get to the Maldives anyway, I’ll skip it for the sake of redundancy. Did you know it would take 3.5 days and 9352 miles of driving around the Arabian Sea to get from Mumbai to Dubai? Yeah, me neither.

Anyway, Dubai is such an interesting place. I spent the better part of four years tracking it throughout business school, with each passing year increasing my desire to make the trip. It has exploded into a hub for business and leisure, and is now know as the 8th-most visited city in the world. Dubai has also gained recognition as having the world’s largest skyline, including Burj Khalifa, the world’s largest tower.

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4. Central Africa

Uganda

I want to pet a baby elephant. I want to pet a baby elephant. I want to pet a baby elephant.

This choice is definitely mission based. In thinking about this, I tried to discern the area that, a) is most different, and b) a place where I look the most different. Although I have a heart for serving the people of the Americas or Asia, I will let you draw the lines: a preppy white man living in Florida (née Michigan) probably sticks out the most in Uganda.

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5. The Holy Land

To step where Jesus stepped. Can you imagine anything better? Also, for the sake of completion, let’s add the Churches of Revelation (Turkey) onto this list.

The downside here is that Israeli affairs only seem to be getting more unstable, so throw me a riot vest and let’s go. It’s unfortunate too; this is one of those places where you’d like to branch out on your own and explore, but that could be potentially dangerous. At any rate, the massive history and tradition entrenched into the Holy Land is too awesome to ignore.

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What are your top travel destinations? 

Let us know in the comments below.