Friday, December 17, 2010

Some Christmasy Thoughts

I love Christmas so much! This year is especially special to me because it will be the first extended time period I've had home since Beast Barracks. In many ways I feel as though Thanksgiving break was the teaser, while Christmas break is the full length movie. And if you've ever been to the opening night of a movie with me, you know how excited I must be right now.

Today I completed finals, or Term End Exams (TEEs), at West Point. And with that, my first semester of college has come to an end! What a refreshing feeling. I feel like the pressures of the school year have truly lifted for the first time since coming to USMA.

An amazing family friend has put me up for the night in a hotel right outside the airport in Newark, NJ. I leave bright and early tomorrow morning, fly through Seattle, and land in Boise at about 3pm. It can't come fast enough.

As for right now, I'm sitting in the hotel lobby tinkering around online, listening to Christmas music (excellent playlist: Relient K, Sufjan Stevens, Trans Siberian Orchestra, and a mix album of classics) and getting into the Holiday jive. Christmas has to be my favorite time of year. I love how everyone has their own unique traditions and routine on Christmas morning. Talking to one of my best friends at West Point, Dan Bryce, I asked him about his traditions, and it was as though I was getting a look into not only his Christmas morning, but his childhood and family traditions as well. To me Christmas has always been the common denominator of the year. Everything can go wrong during the entire course of the year, but Christmas is always waiting at then end, a beacon of hope and cheer. And it seems like I'm in need of that hope and cheer right about the time it arrives every year.

A particular part in C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe stands out to me. If you remember the story, the White Witch has put a spell over the land in which it is always winter. But that's not the worst part. It's always winter, but never Christmas.

And when you really think about that, it has pretty deep implications.

Is life without hope truly life? When we have nothing to live for, are we really living? Or are we simply existing?

These are the things I'm thinking about as people wander in and out of the hotel lobby. But for me, Christmas has always been a time to reflect and ponder.

What does Christmas mean to you?


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Boxed Creativity

Poetry has always been something I love. I don't consider myself a poet by any means, but I enjoy allowing my emotions and thoughts to overflow into something poetic from time to time.

Today in my English/Composition class my teacher gave us a preview of next semester's English class: Literature. He brought four or five poems having to do with warfare, many written by soldiers. He chose a person from the class to read each poem, and then prompted our entire class to analyze each poem.

There are few things I hate more than analyzing poetry.

It's not that I hate poetry; as I said I enjoy writing some myself. When I analyze a poem I feel like I am applying my own emotions and experiences to someone else's work, then assuming their meaning. I hate this because I know that when I write, I don't do it so that "the intended meaning" can be extracted by the reader. Primarily, I do it to express myself. Secondarily, I do it so that others can find their own meaning in my poem.

In a school setting, I don't see how grading poems is fair.

My teacher went on to tell us that a great writer will write poetry that is able to be torn apart and analyzed; true poetry has something the author is getting at and it takes the reader pulling back the layers to fully grasp this point.

This bothers me. Poetry is an art, is it not? As are music and painting, correct? Do we strip apart the musician's song and try to "understand what they're getting at?" Perhaps some do. I find so much more value in letting the song speak to me where I'm at. Many songs have impacted me strictly based on my current circumstances and situation. I believe the exact same thing can be said of art expressed through painting, drawing, or sculpting.

So why is poetry so different?

When walls are put around creativity, it ceases to exist. All that remains is monotonous gibberish written or molded to fit someone's expectations.

I'm not exactly sure why this had such an impact on me, but it did. I grew furious in class as my teacher showed us how to break poetry down line by line. Why?

Maybe I felt my creativity die a little bit.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Getting Controversial: I read my Bible because I feel guilty. Featuring: Being vs. Doing

I attend a Bible Study every Tuesday night here at West Point called OCF, Officer's Christian Fellowship. It's been great to get to know the people involved and make some new friends. I had a great time at the OCF retreat last month, getting away and spending some quality time with Papa was soul-nurturing.

OCF uses the Christian tried-and-true recipe for a Bible study: worship, announcements, short message, small groups. Quite frankly I'm cool with this, Jesus shows up regardless of the format, and that's what really matters.

Tonight the memory verse for this week came from the book of Joshua:

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Joshua 1:8
After the verse was read aloud, the speaker posed this question to think about during the week:

What should I be doing differently in my life or continue doing after reading this verse?
It got me thinking, in a big way.

(First of all, I'm referring to the question throughout this post, not the verse from Joshua. I believe the verse is a very Old Testament way of saying "you guys don't know how to live. Do it this way: it works." If you think I'm off-base in this thinking, let me know.)

These days, whenever I hear someone talk about "what should I/we/he/she be doing?" I immediately stop to asses what's being asked.

First, the question comes with an inherent sense of expectation. Not "what's the right thing?" but instead "what should?" The person asking has some sense that there's an expectation to be lived up to. There's an invisible point in the distance that they must reach, and this action should be a step towards that point.

Second, the question is all about action, rather then personal development. "What should I/we/he/she be doing?" There's no sense of personal change, rather just a change of action. It's almost as if the person asking is saying "surely there's some action I can participate in that will change me from the outside-in."

Clearly, I disagree with the premise of the question being asked. However, my disagreement and inner frustration reached a climax during small group time.

I really do like the small group I'm a part of. All of the guys are solid brothers in Christ, and I believe they are truly seeking after God. My small group leaders are both Firsties (translation: seniors) and have 100 other things to be doing on a Tuesday night during a Thayer Week (translation: week with a ton of tests and papers due). I admire them for showing up and leading our group week after week. Also, I admire the other plebes (translation: freshmen) who attend the group. I know I have at least 50 other things I could be doing, and so do they. They help push me continue coming every week.

So, that said, moving on to the frustrating part of the night.

Guilt really grinds my gears. I feel as though if I am doing something because someone has made me feel guilty if I do not do it, I'm probably doing it for the wrong reason. I believe guilt has its place - and it has kept me out of trouble more than once. I do not believe that its place is in manipulating people. Unfortunately, much of Christianity today relies on that second kind of guilt: the kind that really pisses me off.

An on-going challenge that my small group leaders push every week is for all of us to read our Bibles on a daily basis. I love this idea. I understand that reading God's word is important, and I know that not reading the Bible is not helpful to my walk with Christ. The leaders of my small group check us every week,
"Colin, how'd your time in the Word go this week?"
"Good! I spent time in James and got a lot out of it."
"Did you read every day?"
"Nope, I missed Thursday and Saturday"
"Oh...well you gotta get on that every day man."

And so it goes, every week. Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for accountability for my actions. I appreciate the check up because it keeps it fresh in my head. Tonight however, one of my leaders said something that shocked me.

"Guys, if this keeps up we're gonna start some kind of competition where you do push ups if you didn't read, or something. I mean, we want you to succeed."

Here's the thing: I want to read Papa's words because I want to read them. If I'm reading them because I have to, because somebody else wants me to, or because I don't want to have to do push ups next Tuesday, I honestly don't really see the value in reading at all. I know this probably goes against the whole "the Bible never returns void" but I also know that a seed planted in fertile soil is going to give much more fruit then that planted in rocky soil.

My point is this: what's with the church guilting people into doing things that supposedly "grow our relationship with Christ?" If we are doing it to not feel guilty, then we're not really doing it to grow closer to Christ, are we? I have a theory: I don't think God's into the whole "actions first" thing. What if Papa was more interested in our hearts then with our hands?

You may not agree with everything I'm saying here: I'm sure there are plenty of verses that contradict my heresy. That said, I think we can all agree that manipulation through guilt is unhealthy. I'm not talking about choosing "the hard right over the easier wrong" (although, I'd love to do a post on that later). I'm talking about doing something because I feel like I have to, when the option is there to do that same thing out of personal desire for growth in my relationship with Christ. After all, it's the heart behind the action that matters, isn't it?

Hit me: where is my theology all jacked up?


Saturday, November 13, 2010


As a Plebe at West Point, I only have so many options on the weekend. If there's an away football game/sporting event, a lot of times I have the option to leave and support the Army team. I've taken advantage of that several times, and have already traversed to New York City, Philly, New Jersey, and Michigan as a result. Not only have I met a lot of great people on these trips, but I've also developed some ability to navigate around big cities - something which a directionally challenged individual from Boise can really appreciate.

The other weekend option for Plebes at West Point is to stay on post. Basically, this consists of chilling in your room, playing video games, watching movies, or performing some combination of those.

Although I prefer the traveling option, a little something that starts with an 'm' and ends with 'oney' has decidedly kept me within the gates of Hogwarts- er, West Point, for this and next weekend. Luckily, I'm ok with a weekend movie marathon.

This weekend I watched several films, but two stuck out to me. "Role Models" and "I Love You Man" are two movies that I've heard a lot about from friends and relatives, but have simply not gotten around to actually watching.

They're freakin hilarious! Both movies had me rolling on the floor at some point. I would highly recommend both.

Both movies laid out a concept that I think each of us, at one point or another, has taken for granted: friendship. I Love You Man deals with a guy who has no "guy friends" and as a result, no Best Man for his wedding. The hilariousness of watching this guy struggle to find grown-up non-gay friends is funny to say the least, but also made me appreciate my buds, both at home and here at West Point.

Finding new friends can be hard, can't it? I think everyone at one point or another has experienced this, and a lot of times it has to do with change. In fact, sometimes finding new friends can be as painful as it is necessary, depending on the circumstances surrounding the change that comes with it. For example, perhaps somebody who is attending a new school has some pain regarding leaving their last school. In that instance, finding friends, although probably the most healthy thing to do, could be extremely painful for that person.

Developing friendships here has been very interesting. During Beast my squadmates and I were brought together by the common suckage of what we were going through. We had to work together and make sure we were giving 100%, because if one person slacked it brought the rest of the group down. It's similar now during the school year: the last thing most cadets need is their roommates or people in their company bringing them down. Working together is applicable in almost any situation here.

I'm headed home in under two weeks for Thanksgiving break. It will be the first time I've been home since coming to West Point. I am so ready to see my friends and family. One thing I've been thinking about is what it will be like to hang with my friends again. The big thing everyone here says is that friends from back home seem so much less mature and more lazy. I'm not sure I'll view my friends in that light, especially since I've kept in pretty good contact with most of them since coming here. However, it will be interesting to see how I have changed during these last several months. How will I act differently? Do I have the same sense of humor and overall personality as when I left? I think so, but I'm interested to find out what,. if anything, has changed.

How about you? Have you ever felt pain as a result of having to form new friendships? What has been your experience?


Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Layout!

I hope you enjoy the new look of Ground Shaking!
After doing some research, I decided to stay with Blogger for now. Feel free to check out the new slider on the front page, as well as the "Bio," "Add Me," and "Subscribe" tabs on the side bar. Finally, the "Popular Posts" tab on the sidebar is a new feature, showing popular posts from the last 30 days.

Anything you'd like to see added? Comment it up.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Growth and Community

Why am I writing a blog post when I have a six page psychology paper due tomorrow that I still need to start? I'm sure part of it has to do with the bane of all college students, procrastination. Another part, however, has to do with the fact that I need to get this off of my chest.

I've been keeping to myself a lot lately. In some ways I've become a swamp of thoughts and emotions. I use the analogy of a swamp because it's murky and stagnant - nothing is flowing out of it. I've confided in some, and those talks have been good. But I miss writing. I miss the feedback I get from people.

In a lot of ways, I just miss community.

So I think it's time to make some changes. Over the next several weeks I'm going to attempt to turn this blog into a place of community. I'll commit to writing more, and I'll need your help to get feedback on my thoughts. I want to hear your opinion as well - if something I say rubs you the wrong way, please comment and tell me.

Also, expect to see some aesthetic changes to my blog. Layouts and widgets immediately come to my mind.

Let's see where this goes!


Friday, November 5, 2010

Heart Dissonance

I have absolutely no regrets. I made my decision, and I'm sticking to that.

It's a whole lot easier to be 100% real when I'm submerged head first in my comfort zone. Take me out of that, away from my friends, family, and girlfriend, and it's far more difficult then I first anticipated.

I forgot that being real comes with an inherent risk. People may not accept me, may not like me, and may not care.

But is it really a risk when I'm guaranteed to get something back? And doesn't being real always come with a reward? Even if all that reward entails is me feeling like I've been true to myself, isn't that enough?

I refuse to put those old masks back on. I know who I am, and I don't need anything else to define me. The only question I ask is this: have I changed?

The issue with seeing myself in the 1st person is that I've always done that. I don't see how I've changed. When people refer to me as "big guy" it takes me a second to register that I'm tall - I was never abnormally tall growing up and I'm really not used to people referring to me as so. 1st person does that - it mitigates my awareness of self-change so that even when I go through the most life-changing experience, I may not realize that anything about me has truly been altered until much later then the rest of the world.

Oh to be able to view myself in the 3rd person. I wish I could see how my mannerisms and speech have changed with a fresh pair of eyes.

But even if I could, do those mannerisms change anything about who I am? Am I the same person that I was when I first said "Peaceful, Free, and Stupendous" in the same sentence?

This is my heart dissonance.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Girl Scout Cookies and a Card

Running for office of any kind is stretching. As some of you may know, I ran for Class President for USMA Class of 2014 last month. I ran my campaign based heavily on social media, using tools such as blogging and facebook to promote my ideas. It was a huge learning experience for me: how to take ridicule, and welcome help. At the end of it all my classmates voted. And I lost.

It was hard to accept that defeat. But in the end, I can learn just as much from losing this race as I could of by winning it, if not more.

On Friday I went to check my P.O. Box, and found an unexpected package. After heading back to my room, I opened it and found a box of "Lemon Chalet Cremes" Girl Scout Cookies. And a card. Opening the card, I found this message:
Hey buddy. We are proud of you for running for Class President! Good job, we don't always win the first time, but we learn a lot, that helps us out the next time. Keep up the good work! We never lose, we just get better. Best wishes,
Gov. "Butch" Otter & Lori

I was utterly stunned and blessed beyond belief. Receiving encouragement from an unexpected source is one thing, but having that unexpected source be the Governor of Idaho and his wife is quite another!

And yet it showed me two things:
First, that I need never be above, or below, accepting encouragement.
Second, that Butch and Lori Otter break the mold of a typical politician and his wife.

Political points and ideals put aside, the Governor of Idaho and his wife took the time out of their lives to send me, a cadet representing the state of Idaho at West Point, an encouraging letter of support, and cookies to boot! That speaks volumes to me.

Thank you Governor and Mrs. Otter,


Monday, September 6, 2010

Isn't it more than enough that He is in control?

As I went to shave, I changed the blade in my razor this morning.

It's been easy for me to get down, to fall into a sort of hole or depression. I miss home a lot. More than that: I miss how things were. And the hardest thing about all of this change is coming to the realization that things will never again be how they were.

This homesickness/past-sickness was beginning to breed in me a constant state of unrest, of stress. I was stressed about school, sports, duties...most everything actually.

"Wouldn't us getting stressed out kind of be like telling God we don't trust him? I think that if we truly understood the heart of God, we would have no need to be stressed out because isn't it more than enough that He is in control? Philippians 4:6-7 ' Do not worry about anything. Instead pray about everything and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your heart and your mind in Jesus Christ.'"
My amazing girlfriend sent this to me a couple weeks ago. I've been thinking about it a lot. Today I went to read my Bible, and without even making the connection, I read the book of Philippians. When I went back to re-read Kona's message to me, I realized that it too was out of Philippians. Papa is telling me something.

I changed the blade in my razor this morning, and as I did it I changed my attitude. I choose to no longer feel stressed, because I know that God is in control. I choose to no longer be in a constant state of sickness, whether it be about the past or home, because I know that Papa has it handled.

And that is a freeing feeling.


Monday, August 16, 2010

The Challenges of my Summer

Where do I start?

I really don't think there's any way I could convey my summer in one blog post. Or 100 for that matter.

Have you ever gone through something so challenging that when someone asks about it, literally all you can say is "It was pretty tough." or "It was really hard." It's not that you don't want to share about your challenge and how you overcame it, it's that you're not sure what words you can use to convey the heartbreak, the extreme emotions, the physical challenges, or whatever proved difficult for you.

That's exactly where I find myself. I can tell story after story of how difficult and awesome Beast was this summer, but I'm barely scraping the surface of what it actually was. It's like the difference between watching the Sharks special on the Discovery Channel versus actually going out and swimming with those sharks.

My squad: Delta Co, 2nd Platoon, 4th Squad
The hardest part of Beast for me was acknowledging when I completely lost sight of who I am.
Let me put it in perspective:
West Point brings together some of the smartest and most physically fit kids in America. Just looking at the facts, I don't compare very well: I'm a homeschooler from Boise, Idaho who graduated from a co-op with 9 other people. I don't come from a big city, I didn't take 6 AP classes last year, and I'm not an All American recruited athlete. Sure, I was chosen to represent Idaho at USMA, but how does that stack up against the kids from Texas or New York who were picked from a far larger pool?

These were the types of statements I found myself making and the types of questions I found myself asking. I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty depressing. I'm used to doing well at what I set my mind to, and let me tell you: I was not exactly a star at Beast. Not to say I did poorly, I just did about average. I didn't stand out like I wanted to or (almost) expected to at the start of Beast.

The rules of Beast are situated such that for about the first week you don't communicate verbally very often with your peers. Because of that, every word that came out of any of our mouths was quickly used by the rest to judge. Not necessarily in a bad way, it's just that we weren't aloud to talk very often, so when we did everybody listened and used those words to define the speaker in their head. Let's just say I asked a couple dumb questions and made a couple dumb statements during the first week or so of Beast, and because of that I wasn't viewed as the brightest light bulb in the shed. It wore on me: this wasn't who I am! I am not dumb, or lame, or foolish. And yet I felt like all of these things, definitely at the beginning of Beast, but also all throughout it at different moments.

It became necessary for me to hold myself to my Focus contract and mission:
I am a peaceful, free, and stupendous man and my mission is to influence, restore, and improvise honor and wisdom in myself and others.
The letters from my parents, sister, girlfriend, friends, and family gave me the sustaining encouragement I needed when I needed it most.

But most of all, there to help me whenever I cried out, was Papa. I was put in a situation where I could either try to get through Beast by myself (like a lot of kids do) and change who I am, or I could trust Papa to get me through it one day at a time and come out intact at the end.

I'm still here. It's still me, Colin Mansfield. There are differences, I'm sure, and I know a whole ton more then I did going into Beast. I know more about military, the Army, weapons, gas masks, tactical movement, and so, so much more. But this point remains key to me: Papa kept me safe this summer, both physically and mentally. I haven't lost myself, and I easily could have.

Beast lasted 6 weeks, and they are 6 weeks that I will never forget. I'm sure that as I write more, some of my specific Beast stories will make it up here.

Today is my first school day. All of this summer and this last week (Reorganization week) have been leading up to the school year. I have learned how to be a soldier, and now I will learn how to be a student.

My classes? Math Modeling/Intro to Calc, Psychology, Advanced History of the US, Chemistry, and Composition. I have half of those today, and the other half tomorrow (think block schedule). I expect to be pushed to my limits, just as I was this summer. I expect to bend under the pressure, but this summer has shown me that I don't have to break and that God will sustain me.

Please pray for me: that I will continue to be encouraged and that this school year, although stressful and difficult, will also be fun. Pray that Papa will continue to reveal to me who He is, and who I am.

A huge thanks to everyone that has supported me coming to USMA, and to those that sent me letters this Summer.

4th Class Cadet Mansfield

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Learning Love

Papa is so good.

Tomorrow I'm taking a step that will forever change my life. I'm entering Beast Barracks, West Point's Basic Training. Tomorrow I get my head shaved, and my first taste of the next four years. I'll be out of internet contact until August, depending only on letters as my form of communication. It will be difficult, but so good.

Yesterday I was at a Family Reunion with my dad's side of the family. It was so great being with people that I love and that love me. At a certain point my aunts, uncles, and cousins congregated in the main living room of the bed & breakfast we're staying at. My Aunt Janet stood and said that with all of the celebration of family, my acceptance and moving off to West Point needed to be recognized. She then proceeded to reveal a beautiful cake with the West Point crest on it. After the cake we watched a slideshow that my cousin Shannon put together which covered my entire life. It was so amazing, and she did such an incredible job; it really blessed me so, so much. After the slideshow my aunts, uncles, and cousins shared memories that they have with me. They gave me words of encouragement that I took to heart. It was healing medicine. Finally, my parents spoke. My mom expressed her heart and began to weep. My dad followed, equally teary as he shared about my lifeless birth and miraculous recovery. My parents encouraged me and breathed life into me. In many ways, tonight was CPR for my spirit. This whole experience has shown me that so many people love me. And it's relatively easy to understand that in my head. The trouble I've had has been with my heart. Tonight that transition happened. Rather then just knowing that people love me, I actually felt loved.

Last week I was in California. I drove down there with my parents, and spent a night with my Grandpa and Grandma and the next day at my aunt and uncle's house. Later my family connected up with Kona's family (who had driven down that day). I spent the next two days with Kona's family at Knott's Berry Farm in Anaheim. It was an incredible time. So many fun memories, like Stephen and I running around that night and Kona and I holding hands and enjoying the park. The next day we met back up with my family in Long Beach, got on a boat, and headed to Catalina Island. Catalina Island holds many, many special memories for me; my family has attended a Christian family camp there called CBS almost every summer since I was born. I've made some of my very best friends through CBS, and I've had the honor of working there in the past. This particular trip was especially amazing for me: not only was it a great vacation to precede Beast, but I got to share this trip with my Best Friends: Kona (my incredible girlfriend), Collin (my long time buddy), Kale (my hilarious cousin),  and Stephen (Kona's brother and my close friend). Not to mention my family and the rest of Kona's family. I'm not going to lie, the week was very hard. Staying in the moment proved very difficult, as I constantly knew that saying goodbye to my girlfriend was looming on the horizon. Kona and I made the best of the hard situation by spending time together, and with Kale, Collin, and Stephen. It really was a lot of fun, and I'm so glad I chose to go there before Beast.

These last few weeks have been utterly and completely fantastic. There have been so many laughs and memories, to be sure. Part of what this whole process has taught me, however, is this: love is something to be learned as much as it is something to experience. It is not something that ever stops revealing itself, rather it is something that reveals more and more with each year, experience, and relationship. Learning Love is not about figuring it out. It's not about suddenly defining a word that has baffled so many people for so long. Rather, it is an acknowledgement that love is more than just some fleeting emotion. Love is tangible and it is real. I've felt it in the air so thick you could cut it with butter.

Learning Love is a part of my journey. This last week has been extremely difficult, depressing, and confusing. Tonight, however, I feel free. I am loved. I haven't done anything to earn it, and yet it is true.

I am loved by my family.

I am loved by my parents.

I am loved by my girlfirend.

I am loved by my friends.

But most importantly:

I am loved by Papa.

And Papa is so good.

I'll talk to you in August! Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, June 14, 2010

New Beginnings and Complacent Christianity

On Thursday, I leave Boise. On the 28th of this month, I start Cadet Basic Training. In early August, I start my first year of school at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

A lot is going through my head. Just graduated, just received my Eagle Scout, newly minted adult. I'm having trouble processing most of what's going on, and I've resorted to simply 'taking it all in.' I'm going to West Point with no expectations, and in preparation for that I'm taking each day leading up to Beast (Basic Training) one day at a time.

In the book Stumbling Souls: Is Love Enough? author Chris Plekenpol invites a gay, HIV positive, homeless man to live with him. Chris decides that merely inviting this man to Bible study, only to drop him back off at the street corner afterwards, isn't good enough. Chris is stretched with the question we've all faced when helping someone in need: how can I help them without enabling them? What can I give them that will help them, not hurt them? Chris decides to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the literal sense: he invites the homeless man, James, into his inner circle, and into his house. What Chris finds is that James is really the one helping Chris. Sharing Christ's love in a tangible way comes with incredible risk. Chris finds that the payoff is more than worth it.

I can relate to Chris on many levels. Chris held many of the same feelings towards homeless people before his interaction with James as I do now. In many ways, even the most compassionate mega church draws a line in the sand when it comes to helping people. We'll go into the park and feed them, but only if we can retreat back to our suburban houses afterwards to unwind and watch some cable. I hate to admit it, but I'm as guilty as anyone. How many times have I seen a homeless man or woman and thought "man, what brings them here, to this place in their life?" and then continued on my way to the movie theater to use the "anything helps" change on popcorn and candy?

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." Matthew 25:35
I think too often we assign value to Jesus' words, we recite the verses, and we preach sermons on the topics without ever living them out. We let the words of Jesus lead us when it's convenient, then "pray about it" when He says something we don't necessarily agree with.

Don't read Stumbling Souls: Is Love Enough? unless you want to be challenged. It will make you take a look at what you believe about tangible love. It forced me to ask myself the question "where is the line between listening to somebody and emotionally being there for them, and physically helping them, whether with money or other means?" I'm not sure I've arrived at an answer to that question, and I know that this book provided the catalyst for me to ask that question in the first place, and that's a good place to start.

The words of Chris Plekenpol hold a weight to me that is hard for others to understand. Chris is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and is an experienced executive officer in the 82nd Airborne, as well as a combat company commander in the 2nd Infantry Division in Iraq. Chris took many of the same steps that I'm taking now. He went through many of the same emotions I'm going through now. And he made it.

Chris gives me hope. He give me hope that I can make it these next four years, then nine years, then 12 years, then maybe more. He gives me hope in his belief in Jesus, and that God is sovereign. He gives me hope in his acknowledging that "comfortable Christianity" is really "complacent Christianity" and that there has to be more.


Monday, May 31, 2010

How He Loves: A Song Story by John McMillan

The song "How He Loves" has been played frequently in churches around America lately, and covers have even been done by famous Christian bands like David Crowder Band.

I, personally, love the song and did a blog post on it a little while back. It is so real. So raw. So where I'm at.

This video posted on John McMillan's vimeo page makes the song even more powerful. It speaks for itself, check it out:

How He Loves : A Song Story from john mark mcmillan on Vimeo.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Keeping Portland Weird with my Sister

God's plan is so much better then ours, don't you think?

Last weekend my sister, Meg, and I took a trip to Portland. Really, it was for no other reason then to connect and love on each other.

As most of you already know, I'm headed off to West Point in a little less then a month. This summer is going to be intense as I go through basic training and move towards cadet life at the academy.

My sister wanted to take me somewhere for us to connect. We threw around some ideas, but none of them seemed to fit the grid for a place to both have fun, and connect with my sister. Finally, I landed on Portland.

Portland? Yeah.

I think my sister thought it was a pretty odd place for me to suggest, seeing as other ideas had been Lagoon and Silverwood (both theme parks.) Why Portland? Why not? I'd heard from several people that Portland is the cat's pajamas, and I simply had to go there and see what's up.  As my sis had been there before, I figured she could lead the expedition, not to mention the fact that she is great with directions (not a strong point for me.) Still, she felt more comfortable with having my GPS enabled iPhone with us.

My sister made the plans early on (about a month ago) and we were looking forward to the trip with anticipation, and rightly so! After all, where two or more Mansfield's (or Roe's) are gathered, there incredible fun can be found.

Last Saturday at 6am the trip began. We arrived in Portland at 6am, due to the hour flight and time change that worked in our favor. Here are the highlights of the trip, and how Papa really showed up:

Click here to read the rest.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

On turning 18, fear, and trust

Turning 18 gives me mixed emotions.

I'm an adult, which is pretty cool. I get to buy lottery tickets, smoke, go to jail, and vote. More importantly: my words hold a new weight coming out of my mouth. I can be recognized as some one with an opinion, and not just merely viewed as a teenager shouting into the wind. I get to be viewed as an adult shouting into the wind!
Ok, maybe I'm being a little too snarky and sarcastic about this whole thing. I really do view it as more than a legal "coming of age". 

To tell you the truth, I have a serious conflict about this whole turning 18 thing, and it really doesn't have to do with my birthday at all. April 23rd 2010 signified that I am one huge step closer to leaving home and starting my own life. As anyone who has experienced this knows, that's both one of the best things and one of the scariest.

In a little under two months I'll head off to college. I'm going to West Point, located in New York, so there really is no transition period. I'll be living in Boise one day and be living in barracks at USMA the next.
I really am excited for this experience and lifestyle. This has been my dream since I can remember having dreams. I am excited to be bent, broken, and recast. I'm excited to truly learn what it means to lead.

None of this comes without a cost. I have to leave my family, girlfriend, friends, and home town. This is the hardest and shittiest part of the whole thing. I'm being 100% real: more fear then I've ever known rises in me when I think about it. Fear that I may not see some of my closest friends for years. Fear that my relationship and friendship with my girlfriend will change because I wont be there for her when other people are. Fear that one day I'll wake up at age 30 and wonder where the last 10 years went.

Fear isn't healthy, and I know that. I also don't know any other way to combat this fear save two things: ask Papa for a shoulder to lean on, and make every effort to be here now, at every moment. I'm striving to enjoy every moment I have left in High School.

It's almost like I'm an adult in everybody else's eyes but mine. To me, I'm just a kid who doesn't want to leave his loved ones, and no matter what I tell myself I keep coming back to that. And yet I am most definitely not a boy; I'm a man, and a peaceful, free, and stupendous man at that. I'm finding being "peaceful" and "free" is a lot harder when that's not at all how I feel.

And right now I kind of feel like this blog post is depressing. I really and honestly don't mean it to be: this is just where I'm at. I don't want it to sound like turning 18 was a bad experience and now I'm dragging my feet; that's not it at all. In fact, I'm finding that I want to be more present from moment to moment now then ever before. This whole going to college thing is starting to bring things into focus. It's hard, and I know I'll be glad for it in the long run.

It's easy for me to say that I trust Papa to take care of everything while I'm gone: my relationships, girlfriend, and family. It's a lot harder to believe that in my heart and to actually trust Him. I'm working on it, but I'm not there yet. What I do know is that Papa has a plan that's a whole lot better then mine. My hope is that that plan isn't going to be emotionally stressful and that it won't hurt. My hope is that my worst fears don't come to fruition in that plan. I'm having a hard time trusting Papa because I feel like if I do, it somehow gives Him permission to use my fears to stretch me. I know I probably need to check my heart about this stuff, and I bet most of you could show me verses that prove me wrong. Nonetheless, this is where I'm at now. I want God's help, but am having a hard time trusting Him. How's that working for me? Not very well.

For now I want to enjoy every moment, which includes (but is not limited to): staying up late and blogging, going to opening night movies, doing crazy stuff with friends, hanging with my gf as often as I can, hanging out with my friends at every opportunity, and focusing on being all there with my family when we are having fun together. A couple of those things already have a check next to them.

Prayers headed this way would be awesome,

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Boy Scouts and Boise Parks

As some of you know, I've been in scouts since I was 11 years old, and I've enjoyed (just about) every minute of it. There's been super fun camp outs, and hard times when I've had to take up the mantle of leadership and march. I've gotten a lot out of scouting, and as my 18th birthday is around the corner, the time that marks the end of all Scouts' careers, I'm starting to wrap everything up.
A huge part of my Scouting time has been spent working towards my Eagle Scout award. Eagle is not only the highest rank in Boy Scouts, but it is something I can carry on in to my adult and business life. It automatically shows a to-be employer that I have integrity, and a will to work towards something until it's completed.
Getting Eagle is no easy task. I've had to spend hours working on merit badges, days away from friends so I could work on rank advancement, weekends on camping trips, and months in leadership positions. I've had to make sacrifices, and it's been so worth it. Two of my very best friends, Max and Andy, were made in Scouts, not to mention peeps like Kevin and Noah. I've built memories with J.T. and Austin, and I've almost died with Richard. I hiked 50 miles with Mark and Brian, six of those thirsty, and without water.I rafted 100 miles with Steveo, Evan, and Justin. It's been amazing. Yeah, I've been made fun of plenty by other friends, but it's so worth it. I wouldn't give up the relationships I've built, the stuff I've learned, or the memories I've made in Scouts for anything.

The biggest requirement for Eagle Scout is a service project. Now this ain't your run-of-the mill "rake leaves for a half hour" project, either. Every detail has to be planned months in advance, signatures have to be gotten, sign ups have to be sent out, volunteers have to help; and that's just to get to the actual project. After, the entire thing has to be written out, including a record of the hours that everybody helped, a blow-by-blow account of the events that took place...oh, and did I mention that I have to lead this whole thing? The whole idea behind an Eagle Project is that it's really hard. It tests the leadership ability of the to-be Eagle Scout by putting him in charge of people, paper, and yes, a project. After the project is written up, it has to be approved by your troop, and by the Boy Scouts of America before it can actually be counted towards the Eagle rank. It's no easy task.
And by the end of next week, if everything goes according to the plan I have set out, I will be done with all of my requirements for my Eagle Scout award.

What project did I do? Actually, that's really what this blog post is about. I finally get the opportunity to share my finished Eagle Project with everybody that wants to see it! I've worked many long hours (60-something by myself, 120 or so altogether) to get this accomplished.
For my Eagle Project, I decided to do a short documentary about four of the major parks in Boise: Julia Davis Park, Ann Morrison Park, Kathryn Albertson Park, and Camel's Back Park. But before I spoil everything, take a look for yourself:

Boise Parks from Colin Mansfield on Vimeo.

So, now the countdown begins on my final days in Boy Scouts. I'm sad in one sense: I've loved my time here. I'm happy in another sense: I'm ready to move on.

Thanks, and I hope you enjoyed the video!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ramblings at 3am the day before Easter

I've wanted to write something for several days, but haven't been able to find a good topic, or a good chunk of time to devote to writing about said undetermined topic. I've wanted to write something mysterious and thought provoking. At one point I even was going to write a fictional short story and call it good. I enjoy fiction, and I enjoy coming up with plots.
But none of those seemed to cut it for me. Why? I'm really not sure.
Call it writer's block I suppose. Some sort of inability to think in any kind of organized manner about writing.

And now it's 3am on the day before Easter, and for some reason I'm sitting here typing. I think I may just need to dish some thoughts out. Feel free to try and sort through them; also feel free to do something more interesting. I'm sure you have a better way to spend your time.
No? Okee dokee then, good luck.

So I saw Clash of the Titans tonight, and I have to admit, I had pretty high expectations going in to it. I hoped for some kind of mixture between 300 and Avatar I guess. To put it bluntly: the movie sucked. Predictable plot, static characters, and really bad Greek mythology (somebody should have given the writer's a high school textbook on mythology.) After looking on Rotten Tomatoes, it appears as though this movie was a pretty good remake of the original. I guess I won't be seeing the original.
Earlier tonight my family had a Seder dinner at my house. A Seder dinner is essentially a traditional Jewish Passover meal. The night consisted of lots of B.C. tradition, with much recognition of the A.D. implications of such tradition. The food was excellent, and even more so the fellowship. Talking about our recent time in Israel, and how so much tradition is built in to the Jewish culture and religion made the evening come alive.

I have to ask this question, because it's been bothering me ever since my return from Israel this time around:
do people really believe that because the Jews don't believe in Jesus that they are all damned to Hell?
This doesn't sit right with me. The Jews, who worship THE God of the Bible, without whom Christianity would never exist, are Damned to Hell because they don't see Jesus as their messiah. Am I missing something here? Yeah, go for it, throw scripture at me. I've been to Israel, and I've seen the Jews bring in Shabat at the Western Wall. I've seen them bob to the Torah, and I've heard their songs before meals. They have a passion that I can't fathom and a Love for God born out of more pain and sorrow as a people then I can imagine.
In fact, the whole notion that somehow Protestant Christians have everything "figured out" is hard for me to imagine. I don't get most passages in the Bible when I read them for the first time. There is background and history that I may never know to Exodus and to Ephesians. I don't get a lot. Maybe it's because I'm young; fair enough. Do you think Billy Graham would say he knows everything there is to know about the Bible or about God?
I feel like I'm largely surrounded by arrogant believers who are closer to Pharisees then they are to Jesus. Even things like the "sinners prayer" are curious to me. I understand that the intentions behind the sinners prayer are pure and good: a non-believer entering into the Kingdom of God through prayer is definitely not a bad thing. But what if someone doesn't say the prayer, and goes before God? Obviously it's up to Him to judge that person's heart, most would say. I would agree. But what about Mormons? What about Buddhists? What about Jews for that matter? Isn't it also up to God to judge their hearts, and not up to us? That's why I love the line in the Shack where Mack asks Papa if all roads lead to Him. Papa replies no, but that He will meet people on any road. I've heard so many people reject that because they claim it is simply a restatement of "all roads lead to Heaven." I don't think that's the point behind it at all. I think the writer was communicating that Papa will meet us where we're at in life. He'll love on us regardless of stature, placement, grades, relationship status, employment, or state of living.
And yeah, I know, the Shack isn't the Bible. Neither is the Screwtape Letters, so please chill out.

I tried to watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on Instant Watch Netflix the other night. I fell asleep half way through with the computer on my lap. I've heard it's a great movie, so I'll have to try watching it again some time.

The iPad comes out tomorrow, and that's pretty cool. I really want one, but at the same time could care less. I really don't have any money right now, so getting one is completely a pipe dream. Plus, I'm going to West Point in like three months and will be at Basic Training all Summer. Also, the 2nd gen iPad will probably be loads cooler. All the same, I really want one. Yep, consumerism at it's finest.

I've enjoyed the last couple rainy days, but I have to be honest: I didn't really enjoy the rain today. I went to Barnes & Noble (one of my favorite places to read and study) and that was cool. What wasn't cool was when I went outside in the pouring rain only to realize I had locked my keys in my car. My dad picked me up, but my car is still at B&N. Guess I'll have to figure out how to break into it tomorrow.

I have yet to see Alice in Wonderland, but I've heard it's spectacular. My sister and my dad really want to see it. Maybe we'll go tomorrow.

I'm currently reading Hear No Evil by Matthew Paul Turner and it's really good. Non-fiction is, in general, harder for me to read then fiction. I enjoy stories, however, and MPT is doing a fantastic job of telling his. I'm also reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis for English class. Well, I didn't read it this week because of Spring Break :) . Also, I've been enjoying using Calibre to get news and RSS feeds on my B&N Nook e-book reader.

Music-wise I've been listening to Angels & Airwaves, Mae, DC*B, The Color Morale, and Family Force 5 lately. Also, my buddy Austin's band The Dude Abides just posted a new song on their myspace profile. I've listened to that once or twice.

It's 3:45am now and I should probably be heading to bed. If you read this far, I owe you a big high five :)

What have you been processing lately? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Exciting News From the Mansfield Family

Hey everyone!
This post will probably come as a shock to many of you, but I didn't want to spoil the surprise before we got 100% confirmation.

For years now I've prayed that one day God would bless me with an opportunity that has seemed impossible for so long. It's so amazing to see those prayers finally come to fruition, and to have this new blessing reveal itself to my family.

Yesterday my family received confirmation that my mom is pregnant and I get to be a big brother!

We don't have much more information at this point, but I'll keep you updated with pictures and videos in the future. I am so excited! My sister is excited too, and it's crazy to think that Cole will have an uncle or aunt younger then him!

Please keep my family in your prayers, and get the word out!


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Heaven Meets Earth Like an Unforeseen Kiss

How He Loves Us

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh! how He loves us,
Oh! how He loves us,
Oh! how He loves.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

Click for video

My Comments

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities and Today

The latest book I had to read for English was A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I was excited to dive into this incredibly famous book, and in no way was I disappointed. If you haven't read it, please do. Not only does it give incredible insight into Revolutionary France, but it provides even greater insight into the hearts of men and the characters that make up our world. I found the tale to be both depressing and inspiring; it brought out my emotional highs as well as lows.
For a final project I decided to re-read the famous introductory paragraph, then do a comparison to today's world. I received 100% on my paper (yes!) and I really do think it's one of the better things I've written in High School. I wanted to post my paper not for self-glorification, but to share my thoughts. Feel free to comment and share your opinion. And, most importantly, enjoy!


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

This opening paragraph to A Tale of Two Cities is one of the most famous to ever be written. Certainly this is partially because A Tale of Two Cities is an amazing book written by Charles Dickens – one of the best and most celebrated authors; but I would submit there’s more to this opening then mere pen on paper. When words reach through the book and the barrier of time that separates us from the writer’s hand, and we feel those words tug at our hearts and our emotions, and we relate to the feeling of what’s being communicated, this indeed is more than simple etchings in ink. The opening paragraph to A Tale of Two Cities is a perfect example of something that speaks anew to every generation – if they listen. Undoubtedly everyone will read this beautiful arrangement of words with their own opinions, experiences, and belief systems in mind, and they will glean certain truths about today’s world because of this. In general, however, there are two main categories that this passage speaks to that can be related to today’s world: morals and beliefs. Examining each of these separate and looking at how they play into today’s world, and how they are presented from Dicken’s writing will provide clarity to both understanding today’s world, and understanding the passage.

Nearly everybody in today’s world has some kind of set of morals. Some may cringe to admit it, but history has shown humans to be beings who draw certain lines in their metaphorical sand, and say “this far, but no further.” Some base their morals on religion, while others prefer to base them from experiences, and still others prefer neither and fall to the morals of immorality. All people, however, have some kind of moral code. “…it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” The masses of today flock to the widely popular philosophy of simply “being a good person.” They are sorely let down when they realize the narcissism of such a belief has inversely showed them that they are, in fact, the opposite: foolish people. Then there are the Mother Theresa’s and the Ghandi’s of the world: people who sacrifice of themselves and find true happiness. The few that follow these people tread on a narrow road and seek true wisdom. “…it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…” “…we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…” The newspaper and news channels of today’s world reveal how full of Darkness our society is. Murder, theft, drugs, pornography, adultery, bombings, terrorism; the list is ever-increasing and never ending. Drug busts are a common occurrence in even the smallest of cities, and one need only look at Las Vegas or Atlantic City to realize how enamored and addicted our culture is with sexual deviance. Through everything that is Dark and grows ever Darker, however, there is Light. Organizations, groups, and people step up and make a difference in our world every day. Disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti reveal how prone many people are to helping those in need. Morals in today’s society truly reveal that, if one was to create a spectrum, there is no middle ground.

In many ways, a person’s morals are tied closely to their beliefs, or their belief system. Like morals, everyone carries some kind of belief system; whether it be based on their upbringing, their experiences, their wins, or their losses. Most people’s beliefs are continuously in process; they change through experience and periods of time. “…it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…” In today’s society, seeing is believing. One need only sit in on a public high school Physics class to realize that if you can’t prove it using a formula, postulate, or experimental analysis, then our culture screams “it is not true!” We place personal menu requests on mathematics and science for this very reason, with side orders of debate and logic. The winners in our society are those who are smart, and can show you just how smart they are. Then, there are the pastors, the priests, the rabbis, and the prophets: those who choose faith above their mind, and who know that they can’t trust their eyes to show them the real truth of this world. The scientists and scholars of today’s society at the very least disregard the words of even the most esteemed in this camp, and at the worst mock them for not having the facts to back up their beliefs. “…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” The highly regarded people of today’s culture (the lawyers, the doctors, the scientists, and even the politicians) all have their own voices and opinions on the happenings in the world. If one were to take all of their voices and combine them in to one shout and uproar, the result would be depressing: global warming, failing economies, and warring nations to only name a few of the loud and piercing cries. Despair creeps through every crack and every floorboard – it turns the strong to weak, and the weak to nothing. And yet, just as with every winter, there is inevitably a spring on the other side. Even above the naysayers and pessimists that rule our upper-class society, there are those that lead revolutions in technology, which in turn leads to solving issues such as water crises in other countries. There are also those that lead in the study of medicine, that rather than simply screaming the common cry of “there is no hope!” they help solve global issues like HIV/AIDS, and provide medical assistance all around the world. These people show the world that mankind truly does not exist merely to continue its existence until the end of the world; that we really do have everything before us.

Morals and beliefs: these are the two main categories that I would distil everything into from Charles Dickens’ opening words in A Tale of Two Cities. They reveal that, although the circumstances were very different and the quality of life was not nearly the same in Revolutionary France, the very same wise words can be applied to today’s world. The words reach through space and time and grab our society by its collar; they show us how similar people of yesterday are to people of today. More than that, they grab you and me and present a choice. We can heed the words and choose what kind of person we can become, or we can leave the words and fall into the same winter of despair, epoch of incredulity, and season of Darkness that so many have fallen into: both yesterday, and today. So many people today are split on this choice that in many ways it truly is the best of times, and the worst of times.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I'm tired of people pretending like they have all of the answers.
Is it so unfathomable to think that there are things happening around us that we have no clue about? Even more than a "scene above the ceiling" - a whole Kingdom around us that many refuse to recognize?

This trip to Israel was so awesome. I'm glad I was able to journal via blogging; it really helped me process while traveling, and I'm glad to hear it proved interesting to others as well. The things I speak of in this post are only a fraction of what I've been thinking about.

Something this year has taught me, and something that really hit home for me on this trip, is the power of questions.
I've really come to a place of peace about not having to always know the answer to something. I can accept that many times things are simply out of my control - that no matter how much I plan and map a decision out, there are things are at work that I have no clue about. I can accept that Papa's will for me is to live loved, and that He will take care of the rest.

This last year has forced many questions through my mind. I've heard it said that when you question something that is in the Bible, oftentimes the answer to that question produces only more questions. I've seen firsthand the affects questions can have on someone who is trying to haggle for an item from a Jewish shopkeeper.

There's something about questions, whether answerable or unanswerable. People are uncomfortable with too many of them, as they can pry a man's heart from his chest if asked correctly.

I've come under fire from a few people, both online and in the real world, when I've written or talked about author's such as Rob Bell and William Young. Why? I'm really not sure. There's something about people that ask questions, and look at things with a different set of glasses on. In some strange way, it scares people. They tack labels like "Emergent Church" and then call for unity. What? Please, for the sake of us all, I would ask those people to look for a plank before removing the speck.

Even God challenges people with Questions.

Job 38
Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said:
"Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me."

God goes on to question Job for four chapters. At the end of the questioning and challenging, Job replies:

Job 42
Then Job replied to the Lord:
"I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.' My ears have heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."

Whoa. That's powerful.

I'm never going to stop asking questions. I understand that the nature of asking "why?" is to come back with the answer "I don't know."
And I'm ok with that.

Because I really don't need to know everything.
Like getting to know a friend, girlfriend, or relative, I accept that there are things about the nature of God and this world He's created that I may never know. But just as with those people, that won't stop me from continuously seeking a relationship and asking the hard questions.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Israel Day 6: The Desert

Today has been so much fun!
The day started with a bus ride to the Ahava store/factory. All of their products are Dead Sea based, and plenty of people spent plenty of money on loved ones! It was a fun time, and there were alot of laughs.
After Ahava, we hopped back in the bus and headed for Masada. On the way we saw En Gedi (mentioned In the Bible, and historicaly belonged to Cleopatra). We also saw an Ibex on the way, which are native here!

Masada is historical on two levels. First, it was one of King Herod's desert retreats and is one of the amazing structers the crazy king had built duri g his life time. The second historical level is far nearer to the hearts of the Israeli people.
We learned from the writings if Josephus Flavius that Mosada was the last stronghold for the Jewish Rebels in ~72 AD against the Roman Empire. They were besieged in the old mountain fortress until the Romans realized they weren't moving anytime soon. At this point, the Romans built a huge earth ramp up to the wall of Mosada so that they could wheel a huge battering ram to the top and take the city. The Jews put up a fight, but couldn't hold out against the Romans' unyielding attack. The final desperate act was decided by the leader of the Jews, and all the people agreed to the plan. 10 people were chosen to kill the other families (men, women, and children) so that the Romans wouldn't make them their concubines and slaves. Finally, the leader of the Jews at Mosada was the last alive, and the only one who had to take his own life (considered a sin). This story of desperate measures has been passed down from person to person, and written down by Josephus Flavius and finally it was re-discovered, excavated, and can be journeyed to by tourists.
What an amazing place to see Biblical truth and historical record meet.

It's interesting to note that we were at Mosada at the same time as Mrs. Biden, the second lady. (pictured in pink)

-Dead Sea-
After Mosada we headed to the shore of the Dead Sea for some fun and floating! The super salty mineral rich water and mud is excellent for skin, and for a hilariously fun time! What a blast!

Today was a more relaxed easy-going day, and I think we all needed it. Tomorrow is a free day to explore Jerusalem for everybody except the High School Students (Shalom, Sara, Hannah, and me). We are volunteering at the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem! We're not sure what that means, but I'll keep you posted!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Israel Day 5: From the Garden Tomb to Bethlehem

Yesterday proved extremely tiring, but was so awesome! Today should be incredible as well!

-The Garden Tomb-
So peaceful. The Garden Tomb is such an amazing place to reflect and remember the ressurection of Jesus. Whether or not this is where it happened, the point is that Jesus is no longer dead. So awesome!

"The place of the skull"

Inside. The tomb is empty!

-Random Jerusalem-
We went to the upper room, King David's Tomb, and the Western Wall! So awesome!

-City of David-
This was not a part of our original tour, but it was such a blessing to be able to go! The City of David is everything within the old walls, and we got a chance to see the spring that would have been directly outside of those walls. The spring provided water for all of Jerusalem, and was well hidden from Israel's enemies. It had to be fetched using a series of tunnels, which we got to walk through!

Because Bethlehem is under Palastinian control, it is really an interesting experience. No Hebrew, sheckels not accepted, no Jews. Arabic, mostly Muslims, very dirty. That being said, all of the holy sites are well protected by Churches and wonderful staff. We saw two sites in Bethlehem: the sheperds field, and the Church of the Nativity. The shepards field has a beautiful church made by the same guy who did the church on Mt. Tabor, and the Church of All Nations. The Church of the Holy Nativity is an incredible site as well. The church is built in the shape of a cross, and the top of the cross features beautiful Greek Orthadox iconoclastic art work. After walking the length of the church, we decended a staircase into the cave: the birthplace of Christ. Unlike many other "traditional" sites we've seen, this is very likely the spot Jesus Christ actually was born.