Thoughts

Hark the sound, my friends. Hark the sound!

It's a big time of year, to say the least. Every 2012er fields the question on a weekly basis, "So, what are you doing after graduation?"

Some of us have plans. Some of us have jobs lined up.  And some of us, well - we're just being faithful.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

-- Lamentations 2:34 (ESV)

In this delightful time of new beginnings, make sure you're cherishing these last few weeks in Chapel Hill.  You have a purpose and reason to use this time for goodness!  Lavish love on those around you. Enjoy one another. Be a blessing to all you encounter!  God has graciously given us a shaping couple of years to spend at Carolina, sharing our lives with dear friends. Cherish this time, brothers and sisters!

And in celebration of 2012, I'm offering senior portrait packages! I did this on a limited basis last year, but this year I am opening it up to any member of the 2012 class!  Feel free to pass my information along to your friends.  I'm free for individual portraits, as well as group or couple shots!  Just drop me a line through the contact box on my site!  I'll be posting a pricing sheet soon - keep an eye out!

- cbrentlane

Resurrected

Jesus was resurrected. You got that? He actually rose from the dead. Not in a zombie kind of way. In a "hey-I'm-the-Son-of-God-so-normal-mortal-and-biological-boundaries-and-limitations-don't-actually-apply-to-me" kind of way. Jesus' death on the cross was a shame. But it was necessary. God wanted to reconcile his people to himself, but the penalty for an eternity of humankind's sin had to be paid. We placed his son on the cross and in doing so, placed our festering, rotten messes upon his shoulders. He bore the weight of all people's sins and suffered more than we could ever fathom.  They took his body and tossed it in the grave and stood guard over it day and night, so that no one could steal away with Jesus' corpse in the night. And on the third day, the tomb was opened and Jesus was gone.

Christ had risen. He had defeated the grave, once and for all - for all mankind. Yes - Christ is risen. He rose for you and he rose for me. Christ is risen indeed!

Be encouraged by his display of grace and love.  Let new joy and hope spring forth from the depths of hardened hearts! In the midst of worldly decay, stand strong in his word as salt and light.

I don't have a Christmas tree. So I'm claiming this one.

BeachTree-4

I got the call Friday night and immediately hopped in my car to drive the 3+ hours home.  I've never had to do that. But this was a situation that called for it. Through sobs, a person very dear and close to me related a story of pain, hurt, and despair.  She shared with me her experience of living with an abuser.  For the past 6 months, she shared a bed with a man whom she feared.  She feared not only for her safety, but for that of her child.  And in an instant, the abuser had taken the child and vowed never to return her.  In a sense, the child had been kidnapped.

My only response was to drive and comfort and seek solutions.  And that's what I've been doing for the past 3 days.

The time I spent back home was taxing - emotionally, physically, and academically.  The incident could not have come at a worse time - this is the beginning of exam week, after all - in my next to last semester at the University.  But in the midst of the pain and the strife, I saw hope.  And it came in the form of a Christmas tree.

I live in the northeastern neck of North Carolina.  We are very close to the beaches of the Outer Banks.  My emergency visit home included visits to Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills.  Saturday afternoon, exhausted and worn, I made my way out through the shifting sands to stand in the surf and stare out at the sea.  Yards before I hit the water, I noticed a formation down the beach.  It piqued my interest, so I ambled over to it.  There, stuck in the sand, was a tree worn by the sands of time.  It retained its roots, buried in the sand. A slender trunk branched out into knobby arms of driftwood.  And amidst its branches, there was a tinge of gold and crimson.  At its peak, a golden spiral perched.  And on a lower knob hung a rusty silver bell.

It was an Outer Banks Christmas Tree.  The tree of the beach.  I have no clue who adorned the thing, but it brought such joy and inspiration to me on the toughest of days.  This simple, magical wonder was a message from the Lord.  It was his way of granting me perspective.  He showed me beauty and he reminded me that it is he who creates it.  All things Good stem from the Lord.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." James 1:17 (ESV)

This tree brought joy and light to a dark day in my life.  And I hope that it does the same for you.

Race revisited.

MLK

I stood on the doorstep as he peered out. Two piercing white eyes set in a thick brown face. He opened the door just a crack, casting a glance into the dark abyss behind me.  Seeing no immediate threat, he opened the door a bit more - just enough to speak. "What you want?", said the stranger. "I'm here to see Pam and the baby," I stammered. "I'm the photojournalist that she probably told you about? I've been spending time with her and Jeremiah over at the hospital."

The man looked at me, suspicious.  After a span of several seconds, he said, "I'm Pam's father. She ain't here. The baby ain't neither."

He still hadn't opened the door. I could sense his hostility and I knew that I was overstaying my welcome. Heck - I had no welcome.

Then I heard a more shrill voice beyond the door. "It's alright - you can let him in."

The man stopped a moment, as if he considered shutting me out. But then a thin frail woman appeared behind him. She placed her hand on his back, saying "It's alright. He's a friend of Pam's."  The man's composure changed suddenly - and he opened the door.

--

This happened to me just last night.  I was a white boy with a camera invading a black neighborhood at 8pm.  My association with the University had left me disconnected with the real world.  While race doesn't rear its head as a divisive issue in the Carolina community, it certainly plays a heavy role in the world beyond UNC.

This happened once before, during this semester.  I was driving through East Durham in the late afternoon, searching for an intentional living community that I hoped to spotlight in my latest photojournalism project.  This area of Durham was less developed than the surrounding neighborhoods.  Urban decay had set in years ago. Houses rested in shambles, cars sat abandoned.  And children ran in the streets.

I drove slowly, looking left and right up the roads for the house with the tall white columns and okra growing out front.  As I did so, I passed a group of eight to ten children - early-elementary-school-aged.  In my 2007 Hyundai, I was an uncommon sight.  The children saw me as I passed.  I waved warmly, hoping to receive the same welcome.  But that wasn't at all how they responded.

First, they just stared.  Not a single wave back.  Just blank and empty stares.  Then one of them launched his toy car in my direction. Another yelled about the color of my skin.  Yet another hollered after me, "Get out of here, Honda!"

I drove around the corner of the block and parked. I turned off the ignition, placed my hands flat on the wheel, and let the cogs start to turn.  As the gears turned, I pulled out my Moleskine and started jotting my thoughts down.  These are my questions.  They're pertinent.   Why would these children be so hostile towards a friendly smile?  What makes race such a divisive thing?  How will this play out in the future?  Will racism always be incubated in these inner-city black communities just as it is in white-run small towns across our state and nation?  If we strive to be a unified body, how can we allow such division to exist?

(Almost) Mugged

Mug (shots).

Last weekend, I sent out the following Tweet:

Mugged.
Mugged.

Afterward, I received a flurry of  calls, texts, and Tweets from concerned friends.  I appreciate your concern, and I thought it worth it to explain exactly what went down last Sunday night.  Here goes.


It was nearly midnight when my fuel gauge hit 'E.'  There was nothing around but fields and farmland.  I pulled off the highway onto the nearest exit, praying to find a gas station.  I hooked a right and cruised down the main street of some old, forgotten township.  Within a mile, I lucked out.

I pulled up to the pump and started fueling up.  Six gallons in, I heard a noise behind me.

An old, black Tahoe had pulled up right alongside my silver sedan.  Through the dark tint of the windows, I could see a young woman in the passenger seat.  But that wasn't the source of the noise.

I heard the noise again as a man stepped out of the shadow of the truck.  He was a white, twenty-something fellow dressed in a wife-beater and shorts that dropped far below his natural waist.  I could tell he was saying something, but I couldn't make out his exact words.

"I beg your pardon?" I (rather formally) said.

"Whatchu got in your wallet?" said the man.  This was the third time he had asked, and I could sense a tone of inebriation; whether from alcohol or drugs, I couldn't tell.

"I don't have a wallet," I replied truthfully (I had only two days before swapped out my wallet for a fanny pack).

At this point, it occurred to me that this young man's intention was to mug me.  I've always thought I'd be absolutely compliant in such a situation, valuing my life far more than a few Jacksons.  But for some reason, I decided not to submit.

"What you payin' for your gas with?" said the stranger.

"Just my credit card - it's all I've got," I stammered.

"Give it to me," he said, as he moved towards me.

His steps toward me should have warranted fear - and they did.  I had no clue if this guy had a gun or knife.  But I somehow remained obstinate.  I told him I was a college student on my way back to school.  I explained that I was just trying to get back to class, and my credit card was the only thing I had.  I shared that I had been at home on the Outer Banks celebrating my niece's 4th birthday.

I don't know if it was my appeal to his humanity, his doped-up state of mind, or the physical barrier that the gas hose created between he and I, but he backed off.  He stared at me for a moment, just steps away from me, then turned and got back in his truck and drove away.

I let out a gasp of breath as my heart pounded away rapidly.  I had nearly been mugged.  Or had I been mugged?  The only real difference was that the guy didn't get away with my wallet.

So, that was my run-in with the mugger.  I don't mean to compare my situation to that of folks who have been injured or threatened with a weapon and actually robbed of their possessions.  I only hope to illustrate evidence of God's protection over us.  I'm convinced that the Lord was watching out for me last Sunday night.  And perhaps, in the process, some troubled wrong-doer's heart was changed - I can only hope and pray.

Hey, didn't you hear? It's take-your-token-Baptist-out-for-drinks month! (And come Tuesday, I'm #21andBaptist.)

Downtown Durham
Downtown Durham

In my last post, I went out on a limb, risked it all (chancing an excommunication from the SBC), and now what do I have to show for it?

Hopefully, a bunch of kind-hearted folks who want to share their favorite brews and bars with me! If that's you, listen up.

I'm a big fan of food and friends - especially when the two collide. And now that I'm (going to be) 21, I can factor the forbidden (fermented) fruit into the equation!  So, use this genius scheduling tool to take me out to your favorite place in the Δ (Triangle). I'm here in summer school until June 15th. I'd love to share a meal/drink with you!

21 and Baptist.

In just a few days, I'll cross the threshold into manhood and drink my first (legal) beer.  That's right.  I'm turning 21 on May 17th - this coming Tuesday. A 21st birthday is reason to celebrate! Right, America?  That's what I'm hearing.  I've gathered that I should head out to a bar as the clock strikes midnight, and engage in a bout of drinking with my buddies.  What's more is that I think I'm supposed to get black-out drunk.

Welp, that's not quite happening.  You see - I will be 21.  But I'll  be 21 and Baptist.

<insert Baptist alcohol humor here>

Before you get started - no, I'm not a teetotaler.  While that's been the traditional Baptist line of thinking in regards to alcohol, I don't think it's entirely Biblical.  So, then ... what does the Bible even have to say about alcohol and drinking?  J.D. Greear shared a bit on that recently.  I'll leave it to J.D. to dive into the nitty gritty, so take some time to check out his post. It's chock full of Biblical truth.  I will, however, spend some time reflecting on my own thoughts surrounding alcohol and Christianity.

Throughout the Bible, we see alcohol referenced.  We know that some of the disciples drank wine, and Jesus certainly had no problem turning water to wine at a wedding.  These are all very subtle acknowledgments that alcohol can be a normal component of human life.  However, the Bible also gives warning about the dangers of alcohol.  Take a look at Proverbs 23:31-35.

Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying:“ They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?”

So, where do I stand?  I don't think drinking alcohol is a sin. (Hope the SBC doesn't excommunicate me!)

I do, however, think sin often accompanies alcohol in the form of idolatry. Idolatry is the trap-fall that we are most susceptible to.  When anything replaces God as our focus, that's idolatry.  And that happens a lot with alcohol.  We're underage and we want what we can't have, so we disobey to partake in it.  We turn 21 and we want to drink until we black out!  We're teetotalers and we spend our time condemning our neighbors for drinking!  Each of these three things gives us a glimpse into the diversity and prevalence of idolatry in our lives.  We lose focus on the Gospel, and instead seek out our own desires and personal priorities.

The take-away: the Bible is spot on to show us a balanced view of alcohol. It's healthy to see alcohol as a regular part of life, and it's important to know and be prepared for the dangers of it.  When it comes down to it, it's a matter of personal choice.  Whichever side of the spectrum you stand on, just leave some room for grace.

[I'll do a follow-up to this post shortly.]

Aftermath of #DukeItOut

Rivals

A lot of you might have been involved in the #DukeItOut frenzy two Fridays ago. As you recall, I gave away my Duke ticket. (See more on the specifics of the contest here.) I hid the ticket somewhere on campus, then periodically released lines of a riddle that revealed the ticket's location. I thought I'd post the full riddle here, for your enjoyment: Take a trip back in time to when the rivalry was born. Chase was king at UNC, and Harding had just been sworn.

It's housed in the House, but it's not in the back. Walk in, turn right, it's in 1921's Yackety Yack.

I know a riddle isn't supposed to be obvious, but I had to give it away in the last line to make sure SOMEONE would find it. I wouldn't have wanted the ticket to go to waste. There was a pretty good turnout for the contest. In the end, Abigayil Harrison (@abigayil) won. It only took her 5 clues (1 hour, 18 minutes) to locate the ticket - so kudos to her!

I need a financial advisor. And that's where you come in.

Back in October, I won an iPad.

Yeah - I know that NEVER happens. But it did. I won a $500 technological masterpiece - AT THE COUNTY FAIR.

But four months later, I sold it. I'd predicted the looming release of the iPad 2 and knew it'd be wise to liquidate. With the help of Craigslist and a DukeMed OB/GYN, my bank account balance grew by 5 Benjamins (or half a Cleveland by the 1928 standard). I slyly tucked my small fortune away into the recesses of my savings account and vowed not to touch it until the release of the iPad 2.

And now, the time has come. Apple released the iPad 2 just three days ago. And I'm faced with a dilemma: do I buy it? I think that was the original plan. But cold hard cash is a lot more alluring when it rests in your hand and it's not tied up in a slick glass and aluminum case. I'm split on the decision. Both options are beneficial. But which should I choose?

Weigh in on the discussion below. I value your wisdom.

I won a Duke ticket. And I'm giving it away.

Old School.
Rivals
Rivals

I won a Phase 5 ticket to the Duke game. And I'm giving it away.

Why? I won't be in Chapel Hill on Saturday evening. I'll be in New York.

I signed up for an alternative spring break trip with APPLES a few weeks back. And we're leaving at 6 in the morning on Saturday. That means no Duke game for me - at least, I can't use my ticket.

I'm embracing my Carolina family and I'm offering up my ticket to a very lucky Tar Heel. Any UNC student is eligible. All you need is a sharp mind and dedication. I've designed a scavenger hunt of sorts. What are you searching for? My Duke ticket. It's hidden somewhere on UNC's campus.

I've written a riddle of eight lines, to be shared via my Twitter feed (@cbrentlane). The first line will be released at 9am on Friday, 3/4/2011. Every half hour following, another line will be released. By 12:30pm, you should have the entire riddle.  Of course, if you find the ticket before then (with only a partial riddle), you've still won the contest.

I hope you can find some joy in this. We've got a fantastic relationship with that school down the road. It's one of both mutual respect and mutual hate. Take this opportunity to go to Saturday's game. Be a part of the Carolina experience. Do your part by cheering on our fellows in their match against Duke. I wish the best of luck to the participants! If you happen to participate (at all), please leave a comment here. I'd just be curious to know how many folks this little contest reached. May the best Heel win!

Hark the sound,

C.L.

Like (grand)father, like (grand)son.

<Aussie accent> Ain't she a beaut'? </Aussie accent>

She's a Canon AE-1 - and her name is Alice.

She's a recent acquisition of mine.  I got her for my ART 105 course at UNC - Introduction to Photography.  I've been trying to get into this course for a while and I've finally managed to secure a seat!  We're two or three weeks in and I've got to tell you - I'm falling in love.

I really know very little about photography. While I did teach a club on it to some of the students at Jacob's Ladder this past summer, I'm a total novice.  Words like aperture and shutter speed mean nothing to me. That's what I'm hoping to remedy with ART 105.  In a semester, I'll be a walking, talking photography know-it-all.  At least, I hope I learn something.

Why? Two big reasons. The first one is a joke - but the second one is real.

1. Everybody's doing it.  Everybody and their momma thinks they can take a great photo.  But I'm so against that (because I'm a hipster and hipsters are totally against anything mainstream).  But I'm taking it a step further beyond that.  Since it's hipster to go against the grain, I'm GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN OF HIPSTERDOM.  Think that one through.  Yeah - pretty clever of me, right?

2. I want to carry on my Granddaddy Lane's legacy.  The man was a GENIUS PHOTOGRAPHER.  He always had his trusty Canon slung 'round his neck, wherever he went.  When I was young, he took me to the camera store and showed me all the cool lenses and flashes.  He even convinced the store keeper to show me how they developed the photos.  He bought me my first camera.

However, my Granddaddy lost a battle with cancer when I was in middle school.  When I finally began to develop a mature interest in the art of photography, he wasn't there to guide me.  So, this is my tribute to him. I'm picking up this trusty camera and we're going to make some art. I'm going to try to capture the beauty of his smile in every photo I take. Each time the shutter snaps, I'll be listening for his laugh or waiting to feel the reassuring weight of his arm on my shoulder. While I know he's not with me any longer, I bet he'll probably be clambering along behind me in spirit, marveling at how similar boys can be two generations later.

This is for you, Grandaddy.

Death of a saint.

image
image

The news came on Monday.

One of our nation's finest young military men had fallen - but not in the line of duty. Rather, Andrew Lee Reavis died doing what he loved - hunting ducks on the Tappahannock River.

Andrew was a very close friend of mine. We forged a friendship a year and a half ago when we worked together in our first summer as Resident Advisors at Jacob's Ladder, a summer camp for gifted youth of NC and VA. It wasn't long before I realized how lucky I was to know that fellow.

Andrew - or Dewey, as everyone called him at camp - was the epitome of a servant. He put his country and his fellow man before self every single day. A Cadet 2nd Class at the Virginia Military Institute, Dewey was gearing up for a very distinguished military career. However, his work at Jacob's Ladder prompted him to consider an altogether different line of work - working with children in need.

Dewey was a part-time father to around 70 or so middle-schoolers. It was a rarity to see him without two or three kids clinging to his legs and arms. Dewey was such a chameleon - able to respond so quickly and appropriately when the environment changed. When play got a little rough and one of the children got a bump or a bruise, Dewey was sure to be right by their side, holding their hand all the way. He knew exactly what to do when someone's feelings were hurt - and all the kids knew it. I wouldn't be surprised if the children had voted him, "Best RA."

Another RA, Jessica, put it perfectly when she heard the news of Dewey's death.

"I know a couple dozen kids who just got a guardian angel."

Twelve years later...

1

It's been twelve years since I've seen my Uncle Brian. He's my mom's brother - and he lives in Tennessee. The ten hour trip between Pikeville, TN and Edenton, NC meant I didn't see much of him, my aunt Debbie, or my cousins as a kid. But the times I do recall spending with them were very good times. Uncle Brian reconnected with me tonight. I was surprised to hear from him - so we spent some time catching up. I told him about my life at the University and about how much joy I'm finding every day. When he told me about things back in TN, the tone of the conversation changed.

Uncle Brian's currently unemployed. And that's been the case for over a year. He told me how he left a 12-year position at La-Z-Boy and moved out of the state to work one of those grueling 100-hour-a-week jobs that just destroys your body. When that job didn't work out, he came back to TN, only to find that outsourcing, in combination with his color-blindedness, would prevent him from returning to his previous position. As he told me about how hard it is to look for work when none's available, I began to realize just how lucky I am. Uncle Brian ended the conversation by telling me he didn't want to keep me from my studies - but that he loved me and I should take care of myself.

I hadn't talked to my uncle for 12 years. My relationship with him has never been too deep - I was, after all, 8 years old when I last spoke with him. But he very vulnerably and lovingly shared his heart and his pain and his troubles with me tonight. I walked away from that conversation realizing how easy it is for us to become hardened by the world around us - and how much we need to fight to keep that from happening.

If you're not out of a job right now - or you aren't experiencing major hardships - count your blessings. Realize just how blessed you are. Now, take a step back. Gauge your blessings. Gauge the blessings of those around you. Think on this for a moment: why do you think God's blessed you so much? What's so special about you?

Nothing. You are no better of a person than your neighbor who's out of work. We are all equal beings. The only inequality is in the distribution of resources in our society. Now, why would God distribute resources inefficiently? It's the perfect plan to encourage generosity.

If you have excess, God doesn't intend for you to squander it on yourself. You're called to take that excess and meet the needs of those around you. God designed this system to teach you love and compassion. Parting with your money is one of the hardest things you can do - but we are meant to do it. When you take the initiative to share your blessings with your neighbor, you are reflecting the pure love of God. After all, isn't that what he did when he gave us his Son? God, who had an abundance of righteousness and sanctification, passed on his Son so that we might share in that righteousness. He replaced our empty, broken sinfulness with his filling, complete holiness. Knowing that we are recipients of the most beautiful Charity in all of history, we should be compelled to reflect that in our own giving.

As the holiday season approaches, you're presented with a very real opportunity to share the love of Christ through giving charitably to others. In Durham, there's a cool organization called Share Your Christmas. Through it, you can sponsor a family in need and give them a Christmas to remember! I've done this in the past - and trust me, it's fantastic! You get to shop for the family, deliver the presents, and even cook a holiday meal for them! It's a unique opportunity for you to meet the needs of the people around you and share the love of the Gospel in a very tangible way. I encourage you to take the steps today to adopt a family this Christmas. Use this form to sign up. If you have questions, please let me know. I'd love to chat it over with you.

I hope that this post helped you to become less hardened and to realize why God gives some excess wealth. You are called to share your resources. Spread around your wealth and help out those in need not just this holiday season, but for the rest of your days!

Abide, like the trees.

Abide.

Wind softly whispers

life into the leaves of trees

beneath charcoal skies.

Tonight, I experienced something beautiful. I felt God's calming touch in my life. The hustle and bustle of undergraduate life was suddenly eclipsed by the everlasting God. As I was walking through the grass, the Lord jumped inside my heart and said, "Be still and know that I am God." I sat down, put my back to a tree, and just rested in Him.

Society tells us to busy ourselves. God doesn't. He wants us to leave margins in our life to spend time with him and his people. Let's loosen the world's grip on us and abide in the fact that our Lord has already won the victory on our behalf. Let's be like the tree that's at my back, standing firm in our truth but giving way to unseen things way bigger than us.

Music you should jam to.

3

Over the past few years, I've become one of those moderately indie obscure-music listeners.  Well, that's quite a stretch.  I can honestly say that I've been making great strides to find my own music rather than succumbing to the pressures of Top 40 radio. Now, I can attest to the fact that music-searching takes some time.  In fact, it took me an entire summer to sort through the muck of my unenlightened musical tastes and find reformation.  So, let me help you in your reformation.  I can be an opinion leader for you.  I'll eliminate the transaction costs and deliver super-hip music right at your doorstep.  I'm going to connect you with some artists to whom God gifted some sparkling talent.

Brendan James

Homeboy has the voice of an angel.  No, not like Justin Bieber.  Like an actual angel.  He's an alumnus of UNC (yeah, I know right - all the more reason to support him) and he recently played a show in Durham at a fancy new music venue on Main Street called Casbah.  He's got kind of a John Mayer, Jack Johnson-ish feel to him.  He's got a new album out.  Grab it off iTunes.

 

 

Must be the luck of the Irish.

5

According to my grandmother, I'm <insert arbitrary fraction here> Irish. And it seems that I've taken after my ancestors. No, I haven't ditched my dental plans to grow potatoes. No, I'm not becoming a Leprechaun collector. I've just always had the luck of the Irish. I've been luckier than the average Joe since I was born. The luck pertains particularly to raffles, lotteries, and drawings. My earliest recollection of my luck is from kindergarten. I was selected as the single student in our 'graduating class' to stand up and make a speech on behalf of the 'class of 1996'. And my name was drawn from a hat.

The next instance of my luck occurred four years later as I entered the fifth grade. That August, I attended a youth rally at a local church. Two big things happened that night. One: I became a believer in Jesus Christ. This first event was not at all luck; rather, it was a divine appointment where I met God face to face and learned of his huge love. Another event happened that night, one that was much smaller and can be attributed to luck. There was a raffle and I had the first ticket drawn! I received a fisherman's hat that said, "Yes, I do believe in God!" And let me tell you - I sported that lucky hat all over town. It was a reminder of that 'lucky' evening when I found hope and salvation in Jesus Christ.

Now, let's fast forward to last week. I traveled home for the night last Tuesday to see my niece in a pageant at the county fair. While I was there, I entered into a text-to-win contest run by a local auto dealership. The grand prize was an iPad, a $500 value. Well, I got a phone call today from Hall Automotive. They informed me that I was the winner of their contest! So, there you have it. I'm the proud new owner of an iPad. I guess it's just the luck of the Irish (and Russian, English, and Native American).

--

On a more serious note, I'd like to take a moment to refute the idea of luck.  I don't believe in it.  Why not?  I'm of the belief that everything happens for a reason.  All of this isn't pure coincidence.  We were placed on this Earth by a God who has a plan for each of us.  As part of that plan, God orchestrates events in our lives.  He intervenes in some situations.  God likes joyful people.  I know he's had a hand in the many blessings of my life.  I wouldn't be a student at UNC on my way to a career in dentistry without the Lord's helping hand.  It's important that we know this, so that we can be thankful and give God credit for the good in our lives.  However, it's equally as important that we don't get confused by this concept and pursue goodness for the sake of blessing.  That is a corrupt theological outlook.  Avoid that and pursue goodness and God simply because you are amazed by his majesty and the grace that he willingly gives all of us sinners.

My one regret in life is that I will never have a dog.

8

I'm pretty savvy with the Internets and the Interwebz.  I monitor numerous sites on a daily basis and track the newest Internet memes, videos, and phenomenon.  That being said, you can rely on me for your fill of cool YouTube videos and general hilarity on the web. So, you've got to see this one.  This is the most adorable thing I have ever seen.

MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON from Dean Fleischer-Camp on Vimeo.

Pardon the dust. Or "Under Construction".

7

You and I both know that I'm not as tech-savvy as I claim to be.  I've heard of things like HTML5 and jQuery and the like, but I'm far from proficient in any of those things.  And that's why my blog's looking a little dusty these days.

Equate my blog to a fixer-upper.  You know, like an old house?  In order to save money, you buy a seasoned abode and you work out the kinks yourself, rather than paying someone else to do it for you.  Well, that's what I'm doing.  I'm slowly (and painfully) learning how to manage a website as I run this blog.  So, bear with me - I'm learning.

How Walkovaya Destroyed My Life

6

If you read my last post, you know that something went awry with my Walkovaya bank accounts.  In a nutshell, they closed my accounts without notifying me.  And I went nearly two weeks without access to any of my money.  I've been unable to purchase textbooks, a parking permit, or even meals.  I've had to rely on my credit card for everything (something I never do).  And I've been in constant contact with the bank about this.  Last week, I went into the branch four times, spending an hour with them each time.  At the conclusion of each visit, they assured me that my accounts were reopened and things were fine.  Each time, they were wrong. Let me break it down for you in a time line.

Wednesday, 8/11 -- My card is declined at an ATM.

Thursday, 8/12 -- My card is declined at a restaurant.

Saturday, 8/14 -- I contact Walkovaya about the card being declined. I'm told that my accounts were closed earlier in the week and that I'd have to call back during regular business hours, M-F.

Monday, 8/16 -- I visit the Chapel Hill Walkovaya branch. They inform me that my account was flagged for verification in accordance with the USA Patriot Act. Upon closer examination of my account, they inform me that there was no reason for this and that my account is actually verified. They tell me that they've reopened the account. Also, they said they cut a check for the funds that were in my accounts (savings + checking) and mailed the check to my house in Kill Devil Hills, NC.

Tuesday, 8/17 -- When trying to access my account online, I'm denied. I head into the branch, where they assure me that they will fix the problem that business day. But, they don't. I'm getting pretty ticked off.

Thursday, 8/19 -- My sister gets the check in the mail and takes it to her local Walkovaya branch to deposit it in my account. She is told that Walkovaya has no account for a Mr. Christopher Lane. She informs me of this, so I head into the Chapel Hill Walkovaya branch. They let me know that my account was never reopened, even though they had already told me TWICE that it was reopened. I'm fuming by this point. They FINALLY manage to open it this time and my sister deposits the check. However, Walkovaya informs her that there will be a four-day hold on the funds in the account so that they can verify them. BUT THE CHECKS WERE FROM Walkovaya. Why do they have to verify their own checks? Beats me.

Friday, 8/20 --I walk into the Chapel Hill branch hoping to gain access to my money so that I can pay for food, gas, textbooks, and tuition. They look at the account, see that it's reopened, and I ask for an explanation about them putting a four-day hold on their own check. They tell me that the other branch must have made a mistake and that they will clear it up for me. They call the KDH branch, who then realize they've misplaced the check. They call back in thirty minutes after they've found the check. At this point, they realize that they didn't notice that the checks were from Walkovaya and therefore put an unnecessary hold on the funds. As I leave the branch, I'm told that my funds will be available and all will be resolved by midnight. Another lie.

Monday, 8/23 -- I get a call at 10 AM from the branch manager in Chapel Hill. She lets me know that my account is restored and my funds are available. I check online and she's right. Finally, Walkovaya gets their act together. I just wish they'd done that two weeks ago.

Needless to say, this was a nightmare. I'm thankful to have had a credit card to cover basic things like food and gas. Oh, and I'll definitely be withdrawing all of my funds and closing my account with Walkovaya ASAP. So, any suggestions for which bank to move to?