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Disneyland Trip Planner

For Harrison’s birthday this year, we visited Disneyland with Heidi’s family.  Being the Disney fan/historian/tour guide that I am, I decided that we need to have a plan before we crossed the California border.  Here’s the result:

Disneyland Trip Planner

Well, I guess this just proves conclusively that I am both a Disneyland nut and a control-freak firstborn.  Hey, at least we knew what to expect when we headed down Main Street USA on that first day.

You want to use it to plan your next Disney vacation?  Be my guest:

Free Disney Trip Planner

The Texas Giant

Michael Gray
English 11/12-2
Narrative Final

The wet Texas air was starting to get to me.  I had not done anything strenuous and yet I was already dripping with sweat.  It could have been the humidity; it could have been the excitement; but I think I was nervous because I was in line for the world’s largest wooden roller coaster: The Texas Giant.  The line moved rather quickly. I saw some people get off the ride shaking.  This scared me because I knew how high this particular roller coaster went, and I also knew how scared I was of heights. We were moving closer to the boarding station. Parents were taking their children out of line at the last second, while some kids had to escort their scared parents out.  We finally arrived at the barding station and I sat down in one of the bright red cars, the first step in beginning the wildest forty-five seconds of my life.

The roller coaster operator set the red train in motion and my palms began to sweat as we began our ascent up the enormous hill.  I was trying not to look to the side because my fear of heights was so great, but I forced myself to do it.  The other rides looked exceptionally small from my position on the roller coaster and the people on the ground looked like ants, each going to their favorite rides.

At the top of the hill I noticed a sign that read: “Can we talk about this?”  Obviously someone thought this was funny, but at the time I wasn’t amused.  The train slowly rounded the top curve of the hill and pointed down the incline.  The roller coaster gained speed and “coasted” (no pun intended) down the long, steep hill, to the bottom where we were jolted back up another hill.  From then on all I remembered was the dull brown colored wood of the roller coaster zipping by my face and the bouncing and jerking of my body as the train flew over the tracks.  Surprisingly, the ride was over before I expected and I got out of the car to exit the boarding area.

As I walked down the ramp, my head was pounding and my legs felt like Jell-o, but my excitement was sky high.  From that point on my fear of roller coasters slowly diminished and now I will go on any roller coaster I can get to.  I’m glad I took the chance to do something I wouldn’t normally do, ride the Texas Giant!

===============================================================

Grade: 100 for content & organization, 90 for mechanics & process (multiple comma omissions on compound sentences)
Mrs. Meadows’ Comments: none
Peer Editors: Jessy Jordan, Jeff Von De Linde
Adult Editor: Kristen Zimmerman

Looking Back to 1994

Michael Gray
English 11/12 – 2
Reflective Essay

1994 was definitely the most eventful year of my life. I had many fun times and I had many tough times. I also made some crucial decisions about my life and made some friendships that will last a lifetime.

The year started out tough for me. I was at Brighton High School, sitting in one of my classes and hating every minute of it.  Basketball was in full swing, but I felt that basketball was just as bad as school because they were both boring and tedious. My teachers and coach had no respect for me or anyone else. Communication with them was tough.

God had already started to bless my life because at about the same time a new family had joined my church, and I would become great friends with them. The Zimmermans — Denny, Linda, Kristen, Bethany, and Amber — had moved from Illinois to Utah because of a job transfer. On the second Sunday that they came to our church, our families went to lunch. From then on, our friendship has grown more and more. Last year wouldn’t have been the same without them.

Last summer, I also attended the FCA basketball camp in Flagstaff, Arizona, where I met a number of different basketball players from around the West. I also met Dave Bliss, the head basketball coach for the University of New Mexico. I went there with my three friends Gavin, Dave, and Jason. We all had a great time, and it was especially good for Jason who got saved while he was out there with us.

Half way through the summer, I was faced with a dilemma. I had to choose whether to attend Brighton High School for a second year even though I hated it or to leave my friends and go to Intermountain Christian High School. I had been thinking about the change most of the summer and finally decided that the move was in my best interest and that I should go to ICS. I feel that I made a good choice because this year has possibly been the best one of my life. I am actually enjoying school, playing basketball, and being with my new friends.

This past year was filled with many exciting events and was piled with special memories. Though there were some tough times, the good times are what brought me through. I will never forget them.

===============================================================

Grade: 185/200  A-
Mrs. Meadows’ Comments: “no title sheet”
Peer Editors: Chatty, Josh, Jason W., Jessy J.
Adult Editor: Dalice Heiser

Glenn Beck & Social Justice

Recently, someone I follow on Twitter directed me to a blog that took on popular Fox News Network talking head Glenn Beck for comments he made about social justice and Christianity.  With Beck, there is no middle ground — you either like the guy or you hate his ever-loving guts.  And those who hate him really hate him.

Glenn_Beck

Roger Ebert (yes, that Roger Ebert) wrote a blog called “Jesus was a Nazi. So’s your preacher” where he took Beck to task about controversial comments he made regarding Christian churches that preach social justice.  Naturally, this post’s title (it’s important to note that the quotes were included) above a photo of one of Beck’s goofy smiles had me intrigued.  I never watch his TV show or listen to his radio show but I have read two of his books, and his take on politics — while a bit Chicken-Littley at times — generally seems sensible to me.

The essence of this most recent controversy is that Beck told listeners to his radio show that if they go to a church that preaches social justice or economic justice, that they ought to leave that church immediately and find another.  On the surface this sort of statement does seem wildly rash, and if we choose to go no deeper than the surface, anyone could find plenty of nasty things to say about the man who uttered it.  And Roger Ebert did just that.

First, let me just clarify that Ebert’s quoted title is automatically misleading.  As far as I can tell from reading the post itself, neither those words nor anything like them have been uttered by Beck.  None of Ebert’s other posts have quotes, so this was obviously either a ploy to get readers to think that Beck actually said that, or to mock him as if that were totally the sort of thing that he would say if we could really hear his thoughts.  Either way, it reeks of misdirection.

Second, the way in which Ebert engages Beck’s statement shows me that he is not interested in being clear on the issue.  Rather than attempting to clarify the (admittedly) odd-sounding advice, Ebert takes it completely at face value and then neatly dresses Beck’s motives in his own assumptions.  Then he uses those assumptions to mock the man as a fringe zealot.  Glenn Beck is a freak.  Case closed.

But wait…

If you do a little bit of research (and it really only takes a little), it is possible to get a clearer idea of what Beck is really advocating.  Let me try to sum it up:

Beck is saying that if a church takes the position that its members should support the government in its efforts to help the needy, then that church is violating one of its most compelling commandments by allowing its people to shrug off their God-given duty to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and to go out and meet the needs themselves.  That’s it in a nutshell.  Rather than allowing the government to do the job of caring for people, we are called to do it, and anyone who gives us a way out of this arrangement is not leading us well.

Here are a two additional comments made on Ebert’s post that I found refreshingly clarifying:

The state can’t act in love as the state uses “coercion” via the sword or the AK47 to implement it’s policy. Jesus lived in a day of slavery but never spoke out against it. He lived in a day of oppressive misogyny and never spoke out against that. Greed, violence, poverty, disease, ignorance were rampant and there was no such thing as a middle class. In His day either you were an owner or a slave and Jesus never addressed this. Instead He called for His FOLLOWERS NOT THE STATE to live out His principles which then changed the world.

It amazes me that people don’t get it. Anyone that listens on a regular basis to Beck understands that his problem is with the government being a solution. The government is the problem. As a “clergyman” myself, I know that it is the church’s responsibility to take care of the poor and those less fortunate. If a church is advocating that the government do this through “social justice”, Beck is in fact correct.

In the end you have to look at all the evidence and decide what is true and what is conjecture.  Does Glenn Beck actually oppose the idea of church-goers helping the needy (as Roger Ebert believes), or is he really saying that a church who allows its divine calling to be annexed by the government is not a place where dedicated Christ followers should want to be?  To me, that answer is clear.

Does my take on this issue persuade you?  If you heard Beck’s comment, what was your initial reaction?  Do you see things differently now?

Write My Bio

I just realized that this blog has been live for over a year and I have never written anything on my About Me page.  How embarrassing.  It turns out that finding the words to describe myself to you is more difficult than I thought.  Rather than racking my brain for just the right autobiographical paragraph, I think it’ll be more interesting if my readers learn about me from those who already know me.

HelpWanted

I invite you, friends, family, and random acquaintances of Michael Gray, to help write my bio.  In 100 words or less, tell my readers one or two juicy tidbits of information that you think they need to know in order to fully appreciate the man behind this blog.  It can be funny, embarrassing, touching, or completely over-the-top — as long as it’s honest.   The way I see it, if I claim that my blog is uncensored, then I have to let the truth come to the surface whether it hurts or not.  I just hope it won’t hurt too badly.

Please leave your 100-words-or-less bio in the comments section below and I will transfer it to my About Me page as soon as possible.  Also, if you would be so kind to send me a photo of yourself (and a link to your own blog/website if you wish), I would like to publish your pic next to your comment.  Just send it to my email.

Thanks!

Hey Kurt, Sign My Shirt

I recently read “First Things First: The Rules of Being a Warner” by Kurt and Brenda Warner.  Kurt Warner’s impressive football career and his proclivity for crediting all his successes to Jesus Christ has made him an interesting media figure.

Warners

This book has it’s roots in a popular 2008 New York Times article called “Rules of the Family” where author Karen Crouse lists the eight rules for being a Warner kid.  Reader response was so positive that the Warner’s thought they’d elaborate on more of their family values, and First Things First was born.

I don’t typically buy biographies, but as a Cardinals fan (and specifically a fan of Warner and what he stands for), I thought I’d give it a try.  I was pleasantly surprised at my level of enjoyment.  The book is an open and honest look into the ups and downs of Warnerhood.  From setting-straight the internet version of how they met, to learning to live a life of celebrity and influence, to stories of how they deal with everyday marriage and family situations, the book is excellent.

One recurring theme that I found particularly fascinating was how Kurt and Brenda differ when it comes to signing autographs away from the field.  Even though both work hard to preserve their family time, Kurt tends to take the position that simply signing an autograph is quicker and easier than explaining that he’s with his family and that he needs to stay focused on them.  Brenda seems to prefer that he do the latter, but Kurt generally does the former.  Kurt also seems torn because he sees each fan interaction as a chance to influence that person for Christ.

This got me thinking about how difficult it would be to live a life where people are always interrupting your family dinner, your trip to the grocery store, your vacation, and even your small-talk with the auto mechanic.  That has to get old.  I also began thinking about how we as fans tend to act so selfishly with celebrities.  Somehow, in our excitement to meet someone famous, we fall into a sort-of temporary narcissism that permits us to put our need for an autograph over all else.

Though I’m not a person who gets particularly star struck, I know that I have probably been guilty of approaching a famous person at an inopportune time.  After reading this book, I’ll certainly think twice before interrupting someone’s dinner for my own benefit.  I appreciated the chance to see the struggle that the Warners endure with something so seemingly superficial as signing an autograph.  I can definitely see both sides of the issue.

What about you?  Have you ever tried approaching a celebrity for an autograph on his/her personal time?  What do you think you would do if you were in his/her shoes?

Something I’ll Probably Regret

Some things in life seem like no big deal at the moment, but end up causing some complications down the line.  This could easily become one of those things.  Oh well, we can at least have a laugh about it now…

Custom Wallpapers

Tonight, I had a spurt of creativity — something I haven’t had in quite a while. I decided to showcase my most recent work by writing a new blog post — something else I haven’t had in quite a while. These images are custom wallpapers I made for my school. I’m hoping they’ll use them in the computer lab or something to add a bit of extra personality.

Leading

Grunge

Fancy

Goodbye Granddad, We Love You

GDad

A Company of Heroes

After a long-time sabbatical from video editing, I recently had the opportunity to create a book trailer for Marcus Brotherton’s new book “A Company of Heroes”. I really enjoyed putting this trailer together, and quickly realized how much I have missed telling stories through video.  Good times!

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