You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. Psalm 91:13

Random

Our Masks

You think you see me and I think I see you. I know you don’t really see me and I think I might not really see you.

This mask I wear is a good one.

Around you, and the rest, I am the noble one.

I stand tall, defiant and bold, or sometimes I may appear introspective, humble and aware.

I am the knight who sallies forth despite fearful odds.

I am the too-cool-for-school, who doesn’t worry about anything and never fails to have a perfect comeback.

I am the quiet one, who always gives the look of knowing more than he is showing.

I am the golden boy, who can do no wrong.

I am the Elder, who knows life’s mysterious depths.

But this is all the mask and though I wear it well, it is not me, is it?

Because behind the mask is a small boy who never understands why his mother hurts him so much.

Behind the mask is a teenager who wonders why he can be surrounded by so many people and still feel so out of place and alone.

Behind the mask is a young adult, who is afraid of almost everything.

Behind the mask is a weary old man who is tired of all the sarcasm and longs for honesty.

Behind the mask is a soul that worries of having no purpose, no contribution.

Behind the mask is a fool who has never stopped running.

Behind the mask is regret, guilt, shame and even pride.

Behind the mask are two fearful voices that say “I must never let them see”, and the other “I must escape this place.

Behind the mask is a wretched, broken creature. One you would pity, but not so much to be willing to get close.

Behind the mask is darkness and hatred.

Yet… still behind the mask is something else.

Behind the mask is the rebellious belief that there is much hope still in this world and life is a beautiful place to be.

Behind the mask is the man who sees his scars as the brushstrokes that transform him into a work of art, instead of a blank page he stands built as an exhibit titled, “Experience.

Behind the mask is another little boy, who has over-exuberant enthusiasm for countless ideas, stories and hobbies.

Behind the mask is a being who really finds his joy in helping others find their light.

Behind the mask is the letdown who says, “Today will be different.

Behind the mask is the long-shot who knows they’ll never see it coming.

Behind the mask is the Son who is “carrying the fire”.

Behind the mask is the hopeful who believes that the great stories of virtue can be made manifest in life.

Behind the mask is a leader who is terrified, but who works the courage to says “Follow after me and I will guide you.

Behind the mask is a believer who stands before the monsters of life to say the words, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Behind the mask is the lover who longs to look upon Beauty and know the warmth of its gaze.

Behind the mask is the father who finds strength in the smiles of children.

Behind the mask is the old sage who knows that he doesn’t really know anything.

Behind the mask is me.

Darkness and light.

Hope and Fear.

Wisdom and folly.

Lies and truth.

Yet still the mask remains, and I question whether it could also be me as well. Though my skin hides my inner parts, is my flesh not also as much a part of me as my lungs or bones?

Yes I am both the mask and the soul behind it.

You too, are the both a mask and a soul together.

Do these words pull at the person hidden beneath your mask?

We must not forsake our mask for it is the armor that protects us, but we must also not neglect that which is beneath it, like we too often do. I must know myself beneath the mask, but to do so I must share it with you. And that too is true for you.

So, let me see more of you beneath and I will too share the same, and let us see what strange and fascinating journey we begin as I begin to know you and you begin to know me too.

Luke

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A Night of Stretching

Last night me and a very dear friend spent most of the night on Mt. Magazine in Paris, AR, the highest point in Arkansas. We laid on the ground for hours in surprisingly cold weather, looking at the countless stars, the visible milky way, the  complex constellations, the artificial satellites and the dozens of shooting stars. Time went on forever it felt like while laying there talking and watching. It affected me in ways that I can’t really wrap my head around yet.

NOTE: Click the images to see larger, non-cropped versions.

This is an example of the view from Mount Magazine.

You see something I realized not too long ago is that I’m truly fascinated with space, possibly even obsessed.  I started realizing I was always drawn to science fiction that took place in space, it wasn’t the hi-tech gadgets that drew me in though. It was the exploration, colonization, and study of this massive universe that hooked me.  The thought that the next collective step of humanity is into the depths of this uncharted wilderness. I love studying the immensity of objects in space, and yet despite their size they are ultimately dominated by space, empty space. 99.999999999999999….% of matter is empty space. You are mostly empty space. Your computer is mostly empty space. There are billions of miles of space between planets and solar systems and then these objects bigger than multiple Earths combined are still almost entirely just space. Fascinating.

This is what space does to me. It makes me think about really big things like Red Giants that are hundreds of times bigger than our own seemingly huge sun.

Comparison of our sun to red giants

Or ideas like when I look up and see the milky way at night, I’m seeing across the galaxy like looking across the middle of a packed room and realizing my eyes and mind can’t comprehend the amount of stars that are in only a 1×1 inch area of it and most likely somewhere out there is some other intelligent beings looking up across at us thinking something similar.

The Milky Way, or part of it. We are inside it, however this is what it looks like to look through the middle of it straight to the other side. In the middle is believed to be a supermassive black hole.

Space also makes me think of really small things like clouds of tiny particles of space dust that the sun shines through making parts of the night sky glow as if God had splashed gold dust into piles of twinkling diamonds. It strains at my mind’s very understanding of reality.

Zodiacal light, sunlight scattered by space dust around sunset or sunrise

We look up at sky scrapers that take up less than .01% (made up this number but it’s pretty clear they don’t take up much at all) of Earth’s surface and we think those are massive! Yet they are nothing to the size of Earth. We travel all the way around the world and think how it feels as if the world goes on nearly forever. But then you look up and see that tiny burning ball in the sky and you realize it’s the size of a marble from 92.96 MILLION miles away… it’s 870,000 miles across and can hold 1 million earths in it, you can’t fathom that concretely.

Size comparison of earth and sun

Then you read how the pinpoint stars you see up in the sky are often bigger than our own star. In fact there is a star that’s radius is 1650 times bigger than our Sun. If you replaced our’s with it, it would expand out past Jupiter.

Our sun and the sun with the largest radius, VY Canis Majoris. 1650 times bigger than Sol.

Another one is 8,700,000 millions times brighter than our sun. Insane right?

The Sun, the Earth and the most luminous star known in the universe. Unfortunately, there is no way to illustrate such a huge brightness difference, so a size comparison will do.

How about this then… This galaxy, the Milky Way is around 100,000 light years in diameter. That means taking roughly 6 trillion miles and multiplying it by 100,000… no big deal.Except there is another galaxy up in the sky that you can see called Andromeda and it is one of our closest universal neighbors. It is over 200,000 light years in diameter. At this point, you and I both have absolutely lost the concept of how big things are. We have no way of relating with these numbers, but I’m not done yet.

Comparison of galaxies in our local cluster. Fun fact: Andromeda and the Milky Way are on a collision course however it’s speculated that due to the sheer amount of empty space, that when it does happen, it’s likely it wouldn’t affect Earth.

There is another galaxy Hercules A, that is over 1.5 million light years across. 6 trillion miles x 1.5 million will give you the mileage, absolutely huge. The Milky Way has probably around 200-400 billion stars… not planets, STARS. Our puny galaxy is packed! Sort of.

Make sure to actually click on this photo and see it full size. So many stars in such a small space.

The Milky Way is producing around 10 stars per year, there is a galaxy that is making them at a speed around 4,000 per year and it’s just warming up. It’s likely to become one of the largest galaxies someday. Right now though, there are galaxies with similar structure to ours out there with 1 trillion stars and others not like ours with 100 trillion stars…  Backtrack to Andromeda though, being one of our CLOSEST neighbors is still 2,538,000 light years away (you know how to figure the mileage by now). Then there is a galaxy that’s name is just a string of numbers and letters, that is possibly the most distant observed object in the universe 13.3 BILLION miles away think about that distance.

MACS0647-JD, the farthest known galaxy in the universe. The light we see of it here took so long for it to arrive that we only are now seeing it at around 3% of it’s total current age.

It’s maddening to think about… I’m not done though, but close. The OBSERVABLE universe is about 46 billion light years across. That’s what we can see. Also, the universe has expanded ever since the Big Bang. However, recently we learned it’s not simply expanding at a constant speed, it’s accelerating. Whoa. Most of these last few numbers I’ve mentioned are scientific estimates, it’s impossible to be exact, but most of them are confidently within the ball park. However at this point they get a bit more speculative, but they still aren’t vague guesses. These huge galaxies we’ve talked about? There are probably around 100 TRILLION of them in our universe. And that leaves us with around 300 sextillion stars (3.23 x 10^23, or write 323 and add 23 zeros after it.) Finally though, we are starting to gain bits of evidence that lead us to believe that there is a very real possibility of multiple universes. Maybe a finite number, possibly an infinite number all making up the multiverse. To get into the hypothesizes for what they might be like is an entirely different talk though. So now think back about how big you thought that Empire State building was and then realize how far we’ve come to multiple universes in size. Not sure what to think right?

Click here for an image that will blow your mind but is too big to show properly in the blog!

I’ll give you this take away though, you are small, incredibly so. Yet, we know us humans are composed of atoms, and atoms have particles like protons and electrons which get broken down more and more until you get to things like quarks which to tidy up briefly is like this:

Atom = 1,000,000 times smaller than a human hair

Proton = 100,000 times smaller than an atom (or 1,000,000 x 100,000 times smaller than a hair)

Quarks are far smaller than these to the point of being geometrically a point, like the dots you put on graphes. Taking up no space and having no size but still existing as a place. I have no idea how to even make sense of that to be honest. Yet now it’s become likely that quarks are made of even smaller things we haven’t figured out how to look at yet. So yeah, you are small, but not THAT small. Which means really you are just average if even that. You aren’t even a footnote, just a random number on a scale.

So how about I finish by getting to my point?

Looking at space stretches me. It stretches my understanding of everything. It challenges every thought I have like some eccentric professor saying, “Think bigger Luke! Yet also, still you must think infinitely smaller too!” It forces me to look at myself, my life and everything else and realize how insignificant it all is in comparison to the majesty of all this creation before. Luke Liddell is not special. I am not important. I am made up of the dead atomic remains of once gloriously powerful stars. I’m smaller than small and bigger than big. Yet the Bible says creation is broken and the Grand Canyons and starry skies which appear so beautiful are but a shadow of what they were and what they will be.

The Helix Nebula

They are awaiting redemption along with us. And yet still even beyond that beauty and majesty is an infinitely more majestic God.  God is this being that is bigger than ALL of these unfathomable reaches and still smaller than the most microscopic of crevices. Infinite in both directions. Alpha and Omega. He who was and is and is to come. I start sputtering words trying to think of the size of Him. That’s a good thing though. In his size, he made all these things, universes and quarks each. He built them and placed them and knows them absolutely perfectly and they run and work as they do every single moment of existence each individually because he commands them to. Yet surrounded by all the beauty and power that is producing awe and wonder in this multiverse, he chose us. Humans. He chose to place us at the pinnacle of ALL creation. Governors or co-heirs with him of all it. He gave us all of it. And you, a human being, a person, despite innumerable beautiful things he made and the countless things He is always doing, chose to know you intimately. Not just a matter of knowing absolutely everything about you, but knowing you personally.

Here’s an example; do you have a relationship with a piece of wood you pick up on the ground? Yes! You and it have crossed paths and though insignificantly so, you and it are tied together forever. Maybe you carve it into something which makes that relationship with it a little less insignificant. Yet still, your relationship to a piece of wood is nothing in comparison to your relationship with your best friend, your kid or your significant other. Out of every animal and organism, out of every object from whole universes, to excessively bright star, to the thing that make up quarks… he chose you *insert your name here* to love and cherish and dwell with. God doesn’t dwell with the supernovas and black-holes like he dwells with you. You are far more important than them. And it has nothing to do with your own intrinsic value. He bestowed value and importance to you, you did not earn it. Instead he made you in his image. You, a finite being carry in your soul a piece of that infinity, his “otherness”.  Nothing else has that. NOTHING. It’s something more powerful than all the burning suns combined and that is why sin is so ridiculously awful and his grace so unbelievably incredible. Despite the mess we’ve made of things, he died for us and is restoring everything, us and all the beautiful things in existence. He is making all things new.  He became sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That is our God. That is Jesus. God himself does not dwell in stars or galaxies, no instead he chose to live in us. We are his temple… what does it mean? Well… it means he’s good and truly awesome. Beyond that I don’t know. I know one day I will see him face to face though and I will finally comprehend all these intangible things  talked about here and I will be in awe, and I will be so overwhelmed that all I will know to do is worship him for who he is. Where we go from there I don’t know either, what adventures he has planned for us then, I can’t speculate but thinking about it last night certainly made me smile.

The Milky Way taken in Greenhead, Western Australia. Source here: http://www.reddit.com/r/space/comments/1kexf3/the_amazing_view_of_the_milky_way_from_greenhead/

So next time you get a chance one evening, read Job 38 through the rest of the book, or Psalm 19 then go outside and see the blackness of space and all the stars. Have your mind stretched a bit by simply stopping and taking it in and just as God himself said, “Be still and know.”

Much Love,

Luke

“Is not God in the height of heaven? and behold the height of the stars, how high they are!” – Job 22:12

“The stars are the jewels of the night, and perchance surpass anything which day has to show. A companion with whom I was sailing one very windy but bright moonlight night, when the stars were few and faint, thought that a man could get along with them,—though he was considerably reduced in his circumstances,—that they were a kind of bread and cheese that never failed.” — Henry David Thoreau, ‘Night and Moonlight,‘ published in Excursions, 1913.


The Struggle

So. I don’t write a whole lot these days. Sorry for the 2.3 people who actually are interested in my thoughts. But I got something now!

For all but 3 hours of 2013, I’ve been sick. Whether its the flu or a cold I’m not sure. I may have had a fever at one point. Now I just have the runny nose, sore throat, congestion, chills, shakiness, all around miserable feeling. It really sucks, but I’ve also been a lot sicker before. But it’s a good opportunity to talk about something… I’m not exactly sure if it’s a common thought or not

I’ve always been thankful for unfortunate, sad, depressing, and even painful events in my life. When I’m dealing with them, i’m usually preoccupied with the existential questions of “Why me???” Almost always afterward, and occasionally while i’m in it, I’ll have this moment where I just kinda see it. It’s this realization of all the things in life and in making life, that work against me existing are innumerable and that fact that I do exist and have done so for 21 years is mind-boggling. And that’s when it hits me. I’m alive. By the grace of God, my heart is doing it’s thing. The fact that I’m sick, shows me, I’m alive right now. My body is fighting and struggling. And that’s the key. Struggle. Challenge.

It’s life’s challenges that remind us what we are after, what we are about. Its when everything is peachy and we stop struggling and stop being challenged that we fade away. It’s like being in space, without the challenge gravity presents, our bones and muscles literally fade away.  Yet when I add struggle to them with say weightlifting, they build and they grow and they become more and more alive.

I love football. Its a sport that highlights this idea really well. You struggle and you challenge and its can be punishing but to those who play the game, they’ll tell you themselves, its worth it. The pain is almost pleasurable. It’s a mark of progress, it just isn’t the same without it.

The best athletes and the greatest minds will tell you: Pain, struggles, challenges aren’t obstacles, they are opportunities. And the reason they are the best is because they’ve embraced that fact.  You can’t have a mountaintop moment until you’ve hiked a mountain.

I truly believe there will be struggle and challenge in heaven. Just not the way we know it. It will always lead somewhere, we will never struggle or challenge in vain. We won’t become weary, or disheartened.

So next time you have a moment or situation that is negative. Thank God for the chance to grow.  Embrace the struggle and realize that against all odds, YOU’RE ALIVE.

Much Love,

Luke

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle.” – Frederick Douglass

“There is scarcely any passion without struggle.” – Albert Camus

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow.” – Thomas Paine


Letter from Us

To Them,

You are many, but we are one.

Day and night you strive for destruction.

Yet still, we rest in the face of the atrocities.

Must I remind you? Our cries will be heard!

You see, our cries are the symphonies of the Lord’s court.

Do you hear the war cries of that tireless army tearing at the very gates before which you hide?

Our tears will be seen as well.

Our tears quench your fires sent to consume hearts broken.

Our tears are jewels set in heavenly crowns.

We will bleed crimson love before every eye.

What is done, can not be hidden.

This is our new defiance.

This is our new rebellion.

You possess an illegitimate throne.

That day is nearing when the Warrior-King comes to collect his.

The charade is nearly finished.

Your actions have been found wanting.

For all you own,

For all you claim,

still it is the Master who possesses you…

Go! Steal. Kill. Destroy.

We will Seek. Ask. Knock.

Hurry! Run. Hide.

We will persevere instead.

We are absolute.

There will be no surrender.

Nor any quarter.

Soon there will be no more words.

Only swift justice carried out on you and yours.

Are you to blind to see it?

We are not winning.

We are in Christ.

We have already won.

Signed,

Us


3 Things to Think Over

Hey everyone, hope you all had a great Christmas. I sure did. I’ve been glued to my iPhone since I got it. The thing is scary at all it does. I feel like it owns me sometimes. Ha. I got something to write about that I’ve been thinking about on my 3 hour drive back down to Conway yesterday. First though, I want to give a praise to God for something so huge, I got accepted into UCA! His hands are all over that. I also want to ask that you all pray for a friend of mine. She’s currently on the way to Mercy Hospital with severe abdominal pains, and it may be either kidney stones or appendcitis. I’m worried sick about her. She’s one of the godliest women I know…scratch that, she is the godliest woman I know, and she needs all the prayers she can get. Thanks.

As for the purpose of this post. Heh. Oh yeah. I was suppose to write something, huh? Hmm, Alrightly then. I want to talk about these 3 things that I narrowed my thoughts down to on the drive. I kept thinking about all the different aspects of my faith and while explaining my faith to someone who isn’t saved is easy. Trying to describe my faith to someone who is, is really really difficult. There are so many questions you have to cover to describe, your version basicially. So I tried to narrow it down and cut out all the fat and just get down to the basics. The three things to consider in your faith.

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God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

Merry Christmas Eve haha. I look back at Christmas last year and I see I’ve come a long way. That was most likely the worst day of that year. My dog had died, I had no presents, and nothing to do. I was miserable. This year I have a feeling will be a lot better. I look though and see all of the people who got me here, and I just want to give a little thanks to each of them.

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My December Music Review

I’ve been wanting to make one of these, just some amazing songs that have caught my fancy as of late, both new and old. Anyway here ya go:

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