Saturday Shakedown: Music, Film, and Reading


I hope everyone is having a good weekend, we’ve had a great start here in NC. To prove it to you, here’s a great shot from our community dinner last night, and one of my favorite pictures in a while.

Click to embiggen, and check out the dogs!

What am I listening to this weekend? Great question, thinking about the beats that drive my writing today…

  • Public Enemy – Harder than You Think
  • Barr Brothers – Beggar in the Morning
  • Blind Pilot – Half Moon
  • Alabama Shakes – Hang Loose
  • Of Monsters & Men – Mountain Sound

Friends, I don’t know about you, but there is so much to enjoy these days! Spring is in full effect, so get outside and enjoy the beauty of this earth, wherever you are. Swim, paddle, run, surf, hike, play, just do something and use that body!

If you do find yourself looking for some new material to listen/read/watch, consider the following:

Make It Count“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all”

 

My Favorite Articles:

The 8 Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers – Great read on CopyBlogger, which includes some of the most helpful blogging advice on the internet.

Top 20 Motivation Hacks – If you haven’t read about Leo’s personal transformation, do so here, and the check out the post on how he motivated himself to do it.

The Secret to Your Next Creative Breakthrough – I’m going through this in some ways, making the choices and prioritizing what I want to do. Jeff puts it all together nicely.

Applying the Nature Principle to Your Life – A guest article by Richard Louv on the North Face blog. Richard talks about the future of jobs in green business.

Let’s Bring Back Repair – A guest post by Story of Stuff author Annie Leonard. We live in a society of replacing, rather than repairing, our possessions. Annie talks about the impact on the earth of this mindset, and offers resources to help us do a little repair of our own.

Get Inspired!

Inspiration Squared

I hope everyone has a great weekend, whether it’s work, play or relaxation you’re engaged in. Be present in the moment and take it for all it’s worth!
See you Monday morning.

A Weekend Outdoors with Friends


This weekend I’ll be spending every minute with good friends that I love and care about. We’ll hike, swim, shoot, eat, drink, zipline, ball, laugh, and revel. Don’t expect anything out of me on any social media site, I’m going to be fully present and in the moment. It’s incredible that 26 of us have carved out a weekend to flee to the mountains together, and I’m going to enjoy it fully.

Here’s a cool photo to send us in to the weekend, via Cold Splinters

Image

Have a great weekend!

How to Develop Good Habits (and not drive yourself crazy)


We all have habits we would like to change or develop. Patterns of acting, eating, exercising, learning, or creating. Even worse for us is the maybe the lack of certain habits or patterns we wish to have, along with bad habits, like biting our nail (guilty).

But rather dwell on our bad habits, let’s make temporary peace with the shadow sides of ourselves and talk about developing good habits, patterns, and practices. Now, this isn’t a a sure-fire, 21 days to mastery post. That doesn’t really exist. The real nitty-gritty of worthwhile patterns takes longer, but we can definitely begin moving in the right direction!

My quick list of 5 habits I would like to develop (in no particular order), and why.

  1. Eat healthier – It’s good for me, I feel better, and have more energy.
  2. Play the guitar better – I like to play around people, it’s fun, and I love music.
  3. Read more – I always have loved reading, simply would like to read even more.
  4. Write diligently – I feel that I can write well, and have a story to tell.
  5. Dedicated time for Bible reading & prayer – It’s a lifeline for me, the most important, yet often neglected, practice in my life.

From my experience, all of these habits are not like snapping your fingers. They are difficult! I also experience that worthwhile habits are not the easiest to develop, as I’m sure you have as well. Humans, all the way back to Adam, look for the quickest way to success and happiness, usually at our own downfall.

I’ll quickly break down my own reasons for not developing these healthy habits.

  1. I like sugar, processed food tastes good, and it’s easy to prepare (or lack thereof)
  2. My fingers hurt and I don’t sound like David Wilcox after 10 minutes
  3. But Modern Family is so funny! As Jim Gaffigan says “You know why I like the movie more than the book? NO READING
  4. I’ve been writing for 3 months and no book deal? Screw this!
  5. It’s too early/late, the weather is too nice/bad/rainy/snowy/hot/cold, I haven’t had coffee/food/tea/ice cream, any of the above excuses will do. And of course… because I’m afraid of what I’ll be asked to do.

So that’s it. I would encourage you to do the same for your own hopeful habits. I think most of us are closer than we think, and the last steps to take are the most difficult. They are the steps that put you out in public, make failure possible. You’ll be sitting in Subway with a veggie sub, explaining why you’re reducing your meat consumption by 95%, heading towards 100%. You’ll be talking about how you turned off your TV satellite at the beginning of football season. Or the creeping terror of talking about your faith.

And then I will be overcome with guilt for my relapses, as you may be.

STOP IT

Let’s make a decision to move towards our true selves. If you would, make a short list (I find I become overwhelmed by all my inadequacies), and break down why you want to make each one a habit, and what holds you back.

Next, decide on incremental ways to turn your hopes in to habits. Maybe start 1 at a time, and go for a month with regular practice. Don’t try and do everything at once! For me, it’s to play the guitar for 30 minutes, 5 times a week. Next month, I’ll give up a TV show a week, and read for an extra 30 minutes.

Most of the time, when I can break the cycle of a bad habit or passive attitude towards development of a good habit, it loses power over me!

Just as important is to realize that when you slip, that the slip does not define you! You cannot give that action the power to whisper in your ear “See! You’re not good enough to make this change! You’ll always be the (fill in the blank badness) that everyone knows you are!”

Yes, it happened, you slipped. I fall down daily (in a spiritual sense, but sometimes physically too), and need to be reminded that my failings do not define me. I can think “Yep, that happens” and move towards wholeness and my true self.

Now it’s your turn. Join me! What are the habits you would you like to develop or break? I encourage you to find someone to help hold you accountable and check-in on your progress. And let me know in the comments, Google+ or Twitter!

Have a great day.

Easter Sunday


Growing up in a Christian home, I have always greeted Easter morning with anticipation. I remember sunrise service, followed by pancake breakfast, then regular service. Say what you want about Baptists, but they appreciate the value of a shared meal, and they can cook! Easter is a time when people feel compelled to attend church, that your bi-annual card will be punched, see you at Christmas, no guilt.

I wish people would realize there’s no guilt, God would have you think about him whenever you please, he is more than Sunday morning, more than Easter and Christmas. Jesus is risen today! And in our own lives, he offers us the freedom and opportunity to arise and change. Today is a reminder that our lives are not our own, and things will not go back to normal, God willing.

Today I simply feel very blessed. It is a lovely day in North Carolina, spring is in high bloom, the dogwoods shining forth in their brilliant white. Pear trees are losing their flowers, casting white petals on the ground like a warm snowfall. The sun travels across the sky, offering shadows and light on the landscape, reminding me of the shadow and light in my life.

There was Easter lunch with family, fresh and delicious. The tea is sweet, praise God, and after the meal we sit overlooking the mountains, continuing to sip and talk. The conversation turns to theology, which is not uncommon. We talk about the sacrifice of God, the power we give earthly constructs, even the good ones like family and church! Everything on earth has the ability to disappoint, and we must accept that. There is only one person who did not disappoint, and even that was in question for a few days! Thomas was not the only one who has doubted Jesus. In the end, the question for all of us is where do we find our identity, our strength?

In the South, we give a lot of power to our close family. In America, we cling to our patriotism, even making it part of our “religion”. God bless America, of course, but we are reminded every Easter that God blesses everyone, and causes the sun to shine on the good and the evil. But since our world is full of brokenness, and even our best intentions will fall short. God has fully loved and forgiven us, and because of that love we are compelled to live for him. We don’t have to be caught up in trying to prove ourselves and please others, because we will disappoint them as easily as they disappoint us. And that is ok. 

The day has carried on, I rested in my hammock, will go on a run with my dog, and catch the back nine of the Masters. As the sun sets I’ll walk back home and beat the cold that blows in with the growing darkness. We need not fear the dark, today we are reminded that the light of the world has overcome.

Happy Easter!

Let Me Know What You Like


We have been together for a few months now, and my writing has been very general. I’ve written on all kinds of topics, at the beginning I have simply wanted to write and establish a practice. I feel I’m getting in a rhythm, being able to work up 3 good posts a week. However, I am very curious about which topics have spoken to you the most, and you enjoy reading. This way I can be sure I work in at least 1 post a week on that topic.

I would greatly appreciate if you would take a minute to select which topics you enjoy reading on this blog. If there is something you would like to add, please email me at mcragland@gmail.com, or leave in the comments.

Thank You!

In Celebration of the Awesome


Celebrating the bottom of the Grand Canyon

I have an awesome life. Simply in the basic comforts of health, food, shelter, clothes, I am richer than most in the world. But for me, in my American plenty, there are plenty of other aspects of my life that are awesome! What are they? Glad you asked!

  • Coffee every morning. I can even go somewhere and pay someone to make my coffee! And buy fancy coffee! Awesome!
  • Living on 500 acres, with room to run, hike, camp, bike, swim, play, and so much else. Awesome!
  • Starlit nights. Awesome!
  • Sunrises (with coffee, it’s early man). Awesome!
  • 12 Bones BBQ, only get the ribs man, and corn pudding. Awesome!
  • Pad Thai is freakin’ epic. Awesome!
  • American Apparel Track T’s. Awesome!
  • A long, un-timed hike/run/bike in the woods. Awesome!
  • Any time I laugh. Awesome!
  • Rockin’ out with Mumford and Sons. Awesome!
  • Vacations, and that I make enough money to not have to work for a couple weeks and go just go do stuff hundreds of miles away! Awesome!
  • National, state, county, city, community parks. Awesome!
  • Yosemite, Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Zion, and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Awesome!
  • Snow (except this winter). Awesome!
  • Fall colors, spring colors, and winter’s absence of color. Awesome!
  • Ice cream. Awesome!
  • Waking up today. Awesome!

I encourage you to take a moment (or several) during your day to appreciate the awesomeness of life. Our lives are pretty amazing, even the bad parts, meaning white-american bad. Times when Sunny Pointe is out of biscuits (AHHHHHHHHH!), my phone takes 15 seconds to upload a picture (the humanity!), or the ATM is out of order (why are you punishing me God!), everything is still ok.

Don’t take your awesomeness or happiness for granted, and don’t let jerks get in the way of it. They want to downplay your first 5k? Screw them. That arrogant music “expert” wants to tell you that the Avett Brothers have sold out to the man? Not friends anymore! Someone trying to tell you that your favorite restaurant is over-rated? You know they can do? STICK IT!

Your enthusiasm will rub off on others. Spending time with you and your happiness with the awesomeness of life will be awesome! I’m not saying you should be a pie-in-the-sky crazy person, but if we all can’t kick back and realize how good life is, then shame on us. Give someone a hug, a high-five, call a buddy and reminisce about your epically epic road trip, or plan a new adventure. There is a lot of awesomeness in the world!

You can find plenty of posts on this site about giving back and caring for others, but I wanted to celebrate the awesomeness that is day-to-day life and adventures.

Please join me in the comments and share what is awesome in your life! If you are a twitter user, tweet @mattragland and use the hashtag #awareofawesome.

[To feel even more aware of the awesomeness of life, go read Neil Pasricha’s blog 1000 Awesome Things]

Disclaimer: This essay was hugely inspired by Brendan Leonard’s post in Adventure Journal. High five! Also, Brendan curses in his post.

We Are All Being Used


Today, you will be used. It may be in ways that are productive and healthy, or ways that are destructive to ourselves and others. We are used by family, friends, co-workers, people on the street, and over the internet. This is not entirely good or bad news, it is how the world works!

We are used in relationships to help affirm, love, and challenge each other. We can also be used as a crutch, or use others as a dominating and controlling presence that feeds off a spouse, children, or friends. We are being used at our jobs, to create revenue, and hopefully to enrich the lives of customers.

God uses people too. The bible is full of stories about how people were used to glorify him. I think that most people feel that God only uses good people, those who have it all together or don’t have any major blemishes in their past. For the past several decades, the loudest voices in Christianity have perpetuated a story that says you have to be good enough, you can’t make mistakes, and God only wants you at your best. If you’re not, we’ll still take you, but we don’t want to talk about it.

People who have been turned off by Christians feel that God can’t use them, and this is simply not the case. The are many people in the bible who had a checkered past, and even made gigantic mistakes as followers of God! We are all broken, and I’m sorry that the current view of Christianity is the belief that we have it all together (or feel we do). No, we don’t, and we continue to live broken lives. We just believe we have found the answer that is bigger than ourselves.

Returning to the bible characters who were messed up. It has always struck me as amazing to read about the kind of screw-ups that God used. I mean, if he was running ads for people in the classifieds, the righteous people of the age would not have applied. Well, that got me to thinking, “What would that look like?”

Here is a series of ads that may have been run by God.

The Conversion of Saul - Acts 9

Peter denies Jesus - Luke 22:54-62

David & Bathsheba - 2 Samuel 11

The Calling of Moses - Exodus 2-4

As you can see, God is waiting to use us for his glory, which in turn will make our own lives more fulfilling and rich. I think that God uses our brokenness and mistakes to allow his light to shine brighter through us. When we have filled up our lives with our own stuff and good deeds, when we are handling everything, “Thanks God, but I’ve got this life thing under control”, he will go find someone else. He doesn’t need much, he is God after all.

Whether you are a Christian or not, how do you feel you are being used? A more reflective question is, how do you use others? It is not simply a question of faith, but of how we interact with people on a daily basis. I would love to hear what you think! Especially if you are not a Christian, or have a different faith, what does the sacred text say about what kind of people God(s) uses?

Have a great day being used.