All That’s Left Undone

The following text was delivered by Ryan Newcomb in October 2003 at Prepare the Way 2: A vtONE event. It’s a touching story of why it is important that Christians, especially Christian leaders prepare themselves for spiritual attack. If you’re working with the goal of advancing the kingdom of God, you’re working against Satan’s plan, and he’s going to attack you. So often Christians forget of the reality of Satan in the world. Satan has a plan for our lives, just like God does. Satan’s plan is very simple–just to keep us from living out God’s plan.

All That’s Left Undone

I have a friend from back home named Daniel. I first met him when I was 16 and a sophomore in high school. Daniel was 14 and in the 8th grade. Danville is a small town, and, at the time, most churches there were still conservative in their ministries. The concept of youth pastors, vibrant outreach to junior high and high school students, and the modern worship movement were foreign to Danville. But, a few churches were joining the cutting edge at the time, and Daniel’s church was one of them.

The first time I stepped into the “youth room” that housed Xtreme Student Ministries at Third Avenue Congregational Church, I was blown away. There was a Pepsi machine, sofas, lounge chairs, drums, guitars, a ping-pong table, and someone who was actually less than 30 years old preaching the Word of God! Xtreme was amazing, and I longed to be a part of the excitement that it brought me to be there for the first time.

Daniel was one of those natural musicians that just makes me sick! At the time, I had played guitar for a little over 2 years. Much like today, I had to try as hard as I could to be less than average! Daniel, meanwhile, had picked up guitar, bass, and had become a wonderful drummer. With our love for music and our love of acting like complete idiots for the fin of it, we became instant friends.

Perhaps the only thing more amazing than Daniel’s gift on the drums was his faith in Christ and love for other people. I had grown up in church and had accepted Christ when I was 7 years old. Yet, there was something fake about my belief in Christ while there was something genuine and real about Daniel’s. Here was where the challenge to know God who He really is was first handed to me. Not because someone just sat me down and told me to, or because I read it in a book, or because I heard it preached in a sermon. I was challenged to immerse myself into the truth of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit because I saw it lived out each and every day in the life of my friend Daniel. The summer before my senior year, I tried out to play guitar for Xtreme’s praise band aptly named “Weird Fish.” I was fortunate enough to make it as a mediocre guitarist, and the experience became invaluable because all that I learned about worship and music that year are the foundation of why I’m here before you tonight. The relationship that I developed with Daniel and his family also became invaluable. I believe that people are only fortunate enough to call a few others a true friend in this life. And, at 21, I don’t know a whole lot about much of anything. But I do know that Daniel and his family are a prefect picture of what true friends really are.

When me and several of my closest friends graduated from high school, it seemed like the world was turned upside down. There were a few like Daniel who were two years behind us in school who were left behind. Spiritually, Daniel and the others were left to fend for themselves much like I was when I journeyed to Virginia Tech. We had leaned on each other so much that our futures were left dangling as those supports were jerked out from underneath us. Fortunately, I found a wonderful group of brothers and sisters at the Baptist Student Union much like all of you have found at other campus ministry groups here at Tech. Some of my friends were not that lucky, and some of them chose their own way of facing. Daniel was one of those.

About midway through my first semester here, I received some pretty discouraging news: Daniel had started messing with drugs. As innocent as it sounds, he started by tripping on the DXM depressant found in most over-the-counter cough syrups. After giving Daniel the choice, my former youth pastor, Ryan Jasper, had to watch Daniel leave the praise band and eventually church all together because he refused to give up the drugs, the parties, and the instant popularity they had handed this once social outsider. It seems that Satan goes after the ones He knows can do him the most damage. And, Satan always knows exactly where to strike.

The summer after my freshman year, Daniel’s situation had only gotten worse. I went to the beach with he and his family that July. It was there that I discovered that the smile, the joy, and the peaceful spirit that was the Daniel I had come to love and admire was now gone. The world was sucking Daniel dry, and all that remained was something broken and dark. Over the next year, I went to see Daniel when I could. I prayed for him continually, I spoke and prayed regularly with his parents, and never ceased pleading on his behalf. The drugs moved from cough syrup to marijuana to needles of DXM to acid and even to cocaine. Finally, in the fall of 2002, the battle reached its height. Daniel was with a few other guys in the basement of a house. A guy both of us knew from high school, in the midst of days of drugs, handed Daniel a needle and asked Daniel to shoot him up. That was when Daniel broke. After having disappeared for days, Daniel went home in the middle of the night. He walked into his parents’ room and asked them to help him. It was the breakthrough that we had all been praying for.

Yet, the battle for Daniel was just beginning. After a few weeks under psychiatric care, he was released to extensive counseling. We soon learned that Daniel had gotten his long-time girlfriend, Jessica, pregnant, something that Daniel later recounted to me as one of his greatest regrets. As discouraging as that news sounded, it seemed to spark something inside of him. He and Jessica began attending a new church with Daniel’s family. Jessica became a Christian, and, with the help of Christian brothers who shared his struggle and a renewed dependence on the Word of God, Daniel was beginning to turn his life around. He asked Jessica to marry him, and I was to sing at their wedding last May. However, the wedding did not happen. I called the house to talk about the ceremony only to find out Daniel was in the hospital. His parents had found him unconscious from an overdose. All of us were crushed.

I’m not sure what it was about this episode. I don’t know if it was getting so close to losing it all or simply the remembrance of the truth that had lived inside of him all that time. Either way, Daniel emerged from the hospital a new man. Finally, after three years of struggle, the smile, the spirit, and the personality of my dear friend returned.

As some of you may know, I am a singer and a songwriter. By last June, I was 6 months into recording a CD of some of my songs. I had desperately wanted Daniel to play the drums, but I could not have him be a part of a ministry if it wasn’t who he really was. Because of the turnaround in Daniel’s life, I was finally able to do what I had longed to do for quite some time. After a month of being clean and a renewed spirit inside of him, I brought Daniel onboard to record all of the drum tracks for my CD. I hadn’t seen him that excited in a long time. Every time we spoke this summer, he told me how hard he had been working on the songs, and the few drum parts I was able to hear in between our busy work schedules were indeed amazing.

In August, I was taking a short trip to Florida to visit the church I worked at the summer after my sophomore year of college. I was leaving on Saturday, August l and returning on Thursday, August 7th. Daniel and I were going to head to Blacksburg on Friday the 8th to record the drum tracks and to spend of weekend together of good times, a needed break from 3 years of what seemed to be nothing but hard times. Knowing Wednesday with the youth group and driving back on Thursday would be crazy, I called Daniel that Tuesday night in Florida to talk about our plans for leaving on Friday morning. What followed would be the hardest 5 days I’ve had to live in my short time on this earth. The weak voice of a broken Lisa Shelton, Daniel’s mother, told me that Daniel had been missing since the evening of Saturday the 1. The following day, I received word that Daniel had taken his own life. At the age of 19, Daniel was gone.

Two months ago, along with 9 of my closest friends, I laid Daniel on his grave. As a man, I suppose that I was raised not to cry that much. So, it is safe to say that I have never cried like I cried for Daniel.

Computers General Virginia Tech

What’s in a name?

A bolt in the blueA question I get frequently is “What is a bolt in the blue?” Since I’ve been known to give bad answers, I’m hoping that this post will clear up the confusion. First of all, I’ve been using variations on “bolt in blue” to identify myself online since 1997. The story of where I learned the phrase goes back a few years farther, back to fourth grade.

When I was in fourth grade, one of my previous year’s teachers, Mrs. Weis, enlisted my help with several of her projects that she wanted done on the computer. There are so many stories that I could tell about Mrs. Weis that are funny and crazy, but one of the things that she wanted us to learn from her was to do “random acts of kindness”. She modeled these random acts of kindness with her own life, often leaving goodies for all the other teachers in their mailboxes, with some kind of note attached. She enlisted my help with one of these notes, which simply read “Guess from who? A bolt from the blue.” I designed a flyer that featured a lightning bolt in the background and printed her lots of copies, probably to my parents’ dismay, as our newfangled color inkjet printer got a workout. I liked the phrase, but incorrectly remembered it as “a bold in the blue”. Not that there’s much difference, but Mrs. Weis is a master at using old expressions, so I’m sure she had it right.

A few years later, I needed an identity for use on this new thing called the internet. After a short lived run with another identity, I wanted to pick something I could hang onto for a while. Somehow, “a bolt in the blue” popped into my head. Since then, I’ve used variations on it for all kinds of online aliases. Especially with “from” becoming “in”, the phrase has come to be uniquely mine. After nearly a decade, it very much feels like its mine.

What does the phrase actually mean? Phrase Finder suggests that it means surprise. says it means “a sudden, unexpected event”. It’s an older idiom that was used by several authors, starting around 1840. I’ve been told that I’m full of surprises, so I think the phrase fits me well. And I love pictures of lightning striking. The phrase is really supposed to be about lightning striking while the sky is cloudless and blue, but I’m sticking with the storm photos. They’re just so cool–high contrast, with a purple, almost ultraviolet glow.


Please pray for OSU

LoveOSUOhio State University’s prayer movement, LoveOSU, finishes up a week of continuous prayer on Saturday at midnight. They’ve been praying in their prayer house nonstop since last Saturday, and they’re already seeing cool things happen as a result of their prayers. However, they are being spiritually attacked, which confirms that they’re doing God’s will, otherwise, Satan would leave them alone. But at the same time, it really sucks to be under spiritual attack. They could use our prayers for strength to finish out strong. Allison, who is the leader of LoveOSU, has also had her identity stolen this week, and is having to deal with a lot of things related to that.

I was planning to go up to OSU this weekend to check out their prayer house and participate in their week of prayer, but I’m going to wait a few weeks to go up, so that we’re able to have more time with the OSU team and bring more people along from the vtONE team.

Please pray for Allison, Ohio State, and the LoveOSU prayer house. It’s awesome when we take time to lift up others who are crying out to God for his kingdom to become more present here on earth!


Busy week

Just a quick update to let you all know that I’m in a busy stretch.  I’ve already had a test this week, I have another one tomorrow, I have a project with formal report to do, and also a third test next week.  I’m also going to Ohio State over the weekend.  I have a post started that I hope to publish next week, but I will likely be silent until then.

I’ve been getting requests for RSS feeds for the site.  I already have them.  Check the links at the bottom of the page.  You can use these feeds with services like bloglines.


Shawn McDonald in concert

Shawn McDonaldLast night, I saw Shawn McDonald in concert at Dwelling Place, a church in Christiansburg. I didn’t recognize the name when I first heard about the concert yesterday afternoon, but I decided to take a look at his site, and some of his original songs seemed familiar, so I decided to go. Someone from Dwelling Place was opening for him. I was hoping that it would be Isaac, one of the ministers from Chi Alpha who goes to Dwelling Place. Instead, it was someone who I didn’t know. He was too long, and I didn’t like his style.

Shawn had a great solo acoustic set, and I was able to talk with him and get a copy of his latest studio album autographed after the show. It turns out that he was the opening opening act the first time that I saw David Crowder Band on tour. That night was amazing, but I missed most of Shawn’s set because of several wrecks on the capital beltway. Apparently, that night was Shawn’s first time on the east coast ever and he thought that it was one of the best stops on that tour. I was glad that I went, and it was cool getting to meet an artist who seemed to really want to connect with his fans.

UPDATE:  Shawn’s song that has made it onto Christian radio is called “Gravity”.  It’s also was a bonus track on the purple disc of WoW 2005.


David Crowder Band and Third Day

David Crowder BandI saw David Crowder Band and Third Day in concert last night at Liberty University. Both bands did an excellent job, but I’m not used to seeing Crowder as an opening act. I’ve seen Crowder play four times since October 2004, and every time, he was the main performer except for this time. I guess that Crowder is still not a big name, even though I think that he’s one of the best musicians alive, and his songs are widely used in churches. I don’t think that Crowder does as well live on his rock stuff, which is largely what his current album is. He’s a great worship leader, so I prefer seeing him when he’s leading worship as opposed to performing or when he’s touring with a mostly worship album.

Third DayThird Day did a better than expected job as the headline act. I have to admit, I’ve never really gotten into their music. I would have preferred to have Third Day open for Crowder, but I think Third Day has more name recognition, since their music tends to get picked up on the God stations. Third Day has an amazing keyoard player, and he toured with a Hammond organ. Makes me want to get a Hammond and start rocking out on it. I may have to get the new Third Day album yet.


Three things

It’s been a while since I did a three things post, so here you go for your random Wednesday morning enjoyment.

Three things you may not have known about me:

  1. I’m ambidextrous.
  2. I am an INTJ.
  3. My high school issued me an official fake ID card.

Valentines, Fire Alarms, and Snow

Busy weekend here. Friday evening was the annual homegroup guys make the girls dinner and affirm that they’re good people, even though largely single people night. Cory (grad student cory, not roommate Cory) cooked spaghetti with meat sauce, chocolate covered strawberries, angel’s food cake toppings, and attempted to cook fried ice cream.

Slusher Fire AlarmThe fried ice cream was classic. By classic, I mean it set off the Slusher fire alarm. Cory burnt one serving of fried ice cream when his plastic spoon he was using melted in the boiling oil. We got the ice cream out, and didn’t notice much smoke, but we opened all the windows. A few minutes later, the oil was still smoking a little, so we gave up and took it outside. We propped the doors open and fanned the smoke detectors. The smoke was mostly gone and we were breathing easy that we hadn’t set off the alarm when it went off. Now, this was more than five minutes after the oil had been outside. Makes me feel real good about the quality of the dorm fire alarms. Thankfully, the poiice weren’t mad at us and we can call this valentine’s Dinner “unforgettable”.

Snow in the mountainsI took Saturday and Sunday off from work. It snowed most of that time, and I enjoyed a quiet day around the house and a lot of fun boarding and sledding on the golf course. Throw some movies, staying in bed until afternoon, and other fun in there and you have a relaxing weekend. I’m enjoying not having that much work this semester! The only downside to the weekend was that my car is going to need a new tailight cover.


And now to insight a riot . . . my rankings of coffee shops in Blacksburg

Coffee CupBest to worst, judged based on the quality of their espresso and their standard drip coffee:

  1. Mill Mountain Coffee and Tea
  2. Easy Chair Coffee
  3. Starbucks
  4. Bollo’s
  5. Deet’s Place

Mill Mountain
Easily the best coffee shop in Blacksburg. All the coffee they brew is roasted fresh in the store, and then brewed the next day. They offer several blends of coffee in the shop each day, lots of espresso drinks, sandwiches, and ice cream. The Mill Mountain Blend, which they always have brewed, is easily my all time favorite coffee. I buy fresh roasted coffee from Mill Mountain for home brewing, and will continue to order from them once I move out of the area. Their cappuccinos and mochas are spectacular, and their sandwiches are good, if a bit pricey. If coffee isn’t your thing, they also brew and sell loose leaf tea. I’ve enjoyed brewing their loose leaf teas at home, especially the slightly minty herbal Monk’s Prayer for reflective times and their Oolong for with Chinese food. Note that the shop in Blacksburg isn’t fully affiliated with the shops near Roanoke, but the menus are very similar and I highly recommend any of their locations that I’ve been to.

Easy Chair Coffee
Located in University Mall outside the Math Emporium, this coffee shop gets a strong business from VT students dreading their looming Math Emporium assignments. Easy Chair Coffee has great drinks that have made my time in the Math Empo much less painful. I don’t frequent this shop, because it is not convenient to my house, but if Mill Mountain were to pull out of Blacksburg, I might have to become a regular here.

I know that I’m going to get flamed for this comment, but their coffee isn’t that bad. When the only Starbucks in town was across the street from Easy Chair, I only went to Starbucks before going to the adjacent Five Guys to pick up something cold to make up for the lack of milkshakes at the otherwise amazing Five Guys. Starbucks doesn’t have amazing coffee, but they helped raise the bar of what people expect in a coffee cup. They were also the first chain to refuse to use the horrible tasting robusta beans. That said, Starbucks has switched their locations to automatic espresso machines. The decrease in the quality of their cappuccinos and (more importantly) their peppermint mochas around Christmas has caused me to avoid them if I’m looking for espresso. I’ve yet to visit their newest Blacksburg location, even though it’s now the closest coffee shop to my house. One major downside to going to Starbucks: I always feel like a corporate whore or a sellout when I go there.

I know a lot of people who like to frequent Bollo’s. It’s the local artsy-type coffee shop. I enjoy their atmosphere, but their coffee is horrendous. I got a medium cappuccino there the other day (which is 12 oz there – yuck!) on my way back from campus and thought to myself after several sips “I wish I had walked the extra block to the Starbucks.” Coming from me, that’s saying a lot. If you must go to Bollo’s, be warned of the small sizes and know that I’ve found the iced latte to be tolerable on a hot summer day. Unlike their coffee, Bollo’s has amazing baked goods. I think their small bakery is probably the best one in town. I highly recommend the oat fudge bars, although they tend to be small and expensive in the shop.

Deet’s Place
The on campus coffee shop and ice cream parlor. I intended to make Deet’s fourth on my list and Bollo’s fifth, but I had a cup of coffee in Deet’s this afternoon that was so foul tasting, I couldn’t finish it. The help is clueless about coffee, the coffee is very bitter, the espresso machine is automatic, and the help still manages to screw the drinks up. The baked goods here are usually good, and they have a nice selection of loose leaf teas. If you must go here, I recommend trying their herbal peppermint tea. Actually, try any tea before you even consider a cup of coffee. Also note that the giant roasting machine in the front of the main room is there for decoration purposes only.

Not reviewed:
Java Junction
Daily Grind
Cinnabon – I haven’t had coffee here in several years, but I remember them making my drinks wrong on several occasions. I don’t feel a need to go back.
More Than Coffee – I love the calzones here, but I’ve never actually had coffee and don’t really think of them as a coffee shop

Out of the area:
Caribou Coffee – I’ve started going here for espresso when I’m back home. Most locations use automatic machines, but the quality of their brews seems better than Starbucks (plus, I don’t feel like a sellout going here).
Greenberry’s – Excellent coffee with several locations around the DC area. Too bad there’s not one near my parents.
Probably would be second on the above list if they were in the Blacksburg area.


Fully surrendering to God

I want to highlight an excellent essay by Brian of Zealous Endeavor on surrendering all areas of our lives to God. He writes:

As we begin to take seriously this life to which we are called, we must surrender wholly to His will, to His leading, to His Word, and to His commands. We must know that it is only by the grace we have received through the cross that we are able to approach Him and seek after Him wholeheartedly. It is “in Him that we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28). In Him, and by His power, our surrender leads to His name being glorified. There is no greater calling than this, to glorify God through our complete submission, and to make His name known by the simple testimony of His work in our lives.

Ever since picking up Zealous Endeavor through a comment on the 268 blog after Passion 06, I’ve been blessed by Brian’s essays that he shares there. I think that “Wholly Surrendered” is especially well written, and encourage you to check out the full essay.