Tuesday, April 29, 2008

When Doors Open You Walk Through

If someone had predicted last week that we'd have a new club this week, we wouldn't have believed it...but one of the incredible, magical things about Second Life is that your virtual life always changes and offers new opportunities. So, out of the blue, the thought of revitalizing the Wings of Hope sim set off a flashbulb moment. What would bring new life to our lovely, quiet sim?

A new dance club! One of our magazine's sections is called Z9, after Zechariah 9 referencing all the young men and women. Well, what better than to have a fun place to attract all the Christian men and women of Second Life? Add a theme decor, great retro 80's music, fellowship, perpetual confetti and viola! You have Z9 Christian Rock Club!

Our grand opening will be this Friday, May 2, 2008 at 3:30pmSL until the sun sets or rises or whatever time zone comes first. The theme will be Prom Night. And, we'll even crown a King and Queen. Their grand prize will be 100L and bragging rights until the next event :)

Z9 will offer a PG fun place to gather and meet others from around the world. Hopefully, visitors will want to come back and visit the sim's lighthouse, windmill and take the train ride tour. This is only the beginning of what's to come! Wings of Hope is going to be the place to be on Friday nights! See you there in your prom best. Just think, we don't even have to go to the Shore the next day, we're already there!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Heart and Soul

Many of us are carrying around wounds, some recent, some from very long ago. Sometimes the wounds are physical, the result of illness or injury. We go to the doctor, take medicine and wait for our bodies to heal. Most of the time they do.

Sometimes the wound is mental, the effect of psychological warfare within us, a job, the outside world or because of things done to us. Some will go to a counselor to talk it out, others will read, many will talk to friends, their pastors or priests and some will need medicine to help them through the storm.

The heart, one of our most miraculous of muscles, is often affected by what we do and endure. Heart disease is the number one killer among women. People feel heart ache when they are hurt and betrayed. People feel despair from heart break. People suffer heart attacks when their hearts break down. Many heal from the surgery, the change in diet, a new love or the pills they take each day. The heart may even be stronger afterwards.

We can do many things to heal ourselves but many of us forget to tend to our souls. Without wellness within our soul, it does not matter if our hearts have healed, if our bodies are strong or we are mentally toughened. Our soul is the core of our being; it is who we are after all is said and done in this world. The strongest body in the world will not last if the soul is not as strong. There will continue to be an underlying malaise; a feeling that something is "off" or missing.

Fill that soul with the love of Jesus. That void and emptiness will be filled to the brim and more, that is promised in the bible. All the money, the fancy cars, the designer clothes and handbags, the big houses, the ultra lifestyle will not matter because money cannot buy God. Only your faith and trust in Jesus will get you to heaven.

And, the best part is that His love is free! All you have to do is ask Him to come into your life and make him your Lord and Savior and your soul will shine, today, tomorrow and ever more. Not because I say so, but because God did.

Matthew 7:7

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Part of the fun of working in SL for RL is that you get to find cool, new places quite by accident. Peter and I were hunting for a Readers Garden in Caledon when we stumbled up on this giant chess game! For a moment I felt like Alice and wondered when the white rabbit would race by followed by the Red Queen.
Then we saw the rail road tracks and of course, got side tracked (no pun intended!) when we hopped on the trolley to take the scenic route around the area. We didn't get far when we spotted...

the labryinth! Oh, what a curious sight that was! If work hadn't been pressing on my time, I'd have insisted we try our hand at navigating it but *big sighs* I had to prioritize and work won out--this time.

Yes, we eventually did find the Readers Garden but it paled in comparison to the delights we found in the nooks and crannies of Caledon. We must go back and explore more, perhaps even in Regency era wardrobe. If we do, we'll definitely take pics and post.

The only problem is that in Second Life there is so much to do and see that we never seem to go back to the same place twice. We'll have to make a list...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pajama Party SL Style!

He will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. - Job 8:21
Another fun filled night with our friends, The Friday Night Gang! This time we even invited a monkey! Of course, it's not a real monkey. We all know that behind every avatar is a real life person but for the sake of pretense in Second Life, Banana is a monkey and who are we to question that choice of expression?
Monkeys can live a carefree life. They swing from trees and just imagine a barrel full of them without cracking into a smile :) So, there you go, whoever Banana is in real life, he or she has acheived creating a whimsical persona in SL. Perhaps one day Banana will even speak and reveal why they chose to be nonhuman. But, for now we just accept Banana for who they are.
Wouldn't it be nice if those lessons in virtual reality could spill over to the real world, too?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Oh, the wonders!

One of the best things in Second Life are the wonderous places to explore and visit! Often, Peter and I are way too busy to take a moment to wander and travel across the sims but when we do...well, the breathtaking sights remind us that SL is a place of intense creativity and imagination.

Each place has been built from the ground up. Each object built, sculpted, colored and designed to the smallest detail by the steady hand and mouse of it's creator. Where once flat, virgin land lay now are monuments, cities, caves, harbors and jungles. These treasures are sprinkled across the SL universe just waiting to be visited and savored.

Tonight we explored several sims, beginning with The Lost Gardens of Apollo. This sumptuous, lavish place is a wonder to behold. Even the music is lush and exotic. It would take hours to explore its every nook and cranny--if you can get in, that is! It's not mistake that this sim is always full. The grandeur is beyond measure.

Aside from the sights, there are also activities such as tai chi, flying carpets and hiking. There are also numerous spots just to meditate, ponder or relax. You can also dance at their salsa themed plaza. It is without saying that it is perhaps one of the most romantic places to take your special someone. But, you won't be alone much lol, this place is packed with visitors. Apollo is PG rated and no voice is allowed. This keeps it safe for everyone and aside from the occasional (ok not so occasional) newbie faux pas of public chat texting, it's pretty much a quiet interlude.

Another wonderful place to visit is Celestial Requiem NYC/WTC. The sim creators and designers work hard to recreate the flavor of New York City in order to honor its history and 9/11 tragedy. And, typical of SL, the work is international. The designer who lovingly created the Statue of Liberty is from England. He even created a 1920's replica of a baseball stadium with a working baseball game script! Lots to see and do in Second Life NYC, including shopping and events. The World Trade Center Towers are incredible structures and gives one pause. Being from near NYC, the memory of those huge monoliths still brings tears to my eyes. It's an honorable thing Mel Regent did to dedicate a sim to one of the greatest cities on Earth.

Yet another very cool sim isn't land at all. It's a sphere! And, inside that sphere is the moon, complete with working equipment, a racing explorer vehicle and offers of free moon boots and spacesuits! To make it even more fun, the moon boots create footprints on the moon's surface. But, really aside from the fun is the realism. This is 3D immersive web 2.0 at it's best. It's simple yet very effective. Elon University created Elon Moon base and I hope they continue to create other planets to land on, like Mars and Saturn. Maybe a black hole....

Where else but in Second Life can you travel from an Arabian style harbor to New York City to the moon all in one night? And, I didn't even have to worry about having 3 oz bottles in a gallon sized plastic bag to carry or a passport!

Now, if Second Life's client viewer would just remain stable with the next upgrade, there will be more places to go and see to satisfy my wanderlust.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Chance Meetings

One of the amazing things about Second Life is that you never know who you might bump into or see. Peter and I had been invited to a celebration at the World Trade Center sim. They got a new firetruck. In real life, as part of my town's fire department, I have attended many such parties except we call them wet-downs because the tradition is to pour water on the new truck from the fire hoses. And yes, everything and everyone else gets totally wet too! Hard to do in SL though so they held a dance.

But, we couldn't seem to find the people so we wandered and accidentally found a magificient new addition to the sim ---a lovely recreation of the Statue of Liberty! To make things more interesting, the builder happened to be there. He said hello to us and invited us to see more of his work, which was a 1920's baseball stadium! It even had a baseball program! We were fascinated and talked at length with him. Turns out he wasn't American at all, but an Englishman from London. You never know where people will be from in SL, even those respectfully building the recreation of NYC in a post 9/11 world.

We have heard the term "global village." In SL I think we are. The US Congress recently held hearings about the benefits and potential pitfalls of virtual reality. While many educators, scientists and others testified about the positive aspects and applications of SL, the government was still leery of boogeymen misusing it for terroristic missions. They worried it would be a haven for child predators and yes, a sexual den of who knows what...and they have a right to be worried--but not to the end of virtual reality's positive contributions to education, science, medicine and learning!

Every medium has its potential for abuse. We've seen that happen with everything from the radio to tv to film to the internet. Science brought us the atom bomb as well as wonderful scientific breakthroughs in medicine. We shouldn't throw out the baby with the bath water! Instead, we need to monitor what people are doing to taint our good work on every front and lead others to the wonders of what can be explored.

There is a plethora of choices in every nook and cranny of the internet, tv, film, books etc...let's make wise choices to better humankind and inspire minds to think, love and learn today and always.

New Wine

We are told in the bible not to pour new wine in old wineskins. Another popular suggestion is to think out of the box. You can take each simply as advisements to go out of your comfort zone but it's really deeper.

If you think out of the box, your mind stretches. You are still you but your scope of vision has changed to include new ways to see the same issue or problem. That is good yet we are still the same person with the same heart. All we have is added vision.

In biblical times a wineskin was made out of an animal's stomach lining. Wine poured into it would ferment and the new wineskin would stretch to accomodate that process. However, if new wine is poured into the used wineskin it will burst because it can't stretch any further. So, you have to create a new wineskin and start the process all over again. This is done over and over again and each time you must recreate to accomodate the stretching.

So, it is with us. Once we accept Jesus into our life, we are created into new beings to accomodate our new hearts. The old person is left behind and you are now new.

Through my work at Wings of Hope Magazine, we glorify God through new ways. Each of us stretches out of our comfort zones to spread the Word and bring His teachings and lessons to others. We are new wineskins and Jesus is our wine.

On March 22, 2008 we held an all day event to celebrate our new print format. We blended and embraced the real world with the virtual with a debut concert by real world band, Justpassingthru! Also on stage was Dexter and Noma Falta. We know how to throw a party! It was a great day!

We have a mission and we will plow forth, envisioning a world filled with the love of Christ and hearts full of His passion. It's not been an easy path, but since when was following Jesus easy anyway?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Building Blocks

One of the most thrilling and challenging aspects of Second Life is being able to create and build. Out of nothing you can create something, although sometimes that something isn't all that great at first. But, as time goes on you get better and better. I still don't like putting structures together or rezzing a flat panel or box but oh boy give me a go at putting textures and colors up and I am in my zone. Let me terraform or put down plants, trees, paint a scenery screen and oh I'm in my element!

But I can't do it alone. I know my limitations :) I know that I am the the accessorizer not the designer. I am the paint, not the brush. It's ok. There's fun in teamwork. Where else but SL could one make a universe all your own, developed in tandem with your partner who is an ocean away?

Peter and I have built a nice world in Inishmore. We've built it up, torn it down, modified and restructured, over and over. And, just when we get it "right" we seem to want to do it a different way.

Why? Because we can...because our synapses fire away, because we get so focused in our designing that we lose track of time, because it's fun, because it's our way to relax. Where else but in Second Life could this be done? Right now that answer is very few places. Soon though, there will be other worlds to build, create and design. Soon, those worlds will invite us to come visit.

And, we will go because we they are there, the same reason why most explorers climb the mountain peaks, trek into forests, dive to the depths of the blue sea or peek into caves. The explorer's mind does not want to stay still in the world they were given. They seek to find something beyond them. Along the way, they also find something within themeselves.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Gender Bender

Tonight I became a man. Not literally, but virtually. It happened because I like to help others, it's a character flaw of mine of sorts. I have a long history of volunteering, doing everything from getting hundreds of signatures on a banner to fly on a battle ship shortly after 9/11 to picking up body parts after a motor vehicle accident as an emergency medical technician with a local rescue squad to teaching a child's kindergarten to do the Mexican hat dance while their "guest for the day" and lots of other stints. But, this may have been my most bizzare altruistic act.

A friend's band is going to perform in Second Life this weekend. He said he didn't have the time to fix up his avatar so I heard myself saying, "I'll do it for you!" And, so with those words I came into SL as a semi-noob male. After a certain feeling of disorientation melted away, I actually felt something else...control. As a male zipping around SL alone I did not have the watch-around-you feeling I usually have nor the occasional uninvited IM's. No one was going to flirt with me, approach me or whatever else females have to sometimes put up with (in RL and SL). I could strut around and be the guy. It gave me a sense of power too, not sure why.

My partner Peter joined me on this shopping expedition to find new hair for the avi. It was weird on many levels. I was talking to him in voice in private IM so no one could hear us, so here I was a "guy" but it was me. And one time we noticed with a start that Peter was standing awfully close to my host body lol We had to be careful not to say endearments in chat as well. It was downright strange but...it was interesting at the same time.

One thing I noticed right off--the lack of male items to chose from. One tiny corner in a store had men's hair, only a part of a wall in another. Yet, women's choices go on and on and on. Considering that gaming is usually a male dominated arena, seems odd that SL catered right off to women. Maybe that's why so many men pretend to be women? It's fun to dress up your avi. It's like having a living Barbie!

I think I fixed up the avatar pretty good with the few lindens we spent. Nice hair, a little on the shaggy side. I gave him a stronger chin line and made him a wee bit taller and oh gave him another shirt, too. Then I had him pose for a profile picture and we were done!

All in all being a guy for 90 minutes was a pretty tame experience. It was the mental adjustment that was the most fascinating part. I might have to explore that again sometime. I've heard from many men in SL that females in SL are aggressive. No one tried anything with my male self. Hmmm was my avi not cute enough? Not cool enough? Now "I" feel rejected!

Well, I've handed over my host body back to my friend. Honestly, I totally like being able to buy pretty clothes, cool hair and cute shoes.

The bottom line? I think I'll stay a girl :) It's lot more fun!

A new life has begun! II Cor 5:17

A new life has begun! II Cor 5:17
God's GPS