ATO Retreat

HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS - Colorado. In the summer of 2011, Robby Thompson and I represented the Theta Eta of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity in Colorado for an inaugural "ATO Retreat." There were already several national functions to choose from, but nothing like this... The objective of this retreat was to leave it up to God. We are the only fraternity based on Christian principles, and ATO desires to keep our foundation strong. We embarked to Colorado with uncertainty but left with a glass FULL OF GRACE! We peaked at 15,000ft at "The Ranch". ATO partnered with Toth Ministries and JWAR (Jesus was a Rebel) to deliver God's Word. I saw a different side of Jesus. When I left, I went from having this fear of God to walking alongside my Daddy. I made myself vulnerable, but knew more about myself than ever before. It proved to be a spiritual encounter that all of us would remember forever. We came to the party, drank from the cup and were filled with His presence. For once in my life, I was enamored by the Spirit. Six months later, the same brothers met up with Wynn Smiley, ATO National's CEO. He graciously welcomed us into his house in Indianapolis, but he wanted to talk business. Wynn had an unanswered question, How do we keep this thing going? We debriefed the weekend from back at the Ranch. This weekend was still filled with worship and lecture, but we wanted to discuss the future of this ATO Retreat. We met at ATO National Headquarters, and it resulted in a name change, Encounter. It seemed to be a reoccurring theme with all the people who attended. Everyone had an encounter with Christ! From hearing angels to feeling their Daddy press his mighty hand on their chest... there were encounters by the Holy Spirit. The ATO Retreat would forever be called, Encounter. We agreed to recruit brothers to replace ourselves and take Encounter back to our respective chapters.

With a combined effort from the ATO National Staff, alumni, Toth Ministries and JWAR, we are able to host multiple Encounter retreats to active brothers who want to further their walk with Christ, our foundation. When we began to stop worrying about the temporal and focus on the eternal, we saw growth. In under three years, we have seen more than 100 brothers impacted through this new ATO National Event, Encounter.

One more thing, accountability was a huge priority for us. We wanted to stay connected and not be diagnosed with kid's camp syndrome. If someone from The Ranch asked, "Will, what's your life look like on a Tuesday when you are back in Alabama?" It shouldn't look any differently because I live with my promises in front of me! To keep us accountable, anyone who has gone to an Encounter is invited to "Re-retreat" in Indianapolis. This is designed to keep brothers in Christ connected.

This weekend marks two and a half years after the inaugural ATO Retreat. We are now at the Columbia Club for another Encounter Re-Retreat because we have slightly outgrown Wynn's living room:

God planted new seeds in our hearts. Now, it's time to give what we have been given!

Riley Blogging Off

Mayberry After Instagram

How many pictures do you post regularly on Instagram? People don't seem to complain about having too many tweets -- unless it's game day. They have Fancred for those couched sports commentators. One reoccurring trend I am seeing is people posting too many pictures on Instagram. It's actually causing me and others to fabricate our personal feeds and not post what's on our hearts. We want everyone to see us at our best. We spend $5 on the App Store offering lens enhancements and countless hours trying to get the supreme camera angle. Heaven forbid we didn't use the autofocus on our iPhones. Are we really passionate about what we are releasing to our friends/followers, OR are we posting what is going to get the most Likes? Don't hear me say that you shouldn't be artsy. Filters are there. Why not use them? But I too can't stand to be in the "Instagram Purgatory", and only see 10 names like my photo. Crank it to 11, right?

You may have had a similar conversation.


Opie: Pa, check out my last Insta post!

Andy: What's the picture of?

Opie: I captured this moment as Aunt Bee was sitting one of her famous pies on the window. I skipped a meal to get the picture, but it was worth it. You can even see the steam! I even gave it a fun title, "Hot and Fresh Out the Kitchen"! You know, like that song?

Andy: Why did you go to all that trouble of waiting on Aunt Bee and everything?

Opie: People have been posting pics of food a lot, and I bet I could get 39 likes. It could be my best picture yet!

Andy: Son, that shouldn't be your motivation. Do you post everything?

Opie: No sir. Just the best.

Andy: Well, does that really tell your story?

Opie: You know... I guess it doesn't.

Andy: Why don't you post everything? If you're going to go through the trouble to take the picture, I would say post everything that comes to mind. That picture is special because it was seen through your eyes.

Opie: Yeah, but I don't want my followers to get mad that I post too much. I don't want to be "that guy".

Andy: Well Opie, then they can unfollow you. Social Media is a platform developed for us to express our thoughts freely, the moment that we start to tailor information based on their demand, you can loose creativity.

Opie: But Pa, we learned in school to post substantive information for businesses and potential connectors. That would mean that if we didn't post our best then we could lose our reach.

Andy: Like I said son, do what you want. If someone doesn't want to follow you because you posted two additional pictures, it doesn't matter. Not having a follower or friend on a social network does not remove them from your actual friend list.

Andy: What's the last photo you took on your phone? Is it uploaded to Instagram?

Opie: No sir. I didn't think anyone would "like" it.

Andy: Son, if it's special to you, then share that image with the world.

Opie: Gee Pa, I never thought of it like that before.

Riley Blogging Off

Pie Time

If you have seen the American Pie movie (one of my favorites), you know that Jim's "Pie Time" is... well, rather disgusting. I'm writing about a much cleaner version of Pie Time. If you were born, you have seen Men in Black (stretched assumption I know). Tommy Lee Jones' memorable role as Agent Kay is far from pleasant. He plays an old codger who constantly bickers about an obvious underlying issue. The audience doesn't find out this issue until MIB 3, so I won't spoil the ending. When Kay wants to "get away" from the world, he orders a slice of pie from his favorite diner. Anytime Kay gets around pie, he becomes vulnerable and seems to be at peace.

Pie has got to be my least thought about dessert. Milkshakes, Strawberry Sorbet Pints, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cones (to name a few) are my sweet-tooth satisfiers. I consume these desserts for instant gratification. The design of pie is far different than my other nasty cravings. You don't normally take pie "on-the-go", which is the beauty behind this dessert.

I had a privilege of sharing a slice of pie with a dear friend. We truly opened up about personal struggles and temptations. We went beyond "surface talk". We just caught up. This intimate conversation resulted from our love and craving for pie.

The lack of "Pie Time" results with seasonal friendships. These are friends that you lose after a break-up. These are friends that you stop communicating with when you move off. These are the friends that don't forgive you of your transgressions. You get the point. Pie Time requires effort. There is planning involved. I've always heard people say, "I'm friends with everyone." That phrase is usually followed by, "But I can count my best friends on one hand." I think that applies to a lot of people, but I think the definition of "best friend" is misused. The adjective, "best" has been inserted and is universally accepted. Proverbs 17:17 speaks about friends but not "best" friends. Hear the Word of The Lord: "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity." Are there really different levels of friendship, or has society created another norm?

So I encourage you to find your "Pie Time" with your friends. It could be a cup of coffee, a glass of Scotch or a fine cigar. That's between you and your inner circle.

Riley Blogging Off

It Starts With An Earthquake

According to the Mayan calendar, the clock is ticking and I have until December 21, 2012 to complete my bucket list. I’ve stopped collecting cans, started preparing for the end of the world, and have surrendered to the inevitable, impending doom preparing to gash this world’s Titanic.

Since, I have no intentions of being a hero (remember what happened to Jack Dawson), I might as well have some fun living the American dream and completing my bucket list while everyone else is freezing their organic milk and stocking up on MRE’s.

1. Sit with President Clinton’s jazz band.

I was filtering through my list and found an easy starter: sit-in with President Clinton’s jazz band, the Three Kings. The legendary jazz trio claims they ”swing pretty hard with some cool jazz” and have been rocking high school auditoriums for years.

2. Break-up with Adele to inspire a new record.

The inspiration of Adele’s latest album, 21, followed a recent break-up. I doubt she can emotionally handle another, but the world is anxiously awaiting her next album. I’m going to set fire to the rain by breaking up with Adele. With only three weeks to inspire, write, and record, I’ve got to be smooth. #RileyStyle. Be on the lookout for Adele’s newest record, 24, to drop sometime before D-Day.

3. Teach an Indian Ringneck Parakeet to sing “Indian Outlaw” by Tim McGraw.

With my bewildered sense of humor, this would easily gain a few million hits and kill on YouTube. Why not make an easy buck?

4. Step in for a wasted Eddie Vedder to sing Yellow Ledbetter at a Pearl Jam concert.

My music taste varies, but I never get tired of grunge. It was a brief time in the history of music but unforgettable, to say the least. Pearl Jam has been labeled as “the most popular American Rock’n'Roll band of the ’90′s” (as mentioned in their documentary). There would be no greater accomplishment than to take the lead on stage while EMTs are working to pump the stomach of a rock legend. After my many years of impersonating Christian Bale as Batman, trying to emulate Eddie’s guttural noises should be a piece of cake.

5. Ask Bill Paxton for his belt and survive a Twister.

Bill Paxton is the only person in the world whose belt has a bigger following than the actual wearer. This isn’t technically tornado season, but it’s worth the adventure. Oklahoma, here I come! By the way, I’m more of a Jami Gertz kind of guy.

6. Eat Goldmouth’s cornbread.

I’m no “Can’t Get Right”, but I will sure perform any ludicrous act at the chance for copious amounts of cornbread. And yes Goldmouth, even if that means eating all of yours.

7. Finger-gun with Clint Eastwood.

Clint Eastwood is my favorite director, spaghetti Western star and political analyst. Not many people on this planet can make a ghost chair go viral on social media. Every time he shoots a gun, he hits his target. Let’s not forget his unbelievable role in “Gran Torino”. Clint Eastwood, a man older than the dirt under Moses’ fingernails, does not let his age affect the “Sudden Impact” of his memorable quotes. “Get off my lawn” became his signature phrase to the Millennials, and we are still talking about it. Finger-gunning with the old guy would “make my day.” After he kicked me off his lawn, that is.

This list does appear to be quite a feat to finish in less than a month, but if Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson can travel to Hong Kong and hire a “street professional,” then I should be able to cross off most of this list. 

Full Name Syndrome

MacGruber is a character on Saturday Night Live (SNL). He's known as the handy-man that can fix anything. "This looks like a job for MacGruber" is a direct quote from an episode. How many of your friends state their name as a solution? I'm often caught between Will's World and reality. I love when people call on me for assistance because I can fix anything. Oh wait... I am just a man. You may find me saying, "Of course I can do that, I'm Will Riley." I justify that thought when my friends say I can do anything because it makes me feel less conceited. I have a case of Full Name Syndrome.

Indicators of Full Name Syndrome:

  • Someone states their Full Name, and it is the entire sentence. i.e. "I'm Will Riley."
  • You ask a friend for advice; they respond with, "You'll be fine! I mean... you're Will Riley (insert your name)."
  • You never have doubt because you claim you can do anything.
  • You take Phillipians 4:13 to a new level, "I can do all things through myself because my name is my strength."

Full Name Syndrome is very dangerous, and if you have this sickness, then I would advice you to visit your friends for therapy. You might not even realize you are sick. If you are oblivious to your illness, then ask them.  I'm sure they've noticed. This quote was said to me at a PR conference: "You are the average of your 5 closest friends," so chances are, your friends think the same as you. Don't be alarmed if you are asked for help because you might need to council and explain this syndrome to someone. All of this sounds foreign to you, right? It's a schema that people don't realize until it's revealed. Who likes being told they are full of themselves? (rhetorical question)

Honesty fueled the publishing of this blog. My advice: stop thinking you can change the world because you will eventually fall. There have been several Hollywood icons as well as your own colleagues and friends that continue to fall flat on their faces -- all caused from Full Name Syndrome.

Riley Blogging Off

Freshman Fun

At 18 years old, stupid decisions are often blamed on adolescence. At 21 years old, stupid decisions are placed on stupidity. I do not feel that I have peaked in my intelligence, but my constructs have been shaped quickly to not consider juvenile acts because of my roles in college as well as in the community. The realization struck me a few weeks ago when someone had asked, "Where is the old Will?" This phrase is far from foreign. This is a reoccurrence since I moved off to college or even when I became a believer in Christ -- a new chapter is added, but I really enjoy this current "Florence State of Mind". I will venture to say that I am one of the busiest persons at the University of North Alabama, and it is due to my freshman year decisions. Those decisions affected the trajectory of my collegiate career. I traded Freshman Fun for a serious approach to life. Jumping in the fountain or striding across the top of the student center used to be fun, but now it is viewed as illegal. What happened?

I am experiencing "Growing Pains” because I’m still adapting to having gained more responsibility. I discovered that it’s a privilege to have responsibility. Despite my duties, I need to nap... even Jesus napped. Setting time aside where I can freely think and have fun is crucial for my life.

Here I am in my final year in college; I have been reconnecting with my old freshman-self, and my brain is finally getting a rest.

Riley Blogging Off

Manly Mondays

I have been disconnected from my blog for some time. These last few months have been a drought for me. From a bird's eye view, my life has been a joy. Internally, I felt lost... not to be confused with having a lost soul. My heart is deeply saturated with Jesus, but I was seeking pleasure in Earthly matters rather than Heavenly matters. I learned that these Earthly pleasures cannot quench my thirst.

Let's recap two memorable moments: bike wreck and epiphanic dinner. My father, Rilo, always said riding your bike at night was never a good idea, and the old man was right. I screamed language that you wouldn't normally hear in a church sermon. Of course, I repented, but if you get hit by a car, I doubt you would scream, "Cucumber!" But hey... who knows. Luckily, I was safe, but I felt God push the bike and car just enough to prevent a deadly collision.

On a lighter note, my better half and I took part in a Passover Meal at Redeemer Church of the Shoals. To my knowledge, this event did not exist. Churches have their own doctrines and principles that prohibit teachings of the Bible. Prior to this, when I heard Passover Meal, I would reference the usage of bread and wine. That description does not serve the meal justice. Without elaborating, it was lifechanging and would love to talk to you about it.

Now, let's discuss the title of the entry: "Manly Mondays". I washed my dog yesterday. He rode in my new car and jammed to John Mayer's "Born and Raised". It felt amazing. I plan to do activities every Monday that keep me connected with myself. Also, I am developing a construction project -- don't what it is, but I'm feeling crafty.

What to expect... Photos. Word Clouds. New Ideas. Honesty.

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