Hope Center Christmas

We're soon heading back to our beloved HopeCenter and they've just sent us some pics of their first snow.  We're getting excited to be back...



I sometimes try to impress the 7 people who read this blog with my massive traffic numbers...

Recently I've surpassed the 30,000 mark in visitors to this site.  I guess this is good but recently my daily totals have been way down... mainly due to my lack of any content whatsoever.  I don't blame you for not visiting lately but you better come back and check in post-January 7th when we're back in Ukraine.

Also, over at ARiskADay.org we have gotten some pretty great indicators that people are interested in the concept.  We have 40 email subscribers to the daily risks and our facebook group has over 170 members at last check.  If you haven't seen it, get over there and let me know what you think.


Nothing good to say...

...but something needs to be said.  That's how blogs work, right.

I'm at my brother-in-law's place using his internet to check my extra overloaded inboxes and see about Liverpool's Friday results.  Plus I gotta download some podcasts and get my facebook fix.

In case you were curious about LFC, we beat Bolton Wanderers 3-0 on TWO goals by our much-maligned striker Robbie Keane.  We may have turned the corner on this one and given ourselves a secondary goal-scoring capability when Fernando Torres is out... as he's prone to be.

Also, every day I get a chance to post, I'm going to do the Hope Center countdown.  Currently we are 11 days from being back at camp.


Livin' life in MI

I like Michigan.  I love my in-laws, I like the rural setting, I like the fact that EVERYONE hunts, I like the polite country folks and I like Junkyard Wars, the only decent show available on my father-in-law's satellite TV package.  I say all that as precursor to this...

I am in cyber purgatory right now!  I just drove 20 miles on semi-icy roads for the honor of paying a high school kid $2/hour to use WiFi at the only internet cafe/coffee shop within 3 counties.  Granted, this is a great coffee shop and minus the fact that they charge for internet (that's like charging for air these days!), it's a cool place to hang out.... or it would be if it wasn't a half-day outing to get here.

I'll probably swing by here every few days to catch up on e-mail, download podcasts and try to connect with people back in the real world.  If the posts come slow and it seems like I'm never online, take heart....  in the new year we'll back in eastern Europe and have our standard high-speed internet again.


Goodnight and good luck

It's almost 9pm and we're sitting here trying not to do the things I need to do in order to leave.  Me, Sarry and my boy Tommy are hanging out on all of our last night in CO.  I just wanted to let everyone know that I might be MIA in a cyber sense for a few days until we figure out an internet situation in Michigan.

Also, I wanted to thank you for visiting here regularly as I just passed the milestone of 30,000 visitors to the site since I set up Sitemeter about 18 months ago.

KOR Kast today!!!

Unfortunately, since I have less than 24 hours left to get everything ready for Michigan and then Ukraine, I don't think I'll be able to watch/listen to Kor live today.  I will definitely catch it on podcast when it hits.  Catch it at Castle Rock Radio.

My absence doesn't mean that all of you can skip it too.... in fact you are REQUIRED to listen in my stead.  It is spoken, it will be done.


Risks are flowing

Due to busyness, I neglected mention that ARiskADay.org is up and running at full speed.  Today (Sunday) marks the second day of risks so go check it out.  Incidentally, today's challenge is to honor the Sabbath and back away from the aforementioned busyness.

Have a great day and take a risk!


LotD - James Lileks

Lileks has a few - direct from Twitter - talking about the extremely cold weather in Minneapolis Friday.

"Temp is still One. But they're releasing 1.1 as a noon upgrade."


"Economy hits Minnesota weather, temperature lays off three degrees. Ah, noon warmth - when will I see you again?"


"News from overseas weather forecasts pushs the temp up to 12 in late-day trading!"

This year's deer update

I already posted the photo of my first whitetail that I shot this fall in Nebraska....

...but this morning Timmy provided an unexpected surprise.  A game cam photo of my deer (unarguably the same animal) from earlier in the year when his rack was still mostly intact....

He was a beautiful animal - as we expected, a solid 10 point - and I am so glad that Timmy was able to find this photo for me.  Thanks, buddy!


A Risk A Day site is set, risks coming soon!

Last month I explained a new site called ARiskADay.org.  It's a GA side project that is currently being designed and managed by my co-worker Ryan McKeel and I (but was started by the lovely Vikki Walton).  

We have a site...
...we have 'Risks' written and ready to post...
...we even have a group on facebook... 
...and now we also have a logo (which will soon be available as a badge for your own site).  

Here is the first thing you'll see when you go to our page.....
First, follow the link in the first sentence to read the explanation of our goals and how it will work.

Then, go to ARiskADay.org and subscribe to the risks via RSS or an easy daily email sign-up.  The content will be flowing daily very soon.....


Boredom leads to inovation

I was messing around this evening and was looking back into Twitter.  I know, returning to an old addiction like a dog to...  well, you know the Proverb.  Anyway, I figured I'd mess with tinyurl.com to see how much I could manipulate the output urls.  I put in my page on the GA site (the one linked to at right) which is a little awkward - http://www.global-act.org/web/guest/ukraine_support and turned it into http://tinyurl.com/ukraineorphans.

They both go to the same site but one is a bit easier to type into a browser.  Any thoughts on that?  I honestly don't know if it's more or less confusing that the original URL.  Oh well, it's not like it cost anything anyway.


Exchange rate

I just caught from a respectable Ukrainian blogger that the Hrivna is trading at 7.40 to the US dollar today.  Neeka is a great resource for an eyes-on-the-ground perspective from Kiev, which is completely different than our Kerch.

In some ways a more favorable exchange rate helps us - at least in the short term - to stretch the dollar even further.  Unfortunately this can only serve to increase the already devastatingly high inflation in Ukraine - already pushing 30%.  Over time, it will only serve to create greater need, more demand for our already-limited resources and exacerbate the destructive social problems that we are trying to combat.  I hate to say it but I think Ukraine is rapidly heading in the wrong direction for the benefit of its people.

To the footy haters

I'm frequently asked why it is that I've seemingly defected from traditional American sports and am now a big soccer fan.  I just caught a video that I hope will help folks understand somewhat from whence my passion has come.

In no other sport do you have the largely seamless, uninterrupted build up to feats of spectacular skill such as the one in this video.  

It would have taken some skill to catch this ball, let alone pull off the spectacularly timed ninja move that this guy does.  And let's remember that this is a normal guy playing in a little indoor league against guys in pink.

I know many of you think it's boring but it's actually the pace of the game that I have come to love.  Admittedly it takes a little time appreciate the intricacies of the ebb and flow but once you do, all that's left is picking a team.

Shame on all of you!

I've noticed an interesting trend in past few months regarding visitor numbers to our blog.  The lowest day of the week is always Saturday, followed by Sunday.  I figured this was because people planned things on the weekends and got out away from their computers.

Today is the second snowy day in the past few weeks and I have noticed that the visitor levels are pretty low on both of those days.  So this means the consistent variable for many readers is actual presence at work.  I get high numbers when you people are at work and lower numbers when you're at home.  What a irresponsible use of company time and internet!

Uh-oh, my boss is coming, I gotta get back to looking like I'm working.....


Coming back from Arizona

We just finished another presentation on the HopeCenter and now I'm sitting on Bryan's couch watching SportsCenter in lovely Goodyear, Arizona.  I haven't watched it a long time - almost as long since I've gotten to hang out with Bry.  I don't really know what to say about it, but I'm just enjoying it.

In a second I'm going to go to join Sarah in Bryan's 2 year old son's bed... the 4th bed in 4 nights.  We have a strange life.

We'll be back home by noon tomorrow and that begins the last week in CO for a long time.


More bad news from Kerch

For those of you who have actually been to the Hope Center this news will come as a bit of shock.  I'm in Arizona for the weekend and upon arriving I received a phone call telling us that one of our HC employees was killed in a car accident.  Yuri (or Yura to his friends) was one of our security guards and a staple of life at camp.  His story is amazing and the path he traveled to meet the Lord shows the infinite mercy of our God.

He spent much of his early life in prison for a variety of very serious crimes and that's where he met the Lord.  As far as I know, the Hope Center provided him his first post-prison job.  Yura's first night as a guard at camp he walked the territory and cried at the thought that he was trusted with that responsibility after all that he had done in his life - the Lord had blessed him for his faith.  I was looking forward to hearing his entire testimony when we returned but I won't have that chance.  There's a VHS tape of him talking about himself at camp so I'll have to listen to it and have an interpreter help translate.  

Here are 2 of the very few photos that I could find of him:

Here he's at the Black Sea with us for our post-camps outing.  It was the only time I got a picture of him without his shirt.  His tattoos each have meaning (if you want some interesting reading, check out Russian mafia tattoos on Wikipedia) and are a testament to the life that he left behind.

Anyone that's met him knows the "Yura walk."  He had a distinctive strut that you could pick out from a mile away.  It was something like a cross between a boxer and the gang-bangers in "Blood in, Blood out"

Whenever he saw Cam he would say hello, also in a very distinctive way.  To this day Cam says hello just like Yura.  He usually stayed up at the front gate during the day (since that was his primary responsibility) so the boys would go up there to play.  They knew that was where they could almost always get a little game of 'football' going.

I wish I had more pictures to put up here.  I crave to write more about him but I'm kinda spent.

I know his wife and daughter will never read this but I'll tell them he was a beloved member of the HopeCenter family and will be missed.


We've come full circle

I've spent most of the fall dreading this time of year.  We left Ukraine on August 31st with a weeks worth of clothes for a late summer vacation and have been living since then with essentially those same clothes.  Friends have been extremely generous with us in loaning and gifting some warmer items but it has still been a bit annoying.

Why is that pertinent?  Tomorrow we will fly out of snowy Colorado for a work/pleasure weekend in sunny Phoenix and Tucson, AZ where the weather should be just about right for the clothes that we actually packed more than 3 months ago in Kerch.

All is right with the world....

Andrey update

I have gotten some follow-up questions about our friend Andrey (not my boss) who is in the hospital in Cape Town, South Africa so here is an update.  For the backstory see here.

I have been checking in with his doctor every morning (SA time... it's 12 or 2 am here) and he is doing much better.  He has a bit of anxiety and depression possibly stemming from his perception that he let his family down by not staying on-board the ship.  Treatment is slow and difficult since he needs both a psychiatrist and a translator for any analysis of his mood and mental condition.

Please continue praying for him, the hospital staff (particularly Dr. Gordon, his wonderfully helpful physician), his family back in Kerch and that the payment of hospital bills will be resolved in a fair and manageable way.


I've got Ukraine on my mind

I was playing legos with Cam last evening and he wanted me to make "the office," which isn't too hard since the Colorado GA  command center is just the top floor of an office building that is nearly a perfect cube... a pretty easy design with big-block legos.  I opted for a greater challenge....
Ok, pretend that you see the cross and onion domes.... it's an orthodox church!  I just thought you should all have a chance to appreciate my genius with toys designed for sub-5 year olds.


New games

I just relearned for the 60th time how to do quick screenshots and I couldn't really think of anything cool that I wanted to use it on...  except our new Ukrainian summer camps exclusive webpage!

So this is what it looks like and I think if you click the screenshot it will go to the actual screen from whence I shot it.

Please don't forget the orphans in Ukraine as you think about your year-end giving.

How do you misspell an acronym?

I use a service called sitemeter which monitors traffic data for this blog.  One of the items that it shows is 'referrals' - ie. how a visitor found my site.  Today I noticed that recent hit was registered when the person Googled:

"80HD symptoms"

I looked back in my archives for this post on ADHD which was my 9th entry on this site - now at well over 460 posts.  In it I write satirically about the epidemic-like progression from 80D to 80HD and finally to 1080HD.  I just reread it and would highly (and egotistically) recommend it.  Even I laughed at my former glory.

If I were to try to answer the searchers question - based on the fact that 1080HD gives a great picture quality - I would guess that the symptoms of having only 80HD resolution would be generally poor picture quality and a very grainy watching experience....  but I'm no doctor.


I am seriously professional

Today marks the point at which I have finally decided to make myself some business cards...  with exactly 14 days left of my Colorado Springs stint of fund and awareness raising.  I have no idea why I felt that it this wasn't necessary earlier, but here it is.
As a side-note, I made this using one of the many business card templates in Apple's Pages program.  They have at least a few dozen separate options in sheets of 10 cards each, all of which have the same MASSIVE flaw....  

There is no way by which you can change the information on all the cards on the sheet!  Why would I want to make a page of mismatched business cards?!?  I had to go through and edit the text, layout and picture for each of the 10 cards per page.  It wouldn't even let me cut and paste!

I love my Mac and wouldn't go back to MicroSoft to save my own life, but this is one area in which they have displayed utter incompetence. 


Thoughts about Andrey, my job, Ukraine and Christmas

I have been thinking a bit today about this tragic situation involving our former student Andrey in South Africa.  I'm trying to avoid a long dissertation complete with transition sentences so I'll just bullet point some of my thoughts.

  • This is exactly why we feel so passionately about our ministry in Ukraine.  We try to provide education for guys like Andrey so that they are less likely to put themselves into situations like this one.  We try to make connections within our community so that when problems come, we are asked to help - and in this case we were able to do something.  Most importantly, we present the gospel so that when life gets tough - and it does get tough for people in Ukraine - they will have something to fall back on.
  • I have been excited to go back to Ukraine but this further solidifies that desire.  We love being part of the Hope Center team and today made me remember that we are still part of it, even here in Colorado.
  • In this Christmas season where we've seen people die over seasonal sales, it reminds us that life goes on in the rest of the world - completely independently of our doorbuster sales.  Let's take a moment to contemplate what we do with our time and money this holiday season.  I'm not saying not to buy gifts, but perspective is vital.
Ok, that's enough for now.....

What do you guys think?


Update on Andrey

If you haven't read about our efforts to help our IVA graduate Andrey, go here....

With help from some South Africans in my parent's church we were able to figure out who to call in Cape Town to get started.  They suggested a major hospital to start with and a person there (ironically named Andrew - the English equivalent of Andrey) offered to call around the local hospitals looking for someone that matched Andrey's description.  This was a massive blessing and we were told by the aforementioned South Africans that this kind of helpfulness is not very common in their experience.

Back to Andrey....  Andrew the helpful turned him up at a small private hospital and one call to them yielded the phone number for Andrey's room.  Tanya and Andrey's mom both spoke to him but didn't learn very much about what happened.  There are still a lot of questions including what happened to him, how he got to the hospital, why he is in such an exclusive facility and how we get him home.  

As it turns out he does have his passport so that takes care of one major hurdle but now we stuck with a lot of people who don't want to do anything.  The shipping company says that they don't know what happened and whatever transpired isn't their fault or responsibility.  Thus far the Ukrainian government hasn't been very concerned with aiding one of citizens that's in trouble.  The South Africans don't have much to go on (since Andrey can't remember anything) and little reason to pursue the issue - they have plenty of violence issues of their own to handle.  We're still working but in the short term is good to know where he is, that he's being cared for and that he is doing ok, if very dopey on medication.

Urgent prayer request

I have just heard from Tanya that one of our vocational school students from last year is in need of some serious prayer.  Andrey (on the left) had taken a job as a sailor on a ship in South Africa.  He called his mom a few days ago saying he was being mistreated and beaten up.  He then called today and told her that he was in an unknown hospital in Cape Town, didn't know what had happened and didn't know how he got there.  He said he was listed by only a number because he has no identification and only speaks Russian.  His mothor couldn't get back in touch with him after that call.

We are trying to find him at this very moment and trying to figure out how to help him, but we could use prayer.....


Confessions of a serial gift forgetter

...."Black Friday" they call it....
A bit melodramatic but it sums up how I feel about the situation.  There are 2 kinds of people in world; those who like to shop for gifts and those who don't.  I fall on the far extreme of the latter category.  It's not that I don't like to give gifts, I just hate the pressure of trying to intuit the perfect $10 or less item for every person I know.

My perfect Christmas shopping experience is to be at a store with some person on say, January 24th and having that person say, "I really like this shirt"....  and then buying it for them.  This is so unreasonable of me to the point of being ridiculous but I thought that all of you should know that if you don't get a gift from me for Christmas it's because you never told me what you wanted.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Not nearly so creepy

I'm celebrating my newly-fixed camera on the ol' Mac by taking another self portrait.  This time I'm fresh off a hair cut and a beard trim.  I got my hair cut at a place called Kiddy Kutters, which is half cute and a half seriously disturbing.  Either way I look a little more missionary than backwoods today as I sit at Serranos.

It was our goal to show Cam that he had nothing to fear from the barber by having Daddy go first but it turned out to be the free lollipop that convinced him that the strange lady with the "sharps" was ok.

New Ukraine Summer Camps link

Check out the ever-present link at the top of the right-hand column.  I now have a specific page on the Global Action website dedicated to my little project.  If you click the link it will give you to option of giving in a single gift or a recurring monthly donation, but only to summer camps for Ukrainian orphans (to alleviate confusion).  Check it out and tell all your friends.


Gas price reminder

I discussed in an earlier post that people seem to only remember the times when gas prices are skyrocketing and in the interests of fairness I decided to point out equally impressive cost decreases.  In this post from October 17th I mention that fuel has dropped from nearly $4/gallon to the staggeringly low level of $3.20 or so and promised to give updates if the continued.  

Today at the corner of Academy and Briargate - a traditionally expensive station - unleaded was at $1.47.  That's more than a 50% price cut from 2 months ago.  I just thought you might like to hear some good news on this lovely Tuesday morning.

My first whitetail

I now have pictures of my first whitetail deer (3rd deer overall) but unfortunately we don't have any of those pretty naturey types of pictures.  I took this deer in the southwest corner of Nebraska (along with Marshall's first whitetail) and I'm as pleased as can be with this animal.  It looks like it would be a 10-12 point buck were it not for the 5 busted tines on its heavily-abused rack.  Marshall's buck was big and also had a broken rack... an entire side.  Big Mike (Tim and Mikey's dad - he's like the Godfather of my hunting education) says that he thinks it's from a high buck/doe ratio which causes more fighting for mates.

We were in a hurry to get it into the truck and us out of town (if town is really the right term for where we were) so this is shot of it on the floor of Timmy's garage.

If you are anti-hunting or aren't particularly comfortable with a little blood (the same blood that comes out of the meat in your hamburgers and ham sandwiches) you may not want to scroll down.  It's not gruesome - just a small smear on the floor underneath him....

I also want to mention that my buddy Timmy is a great man.  Hunting is his passion and yet season after season he sacrificially gives me the best spots and all the opportunities to take an animal that I'd be proud of.  He helps us know where to hunt and even gives us access to areas he has personal permission to hunt.  He knew that this buck was in that river bottom, set up the situation that would give us a shot and then let me take the most likely shooting spot to take him.

He, Mikey and Big Mike have taught me nearly everything I know about hunting and have consistently loaned/given me the equipment that I needed but didn't own yet.  I deeply appreciate their generosity.  Thanks boys, I owe you.


Missionary or backwoods lunatic?

I just got back from a weekend of hunting in the ecological paradise known as Nebraska.  Though I did get my first whitetail, since I don't actually have a picture of that deer to post yet, I will save the update for tomorrow.

What is important at the moment is that last night when I returned, Sarah commented that my ever-present 'missionary beard' seemed to evolved into more of a 'redneck hunter/ backwoods lunatic beard'.  What do you guys think?  Have I crossed a line of sanity? 
It may be hard (since this shot was taken in my office... in front of my fake tree), but try to imagine running into this face in rural Kentucky or a Colorado mountain town.

Just in time... KOR Kast reminder

I just got this posted in time to remind all of you to hit up the KOR Kast on Castle Rock Radio today at 1pm MST.  Go to the KOR site and subscribe to the show updates and what's going with with Ryan's ministry.


All the KOR, different day

I just caught this note on the KOR Kast site...

Hey Everyone,
This Sunday Nov. 23 at 2:00 pm PST

We’re pre-recording some shows to air while I’m away for Thanksgiving and while I recoup from having eye surgery (removing scar tissue). Instead of recording off air we decided to let you all listen and watch live while we record. You can watch and listen (click on the photo where it says “Listen Live”), call in (888-321-RADIO), email (shout@korkast.com) and send in Instant Messages (screen name “KORKAST”). Hope to see you there and tell your friends.

Don’t forget that when you watch online you can send us messages in the viewing screen!!

See you on Sunday Nov. 23rd at 2:00 PM PST

I don't know why I was surprised by it... especially since I expect to be with Ryan and Marshall on Sunday when they go into the studio - on our way back from hunting whitetails in Nebraska.  I guess I just didn't know they were going live with it.  Anyway, check the boys out live on Sunday (SUNDAY, SUNDAY!!!).


There are no words

I'm not really sure how to describe this one...

I read this on Slick's blog yesterday but waited till today to post about it (I have a general rule about not posting more than 2 times/day).  You'll just have to read it yourself:

Catsup...A Government Conspiracy

A few Saturdays ago, Stacey and I swung by the Wendy’s drive through to pick up some lunch. I was in a very contemplative and philosophical state that day, so I was pondering many of life’s biggest questions. As we sat in line, I turned to Stacey and asked her about the one in particular that had been weighing heavy on my mind:

Whatever happened to catsup?

Seriously, haven’t you ever wondered what happened to catsup and why everything now is called ketchup? What was so bad about catsup? Why did it disappear from the shelves? Did ketchup go better with Haterade? As far as I can remember, catsup and ketchup looked the same and tasted the same. Obviously, there had to be answers out there and someone had a lot of explaining to do.

Surprisingly, there wasn’t a whole lot of information out there on this topic. Seems to me that there has been a lot of covering up by the “ketchupers” and of course, it involves the federal government. Just like Area 51, the JFK assassination, and many other examples, the fate of catsup seems to be part of a huge government conspiracy.

It all started shortly after World War 2. As America entered the 1950's, it appeared as if only 3 major brands remained to steal the spotlight...Heinz Ketchup, Del Monte Catsup, and Hunts, who could not decide on a spelling and bottled under the names Hunts Catsup (east of the Mississippi), Hunts Ketchup (west of the Mississippi), and Hunts Tomato Cornchops (in Iowa only). At some point in the 1980s, the federal government stepped in and ketchup was declared a vegetable on the government's standards for school lunch menus. Suddenly catsup, because of its spelling, was not on the approved list. Heartbroken “catsupers” could see the end in sight. It wasn't long afterwards that Del Monte changed the product's name to Del Monte ketchup and Hunt’s remedied its schizophrenic position on the subject.

So then the question then becomes, why did the federal government feel the need to step in and end this ongoing debate? And why did they have to bring children into this mess? Proposing that the “ketchupers” had better lobbyists is too easy of an answer, as is the failure of Hunts to “earmark” their right to call it Hunts Tomato Cornchops. There is a better explanation. From my extensive research, I believe that ketchup was responsible for the fall of the Berlin Wall, and hence, the end of the Cold War and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union and communism. Top secret U.S. government documents reveal that in the 1980s, the Heinz company still had strong ties to its founder’s home country, Germany. Billions and billions of dollars worth of tomatoes and ingredients that went into making Heinz ketchup were actually manufactured in East Germany and were being smuggled into the United States by the U.S. military. Many people don’t realize this, but the U.S. government used U.S. military aircraft and warships as commercial shipping vessels during this time. In the end, our ketchup habit was supporting communist East Germany with cold hard cash. At first, the U.S. threatened to call the product catsup, thereby dooming East Germany’s economy to utter ruin. However, this would have also exposed the huge cover-up operation between the United States and East Germany. In an attempt to pacify the East Germans and avoid a huge ketchup scandal, the U.S. government negotiated the agreement to name the condiment ketchup on school lunches as fair trade to bringing down the Berlin Wall. The East Germans accepted the overthrow of their government for the economic right to now legally supply us with their yummy ingredients while the U.S. government avoided certain disaster and the exposing of their continued backing of East German communism to support our eating habits.

Hence, ketchup.

Iowa Tomato Cornchops!  Hahaha, I love it.  You get Line of the Day


KOR Kast is up

The KOR Kast from 48 hours ago just hit iTunes today.  Do not delay in subscribing and downloading this latest episode with Andy Braner of Kanakuk Colorado.

As a side note, while following the live stream of Monday's show (on Castle Rock Radio), I was blessed with the quote of the week...

Someone on the chat forum that is part of the live video feed (if you haven't done this you're missing out on the fun) made a comment that was something like, "Marshall, how did you get to be so cool?  You're like a mountain Ed McMahon!!"  I presume this was intended as a compliment....


Hold your breath

Sarah forwarded this to me in an email so I'm guessing that many of you that are in regular email contact have already seen it.  I debated posting since this site is ostensibly missions related, but I finally decided to do it since it's humor at the expense of an innocent child... wait, I don't think I phrased that right.  Honestly, it's just funny and I think most parents will nod knowingly when they see it.

Apparently, this picture was turned in by a kid for a class project....

... and the punch-line is that the mommy in question works at Home Depot and the object in her hands is a SHOVEL she's trying to sell.  Good stuff - you gotta love kids and their ability to embarrass.  

It's for that reason that I'm posting as many embarrassing photos of Campbell as I can now to get a head start on that little competition.


The great American novel

On Saturday I was feeling a little sick and tired.  I didn't want to do anything useful and really wanted to just read.  Lucky for me, my buddy Jason just finished his first novel and was looking for someone to give it a preliminary read as he tries to get it published.  I jumped on it.

This novel, titled "The Awakened" has been 10 years in the making and weighs in at 340ish 8.5x11 pages of  single spaced, 10 pt font.  A massive undertaking for a first book.  I warned J that it might take me a few weeks to make it through, doing the kind of analysis that I expected a first manuscript would need.

I cracked the cover and was expecting to go through page by page looking for typos, grammatical mistakes and general plot line issues.  I was also planning to compare it to other books that I'd read.... I figure if these guys could do it, so could Jason.

The further I got into it, the more I began to compare it to my favorite novels that are in similar genres.  If you want to know how I've liked it, let me put it this way.....

I've had it in-hand for 48 hours and I only have about 20 pages to go.  I could not put it down.  Sometimes I was so engrossed in the story that I forgot that I was supposed to be 'editing' as I went.  Other than a couple of very minor suggestions, I have found it to be fantastic already.

Remember this name: "The Awakened" by Jason Tesar.  

I think so highly of this novel that I am hoping that Jason will sign the copy that I've read and let me keep it as memorabilia.  It is really that good.

KOR Kast today!!!

I'm going to do this every Monday morning to make sure no one forgets about the KOR Kast at 1pm MST.  Today's guest:  Andy Braner of Kanakuk Colorado.

Go to Castle Rock Radio and stop by the KOR Kast site.


Awesome webbiness @ A Risk a Day

Some of you may have already heard me talking about this new side project a few of us GA people have been doing for the past month-ish, but this is the official info post regarding the idea.  This is as short an explanation as I can give so please take minute to read.....

Global Action's vision statement is "challenging people to become risk-takers for God."  It's intentionally vague and broad so that we have a mandate to jump on any opportunity that Lord lays in our path - flexibility is part of our organizational culture.

With that in mind, my co-workers Ryan, Vikki and I have created a website that takes this vision and applies to people's everyday lives.  It's called "A Risk a Day" and its concept is fairly self-explanatory; each day we challenge people to take a specific intentional risk for the Kingdom of God.  We will have a site that can be visited or one can subscribe for the daily email.

The risks are easy, generally free and ranging from 'green' to mega-church in their appeal.  Here are some samples of the types of risks we'll send:

  • write a letter or email of encouragement to your pastor
  • forego your regular coffee today and use or donate that money to a better cause
  • contact the manager of your retirement funds (or other funds with which you're associated) and ensure that you are not invested in funds that promote or ignore human rights abuses
  • contact a missions agency and learn more about a short-term trip
  • buy an umbrella or rain poncho and keep it in your car until you can give it to someone who needs it
The risks transcend denomination, organization and location to help create an intentional daily mindset of taking minor risks for God.  Though it's based on our mission statement, it's not about Global Action.  It's about purposefully rising above our daily drudgery to make a difference to someone everyday.

If you miss a day, no big deal.... its about giving people the chance to be reminded daily to think outside themselves.

Ideally the site will become a network of people sharing how they did with their risk that day and then suggesting future daily risks.... a true community.

What do you guys think?

Either way, keep an eye out for a post letting you know when the site (we already have a domain name purchased) goes live in the next month or so....


LotD - Jason Tesar

"It spans from the beginning of time through the end of the world.... it's pretty ambitious."
- Jason in classic understatement trying to describe his just-completed fictional book project this morning


News from the Hope Center - November edition (updated)

Here is the latest incantation of the almost monthly "News from Hope Center" updates that Andrey sends out from Kerch, complete with some pictures for your reading enjoyment (I have added a few stories that will be in the final newsletter and corrected a few inaccuracies):  

Last week we were excited to host a reunion of former IVA (International Vocational School) students at the Hope Center which was attended by graduates from our first class in 2005.  They came together to have tea, play games, reminisce, look at pictures from their time at Hope Center and watch a movie together.  We were glad to hear about the progress that these students have made since we last saw them.  Here are some of the success stories from our IVA programs over the past years.

Sveta (2005 graduate)

Sveta grew up in a home with no father, an alcoholic mother and she ran away at only 14 years old.  Her mother went to jail for several years and she lived with friends for several years.  When Sveta was 16 she entered the IVA program in an effort to improve her difficult life.  In our program she studied computer skills and economics but she also received the saving knowledge of Christ.  Today Sveta is married and has a young daughter.  She and her mother now both attend a local church.  She says that the most important thing that she learned at IVA was that she is loved by God and she wants to extend that love and provide the best for her child.

Roman (2007 graduate)

Roman came to us as a young man without many prospects but interested in the opportunity to earn a driver’s license through our technical training.  He also received instruction in drafting, woodworking, welding, economics, English, computers and Bible lessons.

Today Roman works for the city medical department in Kerch where they have made good use of the skills he learned at Hope Center.  He drives a burley 4-wheel drive to transport necessary medical materials and personnel between hospitals and to the homes of those in need.

Artur (2007 graduate)

Artur studied along side Roman and also took full advantage of the opportunity to learn a variety of skills.  After graduation he stayed at Hope Center through the summer as a volunteer, cleaning the grounds and helping with camp activities.  His attitude, sense of humor and improving English skills made him a popular character with both local staff and internationals.  In the fall of 2007 he went to Moscow for work and did very well.  When he returned at the beginning of last summer he was brimming with confidence, ready to take on any challenge.  He worked at Hope Center again in 2008, this time as security.

Today he is the personal driver for a local businessman and is a frequent visitor to the camp that gave him the opportunity and knowledge which he is using to succeed.

Roman (2008 graduate)

Roman is only 6 months out of our most recent IVA program but already he has taken advantage of the education he acquired at the Hope Center.  We were always impressed by the Roman’s intelligence and work ethic and knew that he would be able to use his new-found skills well.  He quickly received a job with bread company which is owned by the city of Kerch.  When he got the job, he was pleasantly surprised at the good wages that his skills garnered.  He is now responsible for delivering bread to hospitals, businesses and maybe sometimes even to us at camp.  He and his girlfriend Yula (also an IVA graduate) visit frequently to keep us updated and for friendly conversation.

Dima (2007 graduate)

Dima is from a village just north of Kerch.  He came to IVA as a means to escape his troubled childhood and self-destructive lifestyle.  He took to driving quickly and after his IVA graduation was hired on full-time at the Hope Center.  He worked with us for 18 months helping with facilities, programs and in the kitchen.  This fall he accepted a job offer from an tool and appliance store in downtown Kerch.  He is using his driving skills now in delivering large items to customers all over the Kerch area.

Vlad (2008 graduate)

Vlad is from the city of Armyansk in northern Crimea.  When he arrived at the Hope Center he instantly became a leader within the class.  His English skills, age and maturity made him an integral part of camp life.  After graduation he returned home to work with his step-father’s construction business temporarily but soon found a promising position as a truck driver.  He now works with his city’s electrical department driving the lift truck used for power line repair.

If you are inspired by these stories of our ministry in Ukraine, please consider donating to another of our programs - Christian children's camps - by the link on the top of the sidebar at right.

I love the 80's....

I guess this is the current most popular video on YouTube and I almost didn't watch it for that reason.  If you are familiar with the A-ha video for "Take On Me" from the 80's, you will enjoy this... if you aren't, you probably won't even find it chuckle-worthy.


Campbell update

Now that we're back in the US for a bit it only seems logical to take care of all those medical check-ups that we've been avoiding for a while.  This is particularly important for Campbell who's not even close to the same child that he was when we left last year.  Sarah took him down for his 2.5 year check up and we were very pleased with the news...

First, we were glad to hear that his reluctance to join me in this activity...
... is actually a sign of maturity not developmental delay.  I just assumed cheering for a coal train was a natural part of a boy's up-bringing.  I guess that's why I'm not a pediatrician.

Also, as I've always claimed, he has a huge head.  I mean, look at it compared to the poor little town of Palmer Lake... it's like 6 times the size!  That can't be normal.

No, seriously....
Cam is only in the 74th percentile in weight and head circumference (genetic traits that Sarry hopes continue for all our kids).  But he's in the 98th percentile for height which I think is evidenced by the fact that he comes up to Sarah's shoulder.  Ok, that's not true either, but he is really tall... almost twice as tall as the highest building in Palmer Lake.  Sorry, I can't help myself.

KOR Kast today!!!

Everyone remember to tune into the KOR Kast today at 1pm MST.  You can watch streaming video or just listen via the links on the Castle Rock radio homepage.


Hope Center video

I really want you to take the time to watch this video.  The Coach and I worked pretty hard to make this as polished than possible.  At well over 7 minutes it's a little long but I promise that by the end you will have a small glimpse of what it's like to spend 10 days with the kids at HopeCenter.


Friday relief

I'm almost positive that Marshall's already thrown this one out there but I'll give it to you again for those who are bored on a Friday afternoon...

I've turned a few of you reader on to the Stuff Christians Like site and now I'm continuing that tradition.  Lark News is a site that is best described and a poor-man's version of The Onion, the  famous/infamous spoof, but for the Christian community.  It's got some cheese, but it's also got some great stuff.  Some of my favorites I've seen today include headlines like:
  • "Christian radio found to be on continuous loop for past 20 years"
  • "Denominations reach non-compete agreement"
  • "Youth pastor drops F-bomb at board meeting"

Along with ads like
  • Bono Fatigue:  It could happen to U2 (a support group for Christians who love Bono too much)
  • Nursary FastPass (like a pass you would use for a toll road, but for nursery)

Also, after a tepid response to my "no-negatives" post ratings I've decided to change them to a more standard set of options.  Unfortunately there seems to be a limit to how many options the feature will allow me.  I'd still like to see some of those boxes checked please.


Post ratings

If you use Blogger and don't read the Blogger Buzz blog (you can find it on the Dashboard page) you are missing out on the the new features that this format is always coming out with.  My favorite new one is a blog rating feature that allows people to give you feedback on how they like each post.  I'm interested to see if I can get a better feel for which topics are most popular.

I've added it to the end of my posts, though I honestly have no idea how it works yet so please give me a rating so I can test it.

PS, is it so obvious that you can set your own response options?

PPS, be careful how you use those little check boxes... apparently you can vote multiple times and can't change your response.

Thursday 13: Topics that don't involve the election

It's been so long since I've done a Thursday 13, I can barely remember how to count backwards from the number.  As a review for the newbies, this is just a format where you pick a topic and throw out a list of 13 (generally items that can't be posts on their own) and encourage commenters to add their 2 cents.  

In the past day or so, I've come across some extremely well written pieces regarding the election, it's aftermath and historical implications.  Fortunately that means that I am not obligated to do any of that.  Here are my top 13 topics of discussion which have nothing to do with the election:

13.  Since we're now past Halloween, we can start seeing and complaining about the presence of Christmas lights.

12.  In that same vein, this year commemorates two decades of trying to avoid the mall during the holidays.  It's a big anniversary.

11.  I've found a new blog I really like:  Jason at Meno - very thoughtful but easy to read and less long-winded than mine.

10.  Can Liverpool maintain their winning ways and give me good trophy in my first half-decade as a fan?

9.  Only 4 more days until the next KOR Kast.  Who's gonna be listening with me?

8.  Because she asked for it, I bought Sarah an iPod shuffle for her birthday.  It sounds nice but it was as an alternative to the iPod nano that I bought her as a gift previously.... which I monopolize constantly to listen to soccer podcasts.  I'm a bad husband.

7.  I have decided to spend less time at the office because, as Marshall put it, "I'm supposed to be sharing the organization with people and everyone at the office already knows."  My calls are forwarded to Panera...

6.  I decided to upgrade the RAM on my little MacBook...  increasing it 3X.  You know your computer needs a little help when it takes a while to CLOSE a program.

5.  Global Action has a new website.  Same address, new look and feel.  I like it.

4.  It's getting close to hunting season and as a carnivore, that makes my mouth water.  Yummy venison.

3.  For the first time in my life (that I can recall) I am going some place warm in the middle of winter.  Phoenix and Tucson in December should be just what the doctor ordered, even if only for 3 days.

Back to the holiday theme: with the economy being what it is (uh oh, I'm getting dangerously close to politics) let's think about how we are going to do better with our Christmas purchases.  Maybe foregoing gifts and...

2. ...giving the gift of water with Advent Conspiracy or... 

Anyone else have something?


LotD - Jonah Goldberg

"Sometimes I wonder if he was a taste-tester at a red paint chip factory."

-Jonah Goldberg



One down, two to go..

On Facebook today I wrote that today could be a trifecta of loserness.  Obviously the election is on and my guy is trailing.  Second, Liverpool was playing Atletico Madrid (Tammi's team in Europe).  Lastly, I have been losing a lot at Scramble, a Boggle-like game that they have on Facebook.

Just now, in the 95th minute, Steven Gerrard stuck in a penalty shot for the Reds to tie AM.  While it's not a win, with the pleasant surprise of Chelsea (the team supported by the most fervent Obamaton I know of) losing to a pathetic Roma side, it feels like a victory.

One down, two to go.  Come on big John!

Election Day...

...the highlight of every "refresh button's" career.

Kids to Camp funding update

Directly to the right has been a link for donating to our ministry in Ukraine by sponsoring an orphan to come to our camps next summer.... and get their nails painted by me....

I have been working since we returned unexpectedly in September to raise support for these kids (you can read about the whole story from here).  A lot of you have been involved in that effort and I thank you.  I figured you've all been seeing that funding link for weeks so I owe you an update.  

We've been to a variety of homes, churches and meetings and have been blessed by those who we've met (or already knew).  Our goal was to fund 400 children for next summer at a cost of $230/ child.  To that end, I estimate we have actually raised enough for somewhere between 30 and 45 children.  The variance exists as the difference between actual cash in hand and solid commitments that I have received.

While this is a great start after only a month of talking to people, it is far short of the pace we need to be at in order to achieve full funding by the time we leave in January.  I am not holding this burden on my own shoulders and have been amazed at how most of the funding has come not from my efforts but from the Lord placing interesting and faithful people in my path.  I pray that I will continue to trust in His plan and timing as we get closer to our time of departure.

If you have thought about giving to our ministry in Ukraine but haven't acted, I would encourage you to follow the link at right and do so today.

Thanks and God bless.


KOR Kast Walk of Shame... Sorry Ryan

I am much ashamed for having forgotten such an important date...

Today at 1pm MST the first episode of Ryan Dobson's KOR Kast Radio went live on Castle Rock internet radio.  I tuned in 15 minutes late but still got to hear (and SEE) Marshall, Ryan and Jeff Baldwin from Worldview Academy.  It's still being podcasted (like the episode that I was on!!!) so you can catch it delayed from iTunes but now it is a one-hour weekly show.

Not only can you listen live (a somewhat dangerous proposition for Marshall) but you can also watch them with streaming video and interact via phone, IM, text message and a slick live forum - which Ryan and Marshall read real-time.  I was in on it today and it was a blast.

Serious, you need to hear/see this show next week.  I'm scheduling a post to drop next Monday morning to remind us all to listen to the boys.  See you there.


Liverpool update

Liverpool (my team) played Tottenham (Slick's team) today......

Liverpool (my team) was at the top of the table this morning.......

Tottenham (Slick's team) was at the bottom of the table this morning......

Slick is my source for international football viewing.....

Tottenham (Slick's team) beat Liverpool (my team) on an own goal, some luck and a last-second goal......

I watched Slick run around his basement celebrating a crucial Tottenham (Slick's team) victory......

I don't really want to talk about it.....


Sad but true

First, I congratulate all of you who read the title of this post and immediately thought of the Black Album....  we're on the same wave length (you can decide if that's a good thing).

I was reading this post on Jason's blog and he was essentially saying that the video below really saddened him (don't go by my summary, read the post yourself).  Though I see his point, I found it to be quite funny insomuch as it seems to be purposely misstating the beliefs a several religions in an attempt at slightly edgy comedy.  Watch it and tell us what you think....

Change back

Tammi commented on the last post regarding the changed format of my comments box.  I had switched from the standard full page to a newly-available embedded type.  I thought it was pretty slick but she pointed out that it no longer gave to option to have follow-up comments emailed to you.  I find this to be a great time-saving feature so I reverted back to the old format.  

So for those of you who never comment and didn't really notice....  there you go - more information than you needed.


Early Voting

I actually went and voted this morning.  I had planned on it yesterday but I was diverted to go play xbox over my lunch break.  It wasn't so much that I value Halo (1 or 2) over my civic duties, but when you have a week to cast an early ballot and only one lunch to blow your friends up with video rocket launchers, well......

Some of my observations about elections and voting today:

Random person in line with me:  I took up my spot in line and realized I was directly behind a guy - whose name I couldn't remember at the time - who I helped guide on an antelope hunt last fall with Pack String Ranch Outfitters.  Now I have recalled that his name was John something-or-other but since that eluded me I just stood behind him quietly.

Most bizarre aspect of polling locations:  A faux ballot the size of sleeping bag (for us to review while in line) when in reality I will be voting on a computer.  Why not a more usable multi-page pamphlet?  If it was just a blown-up version of the real ballot it would be reasonable but I'm tapping a touch-screen so what's the point?

Second most bizarre:  After talking to folks at the entrance and standing in line for 10-15 minutes, the poll worker who checks your ID is still required to ask, "Are you here to vote?"  A half-dozen smart alec remarks came to mind but I decided (being in a battle ground state) I better not jeopardize my vote.

Question I can't answer:  On my ballot every Dem candidate was on top (presumably alphabetically, listed by party) except for president in which McCain-Palin had top billing.  Why?

Best voting booth quote:  Mark, delivered dead-pan upon learning that they were out of 'I Voted' stickers - "If you don't give me a sticker, how will I know not to vote again?"

Get in, vote and then give me your stories.......


Poll Results and Thoughts

The final results are in...  because I'm tired of it and we have plenty of votes.

  • 34 total voters (in my poll) of which 31 plan to actually vote for president  in the upcoming election.
  • From that number, 23 are going McCain and 4 for Obama....  This is about the breakdown I expected.
  • 4 are either undecided or voting 3rd party.

My unabridged thoughts about this are:

If, like in my poll, only 8% abstained from voting (either on principle or from laziness) we would be having a record turn-out this year.  In reality, you would have to add all those who visited the site and didn't bother to vote, whereby my mock election would be even less popular than the actual election.

Not making any correlations, but the percent voting Obama (11%) in my poll is coincidentally almost the exact same portion of the US population that believes Elvis is still alive (hehehe).  No commentary there....

And the fact that 2/3 of my readership are McCainites may indicate that I'm a far right fascist.

Reverse Christianification of Secular Junk

I am going into this post assuming that most of the readers are familiar with we Christians' propensity for taking popular secular stuff and Christianizing it in an attempt to be.... maybe funny, maybe relevant, maybe holier than thou.  Some of the obvious highlights are:
  • Our local Christian station refusing to play a secular song unless it is recorded - completely unchanged - by a Christian artist.
  • T-shirts like Lord's Gym which take a known phrase or brand and give it a clever (?) twist.
  • Church signs like this one: 

(please feel free to comment on your favorites which I've neglected to mention)

We all know that this is a strange phenomenon but I think we ought to acknowledge that is goes both ways.

You have the WWJD; "what would Jesus DRIVE" campaign and the WTFWJD (if you don't recognize that one right off, don't Google it - just trust me that it's a very secular version of that acronym).

Or how about the Darwinized ichthus (AKA Christian fish), followed by the chomping Christian fish, followed by another posed Darwin fish....?  Sure it's a slightly more clever knock-off than most Christian ones but a knock-off nonetheless.

Or the "Jesus was a community organizer" tag-line.  I've seen it used by Christian and secular Obamatons alike but it seems to have a whiff of knock-offism to it.

Then you have those that are hybrids like the "Jesus is my homeboy" shirts.  I still can't figure out whether that one was designed as an uber-cheesy Christian thing in the vein of the photo above or a secular shirt trying to co-opt the image of Christ.  If you think about it, it works either way.

So what do you say?  What's your favorite/least favorite knock-off from either direction?


The Story of Ken

I just read this short autobiographical story on my buddy Ernesto's blog this morning and I was truly humbled and inspired.  In it he explains how when he was 13 he got to know a small kid named Ken and what an impact that boy's Christ-likeness had on him.

When I was thirteen years old, I was not a Christian.  I had heard about Him from a little Baptist Church in the upper peninsula of Michigan.  But I didn’t get it.  True, i raised my hand five weeks in a row, and went into some back room where I prayed a prayer I don’t remember and didn’t understand.  Maybe God heard that scared little boy cry for help....

    ...well, fast forward, and that prayer didn’t hold.  I went to that little church five times, and then was asked to never come back because I got in some kind of fight.  I think I fought the pastor’s kid.  I guess some things never change.  As I grew, going to school, surviving divorces and new schools and more bullies, I stayed afraid.  That fear turned into anger, and I became a bully.  I was mean and dumb, and “swore alot.”  Eighth grade for me was like it is for most boys.  Akward, scary, painful, full of changes and growth.  And I was a punk.  I was a wounded punk who so wanted to be liked by anyone.  

    Well, one of the kids I picked on was named Ken Morgan.  In eighth grade, he was smaller than small.  He was an easy target for this fake predator.  I picked on this kid something fierce.  And he never took an easy shot back at me.  When I was taken to task, he wasn’t there to gloat over my great fall.  I thought he was just afraid of me, but soon I noticed it was something more.  He was genuinely kind to me.  He repaid my evil with good.  I didn’t get it.  So I began to walk home with him from school.  I followed him to church.  I studied his family.  I wanted to know where his kindness and contentment came from.  And every road led to Jesus.  He wore the silly shirts and carried his Bible.  And over time, I started wondering if it was true.  If Jesus would love Ken and give him the strength to love, maybe I could learn too.  Maybe I could be loved enough to get pass all my wounds and selfishness and pride and lust and hate and hurt and anger and fear and loneliness.  So, i ended up following Ken into the kingdom.  During my freshman year, I finally was lost enough to be found.  I cried out to God a simple prayer.  I said, “God, if you are there, and if you will love me, I will follow you forever.”  I prayed out of desperation.  And God showed up....

Well, here it is, more than fifteen years later, and I showed up on Ken’s doorstep to say hello.  Ken married his high school sweetheart, Erin, he works a great job doing super smart stuff, and has a brand new baby named Finnegan.  He lives up in Seattle, and Angie and I decided to drop in on my old friend.  And it was good....so good.

Ken is part of an awesome small group up there in Seattle.  He and his wife are good parents, showering their little boy with all the love a baby can withstand.  God has blessed their life, and they are making a home for themselves.  Together, we laughed, prayed, studied, cleaned, remembered, counseled, shared, and dreamed.  it was good.  

    Ken brought us to his small group, and these brothers and sisters we had never met before welcomed us in with open arms.  They loved us, and listened to our silly vision, and asked real questions out of a heart of compassion.  Some of those people even jumped on and became a part of our support network.  

God gave me a memorial stone, and gave us more partners on this crazy vision he put in our hearts.  It was awesome.  

For those of you who are praying for us....thank you.  God is keeping us safe, giving us favor, and helping us rest.  We love you all, and look forward to the day when we will meet again.

-ernesto alaniz

The Lord worked through Ken and changed a life.  Now Ernesto and his wife Angie are on their way to India as missionaries.

What I used to think