From a first time blogger, thoughts about life from an American missionary now living in the US after years in Russia and doing a lot of back and forth. Family stuff, Christian content, sports innuendo and lots of quotes from good books.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Developing A Heart Of Gratitude

I've been nearly all me focused the last few weeks. My move back to the U.S. My transition in ministry. My need for more financing. My moving to Texas. My growing family. My missing Russia. My, my, my what a narrow view of things we have when we are me focused.

As a result of the in-my-face-challenge of a woman I love dearly (my mom), I'm turning my attention to being grateful for what I already have. A wife of unspeakable Proverbs 31ness, 2 beautiful sons who think I'm next to only mom in the world of superlatives, a healthy child on the way, a new ministry, an exciting move, new transportation (my dad in law GAVE us his Suburban), a chance to have my faith challenged and grow in the coming months. After just a day of this thinking, I already feel much, much better. As Rick Warren said right off the bat in his "see it everywhere" bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life, ''It's Not About You (Rob!).'' How true, how true.

"Thank you Lord that your mercies are new this morning and that they will continue to be new every morning. Grant me the eyes to see them, the willingness to accept them and heart to be grateful for them."

Have a great day!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Miffed by Myths

At the suggestion of my father in law, I'm reading Richard Hughes' "Myths Americans Live By" right now. For a guy who has lived outside the U.S. for the last four years and tends to view America differently than when he left it in 2000, it is a good read. Personally, for anyone, regardless of where they have or have not lived the last four years, I think it would be a good read.

I'm not turning in my Passport by the way. Still thankful and proud to be an American. Just aware that we, as a country, have made some pretty strong assumptions about what our role/calling/destiny/mandate is/are. It seems to me that the consequences that have come about as a result of these assumptions really should not shock us. Examples: "Why do other countries hate us?" "How can they not want to be like us?" "Why do they not see how good we really are?" Just a few. There's more.

"Myths Americans Live By" by Richard Hughes. Check it out...

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Another (better) Top Ten

Ten Best Things To Say If You Get Caught Sleeping At Your Desk:

10. "They told me at the blood bank this might happen."

9. "This is just a 15 minute power-nap like they raved about in that time management course you sent me to."

8. "Whew! Guess I left the top off the White-Out. You probably got here just in time!"

7. "I wasn't sleeping! I was meditating on the mission statement and envisioning a new paradigm."

6. "I was testing my keyboard for drool resistance."

5. "I was doing a highly specific Yoga exercise to relieve work-related stress. Are you discriminatory toward people who practice Yoga?"

4. "Why did you interrupt me? I had almost figured out a solution to our biggest problem."

3. "The coffee machine is broken..."

2. "Someone must've put decaf in the wrong pot..."

And the #1 best thing to say if you get caught sleeping at your desk...

1. " ... in Jesus' name. Amen."

Thursday, August 19, 2004

I Need A Cure

Anyone have a cure for jet lag (other than time)? I'm willing to try anything. I repeat...anything.
It is affecting my blogging, my sleep, my health, my unpacking, my sleep, my prayer life, my socialability and my sleep. I'm open to any suggestions...

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Who Are These Old, Old People

We buried my grandmother yesterday here in Atlanta. Family from the corners of the globe gathered together complete with their kids, receding hairlines, new spouses or fiances, pudgy bellies, other kids, bifocals, bad backs and their children. These family gatherings always get to me because I have always watched the same people get older and older and older. It always kinda depressed me. "Poor old folks," I thought. Difference now is that I am a part of that above crowd. Who are these old people? Me and my cousins and my brother and people I used to stand with as we taunted the advance of time on us. No more. I am every bit of my 35 years (though my balding cousins say I have not aged a bit) and have now become part of that group my kids and their cousins look at and lovingly refer to as "old".


Friday, August 13, 2004

We Lost A Good One

My grandmother died 36 hours ago. Being on the other side of the world, I obviously was not there. My mother was though and was able to read the 23rd Psalm to her as she passed. Thankfully, my family will be able to attend her funeral on Monday in Atlanta and for that we are very grateful.

My grandmother was a very ordinary woman from the perspective of the world. She was born in 1911, outlived two husbands, one child and one grand daughter. She was the best "old person" friend I've ever had. To those in our family she was truly amazing. She taught me what perseverance is by her example. I never heard an unkind word come out of her mouth and her desire to serve and love on others made her a favorite of everyone who knew her.

"G'ma" left this earth to be somewhere far better. No longer blind, crippled or ill, I am just a wee little bit jealous of the view of "all this" she has now. May she enjoy her new home and may we all be reunited when God is good and ready.

I'm thinking a lot about my mom right now. She was my grandmothers arms, legs and eyes the last few years of her life. Adjusting to no longer being any of those that will a challenge.

Bye bye G'ma. See you soon! Soon indeed....

And They Weren't Even Believers!

Saw something yesterday worth mentioning...

While walking into a bank, I saw out of the corner of my eye two women hunched down over a drunk man passed out in the grass (very common to see drunk men passed out in public in Russia in the summer but, oddly, never in the winter). I looked just long enough to make me even more curious.

When I came out of the bank, I all out stared. I approached them and saw that they had washed the man's face and were now giving him a rather nice shave with a modern chordless razor. I asked the obvious question - "Why?" They answered, "what a surprise it will be when he wakes up and finds himself cleanly shaven." Good point, I thought.

As I walked toward my car, I turned and called back, "are you ladies believers?" to which they replied, "No, just nice people."

Draw your own conclusions. I sure am.

Monday, August 09, 2004

He's Really Dead...

Just can't believe Rick James has finally passed. What will our world mean now without Rick James?

(Feel free to hum along) She's a superfreak, a superfreak. She's super freaky..

What if...

My college basketball coach, team and entire program had a mantra we tried to live by (one of many mantras actually): What if everyone on this team had your attitude? Would our team be better or worse?

My first year in the program, that thought riveted me every time I heard it. What if? As time went on and years passed (5 of them...I redshirted my 2nd year but did complete all course work in 4 years so no dumb jock comments), it did not carry the "umph" that it did early on. I have been rethinking those thoughts amid the transitions of my life right now. What if my wife had my attitude amid all of the changes we are in and still must go through? What if my sons had my attitude? I'm not sure I'd enjoy living with 3 others who have my attitude right now. Conversely, I'm looking at their attitudes and thinking, "I could live with a whole herd of folks whose attitude were like theirs."

I'm called to remember right now that there are really only 3 things I can control in life: my effort, my attitude and what I believe. Other than that, I have very little say so over the "what ifs" that are out there. So, with less known about the future than at any time in my life, I'll shoot to get a hold of my attitude first.

As yourself the same question...what would your (family, business, team, staff, marriage, fill in the blank) be like if everyone had your attitude?

Friday, August 06, 2004

The Other Side of the Top Ten

Not all is peachy here in Russia. Many things, after more than twelve years of living and/or working here, still won't be missed when we leave. So, here we go:

10. Endless superstitions that I am supposed to honor like they are gospel truth (don't throw trash out after dark, don't return home the same way you left if you forgot something and have to go back, don't wish somebody an early birthday or anniversary, don't give a gift to an expectant mother, don't shake hands across the threshold of a door and on and on and on...)
9. In store security that follow you around and look at you as if they have a God given right to assume you are a thief until proven otherwise
8. The belief that ice in one's drink leads to colds and pneumonia (never lived in Atlanta, Georgia, huh?)
7. The belief that air conditioning anywhere shortens one's life span and leads to constant illness (and the alternative in AZ or TX is....?)
6. An average age of aircraft that is the same or more as me (35 and up)
5. Public drunkenness and the all out toleration of it by nearly everyone in society
4. The abuse of alcohol at parties, in traditions and celebrations of all (including religious) sorts
3. 70% of the population smoking
2. Having to leave my car running all night lest the engine, battery and fuel all freeze during the cold winter nights
1. 17-18 hours of darkness per day from November to March

Other than those things, seriously, I think I'll miss nearly everything here (except there not being any peanut butter since 1998!).

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

A Top 10

As my family will be leaving Russia as our full time home next week, a Top Ten List came to mind:

Top Ten Things I WILL Miss About Living In Russia:

10. As mentioned earlier, $1.20 speeding tickets (also as mentioned earlier, not that I speed).
9. Doctors that come to my house to see my sick kid, charge nothing and prescriptions that cost less than $5.
8. Usable and affordable public transportation.
7. My kids being able to, how to say, "relieve" themselves anywhere when we're outside and no one even blink an eye.
6. Ice cream. This country has world's best ice cream!
5. Hospitality. No one knows how to put on a hospitable spread like Russians.
4. Appreciating spring the way we do (when you survive a Siberian Winter, you really, REALLY appreciate spring).
3. Looking at people's faces in Europe and the U.S. when you tell them you live in Siberia and follow it up with, "it's not as bad as you think." Priceless.
2. Watching the development of a Western styled society (in as much as it is related to shopping, services and convenience and not as it is related to relativism, promiscuity and the development of a class system).
1. Gas that costs $.60, REPEAT $.60, a gallon!!

Coming Soon? You guessed it! The alter ego - The 10 Things I Will absolutely Not Miss About Living In Russia

Sunday, August 01, 2004

A Gift To God (but where to put it?)

My 5 year old son is an artist in the making. Talent or not (still too early to tell), he sure likes to draw but even more to write. Lately, he has been making signs with slogans on them about his love for God. All of that has been fine and quite interesting to my wife and me. Today though, he started saying that he wants to give these signs to God. Like a gift. Like putting them somewhere for God to read.

I'm all for alternative and new expressions of our love and faith and devotion to God. I love it for myself and am now learning to facilitate it for my son. This is new to me though. How can we do this? He likes hanging them up on the wall but now he folds them up and wants to have a special place to put them. He has a tithe jar that he puts his tithe into whenever he receives money from a birthday or a job around the house. For now, we're putting them in there but the volume of banners and signs are quickly outgrowing the quart jar he has for his tithe money.

Any ideas? We so want to encourage this form of expression in him. Graffiti on the walls is one way but we're moving in two weeks so it will all have to come down and be cleaned up. How to let a 5 year old, intent on letting his light shine through this outlet, do just that???