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, June 29, 2005

What a Muppet...

Click and laugh:

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Burning Up In Siberia

Folks, it's hot in Siberia. Quit laughing. I'm serious. Low 90's the last few days, a bit humid and the sun just beating down on you. The thing that makes it so hot is that, while available, air conditioners are hard to come by. I long thought about putting one in my apartment a few years back. Doesn't make sense now really. It is tempting though. No real point here to make other than this is not your mother's Siberia. As cold as it is January (and it is cold), it is just as hot in June.

More to come...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Who Would You Choose and Why?

I teach a conversational English class here in Novosibirsk at the institute I work for. Today, we participated in a little activity to both test their English and their critical thinking skills. As you read through it, you decide who you would choose. Might be interesting to see if twenty somethings here in Russia have the same opinion as....whoever reads this blog.

Here is the way it went.

Who to Choose?

An asteroid is heading toward earth. It will strike the earth and destroy everyone on the earth in 24 hours. A special space capsule for two people has been designed by world leaders to take two people to a special new planet which can sustain human life. They will need to prepare their own home there, find food, and deal with the natural elements of weather, animals, etc. Their goal is to start the human race all over again. You must choose two people, a man and a woman, to begin the human race all over again. Here are the people:

A young girl who is pregnant, 16 years old and lives in an asylum. She has no knowledge of her parents, brothers or sisters. She is all alone in this world. She is Russian and her name is Masha.

A woman, 42 years old, who plays guitar, piano and cello. She is not Russian. She is Argentinean. She has a non-hereditary disease that is causing her to lose her eyesight. When she was a university student, she was chosen to be a cosmonaut in the Argentinean Space Program. She dropped out of this program after 4 years. Her name is Kim.

A woman, 32 years old, who is a house keeper, is in perfect health and has two young children she loves very much. She has no husband as he died in a car wreck last year. She speaks only a tribal Nigerian dialect. She is from Nigeria and her name is Lucy.

A man, 59 years old, who is a very talented surgeon. He has saved many people in his life. He is married to a woman and they have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. He is Russian and his name is Alex.

A man, 36 years old, who has an illness that has not been diagnosed. It makes him very, very weak physically and it gets worse month after month. Mentally, his health is perfect. He speaks 4 languages. He is American and his name is Gerry.

A man, 19 years old, has no education, is an orphan, is very strong physically and accustomed to living alone in the mountains and finding food for himself. He has no health problems at all. He does not know how to read or write. He is not Russian. He is Kenyan and his name is Oday.

Based on this information, choose two people (a man and a woman) who will start the new human civilization all over again. After you have chosen two people, be ready to report your decision to the larger group.

Hint: Be sure to consider issues of age, health, education, existing family, race, ethnicity, experience, etc.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Customer Service/Employee Commitment at Its Absolute Best

A robbery attempt by a masked man and a gunshot wound to the leg didn't stop a pizza delivery man from making his rounds, pies in hand.

Thomas Stefanelli, 37, said dedication to his job at Hungry Howie's Pizza kept him on the job after a struggle with a robber Saturday night left him bleeding from a bullet wound in his left thigh.

Stefanelli arrived at a home only to realize it was vacant, police said. The masked man approached Stefanelli, pointed a gun and demanded money. Stefanelli said he fought with the man, and two shots were fired. One hit Stefanelli, but he did not immediately notice.

The shooter eventually fled with a second man. "They figured they were going to make an easy mark by robbing a pizza delivery person," said police spokesman Joe Durkin.

Stefanelli finally noticed his wound. His cell phone wasn't working, so he drove to his next delivery address, dropped off the pie and called his boss to ask him to call the police.

Stefanelli went on to make three more deliveries.

"It bled a little bit, not much," he said.

He was treated and released from a hospital.

No arrests have been made, but police have identified several suspects, Durkin said.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Rethinking A Movie or Two

My wife has the ability to clearly boil issues down to their bare bones. That does not mean to say that she sees the world in black and white or that she is afraid to admit that grey does indeed exist. It just means she means she knows how and for what she has committed to live her life and now she looks at nearly everything though those lenses.

...which got me to thinking about movies recently. My wife's rule which largely governs whether she'll watch a movie or not is part of a verse out of Psalm 101:3. It reads, "I will set before my eyes no vile thing." For my bride, that decides it. If it is vile, she won't look at it. During the last 9 years and 11 months of marriage, I've seen her get up and leave the room or the movie theatre once the vile stuff begins. A number of years ago, I heard a preacher say that "too many times, we enjoy, even pay money, to watch people commit sins that Jesus died to forgive." That really got me. I might be stingy with my money when a beggar on the street asks for some or when that missionary comes round (again) asking for help but I'm running, not walking, to the box office to plop down $8 so I can watch people commit sins that God hated so much he gave Jesus to die for. Something is big time outta whack with that. My wife's silent statement and this preacher's eloquent statement both have me thinking again about what I put in front of my eyes.

Somehow, I seem to justify watching nearly any movie (nearly, mind you) under the guise of being culturally relevant or in tune with the times or aware of what the world is asking or talking about. I'm really forced to rethink those stances of mine right now. King David knew the power of putting the right and the wrong things before his eyes. Much of his life was shaped by what became the fruit in his life of the things that passed in front of him.

Knowing me (and I know me pretty well), I've got to be militant about what I put in front of my eyes because I know my enemy is militant about the same.

So, be culturally informed. Please! We need more of that. I hold that as a very high value in my life and ministry. Read, listen, learn, interview, and observe what our culture(s) are thinking and saying about life, God, faith, and eternity. Discern wisely entry points into their lives based on what you've learned. Just don't be so fast to run buy a ticket to every "must see" movie that is the end all say all statement of where our post mod society is.

Wisdom, not Hollywood, rightly discerns the times and wisdom is free for the asking.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

For just a moment or two, allow me to be serious

Last week, I was convicted of something by a 5 year old Russian child. She didn't mean to do it. She was simply speaking from what she has learned from her parents. She was also part of a much larger message God has been pressing upon my heart the last few weeks, months, and years. At times I've listened to it and other times I have not. By and large, I have ignored it. I think it finally took root though last Monday as this sweet little girl said, "no, I'd rather not eat that."

And now, the rest of the story.

I come from a long line of generally healthy and lean built people. Working folk. Farmers from TN and farmers from GA. Healthy genes, by and large, are a part of the benefit of being a Browne. Diets for the sake of losing weight have never been a part of my family's lingo. I don't remember any of my grandparents or parents speaking of losing weight when I was growing up. Fast metabolisms have been another blessing of being a Browne. My brother, all 6-6 of him, weighs 180 lbs dripping wet and he owns a Chick-Fil-A! My dad, about 6-5 or so before Alzheimer's, never weighed more than 180 lbs in his life. My mom, nearly 6-0, too has never known a day of being over weight and weighs now about what she weighed when she married my father in 1967.

Now me. I'm 6-7 and somewhere between 250-280 lbs. I carry this weight ok and don't appear to come across as being overweight though I look far from being as in shape as high school and college basketball made me appear in the 80's and 90's. I'm also 36 years old now and my metabolism is not as friendly towards me as it used to be. In short, I really need to watch what, when, and how much (especially how much) I eat. I mainly need to do this for health's sake. I also need to do it because of weight's sake too.

Being here in Russia the last month has had me looking inward and outward a whole lot on a number of different levels - some physical and some spiritual and some connected to both. One level that captured my attention is how addicted to food I and most Americans are. Missing a meal is simply not part of my routine. It is considered a careless oversight or unavoidable occurrence if it happens and it rarely happens back to back. Snacking is apparently cherished by Americans as much as is freedom. Food is an obvious god to a lot of included.

That little girl who said, "no, I'd rather not eat that" was talking about a hamburger that I had routinely plopped down in front of her and my two sons at a park last Monday. My two sons took to it as they have been taught. Eyes and mouth wide open, they dug in. She has apparently been taught something different about food than I am currently teaching my boys. Better to not eat at all than to eat something that is obviously very bad for you. She looked at it and politely said that she would rather not put that into her body. Good answer sweetheart. Good answer indeed. While visiting at her home the two days following this, Traci and I noticed that our boys snacked happily on cucumbers and carrots with as much pleasure as they did the hamburger at the park. Maybe they are still open to a new lesson or two about food. I sure hope so because they deserve better from me than they have gotten up till now.

It is interesting to me that there are very, very few overweight people in Russia under the age of 50. There are almost no overweight men in Russia regardless of age. Women seem to all turn the same size and shape on or about their 50th birthday. While youth obesity in the U.S. is a top concern, I have seen a total of 1 overweight child since we got here May 9. Traci and I regularly comment upon returning to the U.S. from Russia how we cannot even get out of our arrival airport without noticing how many more overweight people there are in the U.S. than in Russia. Don't get me wrong. Russians love to eat and despite what you think or see on TV, there is plenty to eat here. Russians just seem to see food as being something to use instead of something to be used by.

My point here is not really about weight. Weight can be misleading. Some people exercise regularly and let food play only the role in their life that it should. Even so, they are over weight. I am one of the people who is fortunate enough, not by anything I have done, to have a body that largely (no pun intended) reflects my attitude towards diet and exercise. The way I look right now tells me and those closest to me (mom and wife especially) that I really do not value diet and exercise as being important in my life. If I did, my body would show it. I don't and my body shows it.

My point is more about what controls me. Right now, food controls me. Of all the things I have surrendered to Jesus in my life, my health, specifically as it relates to food, is not one of them. It's like I'm telling him that he can have my sins, he can have my career, he can have my possessions, my preferences, my plans, my dreams and my fears, but he cannot have anything to do with my health. I'll just deal with that one myself.

Well, the problem is, of course, that Jesus wants it all and, thankfully, putting him at the right place in my life means that he will put back into order all things that are out of order. In my case, health is out of order. My view of food is out of order. Despite those relatively healthy genes I spoke of earlier, I don't need to look too far in my family to see that health issues are ever lurking around the corner.

Ultimately, I am the only intended target of these words. If they hit home with you, fine. If you have already brought food and health under the Lordship of Jesus, great. I haven't yet so I am trying to say publicly some things that I have been convicted of privately.

When you see me next, feel free to ask me how I'm doing in this area. I need help and I'm open to it.

Here's to good food...and good health!