Good Writing

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Good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. . . it succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else’s head- even if in the end you conclude that someone else’s head is not a place you’d really like to be.

– Malcolm Gladwell, taken from the preface of What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures

I’ve been enjoying this author lately. He has the wonderful ability to write about such varied things as ketchup, hair dye, and the Pill and somehow make these topics so interesting. In this book he examines the thought processes, the research, and the story behind many of these everyday items in our lives. He invites us into the heads of the people who created these things, and makes some very interesting observations along the way. And like he said, he does it in a  pretty engaging way.

“I have perceived balmy with aura on you!” -Indonesian t-shirts

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Gotta love Indonesian t-shirts. In their vain attempts to be ‘cool’ they oftentimes try to put English writing or text on the front. Just the simple fact that it has English writing means that the wearer is ‘hip’, ‘worldly’, and maybe even rich. It makes them look American. But you just gotta love their attempts at the English language. For example, Kim bought a t-shirt that has a cat on the front which says:

Don’t hide your face for me!

To every one upon be says on you! I have perceived balmy with aura on you.

Yes, a t-shirt actually says that. And any guess what that actually means? No, we don’t know either. But that’s the funny thing. It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter that it makes no sense. Kim and I stood in the checkout line laughing and snickering to ourselves at what a funny, stupid little t-shirt it was. It was so funny we just had to buy it. The checkout girl was giving us some curious looks so we tried to explain to her that the t-shirt made absolutely no sense. I didn’t seem to register with her. Guess it’ll have to be an inside joke.

Another one of Kim’s t-shirts that she purchased here again has a kitten on the front (what’s with Indo shirts and cats?) and it says:

It’s little but funny feel happy.

Okay, that one at least makes a little sense. A little weird, yes, but at least it’s mostly grammatically correct. And the fact that it has a kitten on the front leads you to believe it’s referring to the kitten.

I forgot to mention that these shirts cost about $2 a piece. Any more and I don’t think we’d buy them. Indonesians buy them because it makes them look cool and hip. We buy them because they’re ridiculous. I guess the jokes on them.

Two Worlds

Not even a week to go before we head out. Today is Thursday, we’re leaving on Tuesday. I made the remark to Kim yesterday that it’s SO weird that in a week from now we’ll be navigating the streets of downtown Jakarta in a taxi. My how our world will transform. It’s so hard to see myself existing in two locations that are so totally different from each other. One being the snowy landscape of Wisconsin. The trees, the silence, the hot cappuccino and quiet intimacy of having family nearby. The other- the sweltering heat of Indonesia, the crowds, the traffic, the foreign language and culture of it all. Having spent enough time in both places I can more than imagine what they feel like. I have this reaction to rub my eyes as if I’m not seeing right. But no, this is actually happening. These two worlds do exist at the same time. Imagine that!

Contagious Love

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Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way. – Don Miller, Blue Like Jazz

I was reminded of this quote this morning as I watched a rerun of the Crocodile Hunter. I was reminded why the show, and Steve Irwin in particular, was so popular to watch. He made the show so compelling to watch because of his love for the animals. No doubt he had a boisterous Australian accent and demeanor which helped win him over, but I think what made his program so popular was just his honest to goodness love and respect for the animals he worked with. He showed how fun it can be to get close to them, to rescue them, and the satisfaction of bringing one back to it’s native habitat. He conveyed admiration and respect for what he worked with. It wasn’t just that he jumped into alligator pits or played ‘Russian roulette’ with poisonous snakes. He had a genuine love for animals and nature which was contagious.

I wonder if our relationship with God and Jesus is like this. Do we love Jesus in such a way that it’s contagious? Do we really love God in a way that others notice- not just notice but are drawn in to do the same? People sometimes need a reason to love something. They need a reason why. When others see us loving and savoring Jesus it prompts them to do the same.

People all too often just go through the motions and end up looking very normal. What makes a follower of Jesus so different is our love for God and our love for other people. In John 13:34-35 Jesus says “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” What a beautiful command Jesus has for us. And it comes with a promise. If we love other people like Jesus asks us to the world will take notice- they will know that we are followers of Him.

Love is our most distinguishing feature. Let’s not be afraid to love God like this. Love out loud!

White Out My window

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We made it up to Wisconsin just in time for the first snowfall. We came up Thursday and I think it snowed on Saturday, about three inches. It’s been so wonderful to be here again.

I remember thinking last Aug, our first time back in about two years, that Wisconsin really did look nice in the summer. It was all so quaint and homey with all the farms, corn fields, empty ball diamonds, etc. Everything was so green. Driving by in the car was like the feeling you get looking at the Grand Canyon- it makes you smile inwardly, happy to be alive that moment. It’s funny how cows and barns can do that too.

I’m enchanted all over again by the white and snowy landscape that I see all around me now in December. You have to understand that I DREAM of snow when I’m in Sumatra. Yeah, really! To say it’s hot over there doesn’t nearly describe it. It’s the kind of hot that seeps into your bones and makes your skin pasty all day long. You sweat from the inside out. It’s a draining , exhausting kind of heat. But to see this landscape, stand in a field and feel a chill run up my back makes me glad in new ways. I’m again at the Grand Canyon, eyes wide open, enjoying the beautiful sights and sounds around me. Here in Wisconsin it’s not so much what you hear, but what you don’t hear. The snow flecked trees, the carpet of white stretching out in front of me, steam coming from my breath. . . it’s completely SILENT.

Yes, I’m enjoying the winter and will continue to do so. I know most people in Wisconsin feel differently about it. But for this one Sumatra guy, I can’t stop smiling.

Getting Christmas Right, with a Concert!

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I finally have been able to get Christmas right. Last night Kim and I went and saw The Story Tour concert here in Louisville. The Story is a collection of Christian artists who each take a role and sing one character from the Bible. Put together it tells the story of the Bible in song form. We’ve been listening to this music for a couple months now ever since we got the CD. But pretty much anything you see or hear live is ALWAYS better, and that was definitely the case here!

So why do I say I’ve finally gotten Christmas right? It’s only just a few days after Thanksgiving and I was already starting to get caught up in everything that Christmas is not- or at least what it shouldn’t be. I’m talking about all the shopping, the deals, hot buys, etc. Tv inundates you with the shopping hysteria that retailers create during this season. And if you’re not careful, in fact if you do nothing else at all, you will be caught up in it. I think in America at least you have to work extra hard to make Christmas something besides what I just described. The default is to shop, and we end up doing things not because we want to, but because we have to.

But last night, sitting in an arena with thousands of other people singing Christmas songs, delighting in the telling of a good story, and allowing other people, namely the people on stage, to remind us how awesome God is really showed me why I should be thankful this Christmas. For just a moment I was reminded why it’s so awesome to be a Christian, why it feels so good to praise God from my heart, and how fun it can be when we all get together and rejoice in what He has done. That is what Christmas is really all about. It’s all of us together celebrating God and the wonderful gift Jesus is and will always be for us. He lived a beautiful life. He showed us what love is and what it looks like to love others. If we’re to get any clues about what this season should be about we should look at Jesus and what He did. You won’t find meaning this season on Tv or in the flyers. It’s not about shopping. If you have to ask “What would you like for Christmas?” you’ve already missed it- you’re already thinking you have to buy something. The question instead should be “How can I show or be CHRISTmas to someone else this year? That’s a harder question that I think gets us back to the heart of it.

I’m not perfect at this. I buy things for Christmas too. But living overseas has given me a different perspective about this. I can tell you it’s not like this in other parts of the world. Christmas is a lot simpler over there. I’ve seen what Christmas can be without all the shopping hysteria and the deluge of presents. It is surprisingly refreshing- like a breath of fresh air. Let’s all work a little harder this Christmas to get it right. Let’s spend less and give more.

Here’s a sample from The Story Tour, one of the songs from last night’s concert. It’s Mac Powell from Third Day singing the song for Jesus:

I’m a conservative, white, religious service attending, college grad, male who voted Democrat this time

I took a look at some exit polls after last nights election and I discovered some very interesting things- about myself. I really broke outside the box for this election! This wasn’t intentional. I usually vote Republican, but that doesn’t mean I always vote that way. So voting for Obama this election really broke me out of the demographics. Take a look at these CNN polls:

This first poll shows that 52% of men voted for Romney.

Even more specific, 62% of white men voted for Romney. Looking at education, check this out.

This one was a little closer, but 51% of college grads voted for Romney.

Now this was a no-surpriser: 82% of people who consider themselves ‘conservative’ voted for Romney. I really stepped out of the mold for that one.

And looking at religious beliefs, this one says that 59% of people who go to a ‘religious service’ weekly, aka church, voted for Romney. That’s me, but I didn’t vote for Romney.

And the last one. . .

57% of Protestants voted for Romney.

The only categories that I fit for this election were age (55% of people ages 30-39 voted for Obama), and income (60% of people with an income less than 50k voted for Obama). So I’m a conservative, white, religious service attending, college grad, male who voted for Obama.

So why did I vote for Obama? Well, there were a few things- Obama is better for foreign relations (particularly relevant for me who lives overseas), his efforts to overhaul the healthcare system (which I see as a good thing), his progress in the war on terror (drone strikes, Bin Ladin, etc), and trying to end wars overseas. Those are all good things. I certainly don’t agree with his liberal views on so-called gay marriage and abortion. But for me it’s not about the issues as much as the character of the candidate. I just didn’t see Romney as a guy who can get things done. He said all the right things, but he didn’t seem believable to me. His eyes told me a different story. So no matter how much his talking points aligned with what I agree with, at the end of the day he didn’t seem genuine. He seemed like a politician who wanted to get elected.

I realize I’ve been out of the country for the better part of the last four years, and I don’t know what has gone on here in the States. I admit that I’m ignorant of many of the issues. I haven’t watched the news, Tv, or heard all the conversation. I haven’t read the magazines or kept up with all the opinions. But I consider myself blessed that I’ve remained unbiased in this whole thing.

However you voted this election please join me in praying for our nation and president. Ultimately I believe GOD is in charge and His will will be done regardless of who we elect. I hope we can all find comfort in that.

http://www.cnn.com/election/2012/results/race/president#exit-polls

Baby Eli is Here!

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It’s been a really exciting last three weeks as we’ve welcomed our new baby into our lives. He’s been a super sweet baby so far. Kim and I keep bracing ourselves for when the hard stuff comes.

Everybody always says that when you have a child your life will change. To that I would say that my life has ALREADY changed. Being able to watch my baby come into the world and the role that I was able to play was a changing experience for me. I wrote about this in my journal recently and I think that so far the brief time we had in the hospital was more life changing than the time we’ve had since then. It’s hard to explain but witnessing my child come into the world was just awesome. I’m sure as time goes along truly our life will take on new parameters, schedules, etc. Our thoughts and truly our life will change at that point. But so far just taking care of a newborn hasn’t been that bad. I can’t speak for Kim, but that’s my perspective.

I took some more photos of baby Eli recently. One in particular was kind of fun to shoot. I used a candle and a long shutter speed to create a fire or halo effect around his head. Take a look!

The Road Ahead

Finally, things have settled down for us a bit and we’re very much enjoying peace and quiet in our little apartment in New Albany. We know this time is in short supply- VERY short supply indeed. Kim is now full term, 37 weeks, which means our due date is looming even closer. We’re eating up every moment we get. It’s fortunate to have a public library so close to us. We’re tearing through books at an accelerated pace, alternating between baby books and novels.

Our thoughts are ever in other places though I’m afraid. Big decisions are always on the horizon. And being back in America, it seems the horizon is much more expansive than usual.

I’ve always been a thinker, an internal processor who likes to get his head around things if possible. That’s generally a good thing but if left unchecked sometimes I can think things to death! That’s sort of how future decisions are starting to feel. Often though it’s not possible to completely understand things. Even at my best I can’t see the future! At some point you just have to make a decision, not knowing all the details. That’s hard to do, but necessary. And really that’s what makes life interesting, ie. NOT knowing. It’s more of an adventure that way, right? If you put your trust in God it will be an adventure. I’ve seen this again and again in my life. I guess what I’m saying is that at some point you have to step out in faith, into the unknown. It might be unknown to me, but that doesn’t mean I’m alone. Nobody has 20/20 vision.

But at the same time God did give me a brain and a mind to think things through. That’s a gift to be used, not neglected. It’s important to remember too that people make mistakes and that’s OKAY. You can’t get everything right each time, try as we might. But God never makes mistakes, and if I continue to trust Him I know we’ll be headed in the right direction. It helps to think of it like a car. I want God to be in the driver’s seat of my life. God can steer my life, but only if the car is moving. You can’t steer a car that’s not moving. So sometimes I just need to press the gas pedal, get the car moving, and trust that He’ll take us where we need to go.

Letter Writer. Handwritten and Heartfelt

I’m going to be that guy, who when he’s old and gray will still be sending out handwritten letters and postcards to close friends and family. Yep, I’ve decided. Not an email, not via the internet, but via the US POSTAL system, baby! That’s going to be my little thing. I’m going to be a letter writer, handwritten and heartfelt! Write it, stamp it and drop it in the mailbox (assuming there will still be such things). You can’t beat a handwritten letter in my opinion. That’s gonna be my thing. We all have our little things, right?