One of the most vivid childhood memories that I have is what I’ll call ‘neighborhood games.’ This is actually not one single memory, but a collection of several memories I have about my neighborhood and the games we used to play.

I grew up in a small town, and like a lot of small towns there were plenty of kids nearby. Our house stood on the corner of a city block. We had streets on either side of our house and a larger than average yard to play on. When I was little one thing we liked to do was be creative with our bikes, wagons, and riding toys. We used to tie them all together in train fashion using bungee cords and ropes, and then circle the block in grand parade fashion. It was quite a site to see! We had quite a hodgepodge of ‘cars’ in our train and the trick, especially with the wagons, was to keep them in line. If one car got off center the cars behind would follow suite and before you knew it the whole party would end up in the grass. The challenge was also increased by an over-excited leader of the pack, usually riding a bike up front. Because we were tied together by bungee cords, each cord had to stretch before it could start pulling. But with all the weight, the cord would overstretch, be pulled too fast, and you’d hit the bike or tractor in front of you, causing all sorts of havoc. It’s pretty easy to peddle a bike all by yourself. It’s another matter completely when you have a whole line of vehicles behind you all attached by bungee cords! So we learned to start slow, let the tension between each cord spread itself out, and after several attempts we could finally make it around the block.

All you had to do was stare wide eyed at the approaching column of boxes and hang on for dear life!

Another vivid memory I have, also involving toy vehicles, was ‘demolition derby’. Basically, my brothers and I (or anybody else for that matter) would set up a whole bunch of cardboard boxes on the driveway. These would range from the big ones like washing machine boxes, to littler ones like microwaves and kitchen appliances. We’d stack them one on top of the other until a cardboard box tower was created. Then we’d pull out various ramming vehicles, anything from tricycles to full sized bikes, put on our little crash helmet (aka a football helmet), and take turns plowing into the boxes. The faster you crashed into the boxes, the farther they’d fly and the more destruction you’d create. However once you hit the boxes it was pretty hard to control where you were going and so inevitably you’d fall off as well. The trick was to hit the boxes hard AND stay on your ride. We tested this combination out with all the vehicles we could get our hands on. I think the most fun was with the red Radio Flyer wagon. The way this worked was someone else pushed you from behind (usually as fast as they could go) and all you had to do was stare wide eyed at the approaching column of boxes and hang on for dear life! Of course when you hit the boxes you’d loose your grip on the handle, the wheels would skew, the wagon would spill over, and we’d land on a pile of boxes. The red wagon was definitely the most fun for these reasons.

You could probably imagine the startled look on the driver’s face. . .

One other very vivid memory from my neighborhood was playing ‘cops and robbers’. This was a bigger kid game because it involved bicycles, high speed chases, and a larger playing field. We’d designate a 3×3 block radius, nine city blocks, to play on. Half of the kids were robbers, trying to hide, and other half were the cops, trying to catch them. I liked being the robbers the best. I always had some pretty good hiding places to sneak into. Once somebody was found we’d hop on our bike and a high speed bike chase would ensue. I remember a few times we had several close calls as we routinely darted out in front of cars. You could probably imagine the startled look on the driver’s face- two bikes, one after the other, darting out from behind some bush or alley. On top were two kids straining as hard as they could at the peddles, tongues hanging out the side of their mouths, completely oblivious to yard boundaries or the difference between roads and sidewalks! There was one other element to the game other than chase or be chased. Once a robber was caught he had to go to jail. This was designated as the area in front of someone’s front porch or a driveway. The robbers had to sit in the jail area until another robber tagged them back in. Then both robbers had to make a break for it, usually in hot pursuit by two or more cops, because if you’re a cop there’s nothing worse than seeing your prisoners get away. So the cops took turns guarding the jail. It wasn’t so bad at the jail because it gave you time to swap stories with the ‘inmates’ or discuss where so-and-so could be hiding.

I’m glad I have such fun memories from my childhood to treasure for a lifetime.


Just wanted to say sorry to those who have written comments or messages on my site recently. I’m in the process of installing a new comment system and most of the old comments are not displaying anymore. If you’ve written something, thanks, and keep on commenting. I think you’ll find this new system better and easier to use.

So what’s new about it? Well, I’ve been able to integrate comments between my photo site and blog. This means that comments that are posted on my photography site will show up on the blog, and comments from the blog show up on the photo site. Previously there were two, but now it’s just one system. Pretty slick eh? This is done with a little service called Disqus. Even though I use two different platforms on my website (WordPress for the blog, and Zenphoto for the photography), they both can use the Disqus service, which is awesome!

So what else can you do? Well, you can login with your Facebook, Google, etc. username and password. You don’t have to create a username JUST for my site. You can use one you already have. That’s handy. (Note: you can still post anonymously if you want) Also, it can display some advanced lists like MOST POPULAR, and TOP COMMENTERS.  At a glance I can see which posts/photos are getting the most interaction. You can see these at work in the sidebar.

Hopefully with these new features and by integrating the two together it will be easier for people to comment. That’s sorta the point. So thanks for reading and oh, by the way, how about leaving a comment now. . . =)

Ramadan, or ‘fasting month’, is in full swing here in Indonesia and all over the world for Cousins. I can tell it’s fasting month- there are curtains drawn over all the windows of Starbucks where I’m sitting so people outside aren’t tempted by the food and drinks inside. Restaurants all over Indonesia are covered up like this during Ramadan.

Kim and I always try to participate in fasting month in one way or another. We pray, we fast, we talk with our neighbors about fasting, etc. It’s a unique time to talk about God and connect with Him deeper. We also try to make a point to involve our partners back home too by sending out daily and weekly prayer requests and updates. Kim’s been good at designing prayer guides and calendars over the last few years for those that want to participate on a regular basis.

I’ve noticed in a lot of our correspondence (and I think a lot of Believers do this) it’s sometimes easy to criticize or condemn Cousins during this time. This month demonstrates the extent that Cousins will go to follow the rules, but have they lost the heart behind it? How heartfelt can it be to pray the same prayer five times a day every day? As a Believer it’s hard for me to see the value in such repetition.

We need help loving and worshiping God. We oftentimes don’t know how to love and worship God even though our hearts want to.

I was thinking lately though that I might be a little wrong in my understanding of these practices. I’m starting to think that there might be more to these rituals than meets the eye. We’re quick to dismiss Cousins as having lost the meaning behind their words and prayers due to mindless repetition. But if you think about it, Believers do this too- to a certain extent. Believers also have repetition and patterns in the way we worship and connect with God. Some examples: the “Lord’s Prayer”. This is a memorized prayer typically recited on a weekly basis. It remind us of who God is and the kinds of things we should ask for (your kingdom come, your will be done, give us this day. . . ). Also, think about worship music. Aren’t all the songs we sing a form of repetitive devotion? Obviously we don’t walk into church on Sunday morning and make up brand new songs every week. Are we worshiping any less from the heart because we sing the same song two weeks in a row? No, songs have new energy and meaning every time we sing them even though the words don’t change.

Which is what leads me to say that most religious practices and traditions aren’t necessarily bad things in and of themselves. It helps guide our worship. It gives us structure. And really, we need help loving and worshiping God. It doesn’t come to us naturally. We oftentimes don’t know how to love and worship God even though our hearts want to. That’s why we have many of the traditions we do. They give shape and structure to our worship so that our hearts can connect with God more quickly and easily.

Now apply this principle to fasting month. If structure and patterns aren’t inherently bad and can even help us, why do Cousins need extra prayer during this time? The problem is not that they fast and pray. The problem is not that they devote so much time (a whole month) to pursuing God. The problem is that they think they will get to God by these means.

I was reminded of this conflict (between our works and God’s work) while reading Galatians this morning. Galatians is a great book to read if you want to know the difference between religious duty (works) and the freedoms we have through faith in Christ. Seemed like a pretty relevant book to read during fasting month! Galatians chapter 3 explains that God declared Abraham justified because he had faith in God. He believed God’s promises. God declared righteousness through faith and then Moses and the law came. In other words, faith came before works. Galatians 3:19 says:

“What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.”

And Galatians 3:23-25 says, “Before this faith (in Jesus) came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.”

So the law was established because of transgressions (sin) and “to lead us to Christ!” It points us to Him while giving us a framework for godly living. The crucial point here is “now that faith has come we are no longer under the supervision (or mandate) of the law” vs. 25. We’re no longer under the jurisdiction of the law. According to these passages faith is the only thing that’s required!

Here in Indonesia, and all over the world, Cousins are told that their prayers and good deeds this month will take away their sin and make them right before God. They’re trying to tip the divine scale in their favor and become justified by their works. But in doing this their deeds becomes an end in itself and faith (in Christ) is completely ignored. Prayer, fasting, etc. is no longer just a framework to guide praise and devotion. It becomes what they’re counting on for salvation, and according to the scriptures this is a serious error!

This is why Cousins need our prayers this month. Let’s pray that as they’re praying they would meet the One who could truly set their hearts free.

Indonesia is definitely a different place. Here are some of the highlights that I’ve noticed and jotted down.

You know you live in indonesia when. .  .

  • You come prepared to the bathroom with Kleenex in your pocket. Toilet paper is rare.
  • There aren’t any recycle bins. The closest thing to a recycling bin is a garbage can beside our house. We put non burnable trash out there and poor people periodically rummage through it. I call it our “magic garbage” because I put stuff in and it magically disappears!
  • You’re selective with your relationships. There’s just too many people who want to be your friend and talk to you.
  • You move to the front of every stoplight with your motorbike, often weaving in between cars to get there.
  • There’s no such thing as a ‘line’ at the stoplight. Motorcycles bunch up where the shade is. It’s just too hot to wait in the sun.
  • Saying “hi” to a child causes them to hyperventilate.
  • You can’t ever enjoy the outdoors- it’s way too hot. The sun is something to take shelter from, not enjoy.
  • There are no speed limits. The potholes control the speed of traffic well enough.
  • Clothes aren’t your size and your wardrobe never changes.
  • You can eat almost anything and never gain weight.
  • Everybody knows you, but you don’t have the slightest idea who they are!
  • You choose a restaurant because of the  air conditioning, not because of the food.
  • People either yell “hello mister!” or just stare blankly when they see you on the street. If you try to respond to them in English they also stare.
  • All your condiments and snacks are double zip-lock bagged to keep the ants out.
  • You sweep your house everyday but still can’t keep up with the dirt and dust.
  • Common creatures in your house include ants, spiders, cicaks (a small lizard), mosquitoes, an occasional centipede, and occasional farm animals like goats and chickens that wander in from outside.
  • You have the most beautiful sunsets in the world.
  • You can buy a fresh coconut off the tree- with ice, sugar and a smile- for about 80 cents.