Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Puzzle of the Persecuted

My first trip to India was in April of 2002. It was at this time that persecution of the Christian Church was beginning to ramp up.

A pastor and his son had been burned to death in their by radicals in a major city , simply because they were Christians. Other Pastor's reported being dragged from their homes and Churches and being beaten and falsely accused of crimes. One of the leaders we visited had his home broken into and the intruders fired random shots down the hallway and around the house.

I was asked by Open Doors to join a team to travel to a few different areas and teach Pastors and other Christian Leaders about how to deal with persecution.

I thought that this was more than a little pretentious and quite the puzzle.

How was I going to teach anyone about that? 

 While I had dealt with the challenges of everyday life and had helped others walk through their problems, I was simply used to dealing with problems that paled in severity, next to the idea of being burnt to death because of my beliefs.
 
What could I possibly say that would help them on their way? Can you imagine being asked to teach someone else that has faced a life and death situation about how they can successfully navigate that problem, when you've never even faced it yourself? That's pretty much where I was.

But, I found the solution to that puzzle!

 I found that the simple acts of going there, talking to them, reminding them of the hope they have, listening to their experiences and praying with them made a huge impact on their lives.
 
I have recently begun a non-profit organization (in all my spare time) that helps connect people like you and I with International Christian Leaders for the purpose of encouraging them and praying for them, and letting them know that we stand with them. We call this organization "Alentar" (A Spanish word that means, simply "To Encourage").

We dont send them stuff, we dont send them money, we send them ourselves...our time, our prayers and, when possible, our visits. 

I was surprised at how much of a difference that can make, but now I know that it does. Not only in the lives of our International Family, but ours as well.

You can follow along with me by "liking" our Facebook page (facebook.com/AlentarInternational) or by getting on our email list by dropping us a note at alentarinternational@gmail.com.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Cyber Warfare and a sharpened Kabar

Our youngest recently attended a week long Cyber Defense camp with the Civil Air Patrol.

We showed up at the end of the week to see his graduation ceremony and pick him up. The special guest speaker told us that he had literally waged war and killed with his computer and had been given mission orders from computers.

I had visions in my mind of him smashing someone with his old Apple IIe, literally killing someone with his computer, and Skynet becoming sentient and ordering him to wage war. Maybe this isn't quite what he meant.

Then they showed a video. In the video, a team of High Intensity Interval Training fit superbad looking special operators clandestinely sneak in on a compound with a few enemy combatants meeting in a pickup to plan the next 911 or something.

Instead of taking them all out with their Carl Gustav's and  Mark 3's, they get on some sophisticated communication thing that links them with some base in Alaska, a Cruiser in the Mediterranean, a satellite in outer space and a couple of jets flying around. It showed the grand vision of the integrated, high tech and lethal potential of Cyber Defense! It was impressive. Each link of this chain was a sight to see.

Then I thought that integrated systems are awesome! But, if one link in that chain is compromised, will the individual elements of these systems still be able to function independently? Or will a bad cell connection put an end to the entire operation?

At what point does a guy just have to sharpen up his Kabar and go to work?




Sunday, August 13, 2017

Stay the Night



Many years ago, Diane and I took Tom, the oldest, on a trip to Nebraska. On the way back, it was dark and late as we drove through New Mexico. On top of that, a sudden storm began to lash out at us on the darkened highway.

The nearest town was Las Vegas New Mexico, and the closest lodging we could find was the Inn of Las Vegas. Perhaps the loud party in the adjacent auditorium (that was really just a big covering built over a filled in swimming pool) should have been a clue, but it was late and we were tired.

The first room key we were given let us open up a room with someone else's luggage and stuff filling the room, which didn't make us feel too safe when we finally got a room of our own. Neither did the "fire escape", which was more of an old access panel from some older era, and opened to the hallway.

The saddest moment was when Tom dropped his toothbrush on the floor. He was so sad when he a mom made him throw it away, since his grandma gave it to him. But the floor didn't seem exactly pristine.

As we drove by on our recent trip, we were almost glad to see that all that was left of the inn was the sign.


Friday, June 30, 2017

In the anyone can take a reservation category....Shell Vacations Club and Wyndham Resorts

I generally don't use this as a forum for complaint. I think I did complain about a local used bookstore once for having dog crap on the floor. That was gross. This feels even more frustrating.


My in laws have a time share resort and offered to let us have a nice getaway for the weekend at The Legacy Golf Resort.  As owners, they are supposed to have the ability to do this. They booked us a nice room with the kitchen and dining area, so we planned a nice dinner with the cousins family.

However, upon arrival, they told us they had overbooked and they didn't want to keep someone else from getting the room they had been promised. As the resort is a Wyndham Resort, but the timeshare reservations are through Shell Vacations Club (which is owned by.....Wyndham Resorts), they told us they wouldn't be able to help us. They didnt want to have any complaints from anyone, I guess.

When we called Shell, they told us, that even though our names were on the reservation as guests, they would not speak to us. Only the owner. It seemed to me an odd way for the hospitality industry to treat guests, but that is their policy.

When Shelll Vacations was called by the owner, they said they couldn't do anything bout it. That would have to be dealt with by Wyndham Resorts and The Legacy Golf Resort.

We were, however, offered the opportunity to sit through a presentation on how we could become owners ourselves (And get a free stay somewhere, that may or may not be honored. Who knows.)


Somehow, our becoming "owners" doesn't really seem likely.


Even though they seem to have some serious systemic problems with keeping reservations and providing service, it is a nice place.
As we try to reframe, replay and enjoy our weekend anyways, watch this fun little video. Shell, Wyndham and The Legacy reminded us of this:

https://youtu.be/A7uvttu8ct0



Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Swear Word from Snowy River.

Have you ever seen the family classic, "The Man From Snowy River"? It is a little silly at times, but it holds up pretty well. We are watching it tonight!

The first time I saw it was when I was in "Bible College", of all places.

Against the better judgement of some of our administration, they decided to hold a family movie night every Friday night. One of these nights, a few weeks in, they showed "The Man From Snowy River".

Since the projection staff new this movie had one bit of foul language in it, they were sensibly poised to mute the sound when that word came on. They even knew when it was coming, and diligently stood ready.

When the offending verbiage was scheduled to make it's unwelcome debut at our sanctified school, they muted the audio. They made sure they didn't turn it back on, until right before the word came blurting out of one of the Australian cowboy's mouths. Instead of muting the word, it had the effect of highlighting it, and making sure that everyone noticed it's entire impact.

Sadly, that was the last of family movie night.


Friday, May 19, 2017

All I need is a tall ship...






As I have shared before, their are some that think I have a propensity for winning random drawings. I have won, among other things, a trip to India, an American Girls Dollhouse that the girls really wanted and some random books, videos, lessons, food items and so forth.

I'm not sure if I really do win these any more than anyone else, but I do know that their seems to be a few rules.

They include:

1) I can't just win the prize at someone else's behest. the dollhouse didn't count as that, because it was something that I wanted to win for them. Not that I don't want to win prizes for others.  It's complicated. But the rule holds fast.

2) I have to know I am going to win ahead of time. If I don't know for sure, then I'm not going to win.

3) I have to announce said knowledge to someone else.

These are the rules and, if they are not kept, or the conditions aren't met, I won't win. If they are, I will.

The latest I won has yet to come to fruition. Pictured above is the sailing ship U.S.S. Bill of Rights. During a trip to San Diego, they were spinning a wheel for various prizes. they granddaddy of these prizes was a sailing lesson on the beautiful Bill of Rights.

I told Ethan, who was with me, that I was going to win that prize, because I knew I would. I spun the wheel and I won that prize.

The representatives of the vessel have contacted me once, and I'm still awaiting to hear when I can come sail away. ***I had hoped to give this prize to the oldest daughter, Is that a violation of the rules, thus voiding my prize? I think not, but we shall see.***

In the meantime, read this:

Sea Fever
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
 
Or watch this:
 
 
 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Oldies?

When I was young (younger) I liked to listen to the "oldies" from time to time. I got so I knew the words and could sing along with some of the early rock hits of the 50's and 60's. Those old timers used to be pretty cool.

I was recently a little surprised when i heard a middle school kid singing a song I new from my younger days. He was also surprised that I knew he words to one of the "oldies" that he enjoyed.

The same thing happens with my kids from time to time. They will find an old gem and I'll overhear and sing along with it. And, they too, will share some expression of shock that I know the song. I'm not sure if they think the song they found is just that obscure, or if they think I was never quite that cool. Either way, they are a bit surprised.

I suppose it's inevitable, but I think the era of "that's my music" could be in the past. But, I still try to find new tynes to enjoy too.

And here's the first tune that clued me in:

https://youtu.be/cpxsMyoXUZQ

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Just walk away

This morning, Ethan and I went to hear a "missionary" at the local Church talk about some of his experiences here and there. One of his stories included telling about a trip to Togo, where his hosts thought nothing of inviting him to join them for a 30 kilometer walk to a neighboring village full of voodoo practitioners.

He managed to find a bus to take them all, but it struck me that we don't always get that much walking in around here.

With this in mind, the two of us struck out on the two mile walk back to our house.

On the journey, we discovered a City water worker, who was happy to tell us about what was going on with the water lines, how they worked and why he was doing what he was doing. We also saw a Jiffy Lube guy working hard to keep high spirits as he tried to attract some customers. Closer to our house, we came across some very unusually contorted cholla cactus plants, and then we spied a hawk, silently watching us from the neighbors towering Cottonwood tree.

I'm pretty sure we would have missed all of this if we hadn't walked.  I wonder what else we miss as we rush around in our cars and don't really walk anywhere anymore? Even on a Saturday.

The picture above is something else that I once found on a walkabout. I'm pretty sure it's from a buck toothed dinosaur. And here are a couple more things I've seen while out on a walk (I might have just convinced you to stay in your car):





Sunday, April 2, 2017

An Empty Space

There is an empty space in our room this morning.

Penny, our regal, loyal, brave and exuberant friend showed almost zero energy for the past couple of days. She was 12, which is considered old for a dog of her size, and has been slowing down some the last year or two, but she wouldn't even rouse herself to eat after she woke up yesterday.

We took her to the vet, and, due to the nature of her illness, the decision was made to help her slip away. I know this is considered a kindness to help your pet along from this life when they are suffering, but it doesn't feel like it at the time.

All those who knew Penny, with the exception of the mailman I mistakenly opened the door for once, really liked this dog. Especially our family, so we are sad today. She really was the best dog we've ever had. Sorry to share this with those of you that knew her too.

Sometime later I will write a more fitting tribute. But, for now, when we look at the spot where her bed sat, next to ours, there is an empty spot in our room this morning.

And in our hearts.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Higher Education



As college tuition increases continue to increase at leaps and bounds above the reasonable inflationary rates, some are questioning the wisdom in shelling out their life's fortunes and accruing multiple tens of thousands in debt in an attempt to obtain a degree.

Fewer students are graduating from a four year degree within four years (currently said to be only 19%), average student loan debt of graduating students at $37,000 and a glut of college grads helping make a degree no guarantor (and not necessarily even helpful) in obtaining many jobs.

While it is true that the passkey to some careers is an undergraduate or graduate degree in certain fields, others are experimenting with options.

In addition to a variety of tech and vocational schools that are leading to well paying jobs in a variety of fields, there are New programs to help aspiring corporate workers find rewarding business options.

Here's a couple of those programs to consider:

Adam Braun, founder of pencils of promise, has started a year long corporate training program that a trainee pays for only after they get a well paying career, and then only a small percentage of their annual income for a limited 3 year period.

Another program, called Praxis, sets young people up with an apprenticeship with a major corporation that results in a professional portfolio and actual job offers from major corporations, with no student debt.

If you are looking at college simply to ensure the ability to obtain a decent paying job, maybe you would consider what these organizations are saying and offering as an alternative to tying years of paying off huge debts around your neck.

Here's where you can find out a little more: 


And here's an article on raising tuition rates:


Finally, some MissionU publicity:

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Training Trumps Trying

No, this is not about the President.

Just over four years ago, my buddy Tony and I decided to run a half marathon together. We had heard that the half for the Tucson Marathon was a good one to start with, so we signed up and took on the challenge.

The course was supposed to be primarily downhill. I thought this was kind of deceptive, since the last mile or so was almost all uphill. At the very end of a very long run. And this is where everyone was lined up to watch, including a good number of my coworkers that had signed up to work the race. I couldn't slow to a crawl in front of them.

In spite of the difficulties, I was pleased with my time. I know some people can do the whole 26 miles in this time, but I was glad to finish with a 2:05. Tony finished a good five minutes ahead of me.

If I ran it today, I could not finish with a time that was as good as that. Not even if I decided to try really really hard. Not even if I pulled a Pheidippides and ran myself to death.

Why?

It's simple.

I trained for it.

For over four months, I spent hours and hours racking up miles on the road to prepare my body to run over 13 miles. It wasn't fun, but it made a difference.

I think this applies to every area of life. If you want to be better in your personal life, it takes training. If you want to be better at a skill at, it takes training. Better with your spiritual disciplines? Training.

I haven't been able to think of an area where training doesn't help you improve, where trying without training can even make your performance terrible.

Training Trumps Trying.

Every
Single
Time




















Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Refugees and Times of Terror




I am certainly no fan of Islamic terror, and it's posible that I'm more well versed than you on the history of Islam, the violence that has been associated with it and some of the motivations behind much of that violent history.
I am also very aware of the fact that we began having war with Islamic terrorists at the dawn of the 19th century and, arguably, even in the 1700's.
I have personally been sent to war to stand against a growing global threat of Islamic terror and have, so far, seen one of my sons sent to the Middle East to do the same.

In addition to this, I am very conservative in my views towards Israel. I am a supporter of this still new state as the only democracy in the Middle East and believe that it has been a victim of Islamic terror since its inception. Indeed, my understanding of history informs me that hatred of the Jewish people has been a driving force behind Islamic terror since Mohammed's time.

This is all background to help you understand where I  philosophically as I address the refugee issue. The reason I put all this down is because it is true that many of the refugees that have come to our country are muslims. Certainly not all, but many.

I want you to understand that I too share your concerns about Islamic terrorists infiltrating our borders and territories. I too am alarmed by those that talk about incorporating aspects of sharia law into our legal system. And, I want you to understand that I am certainly not encamped with many of those who identify more strongly with the left on most issues, either fiscally, socially or otherwise.

I won't take the time here to share the facts about our vetting process or the number of people that have been killed by refugees in the U.S., nor talk about how ridiculous it would be for someone to try  and come here to cause terror through the refugee process when a student visa would be so much easier.

I simply would like to ask "What will you do with the refugees who are here?"

One option is to ignore, ostracize and simply wish they weren't here. In my opinion, that hinders those that are here from assimilating, and makes the divide deeper. We simply aren't going to send people back.

Many of you have no reason to answer this.

But some of us, I believe, have a mandate to "Welcome the stranger". For those of us that have this belief, I think we have an unprecedented opportunity to show love, grace and peace to the nations as they arrive in our community. We can show those that have been driven from home by war, have had all their belongings stripped away, only to be replaced with a fear of more loss, that they can find peace and joy.

It's for this that I'm a part of the Tucson Refugee Ministry. Maybe, through what this group is doing we can make an impact on someone's life that will impact them (and others) for all eternity. For those of you that believe in the scriptures that tell us to share the "good news" with the nations, will you entertain the idea that you might have an opportunity to be good news to some of your new neighbors?

Check out Tucson Refugee Ministry at the link above.

And here's some recent news articles about TRM:

http://www.kvoa.com/story/34441152/large-turnout-at-local-refugee-meeting

http://www.tucsonnewsnow.com/story/34438945/refugee-information-night-in-tucson

Monday, January 30, 2017

Fifteen...

I can think of no better way to dive back into A regular practice of writing than to start with this. On this day, our youngest son turned fifteen years old.

As the old timers used to say, in a way that was nearly cliche, it seems like it was just yesterday when we were at the hospital for his birth, when he was just 3 years old and standing at the counter on a stool washing dishes because he wanted to be like his older siblings, when he started to read, when he first started making some money and wanted to buy things for us with the money he earned and so many other memories as the time has flown right by us.

Yes, he still has a lot of growing up to do and plenty of challenges and choices ahead, but as he reaches the age of fifteen, it is a bittersweet thing to see his childhood drift away and fade into the solemn but joyful responsibilities of mandhood.

Happy Birthday, Ethan. I hope to celebrate many more of them with you!