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The 10 thing I miss

August 20th, 2011 1 comment

Over all, I think most people would pretty amazed at how "normal" our life is in Swaziland.  We have a nice home in a safe area.  We can get pretty much anything we need at the grocery store.  We can drink the water.  The cost of living is quite affordable, and we make more than we need.  Of course if we lived in Manzini or Ezulwini or Mbabane, we would have access to even more amenities.  As one person explained it to me, Swaziland is "Africa Lite" and that is a pretty accurate portrayal.  That being said, there are still some things I miss:

  1. The convenience of being able to eat out – There hasn’t really been any foods that I have craved yet, but I do miss the opportunity to not have to fix a meal, or to just pick something up on the way home.
  2. High speed internet (or any regular internet for that matter) – Quite possibly the biggest challenge I knew of when making the move… especially to Cabrini.  If we were in town, we would have decently reliable access.
  3. Being able to easily look up answers – This is related to the prior, but more specifically, I miss access to google / wikipedia / the library / easy phone-a-friend / etc.  I never realized how much I relied on the internet to supplement my knowledge.
  4. Access to news – sure we have the Swazi Times, but unless you are interested in a strange combination of news, gossip and propaganda, you need to look elsewhere. (I have another post I am working on about the Swazi headlines, but I will save that for another time).
  5. Interacting with a variety of people – Here at St. Phillips there aren’t many people, and those who are here are usually all bound up in the same things.  So it becomes difficult to get fresh ideas / perspectives / experiences.
  6. Netflix and Pandora – Yes, I am back on the internet thing… but, most of my "entertainment" came from these websites.
  7. Snobby Selection – I miss good wine, good beer, good spirits, good coffee, good cheese, good cuisine.  We can get some of all that, but not a great selection.
  8. Ice Cream and Candy – you can get it here, but the selection is incredibly slim and it is very expensive.
  9. Being connected / "in the know" – There is a very steep learning curve here.  Multiple times I have been told to complete a task that I have no idea how to do and with no guidance.  I am also having to learn names and relationships by the truckload.  I miss knowing what is going on.
  10. Family and Friends – Without doubt this is what I miss the most.  We left behind some pretty incredible people and nothing can replace that.

And, here is Beth’s quick list of 10 things she says she misses:

  1. Getting things conveniently
  2. Good Coffee
  3. Kitchen Aid Mixer
  4. Reliable Oven
  5. Bath’s
  6. Friends and Family
  7. Internet
  8. Being able to "Go places"
  9. Ice Cream
  10. Having all her kitchen stuff and ingredients
Categories: Swaziland Tags: ,

Kindle 3 Pseudo-Review

December 30th, 2010 No comments

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A few months ago Beth and I got the newest model of the Amazon Kindle.  We decided to go ahead with our purchase right when the model was coming out, so I had to wait a couple weeks for delivery.  That wait gave me plenty of time to read the reviews and write-ups on the internet about this newest e-reader.  Since there really is a plethora of full reviews out there on the interwebs, I decided to forgo a true assessment and list a few reasons why the Kindle is right for me.

  1. Portability – With our upcoming overseas move, we simply couldn’t take our whole book collection with us; with the Kindle, we can.  It is also awesome for long plane flights.
  2. Free 3G – Sure, we paid an extra $50 for 3G, but we have no ongoing fees with that.  Since we don’t have smart phones, it is awesome to have access to free portable internet where ever we are.  Granted the Kindle web browser is a bit slow and clunky, it is perfect for looking something up on Wikipedia on the fly, or for checking email when away from a computer.
  3. Extra-long battery life – The Kindle is advertised as having up to a month of battery life (assuming you leave the wireless off).  For my typical usage I am getting closer to 2 weeks.  It is great to be able to have an electronic device at hand that I don’t have to worry about recharging every other day.  An iPad wouldn’t even make it through half of a trans-Atlantic flight, but my Kindle will last my whole trip to Swaziland this March.
  4. Cheaper books – Of course I did spend roughly $200 on the device to start with, but now that I have it, most books are 30-50% cheaper than the printed version. 
  5. Book Samples – 5 years ago most of the books I read were either on recommendation of friends, or required reading for class.  Now I find a good portion of the books I buy are because I am looking for a book on a specific topic; often I don’t know which books are considered well written and which are not.  With Kindle samples, you can download the first chapter or so and get a feel for yourself.
  6. Free Classic (and other) Books – There are lots of book that I know I should read.  Many of these I have purchased, but never gotten around to reading.  Now I can have access to them, but not feel as bad if I don’t get to them immediately.  Amazon has a great collection of our public domains book and many others as well.
  7. Search books – Sure print books have indices, but that pales in comparison to the ability to search for a specific phrase.  This is very helpful for the Kindle Bible and for trying to find a particular section of a book I have previously read.  Along the same lines, I love having interactive tables of contents.
  8. Highlights and notes – This is a blessing and a curse.  I love to mark up my books when I read them – it helps me comprehend and makes it easier when I go back and skim.  While it is very handy to be able to highlight on the fly without needing to carry a pen, it is just not the same writing a note on the Kindle as it is marking up the margins of a book.  That being said, there are two "Killer Features" related to highlighting and notes.  First, you can view all your highlights in one spot, which makes skimming super easy.  Second, you can view the passages most highlighted by other users.  This is a great way to get a feel for a book and to draw your attention to key sections.
  9. Reading Experience – I know many people are hesitant about reading on an e-reader, thinking they will always prefer a good ole paper copy.  But, I absolutely love reading on my kindle.  I love the light weight and easy to hold design.  The e-ink is easy to read and the adjustable fonts are great.  I actually find myself getting less distracted while reading the kindle.
  10. Games – This is a minor highlight, but hey, I needed another to make it a round number.  The games are nothing special, but they are great for passing the time while on the road or looking to kill a few minutes of time.  Many of the word based games are free and slightly educational.

10 Things to do before Swaziland

August 23rd, 2010 5 comments

With our move to Swaziland probably only 10 months away, Beth and I have been talking through how we should spend our remaining time stateside.  Here is a list of 10 things I want to accomplish before we leave.  If you can help me out with any of them, please give me a shout.

  1. Learn to weld – Let’s start with an easy one.  I wouldn’t consider myself a handy man, but I am willing to try and figure stuff out.  This is one skill I don’t have and would love to pick up just in case the need ever presents itself.
  2. Improve my siSwati – I learned more siSwati in the 10 days we were in the country than I did in the months before trying to teach myself.  That being said, I have yet to cross beyond the typical greetings and pleasantries.  I would love to be able to have a basic conversation before arriving in the country nest summer.
  3. Take a course on AIDS – Swaziland is a beautiful country, but it holds several dubious titles.  It has the highest AIDS rate at nearly 40%!  It also has the highest death rate and fastest declining life expectancy.  Every issue in Swaziland is impacted by the AIDS epidemic (from employment to poverty to orphan care).  I want to take the time to familiarize myself with the disease, its treatment, and its impact on society.
  4. Brush up on my Southern African history – Swaziland has a rich history.  It was largely able to avoid the strife caused by colonialism that negatively affected so much of Southern Africa.  However, much of the current climate in the area is still impacted by this chapter of history.  I want to know more about the Boers and English and tribal conflicts that shaped the area.
  5. Learn to drive a split shift – Another seemingly random skill set I would like to acquire.  I have no desire to drive a large truck, but I want to be able to do it if the need ever arises. 
  6. Become competent in PHP development – Several months ago, a good friend of mine and I began (re)teaching ourselves HTML and CSS.  I know just enough to get myself into trouble.  I would like to build on this skill set by adding PHP development so I can design websites and databases for the organizations I will work with and also as a possible secondary income stream.
  7. Sell / Give away / Downsize our stuff – We have been in this process for several years now, but still have so far to go.  I still have books to get rid of, a house to sell and plenty of household items to deal with. Most of our stuff is not going with us nor will it be saved.
  8. Visit with friends and family – This past weekend I had my 10 year reunion and also visited with college friends at a wedding.  It reminded me how many people I want to see before we leave.  If you are in the area, please take the time to give me a ring and I will treat you to a meal or coffee.
  9. Travel – This is obviously related to the prior.  I foresee many mini-road trips in the near future to visit people, but also I want to explore our own country a bit more before we leave.  I have been fortunate enough travel through most of the country, but Beth has not.  I want to be intentional about visiting places, especially in the American West.
  10.   Have a game plan for the next 10 years – This move to Swaziland has been over two years in the planning.  Beth and I have slowly, but deliberately made decisions about our future and have been willing to change them as needed.  Now that things are beginning to solidify, we need to be thinking about where we want to be in the next decade or longer.  This means working through things like expanding our family, saving for college, setting long term goals, etc.  I don’t expect to have it all figured out, but I want us to be intentional about the direction we are moving. (That is actually the key idea behind the title of my blog.)

Top 10 Candies

August 19th, 2009 3 comments

Many of my last few posts have been pretty heavy, so I figure it was time to return to the lighter side of things.  A few weeks ago Beth and I completed a series of Top 10 lists.  In one of my those posts I revealed one of my favorite foods was candy.  I decided to go more in depth and explore my favorite candies.  Here is my top 10 list.

  1. Sour Watermelon Slices – A little slice of heaven.  My grandparents used to buy these a local version of these before the Sour Patch brand came out.  I can (and have) gone through a 2 pound box of these in24 hours.
  2. Nerds Jelly Beans – A relative new comer to the list as these have only been around a few years.  Nerds Coating over a jelly bean core… how can you go wrong?  My only complaint is that after about 100 or so of these they don’t seem to be as good.
  3. Air Heads - I can think of no other candy that manages to pack as much sugary sweetness into a wrapper.  I try not to buy the 6 packs because they don’t last.  I love letting them get soft in my pocket before opening them up.  Cherry and Watermelon are my favorites.
  4. Shock Tarts – I think they are called “Shockers” now, but whatever the name, they are excellent.  Another candy you can’t eat too much of, but I can easily go through a pack without blinking.  I have often ate so many that my mouth became raw.
  5. Nerds – A true classic.  I think some of my earliest candy memories involve Nerds.  I remember trying to hide a pack in my pocket and getting frustrated because they were too loud.
  6. SweetTart Jelly Beans – My favorite seasonal candy.  We usually buy 5-6 bags, but they only last about a month after Easter.
  7. Sour Patch Kids – These still remind me of the Movie Theatre where my brother and I would get these every time I would go.
  8. Dots – These are a love or hate candy (but not so much as JuJuBees, which I also love).  These have to be the most filling candy of all time.  I will eat a box and feel like I ate a meal.
  9. Giant Chewy Sweet Tarts – If we go only on eating enjoyment, it does not get much better than these.  However, I am always a bit disappointed by the packaging.  I feel ripped off when I only get a few of those large discs of sugary goodness.  In all honesty it probably for the best because I could eat 20 so without thinking.
  10. Sour Jolly Rancher Gummies – These are the newest addition to the list after I discovered them a few weeks ago.  These chewy bites taste just like Jolly Ranchers and are coated with sour sugar.  I went back a few days later and bought the remaining stock.

After going through this list a clear pattern is emerging.  I like sour chewy/gummy things and have a clear affinity for Wonka candy (By the way, Beth’s teaching partner Lara has the same addiction).  I am not big on hard candy (I crunch it immediately) and I don’t really like chocolate — but don’t get me wrong, if its sweet, I will eat it.  If you ever need me to help you out on a project, just know I work cheap.  I would gladly put in 8 hours of hard labor for a bag of the above mentioned candies.

So what about you… what gets your sweet tooth crying for more?

Sunmark_small1

Categories: Family, Food / Drink Tags: , ,

10 Ideas

July 30th, 2009 No comments

First… an apology to all my readers (all 8 of you… 6 if you don’t count Beth and my mom).   On July 14th Beth and I started a series of ten top 10 lists.  We tried to post daily, but unfortunately I have gotten a bit behind.  That has partly been because of craziness in life, but also because I have been a lot of thought in this final list.  So far we have explored the things that we enjoy, the things we want to do, and a few things about us.  If you have followed along closely, you might have learned a bit about what type of person I am.  I believe that underneath these lists are core ideas that define me as a person.

In reflecting on life these last two weeks, I have examined the concepts that drive me as a person.  In my mind, they all are synergistic and guide my day-to-day living as well as the larger direction of my life.  Here are the 10 ideas that define me as person.

  1. Trajectory of Redemptive History – I first picked up this phrase in Dr. Sandy Richter’s Intro to Old Testament my first semester at Asbury Seminary.  Since then, it has been the primary way that I understand the work of God, God’s people, and the narrative of scripture.  The idea is simple: Since the beginning of history, God has been working in and through his people to bring all of creation to redemption and restoration.  I do not believe the world is constantly descending into more and more evil and pain, but rather, it is consistently moving to place where all wrongs are set right and life is as it should be.  Martin Luther King Jr. expressed this concept when he said, ” The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”  In regards to this central idea to my life, I must highly recommend Dr. Richter’s book The Epic of Eden.
  2. Kingdom of God – During the summer of 2006 Beth and I hosted a Bible Study for college students in our home.  We looked through book of Matthew at all of Jesus’ references to the Kingdom of Heaven (Kingdom of God in other gospels).  Simply put, it completely changed the way I viewed the message of Jesus.  In the 6 months that followed, my entire approach to Christianity began to morph.  This was one of the most formative and painful times in my life.  The concept of the KofG is complex and simple at the same time.  It is in essence the world where God gets his way — it is a world redeemed and restored.  I am convinced Christians are a part of the KofG and called to bring it about.  There is a constant tension between the “already” and the “not yet” of this idea.  A good intro to this concept is N.T. Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus.
  3. Nature of Truth – During my time of theological and philosophical transition (which, while coinciding with my entry into Seminary, was probably more of a push back to what I was learning than the result of it) one of the primary things I gave thought to was the nature of truth and how we know what we know.  I have written an extensive piece on my conclusions (this blog is actually titled after this paper).  To summarize, I believe there is truth, but it can only be understood through our flawed human existence.  Our worldview will always skew our perception.  This has led me to be more humble in how I understand knowledge and open to others conclusions.
  4. Interpretive Communities – If truth is dynamic (or at least flexible in our understanding of it) how do we reach conclusions on what is?  Stanley Fish has given me the framework for answering this question.  Truth is shaped by the communities we are a part of.  I have discussed the practicalities of this in this post.
  5. You must be the change you wish to see in the world – This quote is from Ghandi and is pretty self explanatory.  I tend to be fairly cerebral and will process thoughts on societal change in my mind quite frequently.  I constantly ask ‘What does it look like to have the Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”  Sometimes I think I have the answer, other times I am overwhelmed.  But consistently, I must be reminded that knowing change is needed is useless if nothing is being done to bring it about.  I have spent way too much time trying to convince others to change, when in reality, I must first embody the change I wish to see.
  6. Pacifism - I have increasingly found as I explore the implications of Kingdom theology that if I want to truely follow Jesus, it requires radical pacifism.  This is one area where I feel my Mennonite brothers and sisters have a lot to teach mainstream evangelicals.  This is a topic I wish to explore further in the coming weeks.  Look for a full length post (or 3), but until then, I urge you to ponder the implications of this quote from MLK:

    Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.

  7. Knowledge is power – This sounds odd to me when I list it out, but the essence of this idea play out regularly in my life.  This does not mean the more degrees you get the more influence you have, or that the most powerful people are the most learned.  Instead, it refers to ability.  If I have knowledge of how to fix a lawn mower, I can help my neighbor out in a pinch.  If I can speak another language, I can learn more about a person and their situation.  If I understand a person’s situation, I can empathize and appreciate them more.  Unfortunately, the withholding of knowledge can be used to oppress and subjugate.  That is why I find great power in open and non traditional learning.
  8. Stewardship of Creation – Because of the way I view the world and the Kingdom of God, I hold firm to the belief that all people are called to participate in the protection and redemption of the world.  While this included environmental responsibility, it also points to the belief that all people are part of a larger world and the needs of all must be considered.
  9. Umbuntu – This is an African concept that can loosely be translated “I am because we are.”  It focuses on the interconnectedness of all people and the need for mutual respect.  It also captures the way community identity shapes personal identity.  It is the antithesis of individualism.  In the past few decades, many of the leaders I most respect have used this idea to being about peaceful reconcilliation.  Here is a clip of Desmond Tutu discussing the concept of Ubuntu:
    httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftjdDOfTzbk
  10. Prophetic Imagination – In his book The Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann discusses the role of the prophet in brining about a better world.  He claims a prophet must be able to project a world as is it can be so we can see past the world as it is.  In doing this, he identifies two modes: criticizing and energizing.  Basically he says at times a prophet must speak out against injustices, and at other times a prophet must speak about things that can happen.  However, at the end of the day, the prophet must embody this alternate reality.  This tension between criticizing and energizing is put plainly by Ben Harper when he asks, “what good is a critic with no better plan.”  In fact, his whole song “Better Way” exemplifies this concept.
    httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TILzJ-_4urk

Closing note:

As I upload this final post in the my series of ten Top 10 lists, I just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed writing them and have been encouraged by the response I have received.  I am very thankful Beth decided to join me in writing out her lists.  It was a great experiance to work through this process of self-reflection together.  If you have not read her posts and are interested in them, you can view them here on her blog: A Sugar-Mamma’s Thoughts

10 Websites

July 25th, 2009 1 comment

This is the ninth in a series of ten Top 10 posts that Beth and I are completing.  Today we will look at our 10 favorite websites and tomorrow (or the next day) we will conclude with the 10 ideas that define us as people.  In listing these sites, I am trying to be very honest and go with sites I regularly use rather than sites with philosophical importance.  Enjoy.

  1. Google – There is no question this (and offshoots of it) is my favorite online destination.  In fact, I started to write this post earlier, but after 1,000 words I wasn’t past #1 and ended up branching it off as a separate post (which you can find here.)
  2. Facebook - I was later than most of my friends signing up for Facebook, but I have jumped in with both feet.  In fact, I did not have it while in college, but not use it to keep up with friends all over the country and the world.  We have so many friends we do not see on a regular basis, it really is a resource for maintaining connections.
  3. Zamzar – Probably a site most people are not familiar with, but for me, it is a lifesaver.  I often work with files that are in the wrong format.  Rather than always downloading a file conversion software, Zamzar will do it for you online and then send you the results.  Great for audio, video, documents, etc.
  4. Straightbourbon – Most of you know I work in the spirits industry.  While Corsair produces many unaged spirits, we are moving towards being a major whiskey producer.  Most of what I have learned about bourbon (technical, historical, practical) I have picked up from the guys (and few gals) who frequent this site.
  5. Mint.com – This site serves as a financial account aggregator which provides a single place to view all your finances.  It also helps you construct a budget and alerts you of irregular spending.
  6. Wikipedia – I know this is not a scholarly source, but it excellent for getting a general feel of a subject, or for learning about topics you never before would have been introduced to.  I have to be careful when I get on Wikipedia because it is so easy for me to spend a significant time following endless linked stories.
  7. Kiva – In 2006 Muhammad Yunus won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work with micro lending, which provides small short term loads to entrepreneurs in developing countries.  Kiva allows you to get in on the action by choosing who you want to loan your own money to.  The best part is that as your loans are repaid, you can roll them over to other people.  Since we joined a few years ago we have made over 100 loans in 26 countries.  You can view our profile here.
  8. Addicting Games – I have not been on here much since Mikayla was born, but sometimes I just need a break and a few minutes of mindless entertainment sometimes does the trick.  I am pretty dang good at Max Dirt Bike.
  9. Twitter – First, let me admit, I really do not understand twitter, but I like it.  I don’t use it to its fullest capacity, but I love being able to keep up with people in 140 character sound bites.  Perhaps it is the next great thing in networked communication, or perhaps it will be the downfall of our ADHD society.
  10. MSNBC – While I don’t think their coverage is the best, I have consistently found MSNBC gets stories faster than any other source.  If there is a plane wreck, or a shooting, MSNBC seems to have the most information consistently.  I use it to supplement the other news sources I regularly look to (CNN, BBC, BG Daily News, Courier Journal, All Africa).

10 (random) Facts

July 22nd, 2009 1 comment

Here are 10 things you may or may not know about me.  This is list #7 of 10 lists Beth and I are completing.  I have tried to include facts from all stages of my life.

  1. I was born in Joseph, Oregon.  This city has recently become noteworthy because it is the setting of the New York Times bestseller The Shack.  I have also lived in Idaho (4 summers), Wisconsin, and Somerset KY.
  2. I took 2 years of square dance lessons (I even dropped out of boy scouts to do so).  I know Basic and Mainstream moves, as well as a few Plus calls.  What many people do not know is that Square Dancing is competitive.  We would have banners that could be won and defended based on the number of “squares” you could take to another club’s events.  There is even a video of me dancing with my lunch lady — as I am sure you can understand, that is in the vault.
  3. I was a Senior in High School before I got more television stations other than PBS.  I only had cable the 4.5 years I was in college.
  4. Beth and I attend two of WKU’s greatest sports achievements of the last decade.  Their basketball upset of UK at Rupp Arena, and their Div I-AA football national championship.  I even have a piece of the field goal posts from that game.

    Div1-AA

    I am directly above Big Red on the far post facing the camera.

  5. I took the ACT three times in High School and my score dropped each time.
  6. When I was in fourth grade I won a scholarship to go to handbell camp.  (Yes… I really said handbell camp).  The problem was that I had such bad rythm the only thing they could do was put me on the biggest bell (the one that was only rung 1-2 times per song) and then they would point to me when it was my big moment.

    Random Picture - the author is not pictured (but did look just as nerdy 17 years ago)

    Random Picture - the author is not pictured (but did look just as nerdy 17 years ago)

  7. I have never seen the movie Titanic.
  8. My longest relationship before Beth was 3 weeks (Beth and I dated 5.5 years before we got married).  I almost broke up with her the first month because I thought she was too good for me and I figured she was about to dump me.
  9. I once drove 28 straight hours on my way home from Idaho.  I came in early and wanted to surprise Beth, so I shaved with a straight edge while driving through South Dakota.
  10. I have no problem cleaning the toilets, or changing diapers, but I refuse to put away the Tupperware.

10 Books

July 21st, 2009 No comments

Beth and I have taken a short break from our 10 top 10 lists in order to spend some time with family.  Today we are on list #6, which looks at the most influential books for us.  Many of the concepts raised in these books will be revisited with our final blog post, which will examine the 10 ideas that define us as people.  I have listed them in a way that illustrates how each builds on the others.

  1. Is there a text in this class?, Stanley Fish – This book examines the nature of truth as it relates to the authority of texts.  As you will see, many of the books that follow rely on an interpretation of scripture to direct a community to action.  Fish provides a framework for understanding how interpretive communities shape truth.
    text
  2. Nature of Doctrine, George Lindbeck – Whereas Fish looks as the authority of texts, Lindbeck looks at the nature of religion to determine how they practically function.  It is his conclusion that religion is like language and culture in that it explains the world around us, but it also helps us experience it.
    nature
  3. Life in Biblical Israel, Philip King and Lawrence Stager – Once we have discussed the role of community, religions and texts, it is essentially we understand the communities of Scripture if we are going to allow it to shape our lives.  This book is approachable and practical as it outlines the world from which the Old Testament was born.  Concepts such as kinsman redeemer and house of the father unlock amazing depth in the Hebrew Scriptures.
    life
  4. New Testament and the People of God, N.T. Wright – No other theologian / historian has shaped my understanding of Scripture more than N.T. Wright.  He does an excellent job of allowing the historical setting to inform a reader’s understanding of Scripture.  He is a prolific writer, but this book in particular has been instrumental in shaping my understanding of the world of the New Testament.
    nt
  5. Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann – Once the world of scripture is established, we must understand how that affects the modern people of God.  Brueggemann (my favorite OT scholar) outlines the role of the prophet in projecting a world in line with God’s will.  Sometimes it requires critisizing an existing establishment, and at other times it requires energizing a new possibility.  I always try to keep both of these sides in tension in my own life.
    imagination
  6. Challenge of Jesus, N.T. Wright – Whereas Brueggemann outlines the implications of the OT prophet, in this book Wright outlines the implications of the person of Jesus.  By showing Jesus in his historical context he allows the reader to grasp the importance of the Messiah beyond simply “personal salvation.”
    challenge
  7. Resident Aliens, Stanley Hauerwas – After understanding the role community plays in shaping an understanding of truth, and then exploring the implications of the communities of scripture, Hauerwas explores what it means for Christians today to live as a community wherein we are in the world but not a part of it — living in a colony of hope.
    aliens
  8. The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder - I have already confessed that deep down I am a Mennonite.  I have the utmost respect for people who are consistent in their views of the world, and practical in their faith.  This book captures Yoder’s approach to understanding Christianity by outlining a way of life that the modern people of God can follow that is consistent with the person of Jesus.
    politics
  9. Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis – Moving away abstract and into the practical aspect of being a Christian, I most often turn to the tested words of Thomas à Kempis.  This is one of the most read texts of all time.  Since we are talking about books today, I will include this quote from him: “At the Day of Judgment, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done.”
    imitation
  10. Walden, Henry David Thoreau – I end with the timeless work of Henry David Thoreau.  While his existentialist thought may seem out of line in light of the previous 9 pieces, for me it is the culmination of the list because in the pages of this book I have always found the honesty and connectedness to the world that is necessary to live daily.  It was Thoreau who said “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” and it is he who provides the most poignant commentary on my life as I flip through the pages of his works.
    walden

10 Places

July 18th, 2009 1 comment

With the publishing of this post, Beth and I are half way through our 10 lists of 10.  Today we are listing our 10 favorite places.  I intended this to be more specific, but I realized there were specific types of places where I felt most comfortable at and ease and I have mostly listed those.

  1. Around a campfire – For most families, the TV is the thing which people gather around.  That was not the case for me — we gathered around the fire.  In fact, there was only 1 seat facing the TV at my childhood home, and 4 facing the wood stove.  There is something mesmerizing about flickering flames.  They hold the power to sustain life and the power to take it.  It doesn’t matter if it is a small warming fire on a wilderness hike, or the fire ring in our back yard where we watch movies on the side of the house, I feel at peace with the crackling wood and the dimly illuminated faces of close friends.
  2. 127 Yellowstone Ct – My current address.  I like being at home.  I like curling up on my ratty couch with my dog and surfing the internet.  I love laying in bed with my wife on a lazy morning.  I love walking into the backyard to get something out of the garden.  I love our neighbors, especially the kids who always greet us when we get home.  Our home is not elaborate or large.  We have all used furniture and the house is never all the way picked up, but that doesn’t matter.  I like being here.
  3. Coffee Shop with friends – There is something about sitting around a table with a hot cup of coffee and friends you love.  Some of my most meaningful conversations have happened in these settings.  Right now the place I frequent the most is Spencer’s (especially since it is a half block from the distillery where I work).  Great people, great coffee, and a kick-ass chicken salad sandwich.  I also enjoy Greener Grounds (formerly Bread n Bagel).
  4. University Libraries – I know people who never set foot inside the library while in college.  That was not me.  Not only did I frequent the library, but I had places I considered my own and would get pissed is someone was sitting there.  There is something about being surrounded by such a wealth of knowledge.  Books are calming to me.  When I visit another campus, I always go into the library and browse the stacks.  I find comfort in book stores for the same reason.
  5. Missoula, MT – I haven’t been there in a while, but this is my favorite city in America.  It has a great atmosphere and vibe.  It is a university town nestled in the foothills of the Bitterroot mountains.  Great micro-breweries, great gear shops and a great cultural scene.  It is also the city I most closely associate with my time fighting fire.  My first two years we had to drive an hour into Missoula to get our groceries.
  6. Mountain Lakes -This is more of a western phenomina than an eastern one.  I love sitting in a wilderness area staring off across a crystal clear lake with vast mountains around me.  I have experienced this in Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Oregon (Austria as well) and each time I find the setting to epitomize the beauty of creation.  (Give me a campfire and some coffee and things could be perfect).

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    Mountain Lake in the Weminuche Wilderness Area

  7. On the road - Some people hate being in the car, but that is not me.  For 4 years I traveled out to Idaho by myself.  It was about 32 hours each way, and believe it or not I looked forward to that time.  Even when I was commuting to Asbury, I loved the time in the car (even when it meant leaving at 4:30 in the morning).  For me, it is a time to think and process ideas and let my mind wander.  I often drive in silence and enjoy taking in the passing scenery.  I also love listening to some NPR while driving.
  8. In the air – Growing up I had several opportunities to fly in single engine planes.  In college I worked on helicopters.  And while it has been a while since I have been off terra-firma, I love the experience of soaring over the world.  I think it is because of the way it alters your perception.  You see the world in a new way from hundreds of feet above it (I also love looking at satellite imagery on google earth, and Microsoft’s new “Birds Eye” view for the same reason).
  9. Gear shops – I don’t consider myself materialist, but if I am ever going to be drawn in to the “things of this world” it will be in a good gear shop.  I love the small local shops where the employees know all the best routes and trips, but at the same time I enjoy purusing all the high end gear at a place like REI.  If I have a weakness… it is gear.  I have piles of climbing gear, backpacking gear, mountain biking gear….
  10. In the garden – This is a (relatively) recent addition to my list of favorite places.  This is our third year of gardening and our first year to do it at our home (see this post about it).  I love growing our own food and being able to eat it fresh.  I love the way gardening forces you to slow down and spend time outdoors.  I love the mix of hard labor (tilling) and monotonous tasks (weeding).

10 Things (to do before I die)

July 17th, 2009 3 comments

Today Beth and I look to the future with our list of 10 things we want to do before we die.  Some items on this list represent things we already have in the works.  Other items represent things we simply need to make happen.  Finally, a few things on this list are so far out there, I have no idea how to make them happen, but by listing them, hopefully I will move that direction.

  1. Live overseas - Beth and I are very serious about spending a significant amount time in a place where our worldview is forced to expand, and where life is redefined.  Furthermore, we want to make sure Mikayla is a part of this experience.  You can read more about our plans to move to Swaziland in the next few years here, here and here.
  2. Know everything about something and something about everything – This is taken from a quote by Thomas H. Huxley, but does a great job at summing up my educational goals.  I do foresee a time when I pursue a Ph.D., but even if I don’t, I want to be intentional about knowing enough about one subject that I can be a resource to others.  Likewise, I want to know a little about everything so that my perspective of the world is more rounded, and so I can share in the appreciation others have for their passions.  (I love talking with people about what they do for a living — especially if they are really excited about their job).
  3. Adopt a child – Beth and I have been committed to adopting a child since our first conversations about our future plans.  It just makes sense — with so many children without families, why wouldn’t we bring on of them into our home.  Plus, Mikayla is so perfect (healthy, content, good looking), I think we could only go downhill.  I am even ready to get fixed.  Chances are we will adopt while overseas.
  4. Get my pilot’s license – This has been a goal of mine for quite a while.  There is a good chance I will begin training in the next 6 months.  While it is expensive, when you compare it to other educational costs, it is no more than a semester of graduate classes.
  5. Live off the grid – There are two reason behind this.  1.) I want to be a better steward of creation.  2.) I want to live more simply.  There is a good chance this will occur while we are in Swaziland, but if it doesn’t, I want to make sure it happens when we get back.
  6. Speak at least one other language fluently – So far I have ancient Greek and Hebrew under my belt from my days at Asbury.  But being able to ready 2,000 year old texts doesn’t do you much good when you want to communicate with someone today.  Right now Beth and I are beginning to work on our siSwati so we can speak the second national language of Swaziland.  It might not be the most practical language (only 1M in the world speak it), but it will certainly help us with our time overseas.  Once we are back, I may work on my Spanish.
  7. Watch a space shuttle launch – Not as profound as some of the other items on my list, but ever since my 5th grade class did a whole unit on space and learned about the whole launch process, I have been fascinated.  I think it would be awesome to see a launch live — especially a night launch.
  8. Visit all 7 continents – I have 2 down and will get a 3rd shortly.  Antarctica will be tough, but if I get the other 6, I am pretty sure I could make it happen.  I actually have several friends who work there during the southern summer.
  9. Complete an epic backpacking trip – I doubt I will ever complete the AT, the CDT, or the PCT, but I want to do something major.  Maybe it won’t even be stateside.  I want to experience the thrill of completion along with the time to reexamine life that comes with such a trip.

    Grave Peak sunset.  July 4, 2001

    Grave Peak sunset. July 4, 2001

  10. Celebrate my 50th anniversary, walk my daughter down the aisle, die content – How is that for a final goal?  I list these last and together because these require a lifetime of dedication.  I want to be happy with my life when it is through and be able to say I have been a good husband a good father.

Honorable Mention: Camp overnight in an interstate mediumHere is the place I have my eye on… easy access, wide area, cover of trees.  Anyone up for it?