Friday, August 31, 2007

Surprised by a Positive Reaction

We have safely arrived in San Diego, CA. Our trip went very well as we flew from Savannah to Philadelphia, and then on to Southern California. We praise the Lord for safety and smooth transitions. I just hope we all adjust to the three hour time change. I certainly don't want Mary and Bobby waking us up at 4:00 this coming morning!

While on the long flight across the country, Bobby and I sat next to a Belgian woman who has lived in San Diego for the last 30 years. We had a very nice conversation about her recent trip to see her sister near Brussels. She inquired about our trip, and I was able to tell her about Bobby, Lymphoma, Make-A-Wish, etc.

Then she asked what we did about school. I realize now that as soon as I heard the question, I tensed-up. Why? Because I don't like the normal reaction people give when they hear that we homeschool our kids. The reaction is usually an awkward one that involves a few moments of quiet, a question about socialization, and then a change of subject. Having that to look forward to, I said, "We homeschool our kids."

I was pleasantly surprised by her reaction. Instead of anything awkward, this Belgian woman (probably about age 65) said very naturally, "Oh, that is the best. I wish I had taught my kids at home." Wow! That was a shocker to me. We continued on with a nice conversation about various topics that lasted for 20 minutes or so. Bobby, as he usually does, was also very involved in the talking.

I learned a good lesson today. Don't assume what the response will be, even if the topic is one as controversial as homeschooling.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

California Dreamin'

As most of you know by now, our family was living in India back in February when we got the bad news. Our son Bobby had cancer. I can remember being in a hospital in Delhi and feeling like my world was spinning. We had to immediately begin planning how to get home, and also ponder what kind of life was ahead of us.

We went straight from culture shock in India to hospital life in the USA. It was quite a change. We endured a relatively short, but intense, series of chemotherapy treatments from early March to mid-May. During that time, Bobby was in the hospital as much as he was out. Either Alice or I was in the hospital with Bobby, and the other was trying to juggle homeschool with the girls.

We thank the Lord for Bobby's clear PET scan in late May. The doctors do not yet consider him to be cured, but Alice and I believe he is.

At one point during that process, we were put in contact with the "Make A Wish" Foundation. We were excited to learn that Bobby would be eligible to make a wish of something he would like to do. After being beaten up by the chemotherapy, getting a wish cheered him up a bit.

If I had a wish, I might ask to go to Hawaii or something like that. However, Bobby is eight-years-old. He has liked Legos for years, so he naturally made a wish for a trip to Legoland. I didn't realize until later that the only Legoland in the USA is in San Diego, CA.

The "Make A Wish" volunteers appeared to be excited by his request because about 1/2 of kids ask to go to Disneyworld. They seemed to like Bobby's unique choice. This all took place a few months ago.

Tomorrow we fly to San Diego. Quite honestly, they have spoiled us rotten. In consecutive days, we will be visiting the Naval Pacific Fleet, Legoland, the San Diego Zoo, and Sea World. It is a dream come true for Bobby. I don't feel badly about what seems to be excessive because Bobby has been through a lot, and because most of the money for this has been donated by businesses.

I think the best part of all this is that all five of us get to go. Therefore, all three kids will get to see a different part of our country that they may have never gotten to see otherwise. I'm hoping we can squeeze both a dip in the Pacific Ocean and a short visit to Mexico into the trip.

I'm also hoping that this trip to San Diego can have some lasting value for the kingdom of God. Please pray that the Lord will give us opportunity to share with others about Him, and also be able to serve others in some fashion. I don't want this trip to be completely about fun, although I'm sure a lot of that will be had.

After each day, I'll try to post about what we have experienced. We arrive in California late tomorrow night. May we honor God somehow through this trip.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

New Blog Might Shake Up the Church

Take a look at this new blog composed by my friend Nick Kennicott. Nick is a pastor for students near Savannah. His ideas about youth ministry fly in the face of most of what we see in our churches today. Because of this, Nick takes a lot of heat in the very church where he serves. Nick "puts his money where his mouth is," and for that reason his new blog is worth reading. Check it out. You can visit Nick's personal blog by clicking here.

Georgia Wins Two Years in a Row!

Georgia is a great place to live if you like peaches, barbecue, Dawgs, and Little League Baseball. This afternoon Warner Robins, GA won the Little League title over Japan in Williamsport, PA. To make it even better, they won on a home run in extra innings. Click here to read about it. Last year a team from Columbus, GA took the crown. Go Peach State!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gettysburg Photos, Part III, Memorials and Monuments

General Robert E. Lee on "Traveler" at Virginia memorial
Before we first visited Gettysburg, I assumed there would be a few monuments. I was not prepared for the large number and wide variety of memorials and monuments that ring the primary battlefield area. There appear to be monuments for soldiers of all of the states that participated in the battle. This leads to a current sense of unity in the midst of a battle that was caused by great division.

The Gettysburg battlefield is located south of the town of Gettysburg. On both the second and third days of the battle, the Confederate army was situated primarily on the western side of the main battlefield, on what is called "Seminary Ridge." The Union soldiers faced the Confederates from the east side of the field. The Union army had dug in on "Cemetery Ridge."

Today you can drive around the battlefield and see all of the monuments along the two ridges. We began our drive on Seminary Ridge; therefore, the memorials and monuments pictured here begin with those of the Confederacy. We did not take photos of all of the monuments - that would have been too big of a job. You will see here monuments to soldiers from North Carolina (we lived there), Virginia (Robert E. Lee's home), Georgia (our home now), New York (I grew up there), and Pennsylvania (the location of the battle).

(This is Part III of a photo series about our visit to Gettysburg earlier this month. You can read Part I here, and Part II here.)

Caroline, Mary, and Bobby at the NC memorial

North Carolina memorial statue

Virginia memorial sign

Virginia memorial

Georgia memorial

Georgia memorial

20th Maine marker on Little Round Top (position of the Union left flank)

Castle monument (to New York) on Little Round Top

New York memorial

Pennsylvania memorial

Caroline and Mary at PA memorial

Top of PA memorial with battlefield in background

Battlefield with VA memorial in far background; site of "Pickett's Charge"

Various monuments at "The Angle," where Pickett's Charge was repelled by Union soldiers

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I Went to a Store and Could Have Bought My Own False God

Last week Alice and I found out that there is a small Indian store in the middle of Savannah. Having lived in India for four months, we have developed a taste for Indian food. We were excited to be able to buy the ingredients needed to prepare tandoori chicken, pakora, chapattis, butter chicken, and more.

The store was difficult to find at first because it is tucked back in a small plaza. When I saw the name of the store, I should have known what to expect. The name is "Shivam." Well, Shiva is one of the main three gods of Hinduism, so I should have known that the store would sell more than just food.

As soon as we entered, we didn't feel like we were in the South anymore. The smells of the spices instantly transported us back to India. As we began to look around, we could see many of the foods we had missed. Then I looked to my left.

About 15 feet from me, I could see several statues of all-too-familiar false gods. Curiosity got the best of me, so I strolled over for a look. I'm not sure what the store owners thought about this, since I don't look at all like an Indian who might purchase a statue to take home to worship. Anyway, they had all the main false gods there such as Shiva (pictured above in the circle), Vishnu, Ganesh (the elephant headed god above), and Hanuman. Although interesting, I didn't purchase any.

What struck me about all this was that we were not in India. We were standing right in the middle of Savannah, Georgia. We were in the midst of the "bible-belt" no less!

This illustrated for me the fact that God is moving people into positions to hear the gospel. Yes, we do need to send missionaries overseas. However, what a wonderful opportunity we all have to reach out to lost folks in our communities. We should certainly share the gospel with people from our own culture, but let's also focus on those from other cultures who are increasingly living amongst us.

This task is certainly a difficult one; however, I can see many positives to the situation. For example, an Indian family in India will face great pressure from the Hindu-saturated culture to remain Hindu. If they are living in the USA, however, and are surrounded by at least a nominal Christian culture, they may be more open to the gospel.

Let's get to know our neighbors - those like us and those unlike us. If you have Latino neighbors, learn something about their culture and then try to befriend them. If your neighbors are Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian, Nigerian, Swedish, or Indian, then God must have put them close by for a reason.

May we all get to know those around us. It seems that God has brought the world to the USA for a reason. Wouldn't that reason be to hear the gospel?

I want to go back to that Indian store in Savannah. Yes, I want more Indian food, but I also hope to make some new friends.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gettysburg Photos, Part II, Little Round Top & Devil's Den

The battle of Gettysburg took place from July 1-3, 1863. On the second day, a small, rocky, somewhat bald hill became a key to victory for both the Union and the Confederate armies. Why? Because this hill, now known as Little Round Top, was an elevated position with a view over almost the entire battlefield. Whichever side controlled Little Round Top would be able to set up artillery and bomb the opposition from an elevated position. On the second day of battle, Confederate soldiers repeatedly tried to take Little Round Top from the dug-in Union soldiers on top of the hill. During fierce fighting, the Union was finally able to push the Southern soldiers back at the end of the day. The victory by the Union on Little Round Top set the stage for Day three, in which the Confederacy launched the now famous Pickett's Charge.

The photos here show two primary areas. The first pictures are views from Little Round Top or pictures of Little Round Top itself (the castle-like monument in the above photo obviously was not there in 1863). Caroline, Mary, and Bobby are in several of these photos. After about six pictures, you will see a change from what looks like a rocky hill to what looks like a mass of large boulders. That area is known as Devil's Den. While Devil's Den was fun for us to climb around, the fighting that took place there on July 2, 1863 was absolutely brutal. I have included several photos of our kids, along with a picture of a sharpshooter's position (aiming at Little Round Top), and a refurbished cannon.

Let us never forget what was sacrificed on those three days in 1863 when over 50,000 men died for what they believed was right.

Successful Ego Reduction

Just in case my ego was too large for some reason, I have come up with a way to remedy that. I've installed a "Sitemeter" counter that will tell me how many (or how few) people are looking at this blog. So far the count is two, and I am one of them. It should be both interesting and humbling to watch the numbers creep upward. In case you want to see the numbers, look to the lower right of the blog.

Evolution - Can it Be?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Gettysburg Photos, Part I

On our trip back to Georgia from New York State, we visited the Gettysburg National Military Park in southern Pennsylvania. This is the second year in a row that we have toured the battlefield because it is such a large place. We are interested in this particular battle because it marks the turning point of the war that almost split our country in two. Having grown up in the North, but having now lived in the South for the past eleven years, I have very mixed emotions about the Civil War in general, and Gettysburg in particular.

This is part one of a three part series of photos that we took while at Gettysburg. Today's focus is the first place we stopped, General Lee's headquarters on the west side of town. The house has been refurbished and transformed into a museum.

The below photos include General's Lee's chair, a table he and other generals would have used, General Reynolds' (Union) saddle, a bible found on the battlefield, a table cover, uniforms, our kids with various weapons, and the house from the outside.

This war is incredibly fascinating and sad at the same time. The more I read about the war, the more I see that the two sides were not even speaking the same language. While the South was primarily concerned about states' rights, the North was focused on preserving the Union at all costs. Could more dialogue between the two sides have prevented this awful war? Which side, if either, was in the right? What role did slavery play? Tell me what you think.