June 2009

In the past few weeks there have been multiple reports of lion sightings in my county.  That’s Hall County, Georgia – we did not move to Zambia.  Although numerous people have reported spotting some sort of large cat to the authorities, there has been no confirmation that an actual lion is on the prowl in northern Georgia.  



The alleged lion has been blamed for getting into trash (ever hear of raccoons?), killing a horse, and contributing to the financial crisis.  Some of the witnesses swear that what they saw was an African lion.  My guess is that at most it may be a mountain lion or more probably a large Chow with a creative haircut.


Here’s the point I want to make:  the local paper has published numerous articles about the lion sightings and lots of people are talking about it, but we’re ignoring some of the real problems and very real terrors that surround us.  In the state of Georgia alone, it is estimated that between 200 and 300 children are trafficked each month!



At a conference few weeks ago, I listened to Francis Chan speak a little bit about this problem.  Before his talk, his little girl played the piano and sang a song.  He then went on to talk about the success of his latest book Crazy Love.  Despite the huge success of this book, he won’t make a dime from it because he has signed over the royalties to an organization that helps fight human trafficking.



Francis said that he has gotten a lot of advice from people telling him that he should keep some of the profits in an emergency fund. His response was that the money was going towards an emergency.  Our society is so self-centered, we only consider an atrocity like the trafficking of girls as young as 10 years old an emergency if it happens to someone we know.  What if his little girl who just played the piano was one of the 200 to 300 children trafficked this month?  He would do whatever was necessary to get her back to safety and you would do the same if this happened to someone close to you.



Sara and I are thinking about getting involved with a group called Street GRACE.  It is “a non-denominational alliance of churches dedicated to supporting, enlarging, and allying with those individuals and organizations working toward eliminating the commercial sexual exploitation of children.”  You can go to their website here.



I think we need to start paying attention to the real dangers facing us instead of speculating about the monsters under our bed.



My previous posting talked about our boat and the need to get a little more adventurous with it.  We did that last week when I went skiing for the first time.  My wife used to ski when she was younger, but hasn’t tried it in about 15 years.  Her first attempt was short-lived, but she got up on the second try and went on for several minutes before deciding that she was done.  You mean you can decide when to stop?


My attempts at skiing were a little bit… different.  I’ve never attempted to ski before.  It looks easy enough:  you hold on to a rope and stand up, right?  I made four attempts and actually got up on the third try, which everyone told me was really good.  I don’t know if this encouragement was sincere or pity.  Here’s how it went:


Attempt 1:  The boat took off.  I fell down.

Attempt 2:  I did what everyone told me not to do – I tried pulling myself up with my arms instead of letting the boat do it for me.  When you do this, your feet shoot forward and you fall.  Since I was trying to muscle my way up, my arms were bent.  When I fell, this put the handle about groin-high with my legs bent in front of me.  My hands let go of the handle but it was trapped between my legs.  Now my back was being dragged across the surface of the water with the handle stuck between my legs.  Neat trick… I meant to do that.  The handle finally pulled through (painfully) and I have two impressive bruises as a souvenir.


Attempt 3:  This time I kept my arms straight.  Two groin-high thigh bruises are excellent teaching tools.  I slowly came up and straightened my legs – I was skiing!  The boat built up speed and I started getting comfortable until I shifted my weight too far forward.  With the boat at speed, I actually fell forward and hit the lake face-first.  Remember the “agony of defeat guy” on the opening of ABC’s Wide World of Sports?  I told everyone in the boat that I was fine and it didn’t hurt.  I lied.


Attempt 4:  The ski rope sank and I had to swim around for while attempting to locate it.  With skis on, this is exhausting.  Add in the other skiing attempts and my legs were now two columns of Jell-O.  After the boat gathered speed, I tried standing on my wobbly legs only to dip down until my rear hit the water.  I learned that when you do this, all of the water is directed straight to your face.  I also learned that I ski with my mouth open.  I wasn’t giving up.  I got halfway up before dipping down again.  My mouth was still open, but I was tenacious.  I got halfway up again… and dipped back down.  You’d think that I would learn to keep my mouth shut.  With my legs exhausted, I was sort of skimming the surface of the water on my rear – water still directed toward my face, mouth still open.  I’m pretty sure water was shooting out of my ears.  After swallowing a few quarts of lake water and some small aquatic animals, I let go – thus concluded my first skiing trip.


Here’s an attempt by attempt analogy of my skiing attempts to life:


Attempt 1:  If you’ve never done it before, you probably won’t do well and you won’t look good trying at first.  However, you’ll never get any good at it if you don’t try.


Attempt 2:  Skiing is like a lot of things in life.  It requires balance, flexibility, and endurance.  What I lack in balance and flexibility, I try to make up for with strength.  A lot of people do this.  It works for a little while, but you end up exhausted, bruised, and bobbing in the water.  Don’t get me wrong; strength is important, but without balance and flexibility it will lead to failure.


Attempt 3:  With persistence, you may see some early success.  This is not the time to get too cavalier because you are still learning.  Continue to learn and acknowledge that you are still learning.


Attempt 4:  There is a thin line between tenacity and stupidity – learn to recognize it.  Also, when things aren’t going the way you thought they should, it is sometimes best to keep your mouth shut.



I am the new owner of my very first boat.  We live close to a large lake and have been thinking about getting a boat for years.  We thought it would be a great way to spend time together as a family and have fun during the long Hotlanta summer.  My wife’s uncle is an avid boater and found out about a good used boat that was available, so we checked it out and decided to take the plunge… bad choice of words.


The boat is 24 foot Sea Ray.  If you know anything about boating, you know that a 24 foot boat is a lot to handle for someone whose boating experience consists primarily of captaining a paddle boat with a chocolate lab as his first mate.  It’s sort of like learning to drive with a ’78 Ford LTD. 


We just got it last week and I have only been out a couple times.  Both times, I had an experienced boater on board to keep an eye on me.  It’s a good thing because if it were not for the advanced technical help (“Watch out for the dock… turn the other way… put it in gear… keep the bottom side wet”), I would have been in trouble.


I love taking the boat out, but I am still pretty terrified.  Did you know those things don’t have brakes?  Not only that, but the “road” is constantly moving below you.  It’s not bad in the open water, but near the docks (when everyone in the marina is watching) I feel like I’m trying to parallel park a Hummer in front of an EPA office.


So far I have managed to dock and undock without hitting anything, but I have yet to go out on my own or on the weekend when the boats moving in and out of the marina look like fire ants running around a mound.  I know I am safe while tied up to the dock and am content to putter around on occasion, but boats were not designed to remain attached to docks were they?


You guessed it, here is the metaphor.  Where is your boat safely tied up?  Sure I can keep away from embarrassment and stay safe if I keep it in the marina, but then I would miss out on the 40,000 acres of lake just outside my protected cove.  Some of you need to get over your fear of looking like a fool and untie the boat.  You may bump the dock or look like a dork for little while, but very little learning or growth comes without risk.

School Bus


Break out the Elmer’s glue and the notebooks; I am officially a student again.  I have enrolled to finish my MBA and will begin classes this August.  I began my MBA ten years ago when we lived in Indiana, but was unable to finish because we moved halfway across the country about once every two years.  Back then, my goal was to get an MBA to better prepare myself for the promotions and raises that were sure to come my way as I charged through the business world.  This time, my aim is quite different.


A few months ago, I was approached by someone that I respect greatly and they asked me about partnering with them in an endeavor called “Business as Mission”.  I honestly didn’t know exactly what a Business as Mission was, but said yes anyway because it sounded really cool.


Here’s the idea behind it.  While many missions are non-profit and rely on charitable donations to provide basic needs for people (food, water, shelter, healthcare, etc.), Business as Mission (BAM) takes a different approach.  The idea behind BAM is to work with people to help them establish a viable business.  The idea is not to give them a handout, but to teach them how to earn a living.  Since it is a business, it is a for-profit entity with the idea that if you give a dollar to a charity, the people who benefit from it may get 75 cents but if you put a dollar into a BAM, it will generate $1.50 of income.


This is not to say that charities and traditional mission work is bad.  They certainly have their place and are superior to BAM in many applications.  However, there are times when people would rather build their future than have it handed to them.  You’ve heard the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”  Our plan is really more geared toward making the horse thirsty.


Best of all, it takes the principles of business and uses them for good rather than greed.  I’m sure there will be many obstacles, frustrations, and failures along the way, but I am confident that this is the type of work where true significance can be found.


I’ll keep you posted.

Wedding Cake

My ten-year wedding anniversary is fast approaching (June 12).  It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed since we said, “I do.”  In honor of this historic event, I thought I would share a few of our moments with you.


Our First Date

Our first date was Valentine’s Day.  Ambitious, I know.  We were both in college at the time, so it wasn’t anything fancy.  I wanted to impress her, so I bought a couple of gifts for our first Valentine’s Day together.  The first thing I picked up was The Titanic soundtrack (which she already had).  That movie was really big at the time, but I wasn’t a big fan.  To this day, I have still not made it through the entire movie.  I blame this film for setting the precedence for several 3+ hour movies that have followed.  Come on, don’t the editors have kids?  The only song I remember from the CD was that Celine Dion tune that seemed to last as long as the movie.  My reasoning for buying it was if I thought it was cheesy and horrific, it must be romantic.


Everyone knows that you have to get flowers for Valentine’s Day, so I paid a visit to the local florist.  Early on, I knew Sara was “the one” so I really wanted to impress her.  Couple this with my botanical ignorance at the time, and you end up with a pretty terrible choice.  While all of the other guys were cliché with their roses and chocolates, Sara was the fortunate recipient of… a shrub… an azalea to be exact.  Hey it was big, colorful, and different.  I thought I was a genius.  Once we realized what it was, I planted it near a stream at her apartment.  It died.


How I Impressed Her

Let me preface this by saying that Sara is now a very good cook (thank you, Southern Living).  However, in her younger days, her food was… um… not quite as palatable.  It wasn’t from lack of effort; she tried to make lots of things but the results were not always great.  She usually had consistency problems that stemmed from improper measurements (like the time she put 1 cup of soy sauce in a chicken dish instead of 1 tablespoon – my blood pressure still has not returned to normal).


One of her goofs actually helped me woo her.  It was our first Halloween.  We carved a jack-o-lantern and roasted pumpkin seeds when Sara decided to make a pumpkin pie.  I assume she had a recipe, but she did not possess good judgment.  I guess she wanted to impress me with an authentic pumpkin pie made from a real pumpkin and not that canned stuff.  What she did not know is that when you use real pumpkin, you use the inner part of the rind.  She used the stringy pumpkin guts.  It was the only pie I’ve ever eaten that you could slurp up like spaghetti noodles.  Despite a consistency more closely resembling a wet wig than a dessert, I ate the entire thing.  That’s when she knew I was a keeper.  She now uses canned pumpkin.


Our First Vacation

Not counting our honeymoon, our first vacation was a trip to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone.  We literally loaded up our backpacks with a tent, food, and sleeping bags and boarded a plane.  We flew into Jackson, Wyoming and pitched our tent at Lake Jenny in front of the Tetons.  To me, this was paradise.  Sara really liked it too but since we had only been married for a year, I was less sensitive to a woman’s expectations of a vacation.  After a few days of sleeping on the ground, eating canned tamales, pushing Sara through miles of hiking, hearing animals browse around our tent at night, and talking to the ranger about a bear family that was getting friendly with the campers, her patience was waning.  Finally, when a bear actually ripped the backpack off a camper in our campground, she said something like, “I’m staying in cabin.  You can stay with me if you want to.”  For our last vacation, we stayed at a bed and breakfast in St. Croix… I’m learning.


Asking for Permission

The weekend of my marriage proposal, I visited her parents.  They had only met me a few times and I was still trying to impress them.  They needed to replace a VCR or something like that and I, being the tech-savvy engineer, volunteered my services.  I don’t know what I did to their TV/VCR/cable box, but we weren’t able to watch TV until they called for backup the next day.  Since I was proposing the next day, I had to ask for permission that night.  Imagine that… the idiot that can’t hook up a VCR asks you for your daughter’s hand in marriage.  Of course they granted permission and seemed happy for us.  I found out why after the wedding day when I took over Sara’s automotive insurance.  She had a driving record that could have made her a felon in some states.


The Birth of Our Daughters

Both times, I felt useless and inept.  Both times, I was amazed by her strength and fortitude.  She was amazing.