Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It Happened!

It is with great measure of self-awareness that I say: It HAPPENED!  
In order to give you a more complete context for this awareness (It finally happened!) I feel it imperative to share my recollections of train commuting for the first time.  Like a young child on the first day of school, I woke with similar excitement and anticipation...My first train ride into downtown Chicago.  Would it be difficult? Would it be scary?  Would I get off at the correct stop?  How would I know where to purchase a ticket?  Are there assigned seats?  Where would I place my Superman lunchbox? (oh, wait! that was my first day of school...oops)  I eagerly await the option to be around other people heading off to the day's adventures in working.  

This being my first train ride I had one serious decision to make...sit on the two person benches (on the main floor) OR head up to the second level taking advantage of  an single-file row of individual seats.  Doors open...Like any good extrovert, I chose to welcome the company of another commuter by sitting on the first open bench.  Doors close.  And we're off.  I look around at the many surrounding comrades and the picturesque scenery racing by my window.  A couple of stops later the crowd is growing.  Finally another human to share my bench with.  As the middle-aged woman sat down, my mind flooded with questions: How has your day been so far? Did you get dropped off or did you park in  the lot?  Where are you off to? Where do you work?  What do you do there? Do you enjoy what you do?  How is the overall work environment?  Would you say that you are generally happy with life?  Tell me about your family and the people who have influenced you most in life!  Taking back control of my mind I said, "Good morning".  She responded likewise.  My excitement was building quickly.  She responded so quickly and politely.  She must be a nice person.  I wonder what her story is.   (turning a bit to more properly address her I confidently said, "Hi, My name is Ryan." 

(insert ridiculously uncomfortable and awkward silence here)

...nothing.  No response, no sigh, no hiccup, no look...nothing...REALLY?!  Nothing?  Yes, Nothing!  How can you be sitting within a foot of someone, shoulders touching, sharing the same air and NOT respond when they politely introduce them self?  I took the LESS THAN subtle hint and turned, faced out the window, with a face exuding my crush spirit (imagine a small child hearing for the first time that Santa is a sham).  Crushing.  And that is when it started...

Fast-Forward to today.  (remember I am just sitting in my seat ready to begin my hour+ journey to work)

It started like any other Wednesday...overwhelmed by the piercing sound of a reoccurring alarm (Could it be that God actually created the snooze button?  Theologically, I'm leaning in that direction.), a rudely-awakening shower, dressing in the dark, mass quantities of hot black coffee, and then a trek into the city: via the trusty (and often delayed) Metra rail system.  I wait like the rest of the lemmings for the doors to open, allowing us to mindlessly step into the over sized transporter.  Like clockwork I step up, head to the second level and take my rightful seat of solitude and silence.  Armed with my mp3 player I effortlessly fall into my commuting coma.  

Then suddenly and without warning or provoking it happened.  A gentle man (mid 60's) began to share his concerns on the current economy.  While his rants were not directed toward me, I was within a 1/4 mile and was clearly able to hear him spout off about the sad leadership and future prospects in our world.  It is not that I agreed or for that matter disagreed with his assessments.  In fact, it did not matter what he was talking about.  The real point is...Why would anyone at that time of the morning, and in such a confined  Not even loudly...just talk.  I mean really...clearly this man did not realize that when you enter through those sacred steel doors, you dwell in a world of impersonal, flat-affect drones...the Chicago work-force of today's economy.  

And THEN "It Happened!"  A flash back to my first train ride...remembering my-"Santa isn't real?"-face, showing my disgust and heartache over the state of "those people" who are so calloused in their selfish, self absorbed world.  

How do people become like that? tell me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Day After by Chuck Colson

The following is a post from Chuck Colson.  I read it on my friend's blog and thought it would be good though provoking read.  I know that this last month of election hooplah has been trying for all people.  Some were encouraged by our new President-elect...and others felt just the opposite.  Regardless... I hope that you can read this article and be challenged to respond in action...pray.  

by Chuck Colson 

Whether you voted for Barack Obama or John McCain, whether you're recovering from your all-night celebration or drying the tears from your pillow, today's a good day to remember the words of the apostle Paul: "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (1 Timothy 2:1-3). 

The new President will surely need our prayers because he and his administration face huge, serious challenges to the health of our nation and to peace in the world, challenges that, in my opinion, neither he nor any government on earth will have the power to overcome without divine aid. 

How has America come to this point? Why is our economy on the brink of disaster? Why is our culture so utterly depraved? I can only think of what Alexandr Solzhenitsyn said about the catastrophic consequences of the Russian revolution. "I recall," he said, "hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened." 

Solzhenitsyn was right. Indeed, I can't find any better explanation for why we Americans find ourselves in the state we are in. We have forgotten God. 

We have also forgotten that American democracy, indeed Western Civilization itself, is the product of the Judeo-Christian understanding of God and humanity. Without that revelation that man is created in the image of God, our founders never would have recognized the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Indeed, as I and others like Rodney Stark have argued, modern science and education, liberal democracy, capitalism flourished in Western civilization precisely because of the Judeo-Christian worldview. 

The attacks on Christianity these days are only going to intensify in the months ahead. But we must press on all the more to make a winsome witness. Those who would banish Christianity from American life are risking the very survival of American society. 

Friends have asked me whether this economic crisis is God's judgment upon us. I don't know. 
As I've re-read the Old Testament prophets recently, I couldn't help but notice the recurring theme: The people of God turned away from Him and worshipped false idols. The result was always disaster. 

Is God responsible for credit markets collapsing around the world? No. We're responsible. Because instead of worshipping God, we've worshipped false idols of the marketplace, credit card companies and cheap mortgages. We've put our own appetites over our duties to God and neighbor. 

So this is no time for Christians to go into the bunkers. No time to wail or moan over our retirement plans. This is a time to repent, to pray more, to give more. It's a time for Christians to lead, encourage, and minister to a faltering country in a faltering economy. 

This is a time for the Church to get serious about Christian discipleship. Enough cheap grace. 

So pray for the new President and his administration. But most of all, my brothers and sisters, this is a time to love our neighbors and to hunger for God and His righteousness.

By: Chuck Colson - November 5, 2008

Received from: A Moment To Consider
A Ministry of: Harvey and June Schneider
Servant Soldiers Ministries, Daphne, Alabama

Monday, October 27, 2008

NOW and THEN (take 3)

The NOW and the THEN

The NOW and the THEN

NOW and THEN (take 2)

The NOW and the THEN

The NOW and the THEN


The NOW and the THEN

The NOW and the THEN

More to come!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"oh, the places you'll go..." TOP TEN

(warning this is a lengthy post)
When I graduated from high school my family shared a book with me: Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr Seuss. This is a typical gift for the gradute to receive. A "GO GET'm" type of book. It serves as an encouraging word to pump up the individual into the ambition-filled mindset needed to make it in the world today. When I think back to this book, the discussions and encouragement from my parents I am greeted with a smile and a sigh.
Boy were they right...OH, the PLACES I would go...

1) a small town in Alberta, Canada where I would study the Bible. The comedy of the location was not that it was nestled next to the rocky mountains (and I only went there twice), but that my home away from home was formerly a youth detention center (prison) turned Bible College (redemption at its best).

2) a two week trip to Israel, via Great Britain. An adventure in seeing the Bible come alive. The comedy of going to a place known as, "David's tomb" to find that a) no one died there nor was burried there, b) especially king David...there were many instances of that.

3) a three year adventure in Chicago (known as College). I completed my undergraduate degree with many journeys...I invested myself in people...and I went to classes too...that was until I found a foreign land named "Chipotle." I should apologize to my Psychology professor for my skewed commitments to academia...or maybe the guilt is that I didn't bring her a burrito.

4) a path that led to marriage. Twice. Yes that's right. Two weddings, one marriage, one beautiful bride, many tears (most good), and no divorce. I could go on, but it is much more enjoyable to tell in person. Just ask us at some time...when you have time (a lot of time).

5) a road that led to Nebraska. To be more specific a church in the middle of a corn field. This town of hard-working and family-oriented folk welcomed us and walked a journey of pain and faith-deepening community... We are humbled and grateful for their partnership in life and ministry.

6) another road (I-80) which led to the burbs of Chicago and graduate school. As we shared our "call" with our family and new found loved ones we ventured toward the "big, scary, and dangerous" Chi-town...we convinced ourselves and others that it was the right choice.

7) a place of utter humility. Life had a funny way of reminding me that when I am weak, HE is strong. A life held together by a thread of experience of grace that only God can give. Mmmm...Grace...that's Good Stuff! For those who have not experienced that Grace...imagine a bathtub filled with Skittles, DOTS, Swedish Fish, AND Diet Dr. Pepper and it is ALL for you (Yeah...THAT good!)

8) a journey of sadness. (Trying to get pregnant...and not being able to)

9) a destination of complete joy. Once our home (see previous and I'm sure future posts) is completed we will finish the Home Study and then we prayerfully open our doors and heart to the child(ren) that God gives us. We have already been BLOWN AWAY by the presence of God through our friends and family since we said the word "adoption." We have prayed for God to work out the finances (average infant adoption currently is 15k-35k), emotions, and lead the process. Funny, how we are still shocked when we randomly receive a check in the mail, or extra change to put in our "baby jar?" Why? Because as faith-filled as we are, we still find ourselves humbled by the actual love and care that God has for us.

And who would have imagined of all the places I would go (towns, countries and regions)...of all the people and circumstances I would encounter... I would find the following...

10) an outdoor, self serve, insert your money and out comes Live Bait machine...Really?! Oh yes it is true...and I have proof. (see image). This can only serve as confirmation that God has a sense of humor...and some people take fishing FAR TOO seriously. I can only imagine what my loved ones in NE must be thinking now of the Chicagoland area.
Where has your journey taken you? Its ok to share...go ahead and do it...
Tell Me A Story!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lights. Camera. Action.

It is starting to feel like home...Here is a synopsis of today's events:

Today we celebrated the dedication of our little guy, Liam Buki (LOVE HIM! Clarification we are Liam's Godparents...not his parent:)). What a celebration it was at church.

After church we spent some quick but enjoyable time with the Craigs (Blake and Jilly).

Then our dear friends the Smiths (and their nephew Eric) came over to help with the house projects...Many hands make light work...Or in our case; many hands make the significant amount of work a little lighter! They arrived 1pm(ish) and we all stopped for supper about 5 hours later. Fans were hung. Furniture moved. Lights installed. Furniture moved again. Oh the house is beginning (slowly) to look like a home. WOW! Thank you God. Soon this will be a place to welcome a little one to. I will stop rambling and post a few pictures of today's accomplishments.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Whole New World...

Granite. A FOREIGN concept to say the least. We are not granite people. It is for the wealthy, fancy and trendy. We are not any of those...and YET, we now have Granite in our main floor bathroom AND our kitchen. What is happening to us? Have we come into some vast amount of money? No. Are we trying to impress people? Nope. Are we seeking the "natural" life by inviting the great outdoors (stone) into our house? Nah. We have some AMAZING new friends and neighbors next door.

In fact, we laughed when we first moved in seeing the "granite" advertisement on the side of our neighbors truck in the driveway. We found humor knowing that we were never going to have the funding (a pastor and teacher salary only goes so far...usually enough to pay for groceries and gas) to have him come over and give us an estimate... Oh the Irony. He, Kurt, and his wife Rachel are wonderful. We have immediately befriended them and their children. It was before we even moved into the home that I called him to get his ideas on a bathroom fix (after a disappointing experience with our Electrician). He gave us ideas, and then said he would "take care of us." He wasn't kidding. A week later our bathroom vanity was topped off with a custom measured and installed granite top. (WOW!!! IT was beautiful. and affordable).

He said...when you get ready for the kitchen give me a call...we thanked him and moved forward on the renovation. It was time for the kitchen...We priced laminate, and then called Kurt. As you can tell from the pictures...He gave us a Great deal and again we have been humbled in this home renovation process.

(SIDE NOTE: Truth be told...Sunni and I both felt VERY OVERWHELMED by the process of picking out the actual slab of granite from the warehouse. I mean, it felt like we were on an HGTV show and our budget was endless...)

I will never say that God blessed me with granite. To be honest it just doesn't mean that much to me. But God certainly has blessed us with friends and family who continue to feed into us; encouragement, hope and love. We are overflowing with appreciation for the beloved people who point us back to Christ on a daily basis. We are blessed! (and the counter tops look great too;)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Family Sticks Together

You know that you are loved when your dad and uncle will hop on a plane and fly halfway across the country to spend a week working and sweating more than humans ever should...

With their help we are now able to have kitchen cabinets, a back door, and a new front door. All in 4 days time...Did I mention that we were still able to catch a White Sox game! Nice!

Enjoy the photos...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

...just keep swimming....

The rains came down and the floods came up....the rains came down and the floods came up (in our basement)...the rains came down and the floods came up, and the house on Gloria Street got WET!
We (with the help of 13 of our wonderful friends) moved all of our materials possessions from the Smith Inn to our home on Friday....(during the heavy rain). We returned on Saturday to a flooded basement and backyard. As you can see in the picture...Sunni is LOVING it!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Happy LABOR day!

Labor Day: a day intended to be a nation-wide Sabbatical, set aside for rest...we find ourselves more active and sore than usual. We had the pleasure of hosting Ryan's parents for a week of work. Usually we enjoy playing cards and catching up on life, but since we are still dwelling in the wonderful and spacious Smith Inn we continue to work hard to get the house into livable condition...After our week we find ourselves shaking our heads (once again) at what we got ourselves into:). Yes, we are sill having fun. Here are some more pictures for your viewing pleasure...(yes there is still a lot of work to be done). As you can see the front landscaping has received a clipping (from an overzealous chainsaw), the kitchen became larger and larger (as the cabinets, appliances and countertops were violently removed) and the dumpster was no match for the wrath of 610 Gloria Street. Ryan had WAY too much fun trying to compress the debris.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Gloria House

We have purchased our first "fixer-upper" home in Lockport. Here are some pictures... Clearly Melvin is speaking on behalf of all of us.