Thursday, December 21, 2006
Last night, I had to make a Save Mart run for Stella. She’s teething and boy, was she upset and we were out of baby pain killer stuff. So I got out of bed and went like all grumpy, tired fathers before me.
Amie had left the car radio on the christian station so I let it play. Now I’m not a regular listener of christian radio but it’s nice every once in a while (I used to be a DJ at one back before YWAM and I think I just had my fill). Anyhoo, there was this guy going on and on about keeping Christ in Christmas...all the stuff we hear all the time this time of year. And when we talk about such things we really like to use words that rhyme like...hustle, bustle and reason, season. Well this guy didn’t do that which impressed me. He actually found new ways to say those things we all already know. Dickens, Capra and Schultz are really all I’ve ever needed.
So right after this big encouragement to remember what Christmas is all about, the song that follows is a sultry CCM artist singing, “Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful...” I had a nice, ironic, christmas chuckle on the way to the store.
A funny thing in San Francisco...
We had Stella’s 3 month post-operation check up on Monday. We decided to take the boys with as it was my day off, stay in the city and see some seasonal sights. I looked online and found that the library had an interactive display of the Polar Express so we decide to do it. I had visions of being able to climb aboard the engine or a big coach. The boys were excited...well...Amie and I were excited.
Stella did great for her check up. Her team of doctors are really impressed with how she’s healed and is developing. Afterwards we got some great pizza at Blondie’s and parked near Union Square where we saw the big tree and headed up to the library. We figured out which bus to get on, got off at the right stop and went in the library. Excitedly, I kept looking around for the big model of the Polar Express train. I asked the information lady about it and she pointed us in the right direction. We walked up to it and it was a tiny model train in a glass case with Thomas the Tank Engine as well.
We just laughed, Sam enjoyed it and we sat in the children's library and read the Hanukkah story. It was nice...the boys had been asking about Hanukkah so now we know...cool story. We caught the little trolly back to Union Square, looked in the big Disney store and looked at some shop windows then came home. Whew!
Here. The Pastor is from my hometown. That's funny strange, not funny haha to me...probably no one else. This is something that I would like to see happen but I do not have much hope for it. I think we are just going to have to find other ways to get our stuff if we want to shop with conscience. It's really hard but I know it's possible.
Something Amie said...
And finally, Amie had the realization today that Dr. Phil is a classy Jerry Springer.
On that note, Happy Christmas and New Year!
Friday, December 08, 2006
I shared with our city council in Modesto this past Teusday. It was alrighht. They listened. They have to! There is a section of thier meetings called "Oral Communications" and any citizen can go and speak for 3 minutes about anything he wants. So this is what I said...well...read cause I was so nervous."My name is Chris Whitler working for Youth With A Mission, Modesto at 4204 Dale Rd. I have lived and worked in the Modesto area for 5 years now. I came here to develop ministry in Modesto mostly to our poor. I have worked with various local church communities and organizations to help people in need. Mostly, I have walked the parks and South 9th St with a small team to make friends, bring food and help folks as best we can. I'vecome here today to finally speak to you on behalf of the poor here in our area. I am grateful for your willingness to serve our community. I appreciate the initiative to get a winter shelter for single men and women. It is a good start. And I am thrilled to see Agenda item 5 in tonight's meeting. The need is overwhelming in our community and if we do not start talking about simple, sufficient, cost effective housing for our poor things are only going to get worse and they will not go away. To give our whole city over to the commuter house developer and the big stores the people in those houses crave is to sell away the heart of our community. The target worker cannot afford to live in the community target serves...this is not a dead statistic to me...this is Diana and Stella who care for kids and grandkids. It will be you and the bi-laws you implement that make way for the opportunity for all of Modesto's citizens to have what all people in all communities deserve - the dignity to make a way for themselves in this world. The poor continually face discouragement, rejection and difficulty. It is leadership's responsibility to make a way for the poor IN society...to provide a way for them to exist in the community you serve. This council cannot impose long term change on an individual, you can only make ways for our city to change to accomodate individuals in their process. A good friend was recently evicted from his home by our city bi-laws. He was staying in his sister's backyard in a camper. The camper area was clean, he took care of the yard, he maintained sobriety and lived quietly. The house got a letter stating the set up was illegal and my friend had to move out. The city of Modesto prefers him homeless. Our society does not want homeless people sleeping hidden in the parks or on city property and yet this happened. We've got to do better and think more creatively. I ask that you start by letting families help out their own by allowing back yard campers to have people in them...and of course by-law enforcement would be implemented in any situation where a yard is unsightly or neighbors act unruly. Let's start to talk about a legal camping area, a non-profit, co-operative trailer park or a safe parking area for people that sleep in their car. For thousands of years, many different people groups have made a way for themselves with dignity living in tents. Shelters are temporary and do nothhing for families with kids or the mentally ill who cannot bring themselves to sleep in a room full of strangers. Our team wants to work with you and others in our city. What's is happening in our city toward these ends? Are there things of which I am unaware? What can we do to help?"
After I read this the Mayor said, "Thank you" and that was that. I sat down with Aaron and then the Parks director came up to us and requested a meeting. So we're going to get together. Then a police officer approached us and asked to talk out in the hall. He is an outreach officer who committed to helping us however he can. All in all, it was good. I an really grateful to live in a place where, even if my view aren't shared, that I can be heard.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Now, I did a stint at the track earlier this year which many of you will remember resulted in my knee not working for a while and my doctor laughing at me and while shaking his head saying, "You tried to run?! Let me settle it for you for all of time, you are NOT a runner." Then after giving me some ibuprofin he sent me on my limping way saying something about the pain being a good teacher for me.
Ok, so I'm not a runner. I just assumed I was. I got close to being able to go a mile when I blew out my knee. So I'm a walker. I like the track. It's much better than walking through a neighborhood. For one, the track gives way. Concrete is unforgiving. What I like most about it is that the 12 or so people there when I am there are all there for the same thing. Everyone is huffing. Everyone is trying to improve and no one is looking down at you.
In a neighborhood, the runners are all sending a silent message..."I'm totally better than all you lazy, fat people still in bed!" Ok, maybe that's unfair to say but it feels true. I was walking along a neighborhood road a couple of years ago when a car drove by and some guy inside felt the need to stick his head out the window and say, "You'll never lose weight, Fat %#$!" Wow. What a life that guy must lead. Just driving around discouraging others. "Oh yeah! well...you'll never be...er...nice?"
I was just about to write "I can never think of a good comeback when I need one" when I realized that this entry could very quickly turn in to a Ziggy comic. So I'll just sum up by saying we're out there in the mornings...there's the older lady who runs circles around me, the really skinny girl who floats by me on the wind, the "plus size" lady who looks so determined it's scary, the guy who looks like he's beating on the devil up every time he comes back down the stadium steps, the friends who are strolling and talking, ipod girl and me...the fat "you know what" huffing along resolved (one more time again) to prove that idiots in cars are wrong.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
I was thinking today about my younger years in Youth With A Mission. In the fervor of joining a missionary group, there is much new excitement and feelings of spiritual intensity. You can tend to get a bit ahead of yourself. It seems our mission's strength is that we put young people out on the field right away. The energy of youth and the zeal of fresh experience with God is a wonderful propeller for the gospel message.
Our mission's weakness is that we put young people out on the field right away. Without the temperance of wisdom and study sometimes things do not go great. I've seen both of these in action...many times on the same outreach!
I remember a speaker that came through our training campus down in Texas and he spoke to all of us about having grace for ourselves and one another. He talked about not beating yourself up if you miss a day or so of personal prayer time. And then he said something that really sticks with me to this day...personal prayer must be a discipline before it becomes a delight.
This is right where I am 15 years later. Having grace for myself after missing the mark on daily prayer and scripture reading and coming to the understanding that it will not just happen magically. I have to make space for it. Discipline is purposefully killing our laziness...the tendency to let down.
Something we've been saying a lot lately is that it's OK to have an off day every now and again, we're going to live forever. But you can't let your off days pull you along. With your spirit tuned to God's Spirit, you must tell you mind to let your emotions and your body know just who is in charge. With grace for the times we fall short, we must throw off our laziness and get to it. Our time here is short and there is much to do.
Monday, October 23, 2006
We moved the first of this month. Both YWAM Modesto families live in Salida now as housing at our church became unavailable. So we moved. That has “busy” ramifications of it’s own. We like our new place. We live with Aaron near Modesto Christian school in Salida. It’ll do for now. We are content.
Last weekend, we had family here…Amie’s brother and sister-in-law from Oregon. They were here for Amie’s grandma’s 90th birthday party! They all stayed with us. We had a lot of fun staying up way too late, eating Thai food and solving all the world’s problems.
Last Friday at the last minute, our friend John came through town with his Discipleship Training School (DTS) team from YWAM Bishop, CA. They are a wilderness DTS learning discipleship principles and outdoor survival techniques. It’s pretty cool and John is flourishing. They came through to BBQ with us down on 9th St. and spend the night at church. We had a sweet little BBQ cooking for our friends down in the motels, hanging out with them and praying for people. It was awesome to see this team go for it with their witness and just pouring out love.
Monday, we had another team arrive from down in southern California to host a “night of missions” at New Hope. This was also kinda last minute but a great time. This team is YWAM as well and all they do is travel the states and Canada to promote missions in churches. They are independent of any “base” and are truly representing all of YWAM when they are on the road. They toured our city and we shared our heart with them for the poor of Modesto. We worshiped God and prayed together on 9th St and again, this team just went for it…crying out to God to change our city and bless the poor.
And this week, horror of horrors…our computer totally died! Like dead dead. Ahhh! So, I will not be too terribly internetty for a while. I am stealing time on Marge’s computer at the moment in the wee small hours of Monday morning to blog and catch up on email.
So, that’s that. Change is in the air. Please pray with us…we have some fairly heavy stuff going on in the life of our church community and our family, we have much work to do to, we have some specific needs as far as support and whatnot go and we need a computer. But “life is an adventure to be lived, not a problem to be figured out” and even hardship is an invitation to run deeper into the heart of God.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Most of our friends there have found new places to live...better places...not much better but better. We went and visited one friend in his new digs yesterday. It’s a small studio apartment complex on 9th Street. Others have moved to the airport district and still others to different motels.
Please pray for the displaced, dysfunctional community that lived at the Shiva. A horrible season has ended for them. We are privileged that we were able to meet these folks and be a part of their lives. Their tenacity humbles me. We are still in touch with some of them in their new locations. Pray the kids do well in new schools and new places and that we can manage keeping in touch and stay faithful to friendship in a new way.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Yesterday I realized that there is something wrong with me. I can sing the entire theme song of America’s Funniest Home Videos from the early 90’s and the Facts of Life theme, Differ’nt Strokes, Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch and most of the theme to Muppet Babies but I have not memorized the Apostle’s Creed. I’ll get right on that. wow.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Change is in the air too. My community is having a bit of a “heart equinox”. We moved this week to a house in Salida. We’ve been blessed with a new (er) car. Our season living at the church has come to an end. A good friend is dealing with the joy and sadness of his grandfather passing. Some truly wonderful people in my life are facing unjust accusation and the sting of petty, uncaring betrayal. This is a bittersweet time.
This is a time when I just want the people in my life to know I love them. Once in a while, the dumb stuff disappears from view and you sink down to the essentials. Good relationships, good, honest work and Jesus. Have you ever just been so hungry for him? I mean the real Jesus. Perhaps my advent season is starting a little early because my heart cries out for Emmanuel. How long, O Lord? Don’t let us miss the point.
Monday, September 25, 2006
A great BBQ yesterday (which was Sunday, Sept. 24). We had about 150 folks out to our church from the downtown community and we all enjoyed a delicious tri-tip meal together. For you easterners, tri-tip is an excellent little cut of beef sort of in the shape of a triangle that everybody uses out here (especially our lovely taco trucks...mmmmm!). What I love about this annual event is how much more “family” oriented is has become. It was virtually stress free.
Every year, we shuttle our homeless friends from downtown out to the church. Last year a local car dealer provided us with big vans to do it. That fell through this year and nothing else surfaced no matter how hard we tried to find something. In the end, we felt convinced that we just give the problem to God, so we did and the body of Christ came through with plenty of donated vehicles.
Also, we had a bunch of ice donated from our local icery...whatever they’re called but we were not aware that we had to get it at a certain time. We were too late. Again, no panic, just go with it. My friend Josh and I went up to the supermarket and the manager just gave us 140 lbs. for free! So awesome.
The first year was all about the event and it went great. The next year was about political action and from that came the salvation army shelter at 9th and D. last year was really small as we planned our event on the same day as the now defunct “international festival”. This year was just right...a good group of people happy to be together, sharing music, food, scripture, prayer and fun. That’s the kind of stuff I love to be a part of.
Friday, September 22, 2006
It’s been a week since Stella’s surgery. Last Wednesday and Thursday were the longest days of our life so far...especially the time that the surgeon had our girl. We have had a lot of grace on us. Stella did fine. Her mouth is healing and her pain is decreasing. We have another few doctor’s visits coming up to check her progress.
Thank you, friends, for your prayers, help with our boys, help with food and kind, encouraging words. Nothing can compare to the support of God’s family in times of trouble.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Family Photo - Well, this one’s pretty good. We had a hard time getting all of us to look at the camera with appropriate looks on our face but I think we did ok. Our digital camera is not the greatest. I always go for the cheaper version and then get mad at myself later. Grrr.
Youth Evangelism - Our youth group, along with 6 other area youth groups and Youth For Christ, hosted a youth evangelism training day this past Saturday. It was great! We had about 80 student leaders come out for a day of training and fun with YFC’s own Fred Lynch...formerly of PID!!!! You know...PID...Preachers In Disguise! The late 80’s and early 90’s groundbreaking Christian rap group. He was a great communicator and he still raps...he’s working on “The Epic” which is a rap translation of the whole gospel of John...chapter for chapter, verse for verse. He did some of it and it was, in this non-rap liking, white guy’s opinion, awesome.
Newly Homeless - Our friend, who has been comfortably and cleanly living in his sister’s back yard in a small camper surrounded by a tall, private fence was kicked out of his trailer by our city’s government a few weeks ago. Here we are with one of the highest percentages of homelessness in the Western U.S. and we choose to put another person out on the streets. Modesto would rather him be homeless than safe. What a solution, eh? He’s sleeping where ever he can find a place instead of in his own bed. Let’s here it for beurocracy!
Stella - our baby’s surgery is coming up this Thursday. We are trusting and stressed all at once. Please pray for her.
Jury Duty - I waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited. And then they sent me home. The parties reached a settlement. Hooray. They do make jurors as comfy as possible...internet connected computers, free phones, snack bar, cable TV going and a quiet room to read in. I got a lot of reading done.
MAI - I finally finished a book today I’ve been working my way through for a while called “Multiplying Salt and Light”...it’s the story of the development of CHE (Community Health Evangelism), an integrated approach to medical missions focusing on prevention of disease and disciplining individuals to take ownership of their own solutions while sharing the gospel. Some really good stuff and the sole strategy of Medical Ambassadors International, a global mission based right here in Modesto.
9/11 - Today is September 11. I don’t really know how to mark this day in my internal self yet. Right now, we are letting the media take the lead in how to treat this day and I don’t think I really like that as so much of what they do is divisive and ratings/money centered.
And the war continues as well...so many confusing voices and so much loss. It’s overwhelming to try to take it all in.
A soldier who just came back from Iraq was at our church on Sunday. Our congregation thanked him for his service. His parents and wife are so happy he’s home safe. Thank God.
Amie heard a story on TV about a woman who lost her husband on 9/11 and is now raising money to help the poorer than poor women of Afghanistan who have lost their families. That’s all the way forgiveness. It’s beautiful. It reminds me of Jesus.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Amie and I just spent a day in San Francisco under the gracious hospitality of our fellow YWAMers there. We had to go in for some testing for Stella prior to her surgery (which is next Thursday the 14th). She was a trooper and we had some fun there too. Good curry...mmmm!
But I noticed something about cities. If you are an outsider, it can be like entering into a clique. You know what i mean? A group of people that all know each other and what’s going on. They do not have a lot of patience for outsiders...people who do not know their ways. Figuring out the transit system was a hoot! We rode in on BART and used MUNI to get around. Wow, quite the adventure.
At one point we got on the wrong train and realized it after about 10 minutes but then the driver just stopped the train in the middle of an unknown part of the city and made all of us get off without explanation then he took off in the opposite direction leaving us all on our own! Even the locals were stupefied!
A kind/gruff woman at the same time helped us find our way to the right train. In fact, every time we came up to something we didn’t know how to do, there was a bit of frustration and then a kind soul would reach out to us and help us on our way. Just like in any group of friends there is usually someone who is watching the periphery to see if there’s someone else that can be included and tries to make the new comer feel welcome...that’s usually the case... I hope I’m that for others. And then there’s the group that is just full of jerks...which can happen and at that point, they all deserve each other.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
This past week, a good friend of mine did a courageous thing. He dealt ruthlessly with things in his life causing him to toy around with sin. In 2 Chronicles, King Hezekiah did a similar thing in Judah. He took all the objects of false worship and tore them down throughout his country. That’s what my friend did.
In these times it might be funny to think about those days around campfires with the youth group and everyone throwing in their rock and roll tapes and LPs but this was not an emotional response of fear. This was a calculated obedience. It was such a privilege to be there and a challenge.
Is there anything unhealthy that I am holding on to?
“...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrew 12:1
This is in the abstract and in the actual...throw off every THING that hinders AND the sin. Our junky attitudes and stuff have got to go if we’re going to get on with real life.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Time to get back to bloggin' My good acquaintance, Phil has unknowingly put some fire under my tail...Good as I feel a kindred spirit...Acquaintance cause I don't know him all that well. We work in the same Mission and see each other about once every two years. His blog is refreshingly short, sweet, original, to the point and thought provoking. I always feel the need to write these huge epistles so the thought of writing overwhelms me. So there we go. Help me people. Let me know if you're reading.
This summer has been great and a bit too full. Huge full, but that's ok...we made it. Some highlights...
Thailand...read more details on previous posts but what a beautiful country. The people and culture taught me so much. It was great to experience freedom like we do not have here in the USA. Life is not outrageous there (it has it outrageous spots but on the whole...). It was, I don't know, a bit more simple. Less ridiculous.
Fireworks...well, we lived through running a 6 day fireworks fundraiser right after Thailand. It was hot, tiring work. I know way too much about morning glory sparklers and Mad Dog fountains. The best memory is preaching to the traffic out on the Dale Rd side walk about the wonders of fireworks in the southern black preaching tradition..."I'M TALKIN' 'BOUT FIREWORKS! ARE YOU READY FOR AN EXPLOSION TONIGHT!!" Oh yeah, and when Josh and John taped fireworks to their bodies and we lit them while playing the hallelujah chorus.
Hosting Teams...we had a Canadian youth group come and be with us to help us in our work here with the homeless. This team completely re-made our friends room who stays at a residential motel...new paint, sheets, everything clean, DVD player, cooking supplies, etc. It was awesome! We also worked with some local groups as well to BBQ for our friends on 9th St and in Chavez park.
Marine World...we got to take the kids for a couple of days to the theme park. The park was fun. Amie and Josh got to touch a dolphin and feed him. We walked through their beautiful butterfly room, saw sharks, a killer whale and loads of other animals but our most fun time was at the hotel, in the pool. Go figure. Oh and I only had one Clark Griswold moment when I realized how much park food costs!
Finding the homeless church...There is a really cool man in our town that runs a church meeting for the homeless at Legion park every Sunday. He feeds a meal, shares the word and loves the heck out of his congregation. It so nice in this horrible system to actually find people that make sense. A sight for sore eyes.
Modesto Nuts...I finally saw them play. The team name is the Nuts. They lost. It was awesome. I'm going back. I bought a hat that says Modesto Nuts with the mascots on it...Wally the Walnut and Al the Almond.
YWAM West Coast Conference...this we just got back from. It was 4 days of refreshing, re-visioning and remembering some basics. It was great to worship with a bunch of crazy YWAMers again, see and make friends and just relax for a bit. Chidcare was provided so Amie and I could attend some things together. It was a really good time. We were also made an official YWAM location by our regional leadership. Many gathered around us to pray and speak blessing over our work and life here in the valley.
Well, I did it again. I wrote a big thing. I'll be brief next time, I swear.
Monday, July 31, 2006
I started my “myspace” account to help me keep in touch with people. “myspace” is a good idea. I think it’s an idea that’s dying...still really popular but it has been bought by a corporation and has that feel of big business trying to cash in on cool. Like the kids who buy the Ramones t-shirts at “hot topic” in the mall and do not own a Ramones album or even are really familiar with their music. I feel like the curve has arced and myspace will go down.
These ads get really annoying for one. I know they have to sell ad space but how many times do I have to be asked if I like naughty or nice? And pictures of scantily clad women, showing cleavage with a vacant look in their eyes do not appeal. It’s getting old. So I don’t check my “myspace” too often.
Then there’s the issue of being able to see the real lives of people I know. The internet is funny. I know people that are so open...wide open online and can barely talk to you in person. I just read a blog from a friend that was so deeply intimate and personal yet face to face, they can hardly look you in the eye. This can’t be right.
I can’t help but think that all these ways of keeping in touch has or will only serve to lead us farther away from real relationships. It seems like people don’t know how to talk to one another anymore. Our culture is a bit absurd. Heavy doses of sarcastic humor only serve to drive us away from one another. I feel like many of us have forgotten how to be human.
Have we forgotten how to look someone in the eye? To say “Hello”? To say “sir” or “mam”? A couple of week ago while working out in the community I called someone “sir”. His friend laughed out loud at me and told me it was ridiculous to call him sir. I was stunned!
I know I’m a blessed son of a dying breed. I don’t take it lightly that many did not or do not grow up with the blessings I had. I had the great privilege of growing up in a home with Christian parents...my father taught me to look people in the eye. He taught me the value and art of knowing how to speak to people. He taught me that all people have dignity. It the same thing I’m working on with my sons.
Some kids I know, all they hear is coarse, vulgar or sarcastic language. Or we puff up and hold the rest of the world in an egocentric view...everyone besides us and our little circle is stupid and a joke. No fathers to teach or dumb ones that abuse with language or worse leads to a generation that seeks comfort in like associations (not real relationships) and pain killers like alcohol, drugs and non-committed sex. We are a generation that speaks about emotions we don’t even know if we feel or not. We regurgitate trite emotional language that we hear on TV hoping that we’re not missing life. We are.
My life and family are not perfect. I am not on a high horse here. We’ve struggled and gotten it wrong. We’ve been short sighted and hurtful. We have missed the mark. My life is not free of pain. We have been through sickness, rocky finances, bad decisions and death. We have been angry and misunderstanding. But we have held on.
Whatever your circumstance, you do not have to live and act beneath it. You can live and find your way with dignity. Can we let go of “put down” humor and over sarcastic attitudes? Can we find a way to work hard where we are at...to serve and do a good job, the best we know how to do? In humility, can we admit that there are still things we need to learn? What about practice...can we handle not being good at something and take on the discipline of practice to get better and see progress? Can we try new things that make us vulnerable? Can we afford to not look cool? Can we be silly and have fun without hurting others and ourselves? Can we say “I’m sorry, I was wrong, I love you.”? Can we shut up and be interested in others? Yes, we can...we just have to drop our pride. And even all this “I’m so weak and tragic” stuff is pride. False humility is pride. Turning the focus on you is pride.
My father was an elementary and university teacher and a piano player. My mother was a secretary. My grandfather was a farmer and iron worker and my grandmother was a homemaker and a good southern cook. They were not great people. But they knew and practiced great things. Can I pass the good advise I know on to you?
From my Dad...look people in the eye and speak up. Speak to them with respect. Give them your eyes and be interested in them. Listen. Give.
From my Mom...if you’re going to do something, do it right or do not do it at all. When you find out you’re aggravating someone, stop. Sacrifice.
From my Grandfather...work hard, be faithful, do not give up. Speak to strangers, be friendly, make children happy, enjoy right now.
From my Grandmother...love unconditionally. Serve. Learn the old ways. Read the Bible and pray early in the morning.
This is my inheritance, I pray I live it well.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Friday night, the 16th, I left to join our team already here. I skipped through 2 days as Thailand is 14 hours ahead of Pacific time...so Friday night in California is sometime Saturday morning in Thailand. The flight took me through Guam, Manila, Bangkok and finally, Chang Mai...a large city in the north. I arrived Sunday evening pretty rested as I lived on Thailand time for my whole flight (which reduces the effects of jet lag). Like, if it's not time to eat in Thailand, you pass on the meal...if it's not time to sleep, you stay awake. It really helped! I found the team in good spirits and tackling a job we had no idea we would be doing.
Monday the 19th was right into the fray...the previous week, our team had been helping at the Home of Joy, a YWAM ministry that takes in at risk kids (abandoned or orphaned) and gives them a real family environment to live in. Our friend Kathleen and her staff serve these kids with a beautiful commitment. Her kids that of school age go to a Christian school called "The vineyard". Our new friend Tuk is the pricipal there and she is a wonderfully spirited lady. There is no holding her back when she gets an idea.
Tuk's heart is to see Thai children develop a love for reading. It's not really a part of the culture for kids to read a lot or for parents to read to their children. Tuk felt her school should have a library. They had no money. One day, while listening to the radio, she heard Thailand's king encouraging citizens to return to simple living and environmentally friendly ways of building. That's when she had the idea to build a mud library...a library completely made of mud...mud walls, shelves, furniture. So, her and her church and school staff began the work.
Tuk's husband is the overseer of Methodist missions in Thailand and Singapore and they are getting ready to spend a couple of years in California at Fuller seminary for him to have further training. Before they leave, Tuk's heart is to see the library done, so she prayed months ago for help to finish it. So here come some crazy people from Modesto that have no idea how to build a mud anything but we quickly learned...sort of and have been plugging away at it all week. Mixing mud like the children of Israel in Egypt, preparing the walls for shelving, doing some of the shelving work, sawing, chiseling, cleaning and scraping. It's been awesome!
I'll write about other parts of the trip later but it is really neat to see how faithful God is...our goals were to serve at risk children in Thailand and God sent us to the Home of Joy. We wanted to find one or two small ministries to serve and partner with in the future and we were sent to a little orphanage and Christian school. We wanted to address our passion to see the "sex industry" of Thailand end...more on that later...but here's these kids, some of them born to prostitutes being cared for by God's people and then here's this school that wants to shape the leaders of tomorrow by providing Christian education and God let us be a part of it all! Not just us, but all those back home who helped us come (we were able to provide the first 100 books to the library!) and all those who have been praying for us, this has been a particularly blessed time. And now we can look forward to our new Thai friendships developing as Tuk and her family will be in California for 2 years and we have more ways to continue to help the Home of Joy!
God loves this stuff and it's such a privilege to see him join hearts and visions together over a huge expanse of distance and culture. He seems to love mixing his kids up with each other so that we can help each other do the stuff of his Kingdom. There's nothing better than that.
Friday, June 16, 2006
This has been a difficult process to get this team to Thailand. Three of our original members did not make it due to circumstances. We did not get the money that we’d hoped for but we did get just enough. We’re squeaking by but I got a good chunk to take with me today so that’s good. The tickets were a bear to secure. We had ‘em then we didn’t then we did and didn’t then at the last minute we got some and scraped one more in there...me. So I’m going.
Please pray for this last bit of the trip, that I can be an encouragement to the team leader...a good support on the final push. Pray that we all get home safely and for the teams continued health. Pray that we get done what God has purposed for us to accomplish and that we can build on that work in future fund raising, trips and projects.
Monday, May 22, 2006
May began in April as toward the end of the month I had to make quick plans to travel to Kentucky to see my Dad. He has a dementing illness that as yet has not been diagnosed and it became necessary for him to move out of his apartment and into my sister’s home where she can care for him better. These decisions are tough as you struggle to trade your Father’s dignity for his safety.
It was a good visit. I was able to help get his room ready and do basic care for him to free my sister up to do all the business stuff of moving someone. It’s a lot of work but her load will be cut in half by having him in the house.
Dad knows that things are not the same. When I hurt my knee, it changed my options...I had to compensate for the pain by walking differently, being more careful and making different choices. It did not change who I am. My Dad’s brain is hurt but he is still the same man. He has to make different choices, not all the same options are available to him but he is still loving, giving, funny and one of the best music teachers Kentucky ever saw.
My sister drove me two hours to Louisville to catch my evening flight home so we went early to do a whirlwind memory tour starting with lunch with my Aunt ‘Nita and cousins Dee dee and Timmy. They are awesome and have been their crazy life has been the cause of much laughter in my family through the years. Recent revelations have been that my Aunt fell some weeks ago...she tripped over her dog in her apartment...who was dead...the dog I mean. The list geos on...we had a good visit and laughed a lot.
We all went over to my childhood home that is for sale for a tour. We sold it last year to an investor that fixed our old southern home up and is selling it for big profit. It is so beautiful and really different. My Mom (who died 6 years ago) would have loved the new kitchen. During the estate sale last year, a woman found a collectable angel figurine behind the chimney. She brought it to my sister who recognized it as one of my Mom’s favorites. In the fury of the sale we lost it again. Just as we were coming out of the kitchen and into the living room, my sister spotted that little angel on Dad’s old book shelf. The realtor let my sister have it.
We visited Mom’s grave and chased more memories by visiting my old high school, our grandparents home and our childhood church out in the country before taking me to the airport.
Have you ever been overwhelmed trying to process the changes in your life? This really hit me last week and I don’t think I can make sense of it all. It seems like I’ve lived too much already but I know there’s so much more to come. My life in Kentucky feels a world away from Texas, Canada and California...and different worlds, friends and epic and mundane experiences in-between. Who know what’s ahead? Not me but I’m hanging on to see how this story ends. But deep down I know that it doesn’t end. We go on. “Further up and further in” as C.S. Lewis says and that gives me a little more peace to just do what I can now...whatever’s ahead. The next right thing. The next good thing. To be faithful today.
“...seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Monday, April 03, 2006
Our Thailand team watched a good movie at our last meeting called “Born into Brothels”. It follows a photographer, Zana Briski, into the red light district of Calcutta. She became friends with the women that prostitute themselves there and especially their children. Naturally, she moves from photographer to social worker as she is touched by the lives of these children. She tries to help them get into school, gives them cameras and photography lessons herself and ends up being a catalyst for change in a few of them.
Haughty western wisdom would find fault in this woman’s desire to help these children as best as she can saying something like “well that’s these children’s life and we shouldn’t interfere.” The movie is a great human story though as you see her just have to try something...anything.
The pictures of these children reminded me of pictures I took this past friday down at our 9th Street motels. There has been an unusually high influx of children into this “neighborhood”. Children running around unattended, dirty, ignored and so hungry for healthy attention.
We’ve dreamed a lot about what we could do if one of these motels was ours. How we could use it for transitional housing and programs for the kids. A few weeks ago, we felt a challenge to not wait until it was “ours” but to just act like it’s ours now.
A couple of weeks ago, Jimmy loaded a lawn mower in the van, Mary and Leah bought some sidewalk chalk and bubbles at the dollar store, we took what food we had and spent the afternoon acting like the Shiva motel was ours. The minute we pulled up, a couple of the girls ran toward us waving new Bibles in the air asking us to have a Bible study with them. With the smell of fresh mowed grass in the sunny air, we played, read the Bible and laughed together.
This last week, the owner of the motel gave us permission to plant a community garden in the back of his motel. We also got to take a family of 7 out for a birthday dinner at Chuck E. Cheese. And we have heaps of vision for the future.
Back to the film, one thing that came to me about Ms. Briski is that she wasn’t a missionary, social worker or anything of the sort. She was just there. She noticed and acted. She did not give up, she did not talk herself out of it, she just did something because she was there. Those simple things can go a really long way.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
The school was a “live in” collage with men’s and women’s dorms, duplex housing for all the teaching staff families, a lake, a chapel, class rooms, rec hall and a cafeteria all set back in a birch forest 20 minute’s drive from the nearest small town. My friends were all the staff kids. My years on the campus were full of exploring the forests and sand dunes, catching toads, swimming in the lake, riding my bike every where, building forts and trying to figure out girls.
It was a weird, wonderful place to have part of my childhood. During the school’s missionary conference I made the declaration that I would be a missionary whether God called me or not. I made my incremental commitments to Christ at the summer camp put on by the school’s students. I learned about religious control and politics which brought our time at this school to an end.
My Mom and Dad always had people over to our house. There was always some student joining us for dinner. They would throw parties for the kids. Dad formed a touring choir that would travel 2 months out of the year to promote the school and my folks especially poured into these students. They discipled and supported them, they loved them and created community. They made space even in their “off the clock” time to listen and encourage students. Some of them are missionaries and pastors and still correspond with my Dad.
Horrible accusations came from a jealous staff. We left the school. The dream over, my parent’s hearts broken, we moved back to Kentucky. Back into our old house. Dad taught music in public schools and university and Mom got secretarial work. I was 10.
Dad tells me that long before that, my parents dream was to buy a big house and run a ministry to help street people. But church people discouraged it. Then they sought to minister to young people and that was killed by the “teachers of the law.”
And here I am in Modesto, California. Another day, in another way, I seek to help and encourage street people and young people. My sons are 5 and 10. What will they say when they are 35 reflecting on the time we lived inside a church and Mom and Dad worked with this crazy group called YWAM, chasing a crazy dream? Will they remember that we were faithful? Will they remember our dreams? What will they have to fight through and for? How will this time shape their future?
My Dad was my best man in our wedding. His toast was simple. Glass raised in the very building I now live in he said, quoting a favorite song, “May all who come behind us find us faithful.” Amen.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Monday - Amie and I packed the kids up and took off to see the new IKEA in Sacramento. We had a really fun day together. The boys love to try our every bed they have. They especially liked their new round beds with mosquito nets over them. Very exotic : ) Amie loves every inch of IKEA. Stella loves to be pulled around in a cart under shiny lights so she really had fun too. We’ve taken day trips to IKEA since we discovered them in Canada back in 1994. Even though IKEA is the symbol of mundane life in the movie “Fight Club”, we don’t care, we love it. Oh, and I had a great nap in their lounge.
Tuesday - Jimmy and Aaron and I meet Tuesday morning to plan out the week. So we did. Then we drove to up to the mountains to have a visit with Greg. On the way to Greg’s, I got really sick. Like, evil sick. I slid downhill all day. By the time we got home I had a horrid fever, chills, aches, all of it. I fell asleep around 8:30pm and woke up at 11 with my fever broken and I was out on the track at MJC by 5:30am the next day!
Wednesday - We worked on fundraising for our Thailand trip during the morning. I started my mailing list, Aaron did something on the computer and Jimmy started calling businesses. He secured us an interview on a pretty big christian radio station for 6:30am Friday morning. We delivered food in the afternoon and spoke at a Presbyterian youth group on Wednesday night. Part of the evenings festivities was “Capture the Cabbage” which is like Capture the Flag but with a cabbage cause of St. Patrick’s day. Jimmy and I were pitted against Aaron team-wise and my team won but Aaron says we didn’t on account of a technicality.
Thursday - When our friends, the Coffees, had an extended stay in San Francisco when their baby was born they began to develop friendships with the YWAMers there. Those relationships have been growing and were cemented when we went to help build a wall in their new building they obtained for their training programs. It was great fun to build a wall in a really old building as nothing is square anymore...the floor kinda smiles. I’m glad Jimmy know what he’s doing. Anyhoo, a big bunch of us went in on Thursday to celebrate the grand opening of this new facility. This place that was once a homosexual porn theater is now full of worship, prayer, bible study and missionary training! And our wall did not fall over.
Friday - I had a sickness rebound...and a phone interview at 6:30 am...3 minutes after I woke up. wow. A good afternoon though giving out food to our friends.
Saturday - I worked on Thailand letters (did you get one? cause I could get you one. We need all the help we can get!). We had a Thailand meeting. I was still sick. We ran concessions at a concert to raise money for Thailand. Thailand, Thailand Thailand. We’ll get there but I had to go to bed.
Sunday - Other YWAM friends from “Gleanings for the Hungry” in Sultana came to visit us. They came to New Hope Church and then we did a BBQ on South 9th street for all our homeless friends. It was a great day of outreach and getting to know one another. We prayed with families and played with kids.
Monday - Today. Spent time with the kids. Caught up on some e-mail. Saw “V for Vendetta”. Liked it but wished it was more. Chiropractor. Grocery shopping. Deal or No Deal (our new family favorite) and blogging. So there.
Friday, March 03, 2006
My family is doing well. Little Stella is still really little...she grows long more than fat but that’s ok. She’s cute and a little crabby cause she’s trying to figure out the whole bowel thing. I don’t know why that’s such a problem for babies. Just let it out! It’s so easy for the rest of us. It’s a little too easy for some of us...and that's it...the precise moment I went too far. : )
My Father, Sister and Nephew came for a visit about 2 weeks ago. It was really good to have them here but bittersweet as my Dad has had a few strokes in the last couple years and they have really affected his behavior. He is inside of himself, quiet, not a lot of light in his eyes. He actually had a small one right before they came and went into the hospital as soon as they got home from his visit. He was released yesterday and is responding well to rehab. Please pray for him.
As soon as they left, Aaron, Jimmy and I were off to a great Youth With A Mission Conference in Chico, CA with all the leaders from the Southwest U.S. We were there for 3 days and had a blast with great teaching, refreshing praise times, good connections with new friends in the mission and restored vision for our work here in Modesto. We hiked a lot too as the YWAM center in Chico is way back in a beautiful canyon (no cell phones or internet for us either). Our first hike, Jimmy was our guide and took us into the wilderness where there was no trail...up a mountainside. We found deer skeletons, Aaron got poison oak (again) and my ankle is recovering nicely.
So I’m facing March a little more aware. Aware that I am in a war that’s fought everyday. God’s enemy would love me to think that it’s not that big a deal. That life is just life and it goes on and if we can make some kind of sense of it that’s good but if not we just exist and that’s all. I can sleepily walk through my days, watch a whole month go by and drowsily wonder where the time went between stuff I had to do to survive. But that mind set is a trap.
The matrix is real and we have to fight everyday to not believe the lies that seem so true right in front of our eyes. Today does matter. There are no “throw away, cut your losses” days. We are not meant to just make it. We are meant to pass from glory to glory. To advance on the darkness that would try and swallow the world around us whole. To brazenly walk into the darkness holding the light in front of us and driving it back.
God calls me today to be real in my relationships, passionate in prayer, diligent in study, determined in discipline, faithful in the small things, watchful for opportunity, obedient in response, harsh in dealing with my own rebellion, full of grace for others, reaching out with good works, strong in the Lord and in the power of HIS might, my mouth full of blessing, my heart full of love, my flesh dead and my spirit alive. He’s given us everything, everything, EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness says the scripture and he’s looking for people that are just crazy enough to believe it.
So let’s stick our feet out. Let’s tell the darkness that we will not move. Let’s lock arms with brothers and sisters, hold the line and start walking forward...forward to share the good news with a neighbor, forward to lend food, kind words and our ear to the poor, forward to support and encourage missionaries around the world, forward to pick a struggling brother or sister up, forward to remembering the elderly and weak, forward to point the way for an aimless young person and forward in awareness for every opportunity God sends our way today.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
We have had a string of precarious vans to do the work of the our ministry in. The first was Big Whitey...a 1970’s ambulance that had it’s oversized back gutted out for us to fill with bread, furniture...whatever. Whitey died and my father-in-law procured an old van (which still runs) fro a friend.
My father-in-law helps people find things that they need...and sometimes things that they don’t need but we’ll forgive him for that cause I’ve seen him help make the connection between many who have lost everything with just the right things to help start a new life. We used that old van for a while until it had a period of non-driveableness.
Then a local band that had broken up gave us their old tour van. It was gray, kinda beat up but served the job well. They did not clean it up completely so we had quite a job doing that...6 guys on tour with no real...uh...cleaning habits and plenty of...er...other habits. But it got sorta clean. Then the doors wouldn’t stay shut so we put shed hasps on to keep them closed (I’m pretty sure that was illegal) and some seat belts got kinda chewed up.
Then we met some guys named Bob. These Bobs felt God calling them to help us get a van. Last week while putting water in the top of the radiator and having just as much come out the bottom of the radiator it started making a funny, loud noise and then something blew and then it wouldn’t steer correctly and so we called the Bobs. We have a brand new ministry van! It’s the nicest, newest vehicle I’ve ever had and it dropped into our laps through the grace of God and some generous, obedient Bobs!
We got to use it for the first time this week on our Thursday bread run and our Friday trip to the residential motels on 9th Street. It is a dream...AC, comfy seats (15 passenger!), nice radio, diesel fuel, 2001, sweet ride, no carpet (that kinda gets messy when you are taking food out) all insured, registered and just a blessing.
As if it could get better, it does. This week, our good friend Stella who lived with her daughter and grand kids at the Shiva motel in a yucky room with roaches and rats and a horrid landlord that made her pay over $1,000.00 (charging for each child and extra for a microwave and fridge) got out! We have been praying for her to get out for so long! They now live on a nice quiet street in a 3 BEDROOM HOUSE for less than what they paid at that motel. We visited their new house yesterday in our new van and had a great time of basking in God’s goodness to all of us.
The glory is His.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Well, Aaron came home this last week and we took him up to a favorite spot to hike in the snow. It wasn't so special to him as he had been in Canada for over a month for a bit of a break. We're realising that street workers generally go a little nuts because there's not much budget or time for vacation and you're constantly dealing with folks in desperate situations. That can tend to get under your emotional skin after a while. That's why Aaron went away and that's why we're going for a hike every now and then...out of the valley and into some clean air. The day turned out to be fun. Jimmy's Car broke down in Sonora and we had it towed back to Modesto and we got to ride in the car up on top of the tow truck! That was fun...we laughed all the way back to the church.
A side note...Jimmy's front wheel siezed up and the car wouldn't come out of 4 wheel drive. The dealership told him that it was a very expensive repair. Jimmy tried to get the wheel to turn himself and it wouldn't budge...he also pulled as hard as he could on the 4 wheel drive shifter and it would not budge. He said a prayer for provision and in the next instant the wheel worked and the 4 wheel drive disengaged and thier car is fine. God is good! I'm glad we didn't think to pray in Sonora, we would have missed that sweet ride!
Monday, January 23, 2006
Missionary Stories - I also just finished “Tomorrow You Die”, a YWAM book by Reona Peterson Joly about her trip with a friend to pass out Bibles in communist Albania. The two were caught toward the end of their journey, facing interrogation and fear tactics from authorities. It’s a good story about God’s faithfulness to prepare his people for what he’s called them to do.
I also had the opportunity to see “End Of The Spear” with Amie and a group of friends this past Friday. I would highly recommend seeing it. It is a griping story around the 5 missionaries that were killed in Ecuador by members of a violent tribe they were trying to reach. Told from the perspective of Steve Saint, the son of one of the victims, it is an important story about the power of forgiveness to bring real change.
When a plan comes together - Last Thursday happened like every Thursday. We loaded up our gray, “has seen better days” van with bread and distributed it to families in needy areas of our city. At our last stop, a mother that we have been getting to know and her 4 small children were hanging out around the van toward the end of our time. It was a very cold day (yes, we have them in California). Getting curious, we asked her what she was up to and where she was staying. They had just lost their housing and she had been on the streets with these little kids all day not knowing what to do.
The sun was going down and it was getting colder and threatening to rain. We were on the verge of leaving but I’m so glad we asked her if she had a place. I quickly called the mission while my father-in-law loaded all their bikes in his van and Jimmy and Leah loaded all the kids in our van. The mission didn’t know if they had beds for them but committed to finding some place warm for them for the night. Thank God! I know you can’t win ‘em all but this was a case of the right place, right timing and willing folks to help make a difference to some little kids and their stressed out mom.
Guilty pleasures - I’m really digging reruns of the one season show “Firefly” and I’m a good ways into “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”. What? You gotta let up sometimes!
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Last week was a mess. Jimmy and I noticed a spot on the church property that was wet and kinda weird. There was a perfect dome of grass with water leaking out one side. When I touched it with my foot, the dome wavered like gelatin or a water bed. Jimmy said, “This is the part in the horror movie when we run...” It smelled clean so we decided it was probably run off from the parking lot cause we’d had a lot of rain lately.
It didn’t go away. Then it started to look gray. With sinking hearts, on monday of last week we decided to check the septic clean outs. Unscrewing one lid we found standing water in one. Unscrewing the next one down, it exploded in a varitable fireworks display of things that are supposed to go down into the septic tank. We couldn’t believe it! Either we had a broken line or the tank was full and overflowing and nobody has been able to locate the tank for quite some time.
We set ourselves to the task though and God met us. Within hours, someone had rented us a little back hoe and brother James from church (who has much back hoe experience) came to help us dig. By late afternoon, James had found the tank and had it completely uncovered, a septic pump truck was called and we had dug around a bit of line that got broken in the process to get it ready for repair. Wisdom, advise and help came to us in many ways to do this huge, messy job that we didn’t now how to do. Jimmy and I spent most of the time down in the trench with wader boots on trying to find any other problems.
We got to the place where we were going to close up the septic line and fill in the hole when it cam to us that we should just see if the line was clear all the way. We stuck a hose in to see if it would flow into the tank and the water just ran back out on us. Jimmy dug down to the point of resistance and wouldn’t you know it, right through our septic line, right where the ooze was a tree root had broken through and caused a clog. We stuck our shovels in and out flowed...er...all the things that should go into the septic tank! AHHHHH!!!
So we dug back and wouldn’t you know that that piece of the pipe came out really easily and evenly...which is bad. It looked like that long ago, when the septic line was laid, no one bothered to GLUE THE PIPES TOGETHER! So we tied it together correctly, filled in the hole and two days later the job was done and everything was flowing again. Yeah!
So what have we learned here kids. To keep a system flowing properly you have to...
1. Maintain it...regularly clean out the gook that could stop you up
2. Guard it...be on watch for outside dangers that want to come in and cause trouble
3. Do it right the first time...the words of my father haunt me and I’m passing them on to my sons, “If you are going to do something, do it right.” Work like there is a future
4. There is wisdom in many councilors...each person that came to help us figure out this puzzle had a piece, not the whole of the solution. I am grateful for it all and I am really grateful that it is done.
Monday, January 02, 2006
I got to thinking about this war that we are sleeping through here in the U.S. Why are we there? What have we done? What a mess we've made of things. And we don't even really talk about it anymore. The only protesters we hear are all the freaky fringe people that say really dumb things for sound bytes and supporters care more about economic issues here at home than about the real struggle of two severly different cultures literally clashing with life and death...real death, not movie death, at stake.
Where is the church? Where are our prayers? Do we pray? If we pray, do we only pray for the safety of "our troops"? Do we believe the scriptures that the gospel is for every tribe, tounge and nation? Do we hate Muslims? Is our struggle against flesh and blood? Are we seeking to be understood more than to understand? Are we looking after our own interests and not after the interests of others? Do we really love our enemies? Do we pray for those who persecute us and speak all manner of evil against us? Are we followers of Christ first or Americans first?
Looking around the internet, I came across this quote from Smedley Butler, one of our nations most decorated officers from World War 2. I found it interesting and wanted to share it. Take time to read it and respond...
War Is A Racket
Excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC.
WAR is a racket. It always has been
It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.
How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?
Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few – the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.
And what is this bill?
This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.
For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it.