Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Post Christmas- Joy?

We stayed in Louisville this Christmas. It was the first time that it was just our family without our relatives around. It was our first ham-at-home experience, first 10-pounds-of-mashed-potatoes-for-seven-people, and first skype-induced-Christmas.

It was different, but honestly pretty great. As I woke up this morning I didn't feel the Christmas hangover. I haven't seen it in the kids or felt it in the air. There were presents and food, but this Christmas was slow. The lead up was slow. The weekend was simple. The result, I believe, is joy.

It's not about staying home or being away from family. The thing that is standing out to me right now is that there wasn't so much pressure on Christmas. Nothing had to be like Norman Rockwell. Nothing had to be glamorous or glorious. My kids breath smelled like chocolate covered funk all day and the world kept spinning. Even the toy playing was slower and less urgent.

I think that many of the Christmases I have had were full of driving, partying and caffeine. I'm sure plenty in the future will as well, but this Christmas I learned something about pacing. I'm slow. I walk slow, drink coffee slow and for a guy drive extremely slow. It only makes sense that I celebrate my Savior's birthday slowly too.

When I try to speed up I miss too much. I end up passing what I love and lacking joy. As I sit in my office on the 26th listening to some awesome Herbie Hancock I feel joy. Not that my kids got the presents that they wanted, but that my Savior lived so that I can too. Things are far from perfect, but if they were why would we have Christmas.

On this December 26th I feel joy. I pray that you do too.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Spoiled

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. There is some serious excitement in my house. Interestingly, it's not about presents or food. My house is excited about Christmas.

I'm sitting in my basement right now with a cup of coffee sending out my emails and daily chats with Ethiopia. As I do this, I can't help but sing Christmas songs in my head and imagine the next three days with my crew. We will meet with friends today, go to church tomorrow, open some stockings and presents, and laugh and dance while the ham is cooking. The truth is I am spoiled.

I love this time of year because as some problems (health of friends and family, dealing with loss, etc) come to the forefront, other problems go away. It's not that they are not important any more, but they take their rightful place behind the manger. Bills, the kid's schools, day to day life, it all gets laid down so we can be in awe of the miracle of Christmas. I'm sitting here in my basement wondering what it would be like if we kept everything laid before Him. What would life be like if by practice we laid everything before Him in the manger, or Him on the cross and left it there? What if our eyes remained fixed on Him? After all, that's what Scripture invites us to do. We know we are to do it, but do we really obey and practice this?

Last night as we drove home from Nashville Durant reminded us that Jesus was in the car with us. (I love my little theologian!) We know that this is true, but so often we live with the heaviness of Good Friday. We carry this extreme weight around with us. So often life feels heavy and that is the end of it. We just live "Good Friday heavy" until Kingdom come. Then comes the Christmas season.

I love Good Friday. Good Friday gives us Easter. Easter is probably my favorite holiday of all. Yet it is Easter that makes Christmas Christmas. I'm excited to live in the mystery, beauty and simplicity of Christmas this week. I pray that it carries on well past the week. Going into the next year I want to live with the expectation, hope and joy that I feel in this Christmas season. After all, Jesus came to earth and now He is in the car with us!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Talking about the One in the room

It's incredible to me how much time I talk about God with people, whether family, friends or random folk. We talk about what He has done, who He is and what we are still waiting for. I realize that it is way often that I just talk directly to Him, thanking Him for what He has done, for who He is and reminding Him of what I am waiting for.
This last few months with Eyes That See has brought to my mind how badly I need God to be God and how quickly I invite someone else to be. In these last few days preparing for Christmas I want to echo the other voices as they encourage us to prepare our hearts before all other preparations. May God bless you this week.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Scared to Life

I've never understood horror movies. I don't want to be afraid. If I did I would simply go outside to the jungle that is my backyard (more on that in a future post!) Actually, this morning I learned about wild pigs in Texas and how they are as big as trucks. I learned that they charge at you when you shoot them, which disqualifies me on several grounds.
1. being around anything that is "wild."
2. being near a pig that doesn't have an apple in its mouth.
3. being in Texas, but not Austin or Dallas.
4. carrying not only one gun, but two.
5. being around any animal that runs at me.
None of those things should happen. They all, like horror movies produce nightmares.

The only thing that I understand about horror movie lovers is the rush of life that you feel. It can be addicting. I think often the ways that we experience that feeling are counterfeits to the real thing. We can feel a thrill from a movie, roller coaster, or someone jumping out of a closet at us, but the feeling doesn't last. It may not be bad, but it quickly fades.

I am thinking about this because I just left a phone conversation that scared me to life. I called a friend to thank him for who he is and was amazed how frazzled I can feel by being vulnerable. There was real life there in this awkward conversation. It sounds small, but sometimes saying what we really feel and inviting people into our real lives exposes us to real life. It feels like a raw nerve being exposed and we get jolted by the real thrill of life.

I won't start watching horror movies, shooting pigs, or taking out the garbage at night, but I hope that I become addicted to real life. I like the feeling that comes with that.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

100th Post

This is a bit of a milestone for me. I was trying to think of what I would say to both of you readers in this 100th post, and I decided to list a few things that I am grateful for.
  • I'm grateful for my job. Some mornings I wake up stressed out. Some days are more than exciting. Other days we wait in anticipation for funding to come in, or reports from Ethiopia. The truth is I rarely go to bed without experiencing some real life during the day. I'm pretty spoiled that way.
  • I'm grateful for really good friends. I have many friends that I know a little who encourage me and inspire me. I have a few friends that know me well who hold me up when I'm tired or distracted. They are such a gift.
  • I'm grateful for my extended family. I remember being worried about this move to Louisville and what it would do to our families. I didn't want to fracture anything, and in some ways we've gotten closer. My mom is a gift in particular as we spend more time talking now than when I lived less than two hours away! Seriously, you should hang out with her, she's pretty fun.
  • I'm grateful for my kids. Last night we were at a Christmas street dance listening to the Rolling Stones. I don't even know what they sing. (Judge me now!) My kids don't either. Either way, the seven of us were dancing around like it was our own wedding dance. As they filed to bed I was reminded how blessed I am by them. I would have never put this family together, but I praise God that He did.
  • I'm grateful for my wife. Through living in Louisville I've realized what a gift I have in Nikki. Her faith is pure and she has taught me to see life a whole lot clearer. My bride has great courage and loves well. I'm a rich man!
  • I'm grateful for my Jesus. I can remember being a middle schooler who was afraid of life. I had just lost my grandpa and didn't know if the cruel world would win out, or if there was something more. I can't tell you how changed I am because He is more. I'm secure in Him, found in Him, and alive.
  • I'm also grateful for jazz music, Longhorn football, coffee, warm weather, the reset button on electronics, good movies, great books, Adidas shoes, razors and so much more. I know this reads cheesy, but it is a great reminder to me.
Enjoy your day everyone. It's almost Christmas!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Enjoying Doc Cheatham

I have been sitting this morning getting some paperwork and administration done while listening to incredible jazz music. One of the artists who stood out was Doc Cheatham. He's this amazing trumpet player who played a long time ago. The thing that grabbed me about him is that he hit his stride as a soloist in his 70's. I guess this is about ten years after trumpet players usually quit. He played for another twenty years.

This is incredible to me. I keep thinking about how we often have this feeling that we have to know the one singular purpose to our entire life by the time we graduate college, get married or have a kid. Maybe we keep growing and eventually our lives make beautiful music. It's true for Doc at least. I hope it is true of me as well. Enjoy your day and start celebrating Christmas early!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Almost Christmas

I can feel Christmas in the air, even as the rain falls when I once new snow. It is funny how badly I want this season of joy this year. I want the season of miracles, joy, hope and laughter. Usually I get in the Christmas mood when I shop on the 22nd, but this year is different. We are getting in the mood early! Here are a few favorite ways.

Jazz music: I like jazz music pretty much anytime, but in the Christmas seasoning imagine a ton of lyrics about mangers and candy canes. Somehow these songs are incredibly Christmassy. You should try it out.

Movies under blankets: No season has better movies to enjoy. There aren't inspiring Labor Day movies, but The Muppet's Christmas Carol? I'm not sure if there are better films. Plus, it is the only time of year that I don't make fun of myself for Hallmark like endings. Elf, The Grinch, They Year Without a Santa Claus. Seriously great movies!

Hot drinks: In the middle of summer I prefer a warm drink to a cold one. I spent plenty of days sweating on my back deck with a hot cup of coffee in hand. This time of year I am not alone. I like not being alone.

Purpose: Sometimes I can feel how much we as a people lack purpose. Monday bleeds into Tuesday and we may not wake until Saturday. When it is Christmas time we seems to live a little different. We seem to have hope for things that the rest of the year we would consider childish. We seem to find something positive in people that we are often critical. So many of us believe in something bigger than ourselves. Many of us pause to ask where our faith in this precious Child is blocked by what feels to be our reality here on earth.

This year I need Christmas. I have gotten to know so many more people who are desperate about their need for a Savior. I have seen that there is no amount of money or help that I could give. I know in my heart that my friends don't need me, they need a Savior. I'm so grateful that into this reality on earth a Savior was born. Enjoy this season in every way that you can.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Good of Facebook

I'll be honest.  I don't like Facebook.  I'm grateful for it because this week is about being thankful.  Still, for me, I'm about as thankful for Facebook as I am for my back molar.  I am sure I would miss it some if it were gone, but right now I don't really care.  Anyways, today I went through Nikki's pictures.  She has a slew of photos on their from the past five years.  It was pretty incredible looking through and seeing Ana when she was so tiny that her smile was bigger than her head.  I laughed seeing that Durant's eyes have always been huge and that Carter has always been like my miniature guy friend.  It was powerful watching through photos as the last two years have progressed and Ezra and Jackson have grown bigger and more comfortable over time.  I am a very blessed man.
Even though I still have no interest in playing Farmville or giving you corn, I am finding some good on Facebook.  I think I can call it a day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Looking big. Feeling small.

A few weeks ago when I was in Ethiopia I got to visit the Eshet school where we are running the 10c dabo feeding program.  It is at this school that we are feeding 61 students.  The most challenging part of feeding these kids was seeing how many kids didn't have food yet.  In order to go to this school, you need to show that you do not have income, and therefore need a free education.  The difficulty comes in when they have an hour for lunch and nowhere to go and no food to eat.  There have been a few students who pass out from hunger.  They are otherwise healthy, but there is no food.


We spent our time with the students that we were feeding.  These were all of the preschoolers.  I got to go and sit with them.  Seriously, how great is this photo?

I look like Elf in this photo!  At the same time, I felt like him.  I felt so huge in this room.  You could stand three of these students up on each other and they would be able to stand as tall as my giant 5/10" frame.  

Height aside, I felt tiny.  I knew that there were kids outside hoping for leftovers.  I knew that even if we fed the entire school there are still others hungry.  I knew that even after hunger was met, there are so many needs.  It was one of those clear moments when I felt that the world didn't need Matt, but Christ.  I can offer a little food and a funny photo.  Lasting hope comes through Christ.

Hebrews 6:19-20
"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. "

Why isn't there a song about Louisville?

It seems like any good city either has a song or a band named after it.  Okay I don't know of a song named after Brooklyn Center or Eau Claire.  Still, there should be one about Louisville.

Think about it, "Omaha" bu Counting Crows was the inspiration of two road trips for my family.  "Walking In Memphis" somehow got me through my college years even though I went to college about ten hours from Memphis and never listened to a Elvis song in those years.  I do think that I am the only person who would pump themselves up for sports with Marc Cohn.

Then the bands for those who are more blessed chronologically know Chicago and Boston.  Boston slightly ruined my wedding dance, but I heard that they were good.  I'm sure I'm missing a few, but that further proves my point that Louisville deserves a song.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thoughts

I am fascinated by how often we think about us. Maybe it is just natural, but it seems pretty broken.
We have a raccoon that lives under our deck. He broke the side of the deck and must be getting bigger because the hole is bigger and bigger each week. I haven't officially met him yet, but I am pretty sure he isn't too concerned about what I think of him, his impact on my deck or if his hair is looking good on that day.
He's this nasty looking, honest!

Even though he often outsmarts me, I am holding on to the hope that I am slightly smarter than him and more advanced than he is. (Once I fix the deck we'll find out.) With that said, I should be able to handle basic stuff like him, eating, drinking, finding a place to sleep, and move on to more important items after that. Instead, I stay in the same pattern, thinking of myself way too seriously.

I would love to see what life looked like if we trusted basic needs to be basic. We didn't complicate them. We didn't glorify them. Maybe even we could put others basic needs ahead of our complex needs. I am holding out hope that this is possible. I'm also holding out hope that a bear will move under my deck and scare away the raccoon. That would be an awesome blog post!


Monday, November 14, 2011

How far?

I'm a dad. When I think of the things that most practically define me, that is definitely top 5, hopefully top 3 behind follow of Christ and husband to my bride. (sometimes other identities sneak in, but that's another post.)

I'm learning so much about me by being a dad. The new thing I'm seeing is how far I will take things. I saw it in my kids this weekend. I threw a football party for Jackson, Durant, Ana and I. It was an all out celebration with Twizzlers, smoked almonds, and orange soda. The funny thing was the kids weren't satisfied. They wanted two sodas instead of one.  Chips instead of almonds. They didn't want just football, but movies. Not just the afternoon, but all night. They weren't even happy with just Saturday, but wanted Sunday as well. We missed a few memories looking for the next.

I saw it most clearly in a thank you card Jackson made me. He drew a wonderful photo of us both as ninja turtles. On the inside he thanked me for the fun weekend, and then he dropped the question...can we play video games? He knows we weren't going to, but since we had fun he thought he could maybe have more.

The same thing was shown perfect in a photo Nikki took with Carter in Memphis.

My son is a little comedian, but he's doing what I have often done.  I have tried to see what I can get away with.  One more soda, candy bar, movie or game. 

I want to be grateful for today, messes and all. I don't want to look for how I can get away with more, but how I can live more content. Isn't to want His kingdom more than this world, and celebrate the journey of getting there.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

1 in 4 wins

I have never won the lottery.  The main reason is because I haven't bought a ticket since I bought some for my grandpa when I was in middle school.  He didn't win on one ticket and it seemed all too expensive.  It may be because of this, but I do spend a year's worth of money at McDonald's during the Monopoly game.  This year it paid off.  After all, one in four wins.

We didn't win the million, the car, or even the video game system.  Instead, Nikki and I won the two most valuable breakfast sandwiches known to man.

We cashed them in last Friday at a McDonald's in St. Matthews.  While we were sitting there I saw a guy with his Bible out.  I wanted to talk to him, but I figured that I am weird and it was the biscuit talking.  I thought I would finish and then maybe get up.  Then, I looked to the other side and saw two more guys with their Bibles out.  I had to see what was going on.  Well, the first guy, Brandon, went to say hi to the other two.  I saw my window and made Nikki quickly slam her sandwich so we could walk by them on our way out.  Brandon was talking to a lady, so I just stood there awkwardly until they were done. I'm sure I looked odd, but I'm used to that.  Once that conversation ended Nikki and I got to know Brandon as well as Scott and Drew.  We talked for a little while and left so encouraged by the faith of these men.

Before McDonald's I was in a hurry and we weren't even supposed to be in St. Matthews.  It was only because I forgot what I needed that Nikki met me at Heine Brothers and we headed out together.  Brandon was there on accident.  Scott and Drew just started meeting the week before.  It's not like all of the world changed and we were able to give free McMuffins to all the homeless downtown, but it was a beautiful reminder that God has gifts for us in the middle of our day.  I have lived deeply encouraged for a week off of that "chance" meeting.  I have rarely been more thankful that I don't mind standing awkwardly waiting to say hi to someone God may have me meet.  It feels like 75% of the time I feel like a fool, but the rest of the times make it worth while.

I'm not trying to be too cheesy, but I will be anyways.  I pray that my family and yours have the courage to feel odd as we courageously follow what God has in front of us.  May He guide your steps, even if they lead you to McDonald's.  I pray we become known as people who go where He leads.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Stoplights

I haven't figured it out yet, but on certain days in Louisville organizations can take donations at stoplights. It is very strange and I am certain I will accidentally hit one of the workers some day. The worst part about hitting them is not that they would be hit by a Jeep, but that I would feel like subconsciously I didn't like their cause. That would make me feel bad, and probably donate.

On Saturday Carter and I were driving to UK. On the way we passed two different intersections with donation-takers. The first one was for the humane society. These poor dogs and cats need homes and people were dumping money in the buckets. It looked like they were buying rare hamsters with the amounts they were giving. In fact, I almost missed the light because two cars in front of me was trying to give so much. Generous people, seriously! I have a game to go to!

The next intersection was for a homeless shelter. I'm not lying, people were rolling up their windows. I have never seen drivers avoid eye contact. Not one person gave. It was crazy. People were acting like they would catch homelessness by giving.

Why do we care about the puppies but not the people? It was a pretty odd moment. I still argue that we, as people, are an odd breed.
By the way- even though UK won, I still like U of L!

Practice what we sing

Just the other day I was riding around with my little Ana in the car. We had a worship cd on and Ana was in the back singing away. I started listening to the words again and I was reminded how much truth is packed into many of the songs we sing. I can't help but think, "what would we look like if we lived what we sing?"

It's amazing how we can worship in the car to a cd full of truth about who God is and who we are in light of Him, and then hop out and live different. I know there are little pathways in the brain and I am wondering how God connects the two areas. What would I look like if my life reflected my favorite songs? (Not the 90's classics like "The End of the Road." More like Chris McClarney or Chris Tomlin songs.)

I cannot wait for the day when all that we know and believe in theory comes out of our lives in reality. Instead of knowing God should be first, we live with Him first. Instead of saying we trust Him, truly trusting Him. Instead of caring as we pass by someone, actually stopping and seeing the people in front of us. The day that this happens will change the world. Maybe that day is today.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Long absent, possible return

There are some things that I just love the idea of but don't necessarily want to work towards. I wish I could wake up in shape, learn a language in my sleep and become a natural writer by blinking. None of those things happen, but are all worth pursuing. With that said, at least today I will blog again.

I meet with this group of guys on Fridays. They are great guys that I have met with for just over a year. Today was interesting. I feel like we had the exact conversation a year ago. I even remember some comments being the same. I remember hearing "everyone is worn out", "time is going to fast", and "those ladies took our table." It made me realize, I really shouldn't act surprised by life any longer. As long as I can remember, some people have felt worn out. Scripture teaches that is a reality. It also teaches that when we are weary God will be our strength.

I am beginning to wonder what would happen if I shifted the attention away from weariness and towards God's provision instead. What would it look like to look to Him in practice instead of theory? What if we didn't accept life staying the same, and also stopped pretending we can change ourselves?

It's work to relearn life. I think it is worth the effort to trust God to bring all that He says He provides. This isn't just money. This is peace, hope and all of the rest. Here's to relearning to trust Him...again.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Pursuit of God

I am reading through "The Pursuit of God" by Tozer and there is a quote that stood out strong to me this morning. A. W. Tozer is writing about how our great honor and joy is in seeking after God. It is not adding things to our pursuit, but letting God's presence alone being our destination that we wake aiming for. Here's what he wrote.

"How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to center upon the initial act of 'accepting' Christ and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls."

He wrote this some sixty years ago, but I believe it is true today. I get to sit under some great teaching, yet it would be so easy to let the professionals hunger after God for me. Instead, the words of our pastors should serve like the fragrance you smell as you come in at the end of a long day to a dinner prepared for you. That fragrance wakes a desire to go and experience all that is before you. I believe the table is set and we can now taste and see.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Keller

A few months ago I read a great book by Timothy Keller called Kings Cross. Here's one of his quotes that I keep thinking about.

"Be so sacrificially loving that the people around you, who don't believe what you believe, will soon be unable to imagine the place without you."

I want this to be true of me. I want this to be true of my wife and my kids. I pray that what we believe leaks out of our smiles, no matter the circumstances. A few years ago Nikki and I decided to live what we believe: that our lives are not our own. I had no clue that it would mean all that followed, but I would take this life again. I don't want to waste a day. I also don't want to speed past a moment. I guess that keeps us dependent on Him to transform our lives into something beautiful that points to Him.

Monday, July 11, 2011

After a long break....

I talked with a few friends this weekend who were looking here for both of my wise words.  I told Jim I was start posting things, so here we go!  Here is my list of top five "Surprisingly Frightening Animals."
5.  Wisconsin cows.  Small, confined homes where the beasts don't look particularly smart.  They could fall on you, I am sure.  I saw Tommy Boy with the cow tipping.  If they fall that easy, I don't want to be under one.
4.  Addis dogs.  I was bit by one in February when I was in Ethiopia.  It's true, ask CJ.  Anyways, it didn't break skin, but if it did I am sure that I would be in some Austrian hospital still.  They are part dog, part nightmare.
3.  Louisville ground hogs.  They travel in packs and think that cars should move for them.  We once didn't go in a shoe store because a few were hanging out in front of the store.  Why there isn't a sports team named after these intimidating beasts is a mystery to me.
2.  Awassa birds.  There are these birds the size of horses in Awassa.  No one knows what I am talking about, but they are big enough for Wisconsin cows to ride on the back of them.  They are like Ford Pintos with wings.  Very frightening.
1.  Any goat.  I'm not convinced they were created before the fall.  They eat your clothes and poop Dippin Dots.  I don't understand the beasts.  I would rather meet a moose than a goat.

note: The hyena is not listed on this list because it is not surprisingly frightening.  They are just straight scary.

There you go.  I'll talk to y'all soon!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Immediately

I got a little stuck looking at Matthew 4 today.  I have heard several people speak about the word "immediately" in Scripture, and I have even spoken about it once before.  Still, this struck me a bit this morning.

At our church a few weeks ago, our pastor was talking about when Matthew went to follow Jesus.  He was talking about how Matthew probably had seen Jesus before.  They had probably crossed paths and been at least familiar with one another.  I had never thought about that.  I don't know if it was true, but I had always pictured it as a complete strange making a completely strange request and having Matthew so thrown off by it that he was left curious.  If Matthew knew who Jesus was, that would change the story a bit.

Either way in Matthew 4 we have the same type of situation.  Simon, Andrew, James and John are all fishing and invited to follow Jesus.  It appears they are at least familiar with Him, and either way, they leave their nets, their jobs, their everything and follow Him.

I am finally at the age that people want to throw everything aside to go fish (or watch horse races here in Louisville.)  Jesus' invitation is to throw what is familiar, maybe safe, and follow Him.  This invitation looks completely different depending on who hears it, but the response time is in the Gospels.  I want to be defined by my relationship with Christ, and those who went before me followed immediately.  They threw everything aside immediately and embraced what He had for them.

Some people who were marked by Jesus stayed in their hometowns, some were sent out, some were drawn near.  No matter the direction, the response time and readiness is what has marked me.  As for me and my house, I want to live ready, so we can respond immediately.

Monday, May 2, 2011

If I Tweeted

Yesterday Ezra finished a soccer tournament.  I drank a lot of coffee and they only had portable toilets.  All I could think is "After using a portable I've learned Americans need to change their diet."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Four Dollars

My gas tank is almost empty.  Tomorrow morning I will need to fill up the Man Van before I go through the day.  Paying $3.99 for gas made me think of when gas was a dollar and we drove all day to Aerosmith's song from Armageddon.  All of that is a distant past, but it is funny what I think is a good deal for $4.  Here are thoughts that I have probably had.

  • $4 at McDonald's: "I remember $2.99 meal.  This is way too expensive for fake food."
  • $4 at a Bats Game: "$5 gives the souvenir cup, so $4 is way worth a 32 ounce soda!  After all, the "all-you-can-drink" cup is like $9.  $4 is nothing!"
  • $4 fee at school.  "I really don't know if books are that important.  Prices are rising and we have five kids!"  (Plus $10 late fees at the school library!)
  • $4 at Thorton's, (or Kwik Trip).  "You can get like 325 ounces of soda, 14 hot dogs and a bottle of Yoohoo there.  It's like Christmas kids!"
  • $4 at Starbucks.  "I know the water costs $4, but 25 cents goes to children."
  • $4 at Target.  "I don't know if we NEED socks.  That seems pretty steep for a twelve pack.  Can't you just share with your brother?  Wear them inside out? Put a sticker over the hole?"
  • $4 on cereal.  "Wow!  How can Cheerios cost so much?  This will only last our family a few days!"
  • $4 on donuts.  "That should get you home, Durant.  I'm glad to give you six pounds of chocolate icing for breakfast!"
  • $4 at Taco Bell. "I'm going to pay for this!"
  • $4 at the gas pump.  "Seriously.  These kids are going to start walking to practice."
I hope you have a more realistic grasp on the value of a dollar.  Apparently I have no clue.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rain

It has been raining almost every day here.  I'm not complaining Wisconsin.  I am glad it is not snow.  Still, almost everyday.  The rain has been very timely though.

Yesterday Ana was out drawing with Easter chalk on the deck.  I don't know what makes it "Easter chalk" other than the extra dollar you pay and the shorter, fatter stick, but she was drawing nonetheless.  She had amazingly straight lines all over the deck.  They were also on the table, and a little bit even on the window.  Her feet and legs were tie dyed some awesome spring colors and she was happy.  I would call the art "modern."  At least I think I would.

A few weeks ago she found some baking soda goo that her brother had made and decorated the same deck, table and window.  Her legs and feet looked like goo on that day.

Today, when I look outside, everything is wiped away.  Some of the pictures were great and I was happy about them.  Some of them, well, not so much.  Still, today is new and the rain has washed away all that was.

Sometimes people need brand new starts where everything that was is wiped away.  Sometimes we need all the successes wiped away to finally be present.  Sometimes we need all our failures to be erased.  Either way the rain comes.  I'm thankful for rain.  Today is brand new again.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Enough Time Away

I think I have taken enough time away.  That was my three week sabbatical that followed my two week sabbatical.  This blogging thing offers great time away though the salary is pretty stinking low.
Anyways, this is my first Derby Season in Louisville and it is a big deal.  Not only are there awesomely decorated hats, but there are rules and routines for everything.  Here are a few things that I am learning about living here in the spring.

  • The weather is crazy: 85 degrees at 5pm.  50 with rain at 8pm.  75 with sunny skies at 10am.  Repeat almost daily.
  • Derby is bigger than Easter.  How do I know this?  The kids get "Oaks Day" off of school but not "Good Friday."  Oaks Day is when the female horses run the day before the Derby.  I guess this is the day to go to the track and you go to "Derby Parties" on Derby Day.
  • There is such a thing as a "Derby Party."  There is even a "Derby Pie."  It looks like pecan with chocolate, but what do I know.  (side note: last year at the race they served $1,000 mint juleps.  It was made from ice that was taken off an imported glacier.  Seriously)
  • Horses are a big deal.  Every Walmart has one inside.  It isn't real, but good luck convincing Ana of that.
  • Secretariat won't be running this year.  Good luck convincing Durant of that.  He has a field trip to the Derby Museum and we are pretty sure he will cry when he doesn't see Secretariat.  He now wants to be a jockey.  He has the height for it.
  • Horses have cool names.  "Pants on Fire" is Nikki's pick to win.  I'm waiting for a horse to be named "Mr. Wiggletooth."  He would get my vote.
  • Louisville races everything.  If it can go in a straight line, there is probably a race over the next few weeks.
  • Nothing gets done until after Derby.  People are on semi vacation.  It is pretty funny.  I feel like an outsider.  There are fundraisers every day, basketball tournaments, and everything.  I'll tell you more when I figure it all out.
  • It takes weeks to prepare for, but the race is over in just over 2 minutes.  Go figure.
That's a crash course in this time of year here.  Have a great Easter weekend.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Month of Change Begins!

Hello everyone.  The "Month of Change" begins today.  We are very excited about how many of you are taking part in this event with us.  From Kammerer Middle School, to families around the country, and even the Boys Scouts here in Louisville.  Thanks for all of your participation.  Each day I will send out an update on the month and the projects that we are working on.  These will be posted here, and if you would like them in email form, just email me at matt@eyesthatsee.org
Grace and the "Month of Change" jar

Marquis family showing support

The fireflies at Rachel's Place

Everyone who is hosting drop off sites, please make sure we have your addresses as we will make certain you have the flyers to go with your drop off jars.  Watch for stories on this blog or in your inbox!



Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Moments

I had this one moment in Ethiopia with my friends CJ and John that I will never forget.  We drove about two blocks past a market and then walked a few more blocks.  When we passed behind some buildings we went to a slum area unlike any I have seen before.

I have seen extreme poverty, AIDS communities, even groups of refugees and amputees, but I had never seen anything like this.  Within a square block were hundreds of tiny rooms where prostitutes waited for their next client.  Men leave the market on their way home and visit these women.  If it was a good day at the market, the man may spend the night.  If it was a bad day, he might beat the woman and steal her money.  As we walked through the community it was obvious that there were no toilets, no running water, and honestly no hope.

There was one older woman who was beyond weak and beaten by disease.  Still, she waited by her door inviting someone in.  There were bunk beds in many of the rooms.  The children would sleep on the top bunk while the mother worked on the bottom bunk.  This is just life for these children.

This area broke my heart.  I left so angry and desperate for God to change the reality I had just seen. I know there are areas like this in every country, including the US.  For me, walking through this area of Addis made the destruction of prostitution and everything we call casual all the more real.

Our days don't have to lack purpose.  There is plenty of beauty to stand for and celebrate.  There is plenty that doesn't belong as well.  I pray that your day is flooded with purpose.  Enjoy your moments, whether you would declare them good or not.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Serious Questions on the Return Trip

I just got back from Ethiopia, and on the way home I realized some questions that have gone unanswered in all the times I have flown.
1.  Do people really buy things from the SkyMall?
2.  Why is it that when I am next to the 75 year old snorer and I can't recline my seat because it would go into the bathroom I am exhausted, but when I have an entire row to myself I cannot pull myself from watching old episodes of Castle?
3.  Do the Dutch like their food?
4.  Why does there need to be both Coke Zero and Diet Coke on one flight and then neither on the other flight?
5.  Has anyone ever tried to disassemble the smoke detector in the bathroom?
6.  What happens to the headphones when you give them back?
7.  How can a giant plane headed to another continent be early and ready, yet a tiny plane going from Minneapolis to Louisville be an hour late?
8.  Why doesn't the airport sell foot deodorizers?  They would make a killing.
9.  Why do I always sit next to the guy who needs the foot deodorizer?
10.  Why doesn't he keep his shoes on?

Those were just some of my thoughts on my journey back from Ethiopia.  Thankfully, more productive things happened there than on the plane.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Haiku

My friend/poet "Darkcloud" wrote this about the animals on the road.

Giant animals.
Made of foam and wire net.
At least they use the right lane.


I can hear all twelve readers snapping right now.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Photos From the Road-Seriously?

A few days ago I got to drive down to Bowling Green, KY.  (Not the "University of Bowling Green" Bowling Green.  The other one.)  I was having a nice drive listening to music and making phone calls when my day was forever changed by the vehicle that I passed.  Check it out.


I guess I have never stopped to think of how these giant animals moved.  It makes sense that they are on a truck, but still, I'm amazed.  I don't really understand giant decorative creatures.  I remember the bull, the cow, and the mouse in Eau Claire.  I never ate a restaurant that owned one.  I think that is a good rule.  

All of my thoughts came rushing at me when I saw this truck.  Did someone really pay to have these made?  How many people make these for a living?  Is the giant decorative animal guy married to the "zoom and groom" girl?  Are these animals going to the same place?  If they are, what kind of place is that?

I think I wanted to pretend that these animals were a part of nature and people built around them.  In my mind they were always there, so no one ever chose to put a giant animal in their parking lot.  I lost a little bit of innocence that day.  I'll be okay though.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Photos From the Road-The Economy

This week my mom is down visiting our family.  It has been great spending time with her and having the kids climb all over her and everything.  It has also given me time to take some photos while driving my car, because nothing says "I'm a good son and driver" like taking photos while driving.

For those of you who question if we will really make it in this economy, see the photo below.

That is an actual company.  If you own it, more power to you.  The existence of this company shows the collision of two of our most scarce resources: time and money.  Sometimes one has to win out.  The owner of this awesome van knows that people have less time than money, so they offer to pay a lot of money to groom your pet, apparently at your house.

I think this is awesome.  In no way does it benefit me, but it gave me my next business idea: The Kid Car Wash.  For those families who don't have time for baths, you put your kid in a power wheels and hose them off with gallons of water, dry them with massive hair dryers and ship them to bed.  I think it would work.

About the lack of money, we'll be alright folks.  I know many people are in desperate circumstances and I have sympathy for those individuals.  For those of us who just feel things a little tighter, need to look again at our budgets and maybe vacation less, well, the world is still spinning and the sun is still rising.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

World's Worst Ad

Sometimes we do dumb things.  I understand that completely.  I have been known to do my share and the share of the person next to me.  It has been to my advantage that not many know me, so my stupid moves go somewhat unknown.

Today I went to Yahoo! and saw this ad that was done in Los Angeles I was amazed that:
1. someone made it
2. someone else paid for it
3. someone would publish it
4. no one saw how silly this ad is.

http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/The-Clippers-celebrate-Black-History-Month-in-th?urn=nba-327470

I know I posted this sideways.  I think the whole things is a little tough to look at.  My favorite part is wondering how the average ticket taker is to know if a kid is underprivileged.  Reason number 379 why to not like the Clippers.

Monday, February 28, 2011

My Durant

I still remember a few years ago feeling like my son was in Ethiopia.  Nikki already knew and was waiting for me to figure it out.  As we filled out papers and waited for this young man to come into our home we had the idea that he was more than a little boy.  With him was going to come a brand new life.  My friend, Doug, called this boy "my inheritance."  That has been true so far.

Durant Natnael turned six today!  He has gone from a quiet, little boy to now a hilarious little man.  He brings so much joy to my life.

Today Nikki got him donuts for breakfast and since school started late with the rain, she took him to get a treat at the gas station after dropping Ana at school.  Do you think he was excited?


You be the judge.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Middle School

I'm leaving in a minute to go and speak to middle school students for the whole day.  Seriously, the whole day.  Pray for me.

I love middle schoolers, but they remind me of some of my painful moments as a middle school pastor.  Going to the hospital with broken arms, explaining how I didn't think it was my students smearing things on the bathroom walls, apologizing when it was my students.

It also reminds me of being in middle school.  Man, was I not awesome. Here are my quick memories.

  • the awesomeness that was the Sega Genesis
  • Spin Doctors cd
  • Columbia House and BMG cd deals (I thought they were awesome)
  • Girbaud jeans
  • Starter jackets
  • Michael Jordan
  • awkward conversations at dances
  • ripping my sweatpants right in front while carrying metal in my shop class
  • being glad shop was my last class
  • confirmation
  • my first guitar
  • neon everything
I hope you enjoyed middle school.  If you feel out of place today, be glad you are not still rocking your old school.

Monday, February 21, 2011

History on this President's Day

I learned from my kindergarten son today all about our nation's rich history.  I had no clue that even though President George Washington is dead that he is still our president.  He is good.  I couldn't imagine the stress of dealing with the problems of this nation and never medicating on a bag of Snyder's peanut butter pretzel sandwiches.  Also, we live in the great nation of Kentucky, in the state of Louisville, the city of the United States.

Somehow Durant didn't quite score high enough for AP classes next year.  

Friday, February 18, 2011

February's Quote

I read Seth Godin's blog pretty often and he had this statement that I thought had some meaning today.

He wrote "Art is not in the eye of the beholder.  It is in the soul of the artist."

This is pretty encouraging when we look at some parts of our life.  Too often we quit because we aren't sure what it would look like.  Most days I want to stop blogging because who really cares what I'm thinking.  People don't paint because they are sure it isn't good enough.  I have a friend who loves flowers and gardens yet doesn't know if he is good so he doesn't plant.

Too often we stop before we ever start.  Our little worlds would be a lot more colorful if we would do what we love, at least with our free time.  We can be critics later.  Let what is within you out today, whether that means five extra minutes making dinner or dusting off the old guitar.  I think Seth is right.  It's art if it is in your soul.

Seth is a lot smarter than I.  If you want to read his thoughts first hand, check him out at http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hope (Again)

If you follow our blog for Eyes That See you have already read this post.  As I was preparing for my next trip and celebrating the stories of the women involved in Eyes That See, I was moved again by this previous post.  Nikki and Christy first wrote it at matthew1316.blogspot.com but I wanted to post it here as well.  I hope this is an encouragement to you today!
 

Our first day of working in Ethiopia we got to visit the home of one of the women in our beauty school program.




Her name is WoubeEjig. Her house leaves little to be desired. It has no windows, no running water or electricity, it is made of mud, and it's the size of a closet. But WoubeEjig was so honored that we would come and sit and see her home. As five adults crammed into this tiny place, we sat and listened to her story. It's difficult to try to even begin to share with you the hardship and struggles she has faced. Losing her father at a young age started her on a journey of addiction and prostitution. She is 35 years old. She has two children. A son who is 20 and a daughter who is 6. Her daughter is living with her grandma right now. Her small home with very few belongings had recently been broken into and robbed.



But the thing that stuck out most was her joy and hope. Because of going through the program, her life has been changed. She said because of the opportunity to go to the beauty school and receive counseling she is free from her addiction, knows who she is in Christ, and has hope for her future.

This is what Eyes That See is about. This is why we exist and why we need your help and support more then ever. There are countless women with stories like WoubeEjig who need the opportunity to feel the joy and hope that only God can bring them.

Currently we have enough funding to provide this to 10 women. All that is stopping us from starting another group of 10 women is $30 per student each month for 5 months. This is a total of $150 per student to have her life changed or $300 each month would support an entire class.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Crippling Doubt

I have been reading 1 Samuel lately.  I love the Samuels, the Kings and the Chronicles.  They read like adventure stories to me.  Anytime I feel like my life has a lot of adventure and uncertainty I read these to find my life as predictable as Mr. Rogers'.

Today I read my favorite events recorded in 1 Samuel 14 when Jonathan and the armor bearer take on an army by faith and win.  After that I kept reading and found something that I never noticed before.

Saul made a mess of his life.   He made a mess of all of Israel really.  He kept getting in the way of what God was doing, kept inching himself towards deity, and was inpatient with what God was doing. Finally, when God was explaining to Samuel about how Saul no longer had his favor at all, he said through Samuel some words that caught my eye.

1 Samuel 15.17
"Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel?  The Lord anointed you King over Israel."

Little in your own eyes.  This just throws me off.  He's the king!  He looks like he is arrogant in his actions, yet the thing that frustrates The Lord about Saul is that he is "little" in his own eyes.   If you read 1 Samuel 9 just before Saul is anointed, he disqualifies himself.  Saul is certain he is too small, disqualified, and beyond what God could use.   Even God making him king, using him to defeat enemies and showing miracles through him won't change the doubt that cripples Saul's heart.

I have spent plenty of time in serious doubt.  I have doubted God could use me, would want to use me, or would not have someone better waiting in the wings.  My doubt has trumped God's will too many times.  No matter how much God shows Himself faithful in my life, if I doubt that what He says is bigger than what I feel, I will shut Him down.  Again, it is an issue of faith.  I have had to believe that God's words over me are bigger than any others.

Doubt isn't just a problem in Saul and within me.  You may wrestle with it too.  You may be spending a lot of time thinking that you are too little.  Here's the thing: you are who God says you are.  That is it.  It may be time to deal with that.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Friday Night

I don't know about your house, but my house will always fall for the classic, "lets have a night together that is only sort of together."  It's horrible, and we try not to do it too often, but last night I pulled out the standard, fool proof bonding time:  "Pizza and a movie."  I think the kids like it more than if we played board games, built with Legos or bought them each space ships.  (Okay, they would take the space ships.)

Our kids know the routine.  They lay a blanket on the floor in the living room (because someone always spills), one gets the cups, another the plates and napkins.  One cues the dvd player and tv and Ana watches it all happen like a maestro before an orchestra.

Last night I even cheated.  We watched a movie that we own, which totally invites them to find out that I just wanted bedtime to come 86 minutes early.  They didn't figure it out, and for that 86 minutes plus the 5 minutes of trailers I was the dad of the year! I felt horrible though, because I knew we were having "Pizza and a movie" only because Carter was too sick to go to school or his game and I only had the energy to push play on the remote.

We watched the movie, we ate the pizza, we all felt connected in some strange, not so real way.  Now today I will actually engaged with the kids.  We have two soccer games to cheer at, so that is a start.  We will team up to accomplish stuff around the house and maybe get in another game of balloon volleyball.  Who knows, I might even win.

The go to move of "Pizza and a movie" is a little too easy, but last night it was beautiful!  Now if the kids would only start liking movies that don't include talking animals I would be hooked.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Vitamins

Yesterday all the kids were healthy and went to school  It was a beautiful day.  The birds were chirping and the work was getting done. I caught up on some of life and felt much better by the end of the day.

Last night I was talking to a great friend for a while and I told him about Ana's new vitamins.  She has this vitamin that smells like fish.  It is horrible.  It is as if they cut up a fish and made it in pill form (It is not fish oil, but something weirder.)  Anyways, a few weeks ago Nikki called the Dr. because all of Ana smelled like fish.  Her hair smelled like fish, her diapers, everything.  She is on this vitamin to counter her medicine, so we were getting nervous about this horrible smell being present for years.

When Nikki talked to the nurse she said that Ana smelling like the vitamin shows you that it is working. We were sure that she wasn't getting any of the nutrients, but we were completely off.  I guess that this fish vitamin isn't fully in you until it leaks out of you.

It is the same with beliefs.  If your belief doesn't leak out of your pours, it is probably theory.  Not that you should be pounding your beliefs on other people, but you should smell like what you believe.  Are the people near you your highest priority? You should smell like it.  Do you believe you are new?  Do you feel your life is not your own?  That you have reason for real joy?  If these or any other beliefs are real and actual in your life you should smell like it.  Otherwise it's just theory.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wednesday

Here are a few things that kept crossing my mind yesterday.  If you don't enjoy my thinking, I would come back tomorrow, this may be painful.

Tubes of beef are weird.  When I grocery shopped earlier in the week I bought one of those 5lb tubes of meat.  I don't know if I ever bought one before, but they are pretty weird.  Granted, we ate it in two meals (dinner Tuesday and Wednesday,) I still felt kind of awkward squirting out beef.  I don't want the beef straight off the cow or anything, but I guess I like to think that it at one time was real.  To be funny, last night I took the tube beef and made it a meatloaf.  That way the beef could know that it spent its existence in the most unnatural of shapes.  I will only eat chicken the rest of the week.

Chic-Fil-A is heavenly.  I'm not normally a fast food fan, but there is something about Chic-Fil-A.  The owner must be Calvinist because there is something about their food that is Irresistible. Then, the Chic-Fil-A sauce.  Seriously...it's not even fair.  The only place even close is Taco Bell, but we all know that isn't from Jesus.  I think that Taco Bell may be the complete opposite.  It's still temptingly good though.

Robots are cooler than cars chased by dinosaurs.  I get to help Durant make a Valentine's Day basket.  I want to make a robot because:
1.  I made one when I was a kid and I'm nostalgic.
2.  I know how.
3.  We have tin foil and that is fun to play with.
I had it all set up and gave a convincing speech to Durant.  Instead he wants to turn a shoe box into a car with working wheels being chased by a dinosaur.  When I said I didn't want to, he said "who's box is it?"  Today I will be googling how to make a car being chased by a dinosaur.  It's due tomorrow.

We need more homework hats.  My mom reminded me that I used to wear a "homework hat."  It was actually just a baseball helmet with a stocking cap over it, but magic happened in my brain when I wore it.  I pace when I work, still to this day, and I would wear this so that people knew I was doing homework.  I'm sure I also wore it because I thought it was awesome, but I still wore it.  Now, I think I should have a "work hat" or "thinking hat" or "I'm taking a two minute break that will take 25."  I should start designing these now.

Andy Pettitte shouldn't retire.  I recognize not everyone is a baseball fan, but stick with me.  He's just done now.  He's so good and the Yankees need him, and yet he said that he's done playing.  He wants "more time with his family."  I've had a week with my kids.  I think he should start throwing again.  (Just kidding mostly.)  The Yankees lost last year and he has to retire on a championship. Him quitting right now is like if Shadrach decided to go home just before the fire thing.  "I'll talk to you later Benny.  I know this is a great adventure, but I want to go change diapers."  He didn't say that.  He went in the fire!  Ok, I don't wish fire on Andy, but I want to see him pitch. I'm a little emotional right now.  I'll be okay.

Ana's finally healthy and back at school, so hopefully I'll have less free time to think today and will be more productive.  Thanks for sticking with me!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tuesday

To start off I have to tell you that Ana stole my coffee.  You would think I would just take it back, but she has been sick, and she's kind of scary.  I know she is little, but her hair is all crazy (my fault) and she looks like she just left a cage fight.  I can't take it from her.  She may bite me.

So some of you may be wondering "How was Tuesday?"
Let me tell you some of the thing I've learned.

1.  I can't email.  It took me three attempts to get the right blog site emailed out yesterday and I still didn't do it correctly.  It's okay, I read pretty well and I think I have a great Jerry Seinfeld impression.

2.  Like his mom, Carter likes to travel.  Unlike his mom, his traveling is on the basketball court.  In the words of Ross "Pivot!  Pivot!"  He's playing well though, just wishes dribbling were optional.

3. Rhythm isn't preloaded into kids.  I caught Jackson dancing yesterday.  Wow!  He can move, but he was trying some new stuff that looked like he was doing an impression of Napoleon Dynamite doing the intro to "The Cosby Show."  It was painful.  I wanted to video tape it and put it on the blog, but he might record my moves too.  They have to stay secret until they make their debut somewhere huge!

4.  Homework isn't fun.  I don't remember doing much homework, but I'll tell you that I'm making up for it now.  This kindergarten stuff Durant has is tough.  He has to write ten sentences this week and he doesn't know how to spell yet.  It makes for challenging work.

5.  Balloons should cost more.  The most popular toys in the Ness house for 2011?  Balloons and plastic cups.  I pulled out a balloon yesterday and you would have thought that I had just dumped Toys R Us in the kitchen.  Everyone was amazed and in wonder at the balloon.  Everyone huddled together and played a game of volleyball as joy filled the room.  Why do I buy expensive toys to fight over when I can buy a pack of balloons at the dollar store and be wildly popular.

6. God made moms.  I get why man should not be alone.  You should see this house.  Half way done, and that means there is time to clean, catch up on Valentines for school, do laundry, take medicine, baths, wash the car, get groceries...  When is Nikki back?

Those are the things I learned yesterday.  Hope your day was good.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Monday

Christy and Nikki put a great post up about their day yesterday, so I will compete with a much less heart felt and serious post about my day.

6:30-8:26
Had to convince my boys that going to school was the only option.  They were hoping I would say "hey, why don't you feel sick until eleven, we'll get some pizza, and play video games until maybe midnight! Sound cool?"
I disappointed them.  They furthered their education.

8:26-8:45
Ana was sick/is sick with a fever and what I assume are aches.  The poor little thing just kind of groans like a dog.  She is very snuggly though.  I had to call her school and cancel her appointment.

The morning
Ana like Playhouse Disney.  Who knew? I worked from the living room while she watched Mickey Mouse do his high pitched thing.  She smiled, then wanted to go to bed.

11:15-11:45
Ana pointed at foods until I found the one she wanted.  Then I would warm it in the microwave and she would want something else. This happened four times, then she was too tired and wanted to sleep.

Afternoon
I got to talk to Nikki on the computer, which was awesome, while Ana napped. I have not gotten done what I had hoped, but hopefully Ana feels better soon.

Also, it began snowing. Nothing stuck to the pavement, but it began snowing.  This means my kids will come home certain of no school tomorrow.

2:55
Ezra comes home certain their is no school tomorrow.  He just wants to watch tv and play video games until midnight.  I had him do his chores.  I'm a mean dad.

4:00
The other boys come home certain their is no school tomorrow.  We had the talk again, and they believed me that there was a slight chance that there would be school since there was zero snow actually on the ground.

5:00-6:00
The kids did their homework in the kitchen (even though they are sure there will be no school.) Durant's page gets wet because he wanted to chew on his shirt.  He finished his homework without a shirt on. He was a little cold.

6:00-7:00
We ate dinner and discussed Paula Dean, Selena Gomez, and the value of leftovers all at the same time.  I got a headache.

7:00-7:45
The boys were supposed to be getting ready for bed. Instead, they put on Ethiopian clothes and made music videos to their favorite Ethiopian artists.  It was cute, so I pretended I didn't know what they were doing.  Ana moaned like a dog and fell asleep.

8:00
Ezra wants to watch Tivo and see if we can find American Idol since there will be no school tomorrow.  He got to go read before bed.

9:00
All is quiet at my house and I learn that there WILL be school tomorrow.  I throw a small party, dance around the living room and read about Yogi Berra until I fall asleep.

Does life get more ordinary? I think not.

Monday, February 7, 2011

What's really going on?

Since Nikki left for Ethiopia some people have been wondering what is happening.  I tell them that she arrived safe, is doing great and will be reporting updates on matthew1316.blogspot.com.  Here I will be giving a daily update on being a dad of five without my wife's help.  Here is the weekend addition.
Friday Night:
The three young ones and myself went to cheer on Norton basketball.  Carter's team won big and he had a steal and a basket right away in the third quarter.  It was a great play, great game, and a fun night.  Sadly, I had the flu last week so I lost sixteen pounds in sweat during the game, not because the game was close but because I was having hot flashes.

Carter went with the guys to Buffalo Wild Wings after the game. I couldn't be more proud.  Ezra was out at a concert and came home to me drooling on my chair late that night.  I think I handled it all well.

Saturday:
Everyone got dressed and ate before the day ended.  If that was all that happened, I would say that we are winning!  Everything that the kids had they were on time for, which is not always true.  Ezra scored three goals in his soccer game and wasn't feeling very well.  Carter won the Super Bowl on Madden.  Durant played Lightning McQueen for every moment his eyes were open, and Jackson drew some pretty incredible pictures.  He's a great artist.  Ana had to work on Saturday, she was taking care of babies all day and was very worn out by the end of the day.
We watched Louisville win at night, though it was closer than I would hope.  I think ESPN should hire me as an analyst for those ESPN 78 games like that one.

Sunday:
Ezra and Carter were feeling sick all night so we missed church.  It was a pretty uneventful day at our house, but I was reminded how much I like to be at church and worship with others.  It is good doing church with your kids at home, but it is nice to have the support of the community.  Oh yeah, there was that game yesterday too.  I guess I watched that.  Off to work!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why Should I Cheer?

This Super Bowl has me slightly sad.  I know, I lived in Wisconsin, but the only team with sillier uniforms than the Packers is the Vikings and at least they have a manly horn on the helmet.  Anyways, I'm not a Packers fan, and probably would lean towards the Steelers on Sunday. Then I thought, I have some creative friends.  Maybe they would want to give me reason to cheer for the Packers or Steelers for a day.  If I'm not convinced I will cheer for the commercials with 78% of the other Americans.  Have at it.  Comment why I should cheer.  We'll see if there is any worthy argument.

Results of a Broken Phone

Since you know that I now carry a complete diva phone, I will confess that I lost all phone numbers.  If you want me to have your phone number (which I am not assuming) please send it over to me.  My email is matt@eyesthatsee.org.  Thanks.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Phone Changes A Man

I just got a white Blackberry Curve.  There, I said it.  I had a black one that broke earlier this month and through the insurance I was able to get a new phone of the same model.  The only problem is that they did not have any of the black one left, since it was the only color people want.

I got to choose between pink and white.  Mistakingly I chose white.  If I had picked pink I could have blamed the company, traded with Nikki, or just said it was a statement of my confidence as a man.  Instead, I have the white phone and suddenly feel obligated to wear white rimmed sunglasses, white belts and skinny jeans.  (If you can picture me in that look I would ask you not to.)

I think the phone has changed me.  I used to have no fear in pulling out my phone to check an email, now I'm nervous.  I would talk on the phone in public before, now I sit in the back of my van by the tinted windows.  I want a t shirt made that says "I didn't pick the phone."  Of course, since the phone looks so trendy I would want it in a nice cut and made from recycled cotton.  Maybe a t shirt that used to be an old tire that they turned into the most comfortable t shirt ever for only $249.99.

So next time you see me, ask me to see my phone.  When I show you don't laugh.  I'm pretty fragile and might cry. There is a sale at the mall I have to get to now.  Have a good day.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Two favorite things

Nikki announced today at lunch that her two favorite things are refried beans and to-go cups (which are big stuff down here.)  These two things are very dangerous if they were combined, but give a good snap shot of my bride.  Man, I love her!
ps-I'll be at a meeting tonight when the favorite things kick in.

Owning my excuses

I just reread C.S. Lewis' chapter called "On Forgiveness."  He was a beautiful thinker, and somehow in seven pages he again is used to challenge my understanding of being forgiven and forgiving others.  I recommend anything by him, but currently I'm being challenged by The Weight of Glory.


Lewis points out how often we want God to accept our excuses instead of truly asking for forgiveness.  We would feel more justified if our excuse was enough.   Even if we can excuse half of the offense, that leaves the rest needing forgiveness.

Here are some of his words.
"In our own cases we accept excuses too easily; in other people's we do not accept them easily enough.  As regards my own sins it s a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as i think; as regards other men's sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are better than I think."

Just some light thoughts for you on this blistery, Louisville Thursday.

ps-there is a cloud in the sky so school may get out early.  I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Brother

It's my little brother's birthday today.  I think he turns fifteen today.  That's what it feels like anyways.  Somehow I feel like I'm aging but he's still the age he was when I went to college, or got married, or starting collecting children like they were Tim Hardaway basketball cards. Anyways, my little brother is a pretty incredible young man.

Brian just bought a house recently.  I didn't get to see it over Christmas, but I have heard it's the cutest house.  He has done awesome in his job, surrounded himself with true friends, and cares for his community and the sweet lady living next to him.

I have told most of you that he is a great artist.  More than that, he truly is a good brother.  I'm lucky to have Brian.  I don't know if you ever read this Brian, but Happy Birthday.  I pray this year is filled with lasting joy and peace. If I could, I would buy you a big, shiny jet!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Prayer for My Friends

I was looking through my old notes that I have and I had been studying 2 Thessalonians some. There is a verse in chapter one that makes me stand still.

"We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and my fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power." 2 Thes. 1.11

I want you to know that this is my prayer for my friends and family.  That we would be made worthy of His calling.  For me, I don't care what it takes to make this true, whether difficult conversations, circumstances, or beautiful moments of peace and joy.  As He makes us worthy of his calling, may He also give us strong resolve, a bent towards doing good even in moments of distraction.  His grace covers all of this and leads us to Himself.  May His glory and power be made known by our lives.  Enjoy today friends.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Repenting for Neglect

I got a chance to speak to a community here in Louisville last weekend. As I prepared, there was one thing that stood out to me.  We were talking about reconciliation and I had been praying on this for several weeks.  As I walked through the city during that time I heard stories and spent time with people who looked and talked like me.  We drink the same coffee at the same shops.  We cheer for the same sports and often even dress alike. Truthfully, it is a poor picture of the Kingdom of God.

When you go through Scriptures you see God align Himself with the widows, orphans, sojourners, and those who can't speak for themselves.  The church is invited to look like Him, yet these people are rarely within the doors.  It isn't that anyone is being outright cruel.  It is a case of looking away. The church has a serious problem with neglect.  We neglect those who don't look like us and pretend we don't know any better.  You can see it nearly any Sunday morning.

I dream of being in a church or church movement that intentionally went against this.  I've seen glimpses, the beginnings of this great shade tree growing, but I cannot wait until the church reflecting the King is seen by all the world.  At that point all will be gathered and the words of Colossians 3:11 will be known in practice instead of just theory.

Best I can tell, the Kingdom doesn't require others to resemble us before they walk in the doors to the church.  The Kingdom requires us to go out the doors and see how others resemble our Father.  As this happens the world will see and know that God is good.  Let this begin in me.

Friday, January 14, 2011

World's Ugliest Team

I know some of you like the Oregon Ducks.  All of you still have 4" black and white tvs.  Their college athletic uniforms look like my kids all got to eat sixteen pixie sticks and then went nuts with every shade of yellow, green, gray and silver paint on a set of uniforms.

http://uvtblog.com/2008/11/oregon-ducks-football-uniforms-have-officially-gone-too-far/



Now I saw the new basketball court.  I'm glad I went to a university with a Blugold as a mascot.  I'm sure it could beat up a Duck!

http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/basketball/news?slug=yhoo-ept_sports_ncaab_experts-307433




Thursday, January 13, 2011

January's Quote

I am always very challenged by CS Lewis.  He was a phenomenal writer and I find myself coming back to his books over and over again.   I have been thinking a lot about how we are new and how we are to look like our Creator.  The implications of this go into every area of our lives.  This morning I was reading "The Weight of Glory" and read these words from CS Lewis about how we relate to one another.

"You have never talked to a mere mortal.  Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations- these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.  But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit-immortal horrors or everlasting splendours."

I't's not our job to choose faith for someone else, but it is blind to ignore the reality of that choice.  We are made in His image and by faith we are invited to return to it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Getting Dressed

There is something special about new clothes.  I think my daughter Ana finds more pure joy in new clothing than anyone I know.  She will walk in her room and light up if there is a shirt she hasn't worn.  She will tear her old one off and put the new one on in a heart beat.  She loves changing shoes, boots, socks, tights or whatever should be covering her toes.  She loves putting on a hat, laughing, and then putting on another.  Her school calls her Punky Brewster because she comes in such bright, new colors seemingly every day.

One of the funniest things about kids is having to continually teach them what clothes to put on.  You would think after years of living they would know to put pajamas on at bed time, but every night is eight reminders for our five kids.  Today I almost laughed when I heard Nikki say about six times that the kids needed hats and gloves.  (It is freezing here right now!)  Durant looked at her like she was speaking Spanish and nearly forgot how to put them on.  We are working on tying shoes with him too, which is a brand new lesson in getting yourself ready for what the day holds.

I have been reading Colossians a lot lately.  In chapter 3 Paul writes about us being new again, and this time he writes about us needing to "put on the new self."  He writes that this self is being renewed as we grow "in knowledge after the image of its (the new self's) creator."  Then he goes on and writes how it is that we are to put it on. We are to put on kindness, humility, meekness and patience.  He even goes all parental on us.  Like when we instruct our kids to dress for winter, Paul shows us what to put on when someone has a complaint against another.  He shows us what to put on in community. He shows us that we are to bind it all up with love, like a giant zipper that holds it all in.

I want to have joy as I continue to learn how to "put on the new self."  I want to be like Ana, so quick to tear off the old self and excited to show off the new.  Not that I have anything to boast of on my own, but my God is good and I can talk Him up all day.

I think we get discouraged that we don't already know how to fully "put on the new self."  We would rather have it be like a download that already happened.  If God wanted it that way, He would have made it happen.  Instead we get to learn to "put on the new self" in every situation since every situation is different.  Along the way we will notice that the side effect is that we have grown in dependence on Him and that we have begun to dress like our Father.

Monday, January 10, 2011

January's Gadget

I am a spoiled little boy.  For Christmas Nikki bought me a Kindle. For the past few months I have realized that some day I would want one of these guys for several reasons:

1. When we moved my books weighed what would be equivalent to an elephant.  (I don't even mean the hairy, small Asian elephants.  I'm talking about the big mama African elephants!)

2.  I feel guilty not having room for donations when I go to Ethiopia because I have to bring my 27 books per trip.

3.  When you look at the pages turn you think they must be magic.

Even with this awesome reasoning, I thought it wouldn't make sense to spend money for the right to buy books.  It all seemed a little backwards, but I still wanted to have one of those buggers.  On Christmas at the Ness house (which was December 18th) I got to open up the Kindle and if I was sitting on a chair I would have fallen out of it.  Then, my mom gave me a gift card for Amazon where you can buy millions of ebooks for super cheap.  It is an awesome little toy. I don't need it, but I have to admit that I absolutely love it.

Now, I have heard a few complaints about the idea of a Kindle instead of a book.  They have this special section on it where they test experimental programs.  I recommend that Amazon experiment with these ideas to take away the complaints.

-You are not actually holding a book.  Well, they should make a case that feels like a book.  That way anyone who looks will see you are reading a book, you get to feel like it, and yet you still have an entire library at your fingertips.  They should make the book something impressive, like "The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire" or "East of Eden."  That way no one will know that you are actually just checking blogs on your magic piece of paper.

-It doesn't smell like a book.  This is disturbing to me, but both my wife and closest friend like to sniff the pages of a book.  I don't like reminding them that they sometimes go to Half Priced Books and you don't know where the book has been.  Still, Amazon could put a little stink on the Kindle.  Maybe one of those little Glade smell release machines that shoot out the book smell every few minutes.  If that doesn't work they could always have a scratch and sniff screen protector.  I'm okay with the neutral smelling electronics, but for those book sniffers it may help them out a little.

All of this is to say that I like books, and my new toy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Most Influential Books read in 2010

I'm just one guy who definitely has a preference in the style of books that I read.  With that said, I just finished my notebook where I took notes on all the books I read this last year.  There were a lot of different books, but here are the few that were most helpful to me.

"Free of Charge" by Miroslav Volf:  This is a great book about the practice of forgiveness in a culture that isn't all that excited about it.  It is a challenging book that is very relevant to any of us.

"Walking with the Poor" by Bryant Myers.  The cover is horrible.  The book is old.  The truths and experience in it are worth fifty times what you pay for the book

"Stuff Christians Like" by Jonathan Acuff.  The guys funny.  Most days I need to laugh and laugh hard.

"Linchpin" by Seth Godin.  It's hard to describe this book, but I would say in a way that it is courage on a page.  I don't agree with everything, but the idea is whatever is in front of you, go do it and be irreplaceable.  It helped me to think of what I am called to and what I am not and finally be okay with that.

There are about twenty others I would recommend, but I need to get some stuff done.  I hope you check out one of these if it would help.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

If it doesn't work out...

I have heard many sentences begin with those words in my life.  I heard it from friends when Nikki and I got married at 20.  I heard it when I became a pastor, continued being a pastor beyond the certain amount of time that would make it a phase, and now that we started Eyes That See.  The words are always meant as some odd sort of comfort, but they seem to be dooming the hearer to failure.  They seem to say that at least you have something to fall back on.  They affirm that you haven't put everything into one basket, but instead you have wisely diversified your life enough to not be ruined if this one this doesn't work out.  I remember one time in particular where the phrase caught me so off guard that I couldn't even respond.  I didn't know that "it" not working out was an option.

I intend to live completely by faith.  I want to be wise in my decisions, yet dependent in everything.  I want to know that God's word is true when it says that you can "Taste and see that God is good."  I want to live by faith, not in theory, but in practice.  I want to "Seek first the Kingdom" and continue to know the joy of having everything else added to our lives.

If this living by faith thing doesn't work out, I want to have nothing to fall back on.  I intend to be completely ruined if God is not God.  I don't want a back up plan.  I don't want to be diversified.  I know there are plenty of people who will think that it is foolish to say these things, but I'm not supposed to match plenty of people.  I intend to match my Father. All I have is invested in that.  If it doesn't work out...I will have nothing.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

January's "I'm not so cool" Moment

Technically it happened in December, but the truth is it still happened.  Not surprisingly it came out of the mouth of one of my children. This leads me to a side note:  Did God create children to humble parents? I'm starting to believe this is true.  No one has led me to realize my dependence on God more than my five crew members.  I feel it more everyday.

Back to the "I'm not so cool" moment.  My family was staying at my mom's house over Christmas and my brother was there too.  He spent the night on one couch and Carter was on the other.  When my crew started waking Brian used his full intelligence and turned away from the living room.  With his back facing out, little Ana went towards him thinking that he was me.  This is an easy mistake because we are both amazingly good looking.  Just ask us.  When she got near she saw it was him and was a little confused.

Next came Jackson.  He woke Brian and saw his awesome morning hair.  For those of you who don't know the way that Ness hair works you need to know that during the night our hair throws dance parties and when we wake it looks like someone took a power mixer to our scalp. When Jackson saw Brian he said that his morning hair looked like my hair when it is fixed.

I know that I don't have good hair, but what options do I have?  Grass seed companies want to study my scalp to see how my hair can grow so thick and quickly.  What else can I do but stick it up everywhere?  I thought I was being a "cool dad" for Jackson.  I guess I just look like a blender head.

This morning is a good week and a half since Jackson's subtle punch to my stomach.  I remembered his words this morning, but I stuck my hair up a good foot and a half just because I can.  I may not be cool, but with my hair making me seven feet tall I am at my ideal weight!