Thursday, August 31, 2006

US Open

Thanks to dear friends, Laura and I will be going to the US Open tonight. It just so happens that we'll get to see Hingis in the first match and Agassi in the second match. Agassi is playing the #8 seed - Baghdatis - so this very well could be Agassi's last match ever. So, yeah, we're pretty excited. Pics and a full report this weekend. stay tuned...


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

short term mission trips

The season for short term mission (STM) trips is over. New York City and countless other cities and countries were deluged with groups from all over the world this summer. Here in the city, one couldn't get off the subway in Times Square without being handed a tract, listening to Christian songs being sung or hearing how everyone who does not confess Jesus as Christ will go to hell. Yep, it's been a fun summer in the city.

The purpose(s) and effectiveness of short term mission trips are often debated. The Christian Science Monitor kicked off the season of STM with this article back in May. The NYTimes ended the season with this article* reflecting on all the groups to come through the city. Both articles do well to point out what is potentially good about STM as well as the pitfalls of STM. What both articles agree upon - without directly saying it - is that realistic goals need to be considered by those conducting STM.

My personal story is that I was transformed by STM. The summer after my sophomore year of college I traveled through Asia. It was during this time that I started to realize what my baptism meant. It was during this time that I made a decision to seek out ministry as a profession. But I'm also aware that it was a great vacation and that I would have done well to learn more about the cultures I was visiting.

In the end, STM is a tricky business and it takes a savvy leader to conduct one that is powerful and effective. I leave you with this excerpt from the NYTimes article:
In the eyes of some New Yorkers, these visits by young missionaries are like a
soothing balm.

''They are very gentle,'' said a middle-aged man who was wearing a camouflage shirt open to the navel, as volunteers distributed sacks with soap and toothbrushes near Tompkins Square from the familiar white van operated by Street Life Ministries. ''All the time they come here to our bench -- Polish alcoholics usually here on this bench,'' he added in a sonorous East European accent.

Others find the missionaries exasperating. ''They must think this is the neighborhood of lost souls, man, because it's every weekend,'' said David Samuel, a 44-year-old East Villager who works as a lighting technician and has seen more than he'd like of earnest visitors seeking to ease his way to heaven. ''I hate coming out of my house and walking to my park and being proselytized to by these 17-year-olds from North Carolina. It drives me crazy.''

*The NYTimes article referenced is an archived article. You'll need a TimesSelect membership to access it.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

possibly the greatest wife ever?

My wife's been talking to guys behind my back. Turns out she's been talking to these guys for a couple of weeks. When I finally found out about it, I was ecstatic.

See, my wife's been conniving with my A&M buddies. She desperately wanted to treat me to a quick trip to College Station for a football game and so she called up a couple of my friends. My friends were more than willing to make it happen and so at the end of September, I'll fly into D/FW and we'll all head to College Station to witness the Ags beat the hell outta texas tech. I. Can't. Wait.

For those of you keeping score at home, I went to A&M for two and a half years before transferring to ACU. It was at A&M and my involvement in the Aggies for Christ (AFC) that I learned of my passion for ministry. And yes, even those of us involved in the AFC had no problems yelling with the masses, Beat the Hell Outta texas tech!


Saturday, August 26, 2006

My Word Cloud

I found out about this program via Kenny's blog. As he put it, "the program scans the front page of your blog and creates a word cloud of the most common words. The more common the word, the larger it appears in the cloud." The word cloud program offers you the chance to edit certain words. My word cloud is unedited. I love how the word hopeful comes right before the word Ira.

Create your own word cloud here.


The Jokester

I play city league basketball. I got connected with my current team via my upstairs neighbor. Almost all the guys on the team are business professionals of some sort or stripe. They know what I do and will occasionally joke about how the only way our team is any good is because we have God on our side. Recently, after a game, several of us were walking to the subway. The guys were talking about what it takes to make partner at their respective jobs. The amount of hours, the skills needed and the hurdles to jump are pretty daunting. I felt a little left out of the conversation so I piped in when there became a lull in the conversation on partnership:
Well, I'm thinking about becoming a partner in my profession as well. It's an unprecedented move as The Trinity hasn't ever allowed a fourth but I believe the model and strategy are outdated.
There were a couple of uneasy - or complimentary? - laughs but I thought my joke worthy of much more, no?

Speaking of more - or less, an international meeting was considering a report about a food shortage. Each group at the meeting found the report confusing. The African delegation asked, "Food? What is food?" The Europeans wondered what was meant by the term shortage. The American delegation asked, "Could someone please explain the phrase 'rest of the world'?"

Have a good night folks. I'll be here, same place, same time, next week.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

the kiddies

As you can see, Ira's starting to bear weight on his legs. He can stand for a minute or so before he gets nervous. Ira tires pretty quickly in the standing position. He can't pull himself up and doesn't know how to sit down but all of that will come. We're just excited that he's bearing weight. The therapists would love to see him crawl but I just don't think it's gonna happen. The question is (and really, it's still a long way off), How will we deal with a kid walking around with a trach?

It's been six weeks since we made an emergency room visit. We've had days that we thought Ira was in trouble but he came through. Overall, it's been a good run. We'll take that!

In the meantime, Sophia's had troubles of her own:


Monday, August 21, 2006

Vans, Dogs, Snakes

We got a Toyota Sienna. Bought it off of eBay. A little risky, I know, but the risk paid off. It's a good van with low mileage and it's in great shape. I'm not completely settled about driving around in a mini-van and I work very hard at not turning up the radio when I hear a song I really like. I always made fun of the people who did that.
Jersey, our Lab, went swimming in the East River for the first time on Sunday. (The East River is the body of water that separates Manhattan from Brooklyn/Queens/Bronx.) I was a little nervous about him getting in the East River but there's an entrance in DUMBO that I scoped out on several occasions. As usual, he didn't want to stop retrieving.
Saw Snakes on a Plane this weekend. Went by myself. The plot was ridiculous, the dialogue poor, and the outcome predictable. It was everything a B movie should be. I loved it.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

where do we start?

Overwhelmed. No, I'm not talking about my familial situation. I'm talking about the situation with our world. It's a mess, people.
Every reputable scientist on the face of the planet agrees that we are destroying our environment.

The divide between rich and poor has never been greater.

The Middle East is in shambles.

Africa not only has an AIDS epidemic but civil wars and genocide continue to ravage parts of the country.

Babies in poor countries die for ridiculous reasons.

Materialism is rampant.

I could go on, and on, and on...
So how do we proceed from here? Where do we start? To whom or to what do we give our attention and time and effort? Is it possible that we could make a difference concerning these huge, global matters?

Confession: I'm a pessimist by nature. A naysayer. An "it's all going to hell in a henbasket" kind of guy. I have to fight hard to have the middle of the road mindset or what I call a hopeful realist kind of attitude. A hopeful realist stands between the optimist and the pessimist. A hopeful realist looks at the situation critically, recognizes both the difficulties and possibilities surrounding the situation and then hopes for the best possible outcome. I've long since given up trying to be an optimist. Don't get me wrong, we need optimists in the world for without them, we wouldn't get very far but we also need hopeful realists.

So when I think of these global concerns, I get overwhelmed and I find myself working extra hard to have that hopeful realist kind of attitude. As I lead a group of concerned Christians, I wonder what our best course of action should be. Locally, what should we do? Nationally, where should we start? Internationally, what do we focus on?

One last confession: I would much rather ignore these global situations because, at the moment, I don't bear the weight of them. I can't really tell that our earth is getting warmer. While I live only two blocks away from public housing (the projects) and pass by homeless folk every day, I keep a safe distance. The Middle East is, well, in the Middle East. And all the crises in Africa are in Africa. The distance, perceived or real, is enough for me to plead ignorance.

Lord, forgive me my trespasses.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

hangin' out

Thank goodness that I have a flexible job. Laura went into Manhattan early this morning. As soon as our day nurse arrived, I was going to take Sophia to school and then head off to the office. Day nurse didn't show. Can't really leave Ira here alone while I take Sophia to school. So? Ira's sleeping, Sophia's playing with Play-Doh and I'm frustrated. Oh well, what are you gonna do?
As the summer kicked off, Laura and I felt the weight of not being able to see family. After much thought, we decided that it was important for Sophia to connect with her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

So when June rolled around, Laura and Sophia set off for St. Louis. (Meanwhile, my mom flew to Brooklyn to help me take care of Ira.) Laura and Sophia had a great time seeing the Heintz clan. Laura was able to sleep in a few mornings and Sophia had a blast in the backyard. (Notice the Cards shirts. My father-in-law is trying his hardest to remind Sophia that there is baseball life outside Yankee Stadium.)

When July rolled around, Sophia and I set off for Atlanta. (Meanwhile, Laura's parents came to Brooklyn to help Laura out with Ira.) My oldest sis and her family live there. My parents, other sister and her fam all came to Atlanta as well. It was the first ever Cousins' Camp. I didn't get to sleep in like Laura did in St. Louis (and don't think that Laura hasn't heard about that!) but Sophia did have a blast with her cousins.
Sophia can't quit talking about both trips. Laura and I missed each other dearly during those trips and we were made aware of how dependent we are on one another in our care for Ira.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Amorphophallus titanum

Thursday, August 10, 2006

check this out...

I heard Kelley McRae on New York Public Radio's Soundcheck on Monday. She was born and raised in Mississippi and her sound is as silky and smooth as a bubbling brook high up in the mountains.

McRae now lives in Brooklyn and just released her first album called Never Be. You won't regret buying her CD on or downloading it from iTunes. I especially dig her songs titled Johnny Cash and Break Us, which is a modern day Christian hymn. Check out some of the lyrics to Break Us:

Break us by the power of your grace, O Lord
Oh won't you break us by the power of your grace?

Break us, remake us, don't let the sorrow take us
Oh break us, by the power of your grace

Beautiful stuff from a new and upcoming artist.
Why do people hate A-Rod so much? Why the booing, my fellow Yankee fans? Why do people take such pleasure in watching this particular baseball player strikeout or make an error? Eric Neel of ESPN gets it. An excerpt from Neel's lengthy article:

We've all heard the standard reasons -- resentment over his $252 million contract, envy of his talent, frustrations that he doesn't exceed all our wildest expectations, a selective-memory perception that he's no good in the clutch and, of course, the fact that he's not Derek Jeter. All these expectations have validity, no doubt, but they don't fully explain the giddy, sometimes irrational, intensity of this thing we do. They don't get at the bile and the vitriol.

There's something more at work here. Rodriguez has had an ugly summer by his standards, but it ain't about that. It's about this, first, last and always: We think A-Rod's soft. We don't think he's tough enough to be our guy. We think he's weak.

We're not talking about the buddy-can-you-spare-a-dime, meek-shall-inherit-the-earth weak to which we routinely show charity. We're talking about the vulnerable, soft-underbelly sort of weak for which we in this "Quien es mas macho?" culture of American sport so often show contempt.

In the end, Neel - no fan of the Yanks, mind you - surmises that those who hate on A-Rod will someday admit that he is one of the greatest to ever play the sport of baseball. Amen! (Oh, and by the way, the Yanks are in first place in the AL East and A-Rod is playing just fine, thank you very much.)
Have you ever checked out the site, Sojourners? You should. They have a free e-newsletter they send out once every two weeks. This past edition had a moving article written by Deanna Murshed titled Reflections of the Lebanon I Know. The article is a good reminder for us that as we engage in conversation about the Middle East we must remember the people who live, work and play there.

And then there's this incredible article in which the author thinks through what an Israeli non-violent approach might look like. An amazing read.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

god's grace

We had been in the PICU for four months. And now Ira was home. Laura and I were attempting to nail down our morning routine with Ira. We were attempting to learn what roles each of us would play - who would give the bath in the sink? who would change the sheets? who would get his food ready? who would lay out our trach-changing equipment? who would give the meds? etc...

And then it happened. One morning, I snapped at Laura because she wasn't changing Ira's trach ties the way I thought they should be changed. She stopped what she was doing, looked me in the eyes and said, "Joe, we can't afford to be on each other's case. The weight of life is too much as it is, we have to be in this together." From that moment on, Laura and I have - for the most part - been in this together.

In fact, my testimony is that Laura and I have never been closer; have never been stronger for each other; have never been more of a team than we are right now. My testimony is that I've never loved Laura like I do now.

Laura and I have searched high and low looking for God over the past year. God's seemed far off. In fact, God's seemed absent. But one thing is for sure, God's grace has covered our marriage; has made it stronger, more secure; has concretized the ground upon which we stand. And for this we are thankful.


Saturday, August 05, 2006


A few notes:

Have you seen the trailer for the movie World Trade Center. Looks like it's going to be heavy. It doesn't help that the trailer includes the Coldplay song Fix You. Ugh. Talk about tearing at the heartstrings...
My parents are in town this weekend. So we asked our night nurse to come a bit early so that Laura and I could get out. Nurse would hang with Ira and the parents would hang with Sophia.

So Laura and I headed out. We got on the A train. A couple of stops later this guy gets on. I lean over to Laura and say, "I know that guy but I'm not sure where I know him from."

Laura goes through the list: Church? No. Basketball league? No. The gym? No. Your office building? No.

I think about it. Then I figure it out.

That's. Steve. Nash.
Do you like the new banner? After reading Laura's post, my friend Jason thought it an appropriate banner. I'll keep it up for a couple of months because it's a good reminder of a simple action that has the possibility of making a huge difference. Check out the link to the left - on my sidebar. It will give you more info on how you can become an agent of global change. Who turns down the possibility of wearing the title Agent of Global Change?
Coming to NYC for a trip any time soon? Don't forget to come out to Brooklyn. Sure, come to see us but also because Brooklyn is fast becoming a destination unto itself.
I'm reading A Long Way Down. It's about four people who decide to commit suicide. They just happen to decide to do it on New Year's Eve. They just happen to decide to jump off the same building. And so they meet each other on top of a building. They decide not to jump. One of the characters, Maureen, is a single mother of a chronically ill child named Matty. Matty is a "vegetable". Maureen has cared for him over 18 years.

Midway through the book, Maureen is trying to explain why she gets sad music; why she understands it. While listening to the depressing music, she says,
This is how I feel, every day, and people don't want to know that. They want to know that I'm feeling what Tom Jones makes you feel. Or that Australian girl who used to be in Neighbors. But I feel like this, and they won't play what I feel on the radio, because people that are sad don't fit in.

It's funny, because people think it's Matty that stops me fitting in. But Matty's not so bad. Hard work,'s the way Matty makes me feel that stops me fitting in. You get the weight of everything wrong. You have to guess all the time whether things are heavy or light, especially the things inside you, and you get it wrong, and it puts people off. I'm tired of it.
They, the three others who were going to commit suicide that night, decide to take Maureen on a beach vacation. Maureen's thoughts:
I wanted to tell Jess that I hadn't even seen an English beach since Matty left school...I didn't say anything, though. I may not know the weight of many things, but I could feel the weight of that one, so I kept it to myself. You know that things aren't going well for you when you can't even tell people the simplest fact about your life, just because they'll presume you're asking them to feel sorry for you. I suppose it's why you feel so far away from everyone, in the end; anything you can think of to tell them just ends up making them feel terrible.