Monday, April 30, 2007


Laura here.

Have you ever experienced a bunch of strangers yelling and screaming your name like they know you but you have never seen them before in your life?

Neither have I. But my children experienced this very thing this past Friday and it was beautiful. We had the privilege of meeting the 5th and 6th graders Joe wrote about here and here. The 6th graders kept up with Ira's story last year when they were in Mr. O'Connor's fifth grade class and this year's 5th graders have done the same. When Ira and Sophia walked into the school the kids went nuts!

Ira was on his best behavior walking all around and giving everyone who asked a "high 5." He even let one boy put his hat on him (over and over again). Sophia soaked up the attention and later told me that she liked being with the "big kids."

What made the biggest impression on me was their unmistakable love for my whole family. They showered us with cards, birthday presents for the kids, and poems they had written congratulating Ira on his progress and praising our family for all kinds of things. I told someone later that it was the closest I'll ever get to feeling like a celebrity.

The hour we spent with them was precious and will be remembered for a very long time. Thank you, 5th graders (and now 6th), for sharing your lives and love with us.

You made us feel like celebrities for the day but now that we've met you, we know the real superstars - YOU!


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Happy Birthday, Ira - Revisited

shh, I'm sleeping

This past weekend was wonderful...and exhausting. That's why I haven't blogged this week. I do want to say thank you for all the sweet blessings you bestowed upon Ira in the last post. We are blessed to have you thinking of us and praying for us. Forgive me for not saying that until this moment. I'm just now catching my breath from the weekend's activities.

Seeing all the docs and hearing all the good news this past Friday was refreshing. We would have been bouncing off the walls but trips like that to the hospital are tiring. It's mentally and physically draining.

The party on Saturday was special. We were honored that so many would take time out of their schedule to pay tribute to Ira's life. As any of you who throw parties know, getting ready for and cleaning up after a party is demanding work. And because of Ira, cleaning up after a party means sweeping, mopping, scrubbing all surfaces with disinfectant spray, etc. Saturday night we collapsed.

And you don't have to be in ministry long to know that Sundays are both wonderful and dreadful. Wonderful in that teaching, preaching and pastoring are rare gifts in which others invite you into their worlds. Dreadful in that it takes so much mental and emotional exercise to do those elements well. Our Sunday started by walking in the MS WALK and ended with a Leadership Team meeting that night. It was a non-stop day.

It's Thursday and I'm just now catching up. Both Laura and I have moved slowly this week and been a bit more irritable than normal but in the grand scheme of things, this kind of exhaustion is good exhaustion. I would much rather be tired from hearing good news from doctors and celebrating my son's birthday than being tired because of continued trips to the hospital to see my son and listening in as docs talk about more invasive procedures to keep Ira alive. I would much rather be exhausted because of the many church functions taking place than exhausted because I'm not sure which direction the church should go. So yeah, I'll take this kind of exhaustion any day and today I'll choose to revel in it!


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Happy Birthday, Ira

We woke this morning still riding the high from yesterday. It was a good day to celebrate Ira's 2nd birthday! This afternoon we had people over to commemorate Ira's newest milestone of not just making it to his second birthday but blazing into his next year of life! Our family was honored that so many gave up a beautiful 70 degree Saturday to spend it with Ira.

Ministers aren't known for lacking in words but I truly am at a loss tonight as I reflect upon the past two years and ponder the possibility of many more years with Ira. Being Ira's father has been the hardest thing I've ever done and the most rewarding. It's made me lose my faith and find a whole new, stronger faith. I've wanted to run away and I've wanted to never leave his sight.

Ira, I have failed you in so many ways over the past two years; yet time and again, you welcome me back into your life with a huge smile and slobbery kisses. I can't thank you enough for reminding me of what life is all about - that God's kingdom is made up of people like you and that I need to become like you in order to have a taste of that kingdom. Thank you for coming into my world and demanding that I take notice. I have, my son and because of you, I'm growing in the Lord. Ira, may you have many more years to teach me about God's kingdom. May you have many more years to pester your sister. May you have many more years in which you make your mom cry at the sound of your voice saying "ma!" May you have many more years.

As I kissed Ira goodnight tonight I said to him the usual I love you. But this time I slowed down a bit as I said those words. I wanted him, I needed him to hear each word with clarity so there would be no mistake about my feelings for him. I love Ira. I love him so very much. I'm so glad God created him two years ago today!


Please, leave a birthday wish/greeting/blessing for Ira in the comments so that we can preserve them for the future. We would greatly appreciate it.


Friday, April 20, 2007

A-Rod and Ira

A-Rod is not the only guy in NYC that's hot. So is Ira. Ira saw a whole host of doctors today and every one of them was impressed. The look of disbelief on their faces was due to the picture of a sedated, puny little baby that was embedded in their memories. Even for the doctors who saw him just five months ago, they were overwhelmed by Ira's progress.

It was good for Laura and me to hear the doctors say things like, "This is not the same Ira we saw even just five months ago!" or "I would never have guessed this was Ira's EKG/Echocardiogram results because of how good it all looks!" or "His heart and lungs sound great!" We showed off Ira's walking skills. Ira stacked blocks as if he's been doing it his entire life. He even vocalized a couple of times. I'm telling you, he blew them away. Ira's surgeon walked Ira around his corridor and introduced Ira to several people as Ira "I Do Not Know The Meaning Of Failure" Hays. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude this evening. Overwhelmed.

Tomorrow, if I can collect myself long enough, I will write a Happy Birthday, Ira blog and I'll ask you to leave your own wishes and hopes for him. In the meantime, I'm going to revel in these good feelings that are flooding over me as I type.


Thursday, April 19, 2007


A-Rod is freakin' hot! He did it again this afternoon hitting yet another walk-off homer in yet another two out bottom of the ninth inning. I'm loving every minute of it...even if I don't have cable to watch him live on the YES network. sniff, sniff. But it's all good, I'm all about keeping track of the game via the internet. C'mon, folks, let's here it for the Yankees! :)


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

speaking and the body

In reading a lecture concerning preaching, the lecturer - Jana L. Childers, a homiletics professor - sites a study conducted in 1985 by Albert Mehrabian of Stanford University. He found when people come to a lecture or hear someone speak, 55 percent of the message they receive comes from the speaker's body and face. They receive 38 percent of the message from the tone of voice, and they receive a mere 7 percent of the message from the words.

How do you interpret these findings?


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

our city girl

Several weeks ago Sophia spent the weekend with dear friends in Philadelphia. Our friends don't live in center city Philadelphia so it feels very different than Brooklyn. They took Sophia to a nearby park that has great hiking paths. Sophia's first question was, "Are we in Africa?" A little later she asked, "Do you think there is a diner nearby so that we can stop and get some ice cream?"

This past weekend Laura and Sophia spent time in St. Louis. Like our friends in Philadelphia, Laura's family doesn't live in center city so again, it feels very different than Brooklyn. At one point during their time in St. Louis, Sophia remarked, "There sure is a lot grass around here."

That's our city girl.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Ira Doesn't Eat

Ira's made a lot of progress, no? However, there is one part of his life where he's made almost no progress - eating. Ira eats through a g-tuge which means that food (in his case, Pediasure) goes directly from a pump to a tube inserted into his stomach. The video you are about to see is one of Ira's feeding sessions with his speech/feeding therapist. There are many reasons why Ira can't and won't eat. I won't bore you with the details but this is going to be a long, long journey.


Friday, April 13, 2007

hands and feet

I'm pretty pumped about this weekend and next. This weekend I, along with other Christ's Church for Brooklyn friends, will participate in the Step It Up 2007 rally. The rally is an effort to raise awareness of our current climate crisis. The hope is that the rallies all across America will raise the awareness of our politicians. That's all well and good but I'm hoping that my awareness will continue to be heightened by this event. There are simple things one can do to make less of a footprint on this world! I need that challenge in my own life!

Next weekend, several of us from church will walk in the MS Walk which raises money to "provide comprehensive support services, educational programs, and fund a national research initiative into the cause, treatments and cure for this chronic disease." One of our church members has a mother who has MS and one of our members is currently going through the round of tests to determine if she has MS. It hits pretty close to home for us at CCfB. Check out my donation page and give a little so that our team can reach its goal of raising $1000! It would be much appreciated!

We at Christ's Church for Brooklyn call these kind of events our Hands and Feet projects. Our mission statement at church states that we desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus. It seems to us that when Jesus said "for God so loved the world" that he really meant it - that God really does love the whole word. Human and non-human alike! These two events are small declarations of that belief.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I'm already hearing chatter as to how the Yankees will not make the playoffs this year. That's just silly. A-Rod is hitting homeruns at a break-neck pace, two of our starting aces have yet to pitch and we still have one of the hottest offenses in the league and we aren't going to make the playoffs? People, please. Don't you know that our man will do anything, buy anything in order to get there? Haven't you learned by now? Geez.

It's also silly to think A&M men's basketball will continue it's momentum now that Billy Clyde Gillespie (yes, his middle name is Clyde as well) is gone. Don't get me wrong, I'm hoping it does but BCG was a bachelor with nothing to do but live, eat and breathe basketball. The new guy we got will not have that kind of singular devotion. Sorry, fellow Aggies, but the BCGs of this world are few and far between.

And the last bit of silliness is that my friend, Jason, is promising to blog more often. He's got an interesting post over at his blog on pregnant women and their bellies. It's worth a look and a comment as Jason has some theories about how we should, as a society, proceed with regards to touching women's pregnant bellies. Go check it out.


Monday, April 09, 2007


I attended a meeting of church leaders - specifically, people who are starting new churches - this evening. At some point during the evening we were asked to briefly share our church planting story. Where was I to begin?

We wanted to launch our church plant in January of '05. We found out about Ira's CDH in December of '04. Let's do the math together, shall we?

Crisis + Launching New Church = Not So Good.

To say the least, Ira's life overshadowed the starting of Christ's Church for Brooklyn. And in a way, CCfB has limped along ever since because of my intense focus on my family.

Part of my church planting story is how my supporting church, Manhattan Church of Christ, allowed me to spend time with my family and how those who joined CCfB did the same. There aren't many bosses out there, not many businesses or corporations out there, not many customers out there that would have been so understanding, so gracious.

I'm so thankful for Manhattan Church of Christ and for the family at CCfB. So very thankful that they are all so supportive of my family.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

you decide

I'm extremely thankful for all the comments and encouragement you offered me in my confessional post. I really do have much to learn and I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.

Easter weekend was packed with church stuff and Laura's birthday. It's Sunday night and I'm pooped. When bloggers get stumped and are tired they often turn to the open thread for help. This is where you come in.

Ask any question you want and I'll do my best to answer it. Any question. Nothing is off limits...well, if it's vulgar then it's off limits but anything else is good to go. So go for it. Anything. C'mon.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007


I feel the need to get some things off my chest. So do me a favor: pretend like we're in one of those confessional booths that one finds in Catholic churches. There is the appropriate amount of darkness so that I can't see you and you can't see me. The silence in the place is overwhelming. It feels as if everyone and their dog is listening in on what I have to say but I know if I whisper soft enough, only you will hear. Ready? Here goes:

1) I feel terribly inadequate to do the work I'm doing. Terribly. Every Sunday I wake with my stomach in knots. When I refer to myself in the third person - and in my head, that's pretty often - I refer to myself as "Joe, The Fraud."

2) I don't know how to grill. Yep, I said it. I have no idea how to grill meat, veggies, nada.

3) It is not uncommon for me to take two showers in a day. To all my green friends: I know it's incredibly wasteful but I hate, HATE, being dirty. This started back in junior high. And while I've cut back significantly, I have to fight the urge for an extra washing with every fiber of my being.

4) I'm skeptical of ministers who read "How to be Great Leaders in the Business World" kind of books. They usually have congregations that are growing rapidly. Is my skepticism valid or am I just jealous? Anyway, I'm confessing it.

5) When we get our Newsweek, I always jump to the end and read the Newsmakers section first. Newsmakers is all about pop-culture and has nothing to do with actual news. Sad, no?

6) Laura and I will sometimes sneak over to a mall in Queens. It feels a little like suburbia to us and every now and then we want that feel. If our other NYC friends knew this about us, we would be thrown out of the club. It's time I confessed it. Deal with me gently, my friendly fellow city dwellers.

7) I drive a mini-van. You already know this but I'm hoping that if I confess it enough, driving the darn thing won't be such a blow to my manliness.

8) I don't know the Bible backwards and forwards. I have the tools to help me find what it is you need to know but I'm horrible with on the spot Bible questions. After seven years of academic study and six years of professional work, you would think I would have a better handle but alas, it is not the case.

9) I skipped seventh period athletics several times during my freshman year. A friend and I would walk over to my house and play Nintendo.

10) I saw a mother today wheeling her grown daughter around the neighborhood. The grown daughter was obviously fraught with disability. I immediately loathed their situation and wanted nothing to do with that kind of future. I must, I MUST, get over this.

Thanks for listening.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

what was I thinking?

I only recently started riding my bike after having been hit by a cop back in October. I've been a little nervous going to and from work but all in all, I'm feeling pretty good about it. But what was I thinking when I signed up for the Five Boro Bike Tour? It's 42 miles and the claim is that its doable for cyclists of all levels. We'll see about that.

I'm fairly confident that my butt is is shape for such an event (beginner cyclists deal with "sore butts") and while I work out regularly I'm not so sure I'm ready for 42 miles on a bike!

Are there any cyclists out there that have advice? The ride (notice I'm not calling it a race) is a month away so I've got time to do some training. Are there any cyclists out there who want to come up to NYC and do the tour with me? C'mon, it'll be fun!

The good news for me is that there will be no traffic on the route. None. Except, of course, for the occasional cops protecting the roadway which, now that I think about it isn't such good news. D'oh!

Monday, April 02, 2007

the ring

Just when I think I've come to know everything there is to know about my wife, she surprises me. There are so many sides to Laura. She is at once calm and collected while also anxious and scattered. She is reserved while also loquacious. She is graceful while also clumsy. She walks the straight and narrow while veering off onto the wild side. It's not that my wife is totally unpredictable or moody. She's far from those characteristics but she is a complex person and I love that about her. For example, I'll never forget the day she walked through the door with her new nose-ring. I was in awe. She had mentioned that she wanted one but I never expected her to really get one. She blew my mind. (And, for your information, I think the nose-ring on Laura is totally hot!) This coming weekend we will celebrate Laura's birthday. I can't wait to celebrate many more with her because I've got much to learn about this wife of mine. In the meantime, I'll keep admiring that nose-ring!


Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Final Four of Everything

Are you bummed that March Madness is coming to an end? Fear not, my friends, the bracket madness does not have to end.

My sister, in light of the current season, sent me a book called The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything. As it reads on the back cover: What's the greatest American beer? The best Elmore Leonard novel? The most reliable economic indicator? Five Darwinian rounds of binary matchups leave a lone survivor. The book is a great bathroom read. My favorite bracket thus far is the one that determines the best fruit. The two fruits that make it out of five grueling rounds are the apple vs the peach. In the end the peach wins. The textual note that accompanies the determination reads as follows:
The apple says tradition, safety, and goodness. But wash a ripe peach and its color radiates. Take a bite and you begin a walk on the wild side that borders on the sensuous as the juice drips off your lips. You can't wait for the next bite, and it tastes even sweeter, even sexier. The apple can compete against anyone. But when the peach performs, it is all over.
There are other fun brackets such as the best James Bond gadget or Hairstyles and then there are some serious brackets such as Where Were You When Moments. All in all, it's a fun exercise in, well, nothing really. It's just fun.