Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Animal Sound Fun

Sawyer loves a large animal/alphabet book that he has. He enjoys pointing out animals and hearing their names, their sounds, and imitating. Check out his wolf howl:

Something we've never really figured out is his love for the chimpanzee. Not so much the animal, but the animal's name. He's seen chimps at the zoo and gave a nonchalant flippant glance. You say the name, however, and he cracks up. Chimpanzee! Haha. Chimpanzee! Haha.

We've heard that multilingual babies are often slow to speak. Sawyer's a true example of this. He spent the first six months of his life in East Africa, where in addition to his parents' American English he heard Swahili on a daily basis. Then a few months in KY, where he heard a version of American English... Then we moved to France. He's 20 months old now and has just a handful of words that we can understand: things like ball, doggie, daddy, mama, cracker, hi, byebye. He only has one distinctly French word that he uses consistently, which is "eau," the French word for water (pronounced 'oh', it's quite a bit easier to say than 'water', so we know he's learned efficiency at an early age). Maybe some of the other sounds he makes are French words we don't know, it's possible!. We've heard him once or twice mutter something resembling "au revoir," but often not at the right time. Today, however, he blew us away. We spent a few hours in the home of a French person we recently met, and talked and talked in our new language (will share more on that conversation another day... some interesting insights). As we were leaving, she said "au revoir" to Sawyer, and he said it back! About 6 times. And I'm pretty sure his pronunciation was better than his dad's. Way to go pal!

Before we go, Sawyer has an important announcement:

Yup. #2's on its way. The sequel to an African-American story, this time French-fried. Coming soon to a French apartment near you. Sometime in May.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'm from KY, so...

I was standing there in KFC, having just ordered meals for my family. The guy working behind the counter told me the total and I reached for my bank card. Seeing my Kentucky Driver’s License, I pulled it out and showed it to him. “‘I’m from Kentucky,” I said, “so it should be free for me.” I said it with a smile, but he didn’t laugh. I looked to the young girl he was training and said “I’m just kidding,” but it was too late. He had already called for his manager who walked up and listened as the story of this man from Kentucky was retold. “Does he get free food?” I heard asked while I shook my head no. Thankfully the manager looked up and saw me and let out a laugh. I paid and went on...

I’m still trying to figure out how to make the French laugh. With my fellow Americans it’s easy. With my old Tanzanian pals all I had to do was say “come to my house and let’s eat tacos” and I was guaranteed raucous laughter (tako, same pronunciation, in swahili, means butt). But here in France, it’s taking some work. These people like comic books. And wear black. And drink wine and eat cheese. I did watch a french movie recently that was funny, but it’s not something that one can replicate interpersonally. Oh well. I’ll keep trying.

At camp this summer when I introduced myself I often said (in french), “I really don’t speak French, in fact the only word I know in French is hello, so you can tell me hi in French.” That barely even got me a smile. Just a look like, ‘you idiot, you’re talking in French right now... bad French, but that’s French.’

I did once succeed in generating laughter. Two nights ago, JJ and I went out on a date. We went to a movie but were late arriving. The movie had begun and the lights were low. I'd never been in this particular theater before. But none of that stopped me from plodding ahead, only to discover stairs I hadn't anticipated. I fell and rolled down them, ending up laying on my side hugging the back of a cinema chair. Then my eyes adjusted and I discovered it wasn't that dark. An entire row was laughing quite heartily at my expense. But I wasn't trying that time!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

This and That

Ready 4 school.
(backpack, soccer ball, drumsticks)



(tho the winds are a changin')

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Still Sore

A little over a month ago my son took a massive fall down the stairs. Bad. I haven’t mentioned it on here, but if you follow my wife on the book of faces, you probably know about it. He walked to the top of a very steep and hard flight of stairs and looked down. A couple steps behind him, I said, “Sawyer stop!” and then cringed as he looked down and attempted that first step. His legs not long enough for the depth of the sudden drop in elevation, he continued in his forward roll and flipped, head hitting first, then turning about 45 degrees to the side and rolling down, over and over and over. I ran, I lunged, I hit the stairs like they were a snowy hill and I slid down after him. We both hit the bottom where the stairs turned and stopped at about the same time.

The cry started immediately, and the bruises welted up within minutes. Adrenaline took over for me and I ran. We found Mama, we briefly talked to a doctor, and then we took off for the emergency room. For about 3 hours he wouldn’t put his left foot to the ground. He cried non-stop. But then after an entire day in the hallway of the emergency room, an MRI, and a sweet hospital meal, we all three walked out on our own power with nothing more serious than bruises. A couple days later, he was as good as new. Had forgotten the experience, and was again running and diving off of cliffs.

Now here we are a month later. My elbow still hurts where it bruised. As does my lower back. And my leg’s not quite back to full strength. All from diving down the stairs after my ‘fragile’ son. What happened?! When did I get so old?! I remember when aging was so exiting. Going to college and discovering daily that I was getting stronger and more energetic without really doing anything. I remember going out to play basketball at midnight because I had energy and wasn’t tired and, why not? But now I nurse bruises for a month and it’s still sore.

I’m thankful that God promises us new spiritual bodies (1 Cor 15:44) that will be like and reflect His glory (Phil 3:21). In other words, they won’t crumble, and hurt, and ache. I didn’t appreciate this whole part of eternity and the new earth, but I’m starting to. Hearing my grandmother tell me that she’s in pain all the time scares me a bit. I’m not too great with pain. Never have been. I have this theory that maybe my nervous system is super-active and so I actually feel pain exponentially more than most people, when it happens. Or maybe I’m just a pansy.

Until that new body shows up, I’ll keep running mine and thankfully “consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Right?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

To be (like) Christ

I’ve come up with a little phrase in French that I think is fun. It’s one of those phrases that is linguistically humorous (a double entendre, but backwards, I believe) and elicits a reaction of some sort.

Je suis le Christ.

If you know a little bit of basic French you might be thinking, “what?!” Stay with me. If you know a lot of French you may be grinning or thinking, “you idiot.” You can hold on or skip down a bit. If you know no French, let me explain:

Suivre is a verb that means “to follow.” If I conjugate it in first-person singular, it becomes je suis.

Être is a verb that means “to be.” Être is also one of the most common verbs in the French language. If I conjugate it in first-person singular, it becomes je suis.

Yeah, they’re the same. So je suis le Christ means “I follow Christ” or “I am the Christ”. :)

Thinking about this little phrase and how clever I am for making it (pretend I’m 3... that’s about my level in language, so it can be my level in cleverness too, yes?), got me thinking about something slightly deeper. To say that I follow someone, how close to their likeness must I be?

Let’s say that I put on a New York Yankees hat and say, “yeah, I follow the Yankees.” But you ask me to name a player... I can’t even come up with one. I’ll look pretty silly for saying, “I follow the Yankees.” On the flip side, imagine someone who could rattle off the entire roster with current batting averages, every championship year and corresponding roster, and they attend or watch every game, sometimes even showing up for batting practices and media days. Now that’s a true follower, right?

Shouldn’t the line between “I follow...” and “I am...” be somewhat grey? I’m not suggesting that I take over the image of Christ and claim to be what I am not. But if I’m a true follower, shouldn’t I look an awful lot like Him? Shouldn’t I be able to say, “I am like the Christ”? Shouldn’t others who interact with me be able to say, “I have known the love of Christ,” “I have felt the hand of Jesus,” or “I have heard the words of God spoken into my life”? Shouldn’t I be at least a little obsessed? To be a real follower, I mean...

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” -Jesus [Matthew 7:22-23]

Unlike many of us who like to tell stories on this earth, I don’t think Jesus was into exaggeration. If He says “many will say to Me...”, we might want to pay attention.

Having lived in Africa and Europe (and I think I can lump America in too), we’ve gotten away from presenting ourselves as ‘Christian.’ Not that there’s anything wrong with the word... it originally was a derogatory term for the early church planters meaning ‘little Christs’, right? But in today’s world it’s become more of a cultural label, not one of belief, obedience, or dedication. In East Africa, you are born into one of two family lines, ‘Christian’ or ‘Muslim’. In Europe, many say, ‘I’m Christian (or ‘I’m Catholic’), but I’m not practicing (or ‘I don’t believe in God’).” So instead, we try to be clear and say that we are “followers of Christ.”

But now I’m thinking that before I say that again, I need to look at myself. Do I actually look like and act like Him? Am I a fanatic? Or am I as much a follower as someone who bought a jersey and ‘follows’ the hot team right now?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rainy Day in Paris

Last week we went to Paris for a day to join some new classmates on a short riverboat ride, and then we took advantage of the day to hang in the city with some friends. Only problem was cold, ugly, rain. No matter, we still had fun! (Although as I type this, we're all three suffering from head colds. Hmm...)

My favorite part of the day came as we were walking down the street with a couple friends to go get some crêpes. A tour bus drove by and was stopped at a stoplight. I noticed a guy in the front of the bus quite emphatically taking pictures of the three of us walking down the sidewalk. "Look guys, I got a picture of some real Parisians on the streets of Paris!"

In other news, our college savings plan kicked into high gear yesterday when Sawyer started learning soccer from his Brazilian buddy Pedro. Euro training + Brazilian influence = scholarships!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Disney Paris

These photos are old... from way back in July. But they are too great not to put up. And we're in language school again. There's not much pretty stuff to photograph when studying French.

I was doing ok, then my dad lost it.
Now, I'm admittedly a little nervous.

Phew, phew! Take that alien scum.

Easily the highlight of the day was the mini-train rollercoaster. Sawyer absolutely loved it.

So I have a couple of tickets to this awesome Disney parade.
Wanna go with me?
We could get our parents to, you know, push our strollers to get there.
If you want to.

Hey Sawyer, recognize anyone? Old friends, neighbors?

Au revoir Disney!
We'll see you again this fall (thanks to the Paris resident '2nd visit free' ticket special)!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Few Days in Corsica

After our time at camp this summer, we escaped to Corsica for a few days of fun while staying with a new French friend. Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean that is a part of France (formerly Italy). The island is entirely mountains, with plenty of coastline, which made it my perfect idea of a vacation. The photo above is of the "Lion de Rocapina," which is a natural rock formation on top of a mountain that looks like a large lion wearing a crown and looking out to sea.

We loved Corsica!

From the mountains... the beaches!
We loved the beaches of Corsica. Warm water. Not a lot of development around the beaches. Crystal clear water. Some beaches were fine sand, some small pebbles. The best one we found had perfect sand and water that was about 2 feet deep for almost 100 yards out. Beautiful. Fun. A great way to spend a day. An interesting note on the natural beauty and non-over-development of the island: There's a well known separatist group on Corsica that would like to see independence from France and a renewal of the Corsican language and culture. In addition to that, they are a borderline terrorist group (we were told by our French friend who lives there) that opposes development of the coastline and forests. We're told that when projects begin to build mega beach resorts, deforestation, etc, this group will sabotage/bomb/attack said developments, and it's common knowledge around the island. I have to say that I don't agree with the methods, but as a vacationer the results were awfully nice to enjoy. An island with rugged natural beauty and an old-time feel.

Driving around the island, we passed through many beautiful and old villages that sat perched precariously on mountain sides. Beautiful views abounded. You'd be hard-pressed to find a place to live on Corsica without something amazing outside your window (albeit likely a very small window).

I loved driving on this island, windy mountain roads! Though I must admit to being envious of every Porsche and Lotus to pass us. Not that I wanted to own one, just drive one around Corsica! JJ however, kept complaining of something called "motion sickness" (I laugh because I had never in my life experienced this motion sickness phenomenon, until the ferry ride back home... I was given my due).

Dancing under the city lights with Mama in Corté.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why? What? Huh?

Why are consultants so valuable to companies? Because they are a fresh set of eyes. They come into a company unpersuaded by that company’s culture and history, and they take a look at things. From the financials to the workflow to the interior décor, an outside consultant can make suggestions that someone from within would never have noticed.

That’s what I love so much about studying the Bible with new and non-believers who grew up outside the church and Christian culture. Their perspective is totally unlike mine. They are not into the same reading routines that I am. They don’t hear a story from the Bible and react to it like I do.

Today, I joined a small Bible study/discussion of new (and not-yet) believers. I loved what I heard from those who were just beginning to learn the words and stories of the Bible. They were very excited and passionate about it. The stories seemed so interesting. And they challenged me.

Have you ever sat in a Sunday School class and listened as the lesson was taught, just sort of glossing over the details and happily (or sleepily) nodding as a tidy point was made? When the passage starts to meander from the primary lesson and the teacher/leader says something comfortable and Christian like “Jesus,” or “God is good,” or “and so we should love our neighbor,” do you grunt or “amen” or wake up because it’s time to move to the next room? That didn’t happen in this group today.

We read the stories of Jesus calling some of His disciples. After a portion of it, the person leading the study made the point that “Jesus always called the disciples, they didn’t find him.” One of the ladies in the study quickly responded, “no he didn’t.” And indeed, when she re-read John 1:35-37, it clearly states that two disciples of John followed Jesus, and then he turned and asked what they were doing. I loved that she used her brain and stated what was obviously before her. I fear I turn mine off way too often in similar settings.

Then one of the study participants asked, “what’s the deal with all this name-changing?” I know I’ve studied passages before and thought nothing more than, “oh another new name, a new beginning, a religious thing to do.” But this time the question came with the perfect name for the language. I quickly thought through the particular example we were reading and was excited to share it. Jesus gave Simon the name ‘Peter’. In French, the name Peter is Pierre. And pierre is also the same word for ‘stone’. Indeed, the foreshadowing of the name Pierre/Peter is brilliant, as Pierre/Peter later became the first stone on which the Church was built. And the Church is made up of people, Pierres, not stones, pierres. Cool, huh? Interested in why Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Jacob - Israel, or Saul - Paul? Look ‘em up!

Then my favorite moment of today’s study came when we read the story from John 1:35-51 in Matthew 4:18-22. Both are the story of Jesus calling Andrew and Simon Peter (and a few others) to be his disciples. Only one problem: the two stories are nothing alike. Seriously. Read them. And the group I was with today was quick to point that out. If you’re like me and grew up in church hearing these stories and the truth that the Bible is infallible and never contradicts itself, then you can probably skim right through the two passages and not even notice the glaringly obvious. This group went home today without getting a good answer to the question of how that could be. And what excites me about that is that some of them will likely read it again and again. And think. And pray. And I can’t wait to see what they have to say next week.

Couldn’t we all learn a bit if we stepped back, took a simple honest look at our Bibles, and were willing to question what we read instead of accept clichés that are repeated over and over in bookstores and go-through-the-motions Bible studies?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Why Stephen Hawking is Irrelevant

If you're like me and browse the leading world news online every couple of days (I like CNN and BBC), you may have noticed a couple stories that jumped to the top of the list. Out of frustration, I'll pass over the moron in Florida who wants to hold a public burning of Islam's holy book and instead settle on this gem:

God didn't create universe, Stephen Hawking argues

I read it. Found it to be a rather lacking and attention-seeking story. And then I stumbled on this editorial from Jon Acuff. Some great insight from a totally non-scientific mind on the world's leading (or at least most famous) physicist. He does a great job of basically showing why said physicist and his opinions don't much matter.
[Hint: turns out super science guy likes money too]

Getting all riled up about Stephen Hawking

As you read it, do so with a smile. And remember, the world's leading scientists once thought the world was flat. Oh, and the world's religious leaders once insisted the earth did not revolve around the sun (based on Psalm 93:1).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Where's the Poop?

“Michael, can you check out the 2nd ladies shower in the camping area? We’ve been told it’s not working.”

As lead fix-it guy for the summer camp, it was my duty to check out problems such as this and either fix it or suggest who to call (plumber, electrician, etc). When I was given the task to look into the 2nd ladies shower in the camping area, I was not prepared for what would greet me behind that locked door.

Poop. Everywhere. On the walls. On the floor. On top of and under the mat. When I saw the two large logs of fecal matter laying next to the drain, I wanted to run out and strangle a few teenagers. Then I thought back to all of my training from watching US crime shows and I investigated the ‘spray pattern’. Cupping a handkerchief over my mouth and nose to hold back the gag and vomit reflex, I inspected the walls and floors. I recognized a directionality to the poop spray. It had clearly come not from an external above-ground source, but up from the drain hole itself. Ewww.

I gave it an effort, I really did. I wiped up some of the floor and cleaned out the drain with a bent up coat hanger, some sticks, a bucket, and large rubber gloves. I tried plunging the hole. I even grabbed a pressure washer and cleaned out the pipes underneath. But after a few hours, when I returned to see how everything was working, I discovered both the 2nd and 3rd showers actively backing up, poop and other stuff actually coming up out of the drain holes and decorating the shower stalls. At this point, the feces were over my head (figuratively... well literally too) and I locked tightly the stalls and rushed to call the plumbers.

Allow me to leave the poopy stalls behind for a moment and discuss something else. The camp was a “French Christian Vacation Camp.” That second word makes the whole thing kinda weird. In France, unlike our home country, Christians are not plentiful, and the culture of Christianity is abnormal. It was easy on first arrival to be cynical and think “what are these people doing hanging out together by the pool when there’s a whole country of neighbors who need to know Christ?” But on further inspection, it was vital that these people come together. Fellowship is nearly foreign to a lot of them, and this is their only chance to live in community and worship their Creator with one another.

Each week of camp there would be a different camp pastor, who would teach, preach, and encourage throughout the week. Some of the weeks, the pastors naturally slid into their ‘elite’ status. They would bring the Word and then hit the pool, or leave on the little excursions I led and taste fine wines and fancy foods. They would sit for long hours at the dinner table doling out advice and huddling with other camp all-stars. But one week was different.

Our last week at camp, the pastor’s two teenage daughters showed up the first night in our volunteers meeting. They would spend the week working with children and washing dishes. They didn’t have to, they had a free ride available to them like all the other pastors’ kids to come through camp. Day two we met the pastor’s wife as she was sweeping the hallway and staircase in front of our room. Day three I met the pastor when he was hanging out by the camp director asking what he could do to help. She told him that I would probably like a break for the afternoon and he graciously agreed to lead that day’s excursion in my place. At the same time, I was at my wits’ end with a lock that I couldn’t seem to repair. He said, “I’m kind of handy with those things, if you’d like I can take a look.” An hour later I had a working lock that I screwed back into its door.

Ok, let’s return to the poop. A day and a half after I fought with the vile showers, the camp director told me that the plumbers had come and done their work with the pipes. All should now be in working order. At that point I knew it was my job to go clean up the wretched mess and open up the showers for everyone to use. I dressed myself in the worst clothes I could find, grabbed a few essential tools, took my final deep breaths of fresh air, and then plunged into infamous ladies shower #2. What greeted me was not the smell and sight of aztec two-step drenched walls and floors, but rather a sparkling clean shower. How could this be?! I popped open shower #3 and found the same condition of cleanliness. What?!

I went back to the camp director to report all in working order and my strange discovery of clean showers. “Oh I know,” she said, “the pastor cleaned them when the plumbers left.”


He cleaned the poop.

Remind you of anyone else?

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

The pastor we had at camp the last week was not the most well-spoken preacher of the summer. Nor was he very dynamic on stage. Maybe not all that educated (I don’t know). From my point of view, he was probably least of all of the summer pastors in each of those areas. But if I were to be a part of any congregation, of any flock of believers... I would want to follow that man and his family. I would happily follow them wherever they went.

That’s what I pray my family will one day look like. That’s what I believe Jesus calls all of us to be in following his example.

Servants. Not All-Stars.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Popcorn Au Natural

We returned to Paris this week from our time in the southern part of France, and the first thing we did was pull out our jeans (in french... le jeans) and jackets. It's freezing up here! Well, relatively.

But not so back home in good 'ole KY. It would seem that our friends and family in Kentucky and neighboring states have no relief yet from the heat, as evidenced by the news story linked below.

Kentucky Farmer's Corn Pops in the Field

Yep, that's right. No microwave, no stove-top needed. Just natural KY summer heat. Pop pop pop!