In April 2016, I will be heading back to Rwanda to assist in caring for some kids at an orphanage in Kigali, the nation’s capital. My team members and I will be working with kids who have experienced trauma or who come from a difficult background. We will be focused on providing activities and experiences that teach forgiveness and lead to redemption and healing. Dr. Karyn Purvis, renowned child development psychologist, is fond of saying “Children were harmed in relationship, and the only way they can be healed is through relationship.” That is what this trip is about, to help these kids begin healing by engaging them. They need to know there are people who care about them.
You can assist me with this trip in two ways: one, by praying for me, my team, and the kids we are going to help; and two, by donating to my trip account with Visiting Orphans through purchases in their online store. Yes, you can shop, and help me go to Rwanda!
You can find shirts, hoodies, handmade necklaces and leather cuffs, bracelets, bands, and other charms. You can visit the store at this link: Visitng Orphans Store
Shop to your heart’s content, and when you are ready to check out, follow these instructions so a percentage of the sales can be donated to my trip:
That’s it! These are some unique items you cannot find anywhere else, and they make awesome gifts!
Most people give the homeless change or leftovers, Mark Bustos is cutting their hair
For the past few months, New York City hairstylist Mark Bustos — who normally spends his days working at an upscale salon — has been volunteering on his days off to offer haircuts to homeless people he sees on the street. With a simple phrase, “I want to do something nice for you today,” he has been helping people get a fresh, uplifting makeover.
For people who have been trapped in a cycle of poverty, unemployment and homelessness, the makeover can also serve a useful function: looking presentable for a job.
A tip for fellow writers: I use Michael Tsai's outstanding SpamSieve on my Mac to control e-mail spam. Based on the training I give the program, it actively and automagically sorts spam into a designated folder, leaving my inbox pristine and filled only with the e-mail I want to receive. Now, what to do with all that spam collecting in that aforementioned designated folder? Most folks would simply delete it all, and too bad if something found its way there that shouldn't be. Some folks, myself included, would give it a quick going-over, to make sure their spam-filtering software hadn't flagged a false positive: a "good" e-mail inadvertently labeled "bad". And an enterprising fiction writer would tap this new-found wealth for character names. I mean, where else are you going to discover "Abdul Travis"? What a great name for a fictional character! (When I first saw that one, it sounded like something one would read in a William Gibson novel.) So I created a new text document in BBEdit, gave it the oh-so-original title of "character names.txt", and starting dumping in names from my spam e-mails. I'm not sure how many pieces of spam I went through, or how long I did this, but the current document has 456 different names in it. And by virtue of receiving upwards of 5,000-plus spam e-mails a week, I always have a ready source for more names if I need them. So skip those fancy character-naming programs, fiction writers. You've got a wealth of names right there in your e-mail client.
I remind him to watch the cars, to look the drivers in the eye and make sure they see him. His brothers and I sit in the minivan while he goes to the curb and waits for a chance to walk out to the girl. Finally a car stops to let him pass. The girl’s face is turned down; she sees nothing but the ground. I watch my son’s narrow shoulders as he crosses the drive, and I am praying that no harm will come to him, not now or ever, that someone who is this loving will be spared the pain of the world, which is when I remember that it is Christmas, the time when we celebrate precisely the opposite, the coming of pure love to suffer for all we who sit with faces turned down, not even knowing what to ask for, knowing only in our crusted-over hearts that anything will help.
"The cure to cancer might be in the slums of Kenya or Indonesia." In other words, you don't know what the children of today are capable of tomorrow, how God may use someone like me, someone like you, now to change the lives of scores, hundreds, thousands, possibly millions, years from now, just because we help change the life of one child today. Please consider sponsoring a child.
In preparation for the mission trip I'm going on next week to build houses in Juarez, Mexico, I picked up a Panama Jack cowboy hat at Wal-Mart earlier this evening for a mere ten dollars.
The Juarez trip can be tough on gear (the boots I wore last year won't be making a return trip), but I figure for ten bucks, I won't worry if the hat doesn't go another year. (And yes, a backup hat will be packed, just in case.)
I was a little miffed to learn the Rangers offer a downloadable calendar for the season, only as a comma-separated .csv file. This is fine and dandy if you're running Outlook, as apparently the Rangers front office does, but it's not so good if you're one of the millions of people--and trust me, there are millions--not running Outlook.
The .ics calendars I found online weren't quite up to my expectations, either. I ended up taking one and heavily modifying it, notably adding all of the away dates, since this particular one focused only on home games. You can download the calendar by clicking on the link below:
Simply unzip (decompress) the downloaded file, and follow your calendar of choice's method for importing a calendar. The .ics format is an open standard, so pretty much any modern calendar app--yes, including Outlook--will read it.
The following landed in ye olde e-mail inbox earlier today, penned by talk radio host Laura Ingraham: Megan pulled a three-ring binder out of her bag and showed me a photograph of herself and her husband. Young--they're both 21--with big smiles on their faces and obviously wildly in love. "That's what he looked like," she said with a somber face, "He was such a cutie-pie, always buying me little stuffed animals and writing the most thoughtful notes the entire time he was in Iraq." Then she showed me the photo of her husband receiving the Purple Heart on Wednesday from President Bush at Bethesda Naval Medical Center. As President Bush pinned the medal on Mike, he lay unconscious in the ICU, having suffered a traumatic brain injury caused by a piece of shrapnel that pierced his temple. "This is my Mike now," she said, rubbing her eyes. He is completely blind and to alleviate a terrible cranial pressure build-up, doctors had to remove the front of his skull. Since being wounded several months ago, Mike has never regained consciousness and suffers from terrible seizures. "That's my guy," she repeated, before she went on to tell me about how they met and fell in love. For whatever reason, I kept thinking about the fact that some person somewhere carefully assembled the IED that would eventually maim Mike and many others. They are often packed with nails, hunks of lead and screws to cause maxim human suffering. When they explode, the contents rip through flesh and bones, shattering countless dreams in the process. How to comprehend this level of evil and the physical and emotional agony it causes? This young woman and her husband should be out buying their first Christmas tree together, going to parties, raising a glass to their future. When I asked what she was doing for the holiday she said, "I'll be here with Mike. I would never want him to be alone on Christmas." They had been married for about three months when Mike was wounded. In these days before Christmas, Megan and other military wives and moms gave me a precious gift. They reminded me that true love requires sacrifice--sometimes seemingly unbearable, heart-wrenching sacrifice. They are living out their love in big and small ways. Many have moved thousands of miles to relocate to the hospitals where their husbands, wives, sons, and daughters are being treated. This takes an enormous emotional and financial toll, yet they do it for love. When they are not at the hospital bedsides of their wounded warriors, they sit for hours a day in waiting rooms across the United States, hoping for good news--or at least no more bad news. They pray with each other, cry with each other, and yes, even manage to laugh with each other as they hope for a day when they can return to "normal life." Yet for the families of our most seriously injured troops, they know they will have to get used to a "new normal," much different from the life they knew before. As we are about to celebrate Christmas spending time with our families and friends, let us all do our best to live up to the true spirit of this season--and make it a time filled with love, faith, gratitude, hope, charity, and, yes, let's try for some peace on earth. Let us remember the military families and our wounded heroes who will spend this Christmas at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center, Bethesda Naval Medical Center and other medical facilities across the nation. As we rush around stressed out because we "haven't found the perfect gift" for so-and-so, these families hope and pray for gifts that cannot be wrapped up: a hand that squeezes back, a smile, the first step on a new prosthesis, or a positive medical report. They need our prayers and support at Christmas and every day. Please give what you can to any of the wonderful organizations that support our bravest and their families. Merry Christmas.
Well, dear readers, after being gone for a week on a family vacation, I'm now leaving in the wee morning hours--in six hours, to be precise--on a mission trip to Juarez, Mexico. It's an annual thing our church does, and this year I decided to go as one of the adult volunteers. It's really a mission trip for the youth of the church, with something around a 65-35 breakdown of youth to adults. Normally the trip is to build simple homes for the poor of the area, but this year we've been asked by the mission sponsor, Amor Ministries, to build some duplex housing for attendees of the local Bible college. So you won't be seeing any updates from the phisch bowl for a bit, as we will have little power available, little running water (which we don't drink any way, we bring our own drinking water), and absolutely no Internet access of any kind. Mobile phone coverage is even spotty, and insanely expensive. It's going to be a blast. See you next week.
I'm not sure if there's anything to the fact that as George Thorogood's "Who Do You Love?" was playing, I came across Steve's great poem, "my convenient social gospel", but regardless, it's a good poem. Thanks, Steve!
Okay, campers, we're in the home stretch, and I'm way behind. As we all know, my wife has the high-earning friends, so with just a few people, she can rack up quite a lot of donations. That means that I need a lot of you to donate to the March of Dimes for this year's WalkAmerica. I'm $195 short of the goal of $400 I set to raise this year, and about $350 behind my beloved. While it would be nice, in the spirit of our loving competition, to catch up to her, I'd be pleased if I were just able to reach the $400 goal. Five hundred thousand babies are born prematurely in the United States each year, and the March of Dimes is at the forefront of research that helps many of them survive. Our son was among that number in 2003, so we know firsthand the good things this organization does, and this is why we participate each year in WalkAmerica. My deepest thanks to those of you who have already donated, and for those readers who have not, please consider a donation before this Wednesday, the 18th. The walk is next Saturday, the 21st. Thanks, all!
Well, well, well. The cat is out of the bag. I told you it might not be long. So the missus calls me while Brent and I are still at lunch, and in the course of the conversation informs me I'm "busted", that she's activated her WalkAmerica site, and she's already started emailing her friends. Now, you have to understand the different circles my wife and I run in. She's an attorney (pipe down there in the back; it's corporate law, not ambulance chasing or class-action cannibalism), so naturally a lot of her friends are attorneys, which, as a group, tend toward the wealthier side of the populace. I, on the other hand, am unemployed. You can see where I'm going with this, can't you? Given my past, most of my friends tend to be in the IT and creative fields, or in some sort of service area, and thusly, as a group, tend toward the less-wealthier side of the populace. Thus, I have to make up for this disparity in numbers of donators, and would appreciate all the help I can get. To top it all off, that minx I'm married to set her goal forty bucks above mine!
Well, I suppose this is as good a time as any... Fundraising for the March of Dimes' WalkAmerica has begun, and once again, the missus and I will be walking with the tyke (who will be riding in a running stroller). In an attempt to get the jump on raising donations over my wife (we have a friendly competition), I'll point you to my personal WalkAmerica page. (Said jump will likely last as long as it takes from this post's publication to her reading it, so we're talking sixty seconds to a couple of weeks, folks.) Any amount is greatly appreciated. I've also placed a March of Dimes badge at the top of the blog's sidebar, so you can come to my site at any time and click on that to donate. You were all very generous last year, blowing through the first, second, and third fundraising goals I set, so I'm raising the bar this year: $400. Yes, four hundred measly dollars, but four hundred bucks that could do a world of good. And I'm starting with $25 of my own, so that only leaves $375 for the rest of you to pick up. Should be a snap, right? Right! The walk is in April, so you have plenty of time, but why wait for me to annoy you to make a donation? ;-) Thanks, all!
A little while ago, I finished watching "The Christmas Show" episode of Studio 60. The show closes with an awesome performance by New Orleans musicians who are supported by the Tipitina's Foundation. The group performs one of my favorite Christmas songs, "O Holy Night", and you can still snag a MP3 from Studio 60's music page.
[T]he founders of our nation were suspicious, if not contemptuous, of government.
Today's Americans hold a different vision of government. It's one that says Congress has the right to do just about anything upon which it can secure a majority vote. Most of what Congress does fits the description of forcing one American to serve the purposes of another American. That description differs only in degree, but not in kind, from slavery.
At least two-thirds of the federal budget represents forcing one American to serve the purposes of another. Younger workers are forced to pay for the prescriptions of older Americans; people who are not farmers are forced to serve those who are; nonpoor people are forced to serve poor people; and the general public is forced to serve corporations, college students and other special interests who have the ear of Congress.
You say, 'Williams, don't you believe in helping your fellow man?' Yes, I do. I believe that reaching into one's own pockets to help his fellow man is both laudable and praiseworthy. Reaching into another's pockets to help his fellow man is despicable and worthy of condemnation.
The bottom line: We love government because it enables us to accomplish things that if done privately would lead to arrest and imprisonment. Like Mr. Williams, I don't mind giving money to help others. In fact, my faith compels me to help others, if not with my time and sweat, then at least with my money. I am happy to give. However, I believe I am a better steward of my own money than the government, especially when it comes to charity. Private charities do a better job in their respective areas than similar government agencies. There are charities which receive federal and state funds, which to me means nothing more than the government acting as an unnecessary and fund-stealing middle-man. The government needs to get out of the charity business. Speaking of charities, a good one to consider this holiday season is Feed the Children. Hunger is still a problem even in the United States, and it's especially important for children to get proper nourishment so they develop normally. Please consider a donation to Feed the Children as part of your end-of-the-year giving.
As we enter the holiday season, please consider a donation to Compassion International's AIDS Initiative. More than 12 million kids have been left orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, and Compassion's efforts are among many trying to stem the flood. Donations to the AIDS Initiative provide food, shelter and basic care for AIDS orphans, as well as medical treatments, including AIDS-inhibiting antiretroviral therapy, and HIV/AIDS awareness education for surviving adults and children. You can make a one-time donation, choose to donate monthly, or, better still, choose to sponsor a child on a monthly basis in the affected areas. Sponsorship is certainly worth the time and effort; we look so forward to the letters, photos, and drawings from the child we sponsor in Tanzania. This season is big on gift-giving, and here is an opportunity to give the gift of live in a land where survival is beyond anything most of us can imagine. Please consider a donation today.
November is Prematurity Awareness Month, and the March of Dimes has teamed up with MasterCard to raise awareness and double fund-raising efforts. If you use your MasterCard to make a donation to the March of Dimes, MasterCard will double it! As parents of a preemie (though you'd never know it to see him now!), the March of Dimes is a charity near and dear to our hearts. Please consider using your MasterCard to double your donation this month. Thanks!
From Jack on the World_SIG list, who said, "You'll never see this in the MSM."
The text accompanying the photo reads:
"Air Force Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt, of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group at Balad, Iraq, cradles a young girl as they both sleep in the hospital. The girl's entire family was executed by insurgents; the killers shot her in the head as well. The girl received treatment at the U.S. military hospital in Balad, but cries and moans often. According to nurses at the facility, Gebhardt is the only one who can calm down the girl, so he has spent the last several nights holding her while they both sleep in a chair." CMS Gebhardt will never be singled out by the American or Arabic press for his compassion. He will not receive an award for the love and affection he has shown a little girl in such desperate need of both. His action may not resonate with anyone on this blue marble except the little one on the receiving end. A couple of nights ago, I caught a M.A.S.H. re-run. It was the one where a Korean-American baby is left outside The Swamp, with a note attached telling the camp the baby's father was an American GI. Like Japan, Korea is a very homogenous culture, and children of mixed heritage were (are?) looked down upon. This little girl would not have a happy childhood, and would likely even be killed before she reached adulthood. The staff of the 4077 try in vain to get her transferred to the U.S., and finally resort to leaving her at a nearby monastery, where the monks will keep her cloistered and safe from those would harm her. As they're saying their goodbyes outside the monastery, Hawkeye tells the baby, and forgive me for my paraphrasing, "You brought a little light in to a world filled with darkness." Thank you, CMS Gebhardt, for bringing light in to a little one's world of darkness. I know you are likely not concerned with receiving it, but I pray she is able to thank you some day, too.
Jeff lays in to Richard Branson for donating billions to "blue-sky research" on alternative fuels, when for a fraction of that, he could be helping people survive by having access to potable water. I'm all for alternative fuels, but I have to agree with Jeff that priorities seem to be a bit skewed, and it's not just Branson who's doing the skewing. (Hey, that's actually a verb. Wow.) Jeff notes Dean Kamen's latest venture, which sounds fascinating, and it reminded me of Blood:Water Mission. Blood:Water Mission was started by Jars of Clay, as a result of a visit Dan Haseltine, the group's lead singer, made to Africa. Its mission is to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS by providing clean blood and clean water, digging 1,000 wells, and providing medical facilities to treat the sick. All Blood:Water Mission is asking for is a simple, one-dollar donation per person. The new technology Dean Kamen is working on will help untold thousands, perhaps millions, but it's not available yet, and won't be on a massive scale for a while. In the mean time, please consider a donation to Blood:Water Mission or a potable-water charity of your choice.
Photo mosaics have become popular; I have one of Darth Vader, made up of different scenes from Episodes 4-6. There are many tutorials online for making your own photo mosaics, but John Tolva has one where you create your mosaic with LEGOs. You'll need Photoshop, and a healthy bank account for all those LEGO pieces you'll be buying. [Via Photojojo.]
Many of the nearly 650,000 displaced by Indonesia's earthquake are living with deteriorating sanitary conditions, forced to wash with dirty water that infects wounds and spreads skin disease, doctors said Sunday. Please consider donating to any of the many organizations providing relief assistance. We like the package and plan from World Vision, which has put together individual kits for survivors.
World Vision is one of many non-government organizations (NGOs) providing emergency survival kits in Indonesia, as a result of the recent earthquake there. World Vision's kits include blankets, temporary shelter, medicine and clothing. If you're seeking to help out with relief efforts there, please consider a donation to World Vision.
Stop wandering aimlessly through that phone tree, and get a human on the line.
Love coffee? Love cafes, but don't want to support the corporate monstrosity? Then use Delocator to find local shops near you. And please, if you know of a local cafe that's not listed on Delocator, add it!
[Waves of the phin to John, Paul, and John at FD.]