Thursday, August 31, 2006

Odd But True & False

I admit that I read with some amusement a story in the Houston Chronicle this week, which has now been picked up by other newspapers, about an "illegal alien theme park" in Mexico.

It's true...for $15 dollars you can pretend you're an illegal alien trying to cross into the U.S.. The place, which is deep in the interior of Mexico some 700 miles from the border, advertises itself with slogans like, "Make fun of the Border Patrol!" and "Cross the Border as an Extreme Sport!"

People do it too.

Photo credit:Houston Chronicle

As you might imagine, the park, which is subsidized in part by the Mexican government, has drawn both praise and criticism. Some folks think it raises awareness of the plight of illegals, others say it mocks the serious issue of illegal immigration. As for the U.S. Border Patrol...well, let's just say they're not amused.

I have no position. There are probably stranger things going on within the interior of Mexico and certainly things that would inflame my sensibilities. In fact, I've witnessed some close up, but those stories are for another day.

What caught my attention about this story is that it reminded me of another tale I've been told about a rather famous fundamentalist preacher named Carl McIntire who was very outspoken during the Vietnam War era - he was outspoken "for" the war.

Anyway, he was well known for a wide variety of things...far more than this little tale.

Here's how it goes.

In 1975, McIntire got the idea to build what was supposedly going to be called "New Vietnam" on several hundred acres of land near Cape Canaveral, Florida. His dream was to create a "theme park" where visitors could get a real feeling of what life was like in Vietnam. He claimed his intentions were honorable, he thought it was a good way to "give refugees work."

There were going to be fake mine fields, prison camps surrounded with barbed wire and punji stakes. Visitors would ride around a large moat encircling the "park" in Sampans. There was even an "authentic" Vietnam village planned as well as a "Special Forces Camp" which would display weaponry used by "the Commies."

To augment the realism, recordings would be broadcast of gunfire, people screaming, mortar explosions and the like.

Sounds like a blast huh?

The way I heard the story is that McIntire was determined to go for authenticity, so he wanted to have everything from water buffalo to rice paddies....and "authentic Vietnamese refugees" then living in Florida to "play" the part of villagers, soldiers, war casualties.

One problem: war refugees are a bit reluctant to spend their days re-living the horrors of war.
The story goes that the refugees he approached were horrified, insulted, and thought he was nuts. The last thing they wanted after escaping Vietnam was to "re-live" their nightmare every day no matter the pay scale.

Apparently McIntire never thought of that, so his dream sank. The park was never completed.

At least that's how the story goes.

I've seen it published as an example of ill-conceived ideas, of how people make assumptions about other people, etc.. The only thing I haven't that it's actually true.

I'm pretty good at searching the Internet and there is a lot of material about Carl McIntire, about his pro-war activism, his religious beliefs, and even about land purchases in Florida. However, I have yet to find a single credible reference to "Vietnam-land" - or whatever he supposedly planned to call it - ever being a real idea.

That saddens me a little, only because it's such a great story. It would, of course, have been completely offensive, although 1975 was a far different era and we could spend many hours judging attitudes of the past by the standards of today.

Maybe there is a kernel of truth to it, but I've yet to find it. Perhaps someone with more time or resources can validate the story. Who knows?

If not...well, at least we'll always have Mexico.

It's Always Something

This is really inside stuff but we're having some issues with servers and such....the bottom line is my email is not working with any regularity.

If you have sent an email to me in the past 2 weeks to which I did not respond, odds are I didn't get it. The worst thing is you won't get a message saying the email bounced.

Yours in aggravation,


***UPDATE*** This issue appears to have been in the words of Rosanne Rosanadana, "Nevermind."

Monday, August 28, 2006

Here It Comes

There are two or three "draft" posts which I've started to write here but opted not to publish. I'll be honest that they deal with issues which have dominated my thoughts and prayers lately, but I fear writing about them here would only result in more stress for people caught in the middle of those situations, so I'm going to let them least for now.

That's a first for me. I don't normally have to censor myself, but in this case perhaps it's for the best. Preserving the illusion of harmony.

So instead I figured I'd fall back on God - not a bad fallback position - and tackle another uncomfortable topic - also a first - that I've had several emails about, and some wonderful counsel, regarding our trip to Moldova.

: This is going to be a pitch for money. Clarence you can stop reading now :)

I've wrestled with this since Amy and I committed ourselves to the CERI project.

I had no problem asking blog readers to search their hearts, and wallets, when it came to supporting the Gomez family, for whom, a little less than a year ago, we were blessed with the ability to provide housing and other assistance following hurricane Katrina. That catastrophic event was so well publicized, the family's story was so compelling, and so many people "wanted" to do something but weren't sure how, that I didn't hesitate whatsoever.

However this is different. Amy and I are now asking for money. I know this is a mission trip, I know it is worthwhile, and I know that we feel this is God's will.

But I still feel like a beggar.

My "blog friend" Doug, who writes the blog Virtual-Doug spent many months as a missionary in Vietnam. When I expressed my reluctance to him, he was quick to shut me down with generous and loving advice. I'm not even going to paraphrase, I'm going to quote him verbatim from one of the emails he sent:

I understand the angst at asking for support. However - - think of a few other topics.

First - its Biblical. Paul himself justified his request for money.

I Corinthians 9:3-10. We get wrapped up in Paul's "tent ministry" because that is closer to our culture.
Jesus commented on the idea that a missionary should accept help when He sent out 72 people. Luke 10:7.

Second - you involve people. You helped others, and through that experience, you participated in their work. So - give others the opportunity to help you in your calling.

Third - its a grace thing. It's just like accepting the free gift of salvation. As Americans, we all love to give, but our culture tells us to be self-reliant.

Fourth - seeing how others contribute will be a joy to you and Amy. Trust me on that - it may be the biggest blessing your receive from the trip.

Fifth - telling your story to others while raising support will help you prepare spiritually.

I can not express how much Doug's counsel meant to me. I read his words over and over. We exchanged a flurry of emails for which I will be forever grateful, and I prayed.

And now I'm getting off the dime...stepping out of the boat...and presenting the specifics to you.

First off, if you're completely confused by this (you wouldn't be the first to become befuddled by my ramblings) you can read more about what our intentions are in an earlier post by clicking here.

Here are the specifics, as best as I know them.

This trip is going to cost us approximately $3600.00 primarily for airfare to Moldova...and back. Getting back is also a top goal of mine, but I'm digressing a bit. That's not including anything extraneous including our passport costs, the cost of buying clothes that will be of no use to us in San Antonio but which will come in handy in December/January in Moldova, purchasing hookahs in Turkey (I'm kidding), and all the little stuff that seem to add up along the way of every trip. 3600 bucks is what we need to provide to CERI. Make no mistake, our goal is to raise the entire $3600.

Those of you who have read this blog for some time know that we're not rich people. We're in debt (although we've slayed a lot of dragons in the past couple of years)...not a day goes by when I don't receive a notice of another medical bill that has gone unpaid for too long, but we're paying those off total.

I don't dare to dream we'll be successful is raising that much money from outside sources and let me hasten to add we're doing our best to sock money away, doing without, scrimping wherever we can. We have a special bank account - which we can't touch until CERI asks - that's completely set aside for Moldova. If we raise more than we need, there are other folks who will be part of our team whom we plan to help.

We'll also be doing some local fundraisers within our church family, hitting up friends, relatives, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett - heck why not?

But no matter the result -barring health issues with Amy - we are going on this trip.

Okay, enough beating around the bush. Here are the details should you be in a position to help.

First and foremost: Pray.

I know, every mission trip letter you've ever received says that, but we really need your prayers. Pray for Amy's health, pray for discernment, pray for safe travel. That will truly mean more to us than any financial gift. I mean that.

If you are in a position to give financially, there are several options.

1. Write a check to CERI and make a notation of:

"Moldova Christmas Mission - Michael & Amy Main" in the "memo" area.

This is the absolute preferred way to do it.

For one, you know the money is not ever touching our hands, and you will receive a letter in return acknowledging your contribution which can be used for tax purposes. This is a completely non-profit organization.

The address for CERI is:

Children's Emergency Relief International
909 N.E. Loop 410, Suite 800
San Antonio, Texas 78209

2. You can make a donation on-line.

I'm not big on asking folks to use their credit cards (see previous reference to being in debt) but if you are "plastic sensible" and prefer to do it that way, you can follow this link.

There is a spot to "designate" how the money should be used, and if you'd be so kind as to designate us, that should be sufficient. This way will also make sure you receive a letter for tax purposes.

3. You can mail a check to our church, again with the designation in the memo line.
The church address is:

Covenant Baptist Church
19204 FM 2252
Garden Ridge, TX 78266

Again, put in the memo line...okay you know the drill.

I wish I could say our church was organized enough to guarantee you'll receive a letter for tax purposes, but I'm not going to promise that. Please consider one of the first two options, although I'll notify our treasurer (Hey, Claud does this count as notification?) to be on the look out for checks of this nature. I must add the caveat that Gordon (Real Live Preacher) picks up our mail. I love the man to death, but he'll be the first to admit he's not the most organized guy on Earth...or Mars...or Neptune...or, well you get the picture.

NOTE: If you make a contribution through CERI or Covenant, please send me an email or leave a comment so I can make certain to account for your generosity.

4. You can mail the check to Amy and me.

We're not organized either, but we'll be sure to put it in the right account.
You WILL NOT receive a letter for tax purposes this way unless you make it out to CERI or to Covenant.

If you don't care about taxes and want to write a note of encouragement - even without a check- we love receiving mail, which says more than I wish to admit about the excitement level in our lives.

This is our address:

Michael & Amy Main
14655 Hillside Ridge
San Antonio, TX 78233

Again, you can still - and should - make the checks out to CERI or Covenant. Please be sure to include your email address.

(Aside) For those of you freakin' out that I just posted our address, I've been in radio for 30 years with a listed phone number, and no one has ever stalked me, called me, bothered me. We're not hard to find, and have no intention of ever becoming so.

5. You can use the PayPal button on the sidebar. I STRONGLY discourage this approach because quite frankly PayPal takes a cut, and is therefore taking money away from our mission. However several people have asked me to put up a PayPal button, as we did with the Gomez family, because they have PayPal accounts and are used to working in that realm.


I will however send you a thank you note or email, which you could attempt to use if the IRS comes banging down your door.

Okay, that's it. It's long...95 percent of the folks who stopped here never got to this line.

Thank you for caring enough to read all of this and thank you for your notes of encouragement, wisdom, and foremost your prayers.

This was difficult for me, but now that it's done I feel better.

Isn't that how God always seems to work?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Weekend Timewaster

I should be being more productive today. There's lots to do around the house, both inside and out. Despite our string of 100+ degree days and no rain for ages, we've managed to keep a small sprig of our lawn alive. It's beginning to look rather gnarly though, so I should probably endure the heat and pull out the mower...but I'll probably find something inside (read that in the air conditioning) to do instead.

Plus, there's always a chance a flying lawnmower might take a spin overhead.

It could happen, right?

Friday, August 25, 2006

I Believed In You

My whole life...from the time I was a little boy...I believed in you.

You were a fixture of my childhood. In school, you were the stuff of fantasy. I would gaze out the window, stare at the sky and think of you.

I thought one day I might even be able to visit you in that magical place that seemed so very far away. It never came to be.

And now I'm told you're not what I was told. You're not what I believed in and everything I was taught about you from various TV shows and books was essentially wrong.

I will admit, I always had some doubts. You were a little strange - unlike all the others in your neighborhood. You didn't seem to be as big, you didn't have the same characteristics...but that made you seem all the more real to me.

Now I know the truth. It's all over the headlines.

Pluto - a figment of my childhood imagination.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Moldova Q&A

I will readily admit the question I hear most frequently these days is usually along the lines of, "Moldova? Where the (insert profanity of your choice here) is Moldova?"

For the record: Moldova is a landlocked nation in Eastern Europe close to the Black Sea, it sits between Ukraine and Romania.

Next question: "Why the (insert profanity of your choice here) are you going to Moldova?"

Short answer: I feel God calling me there....which, by the way, usually stifles the profanity in subsequent questions.

Next question: "When are you going?"

Amy and I are going to Moldova in late December - it now looks like we may actually leave on New Year's Eve, we'll return around January 9th or 10th. Although our itinerary is not finalized, it appears we'll likely travel through Chicago, to Istanbul, and then onto Chisinau, which is about the only city I think you can actually fly to - in an aircraft I'll board unmedicated- in Moldova.

Next question: "Why are you going again?"

That God calling thing often begs further explanation. We are aligning ourselves with an organization known as the Children's Emergency Relief International or CERI, there's a new link on the sidebar, which does tremendous work helping children around the world. Our mission will essentially be to bring Christmas to orphans, of which there are thousands upon thousands in Moldova. Our contribution, at best, will make a very small dent in the unimaginable suffering these kids endure and, we pray, help them in some tiny way to avoid the bleak prospects of a future in the poorest nation in Eastern Europe. Our best hope is be mustard seeds of faith, and perhaps shine a light on an area too long ignored.

The truth is Moldova is a hotbed for industry, but the industries are child sex slavery, prostitution and various other forms of crime. The country is so poor many parents, loving parents...Christian parents, are forced to leave Moldova to find work. In the process they also make a decision which most anyone in this blessed land would find unconscionable - they leave their kids behind.

They leave their kids behind...a lot.

There are some 900 state-run orphanages/boarding schools in Moldova.


Moldova is the size of Maryland, about 13,000 square miles.

900 orphanages.

I'm told 25 percent of the nation's inhabitants have left...and many didn't take their own children with them. I can't imagine having to make that choice. I won't judge...instead I praise God that we have never and will never have walk in such shoes. We are blessed.

In Moldova, when kids reach 16 years old, the state support stops...completely. They're on their own in a world I don't want to imagine, but which nonetheless has been staring into our hearts and tormenting our dreams for many months.

We are going to try to show a very small number of these kids that they are loved, that God has not forgotten or abandoned them. That's it. That's really all we can do. Sure we'll stuff our bags with things the children need - Amy and I are finally going to learn how to really only pack the "essentials." The friends I have who have made this trip before us have come home with two empty bags and the clothes on their backs. I fully expect we'll do the same.

Next question:"How can you afford to do this?"

Good question. The short answer is, we can't. Yet we've come to a place where we can't afford not to do it either.

I can almost see the hairs standing up on some of your necks right about now, but no, I'm not making a pitch here for contributions. Make no mistake, I'm not ruling that out, in fact it's likely in the weeks and months ahead, but right now I need more details about how contributions can be targeted, tax deductions and the like, and I still have a few personal financial balls in the air which will give me a better idea of what it's going to take.

If you're in a hurry, or better yet filthy rich, please feel free to email me and we'll talk about it.

I'm not really concerned about the financial aspects. God will find a way.

Next question:"Have you ever done anything like this before?"


"Will you accomplish anything?

That's actually my question and the answer is, I don't know. All I know is we're going to try...because we want to be obedient to God.

"Wouldn't you?"

Mary Mary Quite Contrary

Maybe it's the dog days of summer when news gathering appears the draw to a crawl. We, of course, have the frenzy over that freakish-looking fellow who claimed his way out of Thailand prison with wild-eyed, hazy pronouncements that he killed Jon Benet Ramsey. We'll see how that plays out.

What I've been noticing though is a sudden upswing in news of Virgin Mary sightings.

Last week we had the folks in L.A. who claimed chocolate drippings created a delicious Mary blob.

Today I see a new "Mary" has the grease of a George Foreman Grill.

I will admit a certain pleasure in the realization that Mary has yet to appear during this most recent wave of sightings in granola bars, rice cakes, or for that matter any food deemed healthy.

I don't dispute these apparitions. Nor do I judge.

You see, I think all of us would see more signs of God in our world...if only we took the time to look.

Pizza anyone?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Resting In What Will Come

We are restless, anxious, excited, and concerned these days. I suppose to some extent we are always that way, you need only substitute different triggers for our responses.

I'm restless about Amy's health, anxious and excited about the Moldova trip, concerned that what we hear as a calling may be more than we can tackle.

So I pray.

Amy has had a string of "bad days" recently something she hasn't experienced in a while. We go back and forth trying to "guess" why and inevitably return to the now too common reality that there could be many reasons.

I tossed and turned last night seeking solace, sanity, sleep.

This morning I grudgingly went to church without Amy. I was met at the door by my friend Ben, who plans to join us in our Moldova adventure. Another good friend came up, concerned about Amy, and Ben mentioned that Amy and I would be part of the "Moldova team." My other friend said something to the effect of, "I just pray that Amy's healthy enough. You don't want to be someplace foreign and have a health crisis."

His concerns were genuine. He was only giving voice to the same thoughts which have dampened my sleep. I'm not sure where it came from, but I suddenly found myself saying quietly, "There's no safer place than within God's will."

The remark startled me...and I'm the one who said it. My friends looked at me with a somewhat visible degree of shock.

They know me. That's not the type of thing I say too fact, ever.

Yet, I somehow knew the words before they sprang from my lips.

I don't like going to church without Amy. It's hard for me to keep my emotions in check. I sat next to Lee, our former housemate/Katrina refugee who tries to attend church with us at least once a month, which made me more comfortable.

Without Amy, the music team opted to sing hymns selected by members of the congregation on the fly. I left the choosing to others.

We started with Blessed Assurance...we wrapped up with Trust and Obey.

I think I'll sleep easier tonight.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, "You are my God." - Psalm 31:14

Friday, August 18, 2006

I'm Shocked! Shocked!

This is truly amazing.

American colleges and universities are full of liberals who frown upon Christianity?

That's what this startling article claims!

"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!" - Captain Renault

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Passport Pastime

Our trip to Moldova is going to be a lesson in patience. The signs are all there. Today I had hoped we'd clear the passport hurdle, but it's apparently going to take a little more effort than I expected.

You have to give the government some credit, they've made it fairly easy to fill out the forms and such. You can fill out the application on line and then print it out all neat and tidy to carry with you to the Post Office or any number of other places these days that accept them, I think Krogers is on the list, but we don't have a Krogers in San Antonio.

The one hiccup in that process is you have to actually know the information they want. My parents died in 1972, I was fairly certain of their birth dates, but I had to get on line to make sure of the years. As to where they were born...I'm making an educated guess. Anyway, that process took a little bit of time away from the day, which admittedly I also ceded a portion to a well deserved nap.

Okay, got the form filled out and printed, then I actually read it. Bring your birth certificates. Anyone who knows us, for that matter anyone who has been brave enough to walk inside our home or even get a peek at our garage while passing by, knows we're not exactly organized. It took a little a lot of digging - I found my college records, Valentines day cards, love letters and about 35 remote controls from devices long since decomposed.

I eventually succeeded in retreiving our birth certificates although I'm now considering getting a tetanus shot booster.

So I have the birth certificates, the forms are filled out to best of my ability, two forms of ID are in hand...all we need: passport photos.

The government even makes that easy....or so you'd think. If you don't want to shell out 8 bucks to have the photos taken at WalGreens, you can now take the pictures yourself, size them to the specifications, print them out on photo paper and you're home free.

Of course you have to know where your digital camera is...

Back into the clutter I go...step by step...inch by inch... (sorry, I'm slipping into an old Three Stooges routine). After searching all over the house I finally found the camera...sitting on my desk.

I picked it up and asked Amy if she was ready....

Let's just say we're not going to get this done today. I'm perfectly willing to have any photo at all on my passport but evidently Amy has slightly higher standards, like having her hair brushed, and some make-up on, and... well, you know, she wants to look nice. Her words were, "This is a picture that's going to have to last ten years!"

Just as make take that long to find the camera charger anyway.

Monday, August 14, 2006

What's In Your Wallet?

I got the a book of revelation at my office today.

It's actually on CD, but it came in big binder that contained only the CD and the page can click on it to enlarge it to see the various scrawlings.

The CD appears to contain this gentleman's personal book of Revelation. It's 67 pages long and I'll admit I have only flipped through it. I did notice that he was polite enough to answer my first question: "Why is he sending this to me?" right at the outset...between two drawings he says are of an alien holding a "hybrid" - hybrid human not car.

"I have been commanded to by the Holy One of Israel to deliver this gift of sight to those that dwell in total darkness, and to give a clear witness to the truth. I have been called to prophesy and show you things that will come to pass.

I give all glory to God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to God for His incredible mercy and His gift of knowledge. Grace and Peace to all those who seek Him."

I can't argue with that...I hope we're all called to similar heights. Presumably, I am meant to spread his word via the radio - I'm hoping he didn't assume I'm dwelling in darkness or worse yet that God told him I was wandering around blind so he should ship me his CD pronto.

About 40 pages in, there's some pictures of a chicken restaurant that also is apparently a sign of the end times befalling us soon - it doesn't appear to be a franchise so if you favor KFC or Popeye's I don't think you're making a deal with the devil.

Apparently though folding money is the real key to his beliefs.

I do plan to read his thoughts in their entirety, but I will admit I'd have been slightly more eager were he too have included the actual cash instead of pictures.

Morning Quirks

Random stuff...

From the Associated Press:
Ben Keysaer is running out of room -- for tattoos. The Monroe, Michigan, man is just about covered from head to toe. He even has tattoos on places where most people can't see, like in his mouth. Keysaer's tattoo on the inside of his bottom lip says ``glutton.''

He tells the Monroe Evening News it tasted terrible to get. His arms, chest and upper back are also covered in ink. He says all of his tattoos were free, from artists who wanted the practice. But his days of being a guinea pig could be numbered. Keysaer notes he just doesn't have much bare skin left for new designs.

Okay...not only has this guy been tattooed on every conceivable - and some certainly inconceivable - part of his body, but he's also had them done by people who needed the practice...

Yes, I searched for a photo...couldn't find one (sigh).

I have an old time radio, one of those big cathedral-style jobs...a 1938 Zenith. It still works, when I plug it in. I'll admit I had to unplug it while young Emily was staying with us because she was fascinated with turning it on and off and those old tubes are only going to last so long.

Anyway, if you'd like to revisit the days of yesteryear...or more likely experience what radio was once like for the first time...I stumbled upon this site today. Very cool..very free.

I have to admit I've had this longing lately to Turkmenistan.

Okay, maybe not actually go there, but to write a novel about an American defecting to Turkmenistan.

If you're not familiar with this little country, let me explain that for the past 15 years or so it's been run by a full-fledged nut named, Saparmurat Niyazov, who among other things has recently ordered a pyramid built in the middle of the capital city. A full-sized pyramid, like 130 feet tall.

The country is closed off to most outsiders, it's got a good supply of natural gas and oil to help fuel the economy and Niyazov's various edicts, and the country is run by a nut.

It sounds appealing doesn't it? I mean isn't that what most of us really want? To close ourselves off from the rest of world, enjoy our riches...who cares if a kook is at the helm?

Niyazov apparently hasn't been overthrown because people are laughing too hard. He has banned opera and lip-synching, he's ordered people to call him, "Turkmenbashi," or Father of All Turkmens, and has erected gold statues of himself all over the country, including one in the nation's capital that rotates so his face always faces the Sun.

Maybe it's just my fascination with the nutty...but there's something appealing about Turkmenistan...then again maybe it's just Monday.

If we don't return from'll at least know where to look...toward the Sun.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

It Couldn't Be This Easy

Well, the deed is done.

I thought I'd let that hang in the air a moment. The website has moved, it appears to be working. I haven't noticed any major flaws and had only to do one or two little tweaks.

I have email.

So I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.

We (ahem, Amy) still will have to go through and clean things up on the interior - I've been a bit sloppy in where I've put stuff over the years and now is a good time to get rid of duplicate files and the like.

I'm not sure of the rss and atom feeds. I'm not really sure how that works and quite frankly don't want to spend the remainder of my Sunday working on it.

If you use bloglines or some other RSS reader that notifies you of a new post, leave a comment or drop me a line if you got notified of this one.

Anyway, it appears everything is functional enough and it went very smoothly. That's a good sign because many of our actual paying clients don't have as much clutter as my blog/website so presumably that will make it easier for my crack technical team (ahem, okay that's Amy too) to transition them over this week.

Now...back to Sunday sloughery.

I don't know if sloughery is a word...but it should be.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Money, Moldova & Quite Possibly Madness

Amy and I are going for it.

We're going to commit ourselves (insert punch line here) to going to Moldova in a few months to work with children in an orphanage for a short while. It would will be my first overseas missions trip, and the furthest travel either of us has ever attempted.

We, of course, have a certain level of hesitation regarding Amy's health, but she has more good days than bad as of late, and one of the couples with whom we'd be traveling has journeyed a similar path over the course of their marriage and is grappling with many of the same concerns. I certainly don't want Amy to be overtaxed and I know my job will include making certain she doesn't try to do more than she's physically capable of doing. Yet even if she has a string of "bad days" while there, we'll have folks with us who know and understand what that's like, relieving any guilt that might arise.

Truthfully, I'm feeling a certain level of providence about this idea.

We will have to raise some money - I haven't decided if I'll hit up blog readers or not or how that would work - but Amy has in past years hosted dinners and baked bread to help finance similar missions trips - the only difference this time around is we would be an actual part of the mission team.

Other things will have to fall into place too, but in terms of work schedules, vacation time I could commit to the endeavor, and the like...those things all appear feasible.

As we get our financial ducks in a row for the new business, we've had a chance to be in a number of institutions - lending not mental, although I'm not ruling out the latter in the weeks ahead - and I've taken the opportunity to browse through some of the literature regarding Home Equity loans, something I've steered us away from when we were in a much worse position credit wise.

Now though, we've dug ourselves out of nearly two thirds of the debt that hounded us a couple of years ago. Looking back, I'm rather proud of how much we've tackled. I'm not going to detail the exact amount but believe me it's substantial. Of course, what we still owe is no small sum and the dragons still have to be fed. Yet, from everything I've been able to read thus far, and doing some simple calculations (the only type of calculations I'm capable of doing), it appears I could consolidate our remaining debt via a home equity loan, eliminate all of our remaining credit card debt, and if need be, still finance much of our Moldova costs without having to beg too much - something I'm uncomfortable with, but which I suspect I'll have to become more accepting.

Plus we'd have money set aside to replenish our emergency fund and have a small amount left over for very modest home repairs/improvements.

All the while we'd also be increasing our monthly cash flow.

Yeah, it sounds like a no-brainer...which always makes me suspicious that I'm overlooking the obvious. I'm going to be aggressive but still tread lightly and ask a few friends who are more financially savvy than me - a position for which it doesn't take much to qualify - for their thoughts.

Anyway, this next week Amy and I plan to take the first step - getting our passports - something neither of us has ever had or really needed. I also plan to pursue the home equity loan rather aggressivly, because unless there's a downside I haven't seen yet, it appears it could certainly simplify my life - and put us on a little sounder financial footing following a year where we've shelled out huge dollars for: foundation repairs, plumbing repairs, roof replacement, and most recently car repairs.

Hopefully that trend of "draining" money out of our now non-existent nest egg can be quickly reversed, and we can focus on the business, plan for 50 hours of travel to Moldova, and come up with a plausible explanation for our insanity.

Anyway, there's no way to be certain we'll be able to pull any of this off unless we step out of the boat, so we're taking the step...wish us luck!

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" - Matthew 14:30-32

Friday, August 11, 2006

Premature Pigginess

Okay, well we got kind of distracted...or rather Amy decided to do some other work before using me as a guinea pig, so technically my last post was a bit premature. I'm assuming sometime this weekend the actual server shedding will take place, but Amy is the "technical director" of this operation, I am merely the Philosopher King.

In other words...I don't know what's really going on, but if at some point this site disappears don't worry...unless all your Christian friends disappear that same day...then you might want to look up "rapture"...otherwise it should reappear rather quickly.

Apparently I'm not only a guinea pig but something of a bandwidth hog (at least it's the same genus, sort of) so Amy is evidently thinking we might do a little clean up work...put my website on a diet of sorts...or remove the slop if we want to stick with the porcine metaphor, before I go digitally sailing across servers.

It will happen...eventually.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Moving Day (s), Daze?

You're not going to be moved by this post and no we are not moving out of our home/boarding house/mission field.
As mentioned previously, Amy and I have taken over The Aspen Group web design/hosting firm. I am the Owner, President, CEO, and Philosopher King...but I also have another title, "Guinea Pig." As part of our corporate transition we're changing servers, and guess whose website "we"("we" meaning Amy) is going to practice with first.
You cracked the code Sherlock.
As soon as I hit publish, Amy is going to begin the transition. All things being equal, if there's going to be a screw up in this process I am likely to be on the receiving end of it. In any case, the blog and my email may be down for a day...or two....or....

Okay, prayer for hassle free transitions might be in order here.

Anyway, if the website disappears (you won't know diddly if you haven't already read this) or emails bounce back today/tomorrow, don't fret about it. I'm sure my crack technical staff - okay that's Amy too - will have the situation resolved quickly.

Until we meet again.

Michael - Philosopher King

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Morning Ramble

Since I still haven't gotten into a writing routine, I thought I might do a stream of consciousness thing through out the morning, or maybe just throughout the next few minutes while I wait for the coffee to brew at the office.
Maybe I have nothing to write about lately because the only thing people talk about around here these days is how unbearably hot it is...yeah, I know New York and the Eastern seaboard went through a "heatwave" -- what did it last? Two weeks? Around here, it's been hot and "schticky" 2004.

I'm only exaggerating slightly...some days the humidity hasn't reached the "schticky" point.
I think what makes it worse is that the TV weather clowns always hype the chance of rain...and it never rains. A couple of days ago, Amy and I were on the back porch and winds kicked up to close to 40 miles per hour at least. It was cooling off quickly...we could smell rain in the air.

That lasted only long enough to knock down a tree in our front yard - although I suspect it committed suicide - and all we got was the "smell"...not a drop of rain.

We did get another chance to talk with our neighbors with whom we've spoken about 9 times in 11 years. The guy has a chain saw and that tree wasn't down for 45 minutes before he was at the door volunteering to cut it up. Guys need chain saws...but most of us have no real use for them. I gave him permission to go berserk on two other cottonwood trees in our yard that I suspect are also contemplating ending it all. It's not like there's a crappy tree support group they can go to for therapy. Not even a crappy-tree suicide counseling line they could call. Assisted suicide by chainsaw seems humane...which, by the way, I will bet is a sentence no one else has ever written.
"American Idol" is holding auditions in San Antonio on Friday and the hype is already in full swing. Wannabe participants have to get wrist bands which will start being handed tomorrow at 6 a.m. and will continue to be handed out 24 hours a day until the actual auditions.

The great unwashed and undiscovered better not be completely broke. The organizers have the gall to charge 10 bucks per car to park - to park to get your wristband...after that you have to move along, no camping or reserving your ten dollar parking spot. The wristband doesn't even guarantee you'll get an just tags you as someone who is either talented, or nuts.

Possibly both.
Elsewhere on the nut front: Police in Cleveland (Texas not Ohio) - a town near Houston - have seized some THREE HUNDRED pit bulls. Police are quoted as saying they, "suspect the property owner might have been involved in illegal dog fighting operations."

Ya think?

Maybe it's completely innocent. He bought a pair of pit bull puppies...didn't pay attention...they invited over a few friends...who invited over a few more. No one ever told the land owner about the birds and the bees and before you could say, "Anyone else notice how much dog poop is in the yard?" he suddenly had THREE HUNDRED pit bulls in his yard. I suppose that's possible.

Our neighbor, the one we've spoken to about 9 times in 11 years, has a pit bull. She's sweet. I've talked to her more than my neighbor. Her name is Xena. She doesn't invite other pit bulls over...but then again her owner has a chain saw and time on his hands.
Car repair bills this week: $1000.00...and it's only Tuesday.
The Dixie Chicks are canceling or "postponing" a large number of their concert dates due to poor sales...instead they're going to take their tour to Canada.
Speaking of done...the coffee is ready...I better get to work.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Best Waylaid Plans...

Amy and I had a plan. We were going to get up early today, go to the church, I was going to help her with some stuff that requires a little heavy lifting - something she is gradually learning admitting only worsens her health problems - and then I was going to get some mowing done while it was still cool enough to do so without risking death.
Since the temperature soars into the 90's here lately by 10 a.m. that meant we really had to get up and going by 6 or 7.

Yesterday however, I took one of our cars to the shop to fulfill the destiny of wiping out what little is left in our "emergency" fund - the power steering was failing - KA-CHING! Still, we figured that would not hinder our plan since we do have a second, rarely-used, crappier car which can still function as long as you don't want to roll down windows or have an aversion to seeing the traffic through a large crack in the windshield.

Now though, our Saturday plans have vanished completely...faster than French loyalty.

Last night, we went out for a "mini-date" in that second, rarely-used, car for which I'm still thinking of a nickname appropriate enough to be said aloud (I have several names I've called it in my mind...and occasionally screamed while alone in the vehicle). All went well; Amy beat me at darts, so she was happy. I was happy. All God's children were happy as we called it an early night and headed home.

We were barely on the road when the battery "idiot" light came on in our second little-used, now especially best left unnamed, vehicle. Then a series of other lights came on and we knew that imposter of transportation too was going to be visiting the mechanic for at minimum a new battery and more likely a nice costly alternator. This insures our "emergency fund" is nothing more than fantasy, but we've been in worse spots and I long ago stopped giving money woes a position of power in my mind and our household.

However it also means our grand plans to be productive today are shot. I admit at first, I clung to the hope that our car repair guy, whom I trust implicitly and would put in line for a prominent place in my will were that not an insult, might be able to get our first vehicle "fixed" early enough for us to at least accomplish some of our goals for the day. Now though it's apparent that won't happen due to yet more unforeseen mechanical issues. Even if our mechanic had stocked his crew with repairmen who moonlighted as blood-work consultants for Barry Bonds, Tour de France participants and the like, we still won't be getting that car fixed until late today and the mechanic has already told me that repair is only temporary, the work will have to be completed next week.

We still got up early, but now we're being forced to spend a lazy day at home. Heck, we've even already cleaned the house - clean being a relative term - and Amy finished work on Sunday's music yesterday, so we can't occupy ourselves with those chores. Sure, I could do some yard work here, but now it's already hot enough outside to see visions of Ken Lay so that is off the list of reasonable activities too.

It appears like our day will be relegated to playing around on our computers, drinking coffee, reading the newspaper and spending time together with nothing pressing to do whatsoever.

Thank you God. As is always the case, Your plans for us are always exactly what we need.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

It's A Miracle!

They thought it was a miracle...

PILGRIMS queued to drink from a miracle fountain flowing from a statue of the late pope John Paul II...

Locals in the pope's birthplace of Wadowice, near Krakow, thought a miracle had happened when water started to run from the base of his statue.

Word spread throughout Poland and pilgrims from around the country visited to fill bottles with the "holy" water.

However, Mayor Eva Filipiak dashed their illusions by admitting a water pipe had been installed under the statue.

"We didn't mean anything by it, it was just supposed to make the statue look prettier," she said.


Personally, I think if a city water department can install a pipe without tearing up the streets for three months (presumably people would have noticed that) it should still fall under the heading of "Miracle."

Maybe I'm just a cynic....okay "maybe" is probably unnecessary in that sentence.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Lord Of The Fly

Are free to fly
Fly away...Fly away...

For the past several weeks, San Antonio has been inundated with butterflies. They are not big showy butterflies. They're little brown, "snout-nosed" (yeah I didn't know they had noses either) butterflies. They are everywhere...and today they are not only a curiosity...they are a reminder.

We're empty nesters again.

The small family we've been sheltering for the past few months has moved on. This was, of course, our ultimate goal yet we are finding the concept of using our upstairs as our "mission field" a little painful, always feeling like during our time with our guests we could have done more, helped more...loved more.

It was that way with the Gomez family, and now with Simon, Katrina and Emily. Admittedly, it was a little tougher "letting go" of Emily since we enjoyed having a two-year old amongst us so much.

Okay, I'll admit it, we offered cash if they'd let us keep her...that's a joke...but she did plow her way into our hearts and not being able to make a little girl giggle whenever we feel the desire is something that will take some adjustment.

Nonetheless the experience was a good one. Simon and Katrina have to go where they feel God is leading them on their journey and we must understand our role as a waypoint on our spiritual trek.

We do believe God gave us a calling...I think we sometimes have to do better coming to grips that He also gave each of us free will.

Amy and I have set another goal - which will take a lot of miracles to achieve - of joining a group of missionaries this winter and traveling to Moldova to work with kids in an orphanage. Conditions there are almost unspeakable and it would be a good chance to test our missionary calling against our abilities.

It will also be a test of faith. A lot of things will have to fall in place, like our new business and Amy's health concerns remaining manageable...and some money will have to fall out of the sky. Still, we think we can do it. We'll see.

This much I know though, after having the chance to hug on only one two-year old for a few months, if I surround Amy with a bunch of orphaned kids in the harsh world of Moldova...I'm going to have to triple check her luggage on the way home for stowaways.

Simon, Katrina and Emily...we already miss you. We are praying that your journey brings you closer to God and to your desires. We are thankful for the chance to have hopefully been a small conduit in that process.

And if you ever want to sell your kid...