Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Little Getaway

Tomorrow I'll be heading down to another Cathedral Prep Weekend down at the Seminary. I'm not just happy to be getting down there again and hanging with all of my friends down there, I'm ready for a little getaway.

It's not that I'm tired of being at home or anything, but I'm excited to have some fresh air to breathe. I'm ready to have some quiet time alone with Jesus. To get to be in a place where he so easily stays on my mind all day. I'm happy to be able to laugh with some friends I treasure so much. Besides that, I'll have my little brother's Confirmation on Sunday that will hold plenty of warm moments. This weekend is going to be a time of sanctum for me to regroup and prepare for next week and get a fresh start to things. But on another hand, my mind will always be here: on the crazy things Addisu will do when I have to get him in his Toy Story PJ's, on hearing my Dad playing Guitar, on how soon our adoption will be complete now that we have our Dossier off to Eastern Europe.

There are worries, though, as well. People, do some serious praying. While I haven't heard from them where things are at right now. my dear friends the Hooks are possibly facing and end to their adoption because of a Judge who doesn't like us Americans adopting saving their children from institutionalized misery. My heart is going to crumble if they lose their sweet Evan. I have seen them shed so much blood, sweat and tears working to bring this little girl home. Pray that, if the decision has not been made, that their judge's heart be turned. This will be waying heavily on my mind and heart as  I spend a lot of time in prayer.

All in all though, Im ready for my quiet little room and waking up to the sunlight shining through the trees into the window on Saturday morning. I have no idea what God has planned for me this weekend. Maybe this will be the time whne I finally hear His voice, or maybe I'll have some long-forgotten prayer answered. Its going to be a great little getaway indeed.

"Quiet, stillness, all so intuitive,
 The light that is breaking through.
 The perfect calm, the peace without qualms,
that this is only a temporary thing. 
This peace and this joy, 
Both withot a ploy, 
To block me away from the truth.
Because this is what's real, though it feels surreal
It's just 'cause its God and its Heaven. 
And though my time there, may feel oh so rare,
It is the perfect getaway."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mockingjay- worth praise or.. Mocking?

Well friends, I've finished it. I have read every Hunger Games book. Now here's my summary and review. This will contain major spoilers at times, so skim with caution if you ever intend to read the books.

Chaos. Destruction. Revelation. Three words that best describe the ending of Catching Fire, were we last saw our beloved Katniss Everdeen. Katniss, in the heat of the moment, blew up the force-field surrounding the arena of the Quarter Quell Hunger Games using the trick her fellow tribute (and former victor) Beetee taught her. Just when she thought she was in for it, she learned more than she could have imagined. District 13, thought to have been obliterated years ago, is still in existence. All of the tributes in the Quarter Quell, except her and Peeta, were in on a plan to keep both of herself and Peeta alive at all costs to defy the power of the Capitol. The problem is, they only half succeeded. Peeta's been taken captive by the capitol Forces. And, oh, by the way, Katniss' little stunt has decimated her home of District 12, and the few lucky enough to survive, including her mother, little sister Prim and best friend Gale, are now safe in 13. Katniss should feel some sense of relief, but she doesn't. Back in Panem, the Capitol is trying to use Peeta as a lure to draw Katniss in as they inflict much torture on him. Katniss is also finding while she may be out of the hands of the sinister President Snow, she is becoming just as much a pawn for the cause in 13. Besides that, who will Katniss chose to give her heart to, if she can even live that long?

I'm gonna say it again; Collins has constructed a uniquely masterminded series I found myself reaching for constantly. You're gripped by what will happen to the characters, especially since you know that this is it. This book is definitely a full-on tale of war set against the backdrop of romance, as opposed to the other way around ,which is how the last two have been written. You certainly feel Katniss' emotions ebb and flow. When a character dies, there's a clear sense of loss and sacrifice that shakes you. Everyone, from Finnick to Peeta to Katniss to their team of Rebel commandos they join in the Capitol, to even Gale ,show self sacrifice  For all the controversy, I thought it all ended pretty well. Despite the fact that Katniss, even as an adult mother, was still struggling against the trauma of  the year we followed her so closely for, it was clear her Romantic choice (whom I will not say) and her children were giving her the strength to carry on and heal.

That said, let me list my few minor complaints here: Death. There's a lot of it, sometimes pretty gory. While its not the gore that bugged me, the constant death of a lot of characters (some of them key characters) didn't give us time to sit back and enjoy them much. While scenes such as Finnick and Annie's wedding are tender and heartwarming, moments of healing, while existent, are a little few and far between. You don't get a lot of time to, er, smell the roses (actually, you probably don't wanna, so maybe that's better :D) The whole death thing is taken to a new level when (HUGE SPOILER ALERT!) Prim is killed by one of Beetee and Gale's contraptions in the chaos of war. While I get the fact that something needed to really break between Katniss and one of the two guys in her life (Peeta and Gale) for her to live happily ever after with one of them, it seemed a little extreme from my point of view. Beyond my personal biases though, here are the actual things to look out for: Morphine, whose name was botched into Morphling sometime between nowadays and the time of the books, is used pretty frequently on patients. While its necessary at first to calm the extreme trauma most of them are processing, most sneak a couple extra doses because they become addicted for a time. Katniss is NOT excluded from this drug fest. As I stated before, the violence gets pretty gory. I would not recommend anyone under 13 read this series because it is literally a metaphor for Iraq, WWII and other such bloodbaths. On that note, some people have related the malignant effects of the war in Panem to the war in Iraq, and if you're one to pick up metaphors and double entendres, it won't take long. Besides that, though, the only problem is, in the end, a slight detail that is pretty left to interpretation. It's never made clear if Katniss and Peeta get married (SPOILER!) before they have their two kids. while they're basically living alone in 12, there are certainly other inhabitants. This is, I guess, a morally grayed ending for a morally gray thread of the story. While there is certainly no doubt that they love each other and would sacrifice anything for each other, the fact that its never placed just how far they take their relationship (obviously once they have kids it is) or just how committed to each other they are can be interpreted  a number of ways.

So in the end,  I whole-heartily recommend the series. Your not gonna find anythingn like it, and certainly nothing as gripping. It makes you think twice about what you would do in their situation, and, for all its issues, delivers a great storyline as well.

Farewell Hunger Games trilogy!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Of Bracelet Sales and Hard-Hitting Gospels

So friends, its been a while. I must admit I'm doing rather poorly at this "do schoolwork and have enough energy to blog" thing. So here's a post long overdue; our Hardscrabble Day Bracelet Sale!

So before I go any further,  we've passed USCIS (Immigration) a little while ago and are anxiously awaiting the aposteleed copy so we can send off or Dossier to Eastern Europe! I am eager to share what country we're going through with y'all, but until then, it's just Eastern Europe.

So back to the main story here: our little Bracelet Sale. I live in a community that I swear is one of the most high functioning ones located in Middle of Nowhere, NY. That's not literally our name, but we are literally in territory just catching up with the 21st century. Some of the seminarians I meet from the city area call my area "God's country" Because its literally that untouched. I love it that way. We still have little town celebrations that are really just a reason for the community to get fancied up and enjoy our pristine weather while little vendors around town try and make a few extra $$. Most of the time, my family doesn't do a stand or hang around too long, but we figured it was a good chance to do some fund-raising and get the word out about Reece's Rainbow. So we had some rubber bracelets made up, did up some posters to put on our table, and baked some cookies to sell on the side.

   Me, My Dad (taking the pic for me) and my little bro got there about an hour early to set up our wares. In the end unfortunatley we had to put the posters on the ground and block our little banner, but we still would've won presentation. :)

We had a LOT of bracelets to sell. Unfortunately I can't tell you we had none left over by the end of the day, but we sold a good 35 or 40% of them. The day progressed and it was beautiful. We had plenty of people ask what we were doing, some buy cookies, others bracelets, others donations. In between we had plenty of time to walk around and see what else was going on. Whiel there wasn't anything real intersting,  I did spot these...

Sorry People, but toy geek+Lord of the rings fan+ $3 apiece for rare figures is a deathly equation that only results on lightening of wallet :D.

While I didn't have 1500 bucks spare, me and a friend did have fun fake-riding a sweet custom chopper:

                     Geeky? Poor immitation of a tough Motorcycler? Nah, not at all :D

The whole day was worth it though, because I got to spend time with my family fighting for a cause we love passionately. And I got to see this little guy:

What a CUTIE! I love him so much I almost squeezed the life out of him when I saw him. To think that this was only two years ago...

Both two Years younger, me about 2 feet shorter, and he was just getting his first teeth in (and testing them on my shoulder :D )

By the end of the day, we had made about $200. While this was good, and we just dropped the whole thing into our adoption fund, I don't think we made a whole lot in profit. I was really feeling kinda bummed. We had worked hard to pull this together, and we were only getting a small amount of what we'd hoped for. It felt like we had made it through the day but only accomplished half the victory. Still, we had our adoption fund with 200 more dollars in it, so I wasn't entirely bummed.

I got an answer to something I wasn't expecting an answer for the next day in Church. I was still mulling the events of yesterday all over in my head. I tend to mull just about anything over in my head, sometimes for hours or even weeks or years on and off. The Gospel reading was one that didn't come to mind immediatley when I heard it. I've memorized what most of the stories that are in the Gospel Proclamation at Mass are throughout the year. But this one didn't immediatley come to me. It was a Parable Jesus told of a beggar named Lazarus. He had open sores all over his body. Dogs and flies would come and eat away at and lick them. And while this man suffered in pain, The man inside the house Lazarus lay outside of was rich. He partied it up, ate well, stayed healthy. And when he died, he didn't end up where he thought he would. And he saw Lazarus standing next to god in Heaven. While our Parish Priest could have taken this into a "care for the poor people around you" talk, he shined the light on a facet of the story I hadn't thought about; the man who got the short end of the stick on Earth had gotten the big prize in heaven for suffering graciously. But Father took it a step further: "So what does this show us?" He asks the crowd. "This shows that as part of being a good Christian and a good Catholic, we have to suffer."

Say WHAT now?

You've got to be kidding me, I thought. This is gonna loop around to be some wacky metaphor. But there was no denying he had meant it. This kind of confused me for a minute. Aren't the choice people the people that gets the good side? That bathes in hot tubs, gets fed shrimp and all that jazz (metaphorically speaking)?

Uh, no.    

As I thought about it more, it made sense though. For one, Scripture points it out. Two, no athlete wins the Olympics without an insane amount of physical pain and exertion. So it's really no pain, no gain then?

Well, Kinda.

It's way beyond that. It's the fact that we have to work on other things too. Not too many Wall Street brokers get rich and then convert to Christianity on the spot. This world is, as St. Paul literally put it, our race to the finish line. You can't know the true satisfaction of winning the race if you haven't trained. If I decided to go out and run a 5k today I wouldn't be ready because I hadn't trained. In the same way, the people who don't prepare for Heaven can't reach it. We have to know what it is to trust God, with our everything. so, we may not have made as much as I would've liked at the Bracelet Sale, I'll trust God knows where we'll get the money for it and that he'll provide.

I've been thinking it's about time ,To win the war that fights against all the lies invading my mind

You have brought me to my senses. Even though You built this world to shake, You still love me in a personal way, so I think it's time to leave my doubt behind

There's so much more than meets the eye or what's going on inside
I believe in something way beyond myself
Like the wind that moves the leaves
Lord You move me to my knees
Giving in something way beyond myself

Newsboys, "Way Beyond Myself"

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Cause' All I Want Is To be In the Light"

Well, my readers, it has been a while indeed. Forgive what I think has been the biggest absence since my week @ Camp Veritas. So here's the catch up:

Adoption World: Woo Hoo! We're finally approved by USCIS and our letter is off to Albany to be stated apostileed. After that it's Eastern Europe or Bust :D! Tomorrow is a little fundraiser for the adoption at a local community day selling some of those trendy rubber bracelets (That'll get coverage here, don't worry :) ).

Otherwise,  I guess that's what's led me to blog tonight. I'm gonna say this right off. I LOVE my homeschooling program. It's probably one of the best educational experiences I've ever had. But it is a LOT of work. At the end of the day, I feel pretty drained. Blogging? I've sat in front of Office Word for so many hours typing things up my pupils are gonna dilate if I look at another Computer screen. So I end up reading some, muddling through my evening and night prayers and crashing directly afterward. I know,  it's just gonna take getting used to, but right now it certainly seems like a tiring week for the most part.

However, one thing keeps me going throughout my days; music. I LOVE music. I think I'd lose about half of my life if I lost music. I have it one most of the time unless I just feel too overstimulated and need some silence while I work. From Day to day, my musical hunches vary. But for almost every day this week, one song has stuck in my mind: In the Light by DC Talk.

To give you a little background on who they are (in case you don't know), DC Talk is one of those legends of music that transcended everything. They were christian (all the members were as well) artists, they were rappers, the were hip hoppers, they were rockers. Short-lived as their fame may have been, it garnered a couple Grammys and one (maybe two) certified Gold Records. While the band may have broken up, two of their three members have stood tall in the music world regardless: Tobymac, a guy  I majorly admire as a musician and a Christian, and Michael Tait, who just joined up with other well-known Christina Boy Band the Newsboys. Their music, however, has remained high among the memorables and is still pretty played. Their two biggest hits were Jesus Freak (trust me, its good) and In the Light (case in point).

A lot of work can sometimes get our minds off God. Even though I'm using a Catholic homeschooling program and I certainly have plenty of God-centered topics in my work, after a while it starts to just seem like work. I get to the point where when I think back on my day and what I let my work do to me, I really despise what  I see.

The Song Talks precisely about that. To be precise, the chorus goes; "What's going on inside of me? I despise my own behavior" It was a pretty solid statement as I started dwelling on the lyrics. IT jsut continued to echo me;

"This only serves to confirm my suspicions.
That I'm still a man in need of a Savior! I wanna be in the Light
As You are in the Light
I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens!
Oh, Lord be my Light and be my salvation
Cause all I want is to be in the Light
All I want is to be in the Light"

It was so true. I really wanted to be in the light keeping my mind on God as I worked. "Ora et Labora," or Pray and Work, as St. Benedict says.

The song is down in the playlist. Just scroll down and sink in the lyrics. Because I think we all want to be in the light.

Monday, September 20, 2010


"Oh, you really deserve that vacation." "I don't feel any compassion for you, you deserved that." They didn't deserve to lose their house in that fire."

Deserving. We think about it a lot. In a general sense, and in a personal sense as well. We think of what we believe we should get, what others should get (good or bad) for what they do. In some senses we shouldn't think about it. Scripture points out that not only should we not judge, but if we don't we're literally doing justice even more than judging someone from our perspective. But there are some perspectives where its perfectly logical.

Case in point: as I was talking with a friend last night. She told me about a story she had heard a speaker give at a retreat. It went a little like this:

Haiti. Rivaling Hurricane Katrina for the sheer amount of destruction it caused, the Earthquake that occurred about six months ago brought missionaries, humanitarians, emergency relief workers and droves of other volunteers to try and resurrect what they could of the city of Port au Prince and save those who were still alive. This speaker was one such missionary. The church they had been sent to help, while still stood in parts, had not been entered by a soul since the Earthquake for fear that it would cave in on them. The church was now holding their services on the broken gravel outside the building, and this man was helping out. On one Sunday, a little girl from the congregation went over to him and wrapped around his leg. "What's your name?" he asked. She said it was Lovely. Indeed it was. This little girl was literally the last living member of her family. All of them had died in the tumult of the Quake. "Where do you sleep?" He asked. She pointed at the ground beneath them. After trying to rephrase and reiterate the question multiple times, he realized she was really telling the truth; she literally slept on the gravel they were standing on. "The only difference," he said to the crowd my friend was sitting in back in the U.S., "between my daughter who is the exact same age and that little girl, was that she was born in Haiti, and my daughter was born in America."

Almost immediately the thought rushed to my mind. "Why did that girl not deserve the life that man's daughter has?" She's probably twice more deserving of it then most Americans who don't know what the term " 3rd world nation" means. Oh, no. There's that word again. Now while it's a little different to want a good life for a little girl  in Haiti as compared to wanting your personal Justice to be served, it's till wanting what you may think is right, and there's a much better answer: they are where they are because of God's plan. There are all things we think we deserve or want. But as Steven Curtis Chapman so expertly put it "God is God, and I am not. I can only see a part of the picture he's painting. God- is God and I am man, so I'll never understand it all, for only God is God." We are all part of a larger plan. It breaks his heart to see his daughter sleeping on the cold gravel at night, but its part of His plan. That story could have inspired a future missionary. God is giving us what we desrve or need to deserve to fill out His greater plan. I could sit for hours and question things. What did I do to deserve this, or what did that person do to deserve that? Frankly, it wouldn't matter. God knows what he's doing. He wants us to know that all of these tough things are the little black dots that mix into a more beautiful color that's part of the bigger picture. and that ultimately, we'll gain His ultimate prize for following his will:


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Another Eventful Weekend

So friends, forgive me for not blogging sooner. I had intended to do two separate posts about my 2nd eventful weekend in a row, but I got caught up in the craziness of schoolwork, life and craziness itself. But, without me blabbing on about why I wasn't blogging, I'll get on with the show.

Event Number 1: Celtic Thunder Concert. Celtic Thunder was a musical act I found out about approx. 3 years ago when I saw their first special on PBS. I was amazed by them almost instantly. It's five (really six now) guys from Ireland who perform songs either as a group or separately. They're all pretty talented (save one) and whenever they've been, and I quote, "close" like Radio City (a 45 minute car ride and a two hour train ride away) Tickets for back rows alone were about $80-$120. But God provides. I was down in a city about 45 minutes south of me helping my Mom get some Adoption paperwork and I passed the marquee board outside the City's Civic Center and it advertised three words that were matched in Heaven; Celtic Thunder Christmas. Well, it turns out when  I got home and investigated, they were going to be recording their Christmas special down there! Besides the fact it was much closer, the tickets were about half of what Radio City asked for. Needless to say, it was an opportunity a Thunderhead like me was NOT gonna pass up. So on a Friday night in one of the coolest Septembers I can remember, me and my Mom trekked on down and were so excited when..

oh dang it.

Our chairs were literally right behind the camera platform. We could not see a thing. We were seriously bummed. Just as we were about to try and do something, a staff member came out and announced "All seats on the left and right bleacher wings are available if you cannot see from where you are."

Cue the angels: "Ha-le-llujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" Me and my Mom found the perfect seats that gave us a perfect panoramic view of everything. To top it all off, it ended up they were recording not one, but TWO specials. So I celebrated both St. Patrick's Day and Christmas in September. Go figure. :D

I'll give you a slight clip of what they sound like as well:

Now That's some Celtic Thunder!

Now anyway, Part 2: Catholic Underground North! I LOVE Catholic Underground. It's adoration/ Praise and Worship, then a "Coffee House" where the either have someone playing music and then somewhere where everybody can chat. It's become the primary in-between spot for all us Camp Veritasians, and needless to say, there was lots of hugging and happy reunions. Case in point:

We were all pretty happy to see each other. We're the perfect mix of Friends. Ryan is flat out Crazy, Casey and Liz (my sis) are our huggy teddy bears, and Rachael keeps us all from going completely out of our minds when we sometimes would. We all had quite the time goofing off in the Gymnasium of the Church's school. Good times indeed. From big concerts to crazy times with friends, it's all good. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Save Me From Myself

"You Save me, save me from myself, there is no one else, I can lean on. You Save, me, save me from myself, there is no one else to set me free."

Michael W. Smith, "Save me From Myself"

As some of you who are deep into the world of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) may know, one of the top dogs of the buisness, Michael W. Smith, has a new record coming out. Titled "Wonder," it's the first album in a couple years that isn't recorded in a Mega-church with a 200 voice choir backing Michael up. So needless to say some of us are interested what he'll pop out. While the actual album isn't out yet, he has released a single, "Save me From Myself." When I first visited his site and heard it, I was more focused on the kind-of upbeat tone and overall jazz of the music itself. But then I started listening more to the lyrics (the chorus of which is above). As I though about it, it kind of irked me. God created us in our own special personalities for a reason. He doesn't want us to just be drones who are focused on not sinning. But then it occured to me; what if "myself" isn't really all of me?

The lyrics talk about somebody observing the flaws of society and of self. And boy are there a lot. Hearts of stone, wasting days, and more all get their mention in the song. "Alright," I thought. I can see that. Wanting God to "change my ways" (another quote from the lyrics) isn't bad at all. Which only means one thing; myself is the not-so great part of me.

And it all dawned on me; we're God's creature's, right? God's the beauty and all that good stuff, and our Human side supplies our flaws.

For most (including myself) this really seems like child's play. We all know God created us and that, since The Fall, we haven't been 100% perfect. It's not like we haven't heard the Creation story a thousand plus times. But I think Sometimes we forget that we are part Human. We're not all as perfect and scarless as we'd like to be. We do, in fact, need God to save us from ourselves, from our sin. And only God can do that. It's a beautiful thing to realize that he can truly save us from the bad stuff and lead us on the road to Heaven.

Father, save us from ourselves. Once you've set us free, we can do all things through you. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Crazy Weekend Part 2- and Vimeo!

So continuing on my last post (forgive me for not blogging for two consecutive days about two consecutive days), Sunday was a little bit less Crazy than Saturday's "Get down to Dunwoody by 9 leave by 5:30 and follow a tight schedule while there" agenda. That night we had what could be considered a big thing for us Northern Christian Rock fans; Steven Curtis Chapman (check him out in my music page if you don't know him) was going to be performing at a local Assembly of God and was going to be bringing his aspiring musician of a son and his wife who was starting to do public speaking about their tragic accident in which they lost their youngest daughter Maria. The concert was amazing entirely. Caleb (Steven's son) turned out to be amazing, and Mary beth (Steven's wife) gave a great little talk about her journey through this grief and tradgedy that has ensued over the last two years. Check out my video slideshow here (sorry if the sudden audio cut surprises you)

A Night of Music and Hope with the Chapmans 9/12/10 Poughkeepsie NY from Caleb Lococo on Vimeo.

Which brings me to my next thing: Vimeo. This is an awesome little Video service that gets things done and gets 'em done quick. I'm gonna be using it for all of my videos from now on. Besides just being quieter (and hence quicker and easier to deal with than Blogger or Youtube) it's meant to be an Artist's world. You'll be in a much more safe and respectful environment of people than what you may find on Youtube.

More posts are on their way! I've got plenty of blog-related thoughts in my head, and I've got a Celtic Thunder concert/ live recording to see on Friday!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Crazy Weekend Part I- A Day of Simplicity

As I mentioned to you in one of my last posts, I had a retreat (time to get away from the world for Religious recollection) coming up at a place called a Seminary. Some of you may not know what that term means. Simply put, it's a place where Catholic Guys go to be trained to become Priests. That's the translation of the word for the place I go to. I am not in training or anything. You have to be in or out of college. I go there for what they call the Cathedral Prep Program. Its just a weekend for guys considering the Priesthood to hang out, do some praying and have some fun.

This is St' Joseph's Seminary. I don't know what it is about it .Maybe the fact it resembles a Castle or a mansion. Maybe the great memories and friends I've had and met. Needless to say the phrase "Be still my soul" materializes instantly when you go through the gate.

While the usual weekend runs from Friday night to Sunday morning, the "Kick-off day" was going to be simply Saturday from 9-5. We'd start off with a little breakfast for the families, have a pretty extensive tour and then us guys would start our day. Breakfast was kind of short for us because we had gotten there a little bit later, but the tour was extensive and amazing.

These are just a couple of the beautiful things around the grounds. The building directly above is for the guys who are in the college seminary (either doing their four college years or two years of philosophy before entering the four years of major Seminary if they've already done college) to eat, take some classes and pray in a pretty little chapel they have. Oh, and that nice looking chair you might have spotted above? Both Pope Benedict and our dearly departed (and beloved) John Paul II used it when they came to America and visited the place.

The day was great altogether. Praying, having mass, and oh yeah...

                   They've kinda got a gi-mongous gym as well :D. And those Bowling alleys are kinda from the World's Fair on Coney Island.

I think sometimes people get the wrong impression about what religous life really is. They get the idea that its hard, humorless work, and that once you're out of training you sit in a dark room for the rest of your life mumbling prayers. the prep weekends have shown me, in the words of Fr. Joseph Espaillat at, "when I was living with the priests in high school at Cathedral Prep, I got to see the human side of the priesthood. A man who ate ice cream, would go to the movies and play basketball. Yet, he had an intense spiritual relationship with God.”

While when Father Espaillat was in prep it was an actual high school program, the message is the same; a priest is a normal guy. He may not wear normal clothes or live a normal civilian life, but at his core he does everything your normal man does, just hypercharged with Christ.

Needless to say, you'll hear plenty more about these weekends in the months to come. And I hope through what I tell you, you'll come to experience the same joy those weekends of simple prayer and fun bring me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Our God is an Awesome God, he Reigns, from Heaven above, with Wisdom, Power, and Love our God is an awesome God- Rich Mullins, Awesome God

God. He's just awesome. He can turn something tough around, turn your life around, even turn you around for that matter. "He's got the whole world in his hands" as the saying goes. Case in point: Tonight.

I had just gotten back from an amazing Concert with Steven, Caleb, and Mary Beth Chapman (my next set of blogs is my crazy weekend) and was excited after it and kind of tired. I got an E-mail from a friend who has about the HUGEST heart for orphans I know of. She's totally on fire for the cause and works at it with a LOT of persistence. About six months ago, a little bit after we met, she brought a bunch of pictures of kids off and offered them to anyone in her small girl's church group who wanted some cute little special needs kid to pray for. Her leader took one as well. All this time, my friend wasn't sure who had stayed consistent and who hadn't. Well, she was talking with the group leader today and she mentioned she was still praying for that little kid she had picked months ago. My friend asked who it was. It was, indeed,

Our little Jenny.

This is NOT pure coincidence. I am truly amazed at God's sense of humor and providence here. Just as me and my friend were getting to know each other, my mom was praying about adopting again. At that same time, a lady began praying for a little girl with Down Syndrome who didn't have a family. Coincidence? Hardly. It is, without a doubt, without question, without error...

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Well, it's been a packed first two days of school. My program I'm using is GREAT, but it's definitely a full day's work. I've kind of made it my focus aside from saying my Morning, Evening, and Nightly prayers (I'll explain that another time). But Today, adoption kind of came back to perspective. We had an event kind of shake up a family we've been in contact with and it really made me think about getting Jenny home. I can't wait to get over there. I can't wait to hold her, kiss, hug her, play with her, and get to experience her native culture (however interesting that may end up being). I thought about something else though: what's she gonna think of these strangers coming in, plucking her out of the only environment she's know? When we get to the hotel, is she gonna flip that suddenly these two strangers (maybe three) are the only ones around, and that she's completely a fish out of water? Is she just gonna roll with it? How well will she sleep? I guess we could try lullabies, but I'm not exactly a lullaby virtuoso and I don't think "Blessed be your name" isn't exactly gonna cut it. What started this whole train of thought though, was that I found myself humming "You are my sunshine" quietly while I was working. I kinda fumbled with my poetry skills (that'll be another post) and pulled up this:

While the first verse is obviously the classic, I wrote the following three myself. I tried to upload a video, but It didn't work :(

                                      You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,
                                      You make me happy, when skies are gray
                                      You'll never know, dear, how much I love you,
                                      So please don't take my little sunshine away
                                      You are my Moon beam, my shining Moon beam,
                                      You keep me waking, when I should sleep. 
                                      You'll never know, dear, how much I love you,
                                      So Please Don't take my little Moon beam away
                                      You are my light ray, my shining light ray.
                                      You light the darkness when I've lost my way
                                      You'll never know, dear, how much I love you,
                                      So please don't take my little light ray away

                                     You are our Jenny, our precious Jenny,
                                     Your little smile, wipes our cares away
                                     You'll never know, dear, how long we've waited
                                    So please come now, to our home, to stay

I hope Jenny will like this. I'm going to think of it as my personal gift to Jenny. I feel like something like this which would sooth her if she was uneasy or put her to sleep would mean more and could be a good ice breaker between the two of us to start off a beautiful friendship.

I've got some big stuff coming up: A weekend at the seminary (again, another post, as are most things on SATT aka Swimming AGAINST the tide), a concert with the Chapman family (as in Steven Curtis Chapman. Look in the music page for him), a Celtic Thunder concert (just google or youtube search them), all on the soon-to-be-happening list, as well as A transcontinental trip God-willing around wintertime to Eastern Europe.

Ah, experiences. They just never stop coming.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vacationing Last Hurrah

Well, tomorrow starts School. While I'm glad to have a slightly more definitive schedule, the laziness of summer is always nice. Because of having to be ready to spend a thick wad of cash on plane tickets to Eastern Europe for Jenny, we've kept to our backyard paradise this summer. We did a day trip a while back out to The Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge Massachusetts, but other than that we'd just relaxed or went on crazy adoption adventures to state buildings around us. This weekend with my Dad getting a long weekend for Labor Day, we ventured out about an hour and a half to Norwalk, Connecticut for an Aquarium visit. Addisu is enthralled with animals and literally spent about 15 minute or more just staring at some of the exhibits. I had been out there back in my Fifth Grade year of school as our big "Last Field trip," and they had greatly improved their exhibits since.

My little traveling buddy. Sassy and funny any time, anywhere. Havin' some fun in the car on the way down.

We arrived in good timing and were ready to start our exciting day at the aquarium, we also had this guy sitting there to welcome us:

A BIG, inflatable meerkat awaiting us. They had an entire exhibit dedicated to them. Amazing little creatures indeed (more on them later).

My Dad bought our tickets and all that spiel and then we started our day with lunch in this beautiful cafe they have.

I'm a sucker for architecture and shots like this. It was really amazing to see all the boughs and chords making up this huge room.

From there we headed onto the exhibits. Probably the biggest hit of the day was these guys:

The seals. Such amazing creatures. I really couldn't comprehend how such big, blubbery creatures could be such amazing swimmers (and quite graceful at that), but that's just God the Creator for ya. :D

Next were some fellow Africans for Addisu to see (well, kinda)! They had this new African Penguin exhibit from when I had been there, and they were pretty funny.

These things would give any photographer a good chuckle. They clearly get the fact they're not short on attention from us crazy humans and they'll pose and look directly at you and the whole nine yards. On top of that, they'll swim straight up to the glass and stare you straight in the eyes. Personality much? :D

From there we went into probably one of the most daring exhibits you'll ever see in an aquarium.

A sting Ray pool. While there's nothing daring about looking, you're encouraged to touch them, and they've been known to come up and splash you.

Addisu had quite a few  laughs/shrieks when he got splashed by them, but nobody but me was man enough to actually touch them. :)

From there, we did the travelling exhibit they had: the meerkats. They're pretty well known at this point, between silly things like Timone from Lion King to actual documentaries like Meerkat Manor, but I still didn't know  a whole lot about them. They truly are amazing little critters. while they're in a community and all sleep in one big hollow together (figured I'd spare you that image), each is so dedicated to their job that they are almost a community of individuals.

The exhibit was pretty elaborate, and once they all woke up from their nap, they were everywhere.

The rest of the day was interesting as well. We saw an exhibit with some Fish from the Long Island Sound (at which my camera's battery croaked) and after that we went to the aquarium's IMAX Theater. They had a couple different options for what to see, but we saw a documentary on ocean life. Watching the extreme wonder's of God's creation on a six story tall screen was absolutely breathtaking. Even Addisu was amazed by it (so much that he conked out on Dad :D ). I don't think we realize how much we don't know or understand about God's true power and awesomeness. It was as if you saw another world entirely, a whole other eco-system, yet it's part of our world. How amazing it was.

After that, we headed to a nearby beach so Addisu and Gab could see the ocean, feel the sand on their feet. I love beaches and large bodies of water. I could stand and squish the wet sand between my toes while the water flows in and out all day. I absolutely loved it, and needless to say next your our little blond addition will get to visit it as well.

So all in all, it was a great last Hurrah to a great summer. Now starts the school adventure...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Absolute Satisfaction

Well, guys my weekend, while not over yet, has been pretty crazy. Lots of mini house improvement projects (i.e. cleaning garages, dumping garbage at garbage dumps, wrestling with Amazon MP3 to let me buy Born Again, the newest Newsboys album, stuff like that. Alright, maybe wrestling with doesn't count as home improvement, but it is music improvement :D) and lots of excercise has tired me out. But this makes it all worth it:

This little guy's happy face when he gets to play baseball in the front yard with his "Cayeb" before bath time.

                                                             So from catching baseballs...

                                                                  To shooting hoops...

                                To being a cheeser and just having fun, a night well spent indeed.

                                             And hey, when your other little brother finds an antique desk on the side of the road for FREE, it makes it all worth it!

(yeah, people, this thing was FREE)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Catching Fire is ON FIRE!

So for those of you who have read since the blog's genesis, you know one of my first posts reviewed a book called The Hunger Games (click that there text for that post). I greatly enjoyed the book, with or without its pitfalls. But by the time my fingers turned the last crisp page, i was indeed hungry for more (no pun intended). My sister was rereading it before Mockingjay (cannot wait to get my hands on that), but I had it in my hands very quickly and dove whole-heartily back into the post-apocalyptic country of Panem and the mind of Katniss Everdeen. (Spoiler warning for the next couple paragraphs. explaining some of the philosophy involves a couple minor spoilers.)

Well, she did it. Katniss successfully got both her and her comrade (and maybe more than that) Peeta Mellark out of the Hunger Games, making it the first year there were two Victors. But the Capitol has no intention of letting Katniss get away with this Scott-free. Haymitch Abernathy, Katniss and Peeta's mentor (and former victor to the Games himself), warned Katniss to be ready for anything. So far however, Katniss seems to be off the hook.

Until now.

One day Katniss comes home to her new and beautiful house in the Victor's Village after spending some time in the forest she has found solace in for so many years to find an unexpected guest: the Head of Panem, President Snow. And boy has he got it in for her. Katniss's slight act of rebellion in the arena has sent ripples throughout the Districts sparking sizable groups of discontented people to rebel in growing aggression. So the President's deal for Katniss is a simple one: act as if she's still the ditsy star-crossed lover of Peeta Mellark she pretended to be in the Capitol when the two of them go on the Victor's tour (which is, in short, the Capitol's way of rubbing fresh salt into the wounds of the families who lost their children as the Victor tours the country) and the President won't have Katniss's friends and family disposed of on the spot. But Katniss has her own set of issues to comply with. Ever since the awkward exchange Katniss and Peeta had on the way back to District 12 from the Games where Peeta found out Katniss wasn't as smitten with him as he'd thought (which Katniss wasn't entirely sure of), Peeta's held Katniss at a distance, and while they still talk and associate, the wounds the encounter left Peeta with are quite apparent. And her old friend Gale, in whom she had a confidant and a friend, is now working in the coal mines and was (needless to say) slightly turned off by the acts of affection Katniss displayed for this boy she had just met as compared to him, who she had known for much longer. Top that all off with the fact he now loves her as well, and you have quite the romantic turmoil. But it's clear once Katniss goes on the Victor's tour with Peeta that what Katniss did was merely unhinge the door that had been holding back years of discontent, abuse, and planning of some secret plan Katniss doesn't even realize exists. Things worsen when a new regime of Peace Keepers (police) takes over  for the lax (and kind-hearted for the most part) ones and make the previously tough life for the residents of District 12 grueling. And when the Quarter Quell, the little "twist" on the Hunger Games that occurs every 25 years (each time some new sickening change-up to the normal horror the Games bring) happens, Katniss and Peeta are thrust back into a universe they'd hoped never to enter again. The hunt for survival and, more importantly, saving each other, goes to an extreme that will change the course of the entire story.

This as an amazing sequel to an amazing novel. Much of the moral ambiguity that bugged the first book for me is solved, and as an added bonus, Katniss definitely keeps the importance of human life, both her's, her family's and (spoiler warning!!!!) her fellow Hunger Games Players  once she has to enter the Games again  at the front of her mind when she is making critical choices throughout the story. Peeta demonstrates ample self-sacrifice in the Games when he promises Katniss he'll protect her, even if it means dying in the arena just so she can return to her mother and sister and have a quiet life with Gale. As a slight downer, though, Katniss and Peeta do share a bed multiple times in the book, and while they don't deliberately engage each other, and it can be argued they are engaged, it still gives off a slightly immoral vibe, and could give off a message to some girls looking for the security of someone who will love them like Peeta (who is, by the way, an excellent role model for guys in their teens) that it's OK to bring that security into all areas of your life.

On the whole, though Catching Fire is amazing. It delivers some solid messages about survival and sacrifice, and certainly gives you a ride right up to the last word. I think this is THE book to read if you want a cliff hanger like nothing you've expected. If  Katniss is the Girl on Fire, then this is the Book on Fire!   

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Letters to God- is AMAZING!

So this summer, I've seen a LOT of movies. I saw Iron Man 2 a total 3 times, The Last Airbender, the Karate Kid (the Jayden Smith one), Despicable Me, Sorcerer's Apprenitce, Toy Story 3, Inception twice (maybe a third time!), and Charlie St. Cloud (surprisingly good. I'll definitely post my thoughts of that at some point, probably around its DVD release). None even compete with one I saw tonight: Letters to God.

I first heard of Letters to God about 6 months ago when it made a limited theatrical release .While it didn't touch anywhere near me, my favorite Web publication of all time,, reviewed it being as their a Christian publication connected directly to Focus on the Family. I read the review, thought it sounded nice, and didn't think much more of it. I definitely thought it would be nice to see it being as the producer of Fireproof (a christian flick about the sacredness of marriage  I greatly enjoyed) was producer and Director of this.

Then today, as I'm sitting on the couch in extreme oral pain (more on that later) when myMom gets my attention because of an E-mail she received. "Hey Caleb," she says "That Letters to God movie you were telling me about is being advertised by American Family Association (an organization devoted to defending traditional christian family values)." I had mentioned the movie to Mom when we were brainstorming Fundraisers for our adoption as a potential movie night, and had kind of forgotten that. "Oh, I said, that's cool." My mom then viewed the trailer and wanted to see if we could get it from our Netflix account. They had it on instant play and we decided to stream it through our Wii system that night. Before reviewing it though, I'll give you some background.

Tyler's been kind of sick. Well, more than kinda. After 30 chemo treatments and brain surgery, this kid's seen more Hospital days than most Part-time nurses do in years of working there. Through it all, though, he's writing his thoughts and Prayers to God on paper and sending them in the mail to Him. Enter in Brady McDaniels, a messed-up substitute Mail man who's got Tyler on his route. One day, Tyler sweetly hands him one of his Letters and Brady accepts it, a little confused though. "This kid on my route is writing letters. Letters to God. What do you want me to do with them?" he asks his boss. "I don't know, Brady, this is your journey." His boss replies, taking him completely off-guard. When Brady tries to drop the letters and run at the local Christian Church, the pastor catches him and asks if he can pray over him and the "mission" God has given him. Brady slowly starts spending more time talking and playing with Tyler, and makes his way into the hearts of Tyler's Mom, Grandma, and older brother Ben. The movie then plays out across the next couple months as Tyler's family is touched by the Letters he's written to God, and encounters God at every corner, even if they don't always feel it.

This movie was Phenomenal. It shows this truly beautiful soul affecting those around him in beautiful ways, bringing them all closer together. The sheer level of spiritual content makes up for everything the movie could lose points on. At times the acting is a tad campy, the sets a little bit lacking, but for me at least, I became so caught up in all of the Characters, but namely Tyler's spiritual journeys and experiences the film didn't lose any of its impact on me. There was one great dialogue that really stuck though. as Brady sits with his boss on one of the benches outside the church, Brady confesses "I can't keep a grip on life. Everything that I touch turns to dust and slips through my fingers." His boss replies "Well, Brady, put your hands together." Brady does that. "Alright, now intertwine your fingers. Now nothing can be lost." It really seemed like a great metaphor. and how true it is.

Go see Letters to God. Despite the fact you'll be bummed you needed about nine boxes of tissues (you have been warned. This is a tear jerker!) to make it through, you'll be amazed by David Nixon's latest and greatest.