Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Simple Trust (He Calms the Storm)

"That day when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, 'Let us go over to the other side.' Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?' He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to His disciples, 'Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?' They were terrified and asked each other, 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!'”

Mark 4:35-41.

I once heard it said that love and trust go hand in hand. If you love someone, you trust them. If you trust someone, it's usually because you love them. On the surface, it appears to be easy logic. I love my parents, and I trust them too. I trust my friends because I love them. If only I didn't see a discrepency in my own life with that logic.

The last two months of my life have been NUTS. With PSAT's, school, family life, my social life, my love of photography, and just the insanity of trying to get everything I want to done in one day, I know there have been times where my prayer life takes a blow for it. I don't pray as often as I should or remember to pray for everything I thought I would. And I know that for me, an inconsistent prayer life leads to an inconsistent relationship with Jesus on my end of the deal. I'm not always looking to glorify Him in all I do, every waking moment. Not exactly what a good Christian should be doing. It's not that I don't still LOVE my Lord, but in the craziness of earthly life, it's easy to forget about the spiritual side of your life that's equally, if not more, important.

Realizing this, I decided to change it. I got more on top of my prayer life. I started setting aside 5 or 10 minutes a morning to read scripture. And with that, the realization came out of the murky corner's of my mind, into the forefront:

My lack of simple trust in God.

To start my daily scripture adventure, I decided to delve into the Gospel of Mark. Hear one account of the words that came straight out of Jesus' mouth. At first the messages seemed pretty simple Christian Ethics: Be forgiving of other people's sins. Follow the example of the apostles and disciples; that is, to leave everything behind to follow Jesus and His mission to evangelize the word of God our Father to the world. But as I read through the middle of Chapter 4 in the Gospel of Mark, something struck me in the parable of seed that was planted. Where some landed in places of fertile soil where it grew, but some fell where it was choked by weeds, thorns, rocks, or the sun. As Jesus explained the parable shortly thereafter, his statement in verse 18-19 hit me like a ton of bricks:

"Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful."

While I'm hardly one who plans on owning two mansions and a yacht by the time I'm 30, I find myself constantly wondering how I'll provide for myself less than a decade from now. Where will I get a job? How much will it pay? Would it be enough for me to provide for myself, or even, a family? Will it be something I love like Special Education or Photography, or should I be looking at more "realistic" options? And with all of these questions bearing on my mind (of my own doing), I forget to pray. I question whether God will be there for me when I need Him, or if I'll be left high and dry. 

I took the words from those verses to heart, not wanting to let whatever the world wants me to worry about be the death of my Christian convictions. But things only became clearer after reading the story of Jesus calming the storm. The apostles knew Jesus could do Miracles. That He never let them down before. And yet there they are, fearing He'll let them die at sea, when He calmed the storm as soon as they woke Him. Not only is it a lesson in depending on Jesus, but that 5 letter word I so aim to better accomplish with God:


As I look back on all that has happened in the past year of my life, with my unexpectedly life-changing trip to the Ukraine completely re-routing my goals in life, I so clearly see that if I had left it in God's hands, let Him work what He wished and not tried to fight it or ponder whether I thought it was "logical," I could have done even more than all of the amazing things God HAS given me the strength to do this year. Every time I leave it to Jesus, let go and let God, as the saying goes, the path becomes a little clearer. A little easier. A little more....Joyful. And for those reasons, the prayer of my heart, day in, day out, is "God, give me just one thing: 

Simple Trust."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

That Where We Are, There He Also Is

A week ago yesterday I was partying and sharing my heart for orphans with my fellow campers at Camp Veritas 2011. Last year, I blogged rather extensively about how much Camp Veritas means to me- you can find those posts in the tab above titled "Camp Veritas."

Without doing a 7-part novel to talk about every story, fond memory, and fantastic person I got to meet, I can safely say it was another fantastic year at Veritas.

As I went through the week enjoying a place of sanctuary with people that passionately love the Lord and want to live for Him, John 14:1-4 ran through my mind.“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

It's hard to leave a place where you feel God so apparently. We pray hard, play hard, and love each other deeply. For the first 48 hours, it poured rain. It rarely if ever stopped. Most groups of teens would have been done then and there. And yet we were playing slip and slide in the puddles and remaining energetic during Mass and Praise and Worship. Then once the sun finally showed itself, we were all even more energetic! Nothing broke us. We never surrendered. And on top of it, we praised our God through it all.

I gave my talk on orphan care Wednesday. The days before, while hardly lost, flew by as I prayed my heart out for guidance and protection from God and the Holy Spirit. By the time my talk was done Wednesday night, the week was already half over. and the second half of the week flew by. Needless to say come Saturday Morning, we were all in tears at the thought of parting. Even Ryan Young, director and founder of the whole event, was a little misty-eyed. We were tight with each other, with our camp, with our God. None of us wanted to leave. 

In the days that followed our departure from camp, we all connected via Facebook and social networking, talking even more about our experience and how much it had changed us, and all of us still missed it. Withdrawal it was indeed. 

As the week had drawn to a close, all of our counselors, priests, and religious encouraged us to be God's light in our own worlds. To not forget the passion, happiness, and energy a week of being with our Lord so intimately had given us. And at the time, in our complete happiness, it had seemed easy.

But now that it was put into action, it wasn't so easy. Where was that feeling of completion, of deep communion with God? We all tried our best to be our best- but we all relied on each other for support. 

Then, as I thought about all we had been taught, what we had felt, another scripture came to mind- the one that ends ALL the Gospels. All four of them. In some wording, they all lead to the same message: "Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20) 

Sometimes I think we get so wrapped up in how what we're experiencing at the time affects our relationship with God. We can believe we need all the stops just to really know what it's like to be with Him, in full majesty, glory, and awesomeness. 

But Jesus didn't just promise we'd be able to go where He went. He promised He'd be where we go.

Camp Veritas 2011 Slideshow from Caleb Lococo on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Different Duty Calling

 Today was the first time in months that  I got a chance to play my family's Wii console. So when my turn came around, my first choice was one of my favorite games: Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest. It's a classic Lord of the Rings fare: Riding your trusty steed through the lands of Middle Earth, fending off the powers of darkness with your magical elven sword. Lots of fun, for sure. Heroic deeds battling the dark, evil foes, it's good stuff. But as I played through a few levels, the fun ,while it didn't diminish, took on a far more somber tone for me.

I've played many of the popular First-Person Shooters that dominate the charts these days: the Halo franchise, Call of Duty, etc. While I don't own them (nor will I ever) I admit that they're VERY realistic, well-crafted, addicting games. The designers who came up with them are clearly not wanting for money, seeing as their concepts have grossed millions of dollars and hit record-breaking sale rates.

But as I play through many video games, whether it be running across an alien world in Halo or riding through Middle Earth on Horseback, I can't help but wonder what message games like these are implanting in the minds of their players. In virtual worlds where killing is not only survival but achievement, and the finness with which you do it can give you extra points, it's no wonder that in many way's we're a culture that is constantly pushing the envelope with the level of violence and graphic material we expose ourselves to. Most of the best-seller games on the market today not only promote heavy violence, but graphic content in other areas as well.

I was watching a clip of Mark Hall, lead singer of Casting Crowns, talking about being a youth pastor at his church. He was saying how he often gets asked about different music, what's good and bad to listen to, etc. His response was that it doesn't really matter how "not bad" something is, because it really matters what messages you're putting into your head. And if we as Christians are trying to lead a life of sanctity and purity, we shouldn't be consuming media that's dragging us into the life we're leaving behind.

Only to compound this, I couldn't help but think of all of the brave men and women in our military forces, serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. For them, horrific battles aren't a recreational activity to play on their flat-screens. It's their job. And in stead of getting "achievement points" for the lives they might claim in battle, they're haunted by them, maybe for the rest of their lives. So while many in my generation would run onto a computer-generated battlefield fearlessly and pull the virtual trigger without a second thought, men and women only a few years older than we have to fight on a real battlefield across the sea and muster an almost super-human amount of courage to fight for their very lives.

As I look at the real-life applications these games are presenting, I feel called to a different duty than to fight for endless hours on a virtual battleground that is far more realistic than it needs to be. I feel the call to have a clean mind free of the images, language, and other raw materials that these games bombard you with. That, in my humble opinion, is a far more valiant duty to be called to.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


"We were meant to be Courageous, we were meant lead the way, we could be the generation, that finally breaks the chains......"

I've written about this topic before on this blog. I've written about it before on Speaking for the Silent. I even used it to introduce another topic.

Earlier today, I had the chance to talk to a friend who just returned from a mission trip to Peru. As expected, she totally loved it. But as we both talked about our experiences in missions and orphan care, we struck a common note that's rather sad to admit.

There seem to be few guys who are passionate about Missionary Work in today's teenage population.

I admit that I've always been a little bit ashamed of the fact that I'm more emotional than most teenage guys. That I am willing to make myself look a little silly if it means making a little kid's day. But as I've grown up, I've slowly begun to accept that it's who I am, like it or not.

To ironically counteract my opinion, my friend mentioned that the traits within myself I'm not necessarily sure of are what most girls in missionary work appreciate. A guy who's not afraid to get on the floor with the kids. Or get a little misty-eyed at the saddening conditions most Orphans live in. It was kinda reassuring, honestly.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't expect all guys to be tender-hearted and unafraid to show their emotions. Everybody's different. Different people react to something in their own way. But in the same way girls want to love on these kids for hours, I'd love to see guys who'd be willing to start a game of soccer with some of the boys. Teach them how to play catch. How to climb a tree. Guy stuff.

I just finished reading Focus on the Family President Jim Daly's autobiography, Finding Home. As a kid growing up with a VERY broken biological Father and multiple poor examples of what a father figure should be, he attributes many of his struggles as a child to that lacking. In the same way, I feel the lack of passion for Orphan Care among much of society could be contributed in part to the fact that there's a lack of young guys stepping up. We don't seem to be filling the shoes God expects us to as the Future Fathers of the world.

Recently, one of my favorite bands, Casting Crowns, did a song for the upcoming Christian Movie Courageous. The movie is centered around the theme of fatherhood and what it means to be a man of God. When he was discussing the inspiration behind the song, lead singer for Casting Crowns, Mark Hall, gave an interesting perspective. "When I go to the movies," he said, "it has to be epic. I'm a Braveheart/Lord of the Rings type guy. But after the movie ends, there's this weird thing that comes over us guys. We get up and stretch triumphantly, like we've done something incredible. And the thing I don't get is, all we've done is sat on our behinds for 2 1/2 hrs. and watched somebody else's adventure. But I think that it's the hero inside us wanting to come out. Because us guys today, we're passionate, but not about the stuff that matters."

Mark's statement is so true in so many ways. And in some ways, there are some guys stepping up to that ultimatum. Guys I meet at seminaries who are literally giving up the world's definition of "Happiness-" Wealth, no one to answer to, no rules to live by- for a life devoted by God are Courageous. There are other young men entering the Military Forces, Police, or Firefighters. But at the same time, what about the rest of us guys? Is the latest college football news really as important as kids dying of AIDS in Africa?

"Where are you men of courage? You were made for so much more. Let our hearts cry out like warriors, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD!"

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Ukraine Mentality

When I think back on the seven months since I came home from the Ukraine, I don't think I realized what I was getting myself into when I boarded a plane from Philadelphia Airport to Frankfurt Germany, and from Frankfurt onto Kiev, Ukraine. And even from there, to a six hour train ride to the region my little sister was in. The trip didn't just give me a new sense of the world itself, but of who I was and where my heart lies. I love the verse in scripture that reads "Amen I say to you, wherever your heart lies, there also will your treasure be." If that phrase is nearly as true as I believe it is, than I truly believe that special needs ministry, and maybe even administering more directly to the orphans in the Eastern Block, is part of my life's calling. But we'll see where that goes, or, more importantly, where God uses that to lead me.

I have often thought since about how much I'd love to travel again. To Ukraine, China, anywhere really. Travel, while it may completely throw you out of your comfort zone, honestly gives you a new spin on life, and even makes you learn new things about yourself.

I remember my days in Ukraine like a vividly colored, perfectly done photograph. I'd wake up in the queen-sized bed I had all to myself and see a shaft of light shining across me between the window and the heavy drapes. Me and Dad would have some quick breakfast and shower off military-speed before running down to the sidewalk corner to meet our driver. From there we would go for a couple hours to visit Julia, get some final papers done, etc. The rest of the day, we were usually left to our own devices, so we'd normally hang out in the apartment and watch some movies/update our blog and then at night, walk around the square a couple blocks away where Christmas festivities were in full swing. No matter what you say about Ukrainians, good or bad, one thing is certain: they now how to celebrate and make everything look beautiful for a special occasion. Some nights we even hung out with our good friends the Winkles, a fellow adoptive family. And as one friend of mine put it when describing her adoption trip (to the same region) your life essentially becomes real-life "Groundhog Day," the same routine over and over.

Some might say it was boring. The same schedule over and over again, in the dead of winter, when snow and ice covers EVERYTHING in a place like Ukraine. But there was something so different about living for 10 days in a completely foreign land with a completely foreign language and culture.

You appreciate the everyday frequencies.

Stopping in at McDonalds? A nice end to a day of hard work. Hanging out in the apartment? A quiet time of contemplation and relaxation. Strolling the city at night, albeit freezing your skin off? An experience. Getting to play with your little sister? A precious opportunity to bond and love. Things that might have seemed boring or even ticked you off if you were in your hometown with your usual schedule became an adventure.

Despite the fact I adore my peace, quiet, and predictable schedule, I am, at the same time, a person who wants to taste the unknown, blaze my own trail. Experiencing new places and people is exhilarating. But that interest can often mutate into Jealousy. That somebody else gets to go somewhere and I don't. That I'm stuck in my little neighborhood in middle-of-nowhere NY with my only real way to do anything extraordinary being the internet. But as I've thought about my time in Ukraine, I've come to realize my life wasn't any different. I was just in a different place with a different perspective. Maybe it would be useful to apply it here, even if the place itself is thousands of miles away.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Come Follow Me (Come Clean)

I would have loved to be in one of the Apostles' shoes at the moment Jesus called them. To feel so boldly drawn to someone that your life changed entirely in that one instant- those three words: "Come, Follow ME."

If only it were that easy today.

I've thought about what God's plan for my life might be since the time I was 9. I'm an overactive imagination, a busy thinker, however you so choose to say it. Bottom line, in my quiet moments, when I'm left to myself, I think. Maybe it feels like God is there listening to my thoughts, maybe it just cuts the quiet on some level. But I've just always thought about where I could be called.

Ever since I was 9, I've considered the possibility of becoming a Priest. I've had the fortune of always having holy and wise priests as my pastors my whole life. The thought of being a spiritual rock and foundation for the faith of many, while a large responsibility, also sounds SO exhilarating. It's something that I pray about and meditate on often- since it IS a life-long call from god, and not just a temporary hire job or something that can be forgotten. It is a binding, life-long commitment, just like marriage.

I remember the first time my mom said to me she'd though I'd make a good special ed teacher, I thought she was nuts. Me? Special Education? What connection would I have with Special Education in my life, ever??? Well, whether my mom is just a good judge of character or she's secretly telepathic, it's something I began to consider all on my own within the last few years. Discovering Reece's Rainbow is, in no small part, responsible for the yearnings in my heart that make me think that no matter what my call in life may or may not be, Special Needs WILL be part of it. Going to the RR get-together further proved for me that Special Needs care and advocating is like my second home- the people involved became like family, the calling felt natural. In the same way that my prayer and faith feel natural, spending time with the Pathfinders residents came second-nature. It just clicked. And I can't help but wonder, could God maybe, just maybe, have some special girl in store for me that would get that, that would feel that call to help those with Special Needs, through adoption and/or education too? I also love kids. Do the math here.

I couldn't consider my life ever moving on without Orphan Care either. If God has called me to something involved with Special Needs, so it is intertwined with the Orphans that are blessed with those Needs. I wonder how far will something like Speaking for the Silent take me before God says it's time to move on?

With all of these thoughts racing through my mind, I am left in a hazy cloud, wondering where I should go. On one hand, I know God is in control and I shouldn't lose the present dwelling on the future. But on the other hand, all I want is to Know. Know where I should be going, what I should be doing, so this feeling of where am I meant to be wasn't so apparent. Thank God for my dear friends like Taylor and Tori, who are also in the Special Needs world and are seeking out their life's work. And my dearest brothers at cathedral prep are more than supportive of a possible vocation in me. God has given me so many positive, and more importantly, Joyful experiences with both of these groups. Trying to piece together the puzzle of my life is tough. As christian singer Audrey Assad sings in her song "Come Clean,"

"I'm picking up the pieces, and I put them where they go- but where do they go? where do they go? Does anything in me know, where do they go?"

I know it will come in time, as God wills it. But for now, I'm left wondering when that call, that last piece of the puzzle will come. And all I can do is hope and pray that soon I'll hear Jesus walk up to me and tell me how best I can answer His invitation to "Come and Follow Me."

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Family Like No Other (Through Heaven's Eyes)


A month.


Oh well, I'm only human. And humans have crazy schedules. And part of that crazy schedule has brought me here today. But first, a little intro:

One of my favorite childhood movies that has stuck with me throughout the rest of my life is the smash-hit animated Musical, Prince of Egypt, which tells the story of Moses from his fateful delivery from slaughter at birth to his call from the Lord to set the Israelites free and the fruit of his labors. One of my favorite parts happens shortly after Moses runs away from Egypt and ends up in the desert valley of Midian. The high priest (and his future father-in-law) tells Moses to look at his life "through Heaven's Eyes," not by earthly standards, ever-changing and belittling as they can be.

I watched that scene during my 16 hour imprisonment wait in Frankfurt Airport this past December on my way to what would be a life-changing trip to the Ukraine. While I can't say it instantly gave me a boatload of patience to endure my wait, it did give me some perspective to live life on. In stead of being annoyed when my favorite munchy snack isn't in the snack drawer, I think of people in Africa who starve for days and don't have a snack drawer. Things of that nature.

For the longest time, I considered family people that were your family. Blood relatives. Brothers and sisters. If they were adopted, it was no different, but in most circumstances, the idea of Christian Unity, crossing all bonds, be it friendship or genetics, to form a family, was absent from my mind.Through  this experience, family in general took on new definitions. You didn't need related genes to have a family-like connection. In fact, friends could be the extra support, love, and care your immediate family needed.

Part of my insane schedule in the past month was camping for two weeks' vacation with my family. During that time, the first ever annual Reece's Rainbow Family Reunion would be happening at the campground. I was honestly unsure what to think of the "Family" part. I have and still do meet many beautiful people in the Reece's Rainbow Community over the internet. But the internet and relationships formed therein can really swing from one end of the pendulum to the other: they can either really work out or the can explode. I was honestly wondering which end the pendulum of fate would swing to this time.

I admit some anticipation and nervous emotions at the thought of meeting THE Andrea and Reece Roberts, founder and inspiration respecitvely for all of Reece's Rainbow's existence. But upon meeting them, I was utterly surprised to realize they were just a normal mother and son who had happened to be called to an Extraordinary task: advocating for those without a voice. Then came the other families. Some of them I had known over the internet. Some I had not. but the weird part was that I knew the parents, in stead of the kids. OK, so even if I did get along with the parents, what about the kids?

To say the least, I had some peculiar starting ground to begin from.

When the vans pulled up and the doors opened, I braced myself. I though to myself, there's a good possibility that a potential friendship with these kids is gonna sink like a torpedoed cruise ship. But maybe there's an outside chance I'll have a break through.

I could talk for hours about all the experiences and joys of that weekend. But I think I sum it all up when I say that we were all teary wrecks when goodbyes came around. And only in that group of people can I laugh when people are taking pictures of us looking like teary messes. If I learned one thing from the weekend, it was this: the love that those with a heart for special needs have for those they work with/for extends to all those around them. We accepted each other with open arms and hugs. All our pros, and all our cons. Our pasts were our pasts. The people we became, became all that mattered. If somebody needed to leave an event or take a breather, there were no grunts of annoyance or nasty comments. There was no judgement.

We were not perfect people, nor were we in a perfect world. But we loved each other through Heaven's Eyes, whether we knew it or not, and that made all the difference.

Reece's Rainbow Reunion 2011 Slideshow from Caleb Lococo on Vimeo.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Writer's Block (retrospect)

It's 12:34 A.M. according to my Computer's clock. I've finished a long day of school. Wrapping up what has been far less than an "usual" or "Normal" year in academics. What with starting an orphan advocate blog that has skyrocketed far beyond my wildest dreams, traveling to a foreign country for the first time, adopting my first little sister to have an extra 21st chromosome and the usual speed of life, this is one time I can say I'm more than enjoying homeschooling. You can form your schedule to what you can fit while still getting a quality, custom-made education. 

And while all this has happened, I still remember that my internet writer's genesis all comes back here to Swimming AGAINST the Tide. We're approaching a year of "swimming" metaphorically. If you had put the person I am today in another body and put me in a conversation with my old self, so much has changed. I'm still the same old Caleb the Christian Teen who puts his pants on one leg at a time, eats his breakfast, does his schoolwork and goes to youth events and the movies. But If you had put my gigantic rock of a camera in my lap last June, I would have looked at you like you had nine heads. If you told me I would be spending 1-5 hrs. a day on orphan-related charity work, I would have thought my not-so-evil twin had suddenly appeared from nowhere (no worries. I am NOT and never WAS a twin ;) ). A year ago, I can honestly say that I thought it was enough to pray daily and live against the negative influence found in most of what modern culture expects/demands of us. I still think that's important. But now it's only a part of the picture. If Faith without deeds really is dead as I believe, actions for those God is closest to is a natural part of the process.

It's funny to think back on these things. Maybe it's the change  I feel inside. Maybe it's because of the many great things I see in the future.

But oddly enough, I have to chalk it up to two things tonight: God (obviously) and serious writer's block.

I sat down about 3 days ago to write a post on the trap love of material things catches us in. Originally I sat down tonight to write a post about Friendship. But after a while, what is normally the blur of my hands moving across the keyboard in inspirational hyperspeed (hence the endless typos) became unsure jabs at buttons. Revision. Deletion. Etc. So as I tried to think of something to write when the words stopped coming, I remembered the song "3:41 A.M. (Writer's Block)" By MercyMe, a song essentially about realizing that if you're using your talents for God, your inspiration isn't owed by a pinhead to you. It's all about God speaking through and inspiring you. So the result of that was this: typing about my frustration and remembering times when it has come MUCH easier and writing a small novel about how I have Writer's Block.

And hear we are. We've remembered, we've laughed, and most importantly, given up my Plans and let God inspire a MUCH better post. Hallelujah :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Battle

"Life's a fight of wrong, and right, thats tearing me apart, oh but what the cross has done! Well the world will try to battle for my heart, but the war, is already won."

Chris August, "Battle"

These last couple of months have seemed like a scene out of the movie 2012 to me. Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Tornados, all causing devastation. As someone who appreciates images as a way  of communicating the true emotion of something, I will totally agree that the images that come from the likes of Japan, Haiti (which has still not recovered, close to a year afterwards), Joplin Missouri,  and all the other parts of the South that have been hit are soul piercing. There are truly no words to describe the devastation. I don't know what it is that's hit me so hard this time. Maybe it's the fact a lot of my friends in the orphan world are down south and could have been affected by it. thankfully none of them have.

I find it a funny coincidence, however, that around this time a man who has tried twice before to predict the end of the world begins preaching it again. Now your opinion of Harold Camping is whatever you make of him, I'm not going to delve into his psyche or his personal life. But whether of his own doing or not, the timing of his latest prediction is impeccable. It would certainly seem like there are forces at work that want to convince those who don't know God's word (or maybe not as well as we should) that the apocalypse is upon us. And my answer is that of course it is. We're closer to it every day the earth turns.

Now I could easily continue rattling off depressing new stories and creepy, dark coincidences that pop up, because its just plain depressing.While we aren't all in the same war, almost the entire world is at war with each other or in itself. Libya, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq. Kenya, Rwanda, etc., I could go on. There are 147,000,000 Orphans in the world. BILLIONS of people are living in poverty.

But the truth is...

the battle for the world has already been fought. And God has won when he sent his Son to die on the cross for our sins and He conquered the grave for us.

Now I'm not recommending you kick your feet up in a lawn chair with an iced tea and a nice thick book and pretend like the world is perfect. It could be compared to a road trip, since this world is our journey to heaven: if you see someone alone on the side of the road or with a crummy car that breaks down every other mile, are you going to leave them there or help them along the way to their destination with comfort and Charity? It's the same here on earth. Are we going to just let our brothers an sisters who are less fortunate just live a poor life and let them die? Or are we going to help them along the way and show them God's Love and the place they will go when this life is over?

Indeed there is still much to be done to prepare for the coming of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, His Father, and the Holy Spirit, the Three in One. So work hard for the coming kingdom of Glory, and be encouraged, because you're working towards a glorious victory that has already been one for us :)

"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed"- Isaiah 53:5.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's Not Always the Big Things

I absolutely adore the book Do Hard Things. Alex and Brett Harris, twin brothers from a huge family (with brother Josh Harris being a big Chastity/purity speaker), just hit the nail on the head explaining how our Generation needs to rise up to higher moral standards and start living for God more. The book was full of great life lessons and stories of teens who have joined the Rebelution Challenge (the Harris Bros. Movement) and are making a difference. The one that sticks out most in my mind is a guy named Zach Hunter. He's this amazing guy (probably in his mid-20's by now) who at the extremely young age of twelve started nonprofit Loose Change to Loosen Chains, an organization centered on ending (or at least working to) modern-day slavery. At the age of only 16, he closed a concert for THE David Crowder Band with a talk on his outreach. Now, I'm going to have an opportunity to talk about Speaking for the Silent (my orphan ministry) this Summer in front of about 300 people, and just that scares the living tar out of me. I can't imagine talking in front of thousands! But my point is this: Zach hit the top notch and is changing the world, and he started out REALLY young.

I really LOVED reading those chapters. Chapters about teens who just got God's call for them and were jump-starting a new and improved generation of Jesus Lovers. It was awesome. But there was one chapter in the book I kind of just breezed by: one on taking joy in the little things in life. At the time I read the book, I was just trying to be a "good person" and showcase my Savior in the life I was living. So I don't think I realized the truly relevance of what it means to take joy in the "little things."

Now when I say little things, I don't mean the difference between raising 5 dollars or 5,000. I mean the difference between doing really meaningful things like fund raising, and taking the time to wash the dishes or watch your little siblings. It's not always easy or fun to take joy in dish-washing, right?

In a lot of ways, Speaking for the Silent has sky-rocketed beyond my highest expectations. Close to 100 combined followers between our Facebook and Blogger Feeds. Multiple caring advocates who I've connected with through it. I even have two adoptive families (one who's home and one who's just starting) who want to talk to me and get to know me. I LOVE the days when my entire schedule is blown because I get busy doing exciting things for/with/about these families. It gives me a feeling of purpose, like I'm really doing the work Jesus did on the Streets in Jerusalem and successfully accomplishing the mission I feel He gave me.

Then there are the days when things are kind of quieter. Schoolwork is all I have to do for the day. Honestly, I don't mind school that much. It's learning new things, right?

My "crux," though, if that's what you want to call it, is I absolutely despise Algebra. To get it done right I need a good hour or two, and it just drags. All I can think of is what I could be doing to further the cause I love. I could be out shooting pictures for some relaxation time. I honestly go from feeling like I am really making a difference to the feeling like I'm sitting around doing zip on the importance-o-meter. Honestly.

A little while back I heard Steven Curtis Chapman's new song, "Do Everything." The basis of the song is this: No matter what you're doing, so long as you do it for God's Glory it's worth it. As I listened, I realized that yes, doing Mission Work has for more relevance to me than learning how to undo 2nd-degree equations. But the little things are just as important as the big things, and they do matter, even if its only a little. I may not enjoy algebra, but I need it to pass High School, so I can go to College and get the tools I need to help these kids. And I truly believe that this principle can apply for just about any area if life.

So the next time you're doing some task you may not think is important, think again. You'd be surprised how it can wrap around and give glory to God in ways you'd never expect. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Laying Down Your Life for God

As Christians, I think we're all called to lay down our lives for God's Glory. That may mean enduring hardship, persecution, even death. But it's God's call to greatness. We're all called to do it in different ways. Some of us make artwork, like a graphic design, a photo, a website, etc., for our Church purposes. Some of us work with inner-city or under-privileged kids in the rough parts of town, a tough thing to do for sure (in my humble opinion). But nothing is quite as inspiring to me as laying down your entire life at God's hands, and using all your energy, day in, day out, to reach out to people and show them his love.

I had the privilege of seeing this climactic event occur in the lives of 9 young men at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. The event, you ask? Priestly Ordination.

Now let me give you a little background on what you have to do to become a priest. Firstly, you have tp respond to the call itself, which is a process in and of itself. while some guys feel it from childhood and just know from then on, most of us take a couple years to come around and fully answer it. It's not a popular choice. Priests are arguably one of the most criticized groups of people because of how they spend their lives and, more in a saddening way, because of the inappropriate actions of a few erratic priests.

Once you've taken the big first step of answering the call, you have anywhere from 6-8 (sometimes more) years of training. If you go in straight out of the gate from high School, you can normally be a priest by the time your 26/27 (depending on your birthday). If you've went to college, you only have about to train for about 6 years (because the first four years are getting a College philosophy degree).

Now for some of you, 8 years may seem like the blink of an eye, but for us young guys, its a long time. But once you get to that moment of completion, on the Altar at St. Patrick's (or the Cathedral of whatever Diocese you train for) I cannot tell you how radiant those 9 men looked walking up the aisle.

The service itself is actually pretty long: a whole 2 hours! You hardly realize it though. You can FEEL God in that place with you, singing over these 9 men with his angel choirs.

Just as amazing, however, is the level of trust,openness and willingness to do God's will these men so evidently possess. At one point, they literally prostrate themselves flat out on the floor, as an outward sign that they are laying their lives at God's feet. It is a truly beautiful thing to see. And what comes next exchanges the spiritual side of the priesthood for the human side: all 70+ priests come directly up to each of the newly Ordained and pray over them. and later, back at the Seminary (Priest training place) you are offered the opportunity to have each priest pray over you. Truly awe-inspiring

Below is a slideshow of pictures I took at the ordination! Enjoy!

Ordination 2011 Slideshow from Caleb Lococo on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

You Never Know

You could win the lottery tomorrow.

You never know.

A thought that passes through your head could turn into a world-changing movement.

You never know.

You could hear God speak to you tomorrow.

You never know.

All of these thoughts have run through my head in the last 24 hours. Alright, maybe that one about the lottery didn't, but you catch my drift. You never know what will happen in your life, and God has shown me that in the past two days.

Maybe it reaches even farther back than just the last two days. Maybe more like the last two months.

When I started Speaking for the Silent a couple months back, I had a couple of friends willing to support it, but I think most just didn't get it, didn't see my posts about it, or just didn't care. Did it annoy me that I couldn't find a support group among the people I called my "Friends?" Yes. But I new that I was doing something for God, and tough as it was, God would bring my friends around when the time was right if it was his will. did it always feel good? No. But I knew that deep down it was all about patience.

Things took a turn for the best in the weirdest way. A friend of mine posted a nice little hello on my Facebook wall, and I quickly signed on and started talking. As we talked, I mentioned all I had been trying to do to help orphans out. He suddenly took a profound interest in what I was talking about, and his eyes were opened wide to the plight of the voiceless that night.  He started supporting what  I was doing and asking to keep filled in on all things orphan.

Things only got weirder (in a God way) a couple days later when Speaking for the Silent's followers on blogger and Facebook began to spike. 5 people suddenly joined on. I put out a little request on my Facebook asking anyone who wanted to help orphans to like the page so we could maybe hit 50 followers. Shortly thereafter one of my friends who had been kind enough to support me from the beginning put out a request on his Facebook asking anyone of his friends who cared to like the page. Now, a little disclaimer: If you want to friend me on Facebook, I wholeheartedly invite you to. I love getting in touch with anyone who wants to have a nice chat. But because I am new and am very sensitive to not friending people who use obscenity or post inappropriate content, I don't friend someone because I just know them: I friend someone because they're genuine. My friend, however, has found a LOT of genuine people, 600 of 'em. compared to my little 40 friends. This was HUGE. We passed the 50 likes marker and busted through 60 as well. We're now sitting pretty at 68 combined followers on Facebook alone. And the amazing thing was that many of them were friends of mine. And they shared it with their friends. Ripple affect, to be sure.

In hindsight, all it took was trust in God and trust in the people I care about. And all of my impatience and annoyance was for naught. My point is, God HAS got great things in store for you. And its just a matter of waiting and trust. And in the end, you're friends may or may not come through for you. And if, like me, they do, then mazzeltoff! And if they don't, well, you have one awesome heavenly friend that's Liking every breath you take on earth :) 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Secret Ambition

So today, it begins. the Three Days which are one- the Triduum. Reaching from tonight on Holy Thursday, or the time of the Last Supper, to Sunday Morning, when we walk to the tomb to see the master has already risen! It's an emotional time in the Church indeed, from the deep sorrow of Good Friday, to the sheer joy of Easter Sunday.

I think this is one of the best times of the year to think about Jesus and his life. his ministry. No one since him have aimed to accomplish as much in a 33 year lifespan as he did. To be honest, most people who only live to be 33 these days die for something important. Suicide, murder, car accidents or gang violence are hardly as honorable as dying for the sins of the world. But today we have missionaries who lay their lives on the line in foreign countries, channeling that Sacrificial Love Christ preached. THEY are the ones who die for honorable causes and beliefs.

So what did Christ do in those 33 years of his life? How did he perceive them? Did he see them through his Father's Eyes, as a mere stroke of the paintbrush in the picture of the world's story? Or did he see them like we humans do? For me, 33 years of life seems like a pretty long time. It's a little over TWICE my current age! But to those who have lived 40, 49 (happy birthday Mrs. Nalle!), or 70 years, 33 probably seems like only a fraction of a lifetime.

 We  all know how humbly Christ began in this world. Born in a stable in the country side, it was humble even for his culture at that time. But he had something even better than little "It's a boy!" cards announce his birth to the world; he had legions of angels singing his praises, and a star that could be seen for thousands of miles around. After his birth, we black out for a while. During his adolescence, I think he probably lived an average life. He played in the streets with the other boys, went to Temple and Synagogue like any good Jewish boy, and learned the rules of the road in Carpentry.

But we all know Jesus started making ripples on the water of society in his last 3 years of life, teaching, gathering a group of followers, and ultimately resulting in his savage torture and crucifixion.

Michael W. Smith once wrote a song called "Secret Ambition." It talked about the purpose Jesus knew he was to serve on earth, and that no one knew it, let alone what the results would be. In a series of little reflections, singer Matt Maher talked about the meaning of Palms in Christ's time. He explained they were a sign of rebellion, and a sign, more importantly, that you supported rebellion. When the Jews waved their palms in front of Jesus, they weren't saying they believed he was the Messiah or the Savior or any of that.

They were saying they wanted him to overthrow the Romans.

I wonder, if I had been there, in the streets of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and saw Jesus' gentle gaze as he rode down the streets on a borrowed mule, would I have seen a rebel leader in a rabbi's skin, or would I have seen something inexplicable, something holy, emanating from him?

The Passion is beginning. Jesus is sitting down to table. What will you see in him?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

To Date, or not to Date, that is the Question

I remember the first time I ever really crossed paths with "dating." I was in the 5th grade. Yeah, 5th grade. Spider Man 3 had just come out, and I was a HUGE Spider Man geek fan at the time. I was talking with some fellow guy classmates, who were all planning on going to see it together. I'll never forget my shock when they asked when my parents could drop me off and who I was going to "ask out." We were a bunch of 12-year-olds in the 5th grade, and they were already going to movies alone, asking girls out. To me, none of it made sense.

Today, I go to movies alone or with a little brother or sister pretty often. I no longer need my parents to go to a movie with me A) because I'm so freakin' tall that no one would DARE threaten me just cause I look like a giant and B) because I'm almost 16. I can sit somewhere for an hour or two on my own and not have an issue I can't solve on my own. My biggest crisis yet has been whether to snag a good seat or wait in line for a box of candy.

But one thing that hasn't changed since 5th grade is my "relationship status" for all you Facebookers out there. I have remained a single guy and intend to stay so for a while longer.

To some, what I'm saying seems nuts. As a friend of mine said in a similar post of hers a year or so back, "Why not date?" Allow me to give a brief rundown of my witness  to the dating world: Part 1) guy gets interested in girl, or vice versa. they talk for approximatley 10-15 minutes and then, if things seem to hit off well, its an instant relationship. Part 2) New couple changes Facebook status/breaks the news and everyone is so happy for them. You'd think they had forever pledged themselves to each other. Some of them do. Part 3) Couple goes on dates: skype chats, movies with friends, hanging out at the local ice cream shop, the mall, etc. It seems like anytime they appear in public, they're together. Cute right?

Hmm, maybe.

But the sad thing is that's where most relationships end. Some girl attracts the boyfriend because she's newer than his girlfriend, or they just decide commitment's run its course and its time to move on. Que rants from friends about how jerky the person who just broke up with their friend is. Enter in new matches for each part of the broken couple...

And hit the repeat cycle button.

We live in a world that is devoid of love and stability. We who haven't been blessed with a loving spouse (yet) or feel like we don't have a constant, unconditional display of love in life, look for it anywhere we think it could be. And while its a sad statement on society, its a real thing. So what do us teens plunge in for? Dating. Forget friendships, where you're focusing on knowing the person more than focusing on the romance. Bring on the full-fledged, life-long committed relationships and bam, your problems are solved.


The problem is, meeting someone and instantly going out with them is like putting diesel fuel in a sports car. You turn on the thing and the engine revs like a monster truck. Then you get 2 1/2  miles down the road and your engine burns out. In the same way, immersing yourself into a serious relationship before you've even "test driven" it so to speak, is going to burn out your connection as quick as used metaphor. And lets face it, like it or not, we teens have raging hormones. Being in a time or place where you're trying to find your true identity while keeping things cool with a person of the opposite gender is a bit too much to put on our plates, when we also have school and lives to live.    

I have a friend who's a girl I met over the blogosphere about a year and a half ago. We started e-mailing, and e-mails turned into instant messaging over google. IM'ing turned into voice chat, voice chat to phone calls on birthdays, special phone calls to texting, texting to skyping. That list also includes Facebook now. And the ironic thing? We're JUST FRIENDS. People laugh at us when we say that because it seems seriously odd. A guy and a girl, who are close in age and have talked for over a year, NOT going out? Long distance relationships are so, like, totally romantic :D We just smile and let it slide. And honestly its been more enjoyable to just talk to someone, regardless of  what culture would demand us to do because we can talk whenever and enjoy a friendship without worrying about trying to honor a serious commitment in such crazy schedules as we have.

So is dating worth it as a teenager? Well, I don't know. There are wholesome Christian couples out there who are trying to keep God in their relationships at all time. But I think its safe to say that friendship has a whole lot more friendship, and a whole lot less raging hormones in store for you. ;)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring is Coming

First, straight off the bat, Happy World Down Syndrome Day!!! What an awesome thing- a DAY dedicated to celebrating the blessing of the people in our lives who have blessed us with their extra chromosome!

I live in New York, probably only second to the likes of Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts and Montana in sheer amount of snow we get dumped on us every winter. Needless, to say, large amounts of snow have become what I expect and love in wintertime. But this winter has felt especially long, and I am more than ready for spring. Well, thank God it's finally coming! To commemorate, I've made a slideshow with some pictures from the gorgeous weekend we just had. In these cold winter months, many people have experienced hardship, especially in the Reece's Rainbow World, with children dying, being snatched up before their adoptive parents could get them, or being denied the child in court. Besides commemorating Spring finally arriving, this is a salute and my personal consolation to those families and couples. Your strength is admired by all, and we all hope new life for you and your loved ones is coming with the new life of Spring and Jesus rising from the dead.

So without further adeiu, here's the Slideshow!!

"Spring Is Coming" Slideshow from Caleb Lococo on Vimeo.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hold Me Jesus

Faith is always something that I've struggled to keep all the time, in full high gear. I KNOW how great it feels to trust in God completely, but as has often been said, sometimes, the hardest journey is the 6 inches from your head to your heart. 

While in many ways this week has been GREAT, there are times where despair has overtaken me. Both of my two siblings closest to me in age tried out for a production of The Sound of Music at our local theater and got turned down. As my friend Tori gets ready to leave for a Mission to Peru, I am undeniably happy for her, but wonder when my own time will come. We have suffered terrible losses in Japan to the Tsunami and Earthquake, which has rocked the world over. Toughest for my personal social circles, though, has been the denial of a little Boy in Eastern Europe to be adopted by a young couple who have been pursuing him for over a year. Crushing enough as that is on its own, this little boy is in the same region as Tori's little sister. Her parents are going to face the SAME judge on their upcoming court date. If, God forbid, something goes wrong there, its probably going to be the end of the line for another family trying to adopt from there too. Add in that I feel like a complete moron because I can think of no proper words of consolation for these people and you can see where I'm coming from (I hope).

At one point in the week amongst all of the turmoil I just described, I logged onto my other blog (Speaking for the Silent) and found that my perfect little "Like Box" (I.E., a little box where you can like the Facebook page I've set up for the blog and see how many people like it as well) had mysteriously disappeared  after I had added an Adoptive Family's donation button. Now, in hindsight, it was probably God telling me it wasn't the right time or place, because this button belonged to the little boy who has currently been denied his family. But at the time, it just seemed like a nice little hindrance to trip me up. So instead of blaming computers, (which are arguably the most annoying pieces of junk Technology on the face of the planet), or Facebook, or just how finnicky this stuff can be, I simply thought

"Why me God? Haven't you given me enough today?"

Shortly thereafter, a new rendition of one of my favorite Christian Music classics, "Hold Me Jesus," came on the radio. it summarized so perfectly what I needed to realize at that moment: When the chips are down, and you just want to give up and not try and believe in the Savior who rescued you from the worst fate possible, rest on him and let him hold you, and be amazed at where that will take you.

To accompany the post, I have two new songs in the playlist at the bottom of the page, that have relevance to the post. The 1st (numerically) is this post's namesake. the second is an acoustic recording of Chris Rice's "Untitled Hymn/Fall on Jesus." Listen to them and feel the comfort of your Savior surround you.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Courage, families, and letters

I love the Lord of the Rings movies. the acting, the action, the story, the cinematography, the costumes, the location, all of it. And after every battle scene, there is inevitably a scene that follows in which all you can here is the whistling of the wind over the field. Or they all sit quietly in a tavern together, quietly honoring their victory and the sacrifices that were made. and I guess you could say I'm sort of in a lull after the battle. Because great things have been happening around me, and resolved struggles within me.

I have the privilege of having many of you who follow me here following my other blog, Speaking for the Silent. So many of you will know my precious Sonya, a little orphan girl who I met in Ukraine, has a family now. While I haven't had to go into hordes of orcs swinging my ancient sword or even really had to do anything drastic or draining in real life for her, I have prayed and written many a time as others in the Reece's rainbow Community have that someone would find her. to be completely honest, I worried my prayers weren't doing a thing, and that my picture, my efforts, other people's effort's, just weren't gonna cut it. But how I forgot that we have a God who sent his Son to Earth for us, who walked among us and healed people with a brush of his hand or his cloak. Things just as hard to accomplish as freeing a little girl from Institutionalization.

Below is my "Open letter" type-thing to Sonya, her new little brother (and orphanage buddy) Dusty and their amazing new family, the Hinz Family. In it you'll find their story, and how truly amazing it is to me.

                          "Dear Heinz Family and your precious Sonya and Dusty

                               I want to step out and say your courage, strength, and perseverance through this process is truly inspiring and you amaze me so much. You will never realize how truly you have been the answer to everyone's prayers, stepping out in faith after losing precious Nikita Frederick to bring Home Sonya. I should particularly mention our buddy Helle on the other side of the globe, and Josh and Autumn Winkles.  As you know, I met Sonya only a few short months ago in a small little room on the second floor of an orphanage very close to both our hearts. Sonya reached out to me, grabbing my attention with her cute, infectious little smile and her sweet laugh.  10 minutes may not be much on a grand scale, but if ten minutes can move a heart, it moved mine. Your new daughter is the thing that inspired me to get off my seat and stand up for those who have no voice, and for that I will always be grateful. I look forward to seeing you someday soon with Sonya and her new little brother Dusty. All the best wishes to you, your family, and your two new additions who I hope will be home soon.

                             Yours in Christ,

                                             Caleb Lococo"

  Well, my latest mission has been accomplished. Sonya is homebound. What will happen next?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hands, Feet, and Kings

"I wanna be your hands, I wanna be your feet, I'll go where you send me, go where you send me. Wanna be your hands, wanna be your feet, I'll go where you send me, go where you send me, and I'll try, oh, I'll try; to touch the world, like you've touched my life. And I find, my way, to be your hands."

Audio Adrenaline, "Hands and Feet"

While many who know me might say I'm a quieter person, and I am, I like to be involved with things like anybody else. I would LOVE to find a group of photography enthusiasts who wanted to take pictures and stuff who are in the same place I am, learning the basics and creating your own technique off of them. It would be fantastic if I could find a group of people with a heart for missionary work and advocacy for Orphans who wanted to do fundraisers, mission trips, and that sort of things.

But right now I'm a little short on both. I have a few great family members who are into photography that critique my work when I post it on Facebook or Picasa (a picture-posting place) and encourage me. And my friend Tori might as well label herself the official orphan advocator of the world. I have some great influences that I am so blessed to have and am so thankful for them.

The bummer of it is, I don't live in real close range to the things I'd like to do, and I'm a little, er, intimidated (?) by the thought of trying to start these things myself and find a group right where I live. It's a daunting thing for one person to try and do. And its just a little frustrating when there are great things going on like The Movement in Nashville Tennessee and I can't get something started like that  up here. In the same respect, getting what I think (hope) to be the bare minimum of photography equipment so I can do things like weddings and studio portraiture tallies up to a couple hundred dollars by the time you factor everything in. And then you have the daunting task of trying to get it in with wedding planners putting out flyers, and proving yourself to be worthy employment. Add the fact that  I can't drive myself anywhere of these places because of legal standards and I think you see my picture (no pun intended).

Today as I was walking into my room I heard something on the radio. I listen to my local Christian radio station, which provides good little tidbits of food for though and some kickin' music. As I was walking in I believe I heard "A Quick Minute Bible Story" segment. It was summarizing the bit of scripture in I Samuel where the Israelites 1st King, Saul, has messed up once and for all. God tells Samuel, the prophet at the time, to look for a new king from among the peasants, from the house of a man named Jesse. Shortly thereafter, Samuel finds Jesse's house. Jesse shows Samuel 9 of his sons, all big strong men who look like kings. But Samuel didn't think they did. He asked if Jesse had any other sons. Jesse said that he did, but he was a scrawny little shepherd boy. That little Boy was King David. God took David, a tiny little boy who tended sheep, and used him to kill a giant, escape a ruthless king and rule a kingdom.  THAT is God using someone.

But it showed me more than God using the small or the weak to change his children's world, that he DOES have a plan for all of us to do great things.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I am Number Four

            I love a good action movie. A movie that can make me grip the armrests of my seat and stare wide-eyed at the screen. In the age of special affects and (apparently) abundant pyrotechnics, that isn't hard to find. Case in Point: I am Number Four.

          Legacies can make you or break you. they can give you an instant 1-up on the social Pyramid or they can put you in the catacombs below. And others will just plain kill you, or at least they'll try to. For Number Four and his guardian, thats no joke. Fugitives from the planet Lorien, Number Four and his guardian were sent to earth along with 8 other gifted children (all numbered 1-9) and their guardians after the ruthless Mogadorians decimated their planet. These 9 were meant to be raised in hiding and reunite to destroy the Mogs (as the Mogadorains have been dubbed).

         That plan is sort of going down the tube though. The Mogs, after all, have snuffed out Numbers 1, 2, and 3, along with their guardians. And on this happy note, we meet Number 4.

       Number four doesn't know what normal life is. He doesn't remember his home planet, his parents, or the last time he's stayed in one location on Earth for more than a month or two. All he's had is his Guardian, Henry, and the Jeep that is their getaway vehicle. And quite honestly, he's getting towards the end of his rope with that. Add in the searing scars that have followed the death of each of his predecessors, and this is one legacy he really doesn't want.

    So when he and Henri find their place of hiding for the time, in Paradise, Ohio, and he meets a troubled guy like himself and falls in love with a girl in his class, you can guess what begins to happen: As Number Four (who's now going by the unoriginal alias John Smith) finds his niche in life and a place where he belongs, he's a little less heeding of Henri's orders to stay invisible. And when the Mogs catch up with John, there's a guarantee for a showdown that will bring out the mettle in our  young hero.

    I am Number Four is a coming-of-age story that carries messages of true friendship, bravery, and dedication, as well as the values of family and home. Sarah, our love interest here, is a caring and compassionate girl with a penchant for taking some darn good pictures. Through her, John/Number 4 sees the positive affects of a family and a home. And while Sarah's parents are slightly aloof and clumsy, John simply enjoys his brief experience with family life. Henri is like a surrogate father to John, helping him through his legacies (random instances in which his powers show themselves without him even realizing them) and respecting his drives to stand against the Mogs and fight for what he believes in. We could even say there's a message about loving our enemies, as both John and Sarah forgive the jerky Football Jock at school who causes them plenty of trouble throughout the story. And, at the very least, I found the characters VERY likeable and 3 dimensional (even if the movie wasn't hallelujah).

All good things said, however , this was not the stock PG-13 thriller I was expecting in concerns to content. While my only branching out from safe PG-13's is the Passion of the Christ, some of the content definitely seemed a little much for the audience (teens and pre-teens) this movie is being aimed at. Director D. J. Caruso is well known for his work in such films as Disturbia, an amped-up remake-type film based on the idea behind Jimmy Stewart's 50's murder mystery Rear Window. His style is indeed dark and heavy at times. A scene in a haunted house tractor ride goes awry when (after many fake yet gory looking horror set-ups) afore- mentioned Jerky football jock and his buddies ambush John and Sarah. The following sequence is a lot of running around in the dark,, and for younger viewers it's a frightening sequence. The Mogadorians, aside from being Grotesque in their own appearances, have some pretty harsh weaponry and ways of dealing with things. Worst of all, however, for me, was the language. Just because a movie is set in High school doesn't mean you have to have that kind of language.

If it weren't for these things, I am Number four would be a perfect Matinee thriller. But what is even more heart-breaking is that the film was clearly made with the intention of sequels. being as most of the viewers detected this gimic, however, seems to have sealed I am Number Four's fate.

Writer Paul Asay of concluded his review of the film with this quote: "Number Four, the character, may be willing to give up much for us. Number Four, the movie, just wants to take … two hours of our time."

That, unfortunately, just about sums it up.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


"Lord, it's hard to turn the other cheek, Hard to bless when others curse you. Oh Lord, it's hard to be a man of peace Lord, it's hard, oh it's hard, You know it's hard to be like Jesus."

Rich Mullins, "Hard"

This blog, my Orphan Ministry Blog, my Facebook Page, my writings about personal opinion for school, are all centered around a message: God's Message. the gospels. My favorite Bible Figure ever (aside from Jesus) is definitely Paul. Paul, originally Saul as we all know, was a Pharisee. You know, like those men that accused Jesus and had him crucified? Yeah. Saul was one of them, a Jew believing he was doing the right thing. He even held the cloaks of the men who stoned the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen. And yet God had a plan for him. To be prominent for another reason. God struck Saul off the back of his horse and called him out personally for what he had done. And then Saul did his first radical thing for God: 

He decided to quit the Christian Persecution march he was on and begin learning from the Apostles.  
Paul, as he now named himself (for it was a gentile name, the group of people he would mainly evangelize to) didn't get any more popularity for joining the Christians. he was ridiculed and hated for it. when he started his missions, He kept his head level, and met opposition with joy, because as he said,  "It is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me." Even in suffering, he lived in happiness because he knew he was living his calling. He even had the courage to die for Christ's teachings.

So why is he one of my favorite biblical figures? He was one of the first real "Jesus Freaks," right up there with John the Baptist. He heard what Jesus said, realized how amazing it was, and followed it in his own life completely, letting it lead him across the known world of the time, and leaving an influence and a legacy still felt today. He lived life Hard.
Now I don't mean he woke up at five in the morning (even though he probably did), drank a glass of water for breakfast and then did 192 push-ups, and then jogged 8 miles. He was fighting the cultural waves coming against him and he did it with joy. 

Here we are today. Culture, aside from being different in its interests and values, really hasn't changed much. Christianity is still the thing that "disturbs the peace, makes the controversy" in the eyes of the secular world. Believing in something that has teachings against some of humanity's natural (or sometimes negative) desires doesn't compute with some. But our example can change that and reach many, as my last post about "True Guys" (or heroes) talks about. But as worth it, and satisfying as it will be for eternity, at times, in the here and now, it can just seem...


Is it always fun not seeing the latest movie everybody sees? Is it always fun not listening to all the popular music? No. There are times when it really stinks and you get made fun of for it. But God didn't promise us the easy road, or the fun road, or the short road. It's a long, straight, narrow road that will challenge us at times. And while it is hard, I wouldn't have it any other way. Because I know that in the end, Christ's words (In Matt. 5:10) say " Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,"and while I am a sinner in need of a savior, "I can do all things, in Christ who gives me strength (Phillipians 4:13)."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

True Guys

Shortly before the release of one of this summer's biggest blockbusters, Iron Man 2, Writer Bob Smithouser of Plugged In Online wrote a very insightful and interesting article called "Why We Love Super Heroes." The article gave the interesting insight into our culture's penchant to not only demand, but pay our $6 in large amounts to watch superhero flicks. Iron Man 2 grossed in almost 130 million dollars  in its first weekend. So what is the connection?

In the age of trying times and not too many real life heroes, it's easy to cling to fantasies like afore-mentioned Superhero flick, where Tony Stark is single-handedly keeping World Peace under his thumb with clear ease. But wait, haven't we who have ever read or heard the Bible Stories of old heard that before? Wasn't that guy named King David? I mean, David had a pretty great reign right? I mean, sure he had an issue with stealing a soldier's wife and all, but he repented after he realized the shocking aftermath.

We see a similar story with Stark. As long as his eyes are on the right objectives, he can achieve the world (pretty literally as well). But after a slightly drunken slip-up at his birthday party shoots his reputation with the U.S. Armed Forces, things go out of hand and he has to fix it. But he does. And the millions who saw it rooted for him.

So God raised up great men in the Bible, and our secularized culture has turned them from merely upstanding humans into guys with lots of money, beefed-up modern-day armor suits, and/or the kinda cool super-humanizing after-affects of a science experiment gone wrong. Let's call them True Guys.

I love hanging out with other teenage guys of like mind. It's one of the main reasons I go on retreats and other youth events. There are some really great guys who want God as the center of their lives and are willing to look culture in the eye and resist it to achieve that. But what is my connection between King David, Iron Man, and teenage guys?

We could be those guys. We could be real life Men of Iron, who can take whatever comes at us with bravery and die fighting for the world. We could live like David did (for the most part), using the gifts God has given us to proclaim his glory and allow him to council us. Indeed there are some doing it that way. But what is the majority up to?

There are so many different directions I could take with the post. so I'm going to try and condense them all into the one negative influence that is disassembling our Iron Men and dethroning our kings: the negative channel of energy known as MTV  modern culture's expectations. What does our culture, or extremely popular rappers and rock artists like Metallica or Eminem expect out of guys? Party it up, rock it up, do what you think is best and who's to stop you? These standards are degrading our society bit-by-bit, and it shows.

While I watched the Superbowl with my dad last Sunday night, I had my Facebook profile up on my laptop. With the plethora of devices that now support Facebook, people could post their thoughts on anything (maybe even the  Superbowl)  from their Iphone, Ipad, Macbook, Zune, Laptop, Blackberry, etc. So as I posted my thoughts on dopey things like "The Force vs. Volkswagon" commercial, I waited to see what other people posted. For  the most part it was people poking fun at whatever team was losing (always Steelers, cough cough*) and the people rooting for them and it was all good fun. And then the add for the new Transformers movie came on during a commercial break. While I didn't post it, I've always loved seeing trailers for the new movies, because while half of them aren't worth it, there are sure to be LOTS of whiz-bang explosions and superheroes and lots of cool cars on display. But this movie is being met with some opposition because its main female star (whose name I consider a sin to even utter) is no longer in it. Almost instantly after the trailer ended, one of my friends from Cathedral Prep (retreats which are meant to teach chastity and a strong relationship with God) posted the movie was not worth it because this seductive actress was not in it.

In hindsight, I probably should have seen this coming and ignored the comment, but I didn't. I quickly responded that this might not be a bad thing, but this guy was convinced.

These are the standards our culture is not only allowing, but encouraging. while some have had the courage to resist, many have taken the "castle in the sand over a shack on a rock" perspective and simply let whatever they make of themselves be constantly reformed by culture's changing tides and how popular their beliefs may or may not make them.

While many may not consider this macho, I live in a house where gender-wise, we're split down the middle. My Mom spent a year of her life in England as a child, and she fell in love with the adaptations for TV of Jane Austen's beloved tales and has shown us many of them. Mom and Elizabeth  just adore them. While as a guy they can get a little mushy-gushy from time to time, there is a general lesson to be taken away by many of the men in all 18th and 19th century literature: their morals and respect. They wake up in the morning, lead an honest job, and live an honest life. They come to the aid of their friends at any time, even after they have wronged them, sometimes very cruelly as well. And on top of that, their morals in concern to romance and marriage are extremely high. First, they always introduce themselves to the girl and her parents right off the bat. From there comes a very honest, steadfast and chaste courtship before their picture-perfect wedding and happily ever after. Now while the last part is obviously a little fantastic for common real-life, the point stands firm, from righteous Biblical figures, to the Sir's and Mr.'s of 19th century literature with high standing morals, to Stan Lee's Spider Man, Iron Man, etc. There are high moral standards more of us guys could be embracing, maybe even more openly than we already are. And we should. And we need to.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Speaking Out

Well, friends, I have been gone for two long. Forgive my absence from the blog that began my blogging experience :)

There is so much I can tell you about. And a lot of it involves raising the shout and speaking out. Or just speaking in general.

Where to begin? Well, lets start with blog numero dos. Speaking for the Silent. Instead of trying to balance my personal life experiences as well as photography and orphan care, etc., I've designed a little blog/community/movement specifically for my orphan advocacy efforts. There's a parallel  Facebook Page that has a little badge up at the top of the sidebar on the blog, and I'll probably add it here too. Thank You to all who follow me here who have found the blog and followed that or Liked it on Facebook. It's so uplifting and encouraging to see other people raising the shout!

I also had the privilege of going down to the March for Life down in Washington D.C. This event commemorates the legalization of abortion, and people go on the anniversary (January 22, but this year it was the 24th since the 22nd was a Saturday) to support the sanctity of all human life. This is about the coolest Pro-Life event EVER and brings in tens and even hundreds of thousands of people. I always leave on a bus the night before at Midnight and sleep the way down. You get breakfast at about quarter to 5, and then go to Mass at 7 at St . Peter's Catholic Church. People of all denominations go together, to unite with other pro-lifers and hear one of the Catholic Bishops in D.C. give an awesome and encouraging sermon before sending us on to the Day's activities. The group I stick with always goes from there to the Capitol building, where a group of Pro-Life leaders of all denominations go to hold a prayer service together. While it takes many people to orchestrate, the two chief speakers are always Reverend Rob Schenk, President of Faith and action Ministries, and Father Frank Pavone, who is a Pro-Life activist in every meaning of the word. It's ALWAYS an awesome event and there are always great orators speaking for Life.

The March itself is always powerful because so many people  are there having a great time supporting Life. It's a powerful sight I relish seeing every year.

Speaking has affected all people in all ages, and this is also clear in a great movie I have seen recently. The King's Speech, starring Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, and Geoferrey Rush, is an awesome movie about overcoming obstacles and true friends. for anyone who can see it and ignore the slight profanity the King had to use to overcome his stammer, it is truly well-made and well acted.

So what have I learned from all of these events? Well, managing three blogs (including Hope for Every Child) can be tough. :D But if you have the drive to raise the shout and fight fro the cause, it's all worth it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Facebook- and how you use it

Facebook. The mega-powered cultural giant of today. If Facebook were a nation, it would only have two or three countries larger than it. After all, it hosts some 500,000,000 (yeah, count the zeroes) people's public broadcast of what their life is like. The movie (which may or may not have taken a lot of liberties in its story telling) swept up 4 golden globes and is on track for a healthy crop of Oscars as well.

Long-time readers of the blog will know this: I fight just about any cultural element that doesn't seem moral or safe. For me, Facebook was no different. It had taken Myspace's title for "most addictive, popular, and dangerous site on the web" in my book. I would see news articles about people being killed  or fired  from their jobs or terrible stuff like that because of a stupid thing they posted on Facebook. It just didn't seem worth it at all.

But recently my view started tilting. For one, the movie made about Facebook (The Social Network)  prompted a lot of controversy about its truth to the real story of the real-life Mark Zuckerburg, main founder of Facebook. I looked at a couple interviews with him, and his intentions seemed genuine, if not a little too pro-internet tech savvy for my tastes. I personally feel like the internet should be an information source, not a surrogate social life. 

What finally turned the tables, though, was a personal thing. The Seminary for the Archdiocese of New York (an Archdiocese is a bunch of catholic churches looked after by a bishop) decided to send their young men in the early years of training for the priesthood (the first four out of eight) to a merged seminary with another Archdiocese in the area. This meant the guys I was friends with at my Cathedral Prep Weekends who were entering Seminary weren't going to be around where I go anymore next year, and it would be sketchy if we ever got to see each other. In the back of my mind, my knee-jerk reaction was "Well, you know what to do, get a Facebook." 

Uh, NO!

 The fact I was even thinking about it freaked me out. It was about the last thing I wanted to do, but it had benefits that seemed sound enough. I talked about it with the Prep guys. I talked with my parents. And I decided to get one. 

Now, right off the bat, I want to say that Facebook is not the black abyss of sin I thought it was :D. If you friend the right people and not the wrong ones, you can be in a faith-filled environment that is totally safe. I even made a page for my new orphan advocacy blog, The fact I can so easily communicate with anyone I want to as often as I want to is great. 

But at the same time, Facebook can quickly turn into a popularity trip and/or a risky place if you don't play your cards right. Anybody who knows you or knows someone who knows you will see that you're on Facebook. Now, you can make it so private that only the people you friend will see the information you put out (which I did). And you can be defined in some aspects by how many friends you have. The more you have the "cooler" you seem to some people. 

But for one, just friending anybody can open you up to some risky people or even people you think you know posting crude or inappropriate stuff. Keeping your friend circle your close personal friends or people that you feel safe around is a much smarter route. 

So is Facebook totally worth it and should you go on right now and make a profile? Eh, probably not. But is it an awesome way to connect with old friends or keep in touch with people and spread God's message? Absolutely. Anything can be accomplished when you let God, not culture, define what you make it.  

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Guest Post by Tori Hook

Sometimes I'm an angry person. Sometimes I get mad that other people don't care about orphans the way I do. That other people can see God's children suffering and not do anything about it. That other people don't think about orphans at least once every half hour.

I think, how dare they? How can they not understand that the world is in a state of emergency! God's children are hungry, suffering, dying! And they can just be content to live their average American lives?

It infuriates me. But I have to remind myself where my motivation comes from. I do not care for orphans because other people care. Lots of times, they don't. I do not care for orphans because it's easy. It most certainly is not. I do not care for orphans because it makes me feel good. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it hurts more than anything I've ever experienced to care that much.

I care for orphans because they're worth it. I care for orphans because I've been called to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. I've been called to rescue God's forgotten children. I care for orphans because God first cared for me. And he expects me to do unto others as He has done unto me. Not out of any selfish or angry motivation, but because He first loved us when we were lost, dirty, and afraid, we go and love others who are just as lost, just as dirty, and just as afraid as we once were. Love will always be more effective than anger.

Tori, resident blogger at Shining City Teens, went on her first mission trip in Summer of 2010 to Comas, Peru, where the embers of a love for orphan care were lit into a blazing fire. Tori is planning to go back again this summer, as well as hopefully visiting Maria's Big House of Hope in Luoyang, China, an orphan facility run by Christian organization, Show Hope. Tori also participates in the annual Reece's Rainbow Christmas Warrior Project, which hopes to raise $1,000 for each child who gets a warrior (Tori has raised over that every year). Tori's living testimony of passion for her calling from the Savior she loves is an awesome example of this blog's message to fight the cultural tide to live for Christ.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Little Memories

There are things you remember in life: the first time you road a two-wheeler without any help. The first time you swam. The first time you got behind the wheel of a car. Your Wedding Day. Your first little Child.

While I haven't experienced a lot of these yet (much to the comfort of my parents :D) Some stand out for me personally. I'll always remember the first time I met Addisu in Summer '09. That summer is chock full of swinging on swings with him, playing outside, and blowing lots and lots of bubbles. Camp Veritas '08, my first week away from home by myself, was a huge wing-spreader (figuratively speaking). I remember the first night I had my tiny little compact camera. After saving up for months, I had saved up the money I needed to buy a little camera. That got me pictures on lots of fun times. Getting my big camera this fall was pretty exciting too.

But none will ever top my mission/adoption trip this winter. There are days where I'll just sit and think about all of the fun times, all of the tough times, all of the great people we met, and just how amazing it all really was. God had His eye on us the whole time, and He kept us safe on our foreign adventure.

But my memories don't end at "Oh, that was nice." It goes so far beyond that. Even with my sheltered, split-second view of the way things are in Julia's orphanage, there were kids there that could break your heart. Some because they were just so strong and happy and healthy in the face of such hardship. Others because there was no one there that could really give them everything they needed.

I remember out wacky adventures with Valentin the Ukrainian driver on the highways out to the orphanage. I think I gained a new respect for my parent's moderate American driving. Things can be so different on the toher side of the world.

I still play back so much of it in my head. I remember  walking down the hallway to meet Julia for that first time, knowing she was there waiting for us. It still almost makes me cry watching the video from that amazing moment. I remember one my little buddy the bruiser escaped his crib room (which belonged to Julia as well) and came in to see what we were up to. I remember meeting Sonya. A little child so full of life and happiness. I am so bummed I forgot to take a picture with her. But that little picture I never imagined I'd take has made the rounds a little. It's showing up on numerous blogs. I feel like I'm accomplishing something.

Each night I pray God will show me how to work best for his glory with the talents I have. I long await that answer. But for now, I am happy to dwell on the memories.