Set ‘em straight: Faith

December 27th, 2011

As Christians, it wouldn’t be honest to say that we could care less about what Kristaps and Samanta believe about matters of faith.  I do care, but in the context of the previous post, I would imagine some readers would chime in, “Well, I thought you just pointed out that it is human nature to think you are in the corner with truth and you presume to be doing a favor to others to drag them into your corner! So is that what you are doing when you share your faith? Are you taking advantage of your position as hosts to force these kids to be a captive audience for your pitch on Jesus?”

Man, sorry to dowse any residual Christmas cheer!  That’s a bummer to read over, but if there’s one thing I want to leave as part of my mark in this life–it’s authenticity! I want to talk about the difficult things–with honesty and humility, and simply put, I want to get and stay real–even if that gets a little raw at times. I’d rather err on the side of less sugar-coating with the foundation of true love–valuing all people involved as eternal creations of God–made in His image.

As such, believing anyone, who might be wondering what I asked above in the first paragraph, is sincere and positive in their inquiry, here’s my thought.  I do not believe I deserve or have earned a place in the corner with truth, and that includes any truth–faith, relationships, love, sports, politics . . .  But by the result of completely unmerited favor, I believe truth came to be in my and everyone else’s corner if we will welcome him in.  That’s Christmas.  God came to be with us, to die for us, so we can be with him if we choose to accept his means for that kind of relationship to be realized. That means? Jesus.

And so I will just say as a CHRISTian, I follow Jesus, and I believe he is the definition of truth.  I understand more truth the more I know him and remain near him in heart/emotions, soul/presence, mind/thoughts and body/health and actions.  And then, where does that leave the conversation with Kristaps and Samanta?

Well, prior to this trip, neither had a ever sat in a formal church service before in their lives nor had they heard the Christmas story.  They’ve done both now.  In fact, I used a website through my iPhone to translate verses into Latvian for Samanta during the Christmas Eve service we attended.  Right now, it’s still new to them, and they aren’t sure what they believe.  But scripture is clear that it is a work of God’s Spirit for people to come to a believing faith in Christ as Savior.

In that, I am really trying to stay present, in the midst of so many different layers of feelings and topics flying around, and tuned into God.  Please pray for Kristaps and Samanta–for the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and that we can be aware of what God is doing around us moment by moment–willing to join in where we can!  But I don’t want them, or anyone for that matter, to be projects or to feel like projects, but rather objects–of authentic love for them where they are at–the good and the junk in their life’s trunk!  You know, I hope that for me, for Julie, for my boys, and for everyone! (We are Christians, but we are constantly at different places in terms of receiving the authentic love God has for us.  Like perspective, growing in God’s love is dynamic.  We still have a long way to go on that ourselves!)

Set ‘em straight on faith?  I don’t know what “straight” is.  My ruler is off–way off, but thanks be to God, he sent a carpenter, a perfect carpenter, to be my measure!  It’s his corner, and I find many ways to wander off into the dark settling for cheap replicas like the glow of my cell-phone for sunlight!  I love the old saying that rings true, “I’m just a beggar trying to show another where to find some bread.”

Set ‘em straight!

December 27th, 2011

Ok-my apologies to anyone who has been checking here for a couple weeks without a new post to find!  Thanks for the interest–and wanting to keep us in your thoughts and prayers!

A few days ago, Stephen sat down next to me in the tv room and said, “Kristaps kind of hurt my feelings tonight.”

“Really?” I responded, “How did he do that?”

Stephen explained, “He told me that I need to show you more respect.”

I smiled on the inside. “That’s interesting,” I said before asking, “and what do you think about that?”

Stephen quickly blurted, “I need to set him straight!”

“About what?” I probed.

“Well, he doesn’t know what it’s like for me to have parents on me all the time, giving me consequences, and checking on me!” Stephen announced.  I quickly giggled inside, knowing Stephen had no awarness of the irony in what he said–setting another teen straight on the horrors of having parents that care for him–especially if that other teenager is an orphan! 

Taking another approach, I simply added:  “You’re right, Stephen, he hasn’t known for the last six years what it is like to have parents guiding him and giving him consequences to teach him about life–perhaps with less harsh consequences than the world itself would dole out.  On the other hand, I am not sure he would agree with you that you have a rough life having us as your parents.” Stephen walked away with nothing else to add to the conversation . . . I have yet to circle back around to him about that conversation.

Perspective is simply dynamic.  Honestly, that is a big part of the reason I have not blogged since almost two weeks ago–my perspective has been changing a lot.  Oftentimes, I cannot keep up with the changes–the learnings–the resulting wonder.  You know, I don’t diminish Stephen one bit for using the phrase, “set ‘em straight.”  I mean, it’s human nature to think we are in the same corner with truth, and we, in turn are doing others a favor when “help” bring them into that corner.

So many perspectives come to mind from just these last two weeks, I don’t know where to go to give an example!  I guess an obvious one would be our response to the word “orphan.”  After spending a lot more time with Kristaps and Samanta, this is no longer THE defining monacher for them in my mind.  As such, I have been hesitant to catalogue our experiences with their visit here, because many of you may have come to this site out of a natural curosity about their story, and our experiences with them, being orphans.  Honestly, I have come to see their story, up til now, as theirs’ to tell if they choose to.  I mean, they’re parentless! From that, I think much of the backdrop of their circumstance is understood.

But what I can tell you is that many of the facets of their lives we were told simply aren’t true!  Those, I want to set straight.  Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think New Horizons was lying to us because when they have to have some training or an orientation to this experience, they are doing so for orphanages that stretch across Russia and its previous repuplics.  So, what is true in one orphanage in Ukraine obviously might not be true in another in Latvia, just as orphanages across the U.S. provide different experiences.  So I don’t mean this as a slam on the organization at all.

That said, you might appreciate the humor in the scene the first night when Julie and I were in the bathroom with our two weary, non-English speaking (or not fluent anyway), travelers explaining with hand language that we DO have hot water and they CAN (oh wonderous day) flush the toilet paper down the toilet! . . . .  Let’s just say that they have grown to have a favorite phrase here to add to many things we say . . . “And?”

I am coming to wonder if this is a polite way of saying , “Duh!” The truth for them is that they do have many modern amenities in Latvia, and they do not have, contrary to what we were told, a lingering belief that we Americans like to lure them here to sleep in our beds so that we can kill them for their organs!

I will continue in another post–look for Set ‘em straight–in Faith!


Countdown O-vah–they’ve arrived!

December 12th, 2011

Whew–230am, and the reason I’m not in bed is?

Well, the day “off” work tomorrow helps, but I think I am just ramped up! And it’s not for the reason those who know me would suspect: the Broncos came back to win in the final minutes of the game for the 5th time this season! (For those who don’t know, I’m a 7th (?) generation Coloradan by birth–so my blood runs orange and blue–when it isn’t running purple for my alma mater TCU Horned Frogs!)

It’s ironic to me as I sit and soak in the ESPN and NFL Network gameday final shows–referring to the improbable winning stories by the Denver Broncos, anchored by the 2nd-year quarterback Tim Tebow, as simply “miraculous.”  Why the irony? Because I am more ramped up in the miracle of two orphans from the other side of the globe sleeping safely upstairs in my home as I write this blog post.

Why am I excited? Because of the possibilities that wait for us over the coming days and weeks while Kristaps and Samanta are in our home.  Don’t get me wrong–please.  I am in touch with reality–believe me.  Hmm–just reflecting back to meeting these guys at the airport . . .

Kristaps was stepping forward, quiet in his voice, but friendly–eager to greet–to hug us.  Samanta, on the other hand, was more reserved–understandibly so.  Julie told me later that she was kind-of rolling her eyes–and visibly not happy while we had some pictures snapped when we first met them (one required by New Horizons).  She’s a teenage girl–from what I know and remember from having a sister, not to mention some of the girls I dated as a teenager, a little attitude is normal.  Heck, a lot of attitude can come from my teenage boys–that’s for sure! ;)

And the drive home? Well, you know me, the salesman . . . I can keep a conversation going–usually!  It was difficult, no two ways about it.  They were exhausted from their travel–and add to that the 7-hour change to their internal clocks coming across the Atlantic, and of course, there’s the language barrier too.

We’d learned a few words–like Sveiki = Hi.  But I learned quickly that it is Kristaps’ skills with English that are going to make this experience much easier than it could be.  And being in the dark while driving a larger vehicle we borrowed (that could seat 6) were challenges as well.  (Our cars seat 5 max!)

Overall, though, I’d say it went well.  Samanta is 5’2″ not 4’2″, however.  So that misinformation is going to put a little shopping on the agenda for her and Julie, I’m sure.  And several of the other expectations we had didn’t come to fruition at all.  They didn’t smell bad–in fact, it wouldn’t suprise me to find out some day, that our boys stunk to them–ha.  Also, we were told to teach them that they can flush the toilet paper here–that they didn’t have to put it in the trash as they do in Latvia.  They knew that, and they each had a medium sized duffle bag that seemed very full.  So they had more possessions than I’d expected, but I don’t really know what they brought with them (no–I didn’t look).

My good friend, Jim, helps me with blogging, and he mentioned the other day, “you know having them in your home is just like getting used to using WordPress to blog–it will get easier as you have more experience.”  His wisdom is quickly becoming reality to me, but at the same time, I am still very aware that as the time logged as experience climbs–it remains small compared to the relatively mile-high (there you go Bronco fans) peak of possible lessons that are available to us because of the brief window of time we have been gifted to spend–celebrating the birth of a Savior who came and lived as one who was fatherless (in the eyes of men) and truly an alien–with Kristaps and Samanta. Orphans and aliens in a foreign land–desperate enough to brave the incertainties and risks–for the chance of grasping just a handful of hope.

Please pray with us that somehow–  some way– our very imperfect home can be a place that brings them some hope . . . along with an experience of love and authentic faith.  Faith in an orphaned alien–the possibility of changed lives forever–of living hope . . . from staying in my home for 28 days?

Now that, truly, would be a miracle!

(I will be posting video and photos via facebook throughout our experience as well–please look me up there, Curtis Martin, if you’d like to!)

Getting ready for the arrival of Kristaps and Samanta!!

December 10th, 2011

Well–the day is almost here!  Samanta and Kristaps arrive tomorrow–and there is so much tied up in that statement.  The feelings are flowing in our house today–excitement? Sure, but also anxiety, concern–wonder.

The feelings have been flowing for several weeks coming up to this point, and we are learning more how we deal with these different feelings–talking about it, thinking about it, stuffing it . . . depends on the day and the time–and the person.

I’ve been more the expressive one, and thus the reason for this blog.  Well–a reason–to express and reflect and process my thoughts and feelings over the next few weeks in a productive way.  One that can invite others into the experience, and also–to not irritate my introverted wife to death!  Yes–I talk to think, she thinks to talk . . . a lot of diffences there.  Needless to say, we often drive separate cars to parties-ha.

Anyway, I’ve shared with a few people that I’ve landed on these thoughts:

  • If God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9), and we are challenged to be changed to become like God  . . .  then I need to be OK with the “discomfort” I feel as I learn new thoughts and new ways as God leads me (and I choose to follow)
  • As God is the “Father to the fatherless . . . (who) places the lonely in families”, there is a mystery to me about what to expect in this experience over the next few weeks (Psalms 68:5-6).

I hope for the best, but I am mindful of some possible “worsts” that could occur over the next few weeks (re-reading the “manual” we received during training).  That said, we are busy shopping, putting up Christmas lights and cleaning until they arrive tomorrow evening.

Please pray for our family and our guests for a great transition time over the next few days!  Also, some of you have asked how you can still help since the fundraising portion of this adventure has passed.  Thanks, by the way, for asking!

After they get here there are still many ways to help.  As part of the agreement between the hosting program ( and the Latvian orphanages, we are to send the kids back with certain items to benefit the orphanage upon their return.  There is a list of needed items below and we welcome used as long as they are in good condition.  Gift cards are always an option as well, especially to the grocery store (Walmart/Harris Teeter) since we’ll have 4 teenagers for a month! :-)   Please give donations to Curtis, Julie, Stephen, or Graham or mail to 134 Canterbury Pl Rd, Mooresville, NC 28115.

 Suggested Items to Send Home with Host Child

Each family is asked to obtain the following suggested items for each hosted child. These are items that we think will benefit them in the months after hosting. 

  • Tennis shoes/sneakers (Get a little big for growing room)
  • 3-4 pair socks (dark colors are often preferred by boys)
  • 3-4 pair underwear
  • Toothpaste/toothbrush, soap, shampoo
  • Brush/comb
  • One hand towel/washcloth (No large towels, they do not have clothes dryers or the space)
  • One dressy outfit, consisting of a pair of slacks or skirt along with a blouse or button up shirt
  • 2-3 winter outfits and 2-3 summer outfits (consider a size larger than they currently wear)
  • One conservative bathing suit
  • Good winter coat, scarf, gloves, hat. Check E-BAY, Burlington Coat Factory, GoodWill and friends
  • Journal (present on the 2nd or 3rd day to the children old enough to write).
  • 1-2 toys that do not require batteries (sports equipment is popular for all), cheap Mp3 or inexpensive (under $25) handheld battery game is ok for carry for travel home. REMEMBER, no NAME brands or things that appear expensive.
  • Small, inexpensive gift for their orphanage director and possibly 2 – 3 other caregivers. An idea is pretty notepads, notecards, stationary type stuff and souvenirs from your host city. They don’t have access to such things, yet we can get them here very cheaply. Also, consider low cost jewelry from Claire’s or Walmart or a photo of the host child with a recognizable landmark in a non-breakable frame.
  • Items they can share with others who didn’t get to come on the trip (boys and girls). Perhaps rubber or stretch bracelets for friends, imprinted with faith based words and beaded jewelry that you can make together. Small, inexpensive things can be found at Christian bookstores or bulk catalogs like Oriental Trading. Stickers and decorated pencils are also cheap and easy to pack. Check clearance aisles, as this doesn’t have to be expensive.
  • ONE (1) piece of luggage may not exceed 50 pounds under any circumstance. Luggage must have a good handle and good wheels. It can be any fabric or color, the “look” doesn’t matter. Used luggage is fine, check garage sales, GoodWill, thrift stores or ask friends. You must send home one 26-28” rolling suitcase. Do NOT exceed OR reduce this size! You will only risk running over the weight limits or making your child feel left out when they get to the airport and realize their bag is smaller than everyone else’s.
  • Carry-on Backpack.  One backpack is allowed as a carry-on. Please provide a good backpack the child can use after they return home.

Remaining behind on the Journey

August 1st, 2009


August 1st, 2009

Hearty Oak Sketch

August 1st, 2009


August 1st, 2009

Peaceful night

August 1st, 2009

Engaged or alone?

August 1st, 2009