Madagascar in REAL LIFE!


Renegade Madagascar Penguin escapes from Tokyo Zoo yesterday! The one-year-old Humbolt Penguin “houdinied” his way over a huge wall, through a net and away into Tokyo Bay, where officials have enlisted the help of mariners and general public alike to aid in the recapture of this slippery sucker! That means us–the US Navy–have a new priority! So what have I been doing (besides writing this blog) all day at work? Leaning over the guard rails and expertly tracing ANY and ALL suspicious ripples for a sign of a masked critter! We actually had a “Swimmer in the Water!” security breach drill today, to which I immediately bolted for the nearest catwalk in gleeful attempt at sighting said bird…

No such luck. Apparently he’s a speed demon, so stay tuned to see if any more animals end up missing from Tokyo’s finest…particularly a lion, giraffe, hippo, zebra, lemurs… You know. The general “Move It!” lot…



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Updates Complete!

It is now February 16, 2012 at 0016 Thursday morning. I am sitting at a small wooden desk inside the hotel room at the Clarion in Oslo, Norway. Justin is fast asleep behind me, and to my left sit 2 empty coffee cups and a half glass of water. I must complete this post, along with the over-200 photos I have yet to resize and publish, as we leave shortly after breakfast this morning bound for Finland, and then back “home” to Japan. So where did I leave off…  Czech Republic. Split from Czechlaslavokia about 19 years ago, and has since became a part of Europe. Oh! I forgot to mention their toilet paper. Rectangles! Can you believe it? Perforated, not as crisp as Austria’s, but definitely thicker than most. But the interesting fact is that it comes in rectangles rather than the typical square, allowing the customer to get away with one sheet which would really be 1 ½ as opposed to 2 whole sheets. Neat eh? Moving on. We flew into Frankfurt, Germany, in which (much to our dismay) we discovered their to be no Starbucks. Our troubles were short-lived however, as we jumped onto the continuing flight to Paris. After gathering our bags and catching the hotel shuttle to our 5 star Jacuzzi-included loft high above the city hustle, we enjoyed a small cat-nap in preparation for the rest of the day. Our hotel was located about 7 blocks from the Eiffel Tower, 2 blocks from the actual park. It being Monday evening, we ended up eating out at a recommended diner down the street, and then headed to the Eiffel Tower. Dinner was extravagant. It was a small place, about 12 people could eat. The price was decent, and the food delicious! There happened to be more sets of silverware then I knew what to do with, and every time the next course came out and our waiter picked up the unused utensils, Goose and I would slap our foreheads in embarrassment and stupidity as it was obvious THAT was the correct fork or knife or spoon or pushing tool or serrated item we should have used… After enjoying the cooked beef, beef stew, something else too fancy to name, and salads, I finished my meal with a delicious plate of warm chocolate crepes. We headed out to the park, got some neat pictures, then came back to enjoy the hotel. The next day we arose and dined at a local café with orange juice, coffee, and croissants (the REAL ones of course!) An interesting note about France; they do not serve coffee there unless you specifically ask for “American Coffee, Big Coffee or Drip Coffee.” Everything else they serve in a tiny little espresso mug. Also to note, as you can see by viewing the photographs, French toilet paper LITERALLY has clouds on them. Rectangular pattern (again a great economical design), perforated, white and soft and imprinted with a cloud. How suitable! It was Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, and we certainly made the most of it!

We began with the Eiffel Tower again, the park itself, and then continued on to the Arche de Triumphe. Afterwards we stopped for lunch, then continued on to the Louvre. We passed through many arches, sculptures and neat treasures from the architectural past. We came back to get all gussied up for our Valentine’s Day 5-star dinner on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower, then headed back out in the evening. Dinner was fabulous; champagne, wine, 5 course meal, music, views, and many neat couples. We met one couple from Chile, and another from London. They were all 4 cute together, and enjoyed the evening as much as we did. Justin and I toyed with the idea of finding ourselves 2 local French gals to join us for dinner, but the idea died away as our reservations came to 2. Nonetheless, we were handed two beautiful roses at the completion of our meal, and our light-bulb minds went off in unison. So we scouted out the perfect deserving pair of French gals on our brisk walk home to deliver the evening’s love. Out front of a local café we discovered 2 gals enjoying a glass of something sweet and with only a few minutes nervous hesitation we boldly approached their table, bowed low and gave them each the rose. They started to say something in smiles and French, to which we simply replied “Happy Valentine’s Day”, smiled, and flew away as eyes from other couples in the restaurant followed us out. It was a good feeling, after the fact, to think we were the highlight of some lonely girl’s Valentine’s Day in the City of Love…

And that was France. Our flight the next morning took us back to Frankfurt, and then on to beautiful Norway. We flew over seas of ice and island landscape, Poland, Sweden, and into Oslo. The snow is about 3 feet deep here, and yet it feels warmer than the other places we have been, despite being farther North. Aside from the scenery however, is the very noticeable fact that Justin and I, as brunette’s, fall into the minority of foreigners or fakes. Unlike the other countries we visited, Norway’s culture is easily recognizable by the almost-white natural blonde hair, the bright sapphire eyes, and the tall and broad-shouldered men. The women here are absolutely breath-taking, and Justin and I both found ourselves wandering through the local mall (the 4th biggest in Norway) passing H&M for the umpteenth time unaware of anything except the local population. The bus system here is not difficult, but they seem to take their time. We ended up on one headed for the end route at the bus station, and the British driver invited us in for coke at the station while we awaited the return trip. He actually lives in Sweden, 3 hours away, with his Swedish wife and 3 kids. He met her 26 years ago on a trip there, and has since learned both Swedish and Norwegian. He works here as the pay is better, and commutes back and forth every weekend. We had Burger King which cost us a little over $13 a piece, and the local currency “Norwegian Kronos” comes with a terrifying 25% sales tax already calculated in. Before heading back to the hotel to enjoy coffee and the huge pillows that came with the room, we decided to befriend the local Information Booth gal. Goose stood mesmerized off to one side while Benedicte and I chatted like old friends. Her English was remarkable, and her lower lip would curl up at any attempt to pronounce the letter “W” rather than say “V” as in “Welcome” instead of “Velkommen”. We spent about 20 minutes in good conversation in everything from culture to stages of life to work. At the end of the conversation, she allowed a photograph with me and we added each other as friends on Facebook (of all places) J She had returned from a class trip to Rome and wrote a book, complete with photographs, and was trying to sell them at a local store. She enjoys art by trade, and has a few pieces in the gallery tomorrow (or today) that we would have loved to see, if our flight had been any later. I paid her for a book and left her my address, and I look forward to receiving such a fine product of self-achievement.  Justin says he is going to live his Facebook life vicariously through me, but we shall see. J The toilet paper here, to note, is also rectangular.

And that is up to date! We have Finland later today, then back to Japan for a local massage before we head up north that night to Ishinomaki for relief work, food distribution and witnessing! Love you all, and thank you for the prayers that have gone before us!

Countries Visited: Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Norway, Finland.
Counties I’d like to spend more time in someday: Norway, France, Czech Republic.


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Half-Way Through!

We arrived in Linz, Austria yesterday afternoon, about 3pm. The town was covered in a light layer of snow and ice, and the streets were wide enough for both vehicles and trolleys. We took one of these trolley’s from our train station up the road to the hotel, 4 stops away. It was cold out, but the hotel was warm and inviting. Our host greeted us with a very Austrian “Guten Tag” and showed us to our room. We walked past the homely breakfast table for the morning and up one flight to a hallway of 6 rooms each styled differently. Our room was in the Christian style, that is, we slept in a manger! There was a wooden cross above our bed, and the bed itself was fashioned out of wood with different designs, formed like a manger with “hay” or bedding. Farm animals painted on the walls. It was very unique! After dropping the bags and running next door to get a bite to eat (had the stroganoff, beef goulash and Radler beer, ½ sprite and ½ beer) we headed into town to explore. A huge cathedral presented itself, (of which we came to find the holy water inside was frozen solid) and various other architectural masterpieces. The Sun set early, and it was then we noticed almost 30 vans full of police gathering at various intersections. We kept our eyes open and eventually saw the cause; a large group of what appeared to be young adults or students was forming in the main square, flying red flags and holding red banners. As we moved around and up the hill, a gun shot went off and the chanting from these kids began. They linked arms and started marching through the street, heading downtown. We heard and watched from a distance, and eventually it ended. On our return to the hotel we asked our grey-haired host what was going on to which he replied “kids being angry” and made the motion of devil horns on his head, as if to portray rebellion. “Doesn’t sound much different from our culture” I thought, “This generation of discipline-deprived, entitlement-minded kids whining for attention wherever they can.” It was interesting to see it from this perspective…

Goose and I checked in, enjoyed hot showers and promptly passed out to arise early for our train to Prague, on which I am currently writing now. An interesting thing to note; The toilet paper here in Austria, as well as Switzerland is very thick. Like actual paper. Perforated yes, but very thick. The toilet paper in France was like wiping yourself with clouds. Very soft, perforated, white. The toilet paper in South America is virtually nonexistent, and when it is found, it is discovered wet, and behind the stall. The toilet paper in Japan only exists in Western-style commodes, and even there, it is one long sheet, scratchy, and not perforated. You rip it where you need it (and only Westerners do, as the locals opt for the warm-water spray to cleanse the buttocks.) Interesting eh? I will see what the Czech Republic holds…

Today is February 13th, Monday, 2012. I am writing you from 38,000 feet, on a Lufthansa Airliner bound for Frankfurt, Germany. They just delivered cheesy croissants to our tiny pull-out trays, and it seems to go well dipped in hot coffee. It’s cloudy outside my window seat, and so for ease on the eyes, I have closed the window half-way to reduce the sunny glare.  Where do I begin? Yesterday our train ride took us from freezing Linz northward to Prague. It was one of the most beautiful rides I have even been blessed to witness. Unlike the dramatic ranges and winding valleys of Switzerland and southern Austria, here we discovered fields and rolling hills and great plains of thick white farmland as far as the eye could see. Every few miles or so, we would catch glimpse of a dark-haired foraging fox, large brown rabbits, wild deer and even a farm of domesticated Elk! The homes of the Northern Austrians and much of the Czech’s were very large, with one great door at the first floor.  You should definitely view the photo-journey through my Facebook album or by following this link to my flickr account: As we journeyed closer to Prague, it felt as if I was stepping back into the Cold War Era. Crumbling cement buildings, windowless towers, metal and litter throughout the graffiti-ridden streets. Every now and then a man or woman ambling there way through with thick wool or fur coats. Every hour or so we would come to stop at some local station which consisted of a covered booth and a sign. It was beautiful to say, in its own way. Entering Prague, the old capitol however, felt as if we had just traveled back in time to the era of “Hunchback de Notre Dame”, as old cathedrals, synagogue towers and Christian steeples stretched into the sky throughout the old city. We left the train station, checked in to our hotel, and immediately began wandering. It didn’t so much matter where we went, there was always something fascinating on every block corner. After a jaunt down to the river and one of the shopping areas (in which we tasted the authenticity of the local Starbucks) we headed back for dinner at a local diner near our hotel. It was filling food of beef and cabbage and chicken and duck and potatoes, and every drink from water to coke to beer came in a glass bottle. I finished that meal with a glass of warm raspberry’s and vanilla ice cream. We ended up purchasing tickets to go enjoy a local rendition of Mozart performed by some excellent musicians, and later discovered we had attended (with the best seats in the house) the showing at the famous “Obecni Dum” where the annual Spring Festival is held. The streets on our walk back home were filled with people from every part of the world, and that made for quite the unique blend of trendy culture. Goose insisted on stopping by the local Hooters on the way back, so I obliged him with an accountability partner and shortly after the drinks we headed home. Upon our return, he headed out to view the local night life (being a “Night Owl” himself) and ended up returning around 0130 with a homeless man he had met on his way. Being a freezing cold night, and having leftover food from his dinner, we decided to use the opportunity to feed and shelter the man for the night. God blessed us with technology, and with the help of Justin’s iPad translator, we were able to communicate with the local Czech. It proved to be a long night for me, as Justin promptly passed out from his consumption and I was left to “guard” ourselves with the local man. It all worked out in the end however, as we left earlier this morning for the airport; Czech full and happy, Goose in complete hangover misery, and myself enjoying all of it at his expense (and the happiness that comes with traveling). All in all, Prague is definitely on the “must come back to visit longer” list. I will publish that list soon…


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Euro (Brief) Update

I am rattling along high upon the cliff of one of two magnificent ranges that rise into the sky. These jagged Alps reach high above our little world and a solitary track perilously runs along the southern edge of one upon which my little car, Box 31, and my good friend and companion hurtle our way onward to Linz, Austria where we will stop for the evening. Far and away beneath me, in the pristine white valleys below lie clusters of 2-story Germanic homes. White walls and brown beams that stretch across at angles and roofs burdened beneath 4 feet of fresh snow. Cotton-ball smoke rises from the chimneys of a few of these, and I can just make out two figures skiing their way across the narrow fields…

The wind through these valleys is light today, and the temperature holds at a steady 24 degrees Fahrenheit. Today is the 11th of February 2012, and marks our second day in Europe. It is currently 1300 and this time yesterday, we were exploring downtown Geneva, Switzerland. Our red-eye from Tokyo to Paris was a blessing delivered as God gave us Business-class seats (or beds?) and the privileged luxury lounge prior to boarding. France (and Europe in general) was quite different from the way I remembered when I was age one traveling with my mother and father, (placed for humorous effect) and yet even more so from the culture of Japan, or even Asia in general. People here look me right in the eyes, and even seemed to pass judgment upon us both as we explored here and there.

We took a train to Lausanne and passed the night in a quaint hotel that lies in the shadow of one of the greatest cathedral’s I have ever seen. Here is where the French, the Swiss, the German and the Hungarian (as well as us American and English visitors) converged filling the old city and previous Olympic Games host with an “anything goes” atmosphere,  at no sacrifice of personal safety or good-natured fun. We ended up bribing our cute Hungarian hotel receptionist with real American Hershey’s Raspberry Chocolate, who in turn offered to travel with us on her days off as our personal guide and friend. While our saddened hearts had to decline her offer (in part to our distant travels) we were able to chalk one up on the social networking site, Facebook and she and I have since been in communications both friendly and professional.

And that brings me back to present day. An eight-hour journey by Swiss Train through the magnificent Alps and into the northern territory known as Austria. I am convinced my own eyes will turn liquid and run out of my head while my heart stops completely at the sights of Heaven; if this country is anything less than even the gutters of that Glorious Place. The snow blankets everything here. A clean and quiet valley is all I see now out of either window. The mountains rise up on either side and into the clouds, and large forests of pine and alder race by. Squared-off farmland and pens with horses appear from hill to hill, and in the center of each clustered village, at the highest points scattered throughout this land and pointing ever Heaven-ward rise the icon of tranquility; wooden steeples. It’s so beautiful! My train turns the bend and I can see four or five of these scattered across this valley, before we enter the next. They are as sharp as needles, each one topped with a single cross and in every occasion rising 2 or even 3 stories higher then any other structure around. The base is formed in white or yellow walls, two large doors and a slanting roof. Thick snow blankets each one, and icicles hang at each end. Deer appear in many fields, and my only regret is that I am unable to penetrate the lives of these idyllic folk; to see their homes and greetings and way of life. To spend a week with a family and learn and laugh and love. That was not the goal of this trip, and so I am not bitter about it. As a matter of fact, the goal of this trip is being met already, in that Justin and I are able to cover much ground in little time, and I am able to see and wisely decide where I should like to spend a year or so in one such place, areas like these…

A curious site just now; a group of boys no older than 16 take a wide stance in a field to my right. They line up and are swinging what appears to be whips around and around in the air. Just then they switch sides and begin swinging in the opposite direction, and my train takes her bend. I am left with the ponderings of certain games, animal husbandry or perhaps a ceremony of some sort. And a rabbit! There to my left at the line of trees! They are easy to pick out in this snow, but they also seem bigger than their American counterpart (as would make sense, these men and women being much larger in bone and muscle than my own culture.) And here lies an interesting note; the difference between a Swiss home and one of an Austrian seems to be found in the structure of their overhanging roofs. It appears at the end of each gable a sort of wooden icicle, carved and drilled through, hanging down about a foot and a half. Four to one side and only on those belonging to a Switzerland resident. Interesting? I thought so.

Our train will dispense us in the small town of Linz tonight, and perhaps another friend will be added to our lives, though Justin gave both bags of chocolate to our last friend so tonight may prove a challenge. Tomorrow we will continue into Prague, Czech Republic and a new post to follow… Two things I have learned thus far; it is good to not travel alone, and when I do travel, I need to pack lighter.

Should you not hear from me again; I love you!

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Tim and Justin’s GREAT ADVENTURE!

Family and Friends!

Pray with us for safety and excitment! To see our fun itinerary, follow this link to Tim and Justin’s Great Adventure!


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A New Day

I recently viewed an older film in which a downtown urban scene was dotted with old Fords and covered sidewalks; red, white and blue “OPEN” window signs and lovely yellow lilies planted in communal pots. Men of wool jackets and earth-toned fedoras ambled by graceful women in brightly covered dresses with children in tow. The camera was following one of such women and her 3 little boys and as she carried herself down the storefronts men would tip or lift their hats and smile or greet her with “ma’am” to which she would tip her head and smile back. Some of these men were well aged, and others no more than twenty-one. Her young, red-headed boys looked around her at these men with curious eyes and admired them, and they admired their mother more. She had respect here; these strangers thought well of her. Her warm smile and lovely eyes glazed even the darkest hearts of these men, and their courteous and kind manners guided her on with each passing gentleman…


I found myself touring my own ship today. Slowly pacing along, hands clasped behind my back and eyes tilted high in admiration for such modern beauty and skill. I came along a bulk-head that turned a sharp corner to the outside decks, and I could see beams of sun coming in from down the walk. I turned and started a smile as a group of three women came bristling by. My good-morning hale was cut short by the loud hack of throat as one of these women—quite publically—spit her morning wad of chewing tobacco into the cup she was carrying. My smile remained in feeble attempt to maintain etiquette until her shorter friend let loose a whirl of vulgarities that nearly made me faint! I proceeded to walk by and escape such class when their third—and obviously pregnant—friend half-blocked my route and said (in no short supply of obnoxious gum-chomping jaws) a very pointed “Good morning!” to which I replied out of frustration and desperation, “Get rid of that gum in uniform Sailor, and get out of my sight.” I then made haste for that beam of Sun, and having reached it in no sooner a moment, let loose a sigh of both relief and sadness; a longing for a bygone era bleakly clouding my heart…


I have learned by now the truth of which the author of Hebrews so greatly teaches when he pens “We have this Hope as an Anchor for the Soul, firm and secure.” What happens when I put my hope in something of the world? When I wish or long for a time past; a change of culture or way? I end up like Paul, agonized with the burning desire to leave this place for Home, when he writes, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” When I put my hope in something that is man-made, something tainted with sin, they only thing I can be sure of is that it will fail me. And that hurts! I have seen far too many men and women come to grief and ruin because the thing or things they have placed their hope in—from the stock market to their careers to their spouse—have inevitably failed them. And the Christians seem surprised! I can understand the World; but my Brothers and Sisters? We know that these things will fail us! Mathew 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That last sentence is key: Whatever you invest into—that will determine your return. How many men have I seen approach retirement in this job and begin to lose control of their lives? How many have received tattoos of their jobs or placed all their money into something or invested emotionally into their spouse only to have that worldly thing just, slip away? Their lives fall immediately apart and everyone around them is sucked in. Why not invest in something that you know will last? That “Anchor of the Soul” that keeps our hearts and minds secure?

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the Everlasting God; the Creator of the Ends of the Earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom! He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who Hope in the LORD will renew their strength; They will soar on wings like eagles; they run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Isaiah 40:28-31

My Hope is in the Everlasting, the Constant, the Secure. The World around me is going to the dogs, and all of us with it. The economy is failing, my job is failing, friends and family—we’re all failing. The battering of everyday media reminds me how depressed and absolutely depraved the World really is. Yet I say it again; my Hope is in the Everlasting, the Constant, the Secure. As great as she is, my own Country grants me Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. She comes close, but only my Great Hope can guarantee that; Contentment; Happiness. Only He can take all of me and keep me focused, strong and secure despite the crashing waves of darkness and uncertainty all around. What is it you place your hope in?


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Who Are You?

I didn’t say “What are you?”

How many times have I had the honor of working alongside great men who not only had pride in their ethic, but did the job well? How many times have I had the privilege of serving under leaders who knew the job, have been doing it for an admirable amount of time, and who took care of their people?

Often enough. And yet that is exactly who these men are. Their jobs. Their careers. They have been lured into the typical “Corporate Competition”, that ladder that they have since been compelled to climb for the rest of their lives; despising those above, and forsaking those below. I have seen men give their lives for these jobs, and maybe an afternoon, maybe, to their families. I have seen fathers feel the need to remain at work for the sake of face rather than support their 9-year old daughter at her choir concert. I have seen mothers bend over backwards for those at her job, and yet do it through flirting and manipulation while depriving her family of her love and attention.

Who are you? What is it that you define yourself by? Is it your job? Is it your money? Is it your power? Your connections? Your stuff? What safety deposit box are you using to house your very being?

Because you know what? All of that stuff will die with you. Today, tomorrow, 80 years from now. Gone. Faded. Forgotten.

Is that what you want? Do you want to be that guy or gal who is remembered by the financial inheritance you leave to your kids? Do you want to be that father or mother who was loved by friends and yet  grieved by his own family? Do you want to be that party animal that just risks it all, and could die before you finish reading this? Oh you had a great time I know, I’ve seen your fun Friday Facebook photos. But guess what? You’re gone. 6 feet under. Sure your Facebook page will live on until we can figure out your stupid 14-character alpha-numerical password and finally remove it. But that’s it. Done. Just like the 2 clicks it takes to delete your page, so your life will fade into the recesses of your loved ones’ grey matter. Buried under life changes, more weekend parties, family moves, adventures…occasionally slipping back to the forefront of their minds and yet only as the subtle after thought, “I wish he was…”

So. Who Are You? I don’t want to know what you identify with. Do you know why? Because things, those “whats“, they change. “What’s” Fail You. Identify yourself with my beloved Seattle Seahawks and guess what? Your identity will be let down. Identify yourself with this job in the Navy and guess what? You will get a tattoo of that job on your hand (no joke, he did) and when you retire in one year Chief, your identity will be lost. You will have no idea who you really are, and the outside world will not care. But guess who followed you through your full 20 year career and is also transitioning into the civilian world with you? Oh yes. Your wife and son, who have no idea who you are. See, when we place our identity as humans–as Tim and Ben and you Beloved– in a particulate something of this rotting World, it all rots away with it. It changes. It let’s us down, crushes us, fails us. We become slaves to seeking out the most stable identities–this usually being money–and seek to change our identities through wealth and clothes and cars and houses and colleges and life-long careers.  “How dare you even consider not going to College! EVERYONE goes to college!” “How DARE you even THINK about wanting to leave the United States Navy! This is ALL you have! This is what MADE you!”

And we end up forsaking those who truly love us. Those whom we truly love. And most importantly, we end up forsaking the One who Created us. The One that transcends our colleges and jobs and suits and titles. The One who only cares about 2 things; our relationship with Him, and our relationship with each other. He’s given us a great amount of years to focus on simply these 2 things. WHY are we wasting any more time and the resources He’s blessed us with pursuing anything other than these 2 things?? Everything in the Bible falls into one of those 2 categories!

So Who Are You? I don’t care what you do. I don’t care what your title is, or rank, or age. It’s not these outward adornments that define you as a Man of Character. It’s not these positions or places you’ve worked all your life to achieve that tell me what you have on the inside. Calling you Sir or Ma’am or Pastor or Mr. President does not mean you are a Man of Honor, a Man of Integrity.

Who are You? With Whom do you Identify yourself? Let it be One that is steadfast, unchanging. That our identities may be anchored to the Rock Unmovable. That we may be strong in who we are, and certain of our Eternity.

I love you, Dearest Reader, and am praying for you often.

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