My family’s deep, abiding love for … something furry

It’s been a tough week. I’m taking the last class for my bachelor’s degree and one of the assignments due this week really kicked my butt. To be honest, I haven’t given a lot of thought to any writing for a few days.

So what am I writing about today?

My dog.

Image

Brandi is an 8-year-old Brittany. My youngest son rescued her from a shelter in 2008. In 2009 my son came to live with me, and a few months later Brandi joined us. My wife’s daughter Heather quickly fell in love and she and Noah have argued ever since about whose dog Brandi really is. Carolyn mostly argues about Brandi getting on the living room couch and the amount of hair she leaves lying around the house.

If you ask Brandi whose dog she is, I’m pretty sure she won’t pick just one of us, but all of us.

Noah bailed her out the day she was going to be put down at the shelter and she seems to know it. She always seems to know when he’s almost home from school and starts to get excited.

Heather always loves on her and Brandi is always there for Heather whenever she is down. Again, Brandi knows when the bus is due to arrive from the high school and she gets up from wherever she is and sits in the middle of the living room floor. When the bus pulls up her tail and butt start sweeping the floor. She bounds to greet Heather when she comes in.

Or, if not Heather, then Rebekah. Brandi loves her, too. Rebekah tries to play tough, and she does have a cat, but Brandi loves her anyway. I get a lot of joy from seeing this furry ball of excitement race to meet my family when they come home.

She knows not to jump at Carolyn, but she still gets excited when Mommy gets home. Sometimes Brandi gets so excited about it and she forgets and bounds to the door, then hits the brakes and slides to a stop right in front of Carolyn as she’s walking in.

Robert and Job aren’t around much, but Brandi still gets excited when she sees them. Job was just as much a part of her rescue as Noah. He was there in her home every day until she came to Florida. Both boys mess with her, playing games and tricking her by pretending to throw her toys. She loves it.

My dad calls her “Randi,” though I know he knows better, but I stopped correcting him a while ago. Besides, Brandi doesn’t care; she just knows she is going to get love from the short white-haired guy. Even my mom gets in on it, giving her love, and getting some in return.

I’ve never seen how Brandi reacts when I’m coming home, of course, but I know how she is when she’s around me. She shadows me most of the day when I’m home. My every movement is an invitation to play, go for a walk, or some other excitement.

I don’t want to keep her all to myself, but I’m pretty sure if you pressured her on it and she HAD to choose just one person to call her own, it would be me. And if anyone else in the family wrote this, they’d say the same thing.

Olympic Dreams

The 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, are underway. I haven’t watch much of it this year, not like I used to as a kid when I’d watch every possible minute. Even so, I’ve seen some incredible performances.

I wonder, which event catches your attention? Was there, when you were a kid, an event you dreamed you’d compete in during the winter games? If you could compete now, is that still the event you would choose?

I’ve been skiing a handful of times in my life. I loved it. I knew I would before ever I strapped on skis, though. Why? Because as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to do giant slalom or downhill. That’s still my pick. I watched Bode Miller on the downhill last night. It was the longest downhill course in Olympic history, with the most vertical drop in Olympic history as well. Bode lost an edge once or twice, he stood up a little too much. I could feel the ice under me, hear the snow as I cut through it, feel the exhilaration of the jumps, and the wind rushing in my face.

What about you?

Faster Than Light

I’m doing something different today. I’m not going to bore you with several hundred words about my life or my family. Today I’m giving you a glimpse inside my fiction.

Well over a year ago I read an anthology called Battlespace. The editorial staff are all veterans. They actually have a really awesome podcast called The Science Fiction Show. Check it out. Anyway, they did something cool. They put together a bunch of military sci-fi, published it, and gave the money to a charity that helps veterans. In this case, the Warrior Cry Music Project. For some reason, even knowing they were looking for contributions, I didn’t even try to write one. After reading it, though, I thought I had a story in me for the next volume. And yes, I’m told there will be a second one.

So, I wrote a short story and ran it by some folks. They liked it. Thing was, it was the conclusion to a larger series of events. Since then I’ve been writing short stories that peek inside that larger series of events. Faster Than Light is one of those.

———————

Faster than light. Hyperspace. Warp speed. Science had reached the point where we knew it was possible. After all, our enemies were able move at such a speed. Now it would be our turn. The Bugs were pushed back against the gravity wells of Neptune and Uranus. Jupiter and Saturn were both at a point in their orbits of Sol that they, too, where on that arc of their orbits. Mars and Pluto, the other outer planets, were at about 9 and 3 o’clock, respectively, if Uranus marked 12 on an analog clock. The path to the other side of our system was free, other than the asteroid belt, of any gravitational flux.

Terran Space Ship 10-101, The Warped Tour, was small compared to the warships hammering and being hammered millions of miles away. The one-man ship was about the size of a small transport, grossing about the same tonnage as one of the old 20th Century Space Shuttles. Its shape, too, was 20th Century, but in this case it was inspired by science fiction. Entertainment creators hadn’t envisioned the Galactica’s Vipers to be quite so large, but The Warped Tour was a test bed.

Already it was accelerating away at a slight angle that would carry it above the asteroid belt orbit, as well as away from all the major bodies in the system. Bob Mauer, the test pilot and great nephew of one of those killed during first contact, was letting the flight test squadron know he was ready. Fast-as-light communications meant that the team aboard Terran Orbital 2 were seeing and hearing everything at the same time, but the reality was we were a few minutes behind. What we were seeing and hearing was in the past now.

Even as the go-ahead came over our speakers, the blip on our screens representing Warped winked out. Nearly 30 minutes later a report came in. Mauer had come back to realspace, corrected his angle, and accelerated out again, this time aiming for a point in an almost straight line from Earth and on the same level of the elliptical. It meant he’d taken just a few minutes to leave Earth orbit and arrive at a distance nearly equaling Jupiter’s from the sun, before transitioning to the turnaround point, and the final real test, before coming home. Another fifty minutes passed and we received the report from the gunnery range. Mauer had transitioned, found the targets, and destroyed them, then returned to Midpoint.

A blip suddenly appeared on our screen. Though we were sure it was Warped, we were on wartime footing, so everyone tensed. Then the message, “I’m baaaaack!”

Cheers. Slapping each other on the back. Someone broke open a bottle of champaign.

Admiral MacLaughlin stepped over to a comm unit, asked to be put through to the assembly line.

“This is Admiral MacLaughlin. The test was 100% successful. Start installing those drives; get the ships to the armory. As soon as Mauer arrives, debrief him in the presence of the other pilots. We can turn the tide.”

I Am Second’s “Real Stories” reviewed

I Am Second” is an anthology of sorts, the collected stories of people who found their lives falling apart in some way before realizing they were putting the wrong person on the pedestal in their lives. Sometimes they may not have been putting themselves first, but they were certainly not putting the right One first. These people are famous, infamous, and ordinary. Whether the guy next door or a world famous name, each has something in common with you – we are made and loved by the God who made the Universe and all that is in it. When these people woke up to this, life may not have become easier, they might not have become rich and healthy, but they found joy. Maybe you’ve made this decision yourself, already. If so, these tales will remind you of God’s renewing love. If not, the true stories of these real people will introduce you to a new way of looking at things, a way that recognizes you aren’t in charge. These well-told stories are often accompanied by videos at I Am Second’s website, where you can hear them told, more briefly, in their own voices and words. The goal of I Am Second is to bring glory to God by sharing his redeeming love with the world. This books does a fine job of showing how that impacts people. We all have a story to tell and hopefully each will make an impact. These certainly, for the most part, do. My honesty clause: I received this book free from the publisher in return for writing a review, positive or negative. I hope you have found it helpful.

Mission SitRep

Twenty-four days from now I will be boarding a plane to Ecuador with my youngest son and a group of people from our church to assist IncaLink and the Christian and Missionary Alliance in reaching the Quechua people of the Amazon.

Noah and I feel called to do this. I’ve wanted to do missions since I was his age, if not younger. We are reaching out to ask for your help.

1. Prayer. Please pray for us, our team, the missionaries on the ground already, and the people were are going to. Pray for our hearts to be prepared. Pray that we will move as God leads. Pray for repentance, revival, renewal, and rebirth.

2. Finances. It would be nice if we could travel for free, but we cannot. This trip, once all costs are considered, will cost more than $2000 out of pocket for Noah and I, something we simply don’t have. We are relying on God to move his people to support us in this mission. We fully trust in the LORD for meeting our needs. To make things easier, you can give via PayPal. My account is jlamborn3@gmail.com.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We have partnered with Mudlove, a group that makes waterproof clay bracelets. The bracelets have your choice of “Teach,” “Inspire,” or “Imagine” on them and come with several different color bands (blue, yellow, black, brown, red, pink, orange, purple, or green). Your purchase will not only help us take our trip, but Mudlove uses their proceeds to benefit clean water projects in Africa. If you donate $10 or more to our cause please feel free to let us know which bracelet you would like and where to send it.

Whether or not you can support us financially, please comment below to let us know you are praying for us.

 

Bookie

I’m quite the bibliophile, if you didn’t know this. I love reading and enjoy books in general. Lately, though, I’ve fallen in love with the Kindle. I still enjoy holding a physical book, but I love that I have a couple hundred books sitting in my lap right now.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading lately, when I haven’t been working on stuff for my classes. What have I been reading?

Phillip Thompson’s “A Simple Murder.” Anything but a simple murder mystery. This is the sequel to “Enemy Within.” Wade Stuart is one awesome Marine-turned-federal agent. You should seriously check out his adventures.

Everything by Michael R. Hicks. Nearly all of it. I think I have one more to read to be up-to-date. He’s in the middle of moving into a new home, but started writing another novel this week. His “In Her Name” series is a sci-fi masterpiece. The “Harvest” trilogy is a science thriller with elements of mystery and action-adventure liberally thrown in. Hicks is also a pusher: he’s giving away several of his books for free on Kindle and other readers. I’m hooked.

Have you heard of Evan Gabriel? He’s the brainchild of Steven Umstead. I just read “Zero Point” last night. I stayed up way to late fighting to finish it before sleep claimed me. Military sci-fi cum medical science thriller that’s character driven. It’s the back-story to an already established series and it is free on Kindle right now. I am ready to dig in to the rest of the books.

I hope these give you some insight into purchases for yourself or friends with the upcoming holidays.

 

Faith yoga

Truth may be a blanket that always leaves your feet cold, but faith can be stretched and strengthened to cover all areas of life. I see it happen all the time. I just don’t always appreciate it.

There is a lot of turmoil around me lately, and I imagine this is true for you, dear reader, as well. My oldest daughter has had mystery issues for a while. She has been to see many specialists. She has spent many nights in hospital beds and stayed home from school a great many days. We know she has retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease, but the rest of it has escaped definition. Guesses have ranged through a variety of ailments, including MS and related illnesses.

Sunday I spoke with one of my friends as I was arriving for the late service and he was leaving the middle one. I told him the doctors hadn’t been able to name whatever was going on with Heather. His response? “It has a name. And we know the Name above all names. We’ll take it to Him in prayer. Are you with me?” Of course I was. I had no idea we’d be carting Heather to the ER later in the day, to be followed by transport to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. This morning a cardiologist sat with Heather and my wife and described Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and Neurocardiogenic Syncope to them.

Is this it, definitively? We don’t know 100 percent, but it’s the best answer we have seen so far. The symptoms fit and it explains why certain tests were negative when symptoms point to something like MS. For too long we’ve been faced with, “I don’t know, but we’ll keep trying,” from doctors and then 24 hours after my friend John says it has a name — we get a name.

Christian men are, no doubt, under attack. Many of culture’s messages run counter to God’s Word and we can easily be ensnared by them. This is most notable in the realm of lust. Seven in 10 men struggle with a pornography addiction. I could name way more than 10 myself, but won’t do that. I have been praying for one of these men and, as  I am writing this, I was told that he has a future. It was entirely possible that his actions had closed a door in his life, but God is giving him another chance. Further, yesterday, another friend stood up and admitted his problem and asked forgiveness for the damage it has caused in those around him. His openness encouraged me to reach out to friends for help to keep me from falling into this pit, as well.

The above is a pretty wordy way of saying we are meant for community, with our Maker and our fellow humans. If you’re struggling with something, turn to a friend and carry the burden together. Take it before God’s throne and leave it there.

Stretch out. Exercise your faith.

What is a way you’ve seen your faith stretched?

My “read” on Labor Day

I’m 40. There’s a good chance you know this already. I’m a veteran of 12 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. And I’m a full-time student. Sometimes I work on a friend’s farm.

Today is Labor Day. Most everyone else I know is off. I’m working. On accounting and oceanography. And organizational leadership. Fun, right?

If you said yes, I know a few counselors you can speak to.

If, like me, you don’t think this is a fun way to spend a day “off,” maybe you’d be interested in a few books I have enjoyed recently.

I’m going to start with the “Battlespace” anthology. Several friends of mine host a podcast called The Science Fiction Show. They all also happen to be veterans and they wanted to do something that reflected their geek and veteran aspects that benefited people who needed help. They decided to ask people to submit short stories for an anthology, the sales of which would benefit the Warrior Cry Music Project, which helps wounded warriors by teaching them to connect to the world through music. It’s only $3.99.

Oh, and you don’t have to own a Kindle or Nook. Amazon and Barnes & Noble have free versions of their readers available for use on PC, Mac, Android and iPhone.

Speaking of free, have you read Michael R. Hicks‘ IN HER NAME books yet? How about “Season of the Harvest?” NO?!?

Wow, well, check this out. Mike is offering some of his books for free right now. Why? Because he wants to get you hooked. If he was a drug pusher, we’d all be in trouble, but he chose to use his marketing powers for good. After two years of being prodded to read Hicks by my friend Mario — and having downloaded a few to my Kindle — I was ready to start. Amazingly, that same day Mike came up as a new follower on my Twitter account. That was the extra prod I needed. I started with “IN HER NAME: First Contact.”

Whoa. I’m hooked. I couldn’t put it down. OK, honestly, I could, but I didn’t want to and it is probably a huge part of why I’m behind in two classes right now. A good book beats a text book any day. Amiright?

So, how do you obtain these? Go to Amazon, go to B&N, get the reader app you need if you don’t have a Kindle or Nook and then …

Check out Mike’s Amazon page or his B&N page.

It’s that easy, folks. I hope you check these books out and I sincerely hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Why? Because reading shouldn’t be a labor, it should be a joy.

The Break That Isn’t

Ever tried to take a break, but found yourself doing more than ever?

Intellectually, I’ve wanted to take a vacation. Classes are out for a few days between semesters and I don’t have much going on at home, for once. So, the brain should be able to shift to neutral and just coast, right?

Wrong.

I must be on a downhill slope or something. I shifted to neutral and my brain is suddenly more active than usual. I’m on overdrive, it seems, thinking of political matters, household matters, and any and everything under the sun.

It all ties together in my faith, though. Much of what I’m thinking about politically has to do with trying to help people understand that my Christian faith fits well with my libertarian views of government; in short that man should rely more on God than he does government. God makes changes in our lives that government cannot.

Meanwhile, at home, my son and I are preparing for a mission trip to Ecuador in November. I’m asking him to help write letters asking for support – both financial and prayer – for this journey. He, too, operates in fast forward, so asking him to take his time and do this properly is causing him an immense amount of stress.

Then I find myself in this place trying to figure out my life. I’m 40. I know lots of younger men who have direction in their lives. They seem to have their mission before them. God has set them on a path and they are walking it. I know this doesn’t make their lives perfect, but I still feel like mine is less perfect because I have no idea of how to give my life purpose. In the meantime, as I wait for God’s wisdom, I’m not sitting still. I try to love the people in my life; both those I know and see all the time, as well as those just passing through.

It seems as if I don’t have a garden of my own to tend, so I’m planting seeds wherever I go. Does that make me a theological modern day Johnny Appleseed, sowing seed wherever I go and hoping it takes root?

What I did on my summer break … or why I missed church three Sundays in a row

I’m an adult. We don’t really have summer breaks. Unless you’re a teacher, like my wife, but that’s another story altogether. This summer, however, I’m unemployed and going to school full time, so I had time to spend with the kids.

I made it to church July 3rd. The next morning my youngest, Noah, went off to Word of Life camp. OK, time to relax. No, not really. The oldest girl, Heather, had a camp with the Division of Blind Services nearly all summer. One of her teachers worked at the camp and was driving her most days, but I still got up early to make sure she was up on time and got out the door okay. Then I was working on school work. Or watching Noah’s camp online, which was pretty cool.

Friday and Carolyn was off to North Carolina to hang out with friends and take a much-needed mini-vacation. Robert was off babysitting, long-term, for friends, Rebekah was pawned off on(I mean, we let her spend time with) a friend and the weekend commenced with Heather and I watching movies on Netflix.

Saturday rolled around and I rolled up to the church to get Noah. He had a Rocky start and a Rocky finish, but the rest of it was okay. No, those capital “R’s” are not misplaced. I mean that he got in a fight right before they left to go to camp and right before they left to come back. No amazing Rocky Balboa wins for Noah, though. Lots of heart, but no reach and no power. That said, he got a lot out of camp and is learning to listen for God’s still, small voice.

Less than 24 hours later, he was rolling away in his mother’s car, not to be seen for a week again. For the record, this became missed church week number one. More getting Heather up, more school work, more doing stuff with or for my wife.

Did I mention Carolyn came back from North Carolina Monday night? Yup. She did. I think she toyed with the idea of missing her plane, though. She loved it when she got home and found out that while I was taking Noah to meet his mom, Heather, one of her friends and our friend Amber performed an awesome top-to-bottom cleaning of the house. Carolyn was thrilled.

The next weekend came and Noah was due to come back on Saturday. Friday night though is mother stated, “nope, not til Sunday.” So, there’s week number two of church missed. The plus side is that Job, my oldest son, came down with him. We fished Sunday night and Job caught a pan fish.

Monday we went kayaking in and around Whidden Bay, off the Peace River. Job does a lot of kayaking at home in Georgia, but the stifling heat and lack of any breeze that day laid us all out after about two hours.

Rain, heat and other things interfered with any more kayaking, but we were able to fish a few more times. The best was the day Noah tried his new pole. As I was helping Noah configure it the way he wanted it, Job cast and caught what we all swear was the same pan fish from the first night.

Noah had a lot of trouble all morning and wanted to give up, but we talked him into continuing and he managed to catch a bass as long as his forearm. Job and I were about 20 yards away when he goes, “Dad, Job! I got one!” Job and I look at each and laugh about how unlikely that was, given Noah’s luck and then turned to see the fish fighting him. We ran over to lend a hand and see this up close. Noah managed to land a nice one, that’s for sure. I helped get him off the hook and back in the water and then we all returned to trying to match Noah’s catch.

Didn’t happen.

We played video games that week. When the game is a first-person shooter, my presence is welcomed, I found, but not when they’re playing an RPG. It was a little humiliating to be playing Oblivion and have my 11-year-old son say, “Dad, just give back the controller, please; you’re not doing real well.”

Well, the week drew to a close and missed church week 3 came about.

Yesterday I made it to church. I sorta had to since I was stage manager. It felt weird since I hadn’t been there for a while, but I know that the whole time I wasn’t there, I was with God. I got to experience some wonderful times with my family. The ones that stand out most, obviously, are the ones I had with Job, because I see him far too infrequently, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of the time with the others, like walking the bridge with Rebekah or having breakfast with Heather before she went to work at a day care. Or taking Robert McDonald’s while he was babysitting and making him run out in the pouring ran to get it. Actually, better one with Robert: him exiting the kayak on the boat ramp and nearly ending up in the river.

I may not have been at church for a few weeks, but I saw, experienced and shared God’s love during that time and it was awesome.