Friday, December 31, 2010

Freedom being a Constraint

As I said in my last blog, I'm reading a book by one of my favorite pastors Tim Keller called, "The Reason for God." I have had the book for a while, but with school being in the way and the amount of reading it requires; it is been put on the back burner for a while. Now that I have had plenty of downtime, I've been able to get in to it quite a bit. The book deals with questions and doubts that skeptics, and sometimes even believers, deal with in the church. What I really like about the book is that it provides a platform to stand your ground as a Christian when you or your beliefs are challenged.

One of the areas of topic Keller deals with in his book is the area of Christianity supposedly limiting personal growth and potential because it constrains our freedom to choose our own beliefs. Keller argues this by saying, "Freedom cannot be defined in strictly negative terms, as the absence of confinement and constraint. In fact, in many cases, confinement and constraint is actually a means to liberation." Keller gives an example - "If you have musical aptitude, you may give yourself to practice, practice, and practice the piano for years. This is a restriction, a limit on your freedom. There are many other things you won't be able to do with the time you invest in practicing. If you have the talent, however, the discipline and limitation will unleash your ability that would otherwise go untapped. What have you done? You've deliberately lost your freedom to engage in some things in order to release yourself to a richer kind of freedom to accomplish other things."

Keller does say that there are certain restrictions and disciplines are not all liberating. He gives an example of a small 125lb male trying out for the NFL as a lineman and how all the discipline and effort won’t help him because he is fighting against a reality that isn’t possible. However, what he’s getting at is that constraints and disciplines only liberate us when they “fit with the reality of our nature and capacities.” Again, another example is a fish out of water – the fish will die if we do not honor the reality of its nature and it is only free if it is restricted and limited to water where it can breathe.

It made me start to wonder how many people work really hard to find something that makes a lot of money, while sacrificing family and love, rather than find something that fits their talents and interests. Such careers can be suffocating that in the long run stifle and dehumanize us. Where’s the freedom in that?

I love this quote from Keller…

“In many areas of life, freedom is not so much the absence of restrictions as finding the right ones, the liberating restrictions. Those that fit with the reality of our nature and the world produce greater power and scope for our abilities and a deeper joy and fulfillment. Experimentation, risk, and making mistakes bring growth only if, over time, they show us our limits as well as our abilities. If we only grow intellectually, vocationally, and physically through judicious constraints – why would it not also be true for spiritual and moral growth? Instead of insisting on freedom to create spiritual reality, shouldn’t we be seeking to discover it and disciplining ourselves to live according to it?”

Just some food for thought

Keller also ties the freedom of Love with being restrictive and constraining. I’ll delve in to that one on the next blog.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Alone in Africa

Coming to Africa has been a whirlwind of emotions for me. I was so happy to finally be finished with school and focus on a greater objective. I was probably more excited about flying to Africa than I've ever been for flying anywhere. For those that don't know, I'm not crazy about flying and breathing recycled air. However, I anxiously awaited seeing the staff of Onesimus and the kids that are a part of it for the first time in around six months. It is hard to believe that a kid can have that much of an impact on me after being with them for only a week in June, however, there is something different about these kids. They love spending time with you and are not distracted by the things of the western world (iPods, facebook, cell phones, etc..). So time is all they have; and they love giving it to you.

We were able to spoil Nega and his wife a little and focus on a few aspects of the ministry. One, we loved on the kids, which was the most important for me. Two, we were able to work with the kids with some sports clinics and give them a little exercise in the process. Three, we took in a few football matches and got to see their competitive spirit come out. Four, we got to see go see a few beneficiaries of the Income Generation Activity and how Onesimus, with the Lord's hand, has helped sustain the families and provide food and shelter for them (Mrs. McGoo can explain more about this project in another blog). So overall, it has been a busy, fruitful, and worthwhile trip so far to see all that the Lord is doing in and out of this wonderful organization and city.

However, I must admit, these past few days have been difficult for me. I put Mrs. McGoo back on a plane to the US on Christmas night and immediately felt alone and attacked. Around that time at night is about the time in the US where people made their way to facebook and began bragging and celebrating all the wonderful gifts they received Christmas morning. It was tough to see and read. While I love that so many people were made happy on this day, Satan began attacking me in a way that I wasn't prepared for. Here I sat in a room with a bed, window, and desk, while my wife went back to the US and all I read where people shouting for joy for the material gifts they received and how they were with their families. Satan hit me like a Mack truck. He kept telling me that I was all alone, no one cared, and there was not anything I could do about it. So I spent most of the night and day worrying about where my wife was (internet is very spotty here so flight tracking is impossible), if she was safe in Istanbul, if the weather allowed her to arrive safely in Chicago and so on. Literally these thoughts have eaten me up inside for the past two days. I kept thinking, why am I here in the mission field feeling so alone and suffering when no one back home cares?

This morning I spent some time in conversation with God. I finished the book "Crazy Love" and began reading Tim Keller's wonderful book "The Reason for God." In the second chapter, he tackles the question, 'How Could a Good God Allow Suffering.' Keller says, "In Jesus Christ, God experienced the greatest depths of pain. Therefore, though Christianity does not provide the reason for each experience of pain, it provides deep resources for actually facing suffering with hope and courage rather than bitterness and despair." I began to think, ok, so how does this apply to me? I've been praying for you Lord to show me I'm not alone in this - that what I'm doing here is worthwhile and for the betterment of Christianity. Later in the chapter Keller writes, "On the cross Jesus's cry of dereliction - MY GOD, MY GOD, why have you forsaken me? - is a deeply relational statement. Jesus did not die renouncing God. Even in the inferno of abandonment he did not surrender his faith in God by expressed his anguished prayer in a cry of affirmation, 'MY GOD, MY GOD.'"

I sat on those words for a good bit of time this morning. Even while Satan was attacking and in my loneliness, I was still crying out for the Lord for something. While I'm certainly not putting my small insignificant bit of boredom up with my Saviors sacrifice, it did resonate something in me. I haven't lost my faith, far from it, but I felt in some small way, I wanted to know or have some assurance that what I have doing mattered - that God understood my suffering - because Satan was telling me otherwise. Keller goes on by saying, "Christianity alone among the world religions claims that God became uniquely and fully human in Jesus Christ and therefore knows firsthand despair, rejection, loneliness, poverty, bereavement, torture, and his death, God suffers in love, identifying with the abandoned and godforsaken."

Keller's words were perfect for me this morning. Godly perfect. Who of all people would know abandonment more than Jesus? Finally, Keller went on to say, "We also need hope that our suffering is 'not in vain'...For one who suffers, the Christian faith provides as a resource not just in its teaching on the Cross but also the fact of the resurrection...we can know that God is truly Immanuel - God with us - even in our worst sufferings."

Have you ever heard someone say, "God spoke to me" and meant it?

This morning, God spoke to me.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Of Rock's and Men

It is pretty common knowledge when you live in Memphis that violence is a part the life of the city. People carry all sorts of weapons on them; some legal, some not. While most Memphians arsenal include guns, knives, pipes, and bats, you'd never hear of violence committed by a rock.

Addis Ababa is completely opposite of Memphis. Here, people do not have the type of weapons you'd see in America. One, they can't afford it, and two it isn't part of their culture. I hear stories of people being robbed and the robbers return everything in their wallet except the cash. Crazy, I know. A criminal with a conscious.
The one form of violence you see here is fighting with rocks. There are a lot of rocky and dirt roads here and even the nicer roads have their fare share of rocks. Most of the parks that we play at are dirt and rocks. Heck, even the field that the boys are playing their games on are rocks. They slide and dive and tackle on these's impressive and scary all in one.

Last Wednesday we were at one of the fields we've been using for clinics and had a few run ins with people wanting to fight with rocks. The first instance we had some of the boys scrimmaging each other. There was another game going on with some older guys...most likely in their early twenties. Out of no where, one of our players comes running and hides behind me. I look at him as he is pointing and a younger guy comes running at me with a very large rock in his hand. My first instinct was to level the guy and protect our kid. About that time Nega stepped in front of me and started talking him down. Apparently the ball we were using went into their match and the boy went to retrieve it and did not apologize about it. So that deserved a man possibly ten years older than him to come running at him with a rock in his hand.

The second instance happened the same time the first was going on. Mrs. McGoo was working with a few smaller boys when some of the neighborhood kids came and wanted to join in. We're never really sure who starts it or what is said but before she knew it, kids the age of 6 are throwing rocks at each other. We didn't see what was happening and anyone that has heard Mrs. McGoo knows her screams sound more like a kid that is hoarse. She finally got our attention and Nega went over and calmed things down.
This past Sunday, I was watching a football match with two teams and after the match a fight broke out in the streets. No punches were thrown because no one was close enough to each other to do so. But large rocks bigger than my fist were thrown and it's a wonder that no one was seriously injured.

I'm amazed at how people have taken to defending themselves by throwing rocks at each other. Maybe Ethiopians just aren't good fighters...I dunno. I asked Nega about it and why is it so ingrained in their culture. I guess I can see why a kid living on the street would want to defend himself at any cost, but for adults to go after a kid with one is amazing to me. It can be difficult to discipline a kid that is doing so on the street because you do not know whether you can turn your back and expect a rock in the back of the head.

What I do know is I aim to change the culture in and around our kids. Tomorrow I am speaking with them about it since it is fresh in their mind from the fight they had on Sunday. Also, I've been asked to work with Onesimus ministry to develop policies for their organization in every area. One of the first things I plan on doing is working on policies for children and rocks.

Something has to be done about changing the culture. If not, we're just stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Differences: Walking and Driving in Africa

Mrs. McGoo and I have blogged countless times about how there are many differences in Africa and America, but two things we haven't discussed is how we are viewed and how the driving is here.

Think of the busiest city you know, say New York, where people are constantly walking in and out of traffic (While I have never been to NYC, I have seen plenty on tv to know that tons of people walk to and from work amidst a ton of traffic). Now take the same amount of people and shrink the city and you have Addis. It's really crazy. However, unlike the melting pot that is NYC, Addis 99.999999% black; meaning, there aren't many white folk walking around here. So, when there are a few walking around, it is a spectacle.
If you are the kind of person that doesn't like people staring at you, the Addis is not the place for you; or at least you might want to work on getting over it. There is no where, and I repeat, NO WHERE I go, that everyone isn't staring at me. If someone were to stare at you in the states, you might think someone has it out for you or your fly is open or something. So naturally, when you see someone stare at you in the states, you're first inclination is to respond, 'What? Got a problem or something?' Here, you kind of have to get use to it, because it happens everywhere you go. Here's another problem...they think you are someone else. I'll let Mrs. McGoo elaborate on her blog what has been going on lately with me, but let's just say that I'm getting called names by people now.
I continue to ask Nega (the Onesimus Director) why everyone stares at me (outside of the obvious, I’m good looking). He tells me that because I am a foreigngie (their word for foreigner) and they wonder why I’m here – what have I come to do? Also, because I’m a bigger guy (and apparently look like someone famous), which is not very common here in Ethiopia. On the negative side of things, they also think we have money, which leads people to beg quite a bit. While it isn’t overwhelming, it is bothersome because inside of you, you want to help someone. The problem is, if you give to one person, it’s over. You’ll get mauled by beggars who all think you’ve got some more to give.

In addition to people staring at you a lot, that isn’t the only strange thing here; the way people drive is another. I've never seen driving like this. I always thought Memphis drivers were horrible, then I went to Dallas, then I went to New Orleans, and Mexico, and so on. None of those places hold a candle to the way driving is here. Again, people are walking everywhere and traffic is so busy here, it is controlled chaos in that, everyone seems to know what they are doing, but it is completely crazy driving. I believe that I have seen ONE traffic light that is working here, but the rest are not. If you come to an intersection, you have to be what I call, ‘cautiously aggressive.’ You cannot stop and let everyone go, otherwise, you’ll get dominated and never will move. However, you cannot completely drive either or you’ll wreck. Speaking of wrecks, I’ve never seen one here and you’d think there would be one every five seconds. Yet, everyone knows what to expect. I actually like it better than in the states some. No one gets their feelings hurt, no one drives angry, and road rage is not an issue. Likewise, no one follows the dotted lines; they just give you a guide for where you need to be. I see people swaying back and forth all the time – no one bats an eye. In the states, you’d be pulled over for reckless driving. Again, the way people drive is expected here and no one gets their panties in a wad if someone flashes their lights at them, honks their horn at them, or passes them. Flashing lights and honking the horn is just their way of letting you know they are there and they don’t want you to get hit.

All that being said, there are two types of driving here: City driving and country driving.

City driving is a lot of how I explained previously. You have to be cautiously aggressive with crossing intersections and on the major roads. If you give someone more than a few feet, they will take it. So it is always a game of inches…or should I say millimeters here internationally. You also have to be cautiously aggressive with pedestrians. There are more people walking, than there are driving and they want a piece of the road as well. Sidewalks here are pretty much useless since vendors are set up on them, people are sleeping on them, or the sidewalk is destroyed. It is not uncommon to drive millimeters next to another car on one side and millimeters next to people on the other. All the while, both are trying to get ahead, in front, or around you. All of it makes for a very interesting ride.

The other type of driving is Country driving. I experienced this first when we took Nega and his wife Emu to Lake Awassa this past weekend. We made our way out of the city and then began to drive on a long stretch of road. Lake Awassa is 270 km north of Addis Ababa and we remembered every bit of the journey. When I think of all the times I’ve left Memphis and headed north to Nashville or Lexington, on a clear day, the worst one may have to encounter are traffic jams and a truck that is slow here or there. The thing you don’t have to account for is driving while large groups of people are walking on the shoulder, a buggy with a horse or donkey is driving in front of you or on the shoulder, or animals are crossing or walking on the shoulder. It makes for a very stressful drive when having to account for all of the other distractions that may be thrown in you path to get to a destination. On top of that, about every 30 mins, you come to a small town or market where it looks like a parade has come and you are the featured guest. You drive through with people and their animals all staring at you and walking around your car.

Now, imagine all of this, and then imagine YOU actually get to drive in it. Yep, I did. I relieved Nega of driving duties about halfway so that he could rest a little and I could get a taste of what it was like to drive. At first, I felt pretty good – nothing much in my way. Then about 45 mins later, I have three goats standing in the middle of the street. Keeping in mind what I saw Nega do earlier (he went through a line of cows and bulls by honking and slowly moving through them, they managed to move), I honked at the goats and slowed down a little. Apparently goats are completely oblivious to loud noises or are just dumber than cows, because they didn’t move. So I started to drift over to the shoulder where I could go around them. Then they started to move…toward the shoulder and our car. I hit the brakes harder and got a few millimeters from the goats and they jumped out of the way and I carried on. Nega, acting like this was nothing new, was talking on his phone and didn’t bat an eye. Emu, sat in the back seat and didn’t say a word. Mrs. McGoo on the other hand, channeled her inner Cindy Wilson and gave me a tongue lashing (Lloyd knows what I’m talking about). I just brushed it off and kept going. I encountered a few more animals along the way, but handled them like a pro – all the while still freaking my lovely wife out.

In conclusion, it’s crazy over here. And I love it

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Government in Addis

Wednesday was a rather long day, so I decided to make my last blog short and talk about my struggles with Christmas and where we are. However, we stayed pretty busy on Wednesday.

First, we made our way to the Drop In Center to have morning devotions. After that, I, along with Nega, Alex, and Heather headed over to one of the government buildings to talk with them about the sports program. The government is tiered in three here. We went to the second tier at first. I spoke to three individuals about my vision for the program....sort of. Unfortunately, when dealing with government's, it isn't a good idea to bring up religion in to the equation, especially in other countries. So we kept that out. But I did get to talk about how I saw the program bringing together the community, letting them be proud of the kids for a change, and providing opportunities to the kids. I'm learning that facial expressions are difficult at times when you don't understand the language. There were not many times when I spoke, did any of the three people I spoke with change facial expressions. So it wasn't until the main guy offered up his thoughts to Nega and Alex, did I know what I said made any sense. However, they were very thrilled to hear about my vision and in so many words, said they wanted to help in any way possible. He offered up tax breaks for land and supplies, which, coming from the government here, is very positive. Here, in the city, there isn't much land, so it is very precious and generous to offer it up.

We left second tier government and went to the third level. There, we were told the guy that we were speaking to was in a meeting and that we should go and wait outside the doors. Before I know it, we're being invited in to the meeting and it is one man sitting behind a desk speaking to about 50 teens and say 10 adults. They put chairs in front of the room and we sat there, while everyone was whispering and smiling. So we sat and listened and didn't understand a word about what was going on. Then, Nega left the room with another gentleman and walked back in 2 mins later. Nega walked up front and said something in the ear of the guy talking. They both looked at me and I knew something was up. They asked me to stand up and speak. So I stood up, introduced myself and then looked at Nega and said, "what is it exactly that you want me to say?" He told me to speak on character and sport. So I started mumbling some random stuff about what it meant to be of high character. Even Mrs. McGoo can attest, it wasn't my greatest hour. While I wasn't nervous, I wasn't prepared. Then, somehow, I pulled it together and started making sense. I talked to them about opportunities that are presented to us through sports, school, and other forms of networking and that it was important for them to maintain focus on their education and that whatever they did, do it to the best of their abilities. Talked a bit about how knowing multiple languages would set them apart from their peers and provide them with opportunities to excel. All in all I thought it ended pretty well. They clapped for me and I sat down. Then they asked Mrs. McGoo to speak. She was, on the other hand, very nervous. I kinda of got a laugh because she sat their in her chair when I was speaking giggling and smiling and found out later that she video'd it. So she then stood up and talked about providing opportunity for girls to play sports. When she finished, we walked out and they gave us another round of applause.

We then met with one of the guys that was in the meeting and his assistant (who spoke very good english). They rolled out the red carpet for us, giving us coke and some type of nuts. You may laugh, but this was a big deal to them in their culture. Again, I talked about my vision for sport and again, they offered up many resources. One thing to note...they don't offer up money because they do not have a lot. However, they do offer up other resources, which is very generous.

After meeting with the two government levels, we made our way back to the center. We took a little time for lunch, then prepared to have a meeting with the community leaders and coaches. This went for hours. Imagine sitting somewhere for that long and not understanding a word of what was going on. I started out by telling people about myself, my vision, and my involvement. Then I talked to them about coaching and being a good role model for the kids. We talked about winning, losing, and what was really important in coaching kids. Overall, I thought it was pretty productive. Then I fielded some questions from the leaders. They asked if I would come and work with the teams and also my thoughts on what I had seen from the previous weekend. So I told them the good and bad and everything in between. Then I sat and listen to a language I don't understand for about two hours. I could figure out some of what was going on here and there. Some were complaining about refs and what Nega's involvement would be. They addressed age issues with some of the kids and other stuff. Eventually, they left and we had a chance to stand up and breathe.

Overall, a very productive day. I'm learning that as a foreinge (sp? their word for foreigner) that everyone is waiting to see what I do and say. I'll write more about it later, but they are really interested in us. Everyone has really seen us as people who can come in and make a difference. It's encouraging to say the least, however, I can't wait for the day that I can truly say it isn't me, it's only God who provides these opportunities and only God who makes it all click.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Music

I'm not sure if I made it publicly known before we left for Africa that I felt a little attacked. This time around Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I love decorating the house and the colder weather, but most importantly, I love Christmas music. For some reason, hearing that music really sets my heart in tune with the time of year and most importantly, the meaning behind it all. So as I was preparing for the trip, and taking studying for finals, I got a little bit of my listen on to some music, however, I started feeling a little down about my trip because I was going to be gone and not around family and friends for this special time. I watched as people posted on facebook about all the neat things they were planning to do, trips, shopping with family, spending time with family, decorating, and many other things that I began to realize I was going to miss out on. I shared my feelings a bit with my Sunday School class before we left how a part of me felt like I was missing out.

Tuesday evening I came back to the guesthouse late at night to find all the lights out in the place except for a few. The few lights were a small wreath and Christmas tree decorated with lights and ornaments. I cannot explain to you how much this meant to me. Even more so that the next morning after breakfast, I sat around the hearth where the ornaments were and closed my eyes to take some of it all in. Out of nowhere Christmas music started playing on a piano. David, a South African, who works for "Youth for Christ" decided to sit down and play real Christmas music, not the stuff about Santa, and it completely fell over me that again, God was in control. As I sat there and listened, there was such a peace that came over me. It was like God knew exactly the small little nudge I needed to realize, Christmas wasn't about being cozy and warm at night while watching "It's a Wonderful Life", which just happens to be my favorite Christmas movie ever. Christmas isn't about where you are either. So it was such a blessing to know that God and Christmas isn't only in America. It just took me to sit back and close my eyes to realize that.

A side note. Anyone know of any good places online where I can listen to some good Christmas music?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fantasy Football, Jet Lag, and Africa

Have I told you how much I love having the internet here? Yeah, I get to blog, but I also get to follow my guilty pleasure, Fantasy Football. See, I'm in the playoffs and I won my first round match-up in both of my leagues...not that I didn't expect to. My team is called the Living Legends and we dominate. Now back to being humble...

I am still struggling a bit with jet lag. Or at least that is what I'm calling it. Could be that we didn't get in Sunday morning until 4am, then hit the ground running on Sunday and then last night (Monday night) stayed up late to watch the Arsenal vs Man U match...which I was not happy about the outcome. If I were watching it in Memphis, it would have been at 2pm in the afternoon. However, here in Africa, it was 11pm at night. Kinda late to get in and get to bed. So that probably doesn't help with the lack of sleep.

Today we took an inventory of all the donations we brought in and we were amazed at it all once we counted it. I wish I could show you the look on Nega's face when we gave him the total. It really means a lot. So for those of you that contributed to the donations, we really and I do mean REALLY appreciate it.

We started our program in the afternoon for the younger girls and while it didn't go as we would have planned, overall, I felt like the girls had a good time...and that is what is important. I say it didn't go as planned and mean that once we got there, people from all over the community made it their business to start to come in and join in the fun. We even had a few teams that were going to scrimmage disrupt the matches.

One of the things I noticed, which I don't know if anyone else did, was boys started pouring around us like vulchers waiting to attack the girls. It really started bothering me. Anyone that is a man knows this...we see how other men look at women. So naturally, I started getting a little bothered by it. See, in America, the probability of something happening is small. Here, girls are sexual molested at very young younger than 10 years old. We got out of there without any incident, but it did open my eyes to just a small piece of what women here go through.

Tomorrow we'll have a busy day. I am going with Nega to the government to talk to them about our program and then am meeting with the local community leaders to discuss coaching, leadership, and the overall need for the program. Please pray that my words are fruitful and are received with openness. Also, we'll be continuing the program and starting to interview the girls.

By the way, my wife rocks. She's great with these kids.

To our friends and family, we really appreciate your support and prayers. We miss you all. Especially the Grinch.

Monday, December 13, 2010

First Day and Rocky Top

On our first day here, we tried to take it easy, but sitting around the guesthouse can be boring. First of all, there is no one here during the day and there really isn't much to do. So we got up, ate breakfast, and headed over to the Drop in Center.

There we took part in a devotional which was very good. Here was what we discussed....

JAMES 2: 14-19
Faith and Deeds
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

Can I just say...I loved it?!?! Here we are in Ethiopia and the guys we are working with are teaching about faith without deeds. Awesome. Keeps me in the mind frame that my faith and my life are not about living according to my own rules. I think one of my favorite lines is "SHOW ME YOUR FAITH WITHOUT DEEDS, AND I WILL SHOW YOU MY FAITH BY MY DEEDS."

So I'll ask you...where's your faith? Mine was certainly checked at the door today.

So that was the good part of the day...the great part was when the kids started pouring in. I got a chance to teach them how to shoot a basketball (they just recently had a goal installed) and the girls were much better than the boys. They kept wanting to kick it around.

We had a meeting with Nega to discuss the plan for the weeks that Mrs. McGoo is here. Tomorrow we start our program with the girls. Then Wednesday we are going to the government to meet with them to discuss the program and then in the afternoon I am talking to the community leaders/coaches. Please be praying that I have the right words to say to both.

On a side note, everything has been great here with the exception of one thing. When Nega's phone rang today, the ring tone is "Rocky Top"

I think I almost vomited. We're going to have to change that before too long. It's bad enough to listen in Memphis...but not thousands of miles away...not going to happen.

Until next time...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Plane Rides and Africa

We're finally here in Ethiopia. This seemed to be a longer trip than it was the last time. Maybe it is because this time our flight schedule was longer. Last time, we went Memphis-Charlotte-D.C.-Rome-Addis. This time around it was Memphis-Chicago-Istanbul-Addis.

Our first flight to Chicago was a rather easy one. We were on a puddle jumper and made it in and went to get something to eat. Chicago Airport is interesting. They have a few terminals devoted to regular travels, then one all off by itself for internationals. And believe me, it was like an island all to itself. All the nice restaurants were in the other terminals and we were left with McDonalds. Maybe that is considered nice in other countries, but I wasn't too crazy about it. I had my mind set on one last really nice meal before we left. Didn't happen.

We did however run into some folks that were traveling to Addis by way of Nashville. We were told by our friends the Harder's that they were on this flight and they run a organization called Ordinary Hero ( we spent the rest of the trip getting to know them.

For those that know me pretty well, know I'm not a fun one to travel with. I've got this thing with tight spaces, recycled air, and smells. Doesn't work well with me. So we get on the plane and it is hot and no airflow. Then we have a kid behind us that is kicking out chairs. (Somewhere in K.C. there is an old man laughing right now) Mrs. McGoo would say that I started to panic, but I would say that I started getting irritated. Anyway, we got going and I took my valium as needed and settled down.

While on the plane, we encountered some really horrible service. They would serve food and tell you their options (chicken or fish) but then would say, sorry, we're out of the chicken. Well, dude, why did you offer it in the first place?!?!?

Has anyone ever seen the movie "Stand By Me"...well, you know in the movie when the main character is telling the story about a really big dude that goes to a pie eating contest, not to win, but to make everyone sick. Yeah, well, that was kinda like our flight. We must have descended too fast or something because one person in a row in front of us started getting sick. Then before you knew it, a barf-o-rama started. Everyone was throwing up or grabbing their barf bags. Crazy I tell you.

We got off in Istanbul and took in their mall of an airport. It was pretty nice I must say. Even had their own Starbucks...for those people that like Starbucks (sorry, can't waste my money on that stuff...and I don't like coffee). We then made our way to gate 310 as shown on the flight info screen. When we got their and went through security checks, we noticed the gate was changed to 207 with not much time before boarding the plane. So we hurried over to the new gate with its own security check. Finally, we got on the plane and had to get the flight attendant to come to our aid because a lady was sitting in our seats with her two little kids. She wasn't moving either. Eventually, after causing a huge jam getting in the place, we got everything straightened out and sat down. Because of some ice, we sat on the run way for another hour and a half before finally taking off.

Around 3:30am Ethiopian time (6:30pm CDT) we finally made it in and got our bags and headed to the SIM Guesthouse.

Today is Monday and it is 7am (10pm CDT) and I'm finally rested up. Took a while. I'm sure Mrs. McGoo posted some pics on her blog for all to see. I'm not the picture guy.

Until next time...

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Single Life

I was single once. Almost four years ago, I jumped ship to the married world by saying "I do." So while it was one of the best days of my life, there were still those days where I would remember being single and wished I still was.

I firmly believe, God was listening.

This fall, I've gotten a taste of what it is like being single. Yeah, I'm still married, however, I've been living a somewhat "single" life. See, I'm pretty busy. As evident as my lack of blogging suggest, lack of commenting on other blogs suggest, and lack of staying up to date on all things sports suggest. I couldn't tell you the last time talked to my brother, the last time I had good conversation with my mom or dad, the last time I argued with UILF about who's a better basketball program, UK or ku (ok, that doesn't require that much time really...but let's humor the old guy). Or even the last time I sat down and watched a full football or basketball game. I always record my Wildcats, but somehow never end up watching the game because I always have something to do.

So when I do have down time, you'd think I'd spend it with my wife right? Nope. She's gone three nights out of the week with school. We've almost always had something going on each coming in town....going out of town for out of town....working out of town...studying for exams over the weekend.

So what I'm saying is that I feel like I'm single again. When I was single, I was always busy. Always had something to do. And always had to take care of just me. That's kind of how it seems.

I use to be single and wish I was married. Then I got married and missed being single. Now I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I'm married and miss being married.

You listening God?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Mr. McGoo Senior

Seeing as how I've apparently forgotten what this blog is, I figure it's only fair for me to piggy back off of my last blog post, which I was wishing happy b-day to my wonderful wife. Today, just happens to be another special birthday (60).

The man that puts the gray in Mr. McGoo...

Today. Many, many, many, many, many years ago, my pops said hello to this world. Now, I can't specifically comment on how old the old-timer is (60), but I'll tell you this...

He was 25 when (60) I was born. So if you know how old I am, then you can figure out that he is pretty freaking OLD. He's now up in Rhode Island (60) and for his birthday present, I'm offering to shovel the (60) snow for the whole winter at his apartment. Only problem is, I'm a starving college student and don't have the funds to make it up to Rhode (60) Island and back.

So instead, you'll just have to take this loving, heart-felt (60) blog for the time being.

Happy Birthday Old (60) Man. I love you and miss you SO MUCH. I'm very proud of (60) you as well...moving away from everyone is not easy....

Especially when no one is there to change your diapers.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Mrs. McGoo


I have enjoyed sharing my life with you and love you more and more each day. God has completely blessed me beyond belief with you and I cannot wait to see what the future holds being with you.

Melt. My. Heart.

As someone once said about this picture, I feel the same way.

Going Strong

Hello Blog. I almost forgot about you. I'm sure everyone else has, so this is probably a me and you conversation. So I'll update you blog why I've been neglecting you.

Going strong. Taking a lot of classes and most of them are project based. So very soon, I'll be in research mode.

Not going so well. We're currently on a five game losing streak with our most recent loss coming at the hands of the #5 ranked team in the country Tulsa. Tonight we take on Central Arkansas and need a big win before we set off on a three game road stretch taking us to Orlando, Miami, and Kentucky. I'm very excited to go off on the trips with them, as I do not normally travel with the team. That being said, it certainly takes me away from my life here in Memphis for two weeks.

As I said earlier, I'm heading out for what almost amounts to two weeks worth of travels, but the McGoo household has been traveling like crazy already. Mrs. McGoo has been to Kansas City, Lexington, and San Diego in the last two weeks, while I've been to Lexington, Birmingham, and Knoxville recently. You might ask how is this possible with all the stuff going on here in Memphis. My answer would be, "I don't know, we've just fit it in somehow."

Ethiopia Bound McGoo's:
We are just about fully funded for our trip to Ethiopia this December. I am incredibly excited about going back. I feel like a part of me is still there. We just recently booked our flights and we both leave on Dec. 10th and fly to Chicago to Istanbul to Addis Ababa. Heather will come back to Memphis on Dec. 26 and I will stay there until Jan 5. One of my favorite times of the year is the time around Christmas, so it will be a change that Heather and I will be spending most of that time in Ethiopia. However, I know this is what God has planned for us and I couldn't be happier.

If there are people actually reading this blog, I really do appreciate all of you that have supported us in our initial trip and now in our current trip. I am fully confident that God chose each one of you to help us and I thank you for listening to his voice.

As you can see, life is pretty busy. Nothing that God has given us is something we cannot handle. It is exciting times in the McGoo household. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Twitter and Me

As you may can see, my blog has taken on a new look. Yeah, I've joined the world of Twitter. Not because I want to, but because I have to. As part of my Sports Marketing class and my Sports Culture classes, I'm forced to join twitter and "follow" sports related entities.

This is my assignment for my Sports Marketing class:

"For starters you'll need a Twitter account and will need to follow and analyze at least 4 sport & leisure related entities. They must be a team or athlete. Also one must be a sport or leisure related product. One must be a sport or leisure media entity, and the fourth one can be anything you wish. I will prepare details on the analysis & deliverable requirements, but for now examine how they are using Twitter; perceived effectiveness; who they are targeting; how it might fit in their overall marketing strategy, etc."

In my Sports Culture class:

"Sign up for a Twitter account and link it to all of your other social networking sites. Take notes and record where people respond to your updates and keep statistical information of these. Will tell you more later."

So there you have it. I am a twittering fool now and I'm not exactly happy about it. I'll explain more when I get into my thoughts on my Sports/Culture class and Sports and Pop Culture in a Global setting class.

Until then, "follow me"

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hole in Our Gospel

Started reading this book "The Hole in Our Gospel" and I must say, through the first chapters, it's pretty compelling and convicting all in one. I was actually suppose to read this BEFORE I went on my mission trip, but I'm actually just now reading it. And honestly, I'm glad I didn't read it then. It wouldn't have affected me the way it is now.

Basically the premise of the book is dealing with the idea that if you say you are a follower of Christ, you need to have more than just a "personal" and transforming relationship with God, but more of a "public" and transforming relationship with the world.

I love this quote...

"If your personal faith in Christ has no positive outward expression, then your faith - and mine - has a hole in it. As Johnny Cash sang, 'You're so heavenly minded, you're no earthly good.' The apostle James felt strongly about this type of person. 'Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by what I do' (James 2:18). In other words, Make your faith public."

So true. And that is what has hit me harder lately is that I've sat back for many years and talked about how I'm a Christian, yet what did I ever do to truly profess that claim? I think I always struggled with, or just denied, what God wanted with me. I've lived out my faith privately...praying before dinner, going to church on Sundays, and writing encouraging emails to prayer requests. But what about being public with my faith? Living out God's love to others by my actions or words, just through my small circle of friends, but to my community and further out.

I'm hoping I can encompass that in my life and outside of that. From starting a bible study with my closest friends, to attending a men's bible study at 5am, to going to Ethiopia in December.

Here's hoping I can fill in that hole in the gospel

Life in the Fast Lane

Pathetic. That is how I describe my blogging these days. I am sorry about that...all 12 of my followers. I've got a little time right now while I'm sitting in my hotel room in Birmingham to blog. Two things seem to be the dominant factor in my life right now, so here's what's up.

Started classes two weeks ago and this semester is going to be crazy.

Here is my class load:
Leadership in Leisure Services
Sport Governance
Sports Marketing
Sports/Culture in a Global Perspective
Sports as Pop Culture
Field Experience

Grand total of 18 hours. Fun fun. Really, I do like the classes, however, this is the heaviest reading semester I've had and all of my classes are project based. So, to get this straight, lots of reading and lots of writing. Governance will be the one that drives me crazy. The professor is the hardest professor I've ever had, but he's one of my favorites. See, I tend to get a little apathetic nearing the end of the semester and start to slack off. Which is why sometimes I end up with a B instead of an A. Not with Dr. Martin (Governance and my Law professor from the Summer course). He makes you read a chapter for each class, take a quiz for each chapter before you come to class, online, and then submit a question that you would like to have on the exam from that chapter. Not only that, but I have a group project due around Thanksgiving that addresses six major issues in International Sport, interview someone involved in International Sport (Thankfully my partner is from Ireland) and develop a policy to help with one of the problems in that sport. It is basically going to be a pain. But I like the fact that it is so structured. He doesn't take crap from people and weeds out the people that don't take it seriously. One of my biggest complaint with school is that too many professors allow kids to walk in late, play on their phones, and generally be disruptive. Not Dr. Martin. If you come in late, you lose half a percentage point off your final grade and if your phone goes off in class, you lose five percent off your final grade. So, if your phone goes off in class, you've basically gone from a 100 to a 95 in one ring. I love it.

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Birmingham, AL with the soccer team. We play tonight at 5pm and tomorrow night at 5pm. I don't normally travel with the team too much, but this year I am. I don't have class on Mondays or Fridays, so I wouldn't be missing class anyway. The down side is that I am out of town a lot this semester. This weekend is Birmingham, next is Lexington for my sisters wedding, the next weekend is in Knoxville/Gatlinburg for a guys weekend, then one week at the house, then to Orlando and Miami for soccer, then back up to Lexington for a soccer match and seeing family. So the next month is going to be busy.

Those two seem to be the things that take up most of my time. Mrs. McGoo and I seem to cross paths right now with our schedules and we still try and make time for our friends. That's just the way the cookie crumbles right now.

Life in the fast lane

Friday, August 27, 2010

Late Birthday Gift and Public Speaking

I celebrated my 35th birthday on Wednesday as I have celebrated every day for the past two weeks. I celebrated it with three-a-days with the soccer team. I was showered with a ton of encouraging words on facebook and over the phone. It is really nice to know that you have that many people that care.

Mrs. McGoo told me on Tuesday that she had a small gift for me, but that her big gift would be late. Now, I don't know why I heard what I heard, but something in her voice sounded weird. So my reaction to the word 'late' was something that even I didn't expect. I asked her, "late, as in 9 months late?" I could hear her smile over the phone when she responded "no Kelly, I'm not late and no, I'm not pregnant."

Thought that was worth sharing...

She also called me and told me that we have been asked by our church to go before the congregation on Sunday and speak about our trip to Ethiopia and what God was doing in our lives. I thought this was kind of neat and scary all in one. I don't think I've ever spoken to that large of a crowd before. While I know that the Lord will give us the words to say, my first thought was, "why in the world do they want to hear anything I've got to say?"

Thank goodness I got an 'A' in public speaking last fall.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Who Has the Time?

One of my favorite movies of all time is the movie "A River Runs Through It." It is about two boys growing up in Montana in the early 1900's. Their father is a pastor of a church and a novice fly fisherman. So he instills in the boys very strong values about God and fish. The movie paints a vivid picture of a place where I always dreamed I'd end up. Beautiful sunsets, running waters, vast trees, dangerous wildlife, and a quaint little house to raise your kids in.

While it is somewhere that I would love to end up, that's not exactly where God has me right now. Right now, it is waking up a 5am on Tuesdays to attend a Men's Fraternity group at our church. Right now, it is pushing through three-a-days in the summer heat. It is also about having started a bible study with some of my best friends to discuss how we can be better men after the heart of God. Right now, it is praying with my wife before bedtime and striving to be a better leader to her in our marriage. Right now, it is about preparing my heart to head back to Ethiopia to serve the "least of these."

That's where God has me right now. If you would have asked me 6 months ago where I'd be and suggested these, I would say , I just don't have the time.

Ahhh yes, the old, 'I don't have the time excuse.' Ever heard it? My heart cringes when I hear it, because to be honest, everyone has the time. They just choose to spend it elsewhere on other things. I've told people before, "don't tell me you don't have the time, you just don't want to take the time or set aside other things in order to make something happen."

By reading this blog or Mrs. McGoo's blog, you can get a feeling that we are both busy and in some instances, trying to make sense of it all. While I'm still struggling to make it all work, I'm beginning to see God starting to push out all the things that don't matter and fill my time with fruitful things that do. It's hard at first, because your skin and the world offer tempting stuff...movies, cars, tvs, sports, girls, money, and even more friends. It can be a hard balance. My mom always use to make me turn off all music, tv, and phone calls in order to study for school. I kinda see the similarities here. In order to become a little closer in our walk, we've got to turn off the annoyances that simply offer distraction.

I love this quote from the movie...

"My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things - trout as well as eternal salvation - came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy. "

It is so true. Things don't come easy. If it is time you must give up in order to better your walk, I challenge you to do so. Our lives on this rock are short lived.

Do you have the time?

Sunday, August 22, 2010


In case you didn't know or I hadn't told you, I am in the middle of three-a-day training sessions with the Memphis Soccer Men's Soccer team. These three-a-days are kicking my butt. And I'm not even the one who is training. I'm usually up around 6:30 or 7:00 and am working with the team until around 8:30.

Mrs. McGoo can attest, I basically come home and fall asleep, then get back up and do it all over again the next day.

Today, we only had one session. Unfortunately, it kept me from making church. So, I am back home resting for a bit.

Not much of a point to this blog other than to complain that I'm tired. Blah

Friday, August 20, 2010

Walking Away from Christ

Just found out my buddy from Kentucky has a blog up with an interesting poll. It deals with Christians who walk away from Christ.

My buddy David started a church just outside of Lexington (where I grew up) called Catalyst Christian Church and is exploding with the love of Christ.

It is neat to see a guy that I grew up with in church back in the late 80's and early 90's now actually a pastor and leading people to Christ. He was a pretty darn good soccer player too.

Check out his blog...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Do You Get It?

Finally! I'm finally finished with my Sport Law class that took up the last 4 weeks of my life. I can honestly say it was the most difficult class I've had to take since I've been back in school. It takes everything related to law and applies it to a sports setting. So, dealing with contracts, legislation, stadium financing, sexual harassment and everything else you can think of. I actually enjoyed it, but it was tough.

So that has kept me from blogging because most of my time has been devoted to reading and writing. All that said, I did finish with an A and a 4.0 in summer school. I hope my parents are reading this. Yes, I got a 4.0. If someone is around my mom and sees that she's not breathing after reading this, it's probably because she's had a heart attack at me saying that.

Since I've been "away" from blogging, a lot has been going on. God has been moving very much in the McGoo's lately. I recently was thinking about all the things in life that I love. When I say 'things' I mean 'stuff.' The stuff I love is UK sports, Memphis sports, watching good tv shows, listening to good music, having a nice stereo system for the house, and other senseless stuff. I talked a while back about how God was stirring me to get out of my comfortable life. Well, that's about to happen...

God really got a hold of my life while I was in Ethiopia working with the street children and has been stirring in me ever since. Since I've been back in the states, I've seen life in a different perspective. Yes, I do love some of the things I listed, however, I've since realized that I cannot take these things with me. They are all finite and lead me nowhere. Our pastor Ernie Frey is very passionate about sending people out to preach the Gospel. I can hear him now saying, "Do you get it? Do you get it? Do you get what Christ wants of you?"

I realized that when I'm long gone, do I want people saying at my funeral, "That Kelly was a great guy. He sure did love those Wildcats and was a heck of a fantasy football player. And boy, you should have seen that stereo he had." I realized that there are more important things that God wants with me than just sitting on idle while I live the comfortable Christian life. So I decided to, for the first time in my life, allow God to direct me.

With God's direction in mind, I have accepted an internship position with The Forsaken Children organization to come on board and design and implement a sports ministry program in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This is something that I am extremely excited about. I pitched the idea to Joe Bridges, the director of the organization, and he really liked it. Basically I will spend the next few months in the fall putting together a strategy for a sports program that can minister to the children that live on the streets of Addis Ababa. I will then travel to Ethiopia in December for four weeks and spend a week initiating a sports camp for kids and then the rest of the time networking with local organizations and churches to see about developing recreational leagues. These are my ideas for the program and what it could do:

1. Potentially start sports leagues where street children can attend, be kids, and have fun
2. Through the league we can identify children that could potentially come into the Forsaken Children organization (Onesimus/Children's Home Ethiopia)
3. Share the Gospel to the children
4. Provide a place where families can be actively involved in their children's lives

That isn't in any order, but just a small sample of what my brain has been spitting out over the last month or so.

My hope is that through a lot of time, love, prayer, support, and lots of networking, that this is something that we can revisit with TFC in January and continue with them in a full-time capacity. I've had a few folks that I've told ask me how am I going to do all this. Yes, my life will be quite busy in the fall - 18 hours of school, full-time work with the Memphis Soccer team, developing this program, fundraisng for our trip, started a new bible study with some of my best friends, and still trying to be a Godly husband and spend time with my wife. Yeah, it will be pretty busy. But I'm confident that the Lord has not put all this on my plate thinking that I couldn't handle it. He isn't like that.

It is really exciting in knowing that the things God has planned for me are bigger than me. They are things that I cannot do on my own or lean on my own understanding. And for the first time in life, I'm OK with that. More like, I'm embracing that. Maybe one day, at my funeral, they won't be talking about the senseless stuff I couldn't take with me, but the lives that were saved. Not because of me, but because I allowed God to be more than someone I talk about on Sundays. Maybe one day, someone will look back and say about me, "He got it."

I aim to try

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Who Wears the Pants

Been a while since I last updated. Sorry. Been a little preoccupied with this Sport Law class I've been taking. It's required a TON of reading and writing case briefings. I've finished everything except for my final which is at the end of the week. So I've got a small bit of down time before the soccer team starts preseason training on Monday. We'll be having three-a-days in this heat. Should be fun.

Last night, Mrs. McGoo and I were sitting down and both studying a little when she told me a statistic she learned in her "Family Development" class (I hope that is what it is called). Widowers are four times more likely to remarry than widows. I asked why is that, to which she replied, "Because women take care of you and you wouldn't know what to do without us. So naturally, you'd remarry sooner than women." Dang...kinda harsh don't ya think?

This morning, I got a phone call from Mrs. McGoo asking me to remember to put the pork tenderloin in the crock-pot because she *forgot.

Last night Mrs. McGoo needed help moving documents somewhere so she could print them at school. Enter Mr. McGoo that gave her a jump drive and moved them over for you. This morning, she forgot the jump **drive.

These are just a few examples of the many that I could list that proves who takes care of who in this house.

So there you have it. Statistical research debunked. I think we all know who wears the pants.

* Crock-pot was an idea by said wife who was trying to make sure her husband was taken care of for dinner since she knows he'd most likely not eat due to not knowing what I make.

** Jump drive was forgotten because said wife was making breakfast for her husband who was watching T.V.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mad Men

Now that the World Cup is over, there is literally NOTHING on TV right now. Golf, racing cars, and baseball are the sports that are going on. It's like a trifecta of boring. I can get into an inning or two of watching baseball, but the rest, nadda. I'm always amused at people who say that soccer is boring, yet love to watch one of those three I just listed. Golf is great to watch when you want a nap. Racing is fun to watch when you want to have some redneck friends over for a bbq. Baseball is fun to watch when you're at the game...and even then I don't watch it.

All that being said, Mrs. McGoo and I have found a show that we absolutely love. "Mad Men." It comes on AMC on Sunday nights and this Sunday will begin the fourth season. "Mad Men" is widely thought of as the best show on television, with two consecutive Best Drama Emmys under its belt along with being the clear favorite for a third at the end of next month. I'd need to check with my crack research staff to see the last time, if ever, a show won three consecutive Best Drama awards, let along doing so in its first three years. (I'll let you know what I find out...and if I ever get a crack research staff) It also has my new celebrity crush in it as well. January Jones. Interestingly enough, I saw her on an award show the other night and told the wifey that I liked her better in the 60's.

There's only one problem to this blog post. We just finished Season 2. See, we borrowed Season 1 from UILF (Uncle In Law Frank) and have borrowed Season 2 and 3 from Mrs. McGoo's rents. So we've got a full season of watching yet to do. Good thing we have a semi clear weekend for the first time in a long time. So I'm sure we'll get a few episodes under our belt.

I say all this to let you know that you should start watching it. It's fascinatingly good. Especially good when all there is to watch is golf, racing, and baseball.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Busy Busy

As Mrs. McGoo alluded to in her blog, things have picked up quite a bit for us. This hasn't been the typical summer for us. We've both been extremely busy and I realized the other day that I have hardly spent much quality time with my wife.

Whether it has been school, kickball, work, housework, or some other things, we both have had plenty to keep us busy.

Summer school has been very hectic for me recently. I took a financial management class in what is called a "pre-term" session at the beginning of the summer. It was basically a semesters worth of work, wrapped up in 2.5 weeks. Crazy times I tell ya. Now I'm taking Sport Law and it is kicking my butt. It is basically law, applied to sports. I feel like I'm in law school. It is pretty neat to cover contracts and stuff, but some of the other things are a little boring.

It hit me two nights ago that things are about to pick up for us. As if our lives aren't already busy, the fall will present a whole new scope of things for the McGoo's. I came home from watching a movie with a buddy the other night (Inception, which I highly recommend) and I tried going to sleep. I just couldn't. It started to hit me that this fall was going to be crazy and my mind started racing.

I began thinking of all the things that are going on this fall and began to question how was I going to be able to manage it all. Here's what it looks like:

Soccer, School (20 hours - junior and senior level classes), house projects, my sister getting married, helping my mom try to move from Kentucky to Arizona. These are all the definite things happening.

There is a potential for something else on the table that I cannot speak about right now, along with bible study on Wednesday nights and potentially another bible study in the works. Then just trying to be a husband and spend time with my wife, friends, and family that is important to me. And finally, which should be first...trying to improve my personal walk with Christ.

I haven't even mentioned Kickball and fantasy football that seem to take some time to do.

As I was saying, I couldn't sleep the other night. Therefore, I went out into our living room and grabbed my bible and started praying. Just praying for clarity in knowing the things that I needed to do and pushing out some of the things that I don't need to do. Prayed that God can give me wisdom in knowing that he won't put anything on my plate that I cannot handle. It is the clarity that I seek in knowing what is from Him and differentiating what is from me.

That being all said, we'll just take one day at a time.

"The future is no place to place your better days"

Now to get back to reading chapter 7 on "Sexual Harassment." Joy

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Two Passions

I grabbed this video off of Katie Dunlap's blog. It only took a few seconds of watching it to see that it had in it not only one of my passions (which is the greater one) but another one of my passions as well.

I won't say what they are. Instead, I'll let you guess...

Moses' Story from Global Support Mission on Vimeo.

In case some of you didn't know, Mrs. McGoo and I have been greatly affected by our trip to Africa. We constantly ask God that he continues to stir in our soul a way that we can continue to do missions, whether that is in Africa or here in Memphis.

I can tell you this...we're excited to see what God has in store for us in the future...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Comfortable Life

Years ago my grandfather use to own a chair. It was HIS chair. He watched TV in it, enjoyed company while sitting in it, rocked his children to sleep in it, and eventually rocked his grandchildren to sleep in it. One day however, my grandmother bought him a new chair for their house. One that matched a little bit more with the decor. She offered the chair to me and I quickly said yes. Reluctantly, my grandfather gave up his chair to his grandson and the chair moved from his house to mine. When I went to visit him in Kentucky he use to ask me if the chair was still as comfortable for me as it was for him. He told me a few times that he never had a chair that was its equal. When he comes in town, he loves to come by the house and sit in it. I still refer to it as my grandfather's chair.

Now that I own it, I agree with my grandfather. The chair is VERY comfortable and as ugly as it is, I love it. I love my comfortable chair. My dogs love sitting in my lap when I am in the chair. One day I will hopefully rock my children to sleep in that chair.

I say all this because I feel like I've sat in my grandfather's chair long enough. My life has been comfortable for a long time.

Monday night our Ethiopian team members (minus 2 people) got together for a final debriefing of sorts. To come together to hash out what we had seen and what we have felt now that we are 3 weeks removed from our trip. It was a night of good food, good memories, and good conversation. Most talked about how life hit them in the face when they got back home and how difficult it can be to apply what they had seen to their daily life.

I kept rather quiet most of the night until a question was posed to me. I was asked what God was showing me in the time that I have been back. My answer is a two part answer..

1. Since I've been back, I've seen things a little different than I use to. I see things on the news differently. My heart responds differently to someone talking about what God is doing in their life. I had a friend go to Haiti recently and hearing her share her story actually meant something to me. Before my trip, I would have just said the token line of "Wow, that's great that God used you there." Then I'd go back to my own comfortable life. Now, it means more to me. I find myself wanting to do more with what little I have. I keep hearing in my head, "How can I make a difference in people's lives?"

2. Because of what I have seen, I feel responsible for my actions. Not that I wasn't before, but now I "know" and as GI JOE always says, KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE. I personally feel convicted of how comfortable I have become in my live. While Mrs. McGoo and I don't exactly have the funds to make huge differences in charities, we do have the belief system in our Lord that we can make a difference in things through our prayer, actions, time, and resources.

What I'm saying is that I've lead a very comfortable life. And I have noticed how we all find our ways into a life of luxury and comfort. A lot of my guy friends (YES, I'm calling you out) I met at church. We all met each other and use to pray for one another and now our conversations generally revolve around fantasy football, fishing, money, kids, work, beer, sports, and other things. As close as we are and knowing where we met, I couldn't tell you the last time I had a meaningful conversation with some of them about what God is doing in their lives. It is like we have all become so comfortable in our lives that talking about God and what he is doing has become a non-existent thing.

This bothers me. Big time. These are guys that I've been in their weddings. They've been in mine. I've had meals with them. Fished with them. Laughed with them. Watched sports with them. Traveled with them. Yet no conversation comes up about our Creator, Maker, and Savior. It's concerning. I'm holding myself as responsible because I've found my way into a comfortable life.

Funny, that's what the enemy wants of us. Have the good ole family. Get married, have a few kids, and get comfortable with having fun with our spouse and kids. Make us believe that is what life is all about. The classic nuclear family.

I'll let some in on a little secret. Those of you that might read this...I'm praying for you. I'm praying that God stirs you up and rattles you like he has me. I'm praying that your life ISN'T comfortable. I prayed about it at church on Sunday in our class. I prayed about it Monday night at our debriefing and I am going to continue to pray about it. I don't believe that Christ wanted us to life a comfortable life.

So I'm here to say to some of you. I'm going to be asking you what Christ is doing in your life. I want you to ask me what he's doing in mine. I give you that accountability for me. I pray that you can find comfort in God's provision for you and know that it does not mean that you can always have a comfortable life.

I'm beginning to understand that comfort in Christ is all I really need. He'll provide the rest. So here's to being uncomfortable.

Except when I sit in my grandfather's chair.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Traveling and Gods Directions

The past couple of days have been fun. On Saturday the wife and I headed out to the Blue Ridge Mountains to meet up with the Wilson clan for a family vacation. This would be the first that I and my brother-in-law Brent have attended since we both wed two of the three Wilson girls.

Anyone that has ever traveled with me knows that I love to travel. The one area that I could improve on is the preparation for the travel. For some reason, and I can't explain, I turn into a bear when we are getting ready. I get moody and short. My wife, who has experienced this more than anyone, understands this and, for the most part, lets me be. I'm not sure if I am worried about forgetting something or what, but I do know that I see travel as a time schedule and if we are not on it, I start getting stressed. I like to get on the road with no hassles and put 'life' behind us.

Once we got on the road, I calmed down and we had a rather pleasant drive. The area of Blue Ridge Mountains we are staying at are tucked away in an area that basically is the tip of Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Think the Ocoee River for some of you that have been near there. Where we are staying is actually in Georgia. As I was saying, the drive is beautiful. We took the route that takes us across the bottom of Tennessee, into Alabama, into Georgia, back into Tennessee, and then into Georgia again. The wife slept most of the way to the cabin, which should have taken us around five in a half hours. I say should because we ran into some trouble finding the cabin.

Once we made it to the point where our GPS no longer detects roads, we followed our printed out Google maps version. It said to take a right on Hardscrabble then a left on to Laurel Springs. CHECK. Once on Laurel Springs, go .3 miles and take a right onto Dana Rd (Which is where our cabin is). CHECK. Oh wait...there is no Dana Rd. So we drove up this street 3 times trying to find Dana Rd to no avail. My wife was manning the directions and I was following them to a T. Obviously she did something wrong! So she tried calling my father in law, but she couldn't get a signal. So we backtracked a bit and went back a few streets to make sure we didn't miss something. I pulled into a Dollar General about to walk in. I looked at the directions and pointed something to her that she missed. I had printed out text directions as well as mapped directions street by street. All you had to do is LOOK AT THE MAP and see what the next street was near DANA Rd. Pretty simple huh?

I'm being nice in this 'depiction' of our journey because it was anything BUT nice. I basically told her that she couldn't read directions and THIS is how you do it. So I went back where we were missing and was going to show her! The problem...still no Dana Rd. Fortunately we were able to get a signal (I did with my phone) and called my father in law to which he told me that you had to turn onto RHONDA RD (which we saw) and then turn onto Dana Rd. So we finally made it...only an hour later than we should have. And a good argument in between.

Moral of that story for me. Be cognitive of my words to my wife. I didn't want to talk for a bit after that and it occurred to me later Saturday night that it was exactly what Satan wanted me to do. Here we are trying to get away from 'life' and enjoy each others company and yet he used something as stupid as bad directions to cause an argument. It's amazing to sit back and realize how the enemy can interject himself into something so small and make it so big.

I thought about asking Heather for us to pray before we left on the trip. That God would watch over us in our travels and continue to bring fruit to our marriage and conversations. I thought about it and decided I didn't want to. Turns out I should be more sensitive to the spirit when my convictions are telling me something.

Turns out I neglected the most important directions before the trip ever started.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What Now?

Now that we've gotten back from Ethiopia, I have been struggling a bit with the "What Now" mentality. What am I now to do with what I know and what I've seen? I guess I am a little worried that life is going to get in my way of what I need to be doing.

Like a lot of people, Mrs. McGoo and I lead a pretty busy life. Ask most that try and get together with us and they'll tell you, we're always on the go. So it can be easy for us to get distracted with "life" and everything in it. I have been praying that God continues to show me the things that he desires of my life and where he wants me. I feel like I am in a bit of a holding pattern right now to some degree. Still got a little bit of school left and then what...

I have been seeing things a little differently lately as well. While I've never been one to worry about the latest and greatest gadgets and stuff, I've found myself annoyed at things that normally wouldn't bother me. Example...I was annoyed after reading that people stood in lines for hours to get that stupid iPhone. Normally, I'd still think it was moronic to stand in line for a stupid phone or an iPad. Those that know me know my disdain for Apple Nerds. But now it is on a whole 'nother level. My mind immediately goes to this..."these folks can sit in a line for 5 hours to worship the Apple God's, yet can't spend one hour serving our ONE true God." I must admit, this is the enemy working in me to some degree. Who am I to judge?

While there is merit to question how some people can throw away perfectly good money that could go to some great cause, on a brand new phone (even when their other phone is perfectly fine). Yet I am reminded, they do not know. Maybe some do not want to know, but maybe they do not know what is out there.

As I wrote before, I felt very selfish when I was in Addis. Not because of what I had, because I am not condemning what I own or what someone else owns. I felt selfish because of what I have done with my time. I felt that a lot of my time had been wasted. So whether it is spending 5 hours in a line for a stupid phone, spending 6 hours on the couch watching sports, sleeping in until noon on weekends, or whatever, we've all been guilty of it. So for me, what can I do to change that behavior of wasting time?

That is the question I need answering. Only God has the answers for me. I guess I just need to ask.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ethiopia Reflections

Mrs. McGoo and I have been back from Ethiopia for a week now and one might think that we've had ample time to sit back and reflect on our visit. That being said, she and I sat down for the first time Saturday night for the first time to discuss. While I have been home sick (and watching the World Cup), Mrs. McGoo had to hit the ground running and didn't really stop at all this week to reflect on what going to Addis Ababa really meant and the impact it had on her. As we all know, life doesn't stop while we're gone, so it quickly met us as soon as we got back.

We were blessed with being able to discuss our trip with our Sunday School class Sunday morning and I know for me, it was a good way of getting off my shoulders some pent up frustration. Frustration because I hadn't really had a chance to tell people what went on over there as well as what God was doing in my life. Being sick all week forced me to sit at home and not get out much. So I was chomping at the bit to preach the news.

Our Sunday School has grown leaps and bounds in the last six months where I don't really know half the class now. Seems like we've added around 20-30 new people to our class. I was telling a friend Mrs. McGoo and I have been gone so much lately that the "new" people were coming up to us introducing themselves to us and welcoming us to the class. So it has been encouraging to see how God has started moving in our young marrieds class. However, I wasn't sure how my talk about our mission/journey to Africa would be met. Would they be like, "Who is this dude and where did he come from and why is he talking about Ethiopia?" Much to my delight, everyone at least laughed at my jokes and listened to my heart.

We presented to the class a little about the mission trip and the organization we worked with, then talked about what we did while on the trip with the kids and the staff members. Once we did that, we showed them the video that Joe Bridges put together. Let me say that I was fine until the video portion. He did such a good job on it and it brought everything back into perspective for me. Then I told the class a little about what Ethiopia represented to me. Here's my story...

About 3 years ago, I lost my job. Not knowing what to do, we fell to our knees and asked God to guide us in what direction we should go. Throughout it all, I felt his push for me to go back to school. It went against everything that "the world" tells us. 'THE MAN SHOULD TAKE CARE OF HIS FAMILY' is one of the things my pride kept telling me. Fortunately for me, I have an incredible support system in place with my wife. She encouraged me to follow the Lords desires for me and to not be afraid of what He had in store for me. I looked at it from the worldly perspective and my wife from God's point of view. So I decided to go trust the Lord and go back to school. When we decided this, we thought, "OK God, now how exactly are we going to pay for this? Not only do we not have money coming in from one half of the family, but now we've got to pay for it." We got on our knees, like we so often do, and told God that if it was his will, he would make it happen.

One day after church, I ran into the soccer coach at the University of Memphis. In talking with him, I told him of my desire to go back to school and we were following the Lord in it all and trusting that he would provide, since we did not have the means to pay for it. The coach looked at me and said, "Well, we're in the market for a new soccer manager, so if you are interested, we'd love to have you. It would pay for your school." I remember looking up at the sky after that conversation and saying to God, "You really do have your hand in all of this." Come to find out that not only did it pay for my entire schooling, but books as well.

Then came time to pick a major. I chose Sports and Leisure because I LOVE sports. I thought that I would work for a athletic dept or a pro sports team. God had other plans. Throughout my time working in this department, I've found that God is wanting me to go more towards the Leisure side of the major. Now I know what you are thinking...Leisure? You major in laying around? Not exactly. Leisure is the side that is more Non-Profit related and Youth Organizations. So think Make-A-Wish, Special Olympics, or YMCA. Or, Missions...

Anyone that knows Mrs. McGoo or has read her blogs, they'd know she was and has been on fire about going to Ethiopia for a mission trip. I, on the other hand, was a but apathetic about it all. I remember asking her why Ethiopia? Why did she have to pick the most expensive trip instead of going to say, Uruguay or somewhere else in South America. She looked at me and said, "Kelly, because this is where God has placed in my heart...I want you to come with me."

I've always had a longing to go to Africa and especially recently, but that is because the World Cup is going on. I told her that I was looking into going on a study abroad trip with school. As luck would turn out, I got accepted for two trips. One was called the Great Western Trip and the other was a trip to England to work for some professional sports teams. I chose the Great Western trip and put the other as my secondary choice. When it came time to find out about the trip, I got a phone call from the leader and he said that the trip had been canceled. Then about 30 mins later I got a phone call from the leader of the other trip telling me that my application was perfect, but since I didn't put them as my first choice, they selected someone else. So there I was, left without a trip. Enter Africa.

We started raising money for the trip and again, I asked Mrs. McGoo how would it be possible that we would be able to raise $6000 necessary for the trip. She looked at me and said, God will provide. We were quickly humbled by the generosity by so many. People that we weren't even that close to donated support. I remember rubbing my eyes one day realizing that we had met our goal faster than anyone else on our team.

I say all this to explain to you that I was not overly shaken by it all. Until I stepped foot on African soil. It immediately all made sense when I got there. God had been preparing me all along for this trip. I said before in another blog that my senses were attacked when we got their. It smelled, pollution was everywhere, the smog overtook your senses, and it was so dirty. Yet when I got to the drop in center, I saw the children. I saw the beauty that was in their eyes and the beauty of the culture. It all made sense to me. This is exactly how God sees us. Broken, nasty, messy, dirty, smelly, and yet in it all, he still loves us.

I realized then how selfish I had been. I've lived my life, believing in a God that has taken care of me, yet done nothing to take care of others. I felt so small. I've been given it all, yet have squandered so much of my life. I just couldn't stop thinking about all that I have taken for granted and how I have envy in my heart for things that I do not car, new clothes, new this, new that...

Since I have been back, I have had a little more clarity with my life and where God wants me. I love helping people, love kids, love major is Sports and why not put all these things to work for God's purpose. Without getting into any details, because I don't want to get ahead of myself, but God has some stuff working. Hopefully I can expand on it more later, but rest assured, He's working.

I say all this back story to show how it wasn't me asking for something and God delivering in a week or a month. This has been God's plan now for going on 4 years. It is pretty neat to look back and see Him working in us and knowing where He has us is right where He wants us. I can honestly say that I have renewed faith in him saying, "Trust Me."

So for me, trusting the Lord means starting small and dreaming big. My goals are to begin to pray more for my wife and how I can continue to be a man that puts the Lord first in our marriage. Pray for my family. Pray for my friends and begin to expect greater things from them. Pray for my community and start serving more in it. Once I can get those tackled, the rest will follow suit.

Here is the video from our trip to Ethiopia. Got the embed code to work. I love the song Joe put with the video. It hits me right where I need to be.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wednesday Pics from Addis Ababa

Wednesday - the end of the school year celebration - we traveled over an hour outside the city with about 80 children to enjoy some larger areas of land to play in and experience the "end of school year" program that the staff and children had put together. Team Ethiopia put on ACTIVITIES & GAMES once the program was completed that afternoon and after lunch was served. Here is a glimpse of the day in pics:

Excitement about the day was even present in the kids from a bus window as we drove past!

A few pics of the local life on the way to the park


Teeth Kelly and the Nursinator

The kids choir

KC delivering a message on Zacchaeus

There were supposed to be bottles there...they moved them from me

The food for the day at the park. A TON of food

The Staff

Liz taking in some food and culture

Mrs. McGoo posing with the kids

Tom getting a photo opp

Jon and our resident kickball official

Getting some shade while the football match was going on

Leading the cheers for Team David

Jon scores. Brother Joe celebrates

Joe taking a break for celebrating

Team David relishing their win

Both teams take a photo. I think I got stuck in that position for an hour

I get the feeling he enjoyed that more than I did