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Showing posts from August, 2009

More on document timing

This post is part of my "red-tape" series on pursuing temporary residency in St. Petersburg, Russia.

I always wondered why people applying for residency were always trying to do it in 3 months. Well, now I understand...the Russian government doesn't like to accept any documents that are older than 3 months. This includes apostilled birth/marriage certificates, criminal background checks, etc.

So right now I am just getting some things ready to be mailed out and making sure I've put my signature wherever necessary. And then I will plan to have someone send them out in October or November so that I will get them in time but they won't have expired already.

It's tricky with the background check because it could take from 1 month to 6 months, and you also have to get it apostilled. I think I will enclose an expedite request. I don't think the FBI at least officially expedites, but I have heard that it helps if you write something on the envelope.

If you are exemp…

Setting Christian standards

"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive. 24Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

(1 Cor. 10:23, 24)

I have to limit time spent on Christian forums, because I find it easy to become upset and act self-righteous. I have been surprised in the past that even among members of the same congregation, opinions may vary greatly as to proper conduct in certain situations.

It has been a dilemma for me to face questions that I was sure I had figured out, only to realize that not all Christians share the same view. It is hard for me to accept that God convicts different people in different ways. But I believe He does, because He's an attentive God who knows our individual experiences and what we need personally. +/-It is great when we are in tune enough to the Holy Spirit to receive His instructions for us specifically. But what about when you get four-five Christians togeth…

Prayer focus

Ramadan 2009 takes place from August 22-September 20th. Some Christian ministries have put out guides to praying for Muslims during this time.

Religious fasts and holidays are times to not only observe tradition, but to evalute one's commitment; to ask oneself, "Is this really my faith? Is this what I want to adhere to?"

From The 30-Days Prayer Network:

The name Ramadan is derived from the Arabic word ramida or ar-ramad, denoting intense scorching heat and dryness, especially the ground. From the same word there is ramdaa, meaning ’sunbaked sand’ and the famous proverb Kal Mustajeer minar ramadaa binnar – to jump out of the frying pan into the fire. Some say it is so called because Ramadan scorches out the sins with good deeds, as the sun burns the ground.

Although it's a little late to order prayer booklets, the following links will take you to sites that give a prayer focus for each day during Ramadan.…

Communal life

I found a rather interesting site that calls itself a "virtual museum" dedicated to communal aspects of Russian life, in Soviet times and continuing into the present.

Some of the articles give a sense of nostalgia, while others portray a present reality.

The texts have a choice between Russian and English. You can view photos and videos, take a look at original documents related to communal life, read essays on various aspects of life, and more.

The site is very well-organized and user-friendly! Check it out.

The narrow window

This is a part of my series on pursuing temporary residency in St. Petersburg, Russia (look at posts labeled "residency").

When I heard that it was often a scramble to get all the documents for temporary residency, I thought...not me! I decided to try to get some of them done ahead of time.

However, it has taken me all summer to figure out that the background check will not be accepted by the Russian government if it is more than 3 months old. So it would be premature to get it done now.

I guess I'll have to hang on to my fingerprint card for a few more months, when it's closer to January.

I did order a copy of my college transcript, which might not be necessary, but is still good to have if you're planning to work or study abroad.

Of course I will be getting everything apostilled so that the Russian government will recognize it as official.

Even though I haven't been able to check off very many boxes, I think the research will pay off later.

Women's Rights: A Flawed Manifesto?

This weekend's New York Times magazine has a special issue devoted to women's rights. One article even claims to be a "21st century manifesto."(in the print version) The main idea of "The Women's Crusade"* is that the biggest moral issue of the century is women's rights. This is a bold statement.

In the print version, the word "Liberation" is enlarged on the title page, as though this is the main issue at stake.

Perhaps it is. But the kind of liberation referred to in the article (and in the magazine issue overall) has feminist undertones that I'm not comfortable with.

Liberation from abuse is one thing. But I believe that complete liberation from gender roles leads to confusion, making certain situations worse. +/-I would even venture to say that many laws being used to oppress women were once intended for their protection. Covering up their beauty was an act of modesty so that women could be kept holy for their husbands and for the Lord…


The bunny on the left was made by my mother, and I love the way it is posing as if lying on a therapist's couch.

Speaking of therapy...well, not really...but it just hit me that I have less than a month before leaving for Russia.

It's funny that there should be any stress at all since I have gone back and forth so many times. But I suppose when the trip is longer, you have higher expectations. Therefore, I suddenly thought...but I have SO much to do! I'll never do it all.

So I now have an official to-do list. Of course I still have time, but there is still a wedding before I go, and my brother arriving from Congo.

Oh, and I have to apply for a visa. Minor detail. I'm still waiting for my invitation and hoping and praying that all the information will be correct...

Dog days of August

The heat wave came kind of late this year.

Max knows how to keep cool....pass out in front of the fan.

A child advocate

I recently finished reading a book called "Too Small to Ignore" by Dr. Wess Stafford (with Dean Merrill)*, president and CEO of Compassion International (I mentioned it already here).**

I seem to have picked out a lot of excerpts for review, so apparently this is going to be long...

What I found refreshing about this book was that although it's written by the representative of a specific ministry, he does not spend a lot of time calling attention to what his ministry has accomplished. Although Dr. Stafford shares a lot about his personal testimony, he manages to do it in a way that highlights problems and solutions, not a lot of numbers and lists about all the great things he has done. That is hard to do... +/-

The Book

A great portion of this book is autobiographical. As an introductory statement, Dr. Stafford notes,
"this book explains why it has been the cry of my heart for three decades to champion children to the Church. As you will see, poverty and abuse whisper th…

Tetris syndrome and life

I was a little surprised when I entered "tetris syndrome" into the search engine and it actually gave me results. Apparently I'm not the only one who couldn't get the "floating Tetris pieces" out of my head back in those days.

Similarly, when I took art lessons, we often talked about composition and shapes. We were taught to "see." I remember the teachers paroling the classroom, often commenting, "You need to draw what you see, not what you THINK you see." And I would leave the classroom and walk across the campus, seeing not trees and people, but triangles and squares and areas of dark and light.

But what reminded me of this concept wasn't computer games or works of art. It was the topic of problem-solving and how we get used to thinking in a certain way.

I lay awake in bed last night planning an ESL lesson, even though I probably won't be teaching for another month. The wheels started turning and before I knew it I was visualizing…

Apostilles, notaries, and more

This is a part of my series on pursuing temporary residency in St. Petersburg, Russia.

In case you haven't noticed, I tend to do a LOT of research for what amounts to fairly simple actions. So a lot of my posts thus far have more to do with looking for answers than actually getting results. Time will tell...

-I've added some links down below in the left column that have some information for ex-pats.

-I visited the "Ex-pat" forum again to see what others have had to say, and found something useful: The "Official Dummies Guide" to temporary residency in Russia. If you don't mind being called a dummy about every other sentence, it has some good information.*

The basic idea of this portion below is "ATN": Apostille first in your home country, then translate it once you get to Russia, and get the translation notarized. +/-An excerpt:

A) IMPORTANT!!!! Certify Certify Certify Remember: A-T-N

Special Note: Expat Dummies love to debate and question everythin…

Into the bat cave

This has nothing to do with the last post! It's an update on a different topic.

Work to get rid of the bats continues...

In the meantime, my mom went into the "bat cave" recently to change the lightbulb. She wore plenty of protective gear. The black veil (mosquito net) was very becoming on her.


The bats probably won't be gone until September. Maybe even after I leave. But now that it's lighted in there, if I so desire, I could crawl in there (in this 95 degree weather) during the day and try to organize some of my things.

That would be fun.

Jesus and the children

In a book* which I will soon review, the following passage is noted.

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.

When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)
Sunday school 101, right? Jesus is so gentle and cares about everyone, even the little teeny babies.

The author holds a slightly different view. +/-"This is where every sermon I've heard depicting this moment falls short. Jesus did not lovingly and quietly coo, 'Oh, just let the little children come over to me for a moment.' This strong, powerful man, this brawny carpenter, filled with exasperation, anger and even rage, apparently …

Cool blog for learning Russian

I've never really searched for blogs on learning Russian, but I sometimes check my spelling and grammar online (which can be risky since Russian-language websites aren't necessarily flawless!).

A recent grammar check led me to the website of Josefina, a Swedish (?) woman who has put together a fantastic site. She shows great insight into Russian culture and language, delving into the uses of various colloquialisms. Her Russian isn't 100% flawless, but there are some native speakers who leave minor corrections in the comments area. She writes well and her posts are entertaining. I haven't explored much yet, but you might find it interesting. It helps to know a little Russian to get the full use out of the grammar points, but it is all in English and not all of the posts are grammar-based.

Please, Mr. Postman Automated Postal Service

Have you ever mailed anything using the automated machines in the post office? I tend to trust people rather than machines. But I got to the post office the other day and it was closed, so I had to to the newfangled route.

I was mailing some letters to Russia and didn't really know what would happen. However, I started pressing buttons on the touchscreen, and was pleased to see that there was an "international" option. I hadn't swiped my card yet, so I had nothing to lose, although I was a little nervous that the counter beneath the scale would open and swallow up my letter without it being stamped.

After going through the weighing and pricing process, I told the machine that 98 cents was okay with me (that's the standard rate for a letter to Russia). But I was then informed that since I was paying by credit card and the minimum was $1.00, I could not go ahead with the stamp purchase as totaled. I could either...

+/--buy a 98 cent stamp and a 44 cent stamp
-buy a 98 …

Camp and St. Petersburg

No camp for me this summer! But I hear that St. Petersburg camps have been buzzing with life, as always.

Around the Internet I've seen reports of fellow laborers who've been at camp with the orphans I work with. I am so glad that they got some attention this summer! The orphans are often rather isolated at camp, so it's great for them to meet some new friends for a change. Better yet, they may have heard the Gospel from visiting teams. Maybe I'll return to see some changed kids. But as another school year in the orphanage begins, life hasn't gotten any easier.


Another "camp" has recently risen out of the ashes of an estate on former Finnish territory that had become overgrown. It's been offered to local Christians in St. Petersburg, to use at least for a time.

My church is one of the groups that has been breathing new life into the camp and using it for running summer camp as well as family vacation times.

A colleague of mine has some more information …

Christian movie classics

Today while doing chores I watched The Robe for the first time. It's commonly featured on lists of the "best Christian films," so I had been curious about it.

The Robe (1953) reminded me a lot of Spartacus (1960) and Ben-Hur (1959), which makes sense, given they were produced in the same decade. I love the 1950's style and the way that it makes togas seem attractive. :)

The account of early Christians in The Robe is fictional enough to be non-offensive. What I mean is that some books or films seem to put on an air of being "true," so that any deviance from the Bible seems to be a deception. The Robe is just a story, the same that you might find about modern (fictional) followers of Christ. Inspiring, even believable, but not pretending to be something it's not.

+/-Of course, there are real people and events depicted in the film, but not without plenty of little historical incongruities. For example, it is mentioned several times that the followers of Jesus…

What children learn from us

Though not explicitly biblical, I ran across this poem for the first time recently, and wanted to share it.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility, they learn to fight
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.

If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.

If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.

+/-If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.

If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.

If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.

If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.

If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.

If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.

If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.

If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.

If children live with fairne…

Christian women's babble, Part 2

I think that the most useful piece of information found in any book on relationships, whether romantic or otherwise, is the reminder that men and women think differently.

It's not necessarily good news to note that your actions are "typically female" or that a guy's mysterious behavior is "typically male" (or vice versa). But when viewed in light of the fact that we are created by a loving God, and that He orchestrated all of this to His glory, it all starts to make sense.

"Lady in Waiting"* accomplishes this goal. It presents the ways that a woman can be feminine in Christ, developing the qualities that her Creator designed for her.

full post/-In part 1 of my review, I noted my disgust with the reference to single Christian women being desperate for dates. Throughout the book, we find charges not to despair over a dateless Friday, Saturday, or month gone by. The worst offense is the use of the term "datelessness" (p. 44). This is similar t…

Missiology for Post-Soviet countries

I get a little tired discussing strategies for missions when all I really want is to be out there doing it. But evaluation is a necessary task of life that helps us be more effective.

A blogger in the Ukraine has written an article called "Toward Appropriate Missiology for Post-Soviet Evangelicals." It's quite a long article, and I haven't finished reading it. But you might want to take a look if you are serving in a Post-Soviet country (most of his posts are in Russian, but evidently he is quite fluent in English).

One of the author's points is that there is a lack of analytical material on this topic. "...multitudes of Western researchers and missionaries, who have been educated in seminaries and who have had the opportunity to conduct research in the best Christian libraries, over the course of twenty years of work in the former USSR have not yet written any serious analytical works." (Michael Cherenkov, in his article)

Do you find this is true? Do you …

Revisiting persecution

I never did write part 2 of this post. I finished reading the book, although I skimmed parts of it. It was well-researched, yet I had the sense of not knowing what to do with the information. That is why I never wrote the review.

Maybe Christians in America are persecuted. So what? Does this mean I should live any differently? My general reaction is that sometimes when facing adversity we should turn the other cheek, and other times we need to "shout from the rooftops" when we think something is unjust (Matt. 10:27).

Then this little statement caught my eye while reading the news today. It's towards the end of a small write-up. You could easily miss it.

full post/-Earlier this year, [Ben] Stein withdrew as the University of Vermont's commencement speaker over complaints about his critical views of evolution in favor of intelligent design.*I found the wording confusing, and it took a few readings to understand. A person had been invited to speak at commencement. This per…

Facebook and accountability

I've been avoiding this topic like the plague since it's been analyzed repeatedly for the past few years. But then I realized that most of the conclusions have been negative, while I have a slightly different perspective; a positive one.

I like how Facebook keeps me in check. That's a potentially frightening statement. Do I want Facebook to know everything about me and control my life? Do I want all my time consumed by online interaction? No. But the lack of privacy online makes me constantly evaluate my relationships and priorities. And this, I think, is a good thing.

The "potential employer" scare has caused some people to edit what they post on their Facebook pages. There are still plenty of pages that are fairly risque, and I find myself thinking "how foolish." But wait a minute. Who wants to live a double-life? The foolishness refers to displaying one's wild exploits for all to see, and not to the activities themselves. If that's the real you…

Sleep aid testimonial

I've blogged about my sleep philosophy before. I don't think anyone would argue with me that developing good habits is the best strategy. But having a regular routine is more of a goal than a remedy. Sometimes we just get off-schedule, and even if we're meaning well, an attempt to "go to bed earlier" can result in lying awake for 3-4 hours.

Getting up earlier as an attempt at discipline doesn't always work because you end up being groggy and building up a sleep-debt, while still having the same trouble falling asleep at night.

In a recent post, I mentioned natural remedies. A few days ago I purchased a new sleep-inducing herbal tea. It's called "Nighty Night Tea" by Traditional Medicinals.

+/-In the instructions it says, "To encourage nighttime relaxation, drink 2-3 cups late in the day and 1/2 hour before bedtime." (reference All I did was brew a cup and drink it while doing my fin…

Also newsworthy

Every few days we hear the screech of a ladder being positioned against our house and realize that "Bat Man" (as we like to call him) is at work.

Today he was working on a hard to reach, yet heavily "populated" (by bats) area. I don't think he saw them; that's just judging from the evidence.

It's precarious work.

We're getting closer to being bat-free!

Journalism and exploitation

A recent New York Times article described the problem of male rape in Congo. The piece was accompanied by photographs of four of the victims, framed by striking blue backgrounds. The caption read, "... All are Congolese men who were recently raped and agreed to be photographed."*

I had to wonder...why was it significant that they had their photographs taken? And what was the incentive? Is this "good journalism"? Would the story have held as much weight without it?

At a conference on orphan ministry that I attended in the spring, they told the story of some orphans who had been visited by a team of Americans. The Americans quickly won their trust and interviewed the children. The children were eager to share their stories and agreed to be videotaped. These tapes were later aired on TV, and the kids eventually saw themselves on TV. Their personal lives became a sensation, something used to produce a reaction. It was traumatizing for them.

full post/-
This leads me to the…

Missionaries and health problems

In an audio commentary entitled "A Missionary's Expectation," when Elisabeth Elliot is asked to advise potential missionaries, one of her main pieces of advice is, "don't worry about your health." This is, of course, biblically-based (Mt. 6:25). The whole broadcast is actually quite insightful.

However, I believe that thinking about something is not the same as worrying about it. Of course you are going to plan and problem-solve, even while you know that God is in control.

Elisabeth Elliot's advice is to wash your hands, and that's what I would do, too. Wash your hands, boil your water, and trust in the Lord. You are going to face physical discomfort living in a new country. But since many health problems are caused by stress, stressing about the stress is only going to make matters worse. Once I realized that a lot of problems like stomachaches were caused by stress, it made me want to take better care of my spiritual and emotional health. I have a c…

A visit to the police station

This is a part of my series on pursuing temporary residency in St. Petersburg, Russia. For previous installments check out posts labeled "residency."

Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the summary on fingerprinting.

Today I went down to the local police station to get fingerprinted for my FBI criminal record check. I called first and confirmed that it is a service that they offer for residents of the city (and college students). When I last called, they gave me the impression that I would have to provide the fingerprint cards myself.

But where to get fingerprint cards? I asked around a bit and nobody knew. So this time I asked again and they do have them at the police station, but were accustomed to people providing them themselves. Confusing.

+/-It was tricky finding a time to go in because the officers go out on calls and sometimes they are all busy. I was lectured about this by each person I talked to after innocently asking what time I could come in. As if I wanted t…

What Christian women think about

Last week I was shunning books and going on a "sola scriptura" stint. Then I found myself at the bookstore with a friend, and hadn't done my research, and ended up walking out with a few Christian books on women's topics. Uh-oh.

As with the last book of this sort that I read, I think that the one I'm reading is going to be edifying, yet have some weak arguments that are going to bother me.

So I'm going to lift the veil to share a few thoughts. And then I will write a more complete review later. The book is called "Lady in Waiting"* and the subtitle is "Becoming God's Best While Waiting for Mr.Right"**...which sounds really corny, but is a worthy topic for a book.

full post/-Problem #1-The opening. The roommate has just gotten married, and the poor single woman is crushed.

"As the happy couple drives to the perfect honeymoon, you sit alone in a empty apartment, drowning your envy and self-pity with a half gallon of Heavenly Hash ice cr…

Testing Publisher

I'm way behind the times here. I don't normally experiment with fancy software, and I'm not always willing to listen when people make suggestions (in case you couldn't tell). But a recent newsletter from fellow missionaries inspired me to be more ambitious.

As I now own a computer with Publisher, I decided to finally give it a try. I had avoided it for awhile because it seemed incompatible with other software and redundant as far as the design capabilities.

But after trying to format a few things in Word lately, I finally went into the Start menu and loaded up Publisher for the first time. I like that you can download templates from Microsoft into Word, but I often find the search engine inefficient, so I can't really find what I'm looking for.

+/-With some tips from Microsoft Office Online, I was able to download an add-in for Publisher that allows you to "publish" things directly into a PDF file. That's one that you can send to other people. I am n…

Next wedding: invitations

My sister came over this weekend so we could address invitations together for her September wedding.

Here we are, still full of energy, before we ran into questions about grammar and forms of address.

+/-Dad had to consult the dictionary at one point.

We worked together to make some informed decisions...

They should be in the mail on Monday!

Interior decorating

He entered with me and looked around at the books in the bookcase, the magazines upon the table, the pictures on the walls. As I followed His gaze I became uncomfortable.*

When I was in high school and college, we often used a booklet called "My Heart, Christ's Home" as a little Bible study. The excerpt above describes Christ coming to visit a person's heart, as though it is a dwelling. And as He goes through each "room," His host feels ashamed of what is displayed there.

I always found the material very convicting. Just the thought of Christ physically being there and going through all my "stuff" was startling.

Illustrations have their limit, and they don't always work for me, because they are normally drawn from someone else's imagination. We don't really know what Christ would say in such a is merely hypothetical.

+/-But God's dwelling place is one theme that is often met in Scripture, and I was hit by one of those in…

Let's talk

What makes a conversation meaningful, or meaningless? I found myself pondering this question.

What makes us walk away feeling uplifted after conversing, and what leaves us with a bad feeling? When an exchange has been less than fulfilling, I sometimes feel as though I had been given a special gift that I squandered.

There are a few things in particular that make it go rotten.

-Laziness. You don't care enough to fully engage in the conversation. Or you know the conversation should end, but you are too lazy to cut it off.
-Selfishness. You want to take rather than give.
-Pride in arguing. There can be good kinds of discourse. But sometimes we cross the line into arguing for its own sake.
-Accusation/judgment. One person enters the conversation with intent to cast blame.
-Personality differences (or other causes of misunderstanding). This can't be controlled, but you can at least be aware.
-Malicious talk/rumors. You start out expressing "compassion" for a party not present, an…