Thursday, January 28, 2010

The New Guy

We have a visitor.

No one's told me how long he's staying, but he seems to be making himself pretty comfortable.

He sleeps.

He cries

He makes faces.

And after he eats he does leg exercises.

When he first got here I had a lot of energy. 

But when I calmed down we got to hang out together. 
His head is even softer than daddy's!

Mommy and Daddy keep on saying "isn't it great how gentle he is?  But how long will it last?"

I love him as a brother already.  Can he stay?

- Enoh, the proud brother.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Becoming Like A Child

As our son Enoh becomes more aware, more communicative and therefore more prone to showing emotion, I'm beginning to realize just how delightful the smiles and laughter are and how downright scary the tantrums can be. 

Why is this? 

Because children haven't learned how to mask their emotions yet.  They haven't discovered the art of manipulating their words and actions to portray what they want other people to think of them.  Therefore their emotions are true and genuine - however pleasant or unpleasant it may be at the time. 

Dallas Willard has a great quote about this in The Divine Conspiracy:
Interestingly “growing up” is largely a matter of learning to hide our spirit behind our face, eyes and language so that we can evade and manage others to achieve what we want and avoid what we fear. By contrast, the child’s face is constantly an epiphany because it doesn’t yet know how to do this. It cannot manage its face. This is also true of adults in moments of great feeling – which is one reason why feeling is both greatly treasured and greatly feared.
Those who have attained considerable spiritual stature are frequently noted for their “childlikeness”. What this really means is that they do not use their face and body to hide their spiritual reality. In their body they are genuinely present to those around them. That is a great spiritual attainment or gift.
As a father, I'm beginning to understand how gratifying genuine joy is from my sons.  Funny how it often takes children to teach the most profound lessons.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"In the Loving Arms of Jesus"

Our hearts grieve today over the passing of Josiah Nathaniel Wilson - the son of our dear friends Milo and Erin.

The Wilsons updated their blog on Sunday afternoon with this feed: "Thank You for your prayers. Josiah's heart is now whole. He is in the loving arms of Jesus. Truly, a heart that holds on."

Please continue to pray for the Wilson family. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

One Size Fits All

You may be surprised the by the similarities between Eastern Europe and America. Like the fact that both cultures work on a  "one size fits all" system .  The only difference is that in America we can adjust the size of the product to our liking.  In Eastern Europe the individual must adapt to the size of the item. 

Take sinks for example.  In America, you have all kinds of different sink sizes to choose from.  The one in Petra's parent's house in the States was big enough to bathe Enoh in when he was 4 months old last Christmas.  (The American ingenuity that produced a bathtub for the sink is a topic for another post.)

Whereas the one in our house in Croatia is not big enough to bathe 1 week old Ian.  (The Croatian disbelief that you would even think about bathing your child in a sink is a topic for another post.)  So Ian took his first bath on the kitchen table instead.

Milk is another example.  The choice of skim, 2% or whole exists in both cultures, but the size of the typical containter is significantly smaller - 1 gallon to 1 liter. 

And then there are cars.  When we visited Munich, Germany a couple years ago we encountered this scene: 
The Smart Car was made in France while of course the Hummer is an American invention. Naturally, many American roads can accomodate the Hummer. Most Balkan byways cannot.

Here are a few additional things that are generally smaller in Eastern Europe:
- men's jeans
- bathrooms
- ambitions
- drinks
- swimwear

Finally, as noted earlier, I am smaller in Croatia than in America.  A couple years ago I lost 20 pounds after moving to Croatia.  In America you eat according to your appetite and find clothes that fit your waistline.  In Croatia, you adjust to the size of the typical meal, and normal clothing.  One size fits all. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why Did You Name Your Son That?

If Ian has one foot in America and the other in Croatia you wouldn't know it by his name. 

Petra and I set a deadline of Christmas day 2009 for deciding on a boy name if indeed baby Bohall #2  was a boy (we already had a girl name picked).  As the day of reckoning approached I was reading Enoh the following book:

In the Olivia series - which we highly recommend - the heroine of the story has a brother named Ian.  After going through the predetermined formula of "look up name, google name and let name sit in our heads" we decided it might be a good fit.  We put it on our top 10 list on the fridge and watched it move up towards the number 1 spot almost overnight.

But what middle name would go well with Ian? 

Petra already had a name she wanted to use.  The idea came from The Kite Runner:

Though less than prominant, Rahim is one of Petra's favorite characters in the novel.  It is well worth your time to read the book and find out why.

But the characters had much less to do with deciding on Ian Rahim than the meaning did.

Ian is Celtic (or Scottish) and means "God is gracious".   We see our son as both a representation of God's gift of grace and a blessing given to us without merit.  Ian is a living reminder that God has been and continues to be gracious to us. 

Rahim is originally Persian (or Arabic) and means "compassionate". It is our prayer that Ian will personify this quality in his own life.  In addition, we realize that it's God's grace that prompts true Compassion. 

Though the intro to the previous post was painfully honest (and decidedly premature), we couldn't be more excited with the birth of Ian.  Childbirth - and the pain that accompanies it - is a profound reminder of how God's purposes are indeed accomplished in a fallen world.  Easy for a guy to say right?

Some pictures of Ian at home:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Meet Our Son Ian Rahim

“I know we’ve talked about having more than two kids, but at this point the only way I’d be ready to have a third child is if someone offers to be a surrogate mother.”

Those were my wife’s words a few minutes after giving birth to Ian Rahim at 1:40 on Wednesday afternoon. No, Petra didn’t have 59 hours of regular contractions like she did with Enoh, but the last two hours of labor were definitely more difficult for her this time around. Perhaps the more than two pound difference between Ian and Enoh had something to do with it.

Ian means “God is gracious” and Rahim means “compassionate”. The nurse who recorded all the information after his birth confirmed the fact that they are both strange names and then asked “what’s your first son’s name?” Needless to say, she won’t be coming to us for advice as to what she should name her children. More on the name in a later post.

We are very blessed to have two healthy sons.  Enoh, was very hyper and seemed excited to meet his new brother.

Petra and Ian will spend one more night in the hospital. If everything looks good on Saturday afternoon, they will be released. We are grateful for everyone who included us in their thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The New President of Croatia

To an American, the chant sounded like “evil, evil, evil”. But to the majority of Croatian voters, it was music to their ears.

Ivo Josipović – the newly elected Croatian President - smiled as his supporters chanted his name after the official election results came in late Sunday night. The scene looked much like any American campaign celebration, though smaller and less bombastic. Josipović’s demeanor also lacked the polish most American politicians have.

Perhaps that’s for the better. President elect Josipović is a scholar with two PhDs at opposite ends of the spectrum – classical music composition and law. His aspirations to hold a high position (but not the highest) in the Croatian government came about only recently. Unlike many Balkan leaders, his background is clean. His goal as President is to “inspire decisiveness, optimism and civic courage of Croatian people to change our society and make it a better one.''

Certainly corruption will not be erased in Croatia immediately, but the election of Ivo Josipović is a step in the right direction. For an excellent article in the New York Times, go here.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Off The Cuff Links

Though there are exceptions, this weblog focuses on three main things: culture, family/friends and faith.  Let me recommend three related blogs well worth your time.

Culture: The Expat Blog is a "living abroad website, by expats, for expats".  If you're living in a foreign country or planning on living in a foreign country this site offers plenty of information you'll be interested in.

Faith: The Faith and Theology blog continues to be one of my favorite sites to visit. Benjamin Myers, an Australian scholar regularly updates this "forum for conversations about theology, books and culture".

Family/Friends: The Wilson Heart chronicles the story of a wonderful family currently dealing "with the implications of having a child with a serious heart defect".  Join the growing community of friends who support the Wilsons in a variety of ways.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Best CD of 2009: Stockholm Syndrome

There are lots of reasons not to review a CD on this blog.  Rather than wasting time with an explanation, let me summarize the best CD of 2009:  Shocking.

This CD is full of controversy.  It's also packed with musicality and truth.  We're talking art. Beauty. So it's no surprise that my favorite CD of 2009 comes from a short bald headed man sporting a Five O' Clock on the cover of his latest.

Derek Webb says that “Christian art coming out of the church today deals in the most spiritual 2% of life and culture. And yet the Bible gives us a framework and a language to deal with all 100% of stuff that we find we come up against in life.” If you think about it, you’d realize he’s right on. On Stockholm Syndrome Webb endeavors to fill in some of the gaps – if you consider this Christian art. And I do. Just not the way we’ve ever seen it before. That’s the point.

 After a couple listens, I felt like Webb was drawing black lines with a gray crayon. His message is strong, but he uses a whole bunch of lyrical and musical techniques to deliver. It’s kind of like eating chicken noodle broth with a fork. It takes repeat after repeat to be satisfied.  But each bite is so musically tasty, you're more than happy to oblige.

Webb begins his vocals (after a short musical intro) with Black Eye.  It's an appropriate opening as there's no way to get through it unscathed.  From computer generated music, to what sounds like an electric kazoo the instrumentals keep you on your toes from start to finish (which could be said about the whole record).  Add to that the playful chorus when Webb sings of a horrifying reaction towards abuse called Stockholm Syndrome.  If you're not sure what parallel he's drawing, keep listening - this is just the beginning. 

In Freddie Please he covers his controversial lyrics in a 50’s style ballad. That’s what makes the message so poignant. “The stone’s been rolled away, but you’re picketing my grave for loving the things you hate. Then why do you seek the living among the dead?” The song is addressed to Fred Phelps, but could certainly be listened to as an open letter.

The Spirit vs. The Kick Drum pokes fun at how many of us approach the Trinity. Lyrically simple but full of truth, Webb picks the perfect swing groove to accompany a caricature of the common evangelical churchgoer. Many won’t like it. But Webb sings like he doesn’t care.

If you’re hoping Webb left his politics on Mockingbird, you’ll be disappointed. The State looks at our loyalty to America over Christ. Without a break, DW goes into The Proverbial Gun: “Now I can buy the proverbial gun and shoot the proverbial child. My uncle looks me in the eye and speaks of freedom”. If it’s an uncomfortable listen Webb has accomplished his goal.

Musically Derek Webb sounds as if he's been playing on the jungle-gym of electronic music his whole life.  There's nothing contrived or overdone about this album.  He also offers some of the most melodic moments (albeit brief) and polished vocals of his career.  Most profound is the way the musical irony lends itself so perfectly to Webb's often sharp message. 

Every song is unique, each track provocative in its own right. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s about time. If you’re looking for feel good religious or worship music you won’t find that here. Perhaps those genres have their place. But when that space becomes overcrowded and stuffy you're ready for some fresh air. That’s what Derek Webb offers – if you’re ready to leave your comfort zone. 

For a free download of Webb's What Matters More go here. Or go here to see the video.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Election Silence

On Sunday, Croatia will vote for their third president since their independence 20 years ago. I’ve learned a few things about Croatian politics, but one of the things I appreciate most is what happens the day before citizens hit the booths on Sunday. Today is called the day of “election silence”. Neither candidate will speak publicly, debate or campaign at all. Laws demand that we don’t hear anything from them for 24 hours before voting begins.

A day of silence from the voices of the candidates gives us the perfect opportunity to pray for His will to be done "on earth as it is in heaven".  Please pray for the future President of Croatia.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Whole Year To Celebrate

As I observed several celebrating the New Year in their 2010 glasses I began thinking about how silly it seemed.  These people will probably never again wear 2010 on their face – even though there are 364 more days to it.  2010 was so...yesterday.  In a culture that so often over-celebrates beginnings and undervalues commitment and accomplishment perhaps it shouldn’t seem so ironic.

Not that we shouldn’t celebrate the coming of a New Year.  On the contrary.  2010 will be an exciting year for many us.  Our family is no exception as we expect a baby, a 30th birthday and…well lots of unknowns.  There will be a lot to savor in 2010 – all 12 months of it.

So at the beginning of this year, like many other years, I am examining the various activities that consume my life.  Why do I do this?  What’s the point of that?  Indeed, some of my readers (and others who don't read) may wonder why I blog.  In my introduction a year and a half ago I listed several reasons why I began in the first place.  Here are the top 5 reasons I will continue in 2010:

5.  The longer I live in Croatia, it seems, the more cultural differences I notice.  The more I take in, the more there is to process.  Blogging is one of the best ways I’ve found to be able to do that.

4. Various family members and friends read regularly.  Their interest and encouragement is the fuel that keeps this blog from sputtering out.  If no one read, I wouldn’t post.  It’s as simple as that.

3. I prefer, if possible, to think, rethink and edit before I speak.  Blogging allows me go through that process without wasting your time.

2. This blog has already become an archive.  My arch-rival at the beginning of my blogging days has become a supporter simply because of the fact that it has chronicled issues and events that have affected our lives.  If my wife has converted, there’s no turning back now.

1.  I’ve found writing to be useful in so many areas of my life.  It has helped organize my thoughts, clarify my vision and even solidify my faith.   As Richard Foster notes, writing is a spiritual discipline.  Writing has also been a way for me to remember more colorfully the events that have influenced who I am.  With so many benefits, this is just the beginning.

May 2010 bring the opportunity to learn, grow and take risks.  May it also afford us the chance to reflect on and enjoy how those experiences changed our lives.   Happy 2010!

Jeremy – who is still wearing his 2010 glasses