Thursday, December 27, 2007

In Tribute to Benazir Bhutto


OK, I'll admit it, I've been a bit depressed ever since Dec. 22 over the sad news of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan. She was one courageous and elegant woman and I have often admired her from afar.

I received an e-mail last week from my good friend and college buddy, Ken ("Kimbo") Joseph, who now lives in Tokyo but spends much of his time (as an Assyrian Christian) in Baghdad, trying to help Assyrian Christians in Iraq.

As you can imagine, this isn't an easy task that he has taken on. I love and admire Kimbo, not least of all for his courageous acceptance of great danger to do what God has called him to do.

Knowing Kimbo these past 30 years, it was no big surprise to me to learn he was a personal acquaintance of Ms. Bhutto's. He is one chap who seems to know everyone.

But I was particularly moved by Kimbo's tribute to her. I asked his permission to reprint it here:

"I first met Benazir Bhutto about two years ago. I was amazed at her courage. Being in Iraq and seeing the way women are treated in [that part of the] world, it was a breath of fresh air to be with a woman so educated, so eloquent, and most of all -- so courageous.

She was fearless!

She was also very funny because she towered over all comers with her impeccable speach, knowledge and "aura."

As I watched the coverage of her sudden and sad death, I was immediately reminded of another courageous leader who shared the same fearlessness in the face of evil.

I was with Anwar Sadat along with the late Harald Bredesen at his place along the Suez Canal in Ismalia. He said, "Look at all these advisors! They are all telling me to be more careful, to wear a bulletproof vest, to not go out to my people anymore. This is what I tell them: God has given me a mission. Until that mission is completed nothing can hurt me. When my mission is completed nothing will be able to protect me."

I will never forget the image of him standing up as the shooting began, realing that his time had come and that he must face it with courage.

In the days ahead, the life of Bhutto will be analyzed and evaluated. Just as with Anwar Sadat's death, hers will no doubt have tragic consequences for the whole of the Muslim world.

For the world to have to face this same evil of brutality and violence, over and over again, demonstrates where true cowardice and true courage lies. Unable to face the truth, the evil that expresses its hatred toward people like Sadat and Bhutto does the only thing it can do -- it kills and maims, slaughters and tries to intimidate.

What is happening in the Muslim world today is truly a direct and present threat to all who value freedom, the rule of law and justice.

This face of intimidation shows an evil side to these Islamic fundamentalists. Apparently they cannot fight the battle effectively in the arena of ideas, in the arena of morality, or even in the ability to demonstrate a capacity for peace and stability. They can only move their agenda forward on a river of blood.

There is only one thing that can, and has, stopped this kind evil ... it is the triumph of good.

Benazir represented all that these evil men hate -- a woman, strong, eloquent and beautiful!

The answer to the tragedy of her death is for a new generation of leaders to stand up for truth ... in particular young women ... and to speak it to power.

It is faith, and faith alone, that will present and protect the truth that these evil Islamic fundamentalists cannot stand against.

In a day in which most of us, without realizing it, have come to deny that there is real evil in the world, Bhutto's death should remind us that in spite of our advances in technology, medicine, and international politics, there still remains evil. The first step in destroying it is to realize that it exists, and to stand up against it with faith.

Jesus was our good example in this regard. Remember how He walked into the Temple where evil was going on? What did he do? He very simply, quietly and courageously turned over the stalls of the moneychangers and shamed them with the truth.

It was the beginning of their end."

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Our 2007 Christmas Blog

For the Short family, 2007 was a year full of very challenging and rewarding events that we will never forget. Looking back, we are amazed at how the Lord blessed and preserved us through it all …


Getting Reacquainted With Dad

The fun began in February, when Don and I, concerned about our Dad’s deteriorating living situation in Alabama, decided to visit Birmingham for a week. While we were there, our eyes were opened to how miserable and desperate his life had become.

He agreed to return to Washington with us, but Faye refused. The next four months the battle really heated up. Faye filed a lawsuit in court, alleging that I and my siblings had “kidnapped” Dad against his will. Dad countersued for divorce. In May I had to travel back to Alabama for a week to defend myself in court.

The case was settled and the divorce finalized, we sold my dad's house, and my brother Lee, along with Mandy and Alex, convened there in August with two moving trucks in an attempt to salvage as much of Dad’s possessions as possible. Mandy and Alex drove one truck with them as they moved to Bedford, Pennsylvania, and Lee and his friend Patrick drove the other (plus Dad’s car) out here. So we got to enjoy a brief visit with them.

In early September, Dad also moved from our house (where he had been our guest for seven months) to an adult family home in the area. It is a very nice place and he is enjoying the company of a small handful of residents there. He is in a fairly advanced state of confusion due to his Alzheimer’s, but otherwise is in relatively good health. Although it is a struggle to understand how to help him, we have enjoyed reconnecting with him this year.

We enjoyed a visit from my youngest sister, Kay, in April, and she and her husband Tom returned in August to look for a home in the Bellingham area. They are planning a move from upstate New York, possibly in February. Dad also enjoyed a visit to Sandy and Dave's home in Southern California in May.

Trips to Oregon …

We made a total of three trips to Oregon this summer. We visited Cannon Beach with both kids and their significant others in June; then in July Nathan and Larry participated in the annual “Seattle to Portland (STP)” bicycle classic, a 206-mile endurance ride through beautiful Pacific Northwest countryside. (Darlene and Becky were there to meet them at the finish line in Portland. They shaved about an hour off their 2005 time!) The six of us then again spent a weekend in Seaside, Oregon, later in July. We had spectacular fun playing with the seals at the Seaside Aquarium.

By the way, Nathan and Becky are doing great, despite having to attend lots of weddings this year. Nathan got promoted this year and is managing desktop and network systems for his company in Kent, Precision Direct. He works long hours and spends his spare time concocting new recipes in his home-built brewery. Becky is studying hard and doing her student teaching, and also working a part-time job right now as a caterer with the Pt. Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. They acquired a new kitty, Hobbes, which makes three for them.

And Idaho …

During the summer my Dad and I also undertook a road trip to Nampa, Idaho, to spend the day with his sister Joyce and do a little camping on the Snake River.

Don’t forget Pennsylvania!

Mandy’s move to Bedford was the result of a transfer arranged by her employer, REI, which built a new distribution center there. Darlene and I visited in October, during their famous Fall Foliage Festival, and enjoyed our time with her and her roommates. We even got to spend a day in a chocolate-consuming frenzy at the sweetest place on earth – Hershey, Pennsylvania. And we got to visit Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the site of the first big U.S. disaster, the Johnstown flood in 1889. This is where the Red Cross got its start. I have vivid memories of reading about that disaster when I was young.

Best of all, Mandy’s boyfriend, Alex Pittman, took us on a long walk around town for the purpose of asking Mandy’s hand in marriage. Two weeks later they were engaged. Date and venue not yet set.

And finally, Southern California



Larry’s team at work spent three days at a Web conference in Monterey, California, so it was a good excuse for Darlene to fly with me and we left Seattle a few days early, rented a minivan in San Jose, and drove down to Southern California for a delightful two days with her parents and other family members in the mountains above Los Angeles, before returning to the Bay area for the conference.

For Elim, It’s all About the Congo

Our big church project of the year was a short-term missions trip to Gemena and Tandala Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mandy and Larry had visited this beautiful country in the summer of 2006, and Larry was excited for the opportunity to work on an organizing committee for this effort, though he was unable to actually go on this trip. Elim will be extensively involved in the Evangelical Free Church efforts to assist AIDS orphans and widows in Gemena. We have sponsored Kokote Jures, a 5-year-old AIDS orphan in Gemena (our second sponsored child in the Congo). Working with TouchGlobal, Elim’s goal is to sponsor 1,500 such children during the coming year. You can help! Visit http://www.TouchGlobal.org/ for more info. Also see the "Congo Blog" Larry created for this effort.

2007 Ride4US

Larry’s other big bike ride of the year was the 2007 “Ride4US” around the Puget Sound, designed to raise funds to purchase ultrasound machines for Pierce County Crisis Pregnancy Centers. The 60-mile hilly ride was more grueling, mile per mile, than the STP, but somehow I made it to the end!

Darlene Busier Than Ever With the Children’s Emergency Fund

Most of you probably don’t know that Darlene manages a nonprofit organization, associated with the Puyallup School District, called Children’s Emergency Fund. The Fund provides emergency help with food, shelter, clothing and medical care for children of local low-income families. That keeps her almost as busy as her three day-per-week school nursing job at three area schools.

In other Darlene news, she is recuperating at home after breaking her arm in a fall during our annual Christmas Tree hunting adventure on Mt. Rainier. We’re seeing an orthopedist next week for treatment options. In the meantime she’s resting comfortably here.

And Larry Promoted to “Web Guru” at World Vision

The Web program at World Vision is always changing in some way, Larry has learned after nearly 11 years working on the Internet channel there. And the latest change is a big one. In October a new team in his division was organized to upgrade World Vision’s internet presence and make it much more interactive, and his team of writers/web content providers is being integrated into that larger team. Larry is still managing the writers, for the time being, but is also serving as an internal consultant as regards some of the more technical aspects of the effort, such as production, analytics, and search engine optimization. He is also doing a lot of blog writing and developing a strategy for Web 2.0 (online social networking) for World Vision.

Darlene Goes Green

Several Short family institutions gave up the ghost this year, after about a decade of use -- among them, Darlene’s old Dodge minivan, and Larry’s old spa. So for Christmas gifts to each other we decided to go green: a new, high tech, energy-efficient spa for Larry, and a Toyota Prius (hybrid gas/electric) for Darlene. So far we’re getting 50+ mpg (in the car, not the spa), so eat your heart out, all you SUV owners!

Felicity Joins the Family

Felicity is a small black and white kitty who took up residence with us this summer. She was very bashful at first but is definitely coming out of her shell now. She spends most of her time either defrocking our Christmas tree or drinking from its water supply, or stealing our pens and hiding them.

A Visit From Our Hero, Aunt Dorothy

Dorothy Kalloch is my mom’s eldest sister, at 80. She left for a life of missionary work in Niger, at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, the month before Larry was born. She finally retired last month, after more than 50 years of work with Serving in Mission (SIM) as an R.N. and a translator. She spent a week with us in November, and we had a wonderful time catching up with her. Right now Dorothy is in Southern California, considering where her next assignment will take her.

Taking a Deep Breath …

Can you believe we packed all that into a single year? No wonder we’re tired!

Well, not really tired … but definitely glad it’s Christmas! What a wonderful time to stop and reflect how drastically different our lives would be if it weren’t for the Manger … and the Cross.

We pray that you and your families will take some time this year to reflect on God’s blessings, and enjoy His presence, in preparation for the year ahead – whatever 2008 will bring. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Identity Theft & Alzheimer's Disease

I think most of the people who read my blog are already aware of the recent crisis in our family -- my father's rapid slide into severe Alzheimer's disease, and my family's efforts to rescue him from a gold-digging wife in Alabama and care for him properly. I haven't told that whole story yet in this blog, but I think I will soon.

What's motivating this blog entry tonight is an interesting footnote to this traumatic story. For the past two months, someone has been attempting to steal my dad's identity. About two months ago we started receiving calls from credit agencies and banks. I'm not sure how the first one knew to call here, but I'm glad they did, because they alerted us to what was going on and helped us to very quickly put a fraud alert on each of the three primary credit bureaus.

This has proven very important, as I am now receiving at least one or two additional calls each week related to additional attempts, apparently by the same person(s), to apply for credit in Dad's name.

One of my biggest frustrations is the fact that after most of these callers learn that I am not my father, they refuse to talk much further with me or divulge any information (due to "privacy" concerns) about who is making the fraudulent applications for credit in my dad's name. This despite the fact that I am my father's legally appointed Power of Attorney.

But there have been two recent breakthroughs. The first came from Citibank, which (even though they didn't give me any other information), did give me the number for their Identity Theft Solutions division. When I called this division, they were VERY helpful and actually let me listen in as they called Citibank's credit application division and asked about the return address on the application. Here is what I heard:

117 Homestead Dr., Apt. A-2
Brent, AL 35034

The interesting thing about that address is that it is less than an hour's drive from where my father used to live in Alabama.

Doing some internet sleuthing I was able to make some calls and speak with other residents in that apartment complex, but haven't yet gotten what I am confident is an accurate name for the occupant of apartment A-2.

However, tonight I had another breakthrough, thanks to Barclay's Bank. The caller (alerted not only because of the fraud alert on my dad's credit record, but also because their database showed previous fraud activity at that address) not only confirmed this address, but also gave me an e-mail address and two phone numbers associated with the fraudulent credit application:
(205) 225-4101
(205) 926-7494
BlessedinBrent@bellsouth.net

The second of those two phone numbers has been disconnected and the first goes to an answering machine with a woman's voice. I have not yet obtained the name of the person or persons who own those phone lines or e-mail address, or who rent that apartment, but I am getting close.

(By the way, if you are reading this and have any information that would help me out, let me know by clicking the "comment" link on the bottom of this posting, okay? Does anyone out there know how to go about finding out who owns an unlisted phone number or e-mail address?)

Once I get an identity to go with this information, I will turn it over to the FBI. Mail fraud is a federal offense and I have some friends I can contact in the FBI's Internet crime bureau.

I am not alledging that the person(s) associated with this contact information is involved in the commitment of any kind of crime. But I'm sure the FBI would be interested in interviewing them to find out what they know.

I would like to say -- and I will close with this -- that I wouldn't be surprised if there is a special compartment in hell reserved for someone who would take advantage of a person suffering from Alzheimer's Disease by trying to steal their identity.

I'll keep you posted as I learn more.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Asking for a Little Help

Here's the story my Aunt Dorothy asked me to write down for her.

In the spring of 2004 the biking bug bit me bad. I bought a department store mountain bike (the monster weighed 45 pounds but fortunately I didn't know at the time that was heavy) and began taking it up and down hills. I lost about 25 or 30 pounds and got in great shape quickly. Which was good because, at 48, I had a lifetime of sedentary deskwork to make up for.

Late in August we were scheduled to drive our daughter, Mandy, down to Pt. Loma University in San Diego, California, to begin her freshman year. Much to my wife's chagrin, I tied the mountain bike to the back of our minivan and hauled it 1,200 miles from our home in the Seattle area down to Southern California.

Two days before we were scheduled to be in San Diego, we stopped at my inlaws' place in Wrightwood, California. The next morning the sky was clear and sunny so I decided to take the bike up a local mountain. I started on the Angeles Crest trail and ground my way up the back side of one of the peaks utilized by local skiers during the winter.

It was a grueling, 3,500 foot ascent, which took several hours to complete. And it was lonely -- I didn't see a soul all the way up. About a third of the way to the top, the rough asphalt one-lane road ended and the trail turned to dirt. But I finally made it, enjoying spectacular scenery all the way and feeling the good about the effort.

After a brief rest I turned the bike around and headed down. It was exhilarating. The soil of the trail was soft and gravelly and the bike swooshed back and forth as if I were skiing. The speed was fun and I think I began to feel somewhat invincible, though I thought I was being fairly cautious.

When I picked up the asphalt again, I felt I was able to safely pick up some more speed, even though the angle of the mountain off the side of the road was quite serious. Very soon I was coming around a curve doing maybe 20 or 25 mph ... unfortunately too fast to do anything about a large unremembered rut in the asphalt, where a washout had occurred, which stretched completely across the trail.

Unable to stop, I quickly decided to try and grind through it, but I wasn't sufficiently experienced to keep the nose of the bike up high enough, and the front wheel caught on the far side of the rut's lip. Before I knew what had happened the bike flipped me face-first onto the asphalt.

It happened unbelievably fast. I knew I had hit my head but didn't actually realize I had smashed my face into the asphalt, until the searing pain became quickly evident. I lay on the ground for awhile, unable to move, then finally sat up and began to take stock of my injuries. Most of the skin on top of my right knee was gone, but I soon realized that most of the puddle of blood on the ground was coming from my face rather than my leg. I had widened my mouth by about an inch or so, tearing straight up from the corner like an extended smile. (It wasn't until later I realized you could see my molars through this rip in my cheek.) My nose was gashed pretty good, as well as the tissue around my right eye, but worst of all was the pain in my face. My jaw seemed to hang at a funny angle and I was sure I had broken it. (It wasn't until later I realized I had broken my cheekbone, and simply jammed my jaw.)

In some respects I was lucky. When I removed my helmet, I was surprised to see it was crushed along the top. If not for my helmet, I would have seriously smashed my forehead into the asphalt. It did it's job protecting my brain.

I looked at the cellphone which I was carrying, but I already knew what to expect. I was in a remote area, and all morning long I had been checking for a signal, but didn't see a single bar. I tried to call 911, but it didn't go through.

Unsure of what else to do, eventually I picked myself (and my broken bike, too mangled for riding) up and began limping down the trail. I wasn't sure how long I might have to wait for help, and it seemed like a good idea to at least begin to walk.

I pushed forward for maybe 20 or 30 minutes, checking my cell phone every few minutes for a signal -- but nothing. The pain in my face, blazing hot and seemingly unbearable, went nowhere but worse, and despite my attempts to stop the bleeding in my face with my shirt, I was soaked in blood. My head began to swim and several times I had to stop. Finally, I dropped the bike, and collapsed by the side of the road. This time the haze in my head wouldn't go away, and I found I couldn't really get up again. I started thinking about what might happen if I passed out on that backwoods road, soaked in blood, in the middle of nowhere. I thought about the mountain lions that frequented the area.

Suddenly, in the midst of all these terrifying thoughts, a realization struck me. I had been in one of the worst pickles of my life for a half hour, and for some crazy reason I hadn't even thought to call out to the Lord for help.

I was angry at myself. That should have been my first instinct. So, in as loud a voice as I could muster, I cried out into the emptiness, air hissing from the rip in my torn cheek: "Help me, Jesus! I really don't know what to do here. I need you!"

Nothing. Silence. No response other than the soft breeze rustling the sagebrush.

I looked down at my cell phone and blinked. Was I hallucinating? I watched as the signal skipped from 0 bars, to 1, then 2, then 3, then 4, all the way up to 5 ... and hold there. Suddenly I had a strong signal.

Shakily I dialed 911 again, and put the phone to my ear. I heard it ring and began counting rings. After the 20th ring, a voice answered, "911 Operator. What is your emergency?"

I excitedly described my situation to the gentleman on the line. He asked where I was and I told him, "Angeles Crest Trail, west of Wrightwood." But my heart fell when he responded, "Angeles Crest Trail? Where is that? Up by Los Angeles somewhere?" I tried my best to describe where I was, and he seemed unbelieving. "You've reached 911 service in San Diego!" he told me. It seemed impossible.

The operator told me that he was dispatching a rescue helicopter from San Diego, but would also contact both Los Angeles and San Bernardino County dispatchers to see if one of them could get help to me faster. He told me to stay on the line as he relayed my approximate location to these others.

When he was done he asked me how I was doing. I was relieved that help was on the way, but my head was still swimming. "Help is coming," he told me. "But I want you to stay on the line with me and we'll wait for it together."

As soon as he had said that, I heard a soft beep, then nothing. I looked at the phone. The bars had returned to 0.

I don't know how much longer I sat there. Not long -- maybe 15 or 20 minutes. I glimpsed a swirl of dust rising, quite a ways down the mountain, then was able to pick out a rescue unit manuevering up the road. Within another 5 minutes, help had arrived. They poured saline and wrapped my wounds and strapped a neck brace on (which was excruciating due to the broken facial bone) then strapped me to a backboard. They loaded me very gingerly into the back of the waiting rescue unit then started back down the trail.

As we bumped down the hill, the paramedic gave me oxygen and worked on getting an IV started.

About an hour later I was being wheeled into the emergency room in San Bernardino. Mandy had been planning on being a nursing major. When she and my wife Darlene (who, fortunately for me, is already a registered nurse) saw me in the emergency room, as they were cleaning me up and started sewing up my torn cheek, Mandy changed her mind about her major.

Later that afternoon I was released -- sewn up, bandaged and thoroughly x-rayed. My face and knee healed with minimal scarring, though I had to have several broken teeth repaired. I had about a week of torture from severe sores in my mouth. My cracked facial bones popped and clicked for months, then finally fused back together. But despite my injuries I was grateful to be able to attend orientation sessions with my wife and daughter the next day at Point Loma, though I looked like I had been through hell and back.

Here I am, almost healed up!

Many of my friends asked me if I was going to continue biking. I didn't see any reason I shouldn't, especially now that I knew to be much more careful of my speed on the downhills, and how to grind through a pothole with my front wheel up!

Of course this didn't help me avoid the truck that hit me from behind while I was training for my road race in Southern Africa in May of 2006 ... but that's another story ...

A Couple of Year-End Housekeeping Items

OK, just for Christmas ... we created a new look for this blog, and we're going to put our annual Christmas letter here so we don't have to cut down trees this Christmas for anything but firewood.

But first for some housekeeping items. I know there are those of you wondering exactly what's going on in the photo in the header on top of this blog. That was someone's twisted idea of fun at last year's staff picnic at World Vision. A rodeo with inflatable dinosaurs. There were supposedly prizes to the winning teams. I'm still not sure that's actually true.

Second housekeeping item: Much of my day-to-day blogging is now being done through Twitter. Check out my Twits at http://www.Twitter.com/lshort.

Third and final: Before I post our Christmas letter, I am going to post a story my Aunt Dorothy asked me about while she was visiting here last week. So scroll up for that one.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Blogging is SO ... easy!

I'm sitting here with Miyon Kautz in her office, showing her how easy it is to create a blog entry with Blogger software. 1-2-3 ... easy!



Just for fun I uploaded a new World Vision video to YouTube ... which is also easy! ... and copied and pasted the code for the video over to my blog. Voila!

OK, that Miyon, she demands so much! Now she wants to see how you can upload a photo ... here we go:


Cool photo Miyon shot of a lion walking down the road in the middle of Seattle. Sweet!

Young children, beware.

(Seriously, she says this was in Kenya. I'm SOOO disappointed.)

- Larry

P.S.: Want to start your own blog like this one? Just click the "Create Blog" link on the upper right of this Web page.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Jackie, Chan Sighted in Our Back Yard



Spring has sprung in the Pacific Northwest and Darlene and I have two new fawns ... our friend Jane Doe (mother of the yearling buck Naphtali, who has recently been seen with a new girlfriend) disappeared for a few weeks, then reappeared this week trailed by two brand new fawns.

The attached video of the threesome was shot with my new AIPTEK digital handheld videocam. It precompresses video in Quicktime (.mov) format and stores it at the rate of a half megabyte per second on whatever Secure Digital card you insert in the slot. A 2 gig SD card therefore yields a full hour of video.

I then used Quicktime Pro to trim the video so it was less than YouTube's 100 megabyte maximum, and uploaded it (about 3 minutes' worth) to YouTube for presentation herein.

Friday, March 16, 2007

MUCH Vs. WELL

Today is my 50th birthday. A good day to take off work. A good day to write a blog entry, especially since I haven't written one in two months!

What's it like to turn 50? Well, last night I confess I was feeling a little depressed. My day at work (as usual) was filled mostly with whiners and complainers. No one thinking about me. People around me apparently were just thinking about themselves and whatever their issues were. What a shock.

I had a slightly suspicious lunch invitation. I wondered, "Could this be a setup? Maybe it's a surprise birthday party ..." But no, it was just the usual business lunch ... people posturing, whining politely, wanting to be listened to.

That was the halfway point in my day, and unfortunately it was all downhill from there. There was the email complaining about how one of my projects (behind schedule, as usual) was causing problems for somebody else's department. Nevermind the fact that I was working as hard as I could on my behind-schedule project to catch up and pull off yet another amazing feat.

Shouldn't be any big surprise that other people are thinking mostly about themselves, I guess. Who did I spend most of the day thinking about, after all?

Fortunately I gave up about 6:00 and did the smartest thing possible, came home to my beautiful and others-focused wife. We had a wonderful dinner and there was the pre-birthday present and card. I began to feel somewhat better.

But the clincher didn't come until this morning. Thankful to not have to go in and face another day at work, I sat with my cup of coffee in the jacuzzi, listening to worship music on wireless headphones, and paging through a copy of The Message (the Bible as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson ... which I would recommend to anyone, anytime ... you can even read it online for free, though you may not want to try this in the jacuzzi). I read Philippians 1:9-11, where Paul writes:

So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.

God's example and expectation is that I will be God-focused and others-focused. That's the meaning of love. It's not simply emotional (sentimental gush), but real work. My job is to "make Jesus Christ attractive to all." To live a life He will be proud of, bountiful in fruits from the soul. To get others involved in the glory and praise of God.

Doesn't say anything about me, does it? But here's the kicker: while I'm doing this (which is undoubtedly in my best interest, since everyone knows the happiest people on the planet are never the richest or most selfish, but always its least self-absorbed), God is doing the same thing ... his focus is on me. Zechariah 2:8 says that "whoever touches you" (speaking of God's people) "touches the apple of His eye." The apple of your eye is the reflection of whatever you are focusing all of your attention on.

God focuses his attention on us. He thinks about me, cares for me, loves me, even died for me.

If life is like a journey ... traveling, for example, from one coast of the country to the other ... then birthdays are surely like signposts. Maybe being born is like starting out in New Jersey, and making your ways lowly and painfully west, toward beautiful and glorious Seattle!

I guess my 50th birthday, then, is sort of like crossing the Continental Divide. In a matter of speaking, I'm probably halfway through my journey. (I guess any of us would be grateful to make it to our 100th birthday, right? But, like love, the point is not to live life MUCH, but WELL, right?)

OK, I can see it coming ... no jokes about how "it's all downhill from here."

Anyway, the Continental Divide is a good time in the journey to be reminded that it's not about us. In and of and by myself, there's nothing at all I can do but screw things up. But if it's about Jesus -- his character, his power, his glory -- then I know that the party at the end of the journey will truly be something to behold, one much more glorious than any 50th birthday party thrown here on earth.

OK, now I'm going to go out and ride a bike ... just to prove I can still do it. Just let me find my cane and dentures first.

I promise I won't wait until my next birthday to write again.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

ME, Incorporated

I don't have a large number of traditions that I observe in my life. It's not that I don't value traditions and think they serve a good purpose; it's mostly just that's not my personality. I am very much a "fly by the seat of your pants" kind of person.

But there is one tradition I observe which has been very meaningful and healthy for me. It started when I was in college, I took a summer study course at Biola University called "Writing for Personal Enrichment," taught by Dr. Lowell Saunders. One of the things he taught us how to do in that course was to write an "annual report" about our lives.

So, usually each January since then, I take a day off and write an annual report. I look at my previous year's goals to evaluate progress that was made toward their accomplishment. I evaluate areas of health, areas that need improvement, and set new goals for the coming year.

In this report I focus not only on what's good for me and my family, but on how my attitudes and actions this year affected others ... my neighbors, my church, my country, the poor, etc.

A lot of people make New Year's "resolutions." Although my goals are very similar to resolutions, I do not consider them "resolutions" in the traditional sense. I celebrate any progress made toward a goal, even if the goal itself has not been entirely "achieved." I do not beat myself up over where I fall short. I just adjust and move forward. The past is behind us and we cannot change it. We can learn from it, celebrate it, but ultimately the only territory we "own" (have control over) lies in the present and how it shapes the future.

Though my annual reports follow kind of a corporate template, they are very private and I do not generally share them with anyone else. However, I thought this year I would just share selected portions of my annual report (which I completed on January 1) to give you a flavor, and perhaps encourage you to start writing your own annual report (if you don't already).


ANNUAL REPORT 2006
Larry Short


As 2006 closes, I am pleased to report that thanks to the goodness and blessing of the Lord, the Larry Short partnership is in most ways in a far stronger position than it was when 2006 began … or perhaps has ever been.

Financially

We are living comfortably, giving generously, and saving significant amounts of resources against future needs. (In this section I then give a detailed financial report of our assets and liabilities, net worth, current earnings potential, and make recommendations about ways we should adjust each area if possible in order to gain strength throughout the coming year. For instance, currently we give more than 10% of our net earnings away to charity, but my goal has been to slowly increase this amount so that ultimately we are giving well over 10% of our gross earnings to charity. In this case, net=gross income minus taxes paid. We don't have much further to go so one of my goals this year will be to increase our giving to put us over that goal, and I included some specific ways we intend to invest intelligently these additional funds.)

Philanthropically

Our philanthropy takes two forms, our volunteer involvement and leadership in church and other ministries; and our financial giving. (In this section I go into each area of involvement in detail, then draw conclusions about ways we should adjust our involvement to be more effective. In terms of volunteer ministry we tend to go through a cycle where we take on more and more things, until we are less effective in each area and are forced to scale back. It is a challenge to maintain margin in our lives. This annual report recognizes that we are approaching that point of over-fulness and discusses some possible ways we could add margin.)

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE YEAR

A key personal and professional highlight of the year was the trip to four countries in Southern Africa which Mandy and I took for nearly 2 months this summer. (You can read more about that below and on http://blog.worldvision.org/.)

Traveling to Africa gives you a greater sense of humility, compassion, and appreciation for God and the diversity which He created on this planet.

For me personally, I know that God is using this experience to break my heart and ignite within me a passion to be more involved in the battle to help people overcome the stronghold of AIDS, particularly in the Congo. Therefore this year I have been active on a planning team on our church which is working toward a vision trip to the Congo in summer of 2007.

REVIEW OF 2006 GOALS

(In this section I review progress made toward specific 2006 goals set in an earlier annual report.)

PROFESSIONAL HIGHLIGHTS

Darlene and I both continue in a strong position with our companies, even though we both took a step “down” (in terms of grade level) last year. She went back to regular school nursing (from management) and I went back to manager level (from director). I think this has been a positive move for both of us. It has had no financial impact on me and very little on her. Her stress is less, and mine is probably about the same; but I am utilizing my gifts and skills more effectively. Despite some conflict at work my department is growing and prospects for success are good.

Darlene would like to decrease her time commitment at work to spend more time at home. (At this point I discuss in detail the anticipated financial impact of such a move ...)

If we continue in our currently strong position I will be supportive of this move effective the beginning of the next school year (in September).

(I then discuss in greater detail my own feelings about what I am experiencing in my job, how things might change during the coming year, and how I would hope to react to these changes.)

LEADERSHIP

I resumed a leadership position at our church (on the elder board) and Darlene and I have continued with the college ministry. We also both remain involved in worship. We enjoy the college ministry but have not experienced much growth. There is potential though. Our involvement in worship has been growing the past few months and we have enjoyed that. My experience on the elder board has also so far been positive.

In what I feel is one of my most meaningful involvements, I have also been actively involved on a team which is preparing to send four members to the Congo. I feel that potential for success of this mission is high.

(I then assess various possibilities for how our involvement might change throughout 2007.)

FAMILY / RELATIONSHIPS

One area of concern this year is what is happening with my dad and his Alzheimer’s. (I discuss changes in his health during the past year and things we might do to try and mitigate the impact.)

We enjoyed being able to have my dad visit here for a week this summer.

Darlene’s parents’ health is also fairly tenuous, but they are in their 80s. We enjoyed spending time with them for a week after Christmas, and also seeing the rest of their family.

FRIENDS / RELATIONSHIPS

I feel like we have strong friendships with many people, primarily at church but also at work.

(Here I discuss relationships with various friends and things we might be able to do to strengthen these relationships.)

I have been convicted that if I am going to continue to be involved in college ministry I need to invest more time mentoring the college guys.

We continue to feel blessed with close and dear friends and family.

PHYSICAL HEALTH / GOALS

With the exception of a biking accident I had in May (unfortunately, while in training for a ride in Africa, I suffered a concussion which rendered me unable to recall the exact details of the accident ... but I am grateful it was not more serious) and it’s residual effects in terms of neck pain and stiffness, my health this year was excellent.

We do see some impact of being in the northwest, in terms of allergies with congestion (and the tendency for headaches that they bring), and also me in terms of my dry skin problems, especially in winter. Also, after winter subsides a bit I need to get back into a regular exercise routine, to shake the 10 pounds I have added since summer.

SPIRITUAL HEALTH / GOALS

We have benefited this year from the growth that comes from teaching the college group, and also being involved in other forms of ministry. Also from keeping up a personal worship and study routine. Although there are certainly areas for improvement (in some respects I feel I have grown complacent since returning from Africa), and in general I feel like I need more time for rest and reflection, and to regain my consistency in daily devotion, I am pleased overall with the progress that we have made.

HOME

The great windstorm of 2006 left us without power for 4.5 days. We did okay, although it went from being fun (about day 2) to being annoying (about day 3). As a result of this experience and thinking through disaster preparedness issues we have identified a couple of enhancements we can make to our disaster preparedness plan:

We should acquire a power generator source, and a way to safely stockpile gasoline to run it for at least a week, as soon as we can do so at a reasonable price. We should be prepared to treat and store 50 gallons of gas.

During 2006 we treated the roof of our home, and also had our septic pumped. Both should last another 5 years. We had some problems with critters; I took steps to defend the Jacuzzi and the house against their invasion.

In the spring we will probably need to have the fireplace/chimney cleaned. We will eventually need some Jacuzzi maintenance (a new lid, repair of the pump, light, etc.). We will need to reseal deckwork, particularly in the back. The yard will also need some basic maintenance – grass dethatched and replanted in some places, surrounding brush trimmed back, beauty bark, gravel in the driveway.

Due to our earlier expansion of the home, and the kids moving out, we now have three bedrooms empty. We are open to renting the studio above the garage and waiting for the right tenant. We could also possibly rent space in the house, although Darlene prefers to save space for visitors. We also need to think in terms of other profitable uses that could be made of this space.

Throughout the real estate boom the home continued to grow in value. It is now worth something close to twice what we paid for it. As it is currently showing signs of doing, I’m sure the boom will slow to a crawl, and possibly reverse. We should continue along the fast track (and possibly accelerate the process of) paying off our mortgage by 2018.

CONCLUSIONS / SUMMARY

In many ways we “stayed the course” this year and benefited from doing so. More of the same is in order for 2007. As usual I need to “knuckle down” and apply discipline in several areas in order to continue to improve:

  • Organize the office and household issues for more efficiency.
  • Establish goals at work and focus on achieving them.
  • Thoughtfully grow investments. Also review specified investments to make sure they are optimal for our age.
  • Consider consolidating some retirement funds.
  • Consider a possible real estate investment related to getting my dad out here and focus on managing his issues well.
  • Figure out ways to build more “margin” into my life as I get older. Start making some more creative investments in things like writing and learning to play the mandolin.
  • Continue regular biking and work to get my weight back under 200 lbs. Keep on top of cholesterol and other health-related issues.
  • Make wise investments in the home front to ensure things keep running and are maintained well.
  • Also keep on top of strategic philanthropic investments, and set goals for those.
  • Work specific spiritual goals in terms of writing/journaling and spending time in worship, study and prayer. Schedule regular retreats for these purposes.
  • In a few years we will probably need to replace a vehicle, so start thinking about that.
  • See the doctors to get the neck pain figured out.

IN CONCLUSION

2006 was a great year and we are confident about what the future will bring! We are so grateful for all those who have been a blessing in our lives. We pray for you all and appreciate you deeply.


Hopefully this "annual report" has been encouraging to you. For me personally, there is nothing like writing (even if no one else is reading!) to help me sort through my thoughts and arrive at rational conclusions that will improve my life and the lives of those around me.