Monday, November 30, 2009

Über Christ Follower: Jim Sitton

sitton When evil and chaos reach into your life and destroy the innocent and defenseless, you have very little control over your response. What exists inside you at your very core is what the world sees. Your response may be the only indelible mark you leave. If that is the case, the record of Jim Sitton's life will demonstrate unshakeable faith in a living God.

Horrible tragedy brings out of a person the bedrock substance of that person's character. Praise and gratitude flows from Sitton's lips despite the profound tragedy he and his wife Murriel lived through during a Thanksgiving that will never be forgotten. In a few short moments everything they've ever cherished was taken from them as a demoniacally enraged dinner guest strode through the house and executed a mother, two beautiful cousins, and angel-sent-to-earth Makayla, on the one day of the year set aside to enjoy family and name blessings together. Even as Jim endures indescribable grief, he is a spokesperson for hope in Christ.

People question the existence of God; they grapple with the idea that He is good and merciful. They walk away from God because He can't be understood. Skeptics jump through innumerable philosophic and scientific hoops disproving and dismissing God while purposefully overlooking, or worse, ignoring the lives of those really trying to be like Jesus; God's witness of Himself walking in our midst. If one of those doubters took the time to get to know the life of a Jim Sitton, if intellectually honest, he would be a few steps closer to walking with Jesus. That doubter would witness peace that surpasses understanding God.

Jim makes the case for Christ. He is the überest of Über Christ Followers written about on this blog.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gifts for Teens

This year we're collecting gifts at our church for the Urban Youth Impact Christmas Store. We're encouraging our church members to buy gifts for teens since they always seem to get thought of last.

So, what do you buy for teens that won't break the bank? Good question. Here's a list of ideas on a budget. Maybe you can pick up more than just one.


  1. inexpensive mp3 players
  2. gift card for iTunes
  3. gift card for Target or Wal-Mart
  4. Barnes and Nobles gift card
  5. movie tickets
  6. books
  7. music cd's
  8. journal
  9. back packs
  10. board games (i.e., Scrabble, Balderdash, Cadoo, Clue, Monopoly, Scene it?, Trivial Pursuit, Loaded Questions and Twister, or Sorry)
  11. wrist watch

Those are just a few ideas. This list was pulled together from the results of an Internet search. There are tons of ideas not included so go crazy.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Word of the Day: Door Buster

The phrase I've been hearing all week is "Door Buster". TV ads compete for your attention and dollars promising you stuff at deeply discounted prices that will most likely be snatched up by some more eager and diligent early-bird shopper by the time you elbow your way through the wide-eyed mob to toys or electronics. But, hey, don't despair. While they have you in the store, maybe you'll settle for discounted second best.

As hard as I try, I can't conjure up any wholesome images when I hear the words "Door Buster". I think of "bait and switch". I think of "you been had". I think of Jdimytai Damour (jih-mee-TREE' dah-MOR'), the New York WalMart guard that gave his life last year for stuff that's probably already broken or being demoted to the garage to make room for this year's model. When I was a kid, I remember a bunch of people got trampled at a Who concert in Cincinnati and Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend cried about it. I digress.

I know I sound like the Grinch. Now there's a movie. Remember how the Grinch stole all those toys and those Whos had Christmas anyway? And it made his shriveled grinchey heart grow three sizes to see them celebrate without their toys and play stations? I know it's fiction but the story straightens out your moral compass.

At least until the commercials start rolling again.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Taking steps

Allie's school sent her home with this walker the other day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving at The Arc

The Arc mixed in all the essential ingredients for a perfect Thanksgiving celebration on Tuesday. Family, friends, puppets, and a tasty buffet of food filled every flat surface.

IMG_1460 The Kids on the Block puppet show drew a crowd that arranged itself in a semi-circle around a small stage. Forty or fifty of children in wheelchairs and customized walkers, along with their care givers and parents clapped and cheered as performers entertained. The life-sized puppets portray characters just like the children in the audience; they have one-of-a-kind personalities and unique life stories. Some are handicapped, others affected by divorce, and some victims of abuse. And they know how to have fun and get the people around them involved. The excitement was contagious. Children weren't the only ones sporting huge grins. Grown-ups laughed out loud and beamed as they watched their kids join in the fun.

IMG_1487 Moms and dads, uncles and grandmas sat together with their kids, connected with old friends and made new ones around a feast of deviled eggs, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and turkey. Gravy pooled in mashed potatoes and green bean casserole was devoured by children who never imagined veggies tasting so good. Blessings were counted and thanks given as care givers and generous benefactors circulated among children and parents extending a warm welcome.

After the meal, children were allowed to pick a gift from a table piled high with toys. The Arc's mission is to improve life for special needs children and adults through education and advocacy. The Thanksgiving event fulfilled the mission with style and pizzazz.

From our friend: Gaining Strength from Fellow Travelers

Christine drove over last week and talked with us about Allie and some of the stuff that's transpired around her little life.

On Tuesday, I drove over to the east coast of Florida to interview Bryon and Susan Mondok for Christianity Today. The Mondoks adopted their granddaughter Allie after she was abused by her father and diagnosed with Shaken Baby Syndrome. I first came across the Mondok’s story at the Phoenix Preacher blog in 2007 and have followed it ever since.

The primary reason I’ve done so is because the Mondok’s journey through suffering resonates with my own, even though the precipitating factors are entirely different. It was great to talk to fellow travelers, if only because their experience affirms my own responses to tragedy. I’ll save those reflections for CT.

Here I want to say that tragedy changes people, in ways both positive and negative. I wrote about this at Double X: I have infinitely more patience now for some people and issues and infinitely less for others. The Mondoks have gone through a similar transformation.

Her entire post is really worth reading. Christine's faith lends strength to those working through trials.

HT: Exploring Intersections

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Hook Up


Luann had this on her facebook...

Gotta find a vein.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Visit from Christianity Today

IMG_1457 Christine Scheller, writer for Christianity Today and contributor to the Her.meneutics blog spent yesterday morning with the Charming and Beautiful Susan, Allie, and I.

What a cool lady. She's been following Allie's story on my blog and thought it would make a good piece for the magazine. I'll let you know when it hits the presses...

Sunday, November 15, 2009


miller and me 3I was at a fantastic event last night up in Melbourne and had my picture snapped with New York Times best selling author Donald Miller.

I used to travel to see rock bands like Van Halen and Cheap Trick. Now I take road trips to hear to authors speak and get books signed. Does that mean I'm a grown up now or something worse?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Oasis HIV/AIDS Ministry hosts 5K run | The Good News

image I interviewed Steve Savage for this article last spring.

I'm thinking about signing up for this run. Will you join me?

Oasis HIV/AIDS Ministry hosts 5K run | The Good News

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I went to a dynamite talk today given by Michelle Poole, cofounder of the National Shaken Baby Coalition.

I walked into the multi-purpose room at The Arc School (Allie's school and the host of the event) and was knocked a little off balance. There were about twenty-five women in the room and I was the only dude. That's a great ration if I was on the dating circuit, but not necessarily cool for an event like this.

Poole launched into her presentation and the room filled mostly with caregivers was spellbound. And I don't think there was a dry eye in the place. The only thing that kept me holding it together was the knowledge that I was the only male in the room.

Below is her testimony.

imageIf your granddaughter lives through the night, she will be a vegetable. What do you do when confronted with those words?

On November 21, 1994, I heard those exact words. My 3-month-old baby granddaughter, Gabriela, sustained a traumatic brain injury as a result of being shaken. I can only describe that moment as numbing. This event changed my life and the life of our entire family. That fateful day, my son George admitted in a moment of anger and frustration that he shook his infant daughter as he cared for her and her twin sister while their mom was at a part-time job. Gabbi was shaken on a Saturday. George and his wife, fearful of what was happening, waited until Monday to take her in for help. When I went to the hospital, I had no idea what had happened or the extent of her injuries. When I saw Gabbi in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, I did not need anyone to tell me she was close to dying; I could see that through the tears in my eyes.

That night my family began the shaken baby syndrome journey.
I thought I had told him everything there was to know about caring for an infant. I never told him not to shake her. It never crossed my mind that anyone would shake a baby or that shaking a baby would cause a fatal or near fatal injury. That is the hidden problem of shaken baby syndrome (SBS). No one ever thinks to tell a parent or child care provider the dangers of shaking a baby in a moment of frustration.

Why would you need to tell them that? They certainly know that would harm a baby--or do they? Did you know?
That first year was surreal. My 24-year-old son was going to jail for 5 years. I was now at the ripe age of 44 raising two infant girls that I loved. I wanted to love them as a grandmother not their mother. I wanted to spoil them and let them get away with things their parents wouldn't let them do. I wanted them to go home at the end of the day or after a weekend from Nanas. Instead, I was going to court for custody hearings and case plans while Department of Children and Families of Florida was monitoring the care of the girls at our home.

This journey was no family picnic.
The first five years of Gabbi's life were immensely difficult. I had no experience dealing with a child overcome with such severe medical needs; one who was unable to communicate even the slightest life-sustaining need without crying or screaming. I was now caring for a child with seizures, tube feedings, endless diaper changes, multiple doctor visits and late night emergency room trips. I had to learn a new vocabulary filled with medical terms and diagnoses. I felt as if I was adrift at sea. This was a very strange feeling.

I have always been in control of my life, and now I wasn't. It was time to take charge once again.
We finalized adoption of the girls in 1996. George was in jail. The twin’s mother understood that the children were better off with me, but we still wanted her to have a role in their lives. She was their biological mother and they needed to know each other. She has since moved away to start a new life and is doing very well. She calls to see how the girls are doing and speaks with little Michele.

With the adoption complete, we began the journey of a SBS victim family. I was ready to get started.
I heard about a conference in Utah on shaken baby syndrome. So in September 1998, I attended my first conference on SBS. What an enlightening, but heart-aching experience it was. I learned all about SBS, what people were doing to prevent it, how the legal system works and when to investigate and prosecute perpetrators. I was learning what all the medical terms meant. I was also learning that there were far too many SBS cases each year and more awareness was needed. I learned that there were many families, just like me, wanting to learn more about SBS. In a very special family gathering arranged by the conference staff, we were all able to share our stories and mourn each other’s pain.

I saw children there who looked and functioned just like my Gabbi. Isn't that strange, we don't say, how our children behave, we say, how they function. Then there are the families of children who did not survive.
Their pain is intense.

I left Utah with the strangest of feelings. I knew I could go home and start an awareness effort in my area--that was easy. What wasn’t easy and what haunts me today is the pain of all the families and the helplessness we all share.
I went home armed with so much information. I created a presentation, and off I went. I started contacting schools in my area, dropping off literature and asking to talk to their students. I went to daycare centers and dropped off SBS information. I visited drug rehab centers and spoke to their clients. I contacted women’s shelters, and other like-minded agencies in the area to give them literature and to request to speak at one of their events. I would talk to anyone if they stood still long enough. Some families don’t feel comfortable when people look at their child with that wondering glance.

For me it is an opportunity to spread the word to Never Shake a Baby.
I had looked for SBS web sites prior to going to Utah. There were some, but I didn't get a lot of information at the time. The information that The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (NCSBS) has is wonderful and provides the most accurate accounting there is to date on SBS. There are now many SBS family sites dedicated in honor of a child’s memory or life struggle. More and more sites about infants contain information regarding the dangers of shaking a baby. The Internet has provided great opportunities for continuing access to information on SBS.

Families and professionals are taking charge and providing awareness programs all over the country. In addition to Utah, the NCSBS has held conferences in Australia, Scotland and Canada. SBS is not something that only happens in the United States. Many of these groups have worked to pass legislation for mandatory education in hospitals. Many have passed laws to stiffen punishment for perpetrators.

Many have spoken on television or in print sharing their own Shaken Baby Journey. There is still much to do.
Our family is now in its 10th year of Our Journey. The twins are 10 years old. Little Michele is entering the fourth grade with glowing grades and a very positive look on life. She is the star on their basketball team. Hilary Duff is her idol. Michele loves her sister and helps with her care.

When she runs for her track team she says she is running because Gabbi can't.
Gabbi attends a charter school in Palm Beach that provides all her therapies as well as education. Gabbi only functions as a 5-month-old but her school has provided ways for her to actually communicate some of her needs and wants. Gabbi knows that she does not like a wet diaper, so they put her on the potty every hour. For additional bathroom visits, Gabbi makes the sign for potty, most of the time after she wets--but hey, we are making progress. She has seizures, sometimes as many as 15 a day. We have tried diets along with medicines and have been successful, but her body changes and we need to find new ones. We are currently using a medicine that we can only get from Europe. Amazing enough we have gone from 15 seizures a day, to 2, 1 or none. Gabbi has had multiple hip surgeries, which I think take more out of me than her. She goes with me to visit middle schools, high schools, parenting classes, drug recovery programs, jails, child abuse prevention seminars, church groups, police, nurses, child protection workers and guardian ad litem groups. You name a group and we go. Gabbi has even been to Tallahassee and Washington D.C.

Her appearance says more than any words I can say.
My son was released from jail five years after Gabbi was shaken. I not only lost my grandmother role, I lost my only son. With the circumstances as they are, a relationship with him is impossible. I have to admit that I get very frustrated with families defending their sons who've shaken their child. This makes the life of the mom nearly unbearable. If a daycare provider had shaken his or her child, everyone would want revenge. If it is the father, they make excuses and even try to blame the mother. Then there are doctors who make careers out of consistently testifying for the defense. They spread the misconception that there is no such thing as SBS. If that myth continues we will still have infants with their brains being blown apart for no reason at all.

Somehow, we have lost sight of the victim.
Many ask me, “How do you do what you do?” I hear, “You are so strong”, and “They are so lucky to have you”. I respond by saying, I use the 12 steps of AA; I have no addiction problem, but I have found this programs structure gives me the strength to carry on. I believe very much in God and His love for me. I really am not that strong. There are many times I allow myself to picture Michele and Gabbi playing as twin sisters, when I do--I weep. On birthdays and Christmas it takes all the strength I can find not to spoil the day for Michele. Luckily, I am the lucky one. All it takes is little Michele’s smiles, hugs or just calling me Mom, and I know I am the lucky one.

Every time Gabbi clears another hurdle in her life and proves the doctors wrong, I know that I am the lucky one.
The SBS Journey can be compared to the lives of families who have lost their children because of drunk drivers, child abductors, SIDS, and even accidental drowning. The difference--the perpetrators are relatives or care providers, the ones who love and care for the child with all their heart and would never intentionally injure them. But in 10 seconds of frustration, the consequence is the same death or permanent injury.

Our journey continues. We still continue to cross paths with many who are just starting the journey or have been traveling with us for a very long time. We try hard to continue to spread the word. Some people will tell you to make sure your seat belt is buckled, to put your child in the back seat away from the air bag, to wear a helmet when biking or skating, to never let your child sleep on its tummy for the first year, never leave your child unattended at a swimming pool and to stay away from strangers. SBS victim families will tell you, NEVER, EVER, SHAKE A BABY!

Michele Poole Grandmother and Adopted Mom to twins Michele & Gabriela Poole Born 9/4/94, Shaken 11/19/94

Michele served on the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome Governing Board for five years and was Board Chair from 2006 to 2008. During her time on the board she was chairperson of the strategic planning committee and fundraising committee. Michele established the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome annual giving campaign and has worked diligently to raise funds and support policy. Michele also is was a founding member of the Shaken Baby Coalition and served as President. Michele was Chair of the Family Reception event at the 2006 and 2004 North American Conferences on Shaken Baby Syndrome and has been instrumental in raising funds and establishing scholarships for SBS victim family members to attend the conferences.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Book Review: Mad Church Disease


Book title: Mad Church Disease
Author: Anne Jackson
Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2009
Number of pages: 190

Love Hurts, yeah, yeah (love hurts) says the J. Giles Band, and according to Anne Jackson, so does ministry. Having been in vocational ministry for fifteen plus years, I'd have to agree with both J. Giles (whoever he is) and Anne Jackson.

Jackson's book deals with burnout in ministry, particularly in full-time church work. Ideally, working on a church staff should be the safest place in the world to work. But one soon discovers that there are super-sized egos, personal agendas, micro-mis-managers, political maneuverings and mis-matched expectations at every turn. It shouldn't be this way, but it is. Every ministry has all or at least some of these to some extent sparking fires.

Jackson concludes that ministry burnout is a disease. Like swine flu ravaging passengers on an airplane, Mad Church Disease is an epidemic running unchecked in churches all across the country. Sadly, victims of burnout look for comfort and relief in sin rather than God or his people.

Studies and statistics abound in Jackson's book, as does wise advice from experienced ministers and ministry leaders. Grace also abounds for burnouts. And Jackson puts together some great exercises and discussion starters for those who are serious about overcoming the seemingly insurmountable challenges of ministry for the purpose of productively serving and loving God's people and equipping them for the work of the ministry.

Jackson presents her argument well. In fact, she's inspires the serious reader to take a personal inventory and responsibility for the way he or she works for the Lord and serves in church.

Jackson does a phenomenal job of recruiting well known pastors to punctuate each chapter's main point. In this book the reader hears from heavy hitters like Bill Hybels, Perry Noble, and Wayne Cordiero just to name a few.

If you work on a church staff, worked on a church staff, or want to work on a church staff, pick up this book. It helps put things in perspective. It will cause you to take off the rose-colored glasses. And it will help you to have a healthy and balanced approach to ministry.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Ten Miles Barefoot

five fingers As promised, I said I'd finish up the product review from an earlier post this week. I wrote about my new Vibram Five Fingers shoes.

I ran 10.3 miles in them this morning. The Five Fingers are comparable to moccasins only they're made of high tech rubber rather than low tech deer skin. But they're not foam rubber like running shoes. They're a layer of nylon and rubber that fit your feet like a glove.

My run this morning had it's positives and negatives. On the positive side, I ran at an average pace of 9:18/mile. That's my best time this marathon training season for this length of run. I give some credit to cooler weather. But it was still around 72 degrees this morning and very windy.

On the negative side, I run in pre-dawn darkness for my long runs. Since you can feel every bump and pebble in the Five Fingers, avoiding them is difficult in the dark. My feet are more tender this morning than any run I've done in them to date. So I don't know if I'll use them for any more long runs in the dark. Other than that, my legs feel fine.

Bottom line is I love running in these things. But I won't do all of my training in them and I probably won't run any more runs exceeding eight miles without my New Balances. But next year, I may run an entire marathon shod with the Five Fingers.

Friday, November 06, 2009

A Case of Man Bites Dog

IMG_1442 I hope People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) doesn't get their hands on this video.

Allie initiates this poor pup into the Mondok household by trying to pierce his ear. Sounds cruel, I know, but they clip the ears of dobermans and boxers and pitbulls all the time.

So what's the problem?

From Shaun Groves

Shaun Groves sent this email out to Compassion Bloggers and those interested in Compassion's projects.


It's that time again. I'm heading out with another group of bloggers to see the ministry of Compassion and tell the interwebs about it (El Salvador, NEXT WEEK! Nov. 9-13th). Hundreds of kids will get sponsored! I'm sure of it.  But we need your help.
Could you please...
1. Pray.
-To see the names and faces of the bloggers going with us visit
-Pray for their families they'll leave behind, their spiritual and physical health, their ability to take in a lot of information and experience a lot of emotions and find the words to write about it.
2. Twitter.
-Please send your followers to our trip's page using this link:
-Please tweet any specific posts you'd like to pass along using the hashtag #cbes
- If you ask your followers to sponsor a child, please use this link:
3. Facebook.
I've created a widget for Facebook pages (works on Myspace and blogs too). It displays pictures, videos and posts from our trip as they become available.
No need to know what the heck a widget is. Just go to and click "Facebook" to add this widget to your Facebook wall.
Thank you for praying us through this trip and spreading the word.
Blogger Manager

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Product Review: Vibram Five Fingers

IMG_1439 Today I ran five miles in my new Vibram Five Fingers. Essentially, I'm running barefoot.

Barefoot running is a new trend in the world of running. Studies have shown that working some barefoot runs into your regular routine will strengthen your feet and legs as well as improve form. Vibram Five Fingers shoes accommodate a natural barefoot experience while protecting feet from the hazards commonly found on urban footways. As I head up and over the Blue Heron bridge, little rocks, broken beer bottles, and rusty fish hooks litter the side walk. Naturally, I sidestep these hazards, but if my eye misses a small piece of glass, the Vibram soles protect my flesh.

These modern day moccasins are fun to wear. They weigh a fraction of my New Balances. I'm reminded of summer time as a kid when I went three months solid without shoes on my feet. My run times drop and my form changes while I wear these. Why? Simple. Without pieces of foam rubber strapped to my feet, my feet cause my body to self-adjust my form and posture. That's how God designed our feet. The arch is the strongest shape in architecture. But man didn't invent it. God did. Man simply co-opted God's design into man-made structures.

Studies show that expensive running shoes with claims of reducing foot injuries actually increase the chance for injuries (Robbins and Gouw, 1991). Sounds logical if the sensitivity of a self-adjusting foot is insulated with rubber.

IMG_1438 These Vibram Five Fingers take some getting used to. For close to a month I've been wearing them for three runs a week ranging from three miles to five miles. I've enjoyed measurable improvement. This weekend I'm going to run in excess of ten miles in them. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Give This a Listen

image I'll be loading the Free Audiobook of the Month – “Desiring God” into my bryPod. You should, too.

Desiring God by John Piper is the free download for November; one of the best-selling and most popular titles ever published by christianaudio!

Click here to download this month’s free audiobook! Be sure to use coupon code NOV2009 to receive the download for free!