Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Write Way

What do you think is the most popular form of communication today? I read somewhere that an overwhelming majority of Americans (90%) prefer to use email as their primary form of communication. I must admit I did not, and really do not, believe the percentage is that high. However, there is no doubt email and text messaging are growing in popularity. Don’t believe me? Take a look at those around you. Don’t have a smart phone? You are definitely in the minority.

But what does this mean about the new generation? What is the world coming to when a text message or email can replace a simple phone call, or better yet, a face-to-face conversation? As much as I would like to take the high road, I cannot. I’m not completely innocent. I was just as excited as the next guy when I got a smart phone. My wife says I will get up in the middle of the night to read an email! If you can’t beat them, join them! So, instead of changing I decided to get her a Blackberry! Now I’m the one telling her to put down the phone!

To be honest, I look at this modern day form of communication as a good thing, if you choose to be different. The best way to rise above those around you is to just be different. That’s what Peyton Manning has decided to do. Last week I was watching an Outside the Lines special on ESPN about Manning. Since his entry to the NFL, Manning has hand wrote letters of appreciation to players he respected that are retiring from the league. During the show, a number of them commented on how much they appreciated the hand written note. The “hand written note.” There’s a concept; a lost art if you will.

Like I said, I’m not above reproach here. However, I’m smart enough to know that if you truly want to show someone you care and that you are different than every other emailing, text messaging, techno freak out there, you have to put it on paper! I probably have the worst handwriting in the world. Man my penmanship is horrific. It’s so bad I actually have to print. However, it’s the thought that counts! Right? I hope. None-the-less, I try every chance I get to show my appreciation for those I’m involved with, both personally and professionally, with a handwritten note. I guess I learned from the best. Every time I returned to school after a visit I would open my bag to find a note or two from my mother. The trend still continues through my wife. Every time I go on a mission trip she leaves me notes to let me know she is praying for me and that she is proud of me.

Peyton Manning is one of those guys, like Kurt Warner that I talked about last week. In this world of media scrutiny I honestly cannot remember ever hearing a negative story about Manning. He’s another example we should all try to follow. So the next time you want to show someone they mean something to you, don’t take it from me, take it from Manning and drop them a note, on paper! Aspire to new heights.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Thunder Rolls

I was sure by now,God, that You would have reached down
and wiped our tears away,
stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
and it's still raining
as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away.

And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to You
and raised me up again
my strength is almost gone how can I carry on
if I can't find You
and as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away


I lift my eyes onto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes onto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth

Praise You in the Storm by Casting Crowns

Have you ever had a week when a song just speaks to you? This past weeks was one of those for me and this song says it best. I’ve cried out to God and the thunder continues to roll but I can hear His voice in the distance and I know He is by my side. You see, as I write this blog I find myself wide awake at 3:00 a.m. (or at least awake). Every once in a while you have one of those days, or weeks, where it just seems like things could not get any worse. Over the past 10 days we have had a plethora of sickness in the Hogg home. Brynlee is on the down hill stretch of a cold that was accompanied by a massive cough that kept her up several nights in a row. Last week Becton had the stomach bug and was kind enough to give it to me. Now Kacee is on her fourth day of a bacterial infection that has major side effects like nausea, high fever, and chills. After recovering from his stomach bug Becton picked up Brynlee’s cold and cough and he still has a ways to go before he recovers.

I’m so thankful that we live in Lubbock and that grandparents are nearby. I don’t know any way I could survive without them. Kacee is locked up in her parent’s house and the rest of us rotate kids so that we can sleep every other night. Now you see why this Casting Crowns song speaks to me in this moment. It’s moments like this that we draw close to God, many times to make accusations. Heck, I’ll be the first to admit I rarely look a trial in the face and say, “God thank you for making me stronger!” No, usually I’m the first to say, “Why me? What have I done to deserve this?”

I’m reminded of Paul, and the “thorn in his side.”

2 Corinthinas 11:23-27 “…I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I could not have said it any better. I know in my weakness comes greater faith. That doesn’t make it any easier. However, one does not have to look far to see that their “thorn” is far less severe than the “thorn” in the side of others. And it is for that very reason that “I will praise You in the storm.” Aspire to new heights.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A 30th worth remembering

If I told you we were all work and no play while living in Romania, I would be lying. Kacee and I both agreed that this was a chance of a lifetime on many fronts and we were not going to miss a one of them. So we sat aside a portion of our savings to make sure we saw as much of Europe as we could. One of my favorite trips was snow skiing in Davos, Switzerland. It was actually my 30th birthday (four years ago today) and Kacee decided this was a great way to celebrate. It was only about 12 hours drive from Timisoara and we had a team meeting in Budapest to attend a few days before. This only left eight hours on the road. The drive was picturesque. It was crazy but we actually spent as much time driving in tunnels through the mountains as we did on the road.

It’s a good thing the sights were worth seeing because the skiing was more than this flatlander could handle. Let’s put it this way; the Alps made Ruidoso look like a hill in the Texas Hill Country. The skiing was so, so hard. A green was as hard as any black I’ve gone down. Consequently, we asked for a reimbursement on our three day rental and just used one day! None-the-less we truly enjoyed walking around this skiing village. It is a trip I will not soon forget. Who knows, 40 is not that far away! Enjoy the pics. Aspire to new heights.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Role Model

Who did you look up to growing up? Was it an athlete? How about a movie star? Maybe it was just a common, down-to-earth person from your home town. Were they a positive role model or a negative role model? Did your perception change about them as you grew up? I must confess I’ve changed my opinion about a number of my role models as I’ve grown up and matured. Unfortunately sometimes they give us no choice.

Dr. Robyn Silverman describes role models as “people who others imitate, emulate or look to for guidance. There are good role models who inspire greatness in others and bad role models who are what we call ‘bad influences.’” Dictionary.com defines a role model as “a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, esp. by younger people.”

So who do you think is a better modern day role model, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Phelps, or Kurt Warner? All three are a success in their sport. All three are examples, one positive and two negative. So who would you want your kids to look up to?

As a Texas Rangers fan I was somewhat an A-Rod fan (thought I though he was grossly over paid. With all the scandal surrounding Barry Bonds I had hoped A-Rod would break all his homerun records. Now, he’s no better than Bonds other than the fact that he admitted his use and chalked it up to being young and stupid.

I must also admit I rooted for Phelps to win all eight gold medals in the 2008 Olympics. It was definitely the “feel good” story America needed this summer. Imagine the dejection millions of people are now feeling after seeing the pictures of Phelps smoking a marijuana pipe on YouTube.

Kurt Warner on the other hand has always been above reproach. Known for his rise from grocery store stock boy to Super Bowl MVP, Warner has always professed his faith in Christ and his actions prove what he believes. Whether he is stocking shelves or confusing defenses Warner has served as the perfect role model. I was so disappointed that Warner was not able to win another Super Bowl.

Honestly super star athletes serving as bad role models is nothing new to the industry. Long before my time, athletes were having inappropriate relationships on the road, consuming mass quantities of alcohol and drugs, and attempting to win at all cost (don’t believe me, check out the MLB steroid scandal). What seems to be more disappointing than anything is the attention media provides for the “bad” role models and how little press the “good” role models get (again, check out ESPN for proof). A portion of my doctoral dissertation was on perception verse reality. I don’t want to bore you with my findings and I would have to find my dissertation to do so (I think it is a door stop somewhere in our house), but, in a nutshell, perception is rarely equal to reality. Sure our country has serious moral issues, but we rarely hear of those living above reproach like Kurt Warner and Tim Tebow.

I’m not sure what we can do to change this. I’m not even sure what I’m writing about. Isn’t that what blogging is all about? Providing me with a platform to rave on and on about something I have little if any knowledge of? Maybe not, but that seems to be what others do!

Honestly I just wanted to give a shout out to Kurt Warner. He’s a good example of someone “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.” In this day and age with all of the negativity maybe we can learn something from him. Aspire to new heights.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mother’s Day Out

I once made the mistake of saying I was babysitting for Kacee. Notice I said once! I’m certain I’ve made a million mistakes and I have a million more ahead of me. However, you won’t catch me saying I’m babysitting my own kids again. And I definitely will not refer to it as “my wife’s day off!” Regardless of my poor choice of words, I did take care of Brynlee and Becton this weekend. It is days like this that help me understand what a sweet, patient wife I have!

Brynlee and Becton have booth been under the weather. Becton has had the stomach bug and Brynlee woke Saturday with a terrible cold. It just so happens this coincided with a baby shower and funeral Kacee needed to attend. With that “deer in the headlights look” we waved good bye to Kacee as she drove down the drive. It was not until the end of the day that I realized how brave she was to return. This must be what unconditional love is! I do not attribute this to high maintenance children (and if they are, I made them this way). No, the greatest problem is definitely my lack of patience.

Please know I’m not writing to criticize my children, my wife, or even myself (though I probably need it). My true reasoning is to sing the praises of my wife. I’m as guilty as the next person for not giving credit where credit is due for a stay at home mom. All too often we (speaking of myself) look at this as their job. I’ve even made the mistake of saying she does not need a “day off!” I was right, she doesn’t deserve a day off, she deserves a month!

I’ve always wondered why we tab one day a year to celebrate Mother’s Day. Our mothers are so instrumental in who we are and who we will become. They deserve more than one day’s recognition. There is no way I could do what I do every day if I did not have mothers and grandmothers doing what they do to help raise my children. So the next chance you get, thank your wife and you’re your mother for what they have done in your life. I know I don’t thank mine near enough. Thank you MeeMaw. Thank you MeeMee. Thank you Mommy! Aspire to new heights. I know I will because of these ladies.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Snipe Hunt Goes International

I’m sure most of you, especially those from the South, remember your introduction to snipe hunting. For many of us this was a ritual or orientation to high school. The best thing about a snipe hunt was the anticipation of taking the next group on their hunt. But what exactly is a snipe? According to Wilkepedia,

A snipe hunt is one of a class of practical jokes that involves experienced people making fun of newcomers by giving them an impossible or imaginary task. The origin of the term is a practical joke where inexperienced campers are told about a bird or animal called the snipe as well as a usually ridiculous method of catching it, such as running around the woods carrying a bag or making strange noises. In the most popular version of the snipe hunt, especially in the American South, a newcomer is taken deep into the woods late at night and told to make a clucking noise while holding a large sack. The others, who are in on the joke, say that they will go around the snipes and push them back toward the hunter. The frightened snipes, they say, will be attracted to the clucking noise and easily caught in the bag. The newcomer is then simply left in the dark forest, eventually to realize his gullibility and find his way home or back to camp.
My good friend Todd Long had developed a great student ministry in Timisoara. Occasionally I would join them for events or retreats. Being from the South as well, Todd and I decided we would take the boys to a local village for fun and games, hot dogs, and smores. Some how we even decided the boys needed to be introduced to the tradition of snipe hunting. For weeks Todd and I talked and talked about the great snipe hunt. After a while this story grew legs of its own. The snipe slowly took shape and they had a visual image in their mind of the “thing” they were going to catch. Funny enough, Raol, the team leader, was probably more excited than all the others put together.

Finally the day of the great hunt came. We had a wonderful day of playing soccer, trying to teach flag football, and eating. As the sun began to set we passed out the yellow plastic Billa shopping bags (as if it would hold a bird). Each boy was given a flashlight and sent on their way. We even offered a $100 reward for the first snipe. This just added fuel to the fire. They ran all over that village looking for the birds. They were kicking over mounds of dirt, looking under logs, climbing trees, all in an effort to win the prize.

Unfortunately the sun sat without a single snipe being caught. We gathered the boys around the camp fire to cook smores. They were so dejected, but not near as dejected as they were once I told them the truth! You would have thought we had kissed their sister they were so mad! We did share with them a Bible passage on being deceived and we tried to make a lesson of it. However, it was not until we told them that they could carry on the tradition of snipe hunting by doing it to others that they forgave us.

Everyone seemed to let this event go after a few days; everyone except Raol that is. He was determined to prove us wrong and save face. After all, he was their leader and he had been duped. Much to my amazement he shows up one day for lunch with an article from ESPN on an actual snipe bird. Apparently a snipe is a member of the shorebird family. It is difficult to catch for experienced hunters and the word “sniper” is derived from it to refer to anyone skilled enough to shoot one!

I’m not sure if these boys have continued the snipe hunting tradition, and unfortunately we lost Raol last year in a terrible car accident. But this is one day that will go down in my book of memories forever.

Aspire to new heights.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hold You

Kids say the cutest things. Living with a 2 ½ year old is never dull. Oh how often I wonder what is going through her thought process. There is no greater reward than returning home after a long day to the welcoming arms of a child, especially after a long trip. Earlier this week I returned home from a long-weekend trip to Honduras. As she always does, my daughter greeted me at the door with a hug and a kiss and an immediate request of “hold you.” Whenever she wants me to hold her she asks in a sweet, innocent voice, “Hold you.” As if she could actually hold me! None-the-less I always comply.

My daughter and son are both lucky. Not because they have me as a father, but rather because they have someone to hold them. I was reminded of this blessing during my time in Honduras. It was our first stop at Nueva Esperanza that we were introduced to 20 plus infants (0-4) with two caregivers. All ten of us did our best to comply with the cries to be held. Many of us held two at a time. Unfortunately this was only temporary. After 20 minutes we had to place the kids back in their cribs and leave. There was not a dry eye in the group, including the children.

There are 150 million orphans in the world, each with a name, each with a longing to be held. For those of you that are parents and grandparents, the thought of a child with anyone to hold them is heartbreaking. My love and passion for the orphans of the world came long before I was a parent. However, my broken heart came on my first trip after becoming a father. On that very day your perception is completely changed. We’ve had a rough year in the Hogg home. My daughter had tubes put in her ears and my son had RSV and spent a week in the hospital. The doctors and nurses provided excellent care, but the greatest medicine seemed to be the love of a mother or father as we held them tight and kissed them on the head.

Don’t you think every child has the right to be held? I do. And I think Jesus did as well. In the book of Matthew he actually placed his hands on a child and mandated "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (19:14)

I’m reminded of a week I spent in Latvia. This trip was especially special because we actually stayed in the orphanage. Each night we would read a book to the kids and join them in prayer time before tucking them into bed. One would think a child would grow out of wanting to be held. But for one that has never been held that desire never goes away. Every night for a week I actually held a 15 year old boy by the name of Janis and rocked him to sleep as we told stories and sang songs.

So how do we fulfill this desire? One child at a time. At Nueva Esperanza Buckner is attempting to raise support to pay women from the local church to spend a few hours a day in the orphanage holding children. We already have a similar ministry in Russia. What an amazing ministry. Not only are you providing supplemental income for women in need, but you are providing loving arms to hold a child. Father Buckner would be proud. If you have any interest in supporting this program or personally going to hold a child, shoot me an email at jhogg@buckner.org. As a former colleague of mine once said, “All you need to go on a mission trip is two arms to hold.”

Holding on for Him. JH

Aspire to new heights.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Word Search Continued

As I said in my blog entitled Flyin’ High (January 11, 2009), my wife inspired me with her blog on selecting one word to describe yourself for the year. Unfortunately I’m very indecisive and have had a hard time narrowing down my selection. I started with a list of several hundred. I think I’m down to 20 or so (but the list keeps growing). To help me pick I’ve decided to blog on those that seem relevant (what else would I blog on). Maybe that will help me narrow my selection.


We all (or most of us) remember the book by Bruce Wikinson titled The Prayer of Jabez. The entire short book focuses on 1 Chronicles 4:10, “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request.”

I’m not writing to debate the validity of this book, but I was reminded of Jabez and his prayer this weekend while traveling to Honduras with Buckner and a group from the Midland Christian festival Rock the Desert.

Over the past four years God has done wonders to broaden the horizon of this small town farm boy. As a matter of fact, my growth really began 10 plus years ago when my dad took me on my first mission trip to Romania and Russia. Until that time the biggest stretch I had experienced was moving to College Station (no Aggie jokes). What followed were short stints to Kenya, Guatemala, and numerous visits to Romania. On top of that we lived in Romania for a year and covered most of Europe during that time. I was even able to ski the Swiss Alps on my 30th birthday.

Since my employment with Buckner I have been blessed to visit Russia, Romania, Latvia, Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and now Honduras. Strange enough I probably read The Prayer of Jabez, and more than likely prayed the very same prayer, in 2000. Man how my territory has expanded since then.

For the first time in my life I’ve begun to look at “expansion” in an entirely different way. Sure my experiences have expanded the past 10 years by visiting a number of countries. Without a doubt my family has expanded the last four years with the addition of two little ones. My thought process has even expanded as I have been exposed to so many wonderful Buckner ministries. But is there more to this expansion thing? I’m starting to think there is.

To me, expansion should also mean getting out of our comfort zone. Visualize an old worn out sweatshirt. I have this yellow sweatshirt that is two sizes too big. I’ve owned it for over 10 years. I’m not sure why I bought it. It is so very ugly. I don’t think I ever wore it out of the house. However, I put it on every evening when I get home from work. Kacee hates it. I call it Ole’ Yeller. I even wore it when Becton was born (I was sick, cold, and I had it in my bag). If Kacee believed she could get away with it I know she would throw it away. Anyhow, I digress. Over time this shirt has stretched and stretched to the point that it is a lot bigger than it once was. However, I’ve never noticed (maybe because I’m a lot bigger than I used to be as well). None-the-less it is still the same shirt. Our comfort zone is somewhat the same way. It slowly stretches with a few little things here and there, but we really never realize it is expanding. That is good. A little stretching does us all some good. As we grow, so grows our comfort zone.

As good as a little stretching is for our personal development an occasional expansion beyond just a little stretch will do us all some good. As Brennan Manning once said, “If we are going to keep on growing, we must keep on risking failure throughout our lives.” Why not take a risk? Do something you would never do in a million years. Follow a dream you’ve had for ever. Take that leap of faith.

Expansion may be my favorite “word of the year” yet. Unlike Ole’ Yeller it just seems to fit for the place I find myself today. Maybe you should join me. If we all wore ugly yellow sweatshirts no one would think anything of it.

Stretch on! Aspire to new heights.