Friday, December 31, 2004

Before You Consider Weight Watchers, Consider This

Size Acceptance Organization Challenges U. of Pennsylvania Weight Watchers Study

I did the research on this myself. Although as a size activist I wasn't terribly surprised, it has been amazing to me the extent to which respected medical and health professionals ally themselves with the diet industry and try to help promote it. There couldn't be a financial motivation -- or is it just the

Weight Bias Among Health Professionals Specializing In Obesity? (PDF File of the shocking study by the Rudd Institute at Yale)

Within ISAA's press release is our organization's alternative to the yo-yo dieting frustration: fitness, healthy food choices and improving self-esteem. Not all that profitable, but they work.

Happy New Years -- stay safe, everyone!

Best Wishes,

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

More Earthquake-Tsunami Assistance Efforts

From the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website:

Sending Aid to Asia

Dear Friends,

My heart is saddened over the scenes that we have seen the last few days on our television sets as it relates to the tragedy in Southeast Asia. Tens of thousands of people lost their lives within minutes after the wall of water hit; and for most, there was absolutely no warning.

Twenty-eight years ago, I was preaching in Calcutta when a similar disaster hit South India. The government provided a helicopter for me to go personally and view the damage, which was very similar to what we see today. I committed that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association would help to rebuild one of those villages that was destroyed. A year later my son, Franklin, and members of our team went back for the dedication of the new village that we rebuilt.

Ruth and I have been praying that maybe we could do something like this again where we could find an isolated village that was completely destroyed and take the responsibility to rebuild it. We have a fund at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association we call the World Emergency Fund. Over the years when there have been tragedies and we have quietly given from this fund, whatever comes in goes out—100 percent of it. Not even a penny is taken for any kind of administration.

I hesitated to write because I didn’t want to burden you with too much mail, but I thought this was too important. If you would like to help, you can just make your check payable to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and designate it to World Emergency Fund.

We will help immediately in a meaningful way; and of course, we will do it in the Name of Jesus Christ.

Please remember these people that have lost so much in your prayers. I wish I had the strength to go myself. Thank you and God bless you.

Billy Graham

Donate online now to the World Emergency Fund >

Or mail your check to:
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
World Emergency Fund
1 Billy Graham Parkway
Charlotte, NC 28201

In Canada:
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada
World Emergency Fund
20 Hopewell Way NE
Calgary AB, T3J 5H5

Interrace Haven is not associated with or a part of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. I just thought this was a wonderful idea.

Best Wishes,

Death Toll Reaches 100,000

If it's reached 100,000 this early, this could get much more harrowing before it's all over. It's only been 3 days since the disaster...

More updates later.

- Allen

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Earthquake/Tsumani Disaster Part 2: I Can't Quite Get Past It...

...and I'm not sure I want to. Horrible as it was and continues to be, this is a world event. The planet's geographical map was forever altered and the rotation was even momentarily affected. Seismologists even registered shockwaves as far away as Oklahoma (Thanks, Drudge).

Just knowing that more than 50,000 people were killed (with that number expected to grow, perhaps significantly) is almost numbing. I feel a sense of grief for people I never met, for survivors I will probably never meet -- but nevertheless, I feel a connection and I feel a tremendous sense of loss.

I felt this kind of loss with the Iran earthquake last year, though not this profoundly, I will admit -- and I felt this way after the Columbia shuttle disaster. Only 9/11/01 affected me more than any of these; that made me physically feverish and ill trying to cope with the onslaught of emotions those attacks brought out in me and my family.

I have updated the ISAA webpage to include an appeal for people to give to one of the organizations involved in the relief efforts. It's the least I can do, besides pray for the survivors. The U.S. government is giving $35 million in assistance and other countries are giving significant donations of money, food and supplies but this will be a very costly recovery for those 11 countries.

It's going to be a long week...

Best Wishes,

Monday, December 27, 2004

9.0 Earthquake Causes Tsunamis To Hit 9 Asian Countries, Over 20,000 Killed

Vast area reels from aftermath of deadly quake

Bodies Piled on Coasts After Tsunami Kills 22,700


"Death came from the sea," Satya Kumari, a construction worker living on the outskirts of Pondicherry, India, told Reuters. "The waves just kept chasing us. It swept away all our huts. What did we do to deserve this?"

Luke 13: 1 - 5 (King James Version)

There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

I don't think that anyone who perished in this calamity expected to die that day. I didn't expect to face an 18-wheeler the other week, at which time I could have easily been maimed or perished. Everyone will die someday; that is a certainty that we can't change. What is so important is to do our best to be as ready as possible, so that when death comes, it is not an enemy but a friend.

Somebody just said to themself: "What on Earth is he talking about??"

Whether or not you believe in or accept the God of the Jews and the Christians, He exists. He has offered a way to make peace with Him and a way to spend eternity with Him after death comes. Everyone will have the opportunity at sometime in their lives to accept Him, His Son and His Holy Spirit.

Many people have been "burned" by people calling themselves Christians. Note I said "calling themselves Christians" and not "Christians." Those people are, in fact, some of the worst sinners on the planet (through hypocrisy and not living this life). I grew up knowing people like that and it drove me away from the churches for a long time...but eventually, through my longing to know REAL Christians, this God I now serve and worship sent one of them my way. That Christian witnessed to my wife about living free from sin (something not preached in too many churches) and about what the Bible says about how to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord and ultimately, how to make it "home" to Heaven.

"Our paradise turned into hell," said American tourist Moira Lee, 28, who was on Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand.

I am not a minister. I am just a Christian who cares. It's times like these when I just hope to say something that is a comfort... such troubling times.

Best Wishes,

Friday, December 24, 2004

A Very Merry Christmas and The Happiest Of Holidays To Everyone!

I will most likely not be blogging through the weekend so I want to wish everyone my best now. Stay safe, stay warm and stay in good spirits!

Best Wishes,

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

More Holiday Updates

First Light performed last night at the Alamo Recreational Center in Austin, at the Operation Christmas Gift giveaway. It went very well and the small rec center was packed (it has a capacity of 50 - 75 and I would say it was definitely maxed out) with young children and their parents.

There was an introduction and a scripture and prayer (in English and Spanish, one of the church brothers acted as an interpreter). A group of young girl cheerleaders from a school (whose name I didn't catch) came forward and did a couple of cheer routines. Then First Light performed "Joy to The World" (mostly acapella; our band's leader played guitar and sang with us). There was an 8-minute video presentation about Operation Christmas Gift before First Light came forward and did three more songs (which were well-received by the audience).

Then came the preaching of the gospel by one of the associate ministers from our church. He started by calling the young cheerleaders to the front and asked to lead them in a cheer by spelling out "J" then "E" then "S-U-S." The cheerleaders gleefully complied and it was both cute and inspirational. It also set the stage, so to speak, for the preaching, which was also interpreted into Spanish.

First Light was called upon to sing the invitation song ("Just As I Am") and then to play music as the gifts were distributed to the children. Afterwards, the children got goody bags with cookies and candy.

It's always a joy to see happy children's faces at Christmastime, especially since without this effort, some (maybe most) of these children might not have gotten any presents. But the most important thing is not the gifts, it's the love behind the giving -- and that would not have been possible without the love of Christ that's in the hearts of all those who participated in this effort.

And a final IR tie-in: there were children of different nationalities there. We even sat next to an IR couple (Black man, Hispanic or possibly mixed- woman) and their 4 or 5 mixed race children. My oldest son befriended one of their sons and two of their other children befriended one of the other bandmembers (who has two Hispanic-Black biracial sons herself).

The whole event was a lot of fun and truly accomplished something worthy by evening's end. I'm proud to share it with you all.

Best Christmas Wishes,

Monday, December 20, 2004

Holiday Updates

My apologies for not blogging in several days. Quite a bit has been going on to keep life busy and hectic...but that's actually not a bad thing!

Late Wednesday evening, we got our van back and Thursday morning, we turned in the rental car. Overall, I enjoyed the little Nissan Sentra and I'm still very happy with the service and choices of Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Tuesday we'd had a rehearsal for this Sunday's Christmas musical program at church and Wednesday, we had rehearsed at church for the same. Thursday evening, we actually had a night to relax. Friday, Angel and I went to a Christmas dinner for the young married couples of our church (which was wonderful). Saturday was dress rehearsal and then yesterday was the program itself! So, as you see, we've been kinda busy.

Tonight we'll be rehearsing for a First Light performance tomorrow night at a toy giveaway which is part of Operation Christmas Gift. For months, the toys and donations have been collected and now, it's time to distribute them to needy children here in Austin. Recently, our pastor and a group from the church went to Belize and Guatemala, Central America, to distribute the gift -and toy-filled shoeboxes there. First Light participated in last year's event and it was very rewarding. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's event, Lord willing.

Then later this week, we'll begin the Christmas festivities, visiting with relatives and friends. We'll be staying in Central Texas, just as we did for Thanksgiving.

I'll update again as possible.

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Another Installment Of "Dairy-Free Cooking With Allen"

Okay, first, my wonderful wife surprised me yesterday by picking up a great new product from the makers of Silk soymilk:
I had some, and while it is not as thick as regular eggnog, the taste is right-on!

Secondly, I tried out a dairy-free variation on a favorite old recipe that I learned from my late father: Croissant Chicken

  • Pillsbury croissant rolls (8 count)

  • 1 small can of chunk chicken (any brand, I prefer a mix of white and dark meats - how IR of me!)

  • "Better Than Cream Cheese" by Tofutti (8 ounce container but you only use 4 oz.). If your grocery story doesn't carry it, ask them to order it!

  • 1/2 teaspoon Natures Seasons

  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons Dairy-free margarine

Cooking instructions:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

  2. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and either use a non-stick spray,Crisco or vegetable oil to grease the foil

  3. Place 4 oz. of "Better Than Cream Cheese" and the two tablespoons of dairy-free margarine in a microwavable bowl, cover and nuke for one minute to soften cream cheese and butter.

  4. Drain most (but not all) of the water from the can of chunk chicken and mix it into the margarine/cream cheese mixture

  5. Add Natures Seasons, paprika and black pepper, blend thoroughly

  6. Open Pilsbury croissant package and separate croissants into four rectangles (one rectangle is two regular croissants, make sure to leave them together!) on the foil-covered cookie sheet

  7. Spoon about one heaping tablespoon of the chicken/cream cheese mixture into each of the croissant rectangles

  8. Fold all four corners around the chicken/cream cheese mixture and twist the croissant dough together at the top to hold it all together; do this for each of the four croissant rectangles

  9. Garnish the top of each closed croissant with a small amount of non-dairy margarine (less than a teaspoon's worth)

  10. Cook in the oven at 350 for 25 - 30 minutes or until croissants are golden brown. Serves four.

Good side dishes are ranch style beans, french-cut green beans or any variety of vegetables, plus bread if you like (technically, a croissant is bread but I've had this dish with bread many times).


Best Wishes,

An IR True Story

My wife was out and about Christmas shopping yesterday with my oldest son, Adam. They were in line at a Hobby Lobby store waiting to pay for their items and my wife shows Adam a $100 bill. He looks at it and says "Wow! That's Ben Franklin!" My wife says "Yes, that's right. Did you know that Ben Franklin is one of your ancestors, on your father's side?" He responded "Wow! Does that mean we're important people??" To which my wife said "Honey, Ben Franklin is a lot of people's ancestor."

There was one more thing that made the whole thing all the more funny, though. Out of the corner of her eye, my wife saw an older gentleman in line behind them (who happened to be white) -- and he was looking at them very strangely after my (black) wife told my (biracial) son that he was related to Ben Franklin.

They say for everything else, there's Mastercard...but this was priceless!

Best Wishes,

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Mixed Feelings Update

The soreness and stiffness in my left shoulder has subsided, which is a relief. I'll admit I was a little worried after my friend brought up concerns but today, I am just fine and I'm grateful to my Lord and Savior about that.

Yesterday, I went ahead and got a new rental car through Enterprise Rent-a-car. I really like them. I'll be driving a Nissan Sentra for the next week or until the van is fixed and returned.


I don't know why but I'm a little surprised there have been no comments on my near-death experience. Have there just been that few visitors to the site, is the commenting software not working, or are y'all just speechless? Is it difficult to leave comments on serious, life-or-death blog entries?

I mean, had I been killed, that would have effectively killed IR Haven, too. Just wondering.

Best Wishes,

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Reflections On Yesterday

Okay, so I've had 24 hours to think on what happened yesterday and I'm still taking it all in. It's amazing how something that only took seconds to happen can occupy a significant part of your attention, memory and emotion -- when it's something that could have killed you.

I mean, I joked about it in the blog because, well, it was laugh or cry, y'know? And I really didn't feel like crying; I was just stunned at the near-absurdity of it all.

I've had some interesting reactions from friends after I told them. Some said "you should have gotten the trucker's name and license plate number" or that I should have said something to the trucker. To that, I responded "I was just grateful to be alive!" It really didn't enter my mind to get any info from the trucker. I must be a lawyer's biggest disappointment. I probably would have had a legitimate claim but I'm not interested in suing anyone or extorting money (some say "damages") from anyone. I guess I'm weird like that.

Physically, I'm a little stiff in my left shoulder today but it's really not bad.

I've been warned it might get worse and I suppose it might. I've just been trying to take it easy on it. First Light performs at church tonight and, Lord willing, I'll be fine for that.

My thoughts keep coming back to two things:

  1. The mercy of the Lord on my life; and
  2. Why was that 18-wheeler in a residential neighborhood?

I'm probably never going to know the latter, so I'm better off just focusing on the mercy of the Lord and His Will for my life.

Again, I come back to the absurdity of the situation: how many people actually get run over by 18-wheelers at crosswalks?? It can't be a high number!

But it nearly happened...only the Lord spared me from falling over completely and getting run over by the tires (sorry for the grisly imagery) or something worse, had the truck been going faster. Still, it doesn't matter if the truck is going five miles an hour; if it runs over you at that speed, you're still either badly injured or dead.

But I'm not. The driver stopped the truck. I assumed he heard the sound of me hitting the side of his truck and that's why he stopped. Another friend of mine got very concerned when she considered that in order for it to be loud enough for the driver to hear or feel, it might have been a harder contact that I realized. She thought that the adrenaline in my system from running (and near panic) was why I didn't feel anything -- which may be true. I just don't know. She was concerned I might "feel it" in a week or so. I don't know that either.

Sorry this is a longer than usual blog entry. I don't usually ponder why I'm still breathing and its significance. I just know that God spared me another day to work out my soul salvation.

Best Wishes,

Phillipians 2: 12-13 (King James Version)

The Apostle Paul, speaking to the Church at Phillipi

12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Moment Of Abject Stupidity...

Okay, I'm "man enough" that, when I do something dumb -- and live to tell about it -- I'll own up to it. I had one of those "moments of abject stupidity" on the way to work this morning...and obviously, I lived to tell about it, so...

As you know, our van is in the shop but I have a job close enough to walk to. So I head out a few minutes early and walk towards work. My only remaining obstacle is a major intersection with a crosswalk. I take my time getting there, figuring I'll probably miss the light and wait till the next change of light to cross the road. Suddenly, the light changes and the walk signal bids me to cross. I decide I'm close enough to try and make it (this is one of the dumb things I did) and begin to run towards the intersection crosswalk.

My second mistake was not checking for traffic trying to turn right at the intersection. You know, the kind of traffic that doesn't watch out for pedestrians?

I've taken about four steps into the intersection when an 18-wheeler slowly wraps around from my left, encompassing the entire intersection.

This is a classic "I can't believe this!" moment, because my own momentum is enough that I really can't stop or go back to avoid a collision. I see the truck -- the irresistable force -- heading towards me -- the not-so-immoveable object -- in slow motion -- and there really isn't anything I can do!

A moment later, the side of the truck bumps my left shoulder, knocking me sideways and I nearly lose my balance and fall over. The truck driver, upon hearing the "bump," immediately stops the truck, allowing me a second to regain my balance and move out of the way. Realizing I was fine and would remain so, I went to show the truck driver I was okay so he could leave (and he did). It didn't even hurt where the truck bumped me. Yes, once again proof that God watches out for us even when we aren't doing such a great job looking out for ourselves.

Moral to the lesson I: I still had to wait on the light to cross the intersection.

Moral to the lesson II: I think it was actually harder to explain the "moment of abject stupidity" to my wife (over the phone) than to experience it.

Moral to the lesson III: Avoid "moments of abject stupidity" if at all possible.

Best Wishes,

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Follow Up (Part Two)

So, as we were driving to the burial service (after the funeral/homegoing), we notice a high-pitched shrill coming from our van. It was odd and only seemed to happen when we accelerated, which led me to believe it might be the brakes, but the warning shrill from brakes usually comes days before you actually need to replace your pads, so I figured it was safe to proceed.

We got to the husband's property where the burial was to take place (he'd had the foresight to make burial plots for himself and his wife, side-by-side) , attended the graveside service and prayers. The Lord blessed the husband to be strong. He even had a few words before one of the associate ministers gave the benediction. Then everyone came to offer personal words and condolences to the family. I just wanted to give my brother in Christ a heartfelt hug. I knew I had no words that could express more. When I looked in his eyes, I could see that he "got" me. Angel and I joined the choir for a closing song, which felt good.

Then we packed back into the van and started heading home. Now the hiigh-pitched shrill was replaced by a low-pitched shrill and the van felt like its gears were slipping. I also couldn't get it to accelerate over 20 miles an hour! So, I silently prayed and the Lord blessed us to get back to the husband's property.

I found the two brothers (no, literally they are brothers) who had worked so faithfully on our van and told them the van's symptoms. After driving it and trying to reverse in front of them, they were able to quickly determine that it was the transmission...the same transmission that had replaced the bad transmission before! But the good thing about it is that the parts are still under warranty, so even though it will take several days to get it repaired, it won't cost anything to do so.

We just had two hurtles to overcome and our brothers in Christ (the same brothers) helped with both of those hurtles. I knew that our car insurance covered towing but because of the remote location, I knew it would take some time for a tow truck to find us. And it was getting late and cold. One brother offered to stay with the van until it was towed while the other brother drove my wife, kids and myself home. And while the vehicle is being repaired, at least my job is within walking distance from home (about 1 mile, which I can walk in 15 minutes).

So, the moral to the story is: We got home, safe and sound, thanks to our brothers in Christ. What a great God I serve, that He can change people's hearts to be capable of such compassion, understanding and love -- regardless of nationality (our brothers in Christ happen to be African-American). Once again, I am humbled and grateful and I just have to share the blessings the Lord has done for me.

Have a great day!

Best Wishes,

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Follow Up (Part One)

I apologize for not blogging in a week, it's been a strange week. I've been learning new responsibilities at my I.T.-related job; trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to get more sleep; and preparing for today's funeral/homegoing service for our friend who passed away on Thanksgiving.

It was a beautiful service! Essentially, the whole church congregation was there, as well as many family and friends. Her husband was remarkably strong (no doubt, with the help of the Lord). The singing by a combined church choir was a fitting musical tribute to the Christ in our dear sister's life. Also, I was very proud of our pastor. He commended our friend's sin-free life in Christ while also preaching against sin to the living. He offered the comfort and hope that only God and His Son, Jesus Christ, along with the Holy Spirit, can give. By giving the example of our friend's life, our pastor proved the point that it is possible to live Godly in this world, even in the midst of sorrow and pain.

Best Wishes,

Ephesians 2: 4 - 9 (King James Version)

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and not that of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast.