IF

I was doing some reading the other day and ran across my favorite poem, Rudyard Kipling's "If."  I had not read it in a while, but it was good to read it and reconnect with its message.  Here it is for your reading enjoyment:

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!


Another Class Done

Today is my final day of lectures for my fifth of eight classes required for my Doctor of Ministry program. The eight-hour lecture day can be grueling. I read once that miners may have to mine a ton of ore to obtain an ounce of gold.  Yet that ounce of gold is worth a lot. That is how our class work can be. At times, we dig and drill long and hard and then we hit the vein of gold and it's wonderful.  You just have to stay awake and alert during the process.

I got much of my work back from some previous classes and I am pleased with the results. What's more, I am pleased that I am learning so much that will be relevant for my work at hand. But right now, I have one more day to finish one more class, and then have two more back-to-back classes in June.  Help me, Lord.


School Days Again

I am sitting in my Counseling the Flock class in seminary. I was driving in this morning and thanking God that I have the chance to step back for the week to study, discuss and learn. I am always amazed at how God gets us ready for our futures.  I started this D. Min. program two years ago and I am so glad I did! It has forced me to focus on things I would not ordinarily be thinking about.  I know this will help me in my church work for years to come.

Yesterday, I turned in about 45 pages of papers that I had to write to prepare for the class itself.  Now we have 45 hours of lecture this week and then have another set of assignments due by May 1 for this class.  At the same time, this week we will get our work for the next two classes, which will be held back-to-back weeks in June.

When I was flying home on Sunday, I was still reading and writing, confident I could get it all done, and I did. I am still learning to relax and not stress over what needs to be done in the time available.  If Joshua could have faith to stop the sun to get things done in Joshua 10, I am trying to learn to do the same.


Back At It

I got home from Nairobi last night and I had a great trip. Come to think of it, I've never had a bad trip to any part of Africa. Some have been harder than others and some were more productive than others, but it's always good to be there. Plus I had seven others with me this time and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing them connect with the people and the land. They were a great team to travel with and I hope you had a chance to check out my travel blog that I wrote (in the third person, so even my wife didn't know it was me actually doing the writing!). If you want to go there, you will find my entries under the search name CUBM.

I wrote papers and read books all the way home on the planes and just turned in my nine papers (45 pages)  to my professor.  I am sitting in a biblical counseling class all week, Monday through Saturday from 8:00 to 4:30.  Then I resume my duties at Allegheny Center Alliance Church next week. I am learning a lot from my reading, writing and classwork and I thank God I started this program two years ago.  I have two more years until I finish, but I am looking forward to applying what I learn in my work, teaching and writing.

So I am back and will try to write more regularly. I did not post a Monday Memo last night and am behind on my John Bible studies since I had so much school writing to do. I am relaxed about it all, however, and under no pressure. I will get back to things when I have the time. In the meantime, I have to get back to class.  I feel smarter already.


Fund Update

To date, I have received a little more than $2,000 for The Sophia Fund, $500 of which I already sent into Zimbabwe via my friend Bruce.  The rest of the money I am taking with me to Kenya to present to my friends and coworkers there.  There is still time to give in order for me to give it to the people in Kenya when I go, and I will continue to receive contributions throughout the year and will get it to those who need it.

You can use the "Chipin" widget on this site to contribute, go directly to my website to contribute there through PayPal, or send a tax-deductible check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 91099, Pittsburgh, PA  15221.  Make sure you let me know it is for The Sophia Fund. Don't delay; give today and make a difference in the world.

The last posted entry explaining The Sophia Fund is here.


The Sophia Fund

On January 1, I launched what I am calling The Sophia Fund. This is a humanitarian effort to feed the poor in Kenya and Zimbabwe.  I had an email from a reader asking for more information as he and his wife prayed about making a contribution.  You may have the same questions he did, so I thought I would share my edited comments to him with you:

The Sophia Fund will only be distributed to those who work and give in the name of our Lord.  Here's the lowdown.

1.  In Kenya, I have a lot of relationships, but am now part of an organization now called The GOAL Project.  You can check out their website here.  In the missions section, you can read about the SARAH Network, GOAL's affiliate in Kenya.  They are all committed believers who have some excellent grassroots connections.  When I go over in three weeks, I am taking a team of seven with me, two of whom are pastors.  They will be visiting the SARAH partners for a week and will be directing the first distribution of The Sophia Fund resources.  I also have an Anglican pastoral couple in west Kenya with whom I work. They are great people, trustworthy and able to get the help directly to the people.  They have no distribution costs or overhead and are also connected with GOAL and SARAH. 

2.  I have a friend in Zimbabwe named Joan. I helped position here in Zim 12 years ago and she has now adopted AIDS orphans into her home and cares for them.  She also directs many outreaches in her community and is a committed believer who works with a large church in Harare pastored by an American couple.  She is in the community, with no overhead, so her resources go directly to help the people.

Those are my two sources that I will work with at this time.  There may be more over time, but they will all be the same:  little or no overhead with committed Christian values who aren't just feeding, but using food as a token of God's love to give people the bread of heaven.

If you need any other info, don't hesitate to ask. We of course are keeping not one penny here but will pass everything on to those in need. 

May God direct your prayers and steps, as I know He will.  I appreciate you even praying about this.

In Him,

John

We have already raised almost $800 and I am asking every reader to contribute at least $5 toward the fund and hopefully more.  You can use the "Chipin" widget on this site to contribute, or go directly to my website to contribute there through PayPal, or send a tax-deductible check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 91099, Pittsburgh, PA  15221.  Make sure you let me know it is for The Sophia Fund. Don't delay; give today!  I leave for Kenya on February 11.


Back to Teaching

Last night I returned to my part-time teaching career at the Center for Urban Biblical Ministry here in Pittsburgh.  I am teaching one three-credit course, Messianic Prophecy: The Old Testament in the New and it was a great first class (at least for me it was).  I have another one-credit class that is broken into three installments later in the term and I also have a class trip to Kenya in February.  I enjoy teaching, especially working with adult students who are serious about learning.  And speaking about learning, I have my next class in my Doctor of Ministry degree program at the end of February, this one in biblical counseling.  I am in the midst of my reading and writing preparation for that class. 

So what are reading and studying?  Are you taking any classes?  If so, tell us about them here so others will be encouraged to do something to learn and grow in their own world and life. 


On Twitter

I finally enrolled in Twitter, so give me a tweet at @JohnStanko or sign up to follow my entries there.  If you aren't familiar with Twitter, you may want to consider enrolling.  Also, I am on Facebook and have had a rash of friend findings the last two weeks.  I'm not sure why I do all this, for I don't really need any more emails coming in. But it is cool to be united and reunited with friends and associates, so tweet or connect away with me on either service. 


On The Road

After attending the gala Jack and Jill ball in Pittsburgh on Saturday night, we hit the road Sunday morning to drive to NY City.  We drove here in a truck to bring some furniture to our son who lives in Brooklyn.  We had a great trip until we got to the Holland Tunnels, where we spent two hours in a traffic jam to get through the tunnel.  The problem?  There were many visitors to the city who did not have EZ Pass (an automated toll service) and the tunnel only had two lines open for those with cash.  Those two lines were backed up for miles and delayed the rest of us.  Once we got into the City, however, it was more delays as traffic was heavy with holiday visitors.

NY Tree But we made it fine (so did the furniture) and then came into the city to stay at our daughter's apartment on East 34th Street.  We took the opportunity last night to go see the tree at Rockefeller Center.  The tree has a cool topper this year - a Swarovski crystal star.  I have never seen such crowds at the tree, obviously encouraged by the 68 degree weather.  We got a chance to see the star up close and personal at the Saks Fifth Avenue store across Fifth Avenue from the tree. 

We also visited St. Patrick's Cathedral and did some window shopping before we NY Star came back and ordered in some Chinese food. Today we will spend with our son and have lunch with some friends at a place to be determined. Tomorrow we head down to Washington DC on a train to visit with Kathy's mom for a few days.  I brought just a few clothes but a lot of books!  I am teaching three classes this coming term at the Center for Urban Biblical Ministry and have to complete a syllabus for all three.  Plus I have a ton of reading for my next doctoral class this February, this one in biblical counseling.  No complaints, just an update. 

What are you doing with your New Year's week?  What are you reading?  What are your most significant resolutions for 2009?  Mine is to be more dilligent and faithful at saving money for the future. 


Lazy Blogger

I have been a lazy blogger the last few weeks.  We had a great Christmas, joined here in PIttsburgh by Diana, my sister-in-law.  Yesterday I had our annual PurposeQuest International board meeting and today I am off to an early board meeting with my friend Tim Blanarik, who founded a group called REACH.  Then tonight my wife and I attend a debutante ball of sorts at the William Penn Hotel sponsored by the Jack and Jill organization.  Our friend, Karla Byrd, has her daughter, Catherine, in the ball and we are going to celebrate with them. I had to get out my tux for this one, and my wife had to let out the waist -- just a little.

Tomorrow we are off to New York City where we are going to see our son and deliver some of my mother's furniture for him to have and use.  We will only be in the City for two days, then it's off via Amtrak to Washington DC to visit my favorite mother-in-law.  (She always reminds me that she is my only mother-in-law, but then I respond that if I had 100 mothers-in-law, she would still be my favorite!).  We will be there for a few days and then it is back to Pittsburgh to get back into the swing of things with the post-holiday blues.

One of our highlights of the season for us was our neighborhood get together prior to Christmas.  Since we are living in a new subdivision, all of us are new neighbors, so we thought we would take a chance and have an open house.  Of the 17 households we invited, 13 came by and we had a great evening by all accounts.  My wife set a great table of desserts and everyone mixed and talked with ease.  We hope to do it again next year.

Our Christmas was simple, with both children not able to make it home.  It may have been simple, but it was still a grand time, although we certainly missed my mother with this being the first Christmas that she wasn't here.  So that's the news from the Stanko household.  I hope you are enjoying the season and we wish you  a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in advance (one late and one early, oh well).