Reverse Engineering a Relevant Life: Kill Your Inner Procrastinator

JanOneI don’t journal much.

If you open my journal, you’ll see a parade of entries for January 1st over the years. New Year’s Day has a way of compelling me to aspire to a more relevant future. But simply writing down objectives at the beginning of the year doesn’t work.

I discovered a planning technique in my last term of college that profoundly improved my ability to steadily accomplish goals.

I’d just finished a nightmarish string of all-nighters from the previous quarter because I’d misjudged what I could procrastinate. I sat down in my dorm room after the first day of class and arranged a short stack of syllabi on the desk in front of me.

What I Needed Was A Map

I pulled the calendar off the bulletin board and transferred the due dates for every major assignment from each class into the appropriate boxes.

Then I tried something new. I began with the last final exam and started working backwards. I estimated how much time I’d need to study the subject to get a good grade. Two days. I counted back two days on the calendar from the date of the exam, and wrote, “Start studying for exam Z.” Then I found the next to the last exam, and decided I needed two days to study for that one too. I counted back two more days on the calendar and wrote, “Start studying for exam Y.”

Next, I found a paper was due on the same day as those exams. I figured I needed a week to write it, so I continued counting backwards seven days from where I left off and wrote, “Start paper X.”

I kept working through the due dates this way, assigning myself start dates increasingly early in the schedule. By the time I was finished, I was supposed to start a paper in the first week that would be completed weeks before it was due at midterm. That seemed silly, but I decided to try following the plan.

It Worked!

This small exercise in planning allowed me to steadily plug away at my work in bite-sized, manageable chunks in a methodical execution of the map that I’d made. I walked at graduation a rested man, but I felt like kicking myself. I could have saved myself a lot of torture if I’d figured out that trick earlier.

Thankfully, the usefulness of the lesson didn’t end when college was over. It turns out you can reverse engineer any goal you want to accomplish and create your own map to follow.

What Have You Got To Lose?

Try working through these six steps on New Year’s Day instead of making a resolution that you know you’ll break.

1. Define a goal

2. Create a detailed list of what would have to change or be accomplished for the goal to be realized

3. Organize the list in chronological order based on a progression of prerequisites

4. Set an optimistic date for the goal to be achieved and write it on a calendar

5. Map the list starting from the last task on the list, and backward from the goal date on the calendar, estimating the span of time to accomplish each subtask

6. Diligently execute the scheduled tasks on the map and adjust assignments to reflect reality

Maybe you have a different method of ensuring that your life follows a relevant course. Please share it with us in the comments section.


Giants Like Bob: Everyone needs a mentor


Seattle, WA – Circa October 1998

Some experiences evade the threat of failing memory through sheer sureality.

The first time I visited a Muslim household was to celebrate the holiday called Eid al-Fitr, which concludes the fasting month of Ramadan. By custom, the children of the family offered me candy from a bowl, as if I had come to the door trick-or-treating. Sitting in the living room of their modest apartment, my head swam as the men of the house spoke to each other in Kurdish.

A Ham At A Bar-Mitzvah

I felt incredibly out of place, but that wasn’t the bizarre moment that I remember so well. It was in the car on the way to visit the next Kurdish home that I suddenly wondered how my life had brought me to this moment.

My new friend was driving. Bob was a giant of a man. I’m not extremely tall, but most men aren’t a full head taller than me. The little car he drove made him look even bigger after he squeezed himself in behind the steering wheel.

He navigated the roads of Seatac and belted out hymns from memory in a deep singing voice that could have won him a role in an opera.

That was the moment I remember. Had I really chosen this situation?

The Key People We Meet In Our Lives

Someone introduced me to Bob while I lived on Vashon Island. I told him of my plans to move to Lebanon, and asked him how I should prepare to live there.

“How many Muslims friends do you have?” He asked.

“Uh. None,” I confessed.

“Come with me and I’ll introduce you to some.”

He had helped to resettle Kurds into refugee camps from the mountains in northern Iraq after the first Gulf War. Many in the Kurdish community in Seattle had followed him there after Sadamm Hussein regained control.

Bob mentored me without my realizing or fully appreciating it at the time – and I wasn’t alone. I met others in his home, where he and his wife Jan gathered and fed us. The encouragement I found around that table gave me the courage to step into unusual, uncomfortable moments. He challenged me be courageous when I didn’t know what to expect.

Seeking Out People To Influence Us

When was the last time you experienced something bizarre enough to be memorable?

Sometimes it only takes talking about our dreams with people who have already lived them out, and saying, “okay,” when they offer a suggestion. Otherwise, it seems too hard to get started on your own, and you wind up having to live with the itch, like a burr in your saddle, or a raspberry seed stuck in-between your teeth.

There you have it – in a nutshell. Everyone should be mentored by giants like Bob.

Discontentment As Incentive

CrownThe car was still running. I enjoyed the heat being blown out at me for the last couple minutes before stepping out to run a couple miles on the Centennial Trail. The last few swallows from my coffee mug went down as I read three pages of N.T. Wright’s How God Became King to supply a starting place for a conversation with God. I extracted the thought that the Kingdom of God has already started, even as it is being built.

I switched off the ignition and slid the key into my pocket as I jumped out and headed down the trail – slowly at first due to a twinge of pain in my back. There weren’t many others on the path this morning. A few bicyclists. Another runner. I greeted them in passing with, “Good morning.”

Absentmindedly, I asked the woman walking her dog, “How’s it going?”

“Okay,” she said, as I clipped past her.

The way she said it lodged in my mind. It became the new topic of my runtime prayers, or rather, a practical extension of the idea of kingdom building.

Bothered by my own lack of compassion

My prayer dialog is perhaps unusual and a little hard to describe. A conversation runs through my thoughts, with my own voice taking both parts. It’s not like I’m asking questions and God is answering – more like I’m asking and answering, but God is moving freely in both.

“That woman needs to be encouraged. Go back and pray for her.”

“Hunh? Based on what – that she said, ‘okay,’ and not, ‘fine?'” I’d had these compulsive ideas before. I’ve come to recognize them not as tests, but more as opportunities to follow Jesus that are given as gifts. Without exception, they always require an action that most people would consider foolish. The feeling of regret I’ve faced from ignoring these calls to action in the past far outweighs the risk of injured pride. Still, it always takes some convincing.

“I can’t just turn around now and go back to her. I’d look like some maniac. And what would I say?” I had passed her, running in the same direction that she was walking. The space between us grew with every jogged step.

“You definitely need to go and talk with her. Say, ‘Excuse me ma’am, but you seem to be carrying a burden. Is there some way that I can pray for you?'”

“Okay, but I don’t want to interrupt my run. I’ll wait for her back at the parking lot. Then it won’t be so awkward that I’m going back to talk to her.”

“Don’t miss it! Remember how rotten the lost opportunity feels. She could turn around and head the other direction at any time.”

A Decision is Made

“I’ll cool down after my run by walking back that way. If I meet her on the path, then I’ll know that I’m really supposed to talk to her.” There are always negotiations and deal making in these dialogs. I was a mile away from where I’d passed her when I turned around and started to retrace my steps.

“What should I say when she calls me a weirdo, frowns at me, and tells me she doesn’t believe in God?”

“I don’t want her to feel endangered because a strange man stopped to talk to her.”

“Doesn’t matter. Gotta do it. Take it as it comes.” After 5 or 10 more minutes of internal debate, I rounded a corner and there she was – still headed my direction. There was no turning back now.

She eased the awkwardness by looking up and smiling. She said, “Going for another round of road punishment?”

I smiled back and stopped. “Actually,” I said. “I was hoping that I’d run into you again. There was something in the way you said, ‘Okay’ that made me think you had a burden that I could pray for.” I stopped talking. What would happen next?

Bricks and Mortar in The Kingdom

Janet was her name. She had arrived from Colorado in time to hold her granddaughter before she died. As believers, the newborn’s parents had time to baptize the tiny girl – prematurely born before her lungs had developed enough to support her breathing alone.

Standing there on the path in the woods, we prayed together. God’s compassion to engineer this moment built faith in both of us. The dog waited patiently.

Now, I’m not bragging about how I obeyed God’s call on that path. You can probably tell from my feeble thinking process that I’ve experienced more failures than successes in this battle. But discontentment in my irrelevant, safe life drives me more and more to be willing to consider foolish actions for the chance of creating relationships. I believe that’s what its like to live in a kingdom that isn’t finished being built yet.

The Value of Discontentment

Building a kingdom worthy of King Jesus is the adventure that satisfies. The paradox? The incentive to build is found in embracing the feeling of discontented hunger.

Have you been struggling with identifying the source of your own discontentment? What do you think of the idea that staying hungry is a good incentive to guide a life of obedience?

Scholz 33-Day War Journal (Part 11 of 11)


I decided to try something different for my blog in November. For 11 days, I’ll post stories from the war that didn’t make it into the recently published Coffee & Orange Blossoms: 7 Years & 15 Days in Tyre, Lebanon.

While recovering from our evacuation experience in July 2006, I wrote a debriefing journal, while memories were still fresh. I predicted that the stress of that time in our lives would erase details that could be helpful to remember later.

I almost incorporated this added information into the email pages of the book, but decided that realism would be ruined and the urgent feeling of their brevity would be lost.

Now I offer you these details as an added-value bonus to supplement the rather sparse treatment found in the book.

Day 12
23 July 2006
From Limassol to The Fairgrounds in Nicosia, Cyprus 

We got up and showered in the morning and headed up onto the deck as a family, looking for whatever we could find for breakfast. Since we had stayed on the ship in the morning, they’d had a chance to stock the restaurant with new food, so they had something for us. Unfortunately, the small size of the café made it difficult for the ship’s entire population to access it. It was yet another wearisome long line to stand in.

I went looking for a table with Naomi while Kimarie and Gideon stood in line. I rediscovered a family, who had been staying with us at the Convent. We more or less stayed with them until leaving Cyprus. The husband’s name was Bassam, and the couple had two medium‐aged children who loved playing with Naomi and Gideon.

From our vantage point on the deck, we could see the US Navy vessel that had transported a bunch of people, parked directly ahead of us at the dock. We could see several hundred US soldiers sleeping in their fatigues in rows on the open deck of the ship with the morning sun beating down on them. They had apparently been ordered to give up their bunks for their passengers and been assigned to sleep up there, whether they actually were able to or not.

The breakfast that Kimarie brought consisted of mini croissants and pound cake muffins. Our German‐born captain made an appearance on deck as he made his rounds, encouraging his crew.

After eating we walked a lap around the deck, noticing the helipad and empty pool and re‐ entered the cabin for more exploration of its other decks. We poked around the gift shop to see if there was anything to eat there that we might want to pack for future meals, but it was all pretty much junky food that we couldn’t bear the thought of eating any more. We did buy a cylinder of Pringles chips and a baseball‐style cap with the name of the ship embroidered into it for posterity. You could tell that the clerk at the register was about to collapse from exhaustion, but he was still very amiable as he ran the credit card.

After the announcement was made that we could get off the ship, people came from many different levels and all merged together in a huge mess. Some tried to buck the line by using the handicap elevators to bypass large segments of people who were even waiting on the stairs with their children and luggage.

At one point we had gotten just around the corner before the gang plank and a guy came up from behind us with a panicked look on his face, saying that the people he was with back there couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t we all stand to the right of the corridor so that the air could get back to them? We all complied with his wishes, which then gave him room to move right up to the folks at the gangplank to negotiate getting his family out ahead of everyone else.

He came back and was shouting about his children’s safety and wanting to avoid their suffocation. As he passed by me, I pointed out to him that he was now the only one that was remaining on the side of the corridor that was meant for air to circulate. He patronizingly told me that he was trying to help people.

Kimarie came a little unglued at this point and released some righteous indignation, “I have children that are hot too!”

He said, “Maybe you should move to the front with them too.” Then Kimarie shut him down. “They already offered to let me get off earlier, but I refused because nobody here is more important than anybody else!”

There was a murmur of approval in what she had said among the crowd around us, and the obnoxious guy shut up and went back to his family. We noticed, however, that in the end he got some official to help him get his family off before us by taking another route in the corridors.

As we were nearing daylight, another cluster of people emerged from the elevator at our left, which set Kimarie to fuming again. Even though she was right to be angry and indignant, it wasn’t going to help the situation much for her to shout. And we were almost there. Just a few more people ahead of us now…

As we finally passed the ship’s registration desk, I tried to hand a fifty dollar bill to the attendants there as a tip for all their sacrifices they had made for us. I had seen a tip box at the information desk earlier, but had not had the chance to get back to it. The guy looked at me with surprise and told me that he wouldn’t accept it, that they weren’t accepting tips.

I released the bill from my hand and let it fall to the counter and continued heading toward the gangplank. Before I could make it there, however, he had chased me down and forced me to take the money back. It was a strange experience to see this man’s selflessness amidst the selfish pressing of the crowd as each person tried to be the next one off the ship.

After we got off the ship, we went through immigration and customs and boarded busses to go to Nicosia. This process took place in a large room. On the way in, relief workers were handing out sandwiches and small bottles of water, which we eagerly accepted and stuffed into our bags.

Once again we were separated. One member of the family was sent to lines with the passports to register with the others going to sit in the waiting area. I chose a cordoned line that turned out to be the longest wait.

I had to make myself wide with my elbows to avoid having two obnoxious women cut in front of me in line. When I reached the ubiquitous official with the laptop, I was informed that we wouldn’t be getting right on a flight, but bussing to a more appropriate waiting area while they arranged for our further travel. After registering our names we were free to claim our baggage (we didn’t have any to claim) and get on any bus.

That’s when I went back to find Kimarie by herself – crying. The Refugees chapter starts here. The following details were left out of that chapter.

It was a hot day at the fairgrounds, and even shady trees didn’t offer relief from the heavy air. My last change of clothes that I was wearing was going to be pretty ripe before we were finished with our travels. We had left our other changes of clothing on the cruise ship, thinking we wouldn’t need them again and that carrying them would just slow us down. Doh!

While Kimarie was feeding the kids from our diminishing store of snack foods, I struck out for the registration building to write and send an email update so that people would know that we were all right. Just before I arrived, something funny happened to the wireless network and it stopped working for the rest of the night. Though I couldn’t connect, I did find Wally, and after we greeted each other, he pulled Naomi’s little plastic construction worker out of his shirt pocket and gave it to me to return it to her.

I decided to at least write the message and send it later when the network was back up. I sat in a plastic chair outside in the shade of a nearby building, listening to the Marine’s AC/DC music playing in the background. There was a refreshing breeze that made it very comfortable.

Kimarie wanted to at least let our parents know that we were okay, so she decided to stand in the long lines for the payphones. We had been given a free phone card, which was supposed to have enough time to be able to call the States for several minutes. Gideon stayed with her in line, while I took Naomi for a walk.

Gideon, Naomi and I played around a pallet piled with boxes of bottled water that was sitting nearby the phones. Gideon was picking up and throwing several of the bottles that were strewn around the ground, and Naomi was climbing to the top of the mountain of boxes and jumping into the arms of the awaiting daddy below. We were providing entertainment to many other waiting folks around us.

The location where we waited was also the drop off point for a van, taking people on a fifteen-minute trek to take showers. We never wound up using this service because we heard that the van ride back from the showers was so packed and sweaty that it removed the point for going to take a shower in the first place.

The last trip had just concluded for the evening, and we assumed the responsibility to inform people arriving with towels over their shoulders that they were too late. As the sun was setting, more and more people were milling about outside as if to confirm Lebanese evening social custom requirements.

During our time there at the fairgrounds we had many conversations with all kinds of people. We heard their own horror stories of lost ventures and split families. We felt close to those people, like we were sharing something that went to a deep level that we knew nobody else would ever understand. At the same time, I never offered my email address or asked it of others. It was as if we needed each other for the moment, but realized that future contact would be awkward and counterproductive to healing. There were some half‐hearted suggestions of keeping in touch, but in the end we didn’t even exchange information with Bassam.

The rest of my Journal notes about our evacuation were incorporated into the Refugees chapter in the book, and cover the final two days of our homecoming.

Scholz 33-Day War Journal (Part 10 of 11)


I decided to try something different for my blog in November. For 11 days, I’ll post stories from the war that didn’t make it into the recently published Coffee & Orange Blossoms: 7 Years & 15 Days in Tyre, Lebanon.

While recovering from our evacuation experience in July 2006, I wrote a debriefing journal, while memories were still fresh. I predicted that the stress of that time in our lives would erase details that could be helpful to remember later.

I almost incorporated this added information into the email pages of the book, but decided that realism would be ruined and the urgent feeling of their brevity would be lost.

Now I offer you these details as an added-value bonus to supplement the rather sparse treatment found in the book.

Day 11
22 July 2006
Embarking from Jounieh on the Orient Queen

On this morning, we said our goodbyes again with everyone at the convent outside as we were getting into Denis’s car. There were no less meaning in them, but the hugs were also saying, “we hope you make it this time and don’t come back.” Three days in a row of splitting up took its toll on our emotions. They didn’t want to have to worry about us anymore. We didn’t want to continually come back reclaiming all the clothes and food we had donated to them. Who’s gonna actually get to eat these Honey Nut Cheerios?

When we unloaded the car and joined the crowd, it had looked hopelessly large and unruly to me again. We were moved back all the way to the center of the overpass to create more space. There were different red shirted people far ahead of us that were using their bull horns effectively to communicate future steps. However, it looked like we were hours from there.

Then I got my big surprise. Because of the slope of the overpass, I hadn’t been able to notice that most of the space between the distant group and us was not filled with people, but was empty! We hadn’t moved for a few minutes because they had taken another group just before we had arrived.

Soon, a large amount of people were allowed to head to the next station. It was only then that I noticed there were rope cordons just ahead of us that were designed to keep us into organized groups, which they were letting through in systematic fashion.

Within about fifteen minutes, we had made contact with the red shirts, who were standing atop massive Marines vehicles, relaying the step‐by‐step process we were about to embark on. The best news of all was that they immediately told us that our group would certainly be traveling that day.

They joked that we had been selected to win a free cruise. The process had begun, or perhaps I should say the processing had begun.

We would have made it past this step more quickly had it not been for the idiocy of our fellow travelers. Some families had sent the father ahead to arrange for the rest while the mother and children waited comfortably in their cars, half a mile away. Others had left their baggage in cars so they wouldn’t have to carry it the whole time and had to go back because they’d also left their passports in them. One family had to go back to the car because they hadn’t initially brought their wheelchair bound elderly father with them.

Gideon was strapped to his mother in the front-pack, and wasn’t extremely happy to be locked in there. Naomi was more mobile and spent her time moving from daddy’s shoulders, to his hip, to sitting on his foot. She got comfortable on the foot and then got disrupted every couple minutes to shuffle ahead another yard or so.

It took us awhile to the other side of the Marines trucks, where we had actually started the process two days earlier. We didn’t mind because we felt safe with how we were being handled and there was movement. We could see hundreds of people ahead of us and hundreds more had arrived and moved up behind us. The waiting stations had large gaps of empty road between them, which added to the distance we had to travel with our bags and children, but meaningfully added to our personal safety.

At this point, we were in the hands of the US Marines and were being guarded by special Lebanese forces as well. People were stationed at each post and answered our questions, as they were able. We were informed that a hovercraft would land on the beach nearby to ferry some of us to a Navy vessel. They weren’t able to tell at this point whether our particular group would go that way or by cruise ship.

It was starting to get hot, and there were gaps in the shade tents. If you were lined up on the wrong side of the tents, they didn’t help much because the slant of the morning sun covered half of the people in line, depending on the direction that the line was traveling from station to station.

Naomi made friends and drove over the bags of a neighbor in line with her dump truck and backhoe. The next time we moved, we went quickly and got separated from that guy, named Wally. He motioned to me from a distance that he had picked up her wayward little construction worker that went with her truck. I responded by telling him we’d get it from him on the boat.

Kimarie had almost been caught in one of the moves while she hastily changed the children on two plastic chairs that she had pushed together. There weren’t any garbage cans, so we had to just throw the dirty diaper balls into the corner of the barricades where there was a bunch of other garbage.

At about the third stop, we were finally required to actually do something. They had set up long tables that they were using to open and check all the baggage that people had brought with them. This was a short stop for us, but as I have already mentioned, many of these people were tourists with their full sets of Samsonite with everything but the kitchen sink inside.

While we were waiting we noticed that several of the Marines had ice cream, and were slyly eating it in the back of a truck. Some of our neighbors joked about offering them money if they would share. By this time, people had gotten more or less friendly with each other and were beginning to tell each other their stories. We were the only ones in our vicinity in line that had escaped from the South and many wanted to hear of our experiences. We told of our perilous drive several times.

After that station we moved around a corner, within easy sight of the Mediterranean Sea. We discovered we were at some kind of Lebanese military base. Lebanese soldiers marched back and forth between nearby barracks.

We were placed into another line along the shady side of a large open building with a viewing grandstand. It was here where we would be registered for one of the boats by a row of officials at laptop workstations. Though we could see the buses that we were meant to board, it proved to be a long wait.

We didn’t know why at the time, but apparently one of the cruise ships had filled up and we were waiting for another boat to open their manifest records. The next to do so was the Navy vessel. Several hundred people just ahead of us were processed and then the line stopped again. We were about 20 people back from the head of the line, which represented the final stop to us for the morning.

We watched as the hovercraft noisily arrived with sea spray flying in every direction. The people in front of us were marched over to the beach and loaded onto the hovercraft and taken out to into the distance on the surface of the water. This process took some time, perhaps because they beached the thing too well and had a hard time getting it back into the water.

We waited for yet another new manifest to be transferred. By this time we were really tired, but grateful that we were going to ride in a comfortable cruise ship.

Just before we started processing again, the US ambassador to Lebanon arrived in a huge military helicopter on the yard directly in front of us. He came out and shook hands with several of the officials that were processing us and then moved over toward the crowds of people. He greeted us, hoping that we were comfortable, assuring us we would be taken care of.

Shortly after he passed us, we heard him ask if anybody knew of Americans still trapped in the South. I couldn’t help but wonder if anybody had ever really known that we were there. Though there was a big reassuring smile on the ambassador’s face, his entourage of security personnel were eyeing us as if they suspected this was all an elaborate plot to hide an assassin in our midst that would finally have his opportunity to leap up and throw a knife in his heart.

Finally, the officials fired up their computers again and we were told that a representative from each family should go to a booth with all the passports, while the rest of the family continued to a seating area to wait. I went with the passports, entered info into the computers, and received four strips of red construction paper with the number 1 on them. This meant that we were to get on the number 1 bus.

I rejoined Kimarie and the kids and we started to leave to get on the bus, when we realized that Gideon was covered with very sticky chewing gum, which someone had smeared over an entire plastic chair. We really couldn’t believe that something like this had to happen right at this moment in the middle of everything else. Kimarie got some help from another woman with some hand cleaning gel and they managed to get most of it off and de‐stickify the rest of it.

We got on the bus, and waited. At least we were sitting down in comfortable seats. There were many more people who needed to be processed before the six busses were filled and ready to convoy down to the ship.

Naomi attracted the attention of one of the serious security guys for the ambassador. He was caught waving and smiling at her through the bus window when the ambassador returned to leave. I think he was embarrassed, but he did turn to wave one last time as we finally drove away.

We traveled along the coast, heading south toward the port, along miles of land that was being developed for future commercial buildings. After awhile, we joined up with regular traffic. We drove by a Burger King, which I wished we could stop at for lunch.

We arrived at the port entrance whose guards had misdirected us days before and were directed in. We caught sight of the huge and magnificent Orient Queen, which was to carry us to safety. I heard a few of the others on the bus catch their breath in amazement. Boarding a cruise ship wasn’t an ordinary experience for any of us.

The next step was to be registered with the Orient Queen before we could board. We received four slips of white paper with “meal” printed on them and a key card for a state room. We found out later that some didn’t get a room and had to sleep on deck in reclining chairs.

We boarded the vessel over the gang plank and followed a rather tired looking European-accented woman in a short maid’s skirt to our room through a maze of hallways one level above the entrance in the center of the ship.

By now we had spent some time with many of our fellow travelers. Some of them we had enjoyed and some had greatly offended us. It just goes to show that we’re not required to like everyone in the world.

We prepared a rather inadequate meal from snack foods that we had brought with us and ate it quickly. Kimarie wanted to go up on deck to see the ship leaving the port, and she took the kids while I rested.

Early on, I heard an announcement that the galley was open for dinner, but decided that I would wait until after I had rested a little while before braving the crowds again. About 45 minutes later, they came on the loud speakers again to say that the galley would close in 15 minutes. We had missed the opportunity to eat the only meal we were apparently to be served.

The ship was still loading passengers as the sun set. Kimarie came back with the kids before it left the port. She bathed the children, we made a place for them on the floor, and then we slept.

It was later that we heard the ship’s engines finally start and pull us out of Beirut harbor on our way to Cyprus. I knew we were being escorted by US Navy vessels past the Israeli naval blockade. I thought of how ironic it was that the Israelis were now indirectly “protecting” us from Hezbollah attacks though they had so recently been throwing bombs at us.

I still didn’t feel completely safe until I imagined that we were past the blockade. We slept well and were allowed to continue sleeping until morning, though we actually docked in Limassol around 1 AM.

We did have one disruptive incident in the night, when Naomi awoke after having rolled under my bed. I heard her muffled, panicked cries and instantly awoke and stuck my hand down there and pulled her out. It took me some time to fall back asleep.

Scholz 33-Day War Journal (Part 9 of 11)


I decided to try something different for my blog in November. For 11 days, I’ll post stories from the war that didn’t make it into the recently published Coffee & Orange Blossoms: 7 Years & 15 Days in Tyre, Lebanon.

While recovering from our evacuation experience in July 2006, I wrote a debriefing journal, while memories were still fresh. I predicted that the stress of that time in our lives would erase details that could be helpful to remember later.

I almost incorporated this added information into the email pages of the book, but decided that realism would be ruined and the urgent feeling of their brevity would be lost.

Now I offer you these details as an added-value bonus to supplement the rather sparse treatment found in the book.

Day 10
21 July 2006
The Convent in Lebanon

On the way back from our late attempt to get to the staging area to be evacuated the second time, Denis stopped at the grocery store in Jounieh so we could do a little shopping. We needed more milk and some other supplies (the store didn’t actually have any fresh milk, so we had to beg for some from the cafeteria at the convent that evening).

I got some peppermint candies like lifesavers, which made Naomi very happy. She loves peppermint. We also stopped at the toy store to buy Gideon an inflatable beach ball and Naomi some little toy construction equipment. She has been obsessive about buying a “backhoe” after playing with one at a friend’s house. We needed something to keep them busy for another afternoon and for future plane rides. They really deserved rewards for doing so well at traveling patiently.

When we got back to the convent, Gideon took a nasty fall over a rock wall in the yard. Kimarie had taken the kids for a walk below the TV towers above us, and he climbed up on the wall and fell over it onto a pile of sharp rocks below, cutting his face and eye. It was amazing he wasn’t hurt worse. He was bruised and bloody and looked like he had been in a brawl. I joked that his appearance might get us onto a boat quicker the next day.

The area that they had been playing would have been a deadly place to be the following day, around noon, when the TV towers were bombed.

Scholz 33-Day War Journal (Part 8 of 11)


I decided to try something different for my blog in November. For 11 days, I’ll post stories from the war that didn’t make it into the recently published Coffee & Orange Blossoms: 7 Years & 15 Days in Tyre, Lebanon.

While recovering from our evacuation experience in July 2006, I wrote a debriefing journal, while memories were still fresh. I predicted that the stress of that time in our lives would erase details that could be helpful to remember later.

I almost incorporated this added information into the email pages of the book, but decided that realism would be ruined and the urgent feeling of their brevity would be lost.

Now I offer you these details as an added-value bonus to supplement the rather sparse treatment found in the book.

Day 9
20 July 2006
Jounieh, Lebanon

Before we left to be evacuated that day, I remember standing and holding each our friends in a tight embrace and whispering, “I love you,” into their ear. We concluded what we then thought would be the last time of meeting in the common room in which we were gathering for meetings, worship and games. The children did not want to leave their friends. Gideon especially preferred having Edmond’s wife, Roberta, holding him to Kimarie and me.

Denis drove us all the way down to the port of Beirut and asked direction of many people along the way, with much confusion about where we needed to go. We saw the British gathering point, and passed by it, making several wrong turns before following a few crowded buses into the port area, where we had once been guests of Operation Mobilization aboard the Logos II.

This had been the correct place to gather the day before, but the Canadians were now assembling there. We were turned away and told to go further south toward a massive balloon flying in the air, but nobody knew for sure where the Americans had relocated to.

We returned to the port entrance and finally got a definitive answer. The staging area was at an overpass very close to the Spinneys grocery store below the US embassy.

Thankfully, there was a grey haze that morning, which kept the heat down, which was pretty miraculous for July in Beirut. The cloud cover was mostly caused by residual smoke from the bombings.

The barricades that they had available to keep people in line were woefully inadequate, even for US standards, but impossible for funnel‐lined Lebanese expectations. The razor‐wire was much too close to the people and children were being pressed close to it by the maneuverings of the crowd.

We learned that many of the people that were there had arrived as early as 6:00 AM. Some had been sent appointments to be there by email. We wondered if we would be let in without one, as we had not yet received anything. The guards at the entrance dubiously allowed us in to “give it a try.”

About 90% of the people who waited for evacuation were Lebanese‐American – folks who were Lebanese born holders of US passports. Many of them had been on vacation, visiting their families in Beirut for the summer months. Most of them had brought their entire massive luggage with them, and were being pushy and aggressive.

There were thousands of people strewn up and down the road in four rows, lining the edges and median of an abandoned highway. Port‐o‐potties had been provided on one side, but were leaking blue liquid out onto the sidewalk where children were liable to be walking/crawling.

Our kids were hot and bored. Naomi decided to explore, so I walked around with her, picking paths through the luggage and looking at babies. She kept begging morsels of food from people around us that were eating anything that looked appetizing to her. I came back to find Kimarie chatting with a neighboring sidewalk‐squatter and Gideon eating a cigarette butt.

The lady that Kimarie talked to had been there since 6:00 AM, and was without her husband or anyone else. She pushed a double‐stroller holding her two children, and she looked pale and sickly. She volunteered the information that her baby son was allergic to regular formula and she had run out of his special kind that was unavailable in Beirut. She was really praying to get on a boat that day, but was admittedly pessimistic.

We also met up with some other Caucasian Americans. I was having a hard time with reduced‐stamina and moving from line to line, so when the wife of one of the couples wanted to discuss the spiritual significance of the latest events, I made any excuse to get away from her and avoid the discussion. It was too much to bear the moment’s stress, much less sort out why God could be allowing it to happen.

I saw Mr. Red Shirt, who was the official in charge. He walked by, within range, and I managed to point out the lady by herself with two kids. I told him that he should make sure she got on a boat today. He gave me kind of a blank, haunted look and kept on walking.

The vouchers we received after being turned away, were simply colored carbon copies of the embassy’s evacuation form. The officials gave out any of the colored copies, but not the white ones. We were required to have all of our bags and people in a group, filing through a line to get them. They wanted to make sure that only one voucher was being issued for each person and that there weren’t any extras being distributed. Most people couldn’t see the reason for this extra requirement of all the women and children at the end of the day, but I realized how valuable those vouchers would be to sell to other hopeful evacuees that wouldn’t have to wait in line the next day…

We made our way back out onto the top of the overpass where many people were being picked up, and called Denis to come and get us. I told Kimarie that Denis wanted to pick us up past the cars on the off‐ramp, but she misunderstood and walked all the way to the end of it. I had loaned my cell phone to a guy who needed to call a relative to give him a ride, and she had put some distance between us by the time I got it back. I shouted myself hoarse trying to get her to stop, but I was too far away to be heard.

The bags and the children had become very heavy to me after picking them up and putting them down and shuffling through lines. It was to be a burden that would get worse over the next several days.

In the end, we were never able to use the vouchers to any benefit. By the time we returned and began our own processing, the system had been refined and improved, but was first-come, first‐served.

Scholz 33-Day War Journal (Part 7 of 11)


I decided to try something different for my blog in November. For 11 days, I’ll post stories from the war that didn’t make it into the recently published Coffee & Orange Blossoms: 7 Years & 15 Days in Tyre, Lebanon.

While recovering from our evacuation experience in July 2006, I wrote a debriefing journal, while memories were still fresh. I predicted that the stress of that time in our lives would erase details that could be helpful to remember later.

I almost incorporated this added information into the email pages of the book, but decided that realism would be ruined and the urgent feeling of their brevity would be lost.

Now I offer you these details as an added-value bonus to supplement the rather sparse treatment found in the book.

Day 8
19 July 2006
The Convent in Lebanon

This was the morning that we attempted to have a worship and prayer time. We hadn’t really done much of either up to that point and it was still difficult. I remember feeling guilty about that. Hadn’t Dietrich Bonheoffer faced death as a Nazi prisoner with prayer, scripture reading and worship? Why wasn’t I able to go to God at this time when I needed him most? Didn’t I believe that I would find comfort there?

Our friend Hassan had arrived the day before from Tyre. He stayed at the convent and we paid for his room. He kept running down to the French embassy to inquire about getting permission to travel even though he didn’t have a valid passport. He was also very concerned about his parents still trapped in their plantation just south of Tyre, next to where the natural gas plant had been destroyed.

Gideon cried while we waited for one of the meals, so I took him into the convent’s chapel. It was beautifully ornamented with stained glass and mosaic‐like tiles over the whole inside. It was here that I found my voice for worship and sang Taize’ songs. The Greek version of Yes, I Believe, I Agree, It Is So came to mind. Mark Gravrock had taught it to us in Greek classes at LBI so many years ago. Gideon was comforted, and one of the sisters came in and sat in the back pew to listen. It was a holy moment between God and me – a moment of gratitude for saving my precious ones from mortal danger.

Scholz 33-Day War Journal (Part 6 of 11)


I decided to try something different for my blog in November. For 11 days, I’ll post stories from the war that didn’t make it into the recently published Coffee & Orange Blossoms: 7 Years & 15 Days in Tyre, Lebanon.

While recovering from our evacuation experience in July 2006, I wrote a debriefing journal, while memories were still fresh. I predicted that the stress of that time in our lives would erase details that could be helpful to remember later.

I almost incorporated this added information into the email pages of the book, but decided that realism would be ruined and the urgent feeling of their brevity would be lost.

Now I offer you these details as an added-value bonus to supplement the rather sparse treatment found in the book.

Day 7
18 July 2006
The Convent in Lebanon

In my evening email on the 18th, I had to correct a mistake I’d made in dating an email while we were still in Tyre. I had incorrectly dated the 16 July email as 17 February! That just goes to show how much stress we were under.

Edmond drove my Pajero part‐way down the hill from the convent to a service station in an effort to acquaint himself with how it handled. I think he was nervous about driving such a big car, but he did well. We had to make arrangements that would allow him to officially represent me regarding the car after we left.

We sat for a half‐hour or so, waiting for the car to be serviced. Edmond and I talked about him feeling free to use our vehicle as long as he liked – permanently if needed. He would arrange to sell it and send us the money otherwise.

That talk brought us closer together than ever before, sitting on plastic chairs on a sunny evening in front of the gas station, knowing that we were soon to part company for a long time and possible forever. We had been through so much together, shaping and molding each other’s lives for seven years. Saying goodbye to such a close brother was too hard.

The sisters from the convent were noticeably strained by their own fears about what was happening to their country and what might happen to them. They were also hosting other westerners that had been meeting in a conference at their facility and who were caught without an airport from which to travel home. Even so, they made many concessions to us. We were able to take a key to a media room with an Internet connection at any time that we needed.

The food they served included too many eggplant dishes to suit me, but there was always something to eat, in as much quantity as we wanted. I rediscovered my appetite and ate enough to cover both that week and the previous one. It was still hot, even up there on the mountain, and I sweated constantly and drank as much water as I could.

Kimarie had to wash both of our family’s two sets of clothes, as she was able, and hang them to dry on the balcony of our room. A shirt blew off and into a tall tree, requiring that we throw things down on it from above to dislodge and recover it.

The children didn’t have enough toys, and kept playing in dirty, dusty parts of the place. They showed an uncanny talent for finding things to soil themselves with, just when we had no other clothes to change them into. They also naughtily  grabbed the phone, spilled water, played with electrical cords, etc. Perhaps it was because their parents were lifelessly lying around, at the end of their ropes – unable to play with them as they normally would.

Kimarie talked to our former Arabic teacher. I talked to my best English student. I couldn’t get through to Sadiq’s sister or fiancée, so I sent a text message to him in Saudi. He wrote back to let me know that his family were all still safe.

I also got hold of the friends, who had offered to drive out with us so early in the morning the day before. They learned from me that we planned on evacuating and it upset her. She wanted assurances that we would be returning, which I couldn’t give her.