New Orleans

Minutes before arriving at my hotel last week, an armed man put a gun in front of the desk clerk and ran off with the money. I arrived shortly after the robbery with cops everywhere and a shaken up desk clerk. Note to self: pay attention.

The last time I was in New Orleans was to discuss relief efforts after Katrina with friends of the non-profit I was working for. We organized a training event together after that which focused on worldview and applied theology. This trip was vastly different. It's one thing to see the effects of a violent storm, quite another to see violence come from the hand of a human being.

Residents of the hotel were shaken up a bit. The workers talked about it the next day at breakfast. I was impressed with how the desk clerk handled herself and put the hotel and its patrons first. The world is capable of handing us bad days and sometimes what we mean by the world is that other men and women sometimes have the desire to be so violent that they threaten our view of things.

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Piswa, Uganda

Last week, I was in Gulu and Kampala, Uganda, respectively. The two cities are about a seven hour drive by car from each other and they are two of the largest cities in the country.

The last time I was in Uganda, I visited Piswa and frankly, Uganda has a little bit of everything. There is the amazing congestion of Kampala, where history and modernity are competing for space. There is the regional poverty on the way to the next city and there are Universities tucked almost out of sight, yet still accessible.


One thing, though, that sticks out in traveling to a place like Uganda is that you are confronted, assaulted may be just as appropriate, with the obvious extreme poverty as well as striking beauty at the same time.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Standing at the window, I watched a young person vomit on to the street. The drinking binge officially ended and while I never met the person nor did they look up to my 4th floor room, I simply noted that vantage points matter.

A few days later, I sat at a table in a coffee shop and a plaque stated that this is where J.K. Rowling had written part of Harry Potter. She’d been a regular before Harry became huge. And I figured on that day, sometimes where you sit matters.

A friend gave us a tour that recounted the martyred covenanters and the day ended at Blackfriar’s cemetery. Once again, vantage points matter.

Yet, the waitress in a local pub is someone I remember as much as anyone else.

The Vatican

Attending mass at 7 a.m. is not usually a big deal, but this past week, I managed to be at an early mass at  the altar of transfiguration inside the Basilica on St. Peter's Square. In other words, at the Vatican. 

Taking a brief tour with the priest afterwards, he pointed out various interesting facts about St. Peter's and the fact that this is the largest church structure in the world. HIstorical statues intersected wtih tourists who intersected with church history and before 8 a.m., we had walked, talked, prayed, and been duly humbled by a place unlike any other church on the planet.

As we walked outside, construction had started on the new showers being put in for the homeless, as ordered by Pope Francis. My new friend pointed up toward the window where the Pope regularly appears and mentioned that this particular Pope is known to simply show up for mass or suddenly appear for prayer--unexpectedly and without much fanfare. And then, one turns back to the showers being constructed for the down-and-out of Rome.

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