Responding to a Very Public Meltdown

There's been some pretty sad and shocking  news out of San Diego recently about someone many people have hailed as a hero.  I have a few brief thoughts on our response. 

There is such a thing as an invisible world.  We know this. We believe the writer of Ephesians was correct when he said, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

We believe this but we don't always act as if we believe this.  Our behavior some times suggests we engage the world as if it’s only what we see and understand that exists. 

But that's an oversight we can't afford to make.

Let me say that I am NOT a demon-under-every-bush kind of person.

Of Christmas and How it Comes (an Advent poem)

It's hot in East Africa
press down, weighty
hot

The clouds billow up
and plod along the horizon
rumbling

Turning on a Dime (from thankful to lustful in sixty seconds)

I've just been perusing news about the violence among bargain-crazed shoppers in the U. S. yesterday.  "Black Friday" is a national phenomenon when retailers push sales to move themselves out of the red and into the black before the end of the year.  It happens on the day after Thanksgiving. 

So, we pause.  We give thanks.  We look around the table and say we're thankful for our families and our friends.  We recognize that we are blessed.  We say, "I am so thankful!" 

But, apparently, it's not enough.  It doesn't actually fill us up. 

The very next day, we go absolutely mad over manufactured stuff that we HAVE to have.  

Water Like Gold (only much more valuable!)

Peter Ole Kukan is a long-time Maasai friend of ours.  He sat on our porch yesterday morning and, in the process of chewing the news, let us know that women in his village are walking 2 hours each direction for water these days.  They fill jerry cans on the backs of donkeys then begin the 2 hour journey home again. Over the next couple of days, the water is doled out like the precious commodity it is.  Not a drop is wasted.  

Have you ever seen how dirty your hands get milking a cow?  Or handling a goat?  Or just living life in a place where water doesn't flow out of taps on-demand?  

I wonder how many times I wash my hands in the course of a day...

I'd like to think I'm pretty careful with water.  I consider myself aware.  I'd like to believe I'm good about electricity, as well.  We don't leave lights on that don't actually need to be on.  We've changed most of our bulbs to energy-savers.  

Transformation through Empowerment

I was freshly out of surgery and in recovery mode at my parents’ home during the final week of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Every afternoon I would sit in my jammies on the sofa and watch the countdown festivities. After 25 years on the air, Oprah was wrapping it up.

 

What I was most interested in was not the huge hoo-ha of celebrations, fun as they were to watch. No, I kept tuning in because Oprah had promised to reveal which story, of the thousands she had covered, was her number one most favorite story from her entire 25 years on air. The final days of the show were building toward this culmination when Oprah would revisit the story that had most moved, inspired and thrilled her.

 

Imagine my surprise and delight when the story Oprah chose was that of one African life. The “Queen of Daytime Television” and arguably one of the most powerful people on the planet was unforgettably moved by the tale of one woman whose life was transformed when someone came along and empowered her to reach her dream. This woman was married against her will as a child, kept from the education she longed for and beaten when she talked of hoping to go to school. When she came back to the Oprah show for this final-week episode, she had just completed her Ph.D. Initially denied the opportunity to attend even primary school, she now holds a doctorate degree and is returning to her home community to start a school for children like the child she once was.

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Greener Grass and Following God

I'm newly back in Africa after 3 months in Southern California and as I traveled back this direction I was keenly aware of the groups of young people I saw along the way who were obviously setting out on summer mission trips.  Their excitement was easy to see and totally justifiable.  I have to admit, their enthusiasm made me reflect a little on how I was feeling as I headed  back to East Africa.  Twenty-seven years after first coming this way, my perspective was, well, what's the word?  Let's see...

Shortly before leaving California this time I found myself considering all the things I wasn't looking forward to about being back in our home in Tanzania, lovely as it is.  I thought about power rationing (we have power less than 50% of the time) and cockroaches and rats and showers that don't work and other things I'm prone to whine about.  Each of them seemed worthy of complaint as I enjoyed the very clean, very orderly, very comfortable home of my parents where going for a walk is calming, cheering and easy in the lovely neighborhood of their setting and where there are two Trader Joe's nearby!  Two! I admit to feeling a little grim about some of the downsides of this African town.

Female Friendships and the Art of Swimsuit Shopping

Well, today I had breakfast with a friend from long ago.  It was delightful to catch up.  I don't think we'd been together since 1993.  Yikes!  Really?  Allow me to recommend having breakfast with an old friend.  It was a pleasure.  

After breakfast I had a list of errands to face.  But guess what the first errand of the day was.  According to my own instructions, it was "Buy a new bathing suit."  Noooooooooo! 

Buying a new bathing suit is not a task that faint hearted women should face.  Men are TOTALLY different.  I know this because I have 4 of them in my life and they couldn't care less what they swim in.  They swim in the shorts they have on, their boxers, torn and faded board shorts from a hundred years ago, or, most favorite of all, nothing.  Left to their own devices, they would definitely swim in nothing.  Dorks.  

Taunt not the foe (a response to a death)

Taunt  not the foe
perceived or otherwise
taunt not the monster
with the cold blood heart
slain villains
felled cretans
murdered murderers
may have well deserved what came
but life is life
and her violent end
though justified
cannot be celebrated 

Is it "Christian" to Care About Art?

The psalmist tells us that Creation speaks of her Creator and that her voice is loud everywhere.  I was raised to understand this as the reason no one can say they didn't get the message about God's existence.  In my recently released book, "Approaching God," I wonder about God and art and how He feels about His creative expressions... and ours.

"Is the only purpose of God’s art to point us to him?  I believe that God’s art is also for our enjoyment because God values art, beauty and the aesthetically pleasing.  God likes things to look good... 

God designed us to appreciate and benefit from beauty and art.  It is pleasant to be surrounded by loveliness.  There is inherent value in the wellbeing that the natural environment and man-made beauty produce in us.  Beauty and art feel good...  

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Who Notices When a Homeless Person Dies?

My son, Jesse, lost a friend on Friday night.  Shaky lived in one of the parks in Santa Barbara and, as I understand it, was a bit of a legend in his community. He and his friends were together Friday evening and he decided to go to sleep before the others. In the morning, Gator, Shaky's best friend and constant companion, went to wake him but Shaky was gone.

Jesse didn't get to the park until Shaky's body had already been taken away. He was told they'll cremate him and wait to hear if there is something that someone somewhere wants done with the ashes. Jesse gathered Shaky's earthly possessions from behind the dumpster where he had been asleep and brought them to Gator and the others. There wasn't much. 

Gator had a number for a woman he believed to be Shaky's mama. He didn't want the coroner to contact her about the death so asked Jesse to please make the call. Jesse did. He found out that she was actually Shaky's grandmother and he explained to her that he had some bad news. Of course, she was very upset by it but Jesse let her know that Shaky had been well loved.
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About
I left the United States in 1984 with a real cute boy. We carried a suitcase and a backpack each. I've found the world to be wildly beautiful as well as full of terrible pain. I want to be a part of spreading the hope.


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