It's Advent (or what are we longing for?)

Advent: coming or arrival.

The Advent Season is about anticipating the arrival or birth of Jesus. 

Anticipation: looking forward to, expectation of; foreknowledge.

Yet there is something more than just a looking forward to or an expectation in our Advent, and in that original Advent Season more than 2,000 years ago.   Far deeper than expectation, there is longing--deep longing, like a soul-ache.

Longings…  Sometimes they are things we feel so deeply we can’t even speak of them. Sometimes they hurt as they lie silently there.

What are some things we long for?  It’s pretty obvious, really.  We long for meaningful lives, peace in our time, a healthy economy and a thriving earth.

It's 9/11: WWJD?

It's 9/11 and there is a lot of pain in the American soul. The pain is real and not unfounded. Living outside of the United States, I feel the world's focus on my home country, holding its breath to see if one man will spark violence in so many places if he goes ahead with his bonfire plans.  

It's 9/11 and my question, as I wake up this morning, is simply this: what would Jesus do?

I landed at London Heathrow yesterday in the remnant of darkness just before dawn. Our route had taken us up from Nairobi (Kenya, East Africa) and over a big hunk of Africa before crossing Europe. Just half an hour before our descent into London, we passed over Paris.  The City of Light looked dazzling from the air. From my vantage point, I wondered about the millions of Muslim people I had flown over in the hours since I'd lifted off.  Northern Africa is predominantly  Islamic, the home of the infamous Moors who held the Iberian peninsula for hundreds of years. And Islam is by no means restricted to Africa's north. Nor to that continent. The cities of Europe are filled with second and third generation followers. Look at Paris. Look at London.

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Materialism and the New Minimalists

At first I was intrigued as I read an article on the BBC about today's minimalists who are getting rid of their stuff and living in sparse looking apartments. I was attracted to the idea of shedding stuff and perhaps gaining new spiritual insight through the discipline of reduction.

I'm keenly tuned to my own attachment to things because I'm a person who has had to pack and unpack the stuff one too many times. Things, things, things. I've moved them between 6 countries on 3 continents. I've also gone through a house fire which took most everything I had of material value. Topping it off, I live in a developing country that reveals my standard of simplicity as relative. I live simply compared to friends in the States. I live like a flippin' crazy person compared to most Africans. I know full well that my local friends must think we're nuts to "need" all of this.

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Celebrating and Not Celebrating Team USA's World Cup Performance (or Africa and the World Cup)

The Land Cruiser lurched uncomfortably from side to side as we lumbered down the badly rutted dirt road. It was an ordinary June night in Arusha, Tanzania, except for one thing--the World Cup.  The biggest sporting event in the world was going on and people all over our city were gathered in pubs and restaurants, clubs and living rooms to watch the games, hosted for the first time on this very continent.  

What caught my eye as we bounced along was the tiny roadside snack shop with the plastic chairs set out on the dirt in front, semi-circled around a small television that flickered the event into the dark, cold (it's winter here) night.  Eager faces, lit by the screen, followed every move with passionate attention to detail.

The World Cup is a big deal.  And it means a lot to Africa.  Everyone from Desmond Tutu to Nelson Mandela and Emmanuel Adebayor has commented on how much football, and this tournament in particular, inspires young Africans.  It's huge.  

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Good Reads Nourish (My High Calorie Intake of Recent Books)

I've been on an unplanned blogging break. For whatever reason, I just needed to go quiet.

A friend sent me Rilke's Book of Images and said, "It's ok that you're not writing these days. Just be sure to read good things."

That made me pause and feel comforted as I recalled what I have read since the beginning of the year. Here's my brief synopsis of some great reads...

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Death personified watches the life of one little German girl during WW2. So beautiful! Really astonishing.

Stones Into Schools by Greg Mortenson. More inspiring stories from the author of Three Cups of Tea. Mortenson builds schools in the hardest to reach areas of Central Asia. Great stuff.

When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd. Thoughts on faith and how it changes as we grow. Lovely.

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Welcoming Jesus into My Christmas (Reflections from Africa)

The best thing about December in Africa is the simplicity that surrounds Christmas here.  The entire holiday comes in a stripped back form and there is poignancy to themessage that remains. A baby was born.  No frills.

To be honest, though, it’s the simplicity that’s driving me crazy today.  As I write, we are a few short days from Christmas Eve and I am frustrated by our lack of a tree. Over the course of many Christmases in Africa, we’ve had some lovely trees. Most of them were thorn trees. Decorated, I always liked the symbolism of beauty surrounded by sharp thorns.  In the tree I could see the span of Christ’s life.  A beautiful gift that cost God dearly—that’s the message of this season.

But these days we live in a city and we can’t just walk out and find a sweet little tree to cut and bring home.

The Spiritual Discipline of Giving Thanks

When you think about it, saying "Thank you," is one of the first manners we encourage small children to adopt. This simple practice of remembering to thank the people around us is so basic to positive human interactions that, when absent, it is a glaring rudeness that paints the withholding party as arrogant.

Somewhere along the line, then, we've learned that gratitude for services rendered or a job well done is an appropriate and meaningful human to human response in life.

But what about thankfulness as a spiritual practice and a way of life?

In Psalm 50, the poet is speaking for God when he says--

"I don't need bulls from your farms or goats from your herds. All the animals in the forest are mine and the cattle on thousands of hills. All the wild birds are mine and all living thingsin the land... Let the GIVING OF THANKS be your sacrifice to God..."

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Of Home and How We Find It

When Tiny Tim (as played by Kermit the Frog) begins to sing at the end of the Muppets' version of A Christmas Carol, I have to be honest and just admit that I cry.

"God bless us all," he sings, "... who gather here, the loving family we hold dear. No place on earth compares with home and every path will lead us back from where we roam."

That Kermit. He wrecks me!

Having moved multiple times in and between six countries and three continents, I am an accidental expert in the emotional travails of separation and loss, boxes and crates, dismantling home and recreating it once again. The drama of moving has it's own set of pains and joys, my considerable experience of which are a byproduct of the adventures I've found.

Now, there is a certain range of hills that run along the southern border of Kenya named, quite simply, Loita. (That's "loi" as in loiter, not lo-ee-tah.) Byron and I lived there for 10 years and, given that I've never remained in any other spot for that long, I often wonder if anywhere will ever feel like home the way Loita did... and does.

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Watching Africa Blow Away

We drive across the East African plains and wonder at the moonscape they have become.  Along the roadside, the trees stand brittle and covered in a heavy coat of dust.  The faces of the little shacks along the way are the same.  Fine, powdery dust has lifted easily in the dry wind and painted everything a lifeless brown.  The monotony of color is strange and disturbing.

Even from my desk by the window in my bedroom at our house set in a watered garden, I can see the dust.  Carried on the tired wind, it billows against Mt. Meru, the quiet volcanic mountain that our city sprawls at the base of.  Instead of misty blankets of moisture, Meru is shrouded in a gritty cloud of dust. Though I don't see it coming through my window, I feel the build up on my keyboard and stop to wipe it often.

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What Africa Needs from You

"Africa needs long-term, well-educated and highly committed help."   Read on...


Anyone up for trash detail?  Just wondering if any sending organizations in the West would like to gather folks for that…


Joking aside,  Africa needs long-term, well-educated and highly committed help.  Africa needs people with degrees that give them credibility in the areas of sustainable development, waste management, recycling (on a major scale), reforestation, sustainable agriculture etc etc etc.


As you may know, one of the biggest problems African nations are facing or, rather, not facing, is waste management.  Plastic bags cover the ground everywhere I go.

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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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