Atlanta, Georgia

Last week, I was in Atlanta, Georgia, for meetings. Every meeting was within the same hotel or walking distance from the hotel, so my experience was rather narrow. Yet, in travels, that's been consistent. One may not know the depth of the experience, until arrival. Honestly, depth also comes from ordinary places and ordinary moments. 

While at dinner one night, the southern fried chicken, gravy, and fixings was outstanding, but I was struck more with Richard, our waiter. He not only was exceptional in his service, he took time to connect with us and in doing so, earned himself a substantial tip (ok, it helped that a successful international attorney was in our dinner party). Richard loves people or fakes it as well as anyone I've seen. More than this: Richard serves people in a way that invites us all to consider our service.

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Washington D.C.

A recent Georgetown lecture aired on public television featuring former President Bill Clinton. I find him to be a remarkably interesting speaker and he did not disappoint. His grasp of politics, history, and the world stage are engaging and whether you agree or disagree, he's worth listening to.In the Q/A, he said some profound things about leadership, which stuck with me a bit. For example, each person needs to have the skills and the psychology that fits their context for the times. The latter point was rather new to me, but outstanding. Yes, the psychology of a leader must be an asset to the context he or she is in. Incidentally, the one indispensable book Clinton recommended is the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius...I will look it up.

He also referenced Franklin Pierce, who was President leading up to our Civil War. On the way to Washington for the Inauguration, Pierce and his family were in a train accident and Pierce's son fell during the wreck, broke his neck, and died. Simply awful. But, is it any wonder that Pierce struggled to gain his footing in the White House? He started with that horrible beginning.

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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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Among Royalty

I got an invitation to attend an honest to goodness Hollywood premier.

It was a once in a lifetime experience that I would have passed on as the trek from Hawaii to Los Angles to go to a movie is a bit much and frankly, I am not that impressed by celebrities to get all that fired up about it.

But since I have a daughter who is a freshman majoring in film and had some extra miles, I thought I would suit up and mingle with the elite so that she would be encouraged to purse her craft.

Maybe suit up is not the right word.

I don’t own a suit or a tie. I did have some new black jeans and a nice Aloha shirt, which I thought would be appropriate attire since it was the premier of a surf movie,  Soul Surfer, which was based on the book that I helped write for my long time friends, the Hamilton family. (And no, I am not getting anything for this effort other than bragging rights.)

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Haiti: Six Months Later

The world seemed to stand still for a moment 6 months ago when a powerful earthquake rumbled its way through the tiny country of Haiti and destroying everything in its path. My friend Stuart was there. You can read and see more of Stuart in Haiti during that time here. Newspapers wrote about it and Stuart witnessed that God is very active in Haiti among the Haitian survivors. Below is a recent article Stuart wrote for Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, student magazine Contact. (Stuart and I became friends while students at the seminary). How cool it would be if the country known for so long now as the poorest in the western hemisphere, will now and forever be known as God's country!

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Watch What You Wear

Not long ago, I had occasion to observe a group of high school students serving a meal to about 200 homeless people in our city.  They had come to fulfill a high school requirement to complete a certain number of community service hours, which probably should have been my first clue.  I was floored by the complete disconnect between those students and the human suffering right before their eyes.  Many laughed or made jokes.  A man or woman who did not look nice or smell particularly good would draw odd looks and quips.  Serving the food looked like more of a game to them than an opportunity to help someone.

 

As the students prepared to leave, it did not seem as if they had been affected at all.  They were huddled in their little group, busily chatting about the next activity of the day, oblivious to the many who filed out into the searing summer heat, not sure where they might find their next meal. 

 
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US Poverty Increasing: How Should we Respond?

September 10, 2009 marks the day headlines across the country and a few abroad revealed this: U.S. poverty rate hits 11-year high.

 

While several news sources posted the story I’ve chosen Reuters to share if you’d like to read the article here

 

Poverty stinks from every angle. It challenges personal esteem, often times deflating it. It challenges relationships, often times breaking them. It crushes dreams and snuffs out hope.  It’s suffocating, it’s exhausting, and it’s awful.

 

A few years ago I worked for an accredited Non-profit organization that was run by the church that employed me. This organization sought to bring life transformation to families residing in local motels. Motel life is generational. If you were a kid growing up living in a motel, odds are you are raising your kids in a motel today. In 2002, when I first began with this organization, there were an estimated 250 families living in motels in one city.

 
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World Humanitarian Day

Tomorrow is World Humanitarian Day. World Humanitarian Day exists to honor those who are serving the needy and to remember those who have lost their lives during their service. You can read about the history of this newly recognized day here and here.

 

Taken from the WHO website, World Humanitarian Day is

an occasion for remembering humanitarian staff who lost their lives serving others. There are many, and they come from partner UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and numerous intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations. WHO remembers its own staff who have lost their lives with great sadness, but also great respect.

 
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Nine woes...part 2

Woe to those who crave fame: Do we possess the strength to be nothing?  (continued)

It's a challenging day for those with God-given dreams and strengths. 

On the one hand we're encouraged to package our giftings in neon and market ourselves, to knock on doors and make our own way...

On the other hand we open our Bibles and hear wisdom from the ancients, "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips." (proverbs 27.2)

Passivity seems a poor steward. Self-promotion a saboteur of souls.

John the Baptist shows us a way.

He submitted to hiddenness for decades, and when the time came for him to step into public service, he emerged from hiddenness with the strength to fuse authoritative visibility with Jesus-centric humility. 

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Knowing the Difference: Service vs. Slavery

It’s important to know the difference between service and slavery. Slavery is at the heart of dysfunctional families. When people serve others because they are forced to do so, freedom to truly serve is lost. Slavery hardens the heart. Slavery creates anger, bitterness, and resentment.

Listen to the emotional pain of a divorced single: “I served him for twenty years. I have waited on him hand and foot. I have been his doormat while he ignored me, mistreated me, and humiliated me in front of my friends and family. I don’t hate him. I wish him no ill, but I resent him and I no longer wish to live with him.” That wife has performed acts of service for twenty years, but they have not been expressions of love. They were done out of fear, guilt, and resentment.

A doormat is an inanimate object. You can wipe your feet on it, step on it, kick it around, or do whatever you like with it. It has no will of its own. It can be your servant, but not your lover. When you treat another person as an object, you preclude the possibility of love. Manipulation by guilt (“If you loved me, you would do this for me”) is not the language of love. Coercion by fear (“You will do this or you will be sorry”) has no place in love.
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