Podcast: Interview with missionaries from the Congo

Hi everyone! Recently I had the privilege to sit down with two very special friends of mine from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Camille and Esther Ntoto. I met Camille and Esther in 2003 when they helped lead a short-term missions trip to Kinshasa, Congo that I was apart of.

Camille and Esther are magnetic people who illuminate God's goodness with their lives. Camille is a radio broadcaster, ministering to thousands through the air waves of Goma, Congo. Esther has kind eyes and a fierce love for seeing transformation take place in women and children in Congo.

I am deeply blessed by my friendship with Esther and Camille and think you'll feel the same after hearing from them a bit on this podcast. So listen to it and be blessed. :)

Sit in the Chair

There is a trend in my community to place Adirondack chairs- two of them- on the front lawn of one's house.  I see them around town- under trees, on porches, on lawns...red chairs, black chairs, green chairs, mostly white.  On one street I frequent, there is a red set under a lemon tree with a little table in between them set with a bowl full of lemons.  It is very quaint, even pretty.  In another neighborhood, off the bay, there are two white Adirondack chairs on the lawn when you first drive in the security gate.  There isn't even a house there, just two chairs on a common lawn area.  Every time I pull in I wonder who sits in those chairs.  It's like the chairs are there to announce, "We relax here! " " We lean back in our expensive chairs with our feet in the grass and enjoy living by the bay."  But the thing is I have never seen anyone sit in them.  In fact I have never seen anyone sit in any Adirondack chairs anywhere around town.  I don't even know how to say Adirondack.

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Introduction to Bruce & Stan's new book "I'm Fine With God, It's Christians I Can't Stand"

Every segment of society has its members of the lunatic fringe. But Christianity seems to have a disproportionately high percentage of them. "I'm Fine With God, It's Christians I Can't Stand" is a candid dialogue about the Christian community that will make you laugh and even cringe as you read about well-meaning but misguided believers who take some parts of the Bible to ridiculous extremes while ignoring other parts.

ELIOT SPITZER: "Be sure your sins will find you out" is not the right response

I’m sitting here in a hotel in Nashville where I’m attending the annual convention of the National Religious Broadcasters. All of the televangelist are here, from the good to the … others. Lots of comb-overs, and most of the rest have high hair. (The unofficial motto here seems to be “the higher the hair, the closer to God.”)

I’m glued to the TV, but I’m not watching a televangelist. I’m watching the news stories about Spitzer’s prostitute fiasco. My mind flashes back to what my mom always told me as a little kid: “Be sure your sins will find you out.”

Political commentators and the friends and enemies of Spitzer are saying similar things. “He should have known that he would get caught, so he shouldn’t have done it.”
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Slow Food, and Getting My Hands Dirty

I’ve been reading Slow Food: The Case for Taste, by Carlo Petrini, the Italian founder of the slow food movement.

 What is slow food, you might ask? I’m still working that out, but without much trouble, you can tell from the name that it’s a reaction to “fast food”. In fact, it’s a reaction to the globalization of the food market, the “flattening” of taste, and the increasingly prevalent loss of regional cuisine, especially, apparently, in Italy.

Slow food advocates call for organic, locally-grown food, and for making food and eating it purposefully, preferably around a communal table with one’s friends, family, and neighbors. Essentially, it’s a call to move away from mindless refueling at the local fast-food joint (or even convenient eatery) and a return to eating healthy food.

For the Christian, this easily relates to our understanding that all we have is from God, that every meal is a gift from Him (even the least liturgical among us, those who would never observe fixed-hour prayer, still offer thanks before our meals), that we are not to take anything for granted – least of all, the food we may have – and that we are to fellowship with those God puts around us, which often involves food.

My mom had started researching healthy foods and changing our diet when my brother was born, because he spent the first few years of his life in and out of hospitals, and Mom knew instinctively that injecting him full of drugs wouldn’t be a productive way to live life.  Most of the trendy food and health movements now – filtered water, organic produce, hormone-free dairy products, green tea, "medicating" with herbs, free-range chicken and grass-fed beef, gluten-free food, crazy Dr. Bronner’s soap, salads all the time – were things we did fifteen years ago, when people told Mom she was crazy, negligent, and probably unChristian for feeding us this way. Apparently, she was just about ten years ahead of the marketing folks.

Though I felt weird then, I’m glad now that she did the footwork to feed us well.  We never had much in the way of money, so we grew a lot of our food, and when we lived out in rural upstate New York, we had laying hens and had our own fertile, free-range eggs, though we never ate the chickens (my Dad and brother just couldn’t bring themselves to chop their heads off). We also belonged to the local food co-op. Many hours of my life were spent with Mom at the co-op, working off our four-hour-a-week commitment in order to get cheaper, healthier food.  

So, I was delighted when Tom and I finally decided to join the local food co-op in our Brooklyn neighborhood last fall. This is a much bigger operation than our little place in Albany. There are about fifteen thousand members, and each member works about three hours a month to maintain membership, which allows one to shop at the store. Only members can shop, and all members have to work side by side, whether they're affluent bankers and lawyers from the nice neighorhoods or more blue-collar workers who've been in Brooklyn for generations.

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inhaling the scent of hope

Life can be chaotic at times: bills, traffic, shopping, work, family, romance, are ingredients that, when mixed together excessively, create a ferment that builds pressure into the walls of our souls, as well as the walls of our homes.

It was against such a backdrop of chaos that I found myself with a rare Wednesday off last week, and rarer still for early March in Seattle, the weather was clear - crisp, as is appropriate for early March, but mercifully cloudless. My skis were in the car by 8AM and by 9:30 I was carving some Sabbath healing into my soul, negotiating the friendly terrain, which was still locked in the dead of winter, with temperatures well below freezing.
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What's the Word?

Are there writers for whom a blank page (or, perhaps, a blank computer screen) is an invitation? For me, every unwritten column/blog/letter/song/book/sermon is a door, bolted and double-bolted shut. Every word must be sneaked in undercover, crammed through the mail slot, jammed past the hinges, forced through the peep hole. It takes time, effort, and subterfuge to coerce a piece of writing into being. It makes me tired and grumpy. I don't care for it.
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Time, 4-Hour Chicken and Healing

Time. I have absolutely no concept of it. I seem to be in a constant state of lateness. I usually blame it on traffic, considering I live in Orange County where freeways can easily transform into parking lots during rush hour. Of all the things I own, a watch is not among them.

Being time oriented, is a western mindset to say the least. Obviously, my lateness reveals I am an exception to that rule. The clock seems to rule lives for the majority of us who call the west our home (and by west I am referring to the UK and America). What’s interesting is the fact that time seems to have little importance in the eastern parts of our world. I’ve seen this first hand in some of my travels outside the US.

I remember a day when I went to grab a bite to eat while in Kinshasa, Congo, grab being the operative word here, and literally waiting close to 4 hours to be served. I ordered a chicken dish and I’m pretty sure the cook literally left the restaurant in search of my chicken, which he personally killed and prepared for me, all while I sat at my table and thought about eating my arm off out of hunger.
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The Center of the World

It recently hit me how obsessed I am with news.  I was walking down my cousin's driveway when I saw her newspaper lying in its plastic bag unopened, unread.  I was drawn to it like a chocolate pastry.  We were on our way out and all I wanted to do was pick up the LA Times and pour over it.  I had already spent two hours that morning flipping back and forth between CNN and Headline News (even though Headline news is the same every half hour- it's as if I were waiting for breaking news or something).

Since that Sunday morning I have been reflecting on this weird need in me to find out what's going on.  I gave up gossip for Lent, maybe the news is a way to fill the "scoop" void in me- a global gossip- if you will.  But I would like to think there is more to it than wanting to sound smart and informed at parties.

In Search of Mr. Good Enough

Let’s be honest for a second: nearly everyone wants to be in a Hollywood style romance. Even the most cold-hearted, insensitive males are cognizant of the fact that the benefits (he said coyly) of being in a playfully passionate romance outweigh the downsides.

Women, however, seem particularly susceptible to the movie-induced vision of creative dates, witty banter, and an ending that would make Disney proud.

The reality, of course, is often very different. For some people, Prince Charming never comes. And always the question becomes, “What do I do now?”

In a deliciously sarcastic piece in The Atlantic, Lori Gottleib offers a fairly straightforward answer: settle.

That’s right. Give up your visions of perfection, and marry Mr. Good-Enough, if only because it’s better than living alone for the rest of your life:

My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year. (It’s hard to maintain that level of zing when the conversation morphs into discussions about who’s changing the diapers or balancing the checkbook.)

The piece is full of provocative and partially true insights. For instance, she rightly identifies that good marriages and roaring romances are not necessarily built out of the same materials:

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