Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sabbatical Raffle

If you'd like to support a great friend who is about to go on Sabbatical, and also get the chance to win some great items from some fantastic social businesses (and more), then you should check out: The Great Sabbatical Raffle.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Distinctly Worse

From a worthwhile review of An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions by Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen

Every year, more children die in India than anywhere else in the world: 1.7 million children under the age of five, largely from easily preventable illnesses such as diarrhoea. Of those who do survive until the age of five, 48 per cent are stunted as a result of a lack of nutrients: child malnutrition in India is higher than in Eritrea. 
In this respect, write Sen and Drèze, “South Asia fares distinctly worse than sub-Saharan Africa. More than 40 per cent of South Asian children (and a slightly higher proportion of Indian children) are underweight in terms of WHO norms, compared with 25 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Friday, July 5, 2013

Still Listening

Some good words from some friends living amongst the urban poor:

With the heat and the humidity and the crowds and the traffic and the mosquitoes and all the suffering that we see in our friends' lives, this is not the easiest place to be. But when I read the news and see what is happening in Egypt and Pakistan and Burma and Bangladesh and Central America and South Africa and throughout much of the rest of the world, I know that there are many places where it is not easy to be. We hear God telling us that this is where He wants us to be right now, loving people who He loves. We are still listening for Him to guide us through the next steps.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Beyond Useful and Useless

Prayer is an experience of gratuitousness. This “leisure” activity, this “wasted” time, reminds us that the Lord is beyond the categories of useful and useless.
- Gustavo Gutiérrez

Saturday, April 20, 2013

No Nice Winds

Take a minute and ponder this painting. What does it speak to you?

Be Calm by Sieger Köder

This is what life in the slums feels like to me, much of the time.

The wind is roaring. The waves are looming. The sky is dark. We aren't swamped. Yet. But it feels like it could happen at any moment.

And what do we have? A broken oar. A bucket. Meager tools, at best.

Jesus is in the boat... but it doesn't seem like he's doing anything.

Before I went to Thailand for two weeks of meetings and conferences, this is pretty much how I felt. The boat hadn't sunk, we hadn't crashed, but the storm was raging. We were rowing and bailing for all we were worth, but it didn't seem to be making much difference.

Even the meetings themselves felt a bit stormy. Two weeks full of seminars, decision making, conversations, and a whirlwind of joyful reunions and meeting many new, fantastic people doing great work. Wonderful, but exhausting.
The disciples wake Jesus, distressed. And he's... disappointed? "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" What were they supposed to do?
I think, before I went on this trip, I was just hoping that the storm would stop. "If only I can just hold on long enough, it will calm down."

And then one of our elders led us in a devotion on John 11, the resurrection of Lazarus. It takes place right in the midst of this incredibly challenging season. They had just left town to avoid being stoned, a close friend falls sick and dies, Jesus timing doesn't make any sense. The elder told us, "no nice wind is going to blow us where we want to go."

Everything is going wrong, it's confusing, and it's totally unclear what's happening or what God is up to. And then, right in the midst of it all falling apart: new life! Not after all the hard things end. But in the middle. And it only really gets harder for Jesus and the disciples from there until the crucifixion. (Which is again followed by new life!)

It's right in the midst of the stormy season that life comes out of death.
No nice wind is going to blow us where we want to go.
Just to hear this wise, older man speak that truth changed something in me.

I don't have to hunch over in the storm, bracing my shoulders against the gusts, keeping my head down. I don't have to just wait for a brighter, better day. I can live in the Kingdom, looking for new life out of death, right in the middle of the storm.

I can accept the storm. It isn't going to stop storming. At least, not any time soon.

Sure we get breaks. Rest. Quiet. Still waters. But if we're going to follow Jesus, we're going to end up in the storm. Probably over and over again.

There's a lot of freedom in accepting the storm. Freedom to accept with thanks the many, many good things happening. And freedom to trust God with the uncertain and bad parts, too.

So what are the disciples supposed to do in the midst of the storm?

Maybe they're supposed to wake Jesus, but without fear. Or maybe they're just supposed to keep on rowing. In trust. Trust that, with Jesus in the boat, it's going to be ok.

Or maybe they're supposed to sing.

Yes, that sounds crazy. But while we were reflecting on this painting in Thailand, I realized, well, those disciples look like they could be totally scared witless. Or they could, just possibly, be singing.

And, once we got back, it was right into the midst of the storm again. We have to move because of a dispute between our old landlords and new ones (thankfully we can move right across the hallway). A teammate's neighbor attempted suicide. A neighbor spent three days in the hospital after being bitten. Another neighbor lost a job that had seemed so promising.

It isn't going to stop storming. But that can't stop me from singing while I bail out the boat.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Some Things Worth Sharing

If you like long form journalism, this list of 102 Spectacular Nonfiction Stories from 2012 is worth your time.

Immigration statistics made beautiful.

Astonishingly and tragically, in the US military "last year, more active-duty soldiers killed themselves than died in combat." That's 349 suicides to 295 combat deaths. Which both pale in comparison to the 6,500 veterans who committed suicide last year. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Embraced Pain

Our capacity to understand, explain, and thereby control is broken by the concrete bodily reality of embraced pain. None of our theological reasoning has a reliable resolution to the questions of theodicy* and the force of unmerited pain. Such pain is dealt with only by embrace as body touches body in compassion. The testimony of this textual tradition is that God's holiness embraces pain, and that God's holiness forms an alliance with pain that cuts underneath every explanation we may offer.
- Walter Brueggemann Journey to the Common Good p.69
*Theodicy - A theodicy (from Greek theos "god" + dike "justice") is an attempt to resolve the evidential problem of evil by reconciling the traditional divine characteristics of omnibenevolence, omnipotence, and omniscience with the occurrence of evil or suffering in the world.