Good Links (The Welcome Wagon Edition)

Amber hopped a jet to the Caribbean last Thursday, though it's not like it sounds. She and a few friends hitched their wagons to the star that is Help One Now and made their way to Haiti for the week. It should come as no surprise to you that the boys (including this boy) get restless when Mama's away. She's brings balance to this house full of testosterone, and when she's away, things sort of go the way of the man. What is the way of the man? Let's just say that my boys have eaten more meat, imbibed more root beer, watched more action movies (appropriately rated, of course), have caught numerous fish, destroyed numerous household furnishings, and have irreparably clogged one toilet.

Yes we are well aware of our frailty, so when mama returned to save the day, the welcome wagon was ready to meet her. It went down as follows:

We're glad Amber's back.

With all my free time this week, what with raising four boys, work obligations, and a community gathering or two, rounding up good links was difficult. But such as I have, I give to you. Enjoy.

BOOKS

Late last year, I had an inkling that I needed to dive into the words of St. Francis. I put off said inkling, and instead chose to rip through three novels that were not spiritual and were certainly anything other than saintly. I digress. At the prompting of a friend, I picked up a copy of Francis and Clare: The Complete Works. Grammar aside, it's busting my chops.

Know well that in the sight of God there are certain matters which are very lofty and sublime which are sometimes considered worthless and inferior by people; while there are other things cherished and esteemed by people, which are considered worthless and inferior by God.

Grab a copy.

LINKS

Tonia Peckover is one of my favorites. She's one of the rare pearls of the internet, and has been stretching her poetry across the screen these days. She posted this piece on the Rwandan genocide memorial. Warning: take a deep breath before reading.

It's Holy Week, the week Christianity commemorates the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Head on over to Deeper Story for John Blase's piece Happy Easter Chuck.

I've loved all the posts that have come from Haiti, but none more than those from Laura Tremaine. She's been honest with her misgivings and assumption. It been refreshing. She writes:

But how, then, were these children seeing us? As novelties? From the outside, did we look like poverty tourists? We had translators, but how can I know how we were actually presented? As the hours slipped by with children in my lap, it ceased to matter. The only person over-thinking this particular relationship between giver and receiver was me.

PHOTOS

Mike Rusch has been taking photos of the unsung heroes, those whose names you will never know.

Of this photo, he writes:

You'll never know his name but he works with Haitian government to accept children into Ferrier Village that were rescued from Human Trafficking. The world needs more heroes like this.

VIDEO:

Were you there?

MUSIC:

Did you dig into The Oh Hello's 2012 album, Through the Deep, Dark Valley? If you missed this one, here's your chance:

Thanks for stopping in this week. See you soon.

Everyone Dreams (A Help One Now Post)

Yesterday morning I woke in Addis Ababa to the sounds of jackhammers and drills, to the roosters crowing, to the call of prayer. Construction crews, roosters, payers, they awaken Addis before the sun. Mornings here are such an experience. By seven, a group of boys were playing an early morning soccer match in the dusty streets. I stood sipping coffee and watching from the balcony. They were a sight to see. They passed the ball with the skill of children who have only ever known one game. On one occasion, they stopped, and a shorter boy shouted at another, pointed to his hands. On other occasion, a taller boy scored a goal and both teams cheered.

These boys dream of representing the Ethiopian football team one day. I know it.

From the guesthouse balcony, I also saw a young girl washing clothes. She is no more than six and I wondered what dreams she holds. I suspect she hopes to be a doctor, teacher, or engineer.

Every child dreams. It’s the thing I’ve taken from this trip.

Earlier this week, a group from Help One Now visited Gunchire, a backwater Ethiopian town with a dirt road for a spine. On either side of the spine, the businessmen peddled their wares to passers by. One pointed to our van. “Chat! Chat!” he called from a booth. Another held a handful of used toothbrushes out from a store window. Further down the spine, a woman leaned against a sign with a large English subtitle, which read “Crowing Nature for Food Security.” I reckon there is a typo in there somewhere.

The capital of the district, Gunchire is a hub of commerce for the Gurage people, poor hub though it may be. There is a local bank, which is rarely open, a micro-lending institution, which charges high interest, and a hotel, which boasts no visitors. There is the palpable feeling of disadvantage hanging with the dust in the air, but the Gurage people went about their days; they didn't seem to notice the lack of prosperity.

We came to a small home where an HIV positive mother sat with her two children. She lost her husband some time ago, and is making a way for her family through small trade. In an effort to help her maintain economic viability so that her children aren’t forced into the orphan care system, Kidmia provided her with modest in-kind support, brought her clothes that were hand-made by the prisoners at Welkite. She sold the clothes at the market in Gunchire. Turned the profit into support for her family, and reinvested the rest by purchasing more clothes to sell on the next market day.

The children were in the yard; the daughter was grinning ear-to-ear. She seemed to be a happy child, a grateful light. Her brother was only three, a shy boy who cuddled close to his mother.

“What would you like to be when you grow up?” my new friend Lamar asked the girl.

She smiled. “A doctor,” she said.

“Good, good,” Lamar smiled in return, and told her through the translator to continue her studies.

She is a wonder to me, this little girl from an impoverished family in backwater Ethiopia. She dreams big, dreams like little girls from the United States, girls with better education, better food security, more stable structures. She dreams like girls with dolls, with opportunity, with health care.

Lack does not inhibit the human capacity for dreaming, it seems. At the end of the day, we all dream the same–in color, in hope, in shades of future prosperity.

The next day, we asked Aschalew Abebe, the in-country director for Kidmia, what this little girl’s life would look like without additional support, without access to education and health care. He said, “child prostitution, early marriage, forced labor, trafficking, polygamy–these are all realities for the girls of Gunchire without the proper support.”

Today, sitting in the airport and waiting for my connecting flight home, I consider the girls of Gunchire. They have dreams, yes. They have potential practical futures, too. The odds are not in their favor. It is a sobering thought.

*****

This week, I've been traveling with Help One Now in Ethiopia. Help One Now has entered into a strategic partnership with Kidmia, and will be providing a child-sponsorship component to Kidmia's already robust programs. Kidmia works within a local community to improve the prospects for vulnerable and at-risk Ethiopian children.

I'd sure be honored if you'd consider joining with Help in sponsoring one of these at-risk children. Each sponsorship helps provide these children with food security, education, and health care.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

"Now I've been happy latelyThinking about the good things to come And I believe it could be Something good has begun." -Cat Stevens (Yusef Islam)

This morning I'm loading a plane to Ethiopia, where I'll be hanging out with the good people of Help One Now. Good people like Mike Rusch, whom, as luck would have it, I happened across at a random baggage claim in Charlotte. He hears no evil.

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Last night, we slept in Washington DC, the political seat of global capitalism, of wealth, of power. We respectfully declined our presidential invite to dinner at the White House, and opted instead to sit around the table of a pub that called itself "Irish" (but only on account of the fact that it served shepherd's pie and Guinness beer). It was a good crew of folks, some of whom I've known a while, some of whom I'm glad to call new friends. Chris Marlow was there. He speaks no evil.

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In an hour, we're off to Addis Ababa. From there, we'll head southward down choppy dirt roads and into the heart of a majority Muslim population. We'll eat simple food, among good and simple people. We'll play games with local children; climb a sturdy blackwood tree; laugh. We will spend time with the local leaders, learn their culture, hear their thoughts about vulnerable children in their community.

"Oh, I've been smiling lately Dreaming about the world as one And I believe it could be Some day it's going to come."

Every trip to a developing country presents contrasting monetary dichotomies. The evening before, we're dressed in our skinny self-importance, our well-tailored consumerism, our easy way of conversational dining. The next, we're standing on dirt roads, smelling country air, eating simple starches, and playing with children despite a language barrier that feels more akin to the Great Wall.

"[T]here is no Islamic, Christian, or Jewish way of breathing. There is no American, African, or Asian way of breathing. There is no rich or poor way of breathing. ... The air of the earth is one and the same air, and this divine wind 'blows where it will' (John 3:8)--which appears to be everywhere." -Richard Rohr, The Naked Now, p. 26.

This morning I'm looking past the juxtapositions, though. I'm thinking about the commonalities, the things that bind us. We breathe the "same air," as Rohr writes. We all double over in laughter, all heave at the butt of any joke. Isn't it a delightful sound? We share the same hyperventilating way of mourning, too. We all wail the same.

Yes, we're leaving on a jet plane. I hope we go in humility. Maybe the key to true humility is to realize that, in the end, we are all one and the same. Maybe the key to true humility is understanding that we've all been given the same breath of God. Maybe the key to true humility is in the knowing that each has been given the opportunity to seek union with the Divine.

I hope we go with this kind of humility. I hope we see the Divine.

I'm not sure when I'll have access and time to update, but stay tuned.

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The Saturdaily--The Death of Cynicism

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*Original image here

"The Saturdaily" is a weekly roundup of good writing, reading, and listening. Check out this week's list.

1.  You -- A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about the creeping cynicism that's so pervasive, and how it shades my view of the church. As a follow-up, I wrote this, asking you to celebrate your local churches with me. I finally got around to reading the comments this week, and they are beautiful. Read what other's have to say about their local congregations. I promise, it will lift you.

2.  Ann Voskamp -- Speaking of cynicism, Ann Voskamp wrote this beautiful (as if I needed to say that) piece about seeing past this world's fissures and faults, about seeing the beauty. She writes:

The thing is: The cynics, they can only speak of the dark, of the obvious, and this is not hard. For all it’s supposed sophistication, it’s cynicism that’s simplistic. In a fallen world, how profound is it to see the cracks?

Read the rest of Ann's piece here.

3.  Help One Now -- It has been said that the cure for cynicism is to simply engage honestly. Honest engagement is the type of ideal embraced by Help One Now. (Its founder Chris Marlow loves him some "ideals.") I haven't read a word, yet, but this week's blog post from the Help One Now Haiti team are bound to be incredible. Mike Rusch, Sarah Bessey, Mary Demuth, Marlow, Dan King--these people are some of my favorite folks, both on the internet and in real life. You won't want to miss their musings so make sure to keep up by following the banner below. And, if you're so inclined, put the banner on your own site. I did.

4.  Anonymous -- An anonymous writer penned this beautiful piece about the churches of her past. It's honest, stark, and beautiful. Would you read it and reflect on the beauty of your past churches?

5.  Amber Haines -- There's not much to read here. Just wanted to share this Instagram picture.

I'll leave you today with this tune by Austin artist David Ramirez. "Yes, I could start fires with what I feel for you..." It's nice.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYjC77nW51w]

Now it's your turn. What were your favorite links of the week?